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History of Golden Gate Casino – First Hotel in Las Vegas!

the golden gate casino on fremont street was the first hotel in las vegas

The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino has long been an important part of the Fremont Street landscape. Today the building is somewhat overshadowed by the larger, more glitzy businesses and resorts that have sprung up around it. But the nostalgia and history of the Golden Gate continue to shine through.

When was the Golden Gate Casino built? The Golden Gate hotel was built in 1906 in downtown Las Vegas and was the first hotel in the city. It was originally named Hotel Nevada, and its address is 1 Fremont Street. The hotel also has the oldest casino still in existence in Las Vegas and is considered to be the birthplace of the city.

The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino is the original Las Vegas hotel and casino, rich in history and charm. It’s one of my favorite stops when we’re in downtown Las Vegas. I love the history of old buildings, and I decided to learn more about this famous Las Vegas location.

Check room rates at the historic Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.

The History of the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino

The Golden Gate Hotel’s history is long and fascinating. The historic hotel was built just as the city began to grow. It continued to develop during the Prohibition era and the golden age of Hollywood. It has adapted with the times to become one of the longest-standing hotels in Las Vegas. Today it is recognized as the oldest hotel in Las Vegas.

golden gate casino aka hotel nevada in 1906
Golden Gate Casino, aka Hotel Nevada 1906

There is always competition in Las Vegas to be the biggest, boldest and brightest star in the city. As a result, hotels and casinos continually try to outdo each other. The owners of the Golden Gate, however, have opted to keep the concrete facade looking much as it has since the beginning. This can make the hotel seem old-fashioned by comparison. But therein lies the charm.

It is the oldest and most historic of all the hotels and casinos in the city. Some Vegas visitors want that nostalgic feeling and a sense of traveling back to the golden era of Las Vegas.

Without this historic establishment, Las Vegas wouldn’t have the look or glamorous reputation it does today. The site revolutionized the hospitality industry and, later, the gaming industry in the city. The downtown building set the trend for other hotels and casinos to follow.

There are a lot of firsts in the hotel’s history, and this is clear from the day it opened right up to the present day.

The 1900s: The birth of the Golden Gate Hotel (Hotel Nevada)

The hotel first opened its doors to guests back in 1906. At this time, Las Vegas was not the over-the-top vibrant destination it is today. Yet, the hospitality and innovation at this hotel would set the standard for the city for years to come.

golden gate hotel registers from 1907
Guest ledgers from Hotel Nevada, as the Golden Gate was originally named. Circa 1907-1908

At the time, a hotel room cost only $1 a night, and the hotel instead made its profit from alcohol and gambling. It is a unique business model that continues in Las Vegas today.

Early on, the owners brought in modern innovations such as heating and electricity to enhance the experience for the guests. A telephone may not sound like a modern amenity to us today, but the one that the hotel acquired in 1907 was the first telephone in Las Vegas, and the phone number was #1.

first telephone in las vegas
An authentic model of the first telephone in all of Las Vegas. Hotel Nevada’s phone number at the time was #1.

The 1920-30s: The Golden Gate Fights Back Through Prohibition

The 1920s could have seen the demise of the casino. Gambling was outlawed in 1910, so out went the poker tables, roulette wheels, and anything else you couldn’t hide from the authorities. The country would later suffer through prohibition and the Great Depression.

Times were tough, but Las Vegas and the Golden Gate proved to be resilient.

vintage whiskey and bourbon bottles
Golden Gate promotional bourbon and whiskey bottles from the 1950s.

This is largely due to the fact that the workers and hoteliers often “forgot” that alcohol was illegal. Many years later, during a remodel, construction workers found bottles of whiskey that had been hidden in the walls to keep them out of sight of the local prohibition authorities.

Gambling was once again made legal in Las Vegas in 1931, and prohibition ended in 1933. From here on, the party was just getting started at the Hotel Nevada and Sin City as a whole.

Hotel Nevada Was Renamed The Sal Sagev Hotel

Hotel Nevada Was Renamed The Sal Sagev Hotel
In 1931, Hotel Nevada was renamed the Sal Sagev Hotel, and the property got its first lighted sign. This was the precursor to the Glitter Gulch era (pictured above) that soon followed.

During this period, the hotel rebranded as the Sal Sagev – Las Vegas spelled backward – in a move that probably seemed clever at the time. This name change also led to the installation of a large electric sign.

Old photos show that the sign was quite low-key by today’s standards. Still, this would inspire other establishments in town to do the same. Over time, this gave rise to the neon signs that everyone associates with Las Vegas today.


The 1950s: First-Class Dining and Gaming at the Golden Gate Casino

By the 1950s, the hotel and casino had built a strong reputation and played host to countless guests and gamblers. In 1955, it rebranded once again, and the name officially became the Golden Gate Casino.

Named after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This was an opportunity to improve the experience of the guests and increase the hotel’s reputation even further.

One such venture was the installation of a surveillance system. A two-way mirror was installed above the gaming tables to catch any players cheating. These two-way mirrors are no longer in use, but they can still be seen today.

Famous Golden Gate Casino Shrimp Cocktail

Something the hotel became famous for was its .50-cent shrimp cocktail. The Golden Gate started serving this classic in 1959, and it remained on the menu until 2017, although the price had increased throughout the years.

The classic shrimp cocktail made a comeback in 2019. It’s now $9.99 to enjoy this dish in its original location.

You might expect that sales would have declined over the years. After all, shrimp cocktail is quite a vintage concept. However, the Golden Gate sold its 25 millionth glass of shrimp cocktail in 1991.

The 1960s: The Golden Gate Casino Rat Pack Connection

There was a major expansion in 1964, and the updated Casino became a popular hangout for the Rat Pack.

Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra were all regulars. The old-fashioned charm of the Golden Gate makes it easy to sit at a gaming table today with a cocktail and pretend you are part of the gang.

The 1990s: The Golden Gate Casino Fremont Street Experience

The 1990s saw a massive change in the Las Vegas landscape. Fremont Street gained the Fremont Street Experience – bringing the lights, theatrics, and performers into the street. This really ramped up tourism and brought even more visitors past the doors of the casino, as the Golden Gate is right in the middle of the action on this all-pedestrian section of Fremont Street.

The Golden Gate at the Fremont Experience
The Golden Gate at the Fremont Experience

Essentially, the entire street out front was updated and modernized around the existing hotel. The following year, in 1996, the city hosted a lavish party to celebrate the 90th birthday of the hotel.

The 2010s – 2012: A Blend of Modernization and Nostalgia

In 2017, the hotel expanded again. This new renovation included a brand new entrance on Fremont street. This makeover was the point where the owners began to look back instead of forwards. By this point, the hotel was already 100 years old and the casino 50 years old. It was time to highlight that by embracing the vintage and historic aspects of the hotel.

This decision to renovate paid off big time. In 2013, The Golden Gate had the honor of being named one of the “Hottest Boutique Hotels in all of Vegas” by USA Today.

This might not sound like a big achievement for what was once the grandest hotel in Las Vegas. But the title suits the site’s current role. It is smaller, with fewer rooms than today’s major Vegas hotels. It is also more unique and high-end than some of the bigger options. The Golden Gates’ move into the boutique niche is a positive step.

The Future of the Golden Gate Casino Las Vegas

Today, the role of being a pioneer and trendsetter has shifted to other Las Vegas hotels. The most innovative years of the Golden Gate are long gone. After all, the hotel is now 117 years old. This doesn’t mean, however, that the light of the hotel has faded completely though.

The hotel has taken on a new role as a place for historic nostalgia and a more chilled-out experience. It appeals to those that want to get a taste of Las Vegas in its heyday.

There’s a touch of class and elegance to the Golden Gate, and it should remain as long as the owners respect the history and significance of the site’s past.

If you’d like to stay at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and experience a part of Las Vegas history, you can check the hotels’ current room rates here.

The Golden Gate is a Las Vegas Role Model

The Golden Gate should be an important role model to all the current top Las Vegas hotels.

The hotel’s long and impressive history shows that even the biggest names in Las Vegas need to adapt to survive. Innovations and social changes can allow for new opportunities for business and profit.

Throughout its history, the Golden Gate has rolled with the punches and always come out on top. At well over 100 years old, the first hotel in Las Vegas is still going strong!

Tip your glass to the Golden Gate Casino Hotel, a historical landmark in downtown Vegas and a classic beauty!

A Few Other Downtown Las Vegas Classics

While the Golden Gate is certainly the oldest hotel and casino in Vegas, there are a few other vintage properties within close walking distance in the downtown area you’ll want to check out the next time you’re visiting.

  • Plaza Hotel (built in 1907)
  • Fremont Hotel (1956)
  • El Cortez Hotel (1941)
  • Golden Nugget (1956)
  • Binions (1951)

You may have come for the Las Vegas Strip, but don’t hesitate to visit the downtown area as well. It’s worth the short trip from Las Vegas Boulevard.

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino Related Questions

Does the Golden Gate Casino have a pool? The Golden Gate Casino does not have a pool. Due to its age, over 100 years old, and location on Fremont Street, a pool is not an option for the hotel. However, Golden Gate guests can use Circa’s pool (aka Stadium Swim).

What time is check-in at the Golden Gate Casino? Check-in at the Golden Gate Casino Hotel is available at 3 pm. Check-out time is at noon.

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Now that you know about the oldest Hotel in Las Vegas, you may also want to know about the very newest casinos and resort properties in Las Vegas. Find out what they are in our article here.

Want to know how Las Vegas came to be? Check out our article: How Las Vegas Got its Start

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