Stanley Mallin, who with his partner Jay Sarno built Caesars Palace, has died, aged 98, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
With Caesars, the pair are widely credited with creating the themed hotel-casino concept. In Las Vegas, they’re commemorated by Stan Mallin Drive and Jay Sarno Way, which run parallel to each other behind Caesars.
Mallin reportedly joked that his road was shorter because he didn’t need the attention, unlike his flamboyant and energetic business partner.
While Sarno was considered the driving visionary in the partnership and was the public face of Caesars Palace, Mallin had the business and financial acumen to make it happen. And while Sarno lived large as a big Las Vegas personality, Sarno quietly managed their properties in the background.
I have a very raucous personality,” Sarno told the author David G. Schwartz in the book The First Emperor of Las Vegas. “I’m not like Mallin, who’s a quiet gentleman and everybody likes him, and rightfully so.”
Mallin was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame in 2019, 30 years after Sarno, who died in 1984.
When in Rome
The pair met when they roomed together at the University of Missouri in the 1940s. After serving in World War II, they went into business together as tile contractors in Miami and then built houses in Atlanta.
They opened their first hotel in Atlanta in 1958, the Atlanta Cabana, which was party funded by investment from Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. The Teamsters fund would also finance Caesars Palace.
Mallin and Sarno visited Las Vegas in the early 1960s on a junket and were surprised to find that the Strip was largely filled with motels, lacking major luxury hotels on a grand scale.
With an ambition to create something truly opulent, they settled on an ancient Roman theme and toured Italy together, examining the marble statues and architecture of the period.
Caesars Palace opened in 1966 a cost of $24 million. Mallin and Sarno sold it three years later for $60 million.
Circus Circus Comes to Town
Their next project, Circus Circus, was not quite so successful. Envisaged as the first family-themed casino, the property featured carnival games and trapeze artists performing above the gaming floor. Monkeys were trained to pay out winnings, while one short-lived stunt involved pink-painted baby elephants transported around the casino via an overhead tram.
But the property suffered because it initially lacked a hotel. Meanwhile, tourists would come to stare at the spectacle, rather than gamble.
After the pair sold Circus Circus at a loss, Mallin largely retired from the casino industry to pursue other business projects.
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman told the Review-Journal he became friends with Mallin and Sarno in the 1960s and credits them with creating the blueprint for the Strip resort.
“Jay was a gourmand, and everything was loud, in a good way,” Oscar Goodman said Sunday. “And with Stan everything was quiet, in a good way, and they were just the perfect combination. I think they were very much responsible for Las Vegas being what it is today.”
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