Tom Gallagher Dies, Former Nevada Gaming Executive

By | July 21, 2021

Former Nevada gaming executive and congressional candidate Tom Gallagher died Thursday in a California hospital of complications from cancer. He was 76.

Tom Gallagher
Tom Gallagher is seen in this portrait that aired on Las Vegas television station KSNV-TV. The longtime Nevadan served as an executive at the hotel-casino company now known as Caesars Entertainment. (Image: KSNV-TV)

Gallagher had a long career as an attorney and hospitality industry executive. That work included serving as executive vice president and general counsel for the Hilton Hotels Corp. Beginning in 2000, he served as chief executive officer of Park Place Entertainment. 

After Gallagher left Park Place Entertainment two years later, it was renamed Caesars Entertainment. Many of the major hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip are owned by Caesars Entertainment, including Caesars Palace on the west side of the resort corridor and several on the east side of the highway.

In a statement, Caesars Entertainment said Gallagher led the company through difficult times, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The company added that Gallagher contributed to Nevada’s growth “through education, philanthropy, and more,” the newspaper reported.

‘Larger Than Life’

In recent days, many people have reflected on Gallagher’s contributions to the state and to their own lives.

On Facebook, state Sen. Roberta Gustave Lange (D) noted that she was heartbroken over the loss. The Las Vegas legislator had worked on Gallagher’s congressional campaign and received encouragement from him to seek public office. Incumbent US Rep. Jon Porter (R) defeated Gallagher, a Democrat, in the 2004 general election.

Lange said she either talked to Gallagher on the phone or had lunch or dinner with him almost every day for 18 years.

His heart was larger than life, and his advice meant so much to me,” she wrote on Facebook. “People come into our lives leaving their mark, and we are forever changed.”

Former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst, who assisted Gallagher on the congressional campaign and in philanthropic efforts, noted that Gallagher was an early proponent of hiring and promoting woman and people of color, the newspaper reported.

“We should all strive to be like Tom Gallagher,” said Jones Blackhurst, a Caesars Entertainment executive. 

Memorial Service

On his Facebook page, Gallagher noted the contributions of those he admired.

When Roger Mudd died in March, Gallagher wrote that the television reporter and anchor was “one of my few heroes during my years in Washington in the 1970s.” During that period, Gallagher served as chief legislative counsel for US Sen. John Tunney (D) of California.

“He was a truly a class act in every respect,” Gallagher wrote of the journalist. “I was outraged when he was passed over as the designated successor to Walter Cronkite. I always felt that CBS had lost one of its finest reporters when he moved to NBC.”

At the death of Alex Trebek last year, Gallagher noted that the Jeopardy! quiz show host “lost his battle.” Gallagher had been an executive with the Griffin Group, working for Merv Griffin, who created Jeopardy! in the 1960s.

Gallagher wrote, “Having been Merv Griffin’s lawyer and then CEO, I am greatly saddened to lose such a class act. RIP Alex.”

Gallagher died at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center after fighting cancer for a year, KSNV-TV reported. A cremation will take place in Orange, Calif. Memorial services are to be set at a later date, according to an obituary. The family requested donations be made to the Desert Research Institute Foundation in Reno, where Gallagher served as a trustee. 

Gallagher is among several prominent Nevadans who have died since late last year, including former state Sen. Joe Neal (D) and Northern Nevada gaming pioneer John Ascuaga.

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