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Las Vegas' Famed Aladdin Casino Ready to Go Up in Puff of Smoke

Resorts: The 17-story hotel with a checkered past will be imploded to make way for new resorts. It is the fifth local icon in five years to be blown down and replaced.

April 26, 1998|ROBERT MACY | ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAS VEGAS — The shuttered Aladdin Hotel-Casino, a Strip resort with a checkered past, is set to check out Monday night in a spectacular implosion.

Wayne Newton once owned the property, winning out in a bitter feud with Johnny Carson and igniting a legal battle with NBC that ran its course in a failed appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elvis and Priscilla were married there.

Neil Diamond opened the resort's famous theater.

Donald Trump once eyed the Aladdin, but no deal was struck.

Mob figures from St. Louis, Detroit and Tokyo had their fingers in the till at various times during the 32 years the genie and his magic lamp were members of the city's casino fraternity.

The 17-story Aladdin is the fifth local icon to be imploded in the past five years, making way for four mega-resorts and a parking lot.

The Dunes was blasted in October 1993 to clear the way for the $1.6-billion Bellagio resort, scheduled to open in October. The Landmark was felled in November 1995 and is now a convention center parking lot. The venerable Sands was dropped a year later, and the $2-billion Venetian resort is rising in its place, with an opening set for next year. The Hacienda was imploded in a New Year's Eve spectacle in 1996, and Mandalay Bay resort will open there next spring.

Monday's implosion, scheduled for 7:25 p.m. PDT, will be conducted by Controlled Demolition Inc., the Phoenix, Md.-based company that leveled the other four properties.

The 1,100-room Aladdin was closed in November, the latest Strip landmark to succumb to this city's mega-resort mania.

Taking its place on the prime 35-acre site will be a new 2,600-room Aladdin Hotel and Casino, a massive shopping complex known as Desert Passages and a 1,000-room music-themed hotel-casino that will be a joint venture with parent Aladdin Gaming Ltd. and Planet Hollywood. The three projects carry a price tag of $1.3 billion, with completion scheduled in two years.

Richard Goeglein, president and chief executive officer of Aladdin Gaming, isn't worried that 26,000 new hotel rooms are coming on line here in a three-year-period, a 25% hike that will boost total room inventory past 125,000.

"We have an incredible market here," said Goeglein, an 18-year industry veteran. "Las Vegas is a tremendous people-generator."

He said the city's 30-million plus annual visitor count will be enhanced by increased airport capacity, the opening of more foreign markets under Open Skies agreements, and an increase in convention business.

Monday's implosion will bring a sense of deja vu for Goeglein, who headed the management team in the waning days of the Dunes.

"My team turned off the lights, we locked the doors when the place closed," he recalled. "There were a lot of tears."

Goeglein had tried to buy the Aladdin while working for other gaming companies. That goal was realized when Aladdin Gaming took over operations for the New York-based Sommer Family Trust when Sommer bought the resort from Bell Atlantic Tricon in 1994.

"I think I was destined to come back to this property," Goeglein said.

"Destiny" is the operative word for the Aladdin, with roots dating back to 1962 when New York toy manufacturer Edwin Lowe opened a non-gaming English Tudor-style motel named "The Tally-Ho."

"Tally-Ho" closed 10 months later, then reopened in September 1964, renamed "King's Crown."

Milton Prell, one of the state's early gaming figures, bought the resort in 1966 and renamed it "The Aladdin."

In the years that followed, the resort faced a host of financial and legal problems, with allegations of ties to Detroit and St. Louis mob figures.

In 1979, stars Wayne Newton and Johnny Carson began jockeying to buy the property. Newton and gaming figure Ed Torres bought the resort in October 1980 for $85 million. Newton sold his share back to Torres 21 months later in a split over business philosophies.

The Newton purchase spurred a bitter lawsuit with NBC when the network aired segments alleging the purchase was linked to the mob. Newton was awarded $22.8 million by a federal court jury after a high-profile nine-week trial here, but the verdict was reversed on appeal. Newton appealed the reversal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.

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