Golden Nugget Casino Las Vegas – A History

Golden Nugget Las Vegas – A History

One of the largest casinos in downtown Las Vegas, the Golden Nugget at 129 Fremont St. features 38,000 square feet of gaming space, and 2,419 guest rooms and suites.

The Golden Nugget, currently owned by the Houston-based Landry’s Inc., has much meaning to its name. The casino – once referenced as the “Golden Nugget Gambling Hall” – was home to the world’s largest gold nugget. How large? The 18-inch long nugget of Australia weighs 61 lbs., 11 oz., and is called “The Hand of Faith.” The nugget was on display from 1981-2013.

When the Golden Nugget Las Vegas casino was renovated in the 2000s, Landry’s Inc. added two aquariums – the larger one in the resort known as the Shark Tank, and a smaller one in the Rush Tower. One of Las Vegas’ premier activities is a Golden Nugget Shark Tank tour, where the casino’s on-staff marine biologists teach about fish as spectators “slide” through the 200,000-gallon aquarium.

Golden Nugget Casino History – In the Beginning

After Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, smaller gaming establishments began popping up in what would eventually become downtown Las Vegas. Guy McAfee – a former Los Angeles Police Officer – arrived in Sin City in 1938, and opened the “91 Club.” The reason behind the opening is due to him facing possible legal action for running various gambling houses; this forced his resignation in the LAPD. Instead of dealing with the troubles, he moved to Las Vegas and started the 91 Club.

In 1945, McAfee – now extremely successful – united with investor Buck Blaine and the Golden Nugget was born. Construction began that year, and the casino opened its Fremont Street doors in August 1946. Featuring crystal chandeliers and imported marble floors, the Golden Nugget was the most luxurious casino downtown. It is also one of the oldest casinos still open on the Las Vegas Strip.

The casino was run by McAfee and Blaine through the 1970s, and in 1972 developer Steve Wynn purchased a share of the Golden Nugget. He was named CEO in 1973, and began expanding the casino. The expansion included the construction of a hotel – the first a 17-story building with 579 rooms.

The Golden Nugget Casino further expanded in 1984, then again in 1989 before the property was sold to MGM Mirage. The property would then be sold four-years later to Poster Financial Group, who sold it to the current owner in 2005, Landry’s Inc. Then the work began that created the Golden Nugget as its known today. The famous Las Vegas Casino underwent two more renovations that costs over $300 million – Phase I in 2006, Phase II in 2007, and Phase III in 2009, the latter including a 500-room hotel tower and the Chart House restaurant.

All of these renovations helped create one of the most iconic modern casinos that continues to retain its vast history. The casino doesn’t go unnoticed; Pop Culture has noticed the popularity of the Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget since the 1970s. In its classical form, the Golden Nugget was featured in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever,” and in its modern form, the casino was featured in the popular television series CSI.