|4100 Paradise Road|
|1981 - 1999|
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection
|To the best of our knowledge, no casino ashtrays were ever created for the Continental Hotel. If you happen to know where one exists, please consider sharing a photo of it with the collecting community.|
The Continental debuted in 1975 on ten acres at the corner of Flamingo Avenue and Paradise Road, built to take advantage of its location as the closest casino to the airport. It opened with 200 rooms, then doubled in size in 1979 when another 200 rooms were built.
It was a good locals joint from the start, with strong ongoing food and gambling specials. In April 1983, for example, it was listed in one of the first Las Vegas Advisor Top Tens for its complete lobster-tail dinner available round the clock for $4.49. It still ranks as one of the best Las Vegas meal deals of all time. It was still available more than 10 years later, though the price went up over the years to $9.99.
One player remembers going to the Continental for a triple-pay-for-blackjack promotion in his gambling days in the '80s. He called it "one of the biggest gatherings of scufflers I ever saw -- almost a convention of people on the unofficial exclusion list. I couldn't get a seat."
The Continental made the news in March 1984 when, on a Saturday afternoon, a grease fire in the kitchen forced the evacuation of 400 patrons from the dining room and casino. Only a few blocks and a few years away from the deadly MGM Grand fire, it was a big media event, though no one was injured and the fire was quickly contained. The hotel wasn't evacuated.
The lounge occasionally had surprisingly worthwhile acts. It was Cook E. Jarr's home away from home. And this writer remembers being stunned one night in the mid-1990s when he walked in on some other errand and saw Tiny Tim performing for 10 people in the lounge. Being a fan of the eccentric but talented performer, that was quite a treat.
As a strange aside, we did find that the Continental was used as the basis for a UNLV study about whether or not the cycle of the moon affected people's luck. (Bizarrely, the study found that four of the five major jackpots won between 1991 and 1994 at the Continental occurred on a day of a full moon which, according to one of the study's co-authors, had a statistical chance of 1 in 22 million of happening by chance.)
Anyhow, that same year, the Continental was sold by American Realty Trust, a Dallas-based real-estate investment company. ART was founded in 1961, so it's conceivable that it built the Continental. We couldn't verify this, but it makes sense to us, for two reasons. First, there's no record of it being sold till 1996, so the seller was likely the original owner. Second, corporations had been allowed to own casinos since 1969, and this was the era when forward-thinking developers and hotel companies saw opportunities in Las Vegas.
ART sold the joint to Crowne Ventures for $36.7 million. Crowne was the parent company of the Las Vegas-based "Back To The '50's" catalog business that sold '50s, '60s and '70s memorabilia; Robert Maheu, of Howard-Hughes-in-Las-Vegas fame, was Crowne's chairman of the board. Upon acquiring the Continental, Crowne announced ambitious plans to implement a back-to-the-'50s theme. Not only did nothing happen, but Crowne basically ran the Continental into the ground (not that it wasn't halfway there when they took it over). Crowne owned the Continental for less than three years, then sold it to the Herbst family in 1999.
The Herbsts closed it, completely refurbished it (the cost to buy and renovate totaled $65 million), and reopened it in November 2000. They also renamed it Terrible's, which put the last nail in the Continental's coffin.