Silver City
3001 Las Vegas Blvd South
1975 - 1999
Silver City
Photo from the Jim Munding Collection

Michael Richter
Grade 2

The Silver City Casino was a small stand-alone non-hotel-casino at the north Strip across from the bygone Stardust in a small strip mall then known as the Las Vegas Shopping Plaza, at the corner of the Boulevard and Convention Center Drive.

It opened in 1973 as the Riata Casino, then changed hands and names in 1974. Circus Circus Enterprises bought it in 1981 for $30 million, then proceeded to refurbish the exterior and renovate the interior; for another 18 years, it was a really really red low-rise building with a marginal western theme. At 20,000 square feet, it was smallish, but not tiny; at its peak, it employed 150 people.

Accounts vary (two of them by six or so years!), but at some point in the early 1990s, amidst economic troubles for Silver City, Circus Circus launched a grand experiment to ban smoking in the entire place in an effort to attract a loyal clientele. We visited it in August 1994, so itís likely it went smokeless at some point that summer.

Hereís what we wrote in the September 1994 LVA:

"Putting up with watery eyes and smoke-soaked clothes is a sacrifice that non-smoking gamblers have to make. Unless they play at Silver City, that is, the worldís only non-smoking casino. While the smoke-free environment may be all thatís necessary to bring you in, itís also interesting to note that Silver City is one of the most low-roller friendly casinos in all of Las Vegas. The bar there is unique: no smokers, no ashtrays, not even any matches. Itís an unlikely scenario for a casino located in the heart of the Strip. To get the inside story about the publicís acceptance of the no-smoking policy, we went right to the source -- not Circus Circus public relations, not the Silver City executive offices, but to the swing-shift bartenders.

LVA: Does anybody ever light up in here?

SIL: Once in a while.

LVA: What do you do?

SIL: We tell them itís a no-smoking joint and ask them to put it out.

LVA: You give them ashtrays?

SIL: No! Water glasses or shot glasses...

LVA: Ever get a hassle?

SIL: Sure, thereís always one in every crowd.

LVA: What happens then?

SIL: Well, they just smoke. But nobodyís too friendly to them after that.

LVA: Do you smoke?

SIL: Hell no. I couldnít stand to work here if I did."

In early 1997, United Leisure, a southern California outdoor-recreation and investor group, bought the 8.5-acre Las Vegas Shopping Plaza; United Leisure planned to develop a hotel-casino on the property. Circus Circus, which leased the Silver City space, wasnít involved in the deal, but was expected to manage the new casino.

In the December 1999 LVA, we wrote, "For the first time since 1992 (when the El Rancho closed), thereís a new dark and shuttered casino on the Las Vegas Strip. On October 31, Silver City became Plywood City, with bare boards sealing off the doors and windows and big Ďclosedí signs stapled to the walls."

Also in late 1999, 32-year-old San Francisco real estate "tycoon" Luke Brugnara purchased the shuttered casino and shopping center from Mandalay Resort Group for $40 million and announced big plans to commission the Marnell group to build a $500 million 3,000-room San Francisco-themed megaresort on the property. At the time, we were a bit dubious. We wrote, "Heíll need to lock up a lot more land; by comparison the 2,000-room New York-New York is stuffed onto a 24-acre parcel."

Needless to say, the San Francisco Hotel-Casino never happened.

The Silver City Casino was demolished in 2004 to make way for a new shopping center, today known as the Silver City Plaza. Itís anchored by a Ross Dress for Less store and a Walgreenís.