Leaving a Lasting Legacy in Gaming Business
By Sean Chaffin
On line casino impresario Don Laughlin handed away on Oct. 22 at age 92 after a protracted and storied life within the gaming trade. Born on Could 4, 1931, in Owatonna, MN, Laughlin grew to become concerned in gaming at an early age. He reportedly labored throughout Minnesota’s chilly winters as a fur trapper whereas a teen, utilizing a few of the income to purchase and set up slot machines in looking lodges. Making $500 per week on the time, Laughlin’s faculty principal instructed him to go away the job behind or drop out. He selected the latter.
Laughlin married his spouse Betty Jones in 1953, they usually moved west to Las Vegas with their toddler son, pulling a journey trailer. Don labored as a bartender by day and attended card and cube vendor faculty at evening. By 1954, Laughlin saved sufficient cash to buy his personal enterprise, the 101 Membership in North Las Vegas. Nevertheless, he longed for one thing extra of his personal, away from the bustling Sin Metropolis. Ten years later, they offered the on line casino for $165,000 to pursue a brand new journey.
Laughlin cherished ballroom dancing, horseback driving and traditional vehicles. One other one in every of Don’s best passions was aviation. In his personal airplane, Laughlin would scout the Nevadan Mojave Desert alongside the Colorado River when he got here throughout a imaginative and prescient: a stretch of land known as Tri-State, or typically known as South Pointe. The world was vacant aside from a boarded up eight-room motel and bar. Laughlin bought the motel and 6 acres of riverfront property for $235,000, and the remainder can be historical past. The Riverside Resort opened in 1966, with 12 slot machines, two desk video games and “all-you-can-eat” rooster dinners for 98 cents. Right now, the Riverside Resort hosts 1,350 resort rooms, 1,000 slot machines, 23 desk video games, a poker site, a bingo corridor, a 34-lane bowling heart, 6-Plex Film Theater, six eating places, a 660-seat showroom, two traditional automotive museums, one nightclub, a karaoke dance corridor, and the usS. Riverside Boat Cruise.
“Once we got here right here there was a dust highway in right here and also you needed to are available in by means of the dam,” Laughlin instructed the Las Vegas Assessment-Journal. “If it rained, you couldn’t get right here.”
Constructing and working a on line casino in an space the place infrastructure didn’t exist for a significant gaming facility wasn’t simple. Laughlin, who was a skilled pilot, constructed an airstrip and usually flew to Las Vegas to obtain provides for the property. His “in case you construct it they are going to come” perspective ultimately paid off and Laughlin’s imaginative and prescient for the world grew to become a actuality.
Development of a 14-story resort/on line casino tower in 1983 added 253 rooms and in 1986, a second 14-floor tower added 307 extra rooms and an automotive museum. The most important growth got here in 1994 with the addition of 792 extra rooms in a 30-story resort tower, which stays the tallest of the resort towers in Laughlin. The growth price greater than $70 million.
Regardless of humble beginnings, his relentless spirit noticed him overcome challenges like the dearth of infrastructure. Together with constructing the Riverside, the on line casino proprietor additionally spearheaded main infrastructure enhancements for the world. Laughlin paid for and constructed the Laughlin Bridge in 1986, The bridge crosses the Colorado River, connecting Nevada and Arizona. In 1991, he donated land and helped fund for the Laughlin/Bullhead Metropolis Worldwide Airport.
As a on line casino proprietor, Laughlin created an “previous Vegas” really feel on the Riverside and was not the kind of govt merely to remain within the workplace or the boardroom. He might usually be discovered speaking with prospects and workers alike, even often providing jackpot winners a tour of the world in his helicopter. The property would develop significantly by means of the years, and the world that will ultimately be named after Laughlin now boasts eight casinos and attracts two million guests annually. Laughlin poured his coronary heart and soul into the Riverside, working on the property properly into his 80s. Many throughout the state remembered Laughlin fondly.
“Donna and I have been saddened to listen to of Don Laughlin’s passing right this moment,” Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) famous of his dying. “Don constructed and developed his namesake city of Laughlin, making it into the town it’s right this moment. Don was an impressive Nevadan, and he’ll all the time be remembered for his pioneering spirit, ingenuity, and enduring affect.”
A lot has modified in Laughlin, NV, since 1966. Right now, the Riverside’s workforce numbers over 1,300 workers; some who’ve labored for Don for over 40 years. An estimated 14,000 Nevada and Arizona residents at the moment work in Laughlin’s inns and casinos.
A once-barren desert terrain has turn into a contemporary boomtown ignited by the creativeness of 1 man from the small city of Owatonna, MN. Don Laughlin’s legacy is one in every of innovation, dedication and real connection together with his patrons, making him a legendary determine within the gaming world.