Riviera – History

The Riviera opened on April 20, 1955 as the first high-rise and the ninth resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The Riviera is one of the oldest and most famous casino resorts in Las Vegas. The Riviera also broke new ground in its design: previously, Strip resorts resembled roadside motor courts.

The opening of the Riviera, along with the Dunes and the Royal Nevada casino resorts within a month were the subject of a famous issue of Life Magazine, on June 20, 1955 with a Moulin Rouge showgirl on its cover. The headline was Las Vegas—Is Boom Overextended? and a story about how Las Vegas had built too many hotel rooms to be profitable.

The Riviera was built by a group of investors from Miami. The resort has gone through many ownership changes over the years, including a period of control by owners linked to the Mafia (as was the case for many Vegas resorts in the 1960s and 1970s). Harpo Marx and Gummo Marx held minority interests at the opening. The Marx brothers also owned slightly under ten percent of the Hotel. It is said that Gummo talked his brother into putting money into the Hotel, for it would be a great place for him to perform. Harpo was easily sold. Dean Martin once held a minority ownership stake while he was a headliner in the showroom. Gus Greenbaum was brought into manage the Riviera in 1955. He had successfully managed the Flamingo Hotel after the death of Bugsy Siegel. However, Greenbaum’s drug and gambling addictions led to his embezzling from the casino. In December 1958, Greenbaum and his wife were murdered in their Phoenix, Arizona home, reportedly on the orders of either Meyer Lansky or Tony Accardo.

Liberace was the featured headliner at the resort’s opening, and for many years afterward.

In 2006, Splash, a traditional Las Vegas revue, ended an extended run at the Riviera.

In 2009, An Evening at La Cage, featuring female impersonators including Frank Marino and his impersonation of Joan Rivers, ended one of the longest runs in Strip history.


On Monday, July 12, 2010, in Re: Riviera Holdings Corp, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas), No: 10-22910, Riviera Holdings Company, Incorporated, owners of the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Black Hawk, Colorado. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, together with a reorganization plan under which secured lenders, led by Greenwich-based Starwood Capital Group, would receive new debt and stock. The plan was negotiated with holders of 2/3 of the secured debt worth over $275 million, which included a $225 million term loan, unpaid interest and amounts owing on a swap agreement. Riviera Holdings Company listed assets and liabilities of $100 to $500 million each in the filing in Las Vegas Bankruptcy Court.

Under the terms of the agreement negotiated by Starwood Capital Group, the reorganization plan calls for secured lenders to receive a new $50 million loan plus 80% of the new stock. Lenders who provide $20 million in a so-called new money loan will receive 8 percent of the new stock plus warrants for another 10 percent. Creditors who provide a $10 million working capital loan are to receive 7 percent of the new stock. The last 5 percent of the new stock goes to the lenders in return for providing a backstop insuring availability fo the $30 million in loans. Existing Riviera shareholders received nothing.

The Riviera had lost $4.5 million on income of $30.8 million in the first quarter of 2010. The decline in popularity of the Riviera in Las Vegas was caused in major part by the decline of pedestrian foot traffic in the vicinity of the hotel casino. Previously, The Riviera was surrounded by The Stardust, The New Frontier and The Westward Ho, properties which were demolished to make room for new construction. A shutdown in the new construction in progress at the adjacent Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas and Echelon Place contributed to the Riviera’s downfall, but it could reverse, if and when those large construction projects are resumed and eventually completed later. In the meanwhile, business continues as usual at The Riviera in Las Vegas. There are 1300 employees in Las Vegas, Nevada, and 260 employees employed in Black Hawk, Colorado.


This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Riviera Hotel Casino”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.