Thursday, August 04, 2011
The El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas has a proud past and a more promising future. With 70 years under its belt, the resort exudes historic eminence. But that’s not what sets the El Cortez apart from other casinos. It’s the personal business approach that has been put in place by families – the Housselses, the Gaughans and now the Epsteins – for families.
“Our family-owned business, our neighborhood and our rich history are our greatest assets,” said Alexandra Epstein, the executive manager and vice president of marketing at the El Cortez. She spent summers working at the resort while in college. Her father, Kenny, is a longtime Las Vegas casino executive and protégé of the property’s former owner, gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan. In fact, she fondly describes Gaughan as a “grandfather figure,” thanks to regular Sunday dinners between their families while she was growing up.
“We’re all explicitly tied to one another,” affirmed Mike Nolan, the general manager and chief operating officer at the El Cortez. His first memories of the resort harken back to when he played football at Bishop Gorman High School. The hotel fed the team during summer training. Nolan was only 21 when he started working for the Gaughans as a slot manager at the El Cortez. He would go on to own and operate several other casinos before selling them and returning to the one he calls “the beginning of the empire.”
“Today there are all these corporations that have changed the look of Las Vegas, but the El Cortez is still here, where the town started, as a family business,” said Nolan, who also takes pride in the enduring relationships that have been built over the years. “We know our customers personally, by name. And not just them – we know their parents and we know their grandparents.”
These images show the El Cortez in 1953 (left) and more recently in 2008. (Photos courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau)