1955 Opened 3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South $3.5 M
1961 Addition (Tower)
1992 Sold to Steve Wynn for $75 M
May 23, 1955 The Dunes opened on May 23, as a low rise resort 1955 with
"Hollywood Star" Vera-Ellen providing the entertainment in the Magic
Carpet Review. When the North Tower was added in 1967 it was one of the
finest and largest hotels on the strip. The South Tower was added in
1979. The hotel was built in part with financing from movie mogul Al
Gottesman and the Teamsters Pension Fund. The resort boasted an 18 hole
golf course, a rooftop health spa and a 90 foot-long pool. The Hotel's
Slogan was "The Miracle in the Desert."
In its early years, the Dunes was known for the 35-foot tall fiberglass
sultan (1964) that stood above its main entrance. Although it opened to
much fanfare, it struggled from the start; one of the reasons possibly
being it was located at what was the southernmost part of the Strip at
the time. The hotel frequently had to borrow money, and even the Sands
Hotel lent its executives to help out, as well as bringing in numerous
famous celebrities and entertainers such as actor/singer Frank Sinatra’s
surprise appearance dressed as a sultan. On January 10, 1957, in a
desperate move to keep the resort afloat, the Dunes became the first
hotel/casino in Nevada to offer a topless show, called Minsky’s Follies
- the first of which was "Minsky Goes to Paris." The State Legislature
was "in an uproar," but the show set a record for attendance in a single
week at 16,000. In 1961, a 24 story tower was built, bringing the number
of rooms up to 450. In 1970, there were rumors Howard Hughes would buy
into the hotel but that did not end up happening. In 1979, the hotel
expanded to 1300 rooms. In 1985, the sultan statue, by now on the golf
course, had caught on fire - reportedly due to an electrical short in
its stomach. In 1987, Japanese investor Masao Nangaku purchased the
Dunes "for $155 million but could not make it a financial success".
On November 17, 1992, the Dunes was sold for the last time to developer
Steve Wynn's company, Mirage Resorts, Inc. for $75 million. On January
26, 1993, the Dunes closed its doors for good. Like some of the other
legendary hotel/casinos of its era, it could no longer compete with the
newer and more exciting megaresorts that were being built.
Steve Wynn bought the Dunes and started the implosion trend on Oct.
29th, 1993 with the Implosion of the Dunes North Tower. With a
pyrotechnics show worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, the Dunes met her
fiery death On October 27, 1993, the Dunes was imploded in a grand
ceremony that involved major fireworks displays and the use of several
"cannon blasts" from the pirate ship of Treasure Island Hotel and
Casino. The cannon blasts simulated the effect of the ship’s cannons
being responsible for the destruction of the Dunes. 200,000 people
watched the implosion. Everything, including its legendary neon sign,
was destroyed "amid a shower of fireworks never before equaled west of
The Dunes counts as two implosions as the South Tower was obliterated in
July of 1994 with no fanfare and minimal media.
The implosion also served as a very symbolic effect for the city. Many
longtime residents knew the Dunes was controlled by the Mafia, having
been first built with money from it and the Teamsters’ Pension Fund, and
the implosion signaled the end of significant mafia control and
influence in Las Vegas. For many years, the hotel was owned by Morris
Shenker - "an attorney associated with the St. Louis Mafia, Meyer
Lansky, Jimmy Hoffa, and the Dunes Hotel". Shenker later became a target
of the Organized Crime Strike Force in St. Louis.
The Bellagio now stands in its place. During the construction of the
Bellagio, workers found four bags of Dunes casino chips that were
apparently buried at the site.