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Remembering John D. “Jackie” Gaughan – Pioneer of the Casino World in Vegas

The Influential King of Downtown Vegas is No Longer With Us

The undisputed legend of the casino industry in Vegas, John D. Jackie Gaughan, breathed his last on March 12, 2014. He was 93.

The Omaha native had stakes in several leading casinos around Downtown Vegas, but he is most particularly known for his leadership of El Cortez, which many consider his life, soul and love.

Gaughan is regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern day Vegas by many and as per the words of former Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, “When someone like Jackie Gaughan passes away, it’s a piece of Las Vegas. We’re just dying and he can never be replaced, because the new guys aren’t the same as the old guys.”

The End of an Era

Modest and down to earth, Jackie Gaughan started off with a career in gambling in Nebraska, but there was no looking back for him when he arrived in Las Vegas in the early 50s. So much so that at a time, Gaughan alone was the complete or partial owner of eight major casinos in Las Vegas.

Jackie Gaughan was not just a downtown guy; he was also down to earth. He was a noted philanthropist and also tried to make gambling more regular for regular people. Son of a bookmaker based in Omaha and father of a casino owner, Gaughan never bragged of what he had achieved in his life but rather took pride in how his family had built an entire casino empire in Vegas with their hard work and dedication.

The Maestro of Gambling

El Cortez was a truly a shining gem in Gaughan’s achievements and ever since the year 1963 when he purchased it, it grew into one of Las Vegas’ most popular and renowned haven of entertainment.

Gaughan was a natural at gambling, and it is this love for the gamble that made him a force to be reckoned with in the casino world. He said it himself in an interview –

“Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. I’d do everything just the same, and I don’t plan to retire. I’ve got no place to go.”