When Sam Boyd and his son Bill purchased the vacant Wheel Casino in downtown Henderson in 1962 and renamed it the Eldorado, it was one of the first acquisitions by a family that would become synonymous with gaming in Southern Nevada. Boyd Gaming Corp. now owns and operates 17 casinos nationwide, including nine in Southern Nevada, but it’s the small property on Water Street that remains most special to Bill Boyd.
“It was the first casino that I made an investment in, and I made it with my father, so it’s always been important to us,” says Boyd, now the company’s executive chairman. “It’s been a landmark in Henderson for so many years. I don’t know how many people I meet who say they grew up in Henderson and their parents used to take them to the Eldorado.”
Boyd will be on hand July 1 when the Eldorado celebrates its 50th year in operation with a 3 p.m. champagne toast and cake—a low-key way to celebrate a quiet icon. Besides the sentimental value the casino holds to Boyd—its Mexican restaurant, Mariana’s Cantina, is named after his daughter—it has also served as a training ground for many employees who have gone on to become senior executives at Boyd Gaming.
“It’s a small enough place that the general manager, for example, has to do everything. He has to make decisions in all areas,” Boyd says. “And even though it’s much smaller than most of our properties, the decisions are the same.”