When Caesars Entertainment announced Friday that the remodeled casino hotel formerly known as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will now be known as The Cromwell, I was struck by the contrast between the property’s moniker and its purpose.
Of course, any name is going to have people who love it and people who hate it. But “Cromwell” is, to say the least, a curious name for a casino hotel, particularly one aimed at a luxury clientele. The most famous Cromwell in history, Oliver Cromwell, was a puritanical British leader who rose to the rank of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. And, as the word “puritanical” suggests, he was no friend to gambling or luxury, as I outline in my book Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling:
…. But the civil wars that wracked the British Isles in the 1640s disrupted gambling (as they did everything else), and the victory of Parliamentary forces and rule by Oliver Cromwell nearly destroyed it. Under Cromwell, self-denial became the law of the land. Christmas and other feast days were suppressed, replaced by monthly fasts—soldiers actually forced their way into private homes to confiscate Christmas hams. Cromwell’s government banned dancing, walking anywhere except for church on Sunday, and all sports, including horse racing (even though Old Ironsides maintained his own stable) and wrestling. Adornment in clothing was outlawed. Gambling was, as a matter of course, prohibited, and Cromwell’s police enforced the laws, ending bear-baiting and cock-fighting by shooting the bears and wringing the necks of the fighting birds. Few gamblers were willing to court the draconian penalties, lest they follow the bears and cocks. (115)
So a hotel true to Cromwell’s legacy would have, as a matter of course, no gambling and no dancing—two things that The Cromwell, which will feature a casino and a nightclub managed by Victor Drai is arguably all about.
Sources originally told Vegas Seven that the hotel was named for the Cromwell Current, an unusual east-flowing current in the Pacific Ocean. But that rationale doesn’t appear in Caesars’ official promotional materials, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. And the most natural interpretation brings us straight to Oliver.
And so, with its puritanical subtext, The Cromwell could be a terrible name—but it could also be a wonderful one. One could imagine a hotel that played off the irony of the name, furnished in strict Cromwell-esque asceticism: Whitewashed walls, employees in drab, all-concealing uniforms, guests asked to fast and reflect rather than drink and carouse.
Judging by the renderings Caesars released Friday, they’ve decided against that route, opting instead for a more bohemian, faux-Parisian vibe. But they may want to reconsider. In an austere, truly Cromwellian atmosphere, the tiniest self-indulgence would feel like rebellion—which would only make it that much sweeter.