The Casinos That Never Were

And to think we could've had the Xanadu or Addams Family casinos

Model of Xanadu. Courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.

Las Vegas is a city built on dreams. Sometimes those dreams even take physical form, as the castles, pyramids and Eiffel Towers on the Las Vegas Strip prove. However, there are many casinos and attractions that never quite made the transition from drawing board to concrete and steel.

Perhaps the most spectacular of these was Xanadu, which was intended for the site now occupied by the Excalibur. Designed by Martin Stern, Jr.—creator of the Sands and the International (now Westgate)—it had the look of an Aztec pyramid stuck halfway between mid mod and disco. The prospectus cited a theme of a luxurious “make-believe dream world” and restaurants like The Flaming Sword, in which everything would be flambeed. While Xanadu never came to pass, many of its ideas, such as water/fire features at the entry, glassed-in for the disco/buffet/movie theater yet. We’ll keep hoping.

Model of Moon Las Vegas

Another sky-high concept was Moon, which was pitched back in the aughts. While no specific location was chosen, it’d have to be a huge tract of land: The $5 billion, 250 acres resort was designed around a giant, realistic Moon, replete with craters (pools), rocks (climbing walls), underground tunnels (spa) and waterfalls (a jazz club). There were rumors going around last  year that the project would finally be built in the Coachella Valley but, as of yet, the only moon out there is still floating in the sky.

There were two attempts to build a London-themed casino, each with a little Big Ben and a giant ferris wheel. That seems reasonable: Two competing Titanic casinos do not. But in 1999, Los Angeles developer Allen Rudin and Vegas’ own Bob Stupak fought each other in court for the trademark rights to this fatal-disaster-turned-luxury-resort. Stupak’s project was intended for Las Vegas Boulevard south of Charleston Boulevard and would feature all 1,000 hotel rooms of the “Titanic” crashing into 30,000 square feet of commercially developed “iceberg.” And you thought Vegas World was tacky.

Sketch of Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino

Two television shows have been pitched as resort-casinos. Las Vegas local Max Baer Jr. has long aspired to build Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino, replete with “oil derrick” out front. While it seems to have missed its chance in Vegas, Baer still thinks Reno might be lucky for the property. The Addams Family casino would no doubt sell out for the month of October and be the place for goth tourists to rest their raven-dyed heads, but it never got past the sketch stage. Which is sad, because what could be cooler than Thing dealing blackjack?

One TV show that manifested in Vegas was Star Trek. Initially, there was a proposal to build a full-scale Starship Enterprise in Downtown Las Vegas. Back in the early ’90s, plans were underway for a Star Trek attraction (no hotel or casino, alas), but franchise owner Paramount pulled the plug. The Star Trek Experience was later installed at the Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate), but only lasted a few years. Too bad Tony Hsieh isn’t a Trekkie.

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