It’s a sad day in the world of gambling and, to be honest, in the world in general. The Cal Neva, one of the icons of Nevada gambling, has closed its doors and it may be done for good. In the 1960’s no casino was bigger and more iconic than the Cal Neva, which was owned at that time by none other than Frank Sinatra.
Ol’ Blue Eyes renovated the casino and turned the Cal Neva into the place to be in Nevada. Though the recession has forced it to shut down, the Cal Neva will always have its place in history. After Sinatra bought it, the casino became a hot spot for the big names of the day. It was frequented by Sinata and fellow Rat Pack members Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Never a classier group of gentlemen than that group, I tell you. The Cal Neva is also the site of Marilyn Monroe’s last weekend, where she lived the nightlife one last time before dying of an alleged drug overdose in 1962.
For all its charm, nostalgia and history, though, the Cal Neva had a problem and that is Las Vegas. Located on Lake Tahoe, the resort straddled the border between Nevada and California. During its heyday there was little competition; when it came to casinos, this was the place.
But then something happened. The Las Vegas Strip exploded into the tourist Mecca of Nevada and soon all gamblers and lovers of the nightlife were heading there instead. Despite its prestige, even the Cal Neva couldn’t compete with the total package the Strip offered, with countless resorts all located in one place and more flash and eye-catching extravaganzas than you could imagine.
Adjusted for inflation, there was a 50% dropoff in revenue at the Lake Tahoe casinos last year as compared to 1992. Cal Neva, though a cultural and historical landmark, simply doesn’t have the modern amenities that your average casino customer wants. For that reason, its days had been numbered for a while and now, after all this time, the Cal Neva’s time has come to an end.
Though the casino has now closed, the rest of the property, including Sinatra’s showroom, will remain open. It is a sad day for anyone who grew up on Sinatra and the Rat Pack and even if you didn’t, it’s a sad day for anyone who appreciates culture and history. You will be missed, Cal Neva.