Golden Gate Casino may have changed names a number of times but it maintains its tradition of inexpenxive shrimp coctails and provides a historic connection at the Freemont Experience with early Las Vegas. As the oldest operating hotel & casino in Las Vegas, the Golden Gate Casino is one of the most enduring symbols of Las Vegas’ history.
What is now the Golden Gate Casino was originally named Hotel Nevada when it opened its doors on January 13, 1906. At the time, room and board was only one dollar, but it has increased significantly since then. The state of Nevada outlawed gambling in 1909, but Golden Gate continued operating as a hotel. The owners put away their gaming tables and poker chips and added an electric sign to the building by 1909.
In 1931 gambling in Nevada was made legal again and the tables were rolled out of storage. In the same year, Hotel Nevada changed its name to “Sal Sagev” which is simply “Las Vegas” spelled in reverse. In 1955, Sal Sagev underwent a significant change when ownership was assumed by a team of individuals from the San Francisco Bay area who changed the site’s name to Golden Gate Casino. This team of Italian-Americans included Al Durante, Dan Fiorito, Roberto Picardo, Leo Massaro, and Italo Ghelfi, a pioneer in the gaming industry who managed the Golden Gate Casino for almost 40 years.
The new owners spawned a Las Vegas tradition by offering shrimp cocktails at a very low price beginning in 1959. The cost has remained low throughout Golden Gate’s lifetime. This may be one reason why their shrimp cocktails have been voted the “Best of Las Vegas” by readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for many years. By 1991, the hotel & casino celebrated selling 25 million shrimp cocktails. At the present, about 4,000 pounds of shrimp are served here every week.
Golden Gate Casino expanded in 1964 and attempted to go for a more modern appearance by including a metal screen facade which hid its historic exterior. Craig and Mark, Italo’s sons, did away with this facade and reinstated the buildings historical look when they bought Golden Gate from the former partners in 1990.
by Paul Favors