Jackie Gaughan, known as the “king of downtown” Vegas due to his immense influence and ownership in the area, died of natural causes in hospice care Wednesday morning. Gaughan was 93 years old.
Some might say that the Vegas life was destiny for Gaughan, having grown up in Omaha, Nebraska the son of a bookmaker. World War II would steal Gaughan away from Nebraska for a brief period of time before Gaughan could return to attend Creighton University. Five years after he earned his degree in Business in 1946, Gaughan’s family would make the move to Las Vegas due to a downturn in the bookmaking business in Omaha.
In 1951, Gaughan’s family would buy a stake in the Flamingo Hotel, and Jackie would never let back afterwards.
Aside from owning eventually owning the Flamingo, Gaughan would go on to own all or part of several major Las Vegas downtown landmarks including Plaza, Golden Nugget, Showboat, Boulder Club, Gold Spike, the Western and Las Vegas Club, along with other local fixtures.
Perhaps the most important Las Vegas landmark owned by Gaughan, however, was the El Cortez; Gaughan would purchase the El Cortez in 1963 and wound up living out the last of his days in a penthouse suite in the nation’s longest running casino of 73 years.
It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of John D. “Jackie” Gaughan. Las Vegas lost a legend today and the http://t.co/W881Idgw1x
— El Cortez Las Vegas (@ElCortezLV) March 12, 2014
While Las Vegas may get the best of most who decide to make it their home, Gaughan was most certainly an exception to the rule: “I believe it would take a month to name all of the friends that Jackie Gaughan had in the state of Nevada. It would take that long to list all of the people from Reno to Las Vegas, from Elko to Laughlin who respected Jackie for his warmth, his business integrity, his affection for his employees and above all, for his happy, positive personality. I am one of those people whose life was brightened by a friendship and association with that delightful man,” stated Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts, Ltd.
One of Gaughan’s defining characteristics was his commitment to education. Gaughan supported the public school systems in both Omaha and Las Vegas, providing scholarship money for his alma mater, Creighton University, and funding the building of a multicultural center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Gaughan’s commitment to ensuring a proper education for all ran so deep that the family has requested donations to Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas in lieu of flowers.
Governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, recognized Gaughan’s importance to the development of Las Vegas, stating, ”Few people have influenced Las Vegas and Nevada like Jackie Gaughan. He played an important role in the history of Las Vegas, helping shape it into the city we know today. There is no question his incredible legacy will be felt for generations to come.”
Services for Gaughan will be held on St. Patrick’s day to honor Gaughan’s deep commitment to his Irish heritage.
Image via Twitter