Las Vegas, Nevada

In 1954, the owners of the Desert Inn hotel opened the Desert Showboat Motor Inn Casino with a riverboat paddlewheel motif on east Fremont Street and the Boulder Highway (which later became the Castaways). But its distance from the Strip meant it never attracted a large tourist crowd and remained  primarily a locals' casino.


In 1971, Holiday Inn opened the River Queen Casino in front of its new hotel on the former site of the Tumbleweed Motel and Pyramids Motel on the Las Vegas Strip north of the Flamingo. Shelby and Claudine Williams, former owners of the Silver Slipper, took over the casino in 1973. Homer Rissman, Holiday Inn’s house-architect, designed the riverboat themed casino which the Williams renamed the Holiday Casino.


In 1983, Holiday Inn acquired full ownership of the casino and hotel and its subsidiary, Harrah’s, took over its management with Claudine Williams as Chairwoman. In 1992 Harrah’s Entertainment, no longer a subsidiary of Holiday Inn, took over the property and renamed it Harrah’s Las Vegas, the first hotel in Las Vegas to carry the name of Bill Harrah. When Harrah’s built its new tower, designed by Martin Stern, to replace the original Holiday Inn, the Showboat was demolished to be replaced by the Harrah’s new carnival theme.   


Architectural drawing of Holiday Inn proposal (Las Vegas), cover sheet, circa 19

Architectural drawing, Holiday Inn, circa 1971
Color rendering of Holiday Inn and Holiday Casino (Las Vegas), circa 1972

Holiday Inn, circa 1972
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Location of Project

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  • 1973

    Shelby and Claudine Williams open the Holiday Casino in front of the Holiday Inn hotel

  • 1979

    Holiday Inns, Inc., buys 40% of Riverboat, Inc., the parent company of the Holiday Casino

  • 1983

    Holiday Inns buys out remaining 60% of Riverboat, Inc.; Harrah’s (at that time subsidiary of Holiday Inns) assumes management and then purchases outright casino/hotel; Claudine Williams remains Chairwoman of the hotel

  • 1983

    Holiday Inns, Inc. buys out the remaining 60% of Riverboat, Inc. (the parent company of the Holiday Casino); Harrah’s, which was at that time a subsidiary of Holiday Inns, assumes management and purchases the casino/hotel outright; Claudine Williams remains Chairwoman of the hotel

  • 1992

    The Holiday Casino is renamed Harrah’s Las Vegas. Harrah's retains the Holiday Casino riverboat theme until its grand re-opening.

  • 1997

    Grand opening of Harrah's Las Vegas (formerly the Holiday Casino)

Skyline Comments
Photograph of a rendering of the International Hotel (Las Vegas), circa 1968:
This is a great image. Thanks
Photograph of men playing faro in a Fremont Street casino (Las Vegas), circa 1930:
I love this picture and the other one you have on the Faro Game. Please let me know How I...
Film transparency of the swimming pool and patio of the Thunderbird Hotel (Las Vegas), circa 1950s:
The 1950'S images are great! Do you have more like this and how can I order reproductions?