Sitting right on the conjoined border of Eastern California and Western Nevada is Lake Tahoe. The massive lake rests in the shadows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where some of the range’s highest peaks are located. Nowadays, Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular resort destinations West of the Mississippi because of the amazing scenery, expansive selection of outdoor activities, and the resort casinos that host the more than 2 million annual visitors and 50,000+ residents.
Even if you have never heard of the Lake Tahoe casino industry, it is one of the most historic in the nation. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however, seeing as the Southern portion of Lake Tahoe is just over 7 hours from the Las Vegas Strip.
Right now and for as long as Lake Tahoe casinos have existed, they have existed as resort casinos. When we talk about resort casinos, we are speaking of those sites owned by private persons or companies, rather than those run by the government or by Native Tribes. The term “resort casino” also excludes just about every gambling establishment that does not also offer overnight stays.
With regard to most resort casinos, in addition to the casino floor you will also find a hotel and other amenities such as restaurants, shops, entertainment, and much more. Below is a list of the casinos that exist in Lake Tahoe at the present moment.
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Lake Tahoe
Montbleu Resort, Casino and Spa
Lakeside Inn and Casino
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
Many of the aforementioned casino resorts are now named something other than what they were first founded as. Though their names have changed, many of these buildings have been home to casinos since the day they were first erected.
When we talk about gambling in the American Southwest, most people immediately think of Las Vegas, or even Lake Tahoe’s neighbor, Reno. While this may be so, these folks are neglecting to mention the history tucked on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Gambling made its first legal presence known in Tahoe by way of the Nevada Club. The Nevada Club, which first opened its doors in 1932, was located on the Eastern side of the heavily-trafficked Highway 50. While the Nevada Club ended up being one of the more successful gambling destinations of Lake Tahoe, there were tough times to be had. Back then, the number of annual visitors to the lake’s Southern shores paled in comparison to what it is today. Due to the predominant methods of travel at the time, most visitors stayed during the Summer and avoided the area during winter. For casinos, this meant that there was only a small period of time during which they were able to take in large, consistent sums of gaming money. If they didn’t have favorable summers, their winters were often insurmountable. During the first 30 years of Lake Tahoe’s gaming existence, dozens of casinos came and went, some staying open for as little as 3 months. During this time, the nearby city of Reno saw a gaming boom that far outpaced Lake Tahoe’s.
Then, in 1955, the stars aligned as the one and only Bill Harrah took a visit to the mountainous region. Realizing that there was opportunity to be had, he quickly purchased a vacant property and turned it into something Lake Tahoe had never seen before—an extremely high-quality, modern gaming facility.
Still, the draw of a slightly nicer casino was not going to get winter traffic to stream in out of nowhere. Then, Harrah’s and bussing company Greyhound struck a deal that brought thousands of visitors in from towns like Oakland and Los Angeles. Thanks to a few promotions and perhaps some luck, Lake Tahoe’s casino industry began growing and thriving like so many thought it someday might. Nowadays, though the number of casinos remains fairly small, the casino industry is thriving. Sure, sites have changed names and locations, but the allure of beautiful Lake Tahoe today is exactly what it was when things got started back in the early 1930s.