LAS VEGAS -- When Steven Cutler was shopping his Nevada gaming
museum concept around the Las Vegas market a few years ago, no one
seemed to be interested.
It didn't seem to matter that the Nevada Gold attraction -- the
name came from a state legislator who introduced gaming into law in
1931 and claimed casino gambling would be "Nevada's gold" -- had
been well received as a traveling exhibit of gaming memorabilia at
a couple of Hilton properties in Reno and Laughlin.
So Cutler used his connections at the Tropicana Resort &
"I was consulting at the time for Aztar [the Tropicana's parent
company] in Laughlin and Las Vegas and had a relationship with the
people at the Tropicana," he said. "I kept going to them with the
idea, and they kept saying they didn't have any space."
They did, however, tell Cutler that if he found some space on
the property and came up with a concept that everyone agreed with,
they would entertain the idea of a permanent attraction.
"The space we came up with was occupied by the keno lounge,"
Cutler said. "It was Todd Moyer, who was [the property's] vice
president of marketing at the time; Jonathan Swain; and I who
brainstormed and came up with the hall of fame concept, where
people would be involved and it would be an attraction rather than
Thus, the Casino Legends Hall of Fame was born. The
5,200-square-foot attraction opened in 1998 and has become,
according to Cutler, "the most visited museum in Nevada."
"We get more than 1,000 people a day," he said. "And that's just
through word of mouth. I'd like to see about 3,000 people per day,
but that's only going to happen through marketing. We do exit
surveys all the time and [visitors] say it's much more than they
That would be a major understatement.
"My collection [of gaming memorabilia], to my knowledge, is the
largest in the world," said Cutler, who is also the attraction's
curator. "We have more than 100,000 different documented
Only a fraction of that, about 15,000 items, is on display at
any one time. Exhibit items range from swizzle sticks, LeRoy Neiman
works and framed historical photographs and documents, to paychecks
and contracts signed by such entertainers as Lena Horne and
China, ashtrays, gaming chips -- anything with a casino name on
it -- also fill the bill, said Cutler, noting that more than 738
casinos, 550 of which no longer exist, are represented.
The hall of fame also has the largest Nevada gaming-chip
collection in the world, with more than 15,000 chips ranging in
denominations from one cent to $100,000, he said. And the
collection just keeps growing.
"I am still seeking out memorabilia," Cutler said. "Actually, I
just picked up a slot machine as recently as yesterday.
"I get things from estate sales, antique stores; but the best
stuff I get is from longtime entertainers and longtime Las Vegas
residents. More often than not, I buy [the items], but sometimes
people give things to me."
There's something in the museum for everyone, Cutler said.
"If you don't care about the hundreds of framed documents and
photographs on the wall, you can spend an hour and 20 minutes
watching four different shows," he said. "You can make this an
all-day event, or you can get through it in about an hour."
The video presentations run continuously in various parts of the
museum. The first honors the movies inducted into the Casino
Legends Hall of Fame, and the second documents the various casino
implosions and fires during the past 10 years.
The third is a retrospective on showgirls, and the fourth
focuses on the rise and fall of the mob's influence in the state's
The Casino Legends Hall of Fame is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
seven days a week. Admission is $6.95 for adults and $5.95 for
To contact reporter Amy Baratta, send e-mail to [email protected] .
LAS VEGAS -- Although the Casino Legends Hall of Fame here
displays some 15,000 items at any given time, the attraction is
more than a resting place for gaming memorabilia.
It is, as its name signifies, a bona fide hall of fame complete
with a list of industry honorees that grows longer by the year.
"This is just like the Baseball Hall of Fame," said Steven
Cutler, the hall of fame's co-founder and curator. "It's a little
piece of immortality for [those inducted]."
Although the hall of fame first opened to visitors in the
Tropicana Resort & Casino in 1998, it wasn't until February
1999 that the attraction held its inaugural induction ceremony.
"In the very beginning, we were actually having small ceremonies
every quarter," Cutler said. "There are hundreds of people who
deserved to be in there. After a while, we went to twice a year,
and a now it's [an] annual [event] that happens every October."
The ceremony takes place in the Tropicana's Tiffany Theatre,
where the property's "Folies Bergere" show is performed.
"We're talking a showroom that has lots of historical value
because the 'Folies Bergere' is the longest-running show in the
U.S.," Cutler said. "We get about 1,000 people, all of whom are
VIPs and invited guests. It's a star-studded audience."
The ceremony is hosted by Clint Holmes, a headliner at Harrah's
Las Vegas, and there is live music -- an orchestra or band --
depending on whether the inductees want to entertain.
"We leave it up to them," Cutler said.
The hall of fame, which honors a range of casino and
gaming-related people and entities, is divided into categories,
including Builders & Visionaries, Headliners, Las Vegas in the
Movies, Good Guys, Gamblers and Showgirls. The newest category,
recognized for the first time this past October, is the Joe Delaney
Award, named for the late radio, television and entertainment
writer and columnist.
For the past four years, Cutler said, the process of selecting
inductees has been "me compiling a list of names and then sitting
down with a selection committee made up of different department
heads at the Tropicana."
That is going to change, he said. "We now feel that we have
enough members [to] vote people in," he said, estimating the hall
of fame has 80 members.
At every induction ceremony, more memorabilia for the museum is
"The plaque that is awarded onstage actually goes into the hall
of fame," Cutler said. "It's a big disc that was created by
[artist] LeRoy Neiman, and the [honoree's] picture goes in the
center. The people who get inducted also get a plaque for their
home." -- A.B.