When the Riviera Hotel & Casino opened, it was the first high-rise
resort with nine stories comprising of the casino, shops, and 300
deluxe rooms. An architectural departure for Las Vegas, the Riviera
looked like it belonged on Miami Beach, which was the design of
architect Roy France and Son who were based in Miami.
The Riviera was originally the dream of a group of Miami
investors headed by Florida businessman Sam Cohen. These investors
formed the Riviera Hotel Company, which in turn leased the land from
the Gensbro Hotel Company.
The resort contained the Hickory Room Restaurant, Cafe
Noir, Le Bistro, and the Clover Room showroom, as well as an
Olympic-sized swimming pool. The casino contained 18 table games and
116 slot machines, and though modest by today's standards, it was
considered the place for high-rollers.
The lavish debut of the Riviera was on April 20, 1955. The
grandest opening to date, the Clover Showroom starred Liberace with
actress Joan Crawford serving as official hostess. The effervescent
showman was paid $50,000 a week. Liberace was playing at the New
Frontier for $750 a week.
The Miami-oriented operators were unaccustomed to gaming
and they ran into trouble. The hotel sustained large losses and went
bankrupt in July of 1955. Gensbro Hotel Co., the Riviera's landlord,
assumed control and immediately began a search for new operators.
Gensbro had arranged for Flamingo's Gus Greenbaum, Ben
Goffstein, Harry S. Goldman, Ross Miller, Dave Berman, Jess Goodman,
Charles Harrison, and Frank, Fred and Elias Atol, to take over. With
Greenbaum taking the lead, major operational changes occurred
resulting in financial stability.
In 1959, Riviera was sold to a group headed by Ed Levinson
of the Fremont Hotel, and Carl Cohen and Jack Entratter of the Sands
In October of 1959, Riviera planned to spend $3.5 million
for remodelling including the addition of 114 deluxe guest rooms as
well as a skyroom on the 10th floor of the hotel, in which dusk to
dawn dancing was be featured.
In 1960, Riviera changed the Clover Room's name to the
Versailles Theatre. The Riviera was financially afloat. Zoppi
credited the highly successful Starlight Theatre for supporting the
In 1965, Hotel Riviera, Inc., bought out the interest of
Gensbro, Co., becoming sole owner of the hotel and its property.
In 1967, the Riviera added a 200-room wing, an elevator
penthouse, a 9,000-square-foot lobby, and 10,000 square feet of
office and meeting space. Dean Martin became a 10% owner with
approximately 8,000 shares, and Dino's Den was named after him.
Four championship tennis courts were added near the pool
in 1972, and they were later to be the site of the Dewar's
Celebrity-Pro Tennis Tournament.
In February or March of 1973, Meshulam Riklis of American
International Travel Services of Boston bought the Riviera for $56
million. In July of 1973, it was announced that Dean Martin was
released from his contract at Riviera so he could sign a contract
with the MGM Grand.
In 1975, the Riviera added its 17-story Monte Carlo tower
at a cost of $20 million. It consisted of 300 rooms, 60 suites, and
an elaborate penthouse, giving the resort a total of 1,000 guest
In 1977, the Riviera's San Remo tower added 200 rooms to
the south side of the resort, as well as the elegant Ristorante
Italiano, a 100-seat gourmet Italian restaurant.
In 1984, Riviera filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Arthur
Waltzman was named president in July in an effort to get the Riviera
back on her feet. Waltzman helped Riviera jump out of Chapter 11 in
On June 21, 1985, the Riviera took at bold step toward
providing a new type of showroom entertainment, unveiling Splash
starring Frank Gorshin. The "aquacade of music and dance" took place
in and around a 20,000-gallon aquarium while featuring numerous
performers and speciality acts.
Later in 1985, the Riviera introduced Norbert Aleman's
"An Evening at La Cage," in the Mardi Gras Showroom, a
Parisian-style revue of female impersonators and cabaret dancers.
The star of the show was a 20 year old Frank Marino.
In 1987, Riviera opened its topless comedy revue Crazy
In 1988, the Riviera added the 24-story Monaco Tower
costing $28 million and nearly doubling the resort's size to 2,100
In 1990, Riviera expanded its casino to 70,000 square
feet for a total of nearly 125,000 square feet out to the sidewalk,
making it one of the largest casinos in the world offering reel
slots and video games, table games, poker, keno, bingo, and a
complete race and sports book.
On May 10, 1997, Riviera revealed the largest lifecast
bronze statue in the world of Crazy Girls, created by Michael Conine,
to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the show.
In 1999 Riviera showcased her skyboxes. The boxes are 12
rooms which sit above the Royale Pavilion. These boxes are available
for special concerts, including Super Bowl, and various other
convention bookings. The boxes come with a private bartender,
servers, and network feeds on two televisions. Ranging from 600
square feet to 1,024 square feet, skyboxes can be combined to
accommodate larger gatherings. These Skyboxes have been rented for
seminars, sales meeting and birthday parties.
On February 2, 2000, Splash unveiled its new show
replacing the water tank with The World's Record holders of "Bela
Tabak's Riders of the Thunderdome" (often referred to as the globe
of death) along with a variety of amazing acts including ice
Presently, the Riviera features Splash, An Evening At La
Cage, and Crazy Girls, along with comedy shows. Continously
showcased are Tribute to Elvis starring Jim LeBoeuf , and Lon
Bronson and his All Star Band.