Don Laughlin, the famed casino owner and founding figure of the eponymous town in Nevada, has passed away at the age of 92. The announcement of his death was shared on his business’s Facebook page, stating he departed peacefully surrounded by family.
Described by his company as an incredible figure who made vast impacts locally and nationally, Laughlin was best known for his transformative presence within the Riverside Resort family. His team praised him as an extraordinary individual to work and learn alongside.
Born on May 4, 1931, in Owatonna, Minn., Laughlin’s entrepreneurial spirit ignited during his path as a trapper. During this time, he installed ad hoc slot machines within hunting lodges that he visited, a venture earning him an extra $500 per week. However, this venture conflicted with his high school studies, leading to an ultimatum from his principal, prompting him to pursue different paths.
Laughlin relocated to Las Vegas in 1952, where he purchased his first casino, the 101 Club, two years later. However, his stay in Vegas was not permanent. A strategic flight in his private aircraft revealed a less exploited opportunity 100 miles south of Vegas, where Nevada, California, and Arizona converge along the Colorado River.
In 1964, Laughlin bought land at the southernmost point of Nevada, a location known as the South Pointe since the 1940s. Surmising it as his Vegas 2.0, he began the development of an old eight-room motel and bar that sat on riverside acres. In 1966, he renovated and reopened the property as a casino, featuring 12 slots, two table games, and an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner for 98 cents. This establishment eventually evolved into the Riverside Resort, owned and operated by Laughlin until his death.
Laughlin’s development did not go unnoticed; the post office named the locale after him, and notwithstanding his proposal to rename it as Riverside or Casino, the name stuck. The subsequent development of the Bobcat Club Casino and the Monte Carlo in 1967 and 1968 respectively propelled the town’s growth, transforming it into a veritable Vegas 2.0.
Currently, the town of Laughlin, NV is home to eight casino resorts and the Laughlin/Bullhead City International Airport. Commenting on his passing, Nev. Gov. Joe Lombardo hailed Laughlin as a remarkable individual, extolling his pioneering spirit, ingenuity, and the lasting impact he has had on Nevada.
Laughlin was predeceased by his wife, Betty Laughlin, who passed away in January 2022 at the age of 89. Mourning their loss, plans for a memorial service are anticipated to be announced soon.