A sliver of the Colorado River Valley where Nevada, California and Arizona meet has been transformed into a fast-growing tourist destination and gambling resort in a few short decades.
Laughlin’s current location was established in the 1940’s with the South Pointe due to its proximity to Nevada’s southern tip. The settlement consisted of a motel and bar that catered to gold and silver miners who dotted the map, and to the many construction workers who built Davis Dam.
Davis Dam was designed to help regulate the mighty Colorado and to provide electricity to the Southwest. Once the dam was completed, construction workers left and the motel fell into disrepair.
In 1964 Don Laughlin, owner of Las Vegas’ 101 Club, flew over Laughlin and offered to buy the property. In less than two years the motel and bar, now called the Riverside Resort, was offering all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, play on 12 slot machines and two live gaming tables. Guest accommodations were available in four of the motel’s eight motel rooms. The Laughlin family lived in the other four rooms.
South Pointe was renamed Laughlin when the U.S. Postal Service inspector insisted Don Laughlin give the town a name-any name-in order to receive mail. Don Laughlin recommended the name of Riverside or Casino, but the postal inspector used Laughlin instead.
In 1972 the Riverside Resort added 48 rooms, followed by several additions and in 1986 built the first 14-floor high-rise.
A second casino, the Bobcat Club opened in 1967 where the Golden Nugget Laughlin currently operates. In 1968 a third casino, the Monte Carlo opened its doors.
Across the River, Bullhead City flourished in the glow of the casino light. Shuttle boats transported customers from the Arizona side of the river to Laughlin’s resorts.
During the 1980s a surge of casino construction exploded in Laughlin. The Colorado Hotel (now the Pioneer), the Regency Sam’s Town Gold River (now the River Palms) and the Edgewater opened early in the decade. The activity attracted other investors to begin a second boom resulting in the construction of the Colorado Belle, Harrah’s Del Rio, Ramada Express and finally, in 1990, the Flamingo Hilton.
In 1987, Don Laughlin funded and built the Laughlin Bridge at a cost of $3.5 million. He donated the bridge to the states of Nevada and Arizona. The bridge carries 2,000 vehicles daily.
Today there are nine hotel/casinos and one motel in Laughlin providing over 10,000 rooms, 94,000 square feet of meeting space, 60 restaurants, two museums, a 34-lane bowling center and a variety of boutiques, spas and salons. More than 14,000 casino workers now cross the Colorado by shuttle boat or the Laughlin Bridge each day.
The city by the river now attracts nearly 3 million visitors annually who visit Laughlin to gamble, enjoy water sports on the Colorado and attend many high-profile special events hosted by the community.