Developer Has Plans to Build Casino, Museum at Historic Moulin Rouge Site

Posted on: May 30, 2018, 09:30h. 

Last updated on: May 30, 2018, 09:57h.

The Moulin Rouge is one of the most important historical sites in Las Vegas, but the site where the first integrated casino in the city once stood has long been in disrepair. Now, it seems as though this landmark may have a part to play in Las Vegas’ future as well.

Moulin Rouge developers
The Moulin Rouge, as it appeared in 1997. The complex has since been demolished, but a new developer is planning to rebuild a casino and civil rights museum on the site. (Image: Lennox McLendon/AP)

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, developer Spec Builders USA Inc. is planning to build on the site, creating a Moulin Rouge revival that is modeled after the original complex, as well as a small civil rights museum to honor the casino’s past.

Many Plans, Little Progress

The California-based developer is only the latest group to try to rebuild the Moulin Rouge or do something new with the site. Last year, Clark County itself tried to buy the land for $6.2 million in order to place a new government building there, but backlash from residents in Historic Westside ended that plan.

Spec Builders agreed to match the county’s bid, but never managed to close on the property, even forfeiting on a deposit. Now, the developer had made another deposit and appear to be heading towards a late June closing date.

The original Moulin Rouge hotel and casino was only open for six months in 1955, but it was a groundbreaking venue and played an important role in the history of civil rights in Las Vegas and the United States. When it opened, it was the only integrated hotel and casino complex in the country, as most other venues on the Las Vegas Strip weren’t open to black patrons.

While the Moulin Rouge declared bankruptcy six months later, its role in the city’s history wasn’t over. In 1960, it became the site for a hurriedly arranged meeting between government officials, hotel owners, and black leaders. The meeting would result in the desegregation of all casinos on the Strip.

Fire Destroys Complex, But License Persists

The site remained unused for decades, with several plans designed to either reopen the casino or otherwise find a use for the former resort falling through. In 2003, a fire nearly destroyed the entire complex; today, only some of the original columns can still be seen, lying in the dirt.

However, the gaming license for the property has been preserved since 1955. In order to keep its license, the site must host at least eight hours of gambling once every two years. That most recently took place on Tuesday, May 29 – exactly 15 years after the 2003 fire – when Century Gaming Technologies was issued a one-day license to bring a trailer onto the site with 16 slot machines, which operated from 6 am to 2 pm.

But while that minimal effort is enough to retain hope that a real casino might again be able to operate at the Moulin Rouge, the plans outlined by Spec Builders are what have made locals think the historic venue might someday be a vibrant part of Las Vegas again.

“I think it’s time for someone to come in and see the value and do some cool things,” Las Vegas Councilman Cedric Crear told the Review-Journal. “Whatever happens there, we have to maintain the rich history and integrity of the Moulin Rouge.”