Gambling

El Cortez to Undergo $20 Million Augmentation Procedure


One of the few remaining old-school Vegas casinos isn’t only not ready to cash in its chips, it’s doubling down and getting rejuvenation surgery. Or something.

Our beloved El Cortez has shared details of an upcoming $20 million upgrade.

While $20 million may not sound like a lot in Strip dollars, it’s a metric ass-ton in downtown dollars, so let’s see what’s in store for “ElCo.”

EL Cortez
It’s zhuzh time at ElCo again! Yes, that’s how it’s spelled.

El Cortez got its start in 1941, a rough-and-tumble era where harbors were attacked, Yugoslavia had a coup and doctors were still allowed to slap newborns. Which might explain some of El Cortez’s rough edges, but ownership and management of the casino seem committed to updating the old girl.

These latest additions follow a recent $30 million renovation of the hotel’s original 47 rooms, Tower Premium Rooms and casino floor restrooms.

The new $20 embellishment will include a high limit lounge, two bars, a restaurant (an Asian food concept, Hot Noods by Chinglish) and a Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks. It’s the law.

“Hot Noods” is pretty racy for El Cortez, frankly. Kudos!

Chinglish is a Cantonese Wine Bar in Las Vegas, which you’ve probably never been to, but here’s more. We asked A.I. to do a rendering of the restaurant, but it said, “Our A.I. moderator thinks this prompt is probably against our community standards.” Well played, El Cortez.

We have to have some sort of A.I. image in our story, so here’s one of a manatee double-fisting Cantonese noodles.

To be honest, we’re just looking to get Google traffic for the search term “manatee noods.”

El Cortez plans to start renovations this summer, the final phase of the expansion will be unveiled in early 2025.

According to a news release, the project will expand the casino’s footprint by 10,000 square feet, and 4,000 square feet of the existing casino floor will be deeply massaged.

El Cortez opened a high limit lounge not too long ago, but it sounds like a proper, permanent one is in the works. Like many high limit rooms downtown, this one is probably more aspirational than currently in-demand, but it only takes one good player to make a high limit room worth the investment.

El Cortez
Typically, high limit tables and machines don’t consort. We have never seen anyone playing in this high limit room other than us.

As for the two new bars, one will be a roulette bar, whatever that might be.

The other is described as a “show bar,” with a 20-foot by 10-foot screen that will play black and white films and live sports action.

Yes, sports, it’s the law.

Collectively, El Cortez seems up for keeping some newness coming while maintaining its legacy and vibe as a value-driven, grinder-friendly place to hang and drink and play downtown.

There’s just so much to love, from the beer on ice in the tables games pit to the ice cream bar giveaways to the fact El Cortez is now 21-plus restricted. El Cortez is also one of the few casinos left with coin-operated slots.

A quick pause to pour one out for some former El Cortez homies: Flame Steakhouse closed at El Cortez in 2014. Naked City Pizza closed at El Cortez in 2020. El Cortez lost its live keno lounge in 2021. A Subway shop closed at El Cortez in January 2024 with little fanfare.

Props to Kenny Epstein, CEO and Chairman of El Cortez, and his great team for all the new offerings in the works, especially the bars. Because bars.

We chatted with El Cortez’s owner Kenny Epstein and General Manager Adam Wiesberg on our podcast. Just because we haven’t done an episode in a week or two doesn’t mean we don’t have a podcast, smartass.

El Cortez is perfectly positioned as a bargain destination when so many visitors are feeling the pinch as Strip prices continue to climb. El Cortez is a little grittier than some of those sprawling, fancy Strip casinos, but El Cortez is a genuine throwback to the Vegas so many pine for, a portal to a Vegas where dealers were a little surly but that just added some delicious flavor to the gambling experience.

And make no mistake, El Cortez is very much about gambling, the way nature intended. There’s no Cirque show (or any entertainment to speak of), there’s no video arcade or movie theater or gourmet restaurants. El Cortez is at the east end of the Fremont East district, so you have to make an effort to visit.

But El Cortez is worth seeking out, especially if you have a limited bankroll and a sense of adventure. (The seedy neighborhood means there are lots of characters dropping into the place, and the people-watching is more entertaining than any Strip production show.)

El Cortez knows where it sits in the Las Vegas landscape, and it’s an absolute diamond in a town where many casinos feel like they’re lab-grown.

El Cortez has character and charm, and we can’t wait to check out all the new facets of this downtown gem.





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