The tallest building in Nevada – the 76-storey Fontainebleau casino in Las Vegas – is set to finally open by the end of 2023, having sat vacant since its construction was halted in 2009.
After the recession put a stop to construction of the $2.9 billion structure, it changed hands several times before being reacquired by Fontainebleau in February this year.
While the enormous structure has hardly been abandoned since 2009 – interim owners pumped tens of millions into keeping the infrastructure in mint condition – the story of the Fontainebleau casino highlights the changing fortunes of the gambling industry and shows that, just sometimes, the house doesn’t win.
Online gaming company, Party Casino, has researched about the most fascinating abandoned casinos from around the world. While the Fontainebleau casino is now set to open after all, other establishments have not been so lucky in the hands they have been dealt.
Casino di Consonno, Italy
In the 1960s, the eccentric entrepreneur Count Mario Bagno bought the entire town of Consonno for 22.5 million lire (around £10,000) and razed it to the ground in order to build his brainchild, Citta dei Balocchi – the City of Toys.
Designed to be a playground for the wealthy of nearby Milan, the City of Toys was supposed to include everything from a car racing circuit to football fields, a zoo and even a fake castle. The Casino di Consonno was one of the few elements that actually got built and enjoyed a short period of success until the mid-1970s.
But the Count’s constantly changing plans meant the ‘city’ was never finished and he abandoned it in 1985. After his death in 1995, his estate shut the whole town and it has been slowly decaying ever since, with the casino the spooky centrepiece of an urban explorer’s dream site.
Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino, Croatia
Opened in 1972 at the Haludova Hotel, the brainchild of Penthouse founder Bob Guccioni who spent $45 million on the complex, the casino went bankrupt the following year and closed. The hotel fared little better, going through several ownerships; during the Yugoslav civil war, it was used to house refugees before being privatised in 1995 and hosting its final guests in 2001. Since then, it has lain dormant and decaying.
Casino Constanta, Romania
Casino Constanta, Romania – Built in 1910 on Romania’s Black Sea coast, this art nouveau palace featured two games rooms, reading rooms, a dance hall, theatre, restaurant and terrace with a sea view. During the First World War, it was used as a Red Cross hospital and during WWII, German troops were stationed there. It was renovated twice but ultimately closed in 1990 because of high operating costs. Since 2014, the building has been slowly
crumbling, leaving it a dilapidated shell of its former self.
Rhyolite Ghost Casino, USA
Rhyolite Ghost Casino, USA – The Nevada town of Rhyolite was founded in 1905 and rose to prominence swiftly as a ‘gold rush’ mining town. However, its fortunes did not last long – the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and financial crash of 1907 quickly put paid to the settlement’s fortunes.
By 1910, the mind was operating at a loss and, by 1920, population had dwindled to a handful. Since then, the town has been a tourist attraction and movie set. Now one of the most photographed ‘Wild West’ ghost towns, Rhyolite’s buildings are largely in ruins but the old train depot, now privately owned, was briefly converted into a casino and bar, as well as a small museum, but even that has lain derelict and broken down since the 1970s.
Although the four highlighted sites still stand, albeit derelict, there have been many more casinos across the globe that were also abandoned and left empty and decaying. Among the best known were the fabulously ornate Bokor Palace casino in Cambodia – once the haunt of the French colonial elite; Asbury Park Casino on the Jersey shore in the USA which succumbed to eroding shorelines and urban development before being demolished.
There have even been a couple of floating casinos that lay abandoned for years, including the New Orleans-themed Big Easy Casino Boat, which spent most of its short life unoccupied, being moved between various Florida ports. Meanwhile, the Jubilation Casino boat in Mississippi opened in 1995 and lasted just seven months before closing, before spending years being trashed and forgotten, ending its days listing sadly in the water.
David Winter, marketing manager of Party Casino, said: “Abandoned buildings are often eerie, slightly foreboding, spaces but casinos hold a special fascination. That’s because these buildings were once filled with glamour, luxury, laughter and the thrill of the games.
“The juxtaposition of what they once were compared with the dark, decaying, silent places they are now is such a stark one that it’s hard not to hear the echoes of the past when you see pictures of the ruined buildings.”
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