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October 21, 2014

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Chronology of the Aladdin hotel-casino

1963 -- The Tally Ho, a non-gaming resort, is built where the Aladdin now stands. The 450-room hotel, opened by Ed Lowe, is later sold to Kings Crown of Kokomo, Ind.

1965 -- The Kings Crown Tally Ho adds a casino and theater restaurant. The Strip property's estimated worth is $16 million.

1966 -- In January, gaming pioneer Milton Prell, who in 1947 founded the Club Bingo which became the Sahara Hotel, buys the Tally Ho for an undisclosed price and makes $3 million in renovations. In April, Prell reopens the resort as the Aladdin Hotel and Casino. Comedian Jackie Mason opens the 500-seat Baghdad Theatre. In July, Las Vegas amateur golfer Edward Engstrom records two holes in one on the fourth hole of the Aladdin Country Club. He uses a six-iron for both 120-yard-plus shots.

1967 -- As it would do for most of its history, the Aladdin loses money -- $63,961 for the year. By March, the resort has $2.5 million in liabilities and only $1.2 million in assets. In May, Elvis Presley, the king of rock n' roll who would become a Las Vegas showroom mainstay, marries Priscilla Beaulieu at the Aladdin.

1968 -- In September, the Parvin-Dohrman Co. of Los Angeles buys the Aladdin for an estimated $10 million.

1970 -- The Nevada Supreme Court rules that the hotel-casino is liable for damages when one of its dealers punches a customer. The case involves an Aladdin 21 dealer who knocked out a gambler after the man called him an obscene name. The Aladdin argued that the dealer was acting outside the scope of his employment. The Supreme Court, however, found that the dealer was acting, "within the scope of the very tasks assigned to him -- that of dealing 21. In these circumstances the employer is responsible." A Clark County jury had awarded the gambler $2,567 in damages.

1971 -- In October, Aladdin Hotel Corp., led by St. Louis businessman Peter Webbe and longtime local casino executive Sam Diamond, buy the resort for $5 million. In December, the Justice Department tells the Aladdin it is dissatisfied with the hotel's efforts to hire blacks in accordance with a consent decree by 17 Las Vegas resorts to employ blacks in 12.5 percent of all job classifications. Joe Neal, then-chairman of the Economic Opportunity Board who today is an outspoken Nevada senator, accuses the Aladdin of hiring just one black among 70 new hirees between July 1 and Sept. 30.

1972 -- The Aladdin becomes the first Strip resort to offer double odds on craps.

1974 -- A $50 million expansion, including a 700-room tower and the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, begins. The expansion is completed two years later and becomes the genesis for the hotel's years of financial problems and allegations of mob control. In May, a daring thief snatches $10,000 from a baccarat game at the Aladdin and makes a spectacular getaway by diving through a construction chute to a waiting car. The robber, however, drops $5,000 in stacks of $100 bills during his escape.

1975 -- In February, James Abraham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and veteran Strip casino executive, is named Aladdin general manager. He would later play a key role in the downfall of the Aladdin amid charges of mob infiltration.

1976 -- In July, pop legend Neil Diamond opens the new $10 million Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts. It is a high point for Aladdin Entertainment Director James Tamer, who later comes under intense scrutiny by Nevada gaming officials and others who investigate whether he is overseeing the Detroit mob's interests in Las Vegas.

1977 -- In May, reports surface that the Aladdin is in danger of going bankrupt because it owes the Teamsters Union's Central States Pension Fund $39 million -- a loan that was used to finance the expansion. In August, an FBI affidavit says Detroit mobsters have hidden interests in the resort. Reports later would link Midwest crime bosses to controlling the Aladdin and skimming millions of dollars in gaming revenues.

1978 -- In August, the Aladdin installs the first progressive dollar slot machine capable of paying a $1 million jackpot. Before year's end, the world's first $1 million slot jackpot is hit at the resort.

1979 -- In March, four men are convicted by a federal jury in Detroit of illegally running the Aladdin. Among them are Abraham, who is sentenced to two years probation, and Tamer, who is sentenced to three years in prison. In April, the Aladdin introduces the first $2 slot machines in Nevada. They fail to catch on. In June, Webbe and Sam Diamond are stripped of their gaming licenses. In July, entertainers Johnny Carson and Wayne Newton become part of separate investment teams looking to buy the Aladdin for greater than $100 million. In August, the state closes the Aladdin but, several hours later, federal Judge Harry Claiborne orders that the resort be reopened. In September, the Aladdin Hotel Corp. and others are indicted on federal charges involving a purported $1 million in kickbacks from the hotel's 1974-76 expansion.

1980 -- In January, Ed Nigro gains a court-sanctioned takeover of the Aladdin after he and Carson sign an agreement to buy the property for $105 million. The deal falls through. In July, the state once again closes the hotel. In September, Newton and Ed Torres, former chief executive officer of the Riviera, buy the resort for $85 million and reopen it in October.

1981 -- In December, powerful St. Louis attorney Sorkis Webbe, Peter's brother and the Aladdin's legal counsel, is acquitted with seven others of conspiring to defraud the Teamsters pension fund of $1 million during the mid-1970s expansion. The six-month trial is one of the longest federal criminal proceedings in Las Vegas history. One of the defendants, contractor Robert Tindell, is represented by local attorney Oscar Goodman, who today is mayor of Las Vegas.

1982 -- In July, Torres buys out Newton's interest for $8.5 million after they disagree on how to run the Aladdin. In the coming years there are several reports that Newton would buy back the troubled property.

1983 -- Sorkis Webbe is convicted of income tax fraud for not paying taxes on $160,000 in construction kickbacks he took during the 1974-76 Aladdin expansion.

1984 -- In February, Torres' ownership group files for bankruptcy after falling several months behind in payments to the Teamsters pension fund, which at the time is owed $34 million. Teamsters fund officials had threatened foreclosure.

1985 -- Sorkis Webbe dies of cancer at age 55 while his kickback conviction is under appeal. In February, the Aladdin is cited for failing to meet the state's tough new retrofitting laws that were passed following the deadly MGM and Las Vegas Hilton fires in 1980 and '81 to help prevent future high-rise disasters. The Aladdin had inadequate and improperly constructed exits, fire officials said at the time.

1986 -- In January, Japanese businessman Ginji Yasuda buys the Aladdin for more than $50 million and closes it in November for a $30 million-plus remodeling project.

1987 -- In March, the Aladdin reopens. In September, its race and sports book opens with a unique restriction -- it cannot take bets on horses owned by Yasuda. The first time that happens is in early September when Nonillion runs at Del Mar.

1989 -- In August, the Aladdin, which 13 months earlier had fallen seriously behind in payments to its creditors, files for bankruptcy. It lists debts $38 million greater than its assets. Nevada gaming authorities order an ailing Yasuda's name removed from the license and his wife, Yoko, takes over. In December, Ginji Yasuda dies at age 57.

1990 -- In January, reports surface that entertainer Frank Sinatra is interested in buying the Aladdin, but that does not pan out.

1991 -- In January, the Aladdin lays off 150 of its 1,700 employees, saying that a weak economy and the Persian Gulf War were contributing factors. In February, 40 more workers and 15 management officials are let go. In June, the resort fails to get the minimum $53.5 million bid for its purchase.

1992 -- In April, it is announced that between September 1989 and February 1992 the bankrupt Aladdin turned a $9 million profit. The resort had earned $173.9 million from the casino, room sales, food and beverage sales and entertainment and had spent $164.9 million for salaries and benefits, payments to vendors and for property, sales, room and gaming taxes. In June, a bankruptcy trustee awards possession of the Aladdin to the JMJ Inc. management company, owned by Joseph Burt, who for 15 years was chief executive officer and chief financial officer for the Maxim hotel-casino. He becomes chief executive officer of the Aladdin and runs the property along with title-holder Bell Atlantic-Tricon Leasing Corp. of New Jersey.

1993 -- In February, Linda Thomas, an unemployed bookkeeper who had moved to Las Vegas after losing her business and home in Granada Hills, Calif., hits a then-record Quartermania slot jackpot of $1.88 million at the Aladdin. In July, Burt dies in a motorcycle accident at the Grand Canyon.

1994 -- In December, the Aladdin and the 36 acres upon which it sits is sold to the New York-based Sigmund Sommer Family Trust for a reported $80 million. The company is run by Las Vegas developer Jack Sommer.

1997 -- In January, Aladdin Gaming Limited Liability Company announces it is entering into an agreement to redevelop the Aladdin with London Clubs International, which will feature a European-style casino in addition to the Aladdin's casino. In September, it is announced that the Aladdin will close in November and nearly 1,500 employees will be laid off. While the hotel-casino will be imploded, the Theatre for the Performing Arts will be spared and remodeled. In November, the theater closes following a Motley Crue concert.

1998 -- In April, the 17-story Aladdin hotel is imploded during an event highlighted by a charity function for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada. Eight hundred guests pay $250 per person to attend the fund-raiser in a tent where they get a good view of the implosion and a 10-minute fireworks display.

1999 -- In April, 39-year-old construction worker Steve Abernethy, a journeyman ironworker from Utah, is killed after falling seven stories when the concrete flooring collapses beneath him while he is helping to build the new Aladdin.

August 2000 -- The new $1.4 billion Aladdin with 2,600 rooms, all with computers and Internet access and all within seven doors of an elevator; the 500,000-square-foot Desert Passage shopping center with 130-plus shops; 21 restaurants; 75,000 square feet of meeting rooms; two swimming pools; a 100,000-square-foot casino with 2,800 slots and 87 gaming tables; a 7,000-seat Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts; and the 35,000-square-foot London Clubs International European gaming room. The resort will employ 7,000.

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