Jay Jackson Sarno (Jay Jackson Sarno)

Jay Jackson Sarno

Casino Builder, Mogul, High Roller. He was the builder of Caesars Palace and the Circus Circus casinos on the famed Las Vegas Strip. Considered by many as the city’s first visionary of modern day Las Vegas, he created what would become the template for the rise and dominance of the mega themed hotel resorts and casinos lining the Strip. He served in the Southeast Theater during the Second World War, as an Air Force communications officer in both the Philippines and New Caledonia. Following the war he returned to the University of Missouri where he completed a degree in business. After graduation he teamed up with lifetime friend and business partner Stanley Mallin to develop a series of cabana motels across the southern United States, backed by money from Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamster’s Union. In 1962 he moved to Las Vegas, leasing and eventually purchasing property from real estate tycoon Kirk Kerkorian, again with the financial assistance from Hoffa. Importing the finest marble, statuary and water features from Italy, the Roman themed casino opened in 1966, followed by the Circus Circus casino in 1968. He came under intense investigation by the federal government and FBI for alleged ties to organized crime, and was pressured into selling his two casino properties. He served as the inspiration for billionaire hotel tycoon Steve Wynn, in the construction of the Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn resorts, utilizing many of Sarno’s concepts, especially the use of flowing waters and fountains. In 1989 Sarno was posthumously inducted into the Gambling Hall of Fame. At the time of his death from a heart attack, he had plans to build a third resort named the Grandissimo. Ironically, he would die in a hotel suite at Caesars Palace, a property he once built and owned. In 2013 his life story was published in the book “Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas: How Jay Sarno Won a Casino Empire, Lost It, and Inspired Modern Las Vegas” by author David G. Schwartz. (bio by: Nils M. Solsvik Jr.)


  • July, 02, 1921
  • USA


  • July, 07, 1984
  • USA


  • Palm Memorial Park
  • Nevada
  • USA

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