Las Vegas History Series: Showboat Hotel and Casino

In 1954, a casino and resort by the name of Showboat opened up at 2800 Fremont Street. It would become the first resort reportedly to be within Las Vegas city limits. J. Kell Houssels who was part of the Las Vegas Club and William Moore of the Last Frontier were responsible for the business being built.

Like many casinos and businesses that open at first, sometimes the plan does not go down as hoped. The Showboat was believed to have turned the corner when a gentleman by the name of Joe Kelley came in and came up with a marketing plan for locals that included 49 cent breakfast buffets.

At the end of the 1950s, Showboat would become the signature place in Las Vegas for bowling and lead to them hosting many PBA tournaments and championships. There were even tournaments organized that included free trips to Las Vegas itself. At the end of the 1970s, the casino and resort had the third largest bowling alley in the entire country.

In the 1980s, aside from bowling, the famous pro wrestling company AWA run by the Gagne family would hold wrestling matches at the resort. There were also roller derby matches from the Los Angeles Thunderbirds. These events were held at the Showboat Sports Pavilion which later became a bingo hall.

One of the reasons for Showboat’s decline in the 1990s was the emergence of more Las Vegas Strip Casinos. Some people believed that Showboat was on the strip, but they would later come to find out that it actually wasn’t. Harrah’s entertainment bought Showboat in 1988 and then sold it to VSS Enterprises in 2000 for 23.5 million dollars. 

The Showboat name was not sold in the deal by Harrah’s, so the resort was renamed to Castaways in 2000.

One matchbook claimed that Showboat offered an experience of old Las Vegas. Another said the resort had the most beautiful bingo parlor. There was also an RV park. One advertisement also called it the Flagship of the Boulder Strip.

Below you can find our entire collection of chips, cards and even an ashtray from Showboat. You can click on each chip and the deck of cards to purchase them.







We also have a Showboat ashtray for $10. Send us an email to if you are interested. 


Alec John Penfield

Alec John Penfield

My grandfather Luther worked here in the 80s as security he always tells me the story’s of this place.



I used to work at the Showboat and greeted those who came to stay. I gave them packages so they could gamble/play slots. It was such fun



I lived in Vegas back in the good ole days, before the masses began infiltrating and causing major traffic jams, and the homeless problem was unheard of. I remember going to the Showboat and indulging on the buffets, getting beer for 50 cents, and just enjoying the atmosphere. The Showboat, along with several other casinos, were the stomping grounds for my friends and I, and it was a really great time to be in Vegas. I rarely visit Vegas now, can’t believe how much, for the worse, my city has become, but I will always cherish my days of growing up there.

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