Jay Sarno, The Most Lustful Emperor of Las Vegas who created Caesars Palace

Jay Sarno (passed away) was a man who left a grand mark on the history of Las Vegas. Together with his business partners, he forged a casino resort empire starting with Caesars Palace and ending with Circus Circus. A hedonist himself, Sarno lacked the discipline to sustain and his wild ideas and even more so his gambling addiction eventually cost him his fortune.

Sarno’s children talk about the characteristcs of their father Jay Sarno

Jay Sarno: The Roman Ruler

Jay Sarno, born on July 2, 1922, in St. Joseph, Missouri, was an American entrepreneur and casino developer who had a significant impact on the Las Vegas casino industry. He is best known for his visionary approach to creating immersive and themed casino resorts.

Sarno began his career in the carnival business, where he learned about showmanship and entertainment. In the early 1960s, he moved to Las Vegas with the goal of revolutionizing the casino industry by offering unique and memorable experiences to guests.

Sarno’s most iconic project was Caesars Palace, which opened in 1966. Inspired by ancient Rome, the resort featured grand architecture, lavish interiors, and extravagant amenities. Caesars Palace quickly became one of the most famous and prestigious resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, attracting high-profile guests and hosting world-class entertainment acts.

Sarno’s innovative approach to casino design emphasized the importance of themes and immersive environments. He believed that creating an unforgettable experience for guests was key to the success of a casino resort.

Despite his success, Sarno faced financial challenges and sold his interests in Circus Circus and Caesars Palace in the early 1970s. He continued to be involved in various business ventures, including the development of the Atlantis Casino Resort in the Bahamas.

Jay Sarno passed away on July 21, 1984, in Los Angeles, California. His legacy in the casino industry is characterized by his visionary approach to creating themed and entertainment-focused resorts, which paved the way for the modern Las Vegas casino experience. Sarno’s influence can still be seen in the extravagant and immersive resorts that define the Las Vegas Strip today.

The fall of an empire

In 1968, Sarno opened his second major casino, Circus Circus, which was designed to cater to families. The resort featured a circus theme and offered live circus acts, amusement rides, and games. Circus Circus was the first casino in Las Vegas to focus on providing entertainment for both adults and children, and it became a popular attraction.

However, Circus Circus was a venture in which Sarno seemed to overbet his hand. The casino went so far with the circus theme that it had a real Elephant tossing its way through the casino floor and acrobats flying over the blackjack tables. Although a great source of laughter and pleasure, many guests found it very disturbing whilst playing. Also, Sarno had made a classic mistake by not building an adjacent hotel tower from the get-go. Eventually, the casino started to lose money and Sarno, who was under supervision from the authorities and FBI was forced to sell his casino.

Yet Jay Sarno, larger than life, never stopped dreaming. He also did not stop enjoying. That combination proved vicious. The megalomania of power and the hedonism had taken control of his career and family life. A divorced man, he found himself sitting unhappy behind the slot machines, gambling away millions over the course of his last 10 years.

During good moments, Sarno envisioned his greatest casino resort ever, and he called it ‘Grandissimo’. The casino would outshine his previous projects by sheer size and ambition, but it would never get built. Investors and partners had lost faith in Sarno. Eventually Sarno passed away and left planet earth. But not without a last boom: he found himself in his suite having sex with a prostitute, sitting in a hot tub with a cigar when a heart attack hit his chest and coughed out his final breath.

jay sarno las vegas
Jay Sarno and Line Renaud pose in a chariot near the fountains and replica of the Giambologna statue “The Rape of the Sabine Women” during the grand opening of Caesars Palace Friday, August 5, 1966. The chariot and horse were a gift from the Sahara. Credit: Milt Palmer/Las Vegas News Bureau