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The Gaming Hall of Fame

1990 Inductee

Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett

Industry Leader


Bill Bennett (1924-2002) was one of the first to bring mass marketing into the gaming industry.

Bennett ran a chain of Phoenix-area furniture stores before he moved into the gaming industry in the 1960s. Starting in 1965 at the Sahara Tahoe, he familiarized himself with many aspects of the casino business, working as a casino host and in many other departments.

He later became manager of the Sahara Tahoe and manager of downtown Las Vegas' Mint, another Del Webb property.

In 1971, Bennett left Del Webb and teamed with Bill Pennington in an electronic games company. Three years later, he and Pennington leased Circus Circus from its founder, Jay Sarno, amid Sarno's mounting legal and regulatory troubles.

Where Sarno had run the casino as a cross between an adult carnival and a serious casino, Bennett and Pennington instead geared it towards the mass market. They were successful, and Circus Circus became one of the country's most popular casinos.

The pair opened Circus Circus Reno in 1978, and expanded both it and the Las Vegas casino. In 1983, they bought the Edgewater casino in Laughlin, and took the company public in the same year. Also in that year, Circus Circus Enterprises bought Circus Circus Las Vegas from Sarno and his partners.

The company grew quickly over the next decade, opening the Excalibur (1990) and Luxor (1993) on the Strip and pursuing several other opportunities. Amid some controversy, Bennett cut all ties with Circus Circus Enterprises in 1995. The company subsequently renamed itself the Mandalay Resort Group and was acquired by MGM Mirage in 2005.

Bennett bought the Sahara in 1995 and inauguarated a massive renovation campaign. He continued at the helm of the casino until his 2002 death.

Bennett was extremely active in Las Vegas philanthropy and was one of the University of Nevada Las Vegas' highest profile donors. His true legacy, however, is in his longtime stewardship of the pink-and-white casino machine, Circus Circus.

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Last modified Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:07 PDT



This page last updated Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:07 PDT .