El Cortez Hotel & Casino is at 600 E. Fremont St. (at 6th St., in the Fremont East District). Opened in 1941 and at one time briefly owned by mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, the Spanish Colonial-style El Cortez was for several decades a casino primarily frequented by low-rolling locals and near-penniless hobos. But with the gentrification of the Fremont East District, this downtown survivor now sees mobs of hipsters crowding the $3 craps, $5 blackjack and $1 roulette tables (yes, you read those dollar amounts correctly).
From Spanish archways to the classic neon sign atop the red-tile roof, the facade appears much the same as it did more than 70 years ago. So does the time-warp keno lounge, which looks like the perfect setting for a “Twilight Zone” episode. The rest of the casino floor, last renovated in the mid-2000s, is holding up fairly well and has a healthy amount of newer video slots. However, comp-drink service is notoriously slow, that is if you can ever manage to flag down a cocktail waitress.
Gentlemen, need a haircut or proper shave for under $20? The second-floor's old-school Barber Shop (follow signs posted near the craps tables) will transport you back to the father-son days when “short” or “medium” cuts were your only choices.