Railroad Pass Casino Safe Opened After 42 Years, But Contents Underwhelm

The Railroad Pass Casino on the outskirts of Henderson, Nv., opened up a safe on Dec. 29. That’s after it was locked for more than 40 years and its contents unknown.

Railroad Pass safe casino Hoover Dam
Railroad Pass safe casino Hoover Dam
Railroad Pass owner Joe DeSimone shows off the casino’s safe on July 26, 2021. The safe was finally opened after 42 years on Dec. 29, 2022. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Owner Joe DeSimone inherited the safe after acquiring the historic casino in April 2015. DeSimone purchased the hotel and casino from MGM Resorts, which took control of Railroad Pass through its $7.9 billion takeover of Mandalay Resort Group in 2005.

DeSimone said he debated over the years what to do with the safe. Its contents were placed inside in 1980 and locked. Only DeSimone knew the combination since buying the casino more than seven years ago.

DeSimone, who also owns the Railroad Pass Travel Center and The Pass Casino in downtown Henderson, finally settled on opening the vault over the holidays. The safe was opened on Dec. 29 in commemoration of the 91st anniversary of the property’s opening in 1931.

The casino held a special event last week to open the safe. The spectacle was open to the public.

Opening the vault wasn’t easy. The Boulder City Review reported that Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce who was given the honor of opening the safe, couldn’t manage to open the door despite trying the combination several times. A casino staff member was eventually able to help her unlock the door.

Contents Humdrum

The most dramatic part of the Railroad Pass safe unlocking might have been the unlocking itself, as the vault’s contents didn’t exactly “wow” onlookers.

DeSimone found a bag full of 1870s-era silver dollar coins, chips from several Las Vegas casinos, and craps markers. The coins are each worth about $30.

Railroad Pass officials placed a new time capsule in the safe and locked it back up. The lock isn’t to be opened again until 2048.

But the event in a quarter-century won’t be with much suspense. DeSimone told the media that the capsule he placed back in the safe contained Railroad Pass memorabilia, a book about the history of Boulder City, aerial photographs of Railroad Pass, and a DeSimone family portrait.

It’s DeSimone’s wish that his children are the ones who next open the vault in 25 years.

Nevada’s Oldest Running Casino

Railroad Pass was one of the first casinos licensed in the state of Nevada. The casino was established to cater to workers employed at the Hoover Dam construction site about 12 miles northeast.

The Railroad Pass safe was used by the federal government to store employee paychecks for the workers to pick up when visiting the casino.

Boulder City prohibited gambling at the time, prompting local developers to build the casino about two miles outside of the city’s limits in Henderson. Named after a proposed, but never built railroad, the casino today has the distinction of being the oldest continually operating casino in Nevada.

Railroad Pass features about 300 slot machines and a small allotment of table games. The casino also comes with a William Hill Sportsbook. The hotel counts 120 guestrooms, and on-site eating options range from fine dining at DeSimone’s Steakhouse to a 24-hour café and Sbarro pizza joint.

Railroad Pass attracts many Hoover Dam visitors, but is also close to Lake Mead’s recreational center, the Nelson Ghost Town, and numerous hiking trails.

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