A pioneer passes

Las Vegas has lost one of its true legends. Claudine Williams, after a storied career, passed away yesterday. From the LVRJ:

Claudine Williams, the first woman to run a Strip casino and considered one of the pioneers who shaped the gaming industry and Las Vegas, died Wednesday after a long illness. She was 88.

Williams operated the Holiday Inn-Holiday Casino on the Strip until the property was sold to Harrah's in the 1980s and renamed Harrah's Las Vegas. Even then, Williams maintained an office at the resort and advised company executives, including retired chairman Phil Satre and current CEO Gary Loveman.

"She not only had a tremendous impact on our company and was an enormous influence on me, she had an enormous impact on the gaming industry as a whole," Satre said.

Former casino owner Jack Binion, whose family owned the downtown Binion's Horseshoe, said Williams knew the gambling business better than most of the men who operated casinos in 1970s and 1980s.

"Listen, she was the real deal," Binion said. "She lived the business. She started in the gambling business when she was 15. Some of the old time guys in the business couldn't change with the times, but she did. Claudine was a really good friend and a super person. I'm really going to miss her."

In Las Vegas, Williams, who was born and raised in rural Louisiana and moved to Houston as a teenager, was more than just a casino executive.

In the 1980s, she was served as chairwoman of the board for the American Bank of Commerce and she was president of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the first woman to hold that position. Williams represented the motel industry on the board of the directors of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, just one of the 28 different boards and commissions she served on in her career.

Las Vegas casino pioneer Claudine Williams dies – News – ReviewJournal.com.

Williams’ career epitomized the key transition of 20th century gambling: from illegal to legal. She may have started dealing illegal games as a teenager, but she ended up at the helm of a legal Nevada casino. She truly had a remarkable life.

I’d also like to second what everyone’s saying about her: in a word, she was classy. I was lucky enough to talk to her at a few UNLV events, and she was absolutely wonderful, taking the time to answer my many questions about all sorts of things. She really was a warm person with a real love for Las Vegas. This city is poorer without her, but richer for all she gave to us.

Spread the love