Jay Sarno, Hotel Mogul, founder of Caesars Palace born in St. Joseph MO – St. Joseph Mo and Life in the Midwest


Jay Sarno (July 2, 1922 – July 21, 1984) was an American developer, hotelier, and casino owner. He developed and owned the Atlanta Cabana Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as several motels in California and Texas. He was the founder of Caesars Palace Hotel and the Circus Circus in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Early life

Sarno was born in 1922 in St. Joseph, Missouri. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland. His father was a carpenter and his mother a housewife.

Sarno received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri. While in college, he met Stanley Mallin, who would become his lifelong friend and business partner. During World War II, he enlisted in the US Army and served alongside Mallin in the Pacific theater of war.


With Stanley Mallin, Sarno became a tiler in Miami, Florida. They then built subsidized housing in Atlanta, Georgia. After meeting Jimmy Hoffa and Allen Dorfman, they built the Atlanta Cabana Motel in Atlanta in 1958 with a loan from the Central States Pension Fund. They then built cabanas in Palo Alto, California and another motel in Dallas, Texas.

Sarno developed the Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was inaugurated on August 5, 1966.

Sarno later developed the Circus Circus. The attraction consisted of a circus tent with daily performances, and Sarno disguised himself as a ringmaster and personally looked after families and children. Sarno subsequently leased it to Bill Pennington and Bill Bennett, a Del Webb executive, and they bought it in 1983.

Sarno planned to develop the “Grandissimo”, a new 6,000 room hotel and casino. However, the project was shelved when Sarno died.

Personal life

Sarno married Joyce Sarno Keys; They later divorced. They had four children: Jay Sarno Jr., September Sarno, Heidi Sarno Straus and Freddie Sarno.

death and legacy

Sarno died of a heart attack at Caesars Palace on July 21, 1984, at the age of 62.

Sarno was posthumously elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1989. Also posthumously, he received the first Sarno Award for casino design from the Global Gaming Expo in 2003.


  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – Sideshow Barker (uncredited)

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