VEGAS LEGENDS RE-SHARED: Guests once entered the MGM Grand through the lion’s golden mouth


Published on: October 12, 2023 at 08:02 pm.

Last updated on: January 12, 2024 at 09:48 h.

Editor’s note: “Vegas Myths Busted” posts new entries every Monday, with a bonus Flashback Friday release. Today’s post in our ongoing series was originally published on October 7, 2022.

According to widespread Las Vegas legend, the mouth of the old MGM Grand Lion served as the entrance to the casino hotel. Even a Pulitzer Prize winner Las Vegas Sun The original MGM Grand entrance was described in March 2001 as “a massive lion’s head with its wide-open mouth serving as the entrance.” As you can see from the image below, this was not true.

MGM Grand Lion original entrance
The original entrance to the MGM Grand, as it appeared at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue from 1993 to 1998, featured a mouth at least 30 feet off the ground. (Image: Twitter)

The legend of the Lion’s Mouth is more explainable than most serial breakers. That’s because it was actually circulated by hotel company owners, and then repeated over the following decades by journalists who didn’t bother to check the facts. MGM Grand CEO Terry Laney, who took over in 1995 when the casino hotel was two years old, has often cited the Lion’s Mouth entrance as a prime example of corporate failure to give proper consideration to cultural sensitivities.

It has been widely reported that many Chinese gamblers believe that traveling anywhere through a representation of a lion’s mouth brings bad luck – not as bad luck as traveling through the mouth of a real lion, probably. But enough.

It wasn’t literally It is true (they entered through the lion’s mouth),” said former MGM Mirage executive spokesman Alan Feldman “But many clients thought she had the same negative feelings, and refused to use that input.”

In 2014, Casino.orgLas Vegas’ Scott Rubin published a blog titled “Vital Vegas” featuring eight fascinating Chinese gambling myths that Las Vegas casinos are listening to in an attempt to please big players from China. These myths explain, for example, why both the Rio Casino and Encore hotels are missing floors 40 through 49 entirely. The number 4 is considered unlucky because it sounds like the Chinese and Japanese words for death.

The lion is waiting

MGM Grand Leon
The new lion at the MGM Grand is said to be the second largest bronze statue in the world and its name is not Leo. (Image: Wikimapia)

Laney replaced the lion with the current lion in 1998. It was sculpted by Snellen Maurice Johnson, a convicted con man who turned his life around when he became an artist. Said to be the second-largest bronze statue in the world — after Hong Kong’s 90-foot-tall Buddha — Johnson’s bronze-cast golden lion stands 45 feet tall, weighs 50 tons, and sits on a 25-foot-tall pedestal.

Oh, and her name not like that Leo. Leo was the name of the original MGM Grand Lion, after the one who roars at the beginning of all MGM films. (There have actually been 11 different Leos movies, and the original was called Slats, but let’s stick to busting one lion myth at a time.)

Today MGM’s big lion is simply called the Big Lion.

In addition to replacing the lions, Laney eliminated the original Wizard of Oz-themed MGM Grand area and park, replaced several restaurants, and built the Palace, a collection of 29 individually designed residences in a Mediterranean style.

Feldman did mention another reason why the original MGM Grand Lion had to go, by the way — and it’s a reason based on indisputable fact.

“It was ugly, too,” he said.

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