Drinking, gambling and horse racing were illegal in the neighboring U.S. state of California, so many wealthy Americans and Hollywood celebrities flocked to Agua Caliente. The actress Rita Hayworth was discovered there while performing in a show. The films In Caliente and The Champ were filmed on location there. The highlight of the opulent casino was the Gold Room, where patrons could only bet using gold chips, with a rumored $500 minimum wager.
Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas outlawed gambling in 1935 and closed the resort. It became a state-run school, Escuela Preparatoria Federal Lázaro Cárdenas and eventually fell into a sad state of disrepair. Remnants of the original buildings--the entrance to the pool, a minaret here and there--remain next to the Plaza Minarete strip center at the end of Avenida Sanchez Taboada. Although the casino and hotel were closed, the Agua Caliente racetrack continued to operate for many years. The original grandstand structure was destroyed by fire in 1971, but was rebuilt and continues to operate today, just a shadow of its opulent beginnings.
The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister, Chris Nichols (Gibbs Smith, Publisher: Layton, Utah) 2007