Born November 16, 1924, in Glendale, Arizona, Bill Bennett served in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he built a chain of furniture stores in Phoenix, which he sold for 40 million and became an investor, only to lose millions of dollars and seek bankruptcy protection. It was then that he moved his family to Nevada and went into the gaming industry. He quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder at the Sahara Tahoe, and was asked by then-owner Del Webb to manage the Mint in downtown Las Vegas.
Bennett went on to start his own company with Reno gamer, Bill Pennington. In 1974, the partners acquired the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Focusing on the middle-American family, business boomed, and in 1983 they opened the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Reno, followed by the Excalibur and the Luxor in the early 1990s. While Bill Pennington focused on Reno, Bennett kept his attention on Las Vegas. The partners took the company stock public in 1983 at 15, and it hit 16.87 before closing on its first day.
Bennett also found ways to entertain his other passions, aviation and motor sports. He built an airstrip near Sam Boyd Stadium for model planes. Bennett also built the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He rode motorcycles and personally owned and flew two stunt airplanes. When he sold his stock in Circus Circus Bennett bought the Sahara Hotel and Casino. Despite suffering a heart attack in 1996, at the age of 71, Bennett remodeled it and added a variety of virtual-reality family attractions related to his love of motor sports.
Bennett passed away in 2002, survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Lynn, his daughter, Diana, and son William A. Bennett.