Judy Bayley—the First Lady of Gambling

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Before the era of online gambling and before the best live casino games are readily available, one woman has made the ranks among the best and conquered the gambling world. Let’s look at the life of Judy Bayley.

Who is Judy Bayley?

Born Judith Florence Balk in 1915 to Fred and Ada Belk, Judith has shown a flair for entertaining at an early age. She would entertain people with her natural talent for dancing and stage performance. Using her talents, she entered and graduated from Southern Methodist University, earning a double degree in Music and English. In 1936, she married “Doc” Bayley, then owner and operator of a chain of California hotels. Together, they expanded in Las Vegas and eventually opened the Hacienda Hotel in 1956 and its accompanying casino a year after.

Casino’s First Lady

Upon the untimely death of her husband in 1964, Judy became the first woman in history to be the sole owner and operator of a hotel-casino. As its chairwoman, she battled the early struggles of the casino including financial turmoil and casino debts, which rendered the Hacienda in an unpleasant condition right after Doc passed away.

A true innovator and with a knack for the business, Judy is the first person to bring Live Keno to the Las Vegas strip as then it was only known to be relegated to Downtown. Though not as popular as before, Live Keno helped developed the fame of her casino and sooner or later, more and more players flocked in. MGM now controls the Mandala Bay where Hacienda used to stand and is the southernmost property on Las Vegas Strip. Many believe that if not for her successful implementation of the Live Keno in the 60s, many casinos in the drag would not have been able to survive.


Judy’s life—though famed as the First Lady of Gambling, is remembered and celebrated beyond the walls of the casino. She devoted the remainder of her life as a civic activist and a philanthropist which bagged her the other nickname “Our Judy”, meaning she is with and for everybody. Almost every humanitarian and charity events in Las Vegas graced not only her presence but her selfless services as well.

Most notably, her organization helped raise money for cancer awareness, fighting cancer and heart disease. These are specially catered to children as Judy was fond of helping kids. Amongst her charity works include the Hacienda Trailride, a fundraiser for the benefit of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Cancer Society, and the Heart Fund Telethon, a fist of its kind in Las Vegas which she hosted in the Hacienda.

After her death in 1971, Judy Bayley remained famous for her works in the casino and the foundation the she had built. Now, a theater in her namesake operates in Las Vegas in commemoration of her countless contributions in the area.

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