Craig H. Neilsen


Our founder, Craig Hart Neilsen, was born in Logan, Utah, and raised in Twin Falls, Idaho. After receiving both business and law degrees from the University of Utah, he joined his father, Ray L. Neilsen, in Neilsen & Miller Construction of Twin Falls, construction and real estate development company. A year after Craig joined the company, his father passed away leaving the Neilsen family a one-third ownership in Cactus Petes, Inc., which was comprised of two small casinos in Jackpot, Nevada.

Craig became increasingly involved in the operations of these casinos. He took an entrepreneurial approach, envisioning them as major destination resorts. He was elected president of Cactus Petes, Inc., in 1984.

In November of the following year, Craig was involved in a serious car accident while driving from Jackpot to his office in Twin Falls that left him paralyzed. In spite of this life-altering injury, Craig's resolve and conviction remained steadfast; by mid-1986 he was back on the job full time. A year later, he bought out the other shareholders of Cactus Petes.

In 1993 Craig established Ameristar Casinos, Inc., and took the company public. Ameristar's first property outside of Nevada opened the next year in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Since then, Ameristar has grown to eight properties in seven markets and its name has become synonymous with architectural integrity and high-quality products, including diverse gaming, dining and entertainment options.

In 2002, Craig was honored as "Best Performing CEO" by the American Gaming Association. He was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame in 2005 and named Outstanding Business Leader by The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis the following year. Craig also served on the Board of Directors of the American Gaming Association.

Craig's desire to help others living with spinal cord injuries and disease led him to establish The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation in 2003. This foundation is dedicated to supporting cutting-edge research into finding a cure for spinal cord injuries and disease and to caring for those afflicted by such conditions by funding innovative rehabilitation programs throughout the United States.

Craig H. Neilsen passed away unexpectedly on November 19, 2006 at his home in Las Vegas.