Why a Las Vegas Company Bought a Tiny California Town for $2.5 Million

A Las Vegas-based entertainment company has purchased the California town of Nipton, a former mining community, with the intention of making it a circus town.

Spiegelworld has paid a reported $2.5 million for Nipton, located in Ivanpah Valley in San Bernardino County, only an hour drive from Las Vegas. According to its website, the privately held Spiegelworld will make Nipton its world headquarters and a tourist attraction, providing immersive shows in the small town.

The company, which produces what it calls “genre-defying live entertainment experiences”, plans to make the entire town a theater of sorts to serve as a training ground for performers and a set for future productions. Spiegelworld is the producer of the critically acclaimed show Absinthe, which is currently running at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Weekly has dubbed the production the “#1 show in Las Vegas History.”

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What Is Spiegelworld?

Difficult to classify, Spiegelworld productions blur the line between the make-believe and reality. Founded in 2010, the company dares to produce shows that push boundaries. Its Twitter account says that Spiegelworld is “redefining circus, cabaret, comedy, and burlesque for 21st Century audiences.”

Absinthe and other productions from the company have adult themes, which may not appeal to all audiences, but have been successful at the ticket office. Absinthe opened in 2011, and has been running continuously except for a brief interruption in 2020 due to the pandemic. It blends circus, burlesque, and vaudeville themes and showmanship.

Spiegelworld currently has three other shows running in Las Vegas, as well as productions in Atlantic City.

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On Wednesday, Spiegelworld confirmed the purchase of the small California town, announcing it had intentions to turn it into “Circus Town USA.”

According to a feature story in the Wall Street Journal, “Spiegelworld intends to make Nipton the company’s global headquarters, a ‘circus village’ where artists and performers can live, rehearse & work … this would tentatively include a large office space, an art park and several performance spaces, including a large theater.”

Other shows produced by Spiegelworld include Atomic Saloon Show, OPM, and OPIUM.

Nipton Began as Mining Town, Now Has Fewer Than 20 Residents

Nipton began in 1905 as a mining community following the discovery of gold nearby. The population ebbed and flowed with the successes of mining and the frequency of rail service to the town.

By the 1950s, it was barely surviving. In 1984, it was sold to a geologist from Los Angeles for $200,000.

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The town has not had a functioning school for more than 45 years. And all that remains is a general store, a restaurant, and a motel called Hotel California. A neglected one-room schoolhouse also remains, and remnants of the mining operations are scattered in Nipton. The town, which is about 80 acres, is bordered by train tracks.

There were plans in the last decade to transform Nipton into a cannabis-themed resort, but lawmakers halted that plan. Nipton rests near the Mojave Desert National Preserve area, but only about 10-20 people are thought to live there. The town does not have a post office.

The town of Nipton is not far off I-15, the highway that connects Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The journey between the cities is only 270 miles. It’s possible that Spiegelworld sees an opportunity to create a popular roadside destination tourist attraction similar to Wall Drug in South Dakota, but with circus performers, burlesque, and acrobats.

Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison offered an illuminating description in an interview with the Wall Street Journal:

“Imagine it’s Schitt’s Creek, but owned by a circus.”

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for California Casinos with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.