The Sahara Hotel & Casino was a major Las Vegas attraction for years – 59 in total, as a matter of fact. It was often visited by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. – part of the group that was better known as the Rat Pack – and finally succumbed to old age in 2011. It was then purchased by the SBE Group and renamed the SLS Las Vegas before being sold again last year to the Meruelo Group. SBE had spent $415 million to renovate the once-popular venue, including a rebranding to the SLS Las Vegas; however, that undertaking never produced the results intended and the venue’s new owners now hope that changing the name will help boost revenue. If so, there wouldn’t be a better choice than what drove the casino to its former glory. The SLS is now going to be called, once again, the Sahara.
According to Vital Vegas, a news outlet that covers virtually everything of importance that happens in Vegas, the change is already in the works and could prove to be very lucrative for the property. The site’s owner, Scott Roeben, states, “Renaming SLS as Sahara is a brilliant move. It plays upon the storied history of the casino, while saving a metric hell-ton of money by playing up an existing brand rather than trying to create a new one from scratch.”
Under SBE’s control, the SLS saw a steady outflow of cash that it could never reverse. While somewhat successful at first, it ultimately lost hundreds of millions of dollars and finally was able to unload the property on the Meruelo Group. Meruelo’s CEO, Alex Meruelo, had already proven himself with the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, which he purchased in 2011, and was ready for another challenge. He said when Meruelo purchased SLS, “I was told there was no way in hell that I would be able to turn the Grand Sierra around. If I can turn around the Grand Sierra Resort, I could do that at SLS.”
However, there are definite challenges ahead. The venue is located on the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. This section has been struggling for the last couple of years as the Las Vegas commercial landscape changes and many projects have faltered. In addition to the SLS, this portion of the Strip was home to the Lucky Dragon, which never saw profits before going bankrupt less than two years after opening, and the Fontainebleau didn’t even manage to have construction completed before it met its demise. That property is becoming the Drew, but won’t be ready for another few years.
Even The Drew’s owner, Derek Stevens, is not convinced that the property will survive. When he purchased it at a public auction, he said, “I question whether or not it can be a viable casino location.”