SLS Las Vegas, former Sahara Hotel & Casino, is about to have its name changed again after it was bought by Meruelo Group last year. In an effort to turn the declining casino around, the company is renaming it and bringing back the original brand name, Sahara.
From Sahara to SLS Las Vegas under SBE Group
Ever since its opening in 1952 as the sixth resort on the Strip, the Sahara Hotel & Casino had enjoyed great popularity in Las Vegas and could boast to be a venue frequented by such world famous icons as Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Dean Martin or Kiss. After numerous changes in the ownership, however, 59 years later, in May 2011, it closed as the Sahara as SBE’s CEO stated it was not “economically viable.”
Two years later, in 2013, the same man, Sam Nazarian, revealed great renovation plans that would cost $415 million and bring the venue to its former glory. Part of the project was rebranding the hotel to SLS Las Vegas – the “SLS” standing for “style, luxury and service.” The new hotel was opened the following year.
Nevertheless, despite being considerably successful in the beginning, over time the casino proved to be losing SBE Group money, bleeding out a constant flow of cash it could never quite reverse. Finally, after being drained of hundreds of millions of dollars, the Group was relieved of its struggles by Meruelo Group who bought the property in 2018.
From SLS Las Vegas back to Sahara under Meruelo Group
Having made the purchase, Meruelo Group announced it would renovate the venue and rebrand it once again. While receiving a revitalising injection of $100 million, its name would be changed back to Sahara. Things have already been put into motion and according to Scott Roeben, the owner of Vital Vegas, a major site reporting on all significant Vegas news, it could turn out to be just the right step.
“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,” he elaborated.
Alex Meruelo, the new owner’s CEO, is fully aware of the challenge he has undertaken. However, he has already proved his abilities when he gave second life to the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno.
“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,” declared Meruelo.
It is going to be a bumpy ride on the north side of the Strip
The venue itself will not be the only challenge Meruelo Group will be facing. The last couple of years have been tough for the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the SLS – or now Sahara – is situated. As the commercial landscape of the city changes, numerous projects find themselves faltering.
For example Lucky Dragon, another hotel and casino located in the same part of the Strip, ended up going bankrupt before it could celebrate its second birthday. Fontainebleau’s demise was even more tragic – the venue has not yet been fully constructed when it met its unfortunate end. It is now becoming the Drew but it still has a few years to go before it will be ready to open and even its owner, Derek Stevens, is unsure whether it has many chances for survival. “I question whether or not it can be a viable casino location,” he admitted after purchasing the property at a public auction.