What is Planned for SLS Las Vegas?
After just over three years of operations, SLS Las Vegas was sold last week. The casino resort that was built on the bones of the Sahara was sold by Stockbridge Real Estate to the Meruelo Group for an undisclosed amount.
SLS Las Vegas was purchased in 2011 for $800 million and Stockbridge and their partner at the time sbe spent more than $400 million on renovations. Rumors are that the Meruelo Group paid somewhere near the cost of renovations for the distressed asset but that hasn’t been released yet.
Who Is The Meruelo Group?
According to their website, the Meruelo Group is a company with ownership interests in construction and engineering, hospitality and gaming, television, radio, real estate, and food services. That’s a lot of interests! The most important group to our world is the hospitality and gaming investment. They own the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, NV.
The Grand Sierra opened in 2006 and was purchased by the Meruelo Group in 2011. This is the only casino resort owned by the group and was previously the home of MGM Grand Reno, Bally’s Reno and Reno Hilton.
The Grand Sierra has over 2,000 hotel rooms and is a full-service Las Vegas style casino resort with amenities galore. The Grand Sierra is loosely connected to Las Vegas in two places. Their sports book is operated by William Hill who has over 100 sports books around Nevada including the majority in downtown Las Vegas. Additionally, the resort boasts Charlie Palmer Steak which you’ll find at Mandalay Bay. Side note, check out the $60 AYCD “Cut of the week” deal at Charlie Palmer Steak. It’s one of the best deals on the Vegas Strip.
What’s Next For SLS Las Vegas?
Very little information has been released about the deal and the Meruelo Group’s plans for SLS Las Vegas. Chris Abraham, vice president of marketing for the Grand Sierra told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they’ll take the next few months to evaluate the property to see what updates are necessary. Okay, they’re not sure so let’s speculate a little.
Without knowing details of the deal it’s impossible to know if the SLS name will remain in Las Vegas. I guess it isn’t as SLS is a brand in its own right. According to Vital Vegas, the two sides have been negotiating on this deal since October 2016.
Since the negotiations started SLS Las Vegas has decided to change the name of its players club to Club 52. The Sahara opened in 1952. Not coincidentally there are rumors that SLS Las Vegas will return to its roots and become the Sahara again. That’s still just a rumor but a rumor that everyone seems to love this idea.
The Club 52 name could carry over to the new casino. However, it might make more sense for the owner to their existing players club, Club Grand, at both of their casinos. Initial reports from sources in Reno have told me that Club Grand is very rewarding to its players. Let’s hope the Las Vegas Strip sees a property that takes good care of its customers.
The existing hotel rooms are just three years old. Renovations usually don’t take place until rooms have been in use for five or six years. Don’t expect any changes to the high design of the existing rooms.
SLS Las Vegas currently operates two of the three hotel towers and the casino. The third tower is W Las Vegas and operated independently by Starwood/Marriott. There hasn’t been any indication that the arrangement will change.
The only rumor I’ve heard about the hotel deal is that perhaps the entire property will become W Las Vegas. In this case, Starwood/Marriott will oversee the hotel operations. I’m not sure that deal would make sense for an investment company so I give it a little chance of being true.
There have been rumors for awhile that there would be a shakeup in the dining at SLS Las Vegas so refreshing the restaurants wouldn’t be out of the blue. Since sbe operates many of the restaurants it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them leave in the future. I’m told that they have a long-term lease but can’t be sure that made it through the deal.
On a personal note, I’d like to see Cleo remain at the new property. The food is delicious and has a good price point for a restaurant on the Vegas Strip. The Meruelo Group owns a pizza chain and might be able to bring Charlie Palmer Steak to replace Bazaar Meats. I wouldn’t mind having the “Cut of The Week” on both ends of the Vegas Strip!
I expect the Meruelo Group to operate the new casino more like a locals property. If that’s the case it wouldn’t be surprising to see the buffet return. Las Vegas locals love the buffet.
Design And Layout
One of the struggles with SLS Las Vegas since opening has been the layout and design of the casino floor. This has been an issue for me going back to the Sahara. There’s a disconnect between the hotel half of the property and the entrance on the Vegas Strip. The hotel could be at full capacity, but you might never see those people in the casino since they never had to enter the casino area.
I’ve been thinking about this problem since opening day and I have no idea how to improve the flow. This might be the biggest challenge for the new operators. I hope they come up with an inviting concept. I’d love to see the property do well.
Another complaint I’ve heard is that the casino floor is too dark. Perhaps the “industrial chic” decor needs to be more traditional in order create a comfortable and intimate environment.
Casino And Sports Book
Casino floors are becoming more social with smaller gaming areas. Reorganizing the tables and machines into different gaming areas similar to The Linq might be an idea that improves flow and invites visitors to drink and gamble.
The Umami Burger sports book/bar/beer garden/restaurant is a fun place to wager and watch the games or sit back and have a few beers. I reached out to William Hill to see if they will continue operating the sports book and have not heard back. They operate the Grand Sierra sports book so I assume they’re negotiating to stay on board.
The Future Of SLS Las Vegas
This deal should go through by the third quarter of 2017. We should start hearing plans for the new Sahara, SLS, Grand Sierra in July, August or September. I really enjoyed SLS Las Vegas when it first opened. I’m not sure what to expect with the new property but I’m looking forward to something new on the Vegas Strip.
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