Sahara Las Vegas officially debuts on the Las Vegas Strip

Sahara Las Vegas
Sahara Las Vegas

Press release: LAS VEGAS (August 29, 2019) – SAHARA Las Vegas has officially returned to the Las Vegas Strip.

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The former SLS Las Vegas will now operate under the resort’s original, iconic brand name – SAHARA Las Vegas. Since Alex Meruelo purchased the property in April of last year, significant strides have been made in transforming the resort experience. Completed renovations within the $150 million resort overhaul include an updated casino floor featuring the stylish 24-hour CASBAR Lounge and the recently unveiled Infinity premium gaming lounge, renovated hotel rooms, suites and corridors, an upgraded spa and a soon-to-debut new hotel lobby. Major updates to the resort exterior continue as remodeling of the main porte cochère began earlier this week while a full renovation of the resort’s main pool is slated for later this fall. Additional updates include a refresh and new paint color for the building’s exterior along with soon-to-be installed marquee signage and lettering signaling the name change.

“The return of SAHARA Las Vegas to The Strip is significant for the city,” said Alex Meruelo, SAHARA Las Vegas owner. “The reimagining of this iconic resort will enable an enhanced guest experience that runs contrary to the megaresorts that have recently dominated the Las Vegas landscape. At SAHARA Las Vegas, guests will be greeted with a warm, customized experience set within a fully modern, dynamic resort. We know guests come to Las Vegas to create memories, and we plan to help them do just that in a beautifully curated, intimate resort experience with personalized services that make everyone feel special.”

Now, nearly a year into the resort’s more than $150 million transformation, guests can expect even further additions and upgrades to the property’s physical structure and guest amenities. Anticipated enhancements to the resort’s award-winning culinary program include the addition of the popular Philadelphia Eagles restaurant partner Chickie’s and Pete’s as well as soon-to-be-announced, new-to-Las Vegas fine dining concepts. Further additions will be made to the property’s entertainment and nightlife lineup. Announcements regarding these changes will be made in the coming months.


Debuting this fall, the new hotel lobby will offer top-tier guest amenities featuring state-of-the-art hotel registration systems and a well-appointed lounge. The exquisite modern design, with just a touch of nostalgia, includes floor inlays inspired by lamps from the original Sahara Hotel and Casino. A Starbucks will also open near registration this fall offering guests an assortment of specialty coffees and pastries.

Additional hotel enhancements include the redesign of the Blanca and Marra towers, which offer guests fully remodeled rooms as well as updated elevator lobbies and room corridors. Upgrades to the AAA Four Diamond Alexandria Tower include room enhancements and new services at the Amina Spa. The Alexandria Tower also offers a private valet entrance and dedicated hotel check-in.


The 60,000 square-foot casino floor received a remodeled design creating a bright, modern atmosphere with glamorous touches, a finished ceiling with upgraded lighting and new carpeting along with a new slot and table game layout. The addition of the stylish, 24-hour CASBAR lounge offers guests a selection of craft cocktails and inviting seating areas right off the casino floor, while Infinity, a sophisticated premium gaming lounge, appeals to the resort’s more serious gamers seeking a luxurious high-limit gaming experience. A new poker room, off the main casino floor, is expected to open later next year.

Pool & Nightclub

Following the end of the summer season, the main resort pool will close this fall. Nothing will be left untouched as the entire pool deck will receive a complete overhaul to create a new and compelling pool experience. The year-long project will also include the addition of a two-story 18,500 square-foot combination nightclub, lounge and theatrical space which will sit adjacent to the main pool.

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“We could not be more excited to begin operating as SAHARA Las Vegas,” said Paul Hobson, senior vice president and general manager of SAHARA Las Vegas. “We have been busy making changes to enhance the guest experience and create a resort that our guests and team members can all enjoy. It feels good to debut our efforts under a name that is beloved by so many.”

These changes and more are encapsulated in a series of renovations to the boutique Strip resort that will continue well into 2020. SAHARA Las Vegas features 1,615 guest rooms, more than 95,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a collection of entertainment venues, lounges, three distinctive pools, the luxurious Amina Spa and acclaimed restaurants, including the award-winning BAZAAR Meat by José Andrés. To follow the transformation of SAHARA Las Vegas or to book your stay, visit

First Impressions Of SLS Las Vegas

SLS Las Vegas Carpet
SLS Las Vegas Carpet

My first impression of SLS Las Vegas is positive but not perfect. Nothing is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I’ve already detailed some of the flaws from the first few days of business in a separate post.

1. The Setup

The pre-opening moniker SLS Las Vegas used to describe the property was “affordable luxury”. That set up for the hotel to be fancy on a budget. For example there’s no way to make Ikea furniture feel luxurious but it can look nice. With that in mind I went in with limited expectations.

2. Casino Layout

SLS Las Vegas Casino
SLS Las Vegas Casino

I care more about the casino than most of SLS Las Vegas. The floor plan is only 60,000 square feet. If you ever visited Sahara this is 20,000 square feet less. The floor plan is small, which is fine but there are choke points that make it almost impossible to go to certain parts of the casino. The high traffic walkway by table area near the players club and The Griddle is tight and will always be busy. There are similar choke points on the slot floor that will be impossible to walk through because machines are packed so closely. Just scope out areas before sitting down at a table or machine.

Layout aside there are ample 3:2 blackjack games for $5 and $10. Craps has $10 minimums. There is decent video poker and all new slot machines. I dig all of this and wouldn’t mind gambling here. US Poker has a breakdown of most of the games.

Parts of the casino floor seem dark and that can make the tight casino feel almost claustrophobic on busy nights. This feels like a casino I’d visit during the day more than at night.

3. Umami Burger – Sportsbook – Beer Garden

Umami Burger Entrance At SLS Las Vegas
Umami Burger Entrance

This is the part of the casino I was most looking forward to. A sportsbook that serves good burgers and good beer? This might be heaven. It is and it isn’t. This isn’t a sportsbook.

Umami Burger a sports bar/restaurant with a patio and a place to bet on sports. Burger prices are between $12 and $15. Not too bad for the Vegas Strip. Draft beers are around $9-10 and bottles start at $5. There are no drink tickets from William Hill for sports bets as of opening but I think that will change. If you drink/eat at the video poker bar your drinks will be comp’d while you have money in play.

Umami Burger Bar At SLS Las Vegas
Umami Burger Bar

I really like this as a restaurant. Like I said in Vegas Chatter this is a good sports bar/restaurant but it’s not a traditional sportsbook. It should be packed with sports fans for big events but expect to see kids and families in the mix on other days. Even thought it’s not a traditional sportsbook this is my favorite spot at SLS Las Vegas.

Note, you can still sit and watch games without spending any money. However, if there are paying customers for Umami Burger you’ll politely be asked to leave if you’re not spending money.

4. Dining and High Priced Drinks

Continue reading “First Impressions Of SLS Las Vegas”

Searching For Flaws At SLS Las Vegas

SLS Las Vegas Carpet
SLS Las Vegas Carpet

I like SLS Las Vegas. I might like it a lot but it’s too early to tell. Like everything in life SLS Las Vegas has some flaws. During the week I’ll going a bit deeper into the things I like but I want to touch on some things that I’ve seen and heard that stand out on the less than awesome side.

These are just meant as a heads up for visitors and not a take down of SLS. You can’t judge any business on 2 days of operation.

SLS Las Vegas has already started to address some complaints from the first two days of business (beer prices for one) and it will be interesting to see how else they handle early complaints.

Dark – The casino is kind of dark. There’s little natural light and what light they have isn’t very bright. I didn’t spend much time in the casino so I’m not sure if this is a sleep inducing kind of dark or if it creates some intimacy. If you like natural light hang out near the Vegas Strip side. There’s a blackjack pit near the Vegas Strip entrance and Umami Burger has light from the beer garden.

Tight – Even though there are less 200 less slot machines than the Sahara had the slot floor can be tight. If two people are playing back to back in some areas it may be impossible to pass. When The Griddle or The Code booth are busy the pit of blackjack tables becomes uncomfortable. I’m not sure this can be fixed so these are just spots that I’ll avoid.

Hidden Buffet – The buffet is on the second floor and there’s limited signage that I can remember pointing people there. The setup is nice if you like a buffet but you may have to remember that you want it. I think it’s great to have the buffet on the second floor as it will keep kids/families out-of-the-way from the rest of the property for a while.

Drink Prices – Drink prices across the board are kind of insane. Most draft beers (a good selection) at Umami burger are around $10 or more. Cocktails at other restaurants are $14-$15. A bottle of soda (no fountain drinks) at Umami Burger is $5(!). Large Iced Coffee at The Perq is more than $5. These are more in line with Vegas Strip luxury hotel prices than a middle tier hotel. Umami did drop a bottle of Stella Artois from $8 to $5 last night so it looks as though SLS Las Vegas will offer some options to the prices.

Trying Too Hard – I like a lot of the design touches on the main floor of SLS but some have mentioned that it comes across as trying too hard to be cool. It’s almost as if there’s too much design effort which comes off as obnoxious. To each their own.

Small Rooms – You should know the basic rooms are some of the smallest on the Vegas Strip. If you’re not aware of the size it will bother you. They try to mask the small size and bad views with design but the bones are the bones.

In The Hood – You’re kind of in the hood when you’re outside of SLS. There are plenty of security guards on and around the property to remind you of that.

Slow Elevators – The building is old and the elevators haven’t been replaced and have been getting wonky already. This was a problem for some people in the garage over the weekend. On my Friday tour the World Tower elevators didn’t want to close. In their defense we had to be over capacity with too many people.

Here are links to pictures I took over the weekend if you’d like to get an idea of what SLS Las Vegas looks like.

11 Nuggets of carpet

Umami Burger/Sportsbook/Beer Garden

Friday – A boatload of pictures from all over

Saturday – Just a few casino pics


Sweet $1 Sahara Chip

$1 Chip Sahara Casino Las Vegas
$1 Sahara Chip

I found this sweet $1 chip from Sahara while cleaning yesterday. I’m giving the Vegas Photo Blog a break for a couple of weeks so I thought I’d share here.

I’m not a chip collector but I saved this from a stash I snagged for some collectors before Sahara closed. Now Sahara is gone and SLS Las Vegas will open soon in its place. The only way I’ll end up with an SLS chip at home is if my pockets runneth over from winnings. HOLLA!

SLS Las Vegas On CBS This Morning

SLS Las Vegas Rendering
SLS Las Vegas Rendering

SLS Las Vegas was featured on a segment about owner Sam Nazarian on yesterday’s CBS This Morning. There isn’t much new information here besides the fact that SLS will own all retail outlets on the property. I’m not sure that’s really new but it hasn’t been talked about much.

SLS Las Vegas isn’t being built for the gambler. As I wrote on Vegas Chatter earlier this year there won’t be a poker room or a traditional sit down sportsbook (the sportsbook will be more of a sports bar where you can bet on games). SLS Las Vegas is looking at gaming to be less than 1/3 of their revenue so we can expect poor gaming odds and payouts.

It’s nice to see progress for this hotel which will sit where Sahara once did. By the time I happened upon Sahara it was a sad dilapidated hotel ready to die. It didn’t encourage me to learn about its history. That’s slowly changing to the point of where I can appreciate it a little more.

I hope SLS Las Vegas keeps some of that history alive when the hotel is done. I was skeptical that this would ever open but SLS Las Vegas may be the beginning of a resurgence on the north end of the Vegas Strip.


North Vegas Strip May Be Coming Back To Life

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

Yesterday it was announced that Resorts World Las Vegas would open in 2016. The renderings show a very impressive complex when construction is complete. The construction is supposed to be done in phases so don’t expect the casino to look like the renderings on opening date.

In February I mentioned that the SLS Hotel may have begun construction on the land where Sahara once lived on the Vegas strip. SLS Hotel is scheduled to open in 2014I still haven’t seen or heard a peep about construction progress and remain skeptical but they did make this snazzy sales video.

The Fontainebleau (above) remains a shell of a hotel today with no plans of opening. Since the bones of construction are completed I have to imagine that once construction is visible at both SLS Hotel and Resorts World we’ll begin to see movement on Fontainebleau.

That movement may with Fontainebleau be in the form of a sale first but the revitalization of the north Vegas Strip looks very real. The development of the north Vegas strip may be 10 years in the making but there is reason to believe that the Vegas strip will, once again, continue beyond Wynn.

Photo: Wikimedia

SLS Las Vegas May Be Happening

It’s being reported that the SLS Las Vegas will be breaking ground today on the sight of where the Sahara once stood. Well, Sahara still stands but it’s not open. I’m still not sure that the SLS will ever be built and I’ll believe it when I see it.

I hope this casino does happen because I like new shiny things in Vegas. I’m conflicted on the reality of this so I’ll do a quick roundup of articles about the hotel instead.

Photo: FastLaneMag

Out With The Dump…In With The “Douche”…And That’s OK

Bill’s Gambling Hall & Saloon will be closing for renovations February 4th, 2013 and will reopen in 2014 as Drai’s Douche Emporium and Boutique Hotel. Here’s the info straight from the horses (Caesars Entertainment) mouth.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation today announced its previously arranged $185 million, seven-year senior secured credit facility will fund the conversion of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon to a boutique lifestyle hotel and casino. The renovation includes the addition of a rooftop pool as well as a dayclub/nightclub. Drai Management Group will manage the club.

“This project exemplifies our strategy to develop new experiences that will help attract a broader spectrum of visitors to Las Vegas and our properties,” said Gary Loveman, chairman, chief executive officer and president of the company. “The renovated property will provide visitors with a sophisticated, upscale experience, including a unique rooftop pool and club, which will have a panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip.”

I’ve never been to Bill’s and I don’t care that it’s going away. I felt the same about O’Sheas, Imperial Palace and Sahara. Change is good. Clean and modern hotels are good. Progress is good.

These hotels and casinos aren’t being renovated for me. They’re being renovated for future me’s and that’s fine. If I want to go somewhere less expensive with good gambling I’ll stay away from the strip. If I want to hang out and grab a drink while checking out the future of America I’ll go to the strip.

The Vegas strip has always kind of been this way. There will always remain properties for all kinds of people. If you’re seeking more classic luxury you can head to Wynn, if you want a cheap place to stay you can go to The Quad, if you’re in the middle, maybe a family or older person, you can stay at MGM Grand.

If you’re like me, this is just a sign that you’re getting older. You can tell these kids today to get off your strip lawn but this change like this is fairly normal. Embrace it or just be old and grumpy.

All of this goes to say that my guide to cheap places to stay in Las Vegas will come in handy as the city continues to change.

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr


Speed: The Ride Coming Back To Life?

I’ve never been much of a fan of Sahara. By the time I made it there, it was a shell of itself and a filthy mess. That said, I know a lot of people have a soft spot in there heart for Sahara. Listening to the last two episodes of Five Hundy By Midnight podcast they mentioned that Speed: The Ride is moving.

Speed: The Ride was the roller coaster in front of the casino by the Las Vegas strip. People seemed to enjoy the ride. I don’t do roller coasters and never did that one. Well, it’s coming back to life in a different place – not a casino.

Speed: The Ride is moving to the south end of the strip, across the street from Mandalay Bay to the Akita Retail and Events Center. Here are the details:

Breslin Builders is working with Chetak Development to move the existing Speed the Ride Roller Coaster from the Sahara Hotel and Casino to the south end of the Strip at the existing Akita Retail Center, 3999 Las Vegas Boulevard South, across from Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

Working with Premiere Rides (the original coaster designer and installer), the existing coaster will be relocated and reused as much as possible, with the mid-section being redesigned to work within and over the existing site and parking lot conditions, and allow for new and exciting curves and bends to be added to the ride. The signature 224 foot vertical tower will be relocated and provide the turning point for the out-and-back style roller coaster. The coaster uses a LIM (linear induction magnets) system to launch and further propel the coaster to speeds up to 70MPH. Breslin Builders is provide design and associated engineering services for the site and launch building.

In addition to the roller coaster, Breslin Builders has designed a new night club/concert venue as part of the overall project. The new 26,000+ square foot multi-story and multi-use building will provide needed concert, promotion, and nightclub space for the existing on-site radio station (KVEG 97.5 – which Breslin Builders provided design and construction services for in 2001). In addition to the roller coaster and nightclub, a two-story 6,000 square foot restaurant space is being developed.

Overall, this project sounds like a hodge podge of ideas that will never get built. Here’s what people aren’t going to do when they visit Vegas.

Go to Restaurants > Ride roller coaster > Visit nightclub

For the people that are have great Sahara memories I hope this works out, but the concept sounds very flawed. I don’t see this happening but time will tell.

Check Five Hundy & Breslin Builders for more info.

Hilton Dead – Long Live LVH

Las Vegas Hilton is just about gone with the Hilton brand name coming down from the ubiquitous sign today. The hotel will run under the LVH moniker, similar to the way that Atlantic City Hilton is now ACH. It’s not difficult that these names are just money saving place holders until the properties can be sold to new owners and renamed.

In the meantime, there are a lot of memories that coincide with the Hilton brand name. Much like the Sahara, I’m indifferent. It’s not a place I have any memories from this casino.


Photo: Matthew Adams on twitpic