Category Archives: Las Vegas Casinos

Four Las Vegas Casinos Get New Names

Change is the only constant in Las Vegas (other than world-class lap dances, allegedly), but lately the amount of change is startling.

Four casinos are getting new names: SLS Las Vegas, Hooters, Stratosphere and Hard Rock.

Here’s the quick overview of the name changes so you can impress your friends, should you ever get some.

SLS Las Vegas is Sahara

The classic Sahara is the Sahara all over again! The money pit that was SLS was purchased by bajillionaire Alex Meruelo back in April 2018.

Sahara Las Vegas

Everything old is new again.

Yes, we broke the news SLS was purchased and the fact it would be rebranded Sahara. You don’t have to make it about us all the time, you know.

Significant renovations have been happening at Sahara for months, and the name change officially happened June 27, 2019.

Sahara Las Vegas

The funky statue outside Sahara has been replaced temporarily by shrubbery.

Hooters is Oyo

The off-Strip Hooters hotel has had a slew of names. It was recently purchased, and will become Oyo Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.

Oyo Hotel & Casino

Hooters out, Oyo in.

Yes, we broke the Oyo story, too. Please stop obsessing over how great we are. It’s awkward.

Oyo Las Vegas chips

Calling all chip collectors. Just a figure of speech. Nobody has time to actually do that.

Oyo is known for its massive collection of budget hotels, so we don’t expect many changes to Hooters following the rebrand.

The Hooters restaurant won’t be sticking around, despite official statements. The restaurant will be moving to a Strip casino. The current frontrunner is one that rhymes with Schmopicana.

Oyo

“Oyo” presumably stands for “on your own.” Just play along, they’re new in town.

Stratosphere is The Strat

Yes, this qualifies as a name change, despite the fact many people called this iconic casino “The Strat” long before it became official.

Strat

Many have used “Strat” as shorthand for Stratosphere for awhile, now it’s official.

Golden Gaming purchased Stratosphere in Oct. 2017, and a number of renovations have happened leading up to the renaming in Feb. 2019.

Not only was the resort’s marquee was recently replaced, the casino rolled out some sweet new chips.

Strat

Strat splurged for Paulson Premium chips, which mainly serves to make it sound like we know what we’re talking about.

The changes at The Strat make it a must-visit, in our humble opinion, and there are more surprises in the works.

Strat

That’s right, selfies encouraged in the casino at Strat. Miracles never cease.

Among the changes at The Strat are decor changes in the casino.

Strat

Sky blue is a good fit at Strat because it’s the structure in Vegas that’s closest to it. The sky. Please keep up.

Hard Rock Becomes Virgin Hotels Las Vegas

In 2020, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas will transform into Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

The resort will close for eight months, starting after Super Bowl weekend 2020.

Hard Rock Casino Las Vegas

In 2020, Vegas gets its very first Virgin.

Yes, we shared that news first (not to mention the resort was being sold). Now, it’s just getting embarrassing.

The Hard Rock renovation will touch virtually every part of the resort, and the renderings so far have been sexy AF. Take a look.

Virgin hotel Las Vegas

New look, new feel, new mojo.

It’s expected Virgin Las Vegas will open between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, 2020.

Bonus Name Changes

If you haven’t visited Las Vegas in awhile, there are more name changes worth noting.

Monte Carlo is Park MGM

Monte Carlo was a visitor favorite for years, but the resort was officially rebranded to Park MGM in May 2018.

Park MGM

Please don’t make fun of the Park MGM logo. Folks on Fiverr have to make a living, too.

Mandarin Oriental is Waldorf Astoria

We probably shouldn’t include this on our list, because it doesn’t have a casino, but a name change is a name change. Mandarin Oriental became Waldorf Astoria in August 2018.

Thank you for not feeling obligated to mention we broke the news Mandarin Oriental would become Waldorf Astoria.

Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas

“Waldorf” comes from Walldorf, a town in Germany. “Astoria” comes from Astoria, Oregon. Don’t look now, but you accidentally learned something on the Internet.

Fontainebleau is The Drew

Honorary mention goes to a resort that never even opened, Fontainebleau. The abandoned project was purchased and renamed The Drew. Virtually nothing is happening with The Drew, so don’t get your hopes up.

Drew Las Vegas

“Nobody could have a lazier logo than Park MGM.” The Drew: “Hold our beer.”

That should bring you up to speed with the casino name game in Las Vegas.

Lots of casinos are rumored to be changing hands soon, so it’ll be fun to see if they’ll stick with the names they’ve got or switch things up. You’ll know when we do, and we claim to know everything.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 103: Vegas is a Circus

It’s time for another bromidic episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast.

Yes, people listen to podcasts. Your insolence is duly noted.

In this installment, we’ve got all the Circus Circus sale scoop you can fit into your lateral orbitofrontal cortex, whatever that might be.

Circus Circus Lucky clown

Not all clowns are creepy. Probably.

We also chat about the sale of the Rio, finally in the homestretch, as well as Hooters transitioning into Oyo.

There’s also a perfunctory rant about the ridiculous service fees being added to cocktails in venues like Mama Rabbit and Sahara’s showroom.

Expect a cavalcade of Las Vegas news stories, as well as our inebriated opinions about them.

Cheetahs strip club has been sold, Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris gets a renovation, Cleo and Umami Burger close at Sahara, Palms builds a dome, RuPaul’s show hits Flamingo and a “Friends” takeover (including a new Bellagio fountain show and life-sized “Friends” set made from 900,000 Legos) is headed to The Strip.

Gordon Ramsay Steak

We’re not seeing what needed renovating at Gordon Ramsay Steak, but it’s a great excuse to visit again.

This week’s listicle is “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Wynn’s Renovated Golf Course.” Yes, we did a sports adjacent listicle. You’ll live.

Listen and get your daily allowance of Sin City.

Sources Say Circus Circus Las Vegas is Sold

Circus Circus, long considered the red-headed stepchild of the MGM Resorts family, has reportedly been sold. All due respect to red-heads. And stepchildren.

We have it on good authority the sale of Circus Circus casino is a done deal. It’s unknown when an official announcement of the sale will be made.

We first got wind Circus Circus was in play for a sale back in August 2019. See below if you’re not on the Twitters.

Circus Circus sold

We have the best sources, ever.

It seems there were two phases to Circus Circus being shopped to potential buyers.

In the first round, the sale was to include one hotel tower and the Rock in Rio site (Las Vegas Festival Grounds). There we apparently no takers for that offering.

Next up was a sale of the entire resort, including the adjacent Las Vegas Festival Grounds.

Our sources say the Circus Circus sale encompassed a whopping 102 acres.

The rumored buyer is Phil Ruffin, owner of TI.

Circus Circus sale

The lights that launched a thousand engorgements.

Plans for Circus Circus are unknown, but a sale bodes well for the likelihood of further investment in sprucing up the place, including what’s likely to be a much-needed renovation of the rooms.

Circus Circus has long served a customer other Strip resorts don’t, extreme value seekers and families.

Despite its profitability, MGM Resorts has never quite known what to do with this offbeat casino that doesn’t fit neatly into the company’s portfolio.

A casino we love, by the way. See our 10 reasons to love Circus Circus.

Steakhouse Circus Circus

“Whatever you do, don’t touch the steakhouse!” we all said in unison.

The sale of Circus Circus will provide a bump to MGM Resorts’ pool of cash as it continues to pursue its MGM 2020 initiative to increase profitability.

Additional investment (or any, really) in Circus Circus by MGM Resorts just wasn’t in the cards, so a sale makes a lot of sense.

Stay tuned for confirmation and an official announcement about the sale of Circus Circus.

You heard it here first!

Update (9/20/19): Here’s the latest on the sale of Circus Circus via Bloomberg. The publication says about MGM Resorts, “An accord to sell the resort could be announced as part of a larger transaction involving the company’s real estate portfolio, which also includes the Bellagio and the flagship MGM Grand.”

Update (10/15/19): The sale of Circus Circus for $825 million to TI owner Phil Ruffin has been confirmed. Try to act surprised.

Hard Rock/Virgin Las Vegas to Partner With Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment

There are lots of rumors swirling about an increased tribal presence in Las Vegas at the moment. We know, because we’re the one who’s been swirling them.

Tribey

Just because a word doesn’t exist doesn’t mean you can’t use it.

From casino purchases to other high-profile investments (give it a couple of weeks and we’ll be sharing more huge tribe-related scoop), it’s clear sovereign tribal nations have their eye on Las Vegas in a big way.

The first big move by a tribe in the Las Vegas market looks to be a partnership between Hard Rock Las Vegas, which is transitioning into Virgin Hotel Las Vegas, and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.

Mohegan Tribe Virgin Las Vegas

Vegas is full of surprises.

We’re told reliably the Mohegan tribe will be managing the casino at Virgin Hotel Las Vegas (technically, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, but there’s only one planned at the moment, so we’re keeping it singular).

No official announcement has been made about this partnership, but when has that ever stopped us from spilling some tea?

As this news hasn’t been made public yet, there’s no concrete timeline. We do know Hard Rock will close after the Super Bowl (about April 1, 2020) for about four months (through July 2020) as the resort completes its changeover to Virgin Hotel. We trust Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment will be in place managing Virgin’s casino operations by that time (August 2020).

This is a huge partnership both for the Mohegan tribe and the owners of Hard Rock resort, JC Hospitality and Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels.

Virgin hotel Las Vegas

Adios, Hard Rock. Hello, Virgin.

This gives the tribe a foothold in Vegas, and gives Virgin Hotel a whole new pool of potential customers who have played at the popular Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut. Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment manages Mohegan Sun. Read more.

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) owns and manages resorts throughout the U.S., including in Connecticut, Atlantic City, Washington and Louisiana. Oh, and in South Korea. See more.

Interestingly, MGE owns the Connecticut Sun, a WNBA team, and the New England Black Wolves, a professional lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League. In case you haven’t heard, sports is sort of thing in Las Vegas at the moment, despite our best efforts.

Join us in getting a crash course on Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.

Expect official confirmation of this scoop in the next few weeks, and look forward to an influx of tribe-related headlines in the months to come.

Eldorado Resorts to Merge With Caesars Entertainment

There have been rumblings about a sale of Caesars Entertainment for months, now several major news outlets are reporting a deal has been struck.

According to sources familiar with the deal, Eldorado Resorts Inc. has agreed to merge with Caesars Entertainment. The selling price is expected to be $8.6 billion. Here’s more.

The cash and stock deal is said to be valued at $17.3 billion (which represents the sale price and a metric ass-ton of Caesars Entertainment debt).

Eldorado Caesars merger

Eldorado operates 26 casinos in 12 states. That number’s about to jump up a smidge.

It’s fairly certain the merger was the result of pressure from bajillionaire Carl Icahn, currently the biggest shareholder of Caesars Entertainment.

Assuming reports of the merger are true, that would put the value of Caesars stock at $13 a share.

For a little historical perspective, in 2004, Harrah’s bought Caesars for $17 a share.

In 2007, Apollo Global Management LLC and TPG bought Harrah’s for $90 per share. Fun fact: When the buyout happened, the company’s CEO Gary Loveman made $94 million in one day.  No, really.

Caesars Entertainment filed for bankruptcy in 2015 with a staggering debt load of $24 billion. Read more.

Yep, it’s been a wild ride, to say the least.

There’s a lot of head-scratching going on regarding the Eldorado and Caesars Entertainment merger. Also, there are still a lot of moving pieces involved, such as rumors we’ve heard certain Caesars-owned resorts—Rio and Planet Hollywood, specifically—are being sold off.

Rio Las Vegas sign

It’s time to say “goodbye” to Rio.

We’ve also seen some signs Caesars Entertainment may shed its Horseshoe brand.

Ah, the glorious drama!

An official announcement of the Eldorado and Caesars merger is expected on June 24, 2019, and we’ll know more about the specifics of the deal, and hopefully what it all means for your Las Vegas experience.

Update (6/24/19): The merger of Eldorado and Caesars Entertainment has been confirmed. The combined company will have 60 casinos in 16 states, and will be called Caesars. The company will be headquartered in Reno, Nevada. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2020. He’s the official statement from Eldorado Resorts. Here’s a sassy statement from Carl Icahn.

Since the announcement, there have been a lot of questions about the fate of the Caesars Rewards loyalty club. We’ve got this. Thanks to Eric R. on the Twitters for passing this along.

Caesars Rewards Eldorado

Translation: Chill.

Pop-Up Casinos Appear for a Day at Former Las Vegas Club and Mermaids

We love pop-up casinos!

No, that’s not what they’re called officially, but just play along.

Recently, temporary casinos opened at the former sites of the Las Vegas Club and Mermaids in order to meet gaming requirements to extend the licenses associated with these demolished venues.

For exactly eight hours each.

The sites are now part of the construction site of a new resort, Circa Las Vegas, so guests got the chance to be the first to gamble as the new casino. Sort of.

Here’s the temporary casino at the Las Vegas Club, open for a day on June 11, 2019.

Pop-up casino

No drink service, but charming nonetheless.

Each pop-up casino had exactly 16 video poker machines.

Las Vegas Club and Mermaids closed back in 2016, but the current owners, Greg and Derek Stevens, need to keep the gaming licenses active, so they get to indulge in this fun (but expensive) ritual.

Here’s a look inside the miniature casino at the Las Vegas Club site.

Circa pop-up casinos

Ever get lost in a Vegas casino? Not this one. You’re looking at the entire thing.

We say “expensive” because these pop-up casinos cost $50,000-$60,000 to set up and operate for a day. Century Gaming is the go-to vendor for such temporary casinos around town. The money wagered in the machines goes to them, not the company that arranges for the pop-up casino.

After the first day, on June 12, 2019, all the machines were moved a few feet away to where Mermaids used to serve its infamous deep fried Oreos. We know, because we had the last one ever served there. We still don’t feel quite right.

Mermaids pop-up casino

Even on a construction site, still cleaner than Mermaids was.

For whatever reason, people don’t tend to flock to these pop-up casinos. The pay tables aren’t great, but they aren’t horrible.

Just five people played on the machines at the first location, and about the same played the second day, reportedly.

Let’s look inside the Mermaids pop-up casino for no good reason other than for posterity.

Mermaids temporary casino

The easiest way to tell a loose slot machine is to see which one we’re playing.

We love them, however, and have yet to lose when playing at a temporary casino. In fact, at the Mermaids location, we hit two four-of-a-kinds and walked away with $100 in profit.

Circa popup casino

Construction dust is lucky!

The real question, of course, is were we among the last to play at Mermaids or among the first to play at Circa?

We would be remiss if we didn’t share the latest from the Circa construction site.

Circa 2019

Circa is going vertical.

Up above, Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job) is in the throes of a $32 million renovation of the Viva Vision video screen. Here’s an update on the progress of that project as well. Don’t you know this blog at all?

Viva Vision upgrade

The upgraded screen looks bomb, or possibly fleek. See more.

Pop-up casinos are quirky part of Las Vegas casino culture.

While we think they’re sort of dumb and a waste of time and money, we will rarely turn down the chance to gamble outside and stick it to The Man with a win.