Category Archives: Las Vegas Casinos

SLS Buyer Alex Meruelo Could Also Acquire Lucky Dragon

You want scoop, you’ve got it. We’re hearing Alex Meruelo, buyer of SLS Las Vegas, is working on a deal to acquire the ailing Lucky Dragon.

A source shares that Meruelo goes before gaming next week related the SLS sale, but is expected to also express his intention to buy the Lucky Dragon.

Lucky Dragon

The potential of SLS and Lucky Dragon being owned by the same company opens up some fascinating possibilities.

Lucky Dragon closed its casino and restaurants in Jan. 2018, and was supposed to go on the auction block on Feb. 6, but the auction was pushed back to Feb. 22, 2018.

That new date could very well have been impacted by discussions between Lucky Dragon, its lenders and Meruelo Group.

In an interesting twist, it was the closure of Lucky Dragon that apparently shook loose the stalled sale of SLS.

SLS Las Vegas

Dibs on this guy. Again.

The sale of SLS has been a tad bumpy, with investor lawsuits flying and the powerful Culinary Union taking jabs at Alex Meruelo because he might oust the union as a cost-saving measure.

In SLS news, a source with direct access to SLS insiders says the rebranded resort is likely to be called Grand Sahara.

It’s believed all the existing SLS restaurants will be out when the new ownership takes over, with an eye toward mirroring amenities of Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

There’s more to come, so stay tuned, a saying we fully acknowledge is now about as relevant as “bee’s knees” and “cat’s pajamas.”

Fontainebleau Will Be The Drew Las Vegas, Strip’s First JW Marriott

The abandoned Fontainebleau project has been given another shot at success, this time with the name The Drew Las Vegas.

Yes, The Drew.

We had the same reaction, but it will presumably have a casino, so we’ll cut them some slack.

Fontainebleau wrap

Fontainebleau will now be named after the past tense of “draw.”

Developers say The Drew will open in 2020, a partnership between real estate firm Witkoff and Marriott International.

Construction was halted on Fontainebleau in 2009 due to the economic downturn, and because Las Vegas occasionally needs failures to make its successes all the more impressive. The building was about 70% complete when work stopped, and Fontainebleau has been a running gag ever since.

Fontainebleau

No, really, this is the last time we’ll share this.

As we were the first to report, Fontainebleau was sold in August 2017 for $600 million to Witkoff and another real estate firm, New Valley.

The resort is located across from Circus Circus, next to the former Riviera casino, currently a parking lot.

Riviera demolition

Yep, that former Riviera. The Drew Las Vegas will be at left.

On a somber note, The Drew Las Vegas appears to be named after Andrew Witkoff, the son of real estate mogul Steven Witkoff. Andrew “Drew” Witkoff died of an OxyContin overdose in 2011. Read more. Bit of a buzzkill there, not going to lie.

Moving on.

The Drew Las Vegas will have 4,000 rooms and 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space.

Plans for The Drew also include entertainment, nightlife, retail and dining venues, including an aspirational 20 restaurant options.

The Drew will mark the debut of Marriott’s high-end “Edition” brand in Las Vegas, whatever that might be.

Marriott’s massive customer database, estimated at about 100 million members, is likely to be key to the resort’s success.

Fontainebleau wrap

The Drew will be the tallest building in Las Vegas, excluding the Stratosphere.

Also involved in The Drew project will be John Unwin, who previously helped open the Cosmopolitan. Interestingly, Cosmopolitan is currently part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. We also don’t know what that means.

The Drew Las Vegas joins a number of major projects happening on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, including Resorts World, All Net Resort and Arena, Wynn Paradise Park, the Sphere from Las Vegas Sands Corp., an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center and others.

We’re excited to see The Drew Las Vegas become a thing! Having a powerhouse like Marriott onboard certainly doesn’t hurt its chances.

Uninspired names we can get used to, hulking eyesores, not so much.

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas Sold to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels

We’ve shared the rumors for months, but insiders are now confirming the Hard Rock casino in Las Vegas has been purchased by bajillionaire Richard Branson and Virgin Hotels, along with Bosworth Hospitality Partners and Juniper Capital Partners.

We first wrote about Hard Rock changing hands back in March 2017. The first obvious sign a sale was in the works was a picket by Teamsters Union Local 986 meant to encourage the retention of their workforce if the sale moved forward.

Apparently, it has.

Hard Rock casino Las Vegas

Boom, sold, as the kids say.

Details of the sale haven’t yet been made public, but a well-placed source confirms staffers at the resort have been informed of deal.

The Hard Rock is currently owned by Brookfield Asset Management. The resort is operated by Brookfield and Warner Gaming.

Word is the off-Strip casino hasn’t been doing gangbuster business in recent months, so the buyers got a great deal on the place. Venues like MB Steak have been struggling mightily.

The prospect of Hard Rock becoming a Virgin hotel could breathe new life into the resort, and those familiar with the sale say the new branding will be accompanied by a renovation.

Virgin Hotels got its start in 2010 and is based in Miami. The one in Florida. Please try and keep up.

At one time, the stated business plan of Virgin Hotels was to “acquire distressed properties in North America cheaply,” and that’s the scenario which has unfolded at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Virgin Hotels

Fun fact: Las Vegas has long been associated with the word “virgin.” Note: We are a photo caption, not a historian.

Richard Branson has said the Virgin Hotels brand is “geared toward the female business traveler,” which would be an intriguing direction for Hard Rock.

Here’s a peek at what may be in store for the next iteration of Hard Rock in Las Vegas. Highlights: Mini-bars at sensible prices, a mobile app that controls the temperature and TV in your room, room service anywhere in the hotel and more.

There’s more to come, and we trust an official announcement will be made shortly.

Update (1/19/18): In a fascinating twist, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against the owner of Hard Rock, Brookfield Asset Management, for alleged labor violations. The charges were filed in Sep. 2017 by the Culinary Union.

Update (1/19/18): Our report about the sale of Hard Rock Las Vegas was bolstered by an item in the Las Vegas Review-Journal sparked by our story.

Update (1/24/18): We shared our Hard Rock scoop on Channel 8. Witness why we say we have a face for podcasting.

Update (3/6/18): An insider has shared that a letter from Hard Rock executives to vendors states the ownership change to Bosworth Hospitality, Juniper and Virgin will take effect March 31, 2018.

Lucky Dragon Closure Shakes Loose SLS Las Vegas Sale

As we’ve reported on the Twitters, the sale of SLS Las Vegas to its announced buyer, Alex Meruelo and his Meruelo Group, recently seemed very much stalled.

Now, all that’s changed.

A source with knowledge of the SLS sale says news of the closure of Lucky Dragon’s casino and restaurants caused an immediate change of course in the negotiations, with the seller (Stockbridge Capital Partners) suddenly highly motivated to meet Meruelo’s demands and seal the deal.

It’s expected Meruelo Group will take over SLS Las Vegas in late Feb. 2018.

SLS 3-D legs

Let’s hope Meruelo Group got this awesome video display as part of the deal.

It seems Alex Meruelo is a non-nonsense negotiator, and once he and his team got into the specifics of the physical condition of SLS and its finances, they pushed for more favorable terms for the sale.

Initially, Stockbridge dug in, and Meruelo’s team pulled the plug on scheduled meetings, bringing the negotiations to a screeching halt.

Out of the sad news Lucky Dragon would close its casino came a renewed interest in pushing forward with the sale. Essentially, Stockbridge caved. (Don’t expect to see the word “caved” in the news release.)

While no sale price has been floated, we suspect Alex Meruelo got a solid value, and he’ll have ample resources to give the resort (formerly the Sahara) an overhaul, including a rebrand.

SLS Las Vegas

Curious what these SLS monkey vests will go for on eBay.

We trust the deal will include a happy ending for 60 Chinese investors who recently filed a lawsuit because SLS Las Vegas has never made a profit. (The casino has consistently made about 50% of original estimates. Translation: Welcome to the Big Hurt.)

At the time of the lawsuit, Stockbridge said it didn’t think the lawsuit would deter the sale, and they were apparently correct.

SLS chandelier

If there’s a garage sale, dibs on this SLS chandelier made from the Sahara’s door handles.

According to insiders, the ownership transition is likely to involve another personnel “purge.”

Another fascinating element of this sale is how it plays into the boom taking place on the north end of The Strip, a burst of activity that includes the start of construction of Wynn Paradise Park, actual progress at Resorts World, the sale of Fontainebleau and the Alon site, an approved Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and another development about to get a boost.

We hear project next door to SLS, All Net Resort and Arena, is going to get a surprising new (wait for it) cheerleader: Alex Meruelo.

All Net Arena

All Net Arena’s ample supply of nothing could turn out to be a good deal of something.

Meruelo is expected to be a vocal proponent of All Net Resort and Arena, as it could become a draw along the lines of T-Mobile Arena, including the potential of housing (wait for it) an NBA team.

The tide is rising on the north Strip, and nobody wants to be the guy in a dingy. Or something.

Here’s us talking about all this on KLAS, because you can never have too much us.

While we feel for the employees of Lucky Dragon (they were informed of their termination when they showed up for work on the morning of Jan. 4, 2018), the demise of the Asian-themed casino has sparked intriguing new possibilities in a success-challenged neighborhood.

Expect more news about the sale of SLS Las Vegas through official (yawn) channels soon.

Update (1/7/17): On the heels of our story, Meruelo Group is now featuring SLS Las Vegas on its Web site.

Meruelo Group SLS

Boom.

More to come!

Lucky Dragon Abruptly Closes Casino and Restaurants

The struggling Lucky Dragon resort has closed its casino and restaurants.

We were the first to report Lucky Dragon was recently put up for sale, and while the resort’s hotel continues to take reservations, entrances to the casino have “Casino Temporarily Closed” signs.

Lucky Dragon closed

“Temporarily” sounds a little optimistic at this point.

Lucky Dragon’s casino and restaurants closed on Jan. 4, 2018.

Lucky Dragon has had a tumultuous history, including ongoing questions about whether the Asian-themed, boutique resort would be financed or completed.

Lucky Dragon

Even a massive dragon couldn’t change Lucky Dragon’s fortune.

Lucky Dragon officially opened Dec. 3, 2016, thanks in great part to EB-5 financing. With EB-5 financing, investors (typically from Asia) contribute funds to projects and get green cards in return. In the case of Lucky Dragon, those investors will henceforth be referred to as “the monumentally screwed.”

Here’s a statement from Lucky Dragon.

Lucky Dragon closed

Every time a Las Vegas casino closes, an showgirl loses her tassels.

Optimism for the win!

Despite a strong opening, Lucky Dragon failed to attract its intended customers (including snagging local Asian customers who frequent casinos like Gold Coast and Palace Station), and has made a number of changes to its restaurant offerings.

Lucky Dragon

Normally, this would provide some consolition, but not so much.

Lucky Dragon’s challenging location, on Sahara, just off The Strip, near the Bonanza Gift Shop and SLS Las Vegas, made the resort an long shot, but sometimes in Vegas those pay off.

A Lucky Dragon insider says wild swings in baccarat were major factor in the closure of the casino. Whales (however few) would win big, then leave for bigger resorts on The Strip with more amenities. Casinos obviously rely on guests staying on-site for a chance to win some back.

Lucky Dragon

Remember, Las Vegas was built on miracles. We hope that’s what the future holds for Lucky Dragon.

We were rooting for Lucky Dragon, but haven’t visited in some time, despite the great rooms (we were quoted a rate of $45 for early February), welcoming casino and top-notch (although limited) cuisine.

We’ve heard Lucky Dragon would need at least $90 million from a buyer to cover its first and second (EB-5) tier investors.

It’s unknown what’s next for Lucky Dragon, but here’s hoping employees find other options as the resort tries to change its luck.

Resorts World Project Shows Long-Awaited Progress

It’s time to check in on the long-awaited Resorts World project.

Watching the construction activity at Resorts World is akin to watching paint dry, but lately, there’s quite a bit more paint. Or something.

Resorts World

The sloth is Resorts World’s spirit animal.

We got a little excited when we spotted a couple of cranes on the site, but now there are several, so we’re optimistic there’s some momentum building.

Resorts World

And not just cranes. Other stuff, like crane parts.

During our recent visit to the Resorts World site, we spotted actual construction dudes doing construction things.

We saw perhaps a dozen construction workers. A resort this size would typically employ hundreds of workers, so things are still moving at a modest pace.

The president of Resorts World Las Vegas has said 1,000 construction workers will be on the site “by 2018.”

Resorts World

You go, construction dudes. Yes, they’re dudes. We can’t solve all of society’s injustices. We are just a blog.

Resorts World sits on the site of the abandoned Echelon project, which was supposed to take the place of our beloved Stardust.

Resorts World

Much of the work that’s been done at Resorts World has been behind-the-scenes, and that’s the story they’re sticking to.

Resorts World will be an Asian-themed resort, and while the anticipated opening date has been a moving target so far, executives say the hotel-casino will open in 2020.

Update (12/16/17): Look at all the cranes!

Resorts World cranes

It appears Resorts World is officially, undeniably a thing.

Let’s look around the Resorts World site.

Resorts World Update: Legit Cranes

[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_1.jpg]2300
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_2.jpg]2120
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_3.jpg]2140
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_4.jpg]1940
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_5.jpg]1910
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_6.jpg]1880
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_7.jpg]1790
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_8.jpg]1700
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_9.jpg]1670
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_10.jpg]1540
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_11.jpg]1480
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_12.jpg]1820
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_13.jpg]1570
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/resorts-world-update-legit-cranes/thumbs/thumbs_resorts_world_112817_14.jpg]1440