Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

SLS Las Vegas Shares Peek at New Casino

SLS Las Vegas has taken down a construction wall enclosing a section of its casino, revealing a dramatically different look and feel the new owner and his management team hope will help change the fortunes of the long-struggling resort.

SLS casino renovation

SLS is getting it some fancy.

The new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has said he’ll invest $100 million in making over the former Sahara.

SLS Las Vegas

In Vegas, never don’t bling.

The new decor at SLS more closely aligns with what traditional casino patrons expect, veering away from a trendier look, including a fairly unpopular “unfinished” ceiling with exposed ducts.

SLS Las Vegas renovation

This was one of the few things in Vegas that didn’t benefit from exposure.

The new interior design at SLS will be familiar to those familiar with Meruelo’s other resort, the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno.

It’s expected SLS will be rebranded Grand Sahara Resort & Casino at some point.

The carpeting is also a distinct departure from the eclectic SLS design.

SLS renovation

New on the left, old on the right.

The new carpeting actually has a hypnotic effect if you look at it long enough.

SLS

It’s an urban myth casino carpeting is busy to force players to look up at the slot machines. They’re designed to camouflage stains.

One of our favorite features of the casino at SLS was the giant, high-resolution video screen over the center bar. The screen is known for featuring slick, 3-D animation.

The plug’s been pulled on the screen, but we’ve been informed it will be relocated elsewhere in the resort, near Bazaar Meat restaurant. So, there’s that.

SLS renovation

The screen showed 3-D legs, a duck and a human face.

Oh, like we were going to mention a freaky 3-D face and not actually show it to you? Do you know us at all?

We were going to spend more time talking about how much we like the direction of the SLS Las Vegas overhaul, but we were kicked out of the resort for taking photos. Buzzkill.

SLS

Look! It’s a photo we weren’t allowed to take! Suck it, The Man.

While overzealous casino security is an all-too-common phenomenon in Las Vegas, being kicked out of SLS raised some red flags for us.

See, SLS may not realize what it’s up against.

No matter what’s invested in the resort’s renovations (it won’t be $100 million), none of it will matter if SLS doesn’t differentiate itself with amazing service, a friendly, welcoming environment and a fun, lively casino.

Kicking out a casino guest for taking photos is a great example of the exact opposite of all that.

SLS renovation

A little compare-and-contrast action.

SLS needs word-of-mouth. SLS needs buzz. SLS needs to be a party. SLS needs to get its shit together.

SLS also needs to appeal to locals, and locals aren’t going to put up with poorly-trained staff or intrusive policies for one minute.

SLS needs to attract and retain every possible customer it can. If someone walks up to the casino cage and tries to rob it, SLS needs to offer the thief a line of credit.

We were taking photos. Of things the resort itself had shared in its social media channels earlier in the day. We posed no security risk. We weren’t taking photos of gamblers with their mistresses.

A simple request to discontinue taking photos would’ve been understood (yes, reluctantly, because such policies are outdated and idiotic) and accommodated. And we’d have gambled and had dinner at Cleo.

SLS

Spirals were engraved in Mayan temples. We’d show you a photo of one, but the Mayans had strict policies about such things. You see what happened to the ancient Mayans. Just saying.

Alienate guests without cause and word gets around.

Treat employees poorly, word gets around.

Breeze into our town (yes, it’s ours) and think you’ll succeed because you’re a big deal in Reno and you changed out some light fixtures—you’re destined to fail. And we’ll be there for a heaping helping of schadenfreude.

Give us a warm smile, decent odds, looser slots, great food (see the aforementioned Cleo) and make us feel welcome and respected and appreciated, you may just have a chance of success, slim as it is.

Resorts World is Making Striking Progress

After seemingly endless delays, construction at Resorts World is picking up steam.

Not only are windows being installed, but sources familiar with the project report the main hotel tower at Resorts World is growing by about a floor per week.

Resorts World

Object in photo is larger than it appears. By a hell ton.

As a basis of comparison, here’s a look at Resorts World in March 2018.

Resorts World

Resorts World was adorable as a baby.

Here’s a closer look at the windows being installed at Resorts World. Break out the squeegees!

Resorts World

The first references to squeegees, in the mid-19th century, referred to deck-cleaning tools for sea-faring vessels. Related: Writing photo captions isn’t easy.

Observers have noted the similarity between the look of Resorts World and that of Wynn and Encore, just across the street (see below).

We’ve heard Genting Group, owners of Resorts World, may make a play to purchase Wynn Resorts, so the similarity because the hotels could very well be intentional. Read more reckless rumors.

Wynn Las Vegas

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Wynn should feel very flattered right about now.

We went around to the back of Resorts World for a rare look at the side of the hotel tower facing Circus Circus. Windows are also being installed on that side.

Resorts World

We could’ve called this the north side, but we’re going with backside. Because we are 12.

Construction at Resorts World is no longer a laughing matter, as the hotel looms large at about 35 floors.

It’s hard to imagine, but the plan is for the tower to have 60.

Resorts World

It’s not just the height of one’s hotel that matters, it’s also the girth of one’s lens.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Resorts World, it sits on the former Echelon Place site. Which, we’re assuming, helps you not at all. Resorts World is between Circus Circus and the site planned for the Alon resort. Also not helpful, we get it.

If you’re a shopper, it’s just north of Fashion Show mall.

If you like Mexican food, it’s across the street from Tacos El Gordo.

If you’re sentimental, Resorts World is across the street from the former Riviera casino. It’s also the site of the former, legendary Stardust.

If you’re into antipodes, it’s roughly on the opposite side of the Earth as Madagascar.

If you’re an optimist, it’s just south and across the street from the future Drew hotel.

Resorts World

Genting Group was founded by Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, a name inspired by the sound a saucepan makes falling down a  flight of stairs.

Resorts World is slated to open in 2020, and the odds of that happening seem to improve with each new floor and window.

Given our saucepan joke, we assume we’re not invited.

Wynn Resorts Pulls Plug on Paradise Park Lagoon

Wynn Resorts has confirmed a story we were the first to share, that it’s pulled the plug on its Wynn Paradise Park lagoon project.

While Wynn started tearing up grass on its golf course several months ago in preparation for the lagoon, it will now redesign and open the 18-hole course again with the assistance of designer Tom Fazio.

Wynn golf course

Here, you can see the partially torn up Wynn golf course. If only golf courses had an undo function.

The lagoon project was considered a longshot from day one, a vanity project of disgraced former CEO Steve Wynn.

With Wynn out of the picture as a result of his sexual misconduct scandal, there was no champion of the lagoon project at Wynn Resorts, and it simply didn’t pencil out.

The project was supposed to feature not only the 38-acre lagoon (with water skiing, paddle boarding and parasailing), but also bumper cars, a boardwalk, carousel, ziplines, a nightly Carnivale parade (with a dozen 30-foot floats) with fireworks and even an animatronic King Kong.

Yes, that’s a lot of whimsy. Then again, it’s Las Vegas.

Wynn Paradise Park

What might have been.

During an earnings call, Wynn Resorts said that since closing the golf course, the company has lost out on $15-20 million in revenue.

The Wynn golf course closed on Dec. 22, 2017.

Here’s a look at the Wynn golf course before it looked rode hard and put up wet.

Wynn Golf Club

You can’t afford it, so don’t bother drooling.

While Wynn Resorts confirmed the lagoon project would be nixed on Nov. 7, 2018, we shared the story during a Channel 8 segment and on Twitter back in October. Because our tipsters are badass, bro.

The Wynn convention center is expected to proceed as planned, but the hotel tower at the canceled Wynn Paradise Park appears to be shelved.

It’s unclear what, if anything, will happen with the former Alon site, just across the street from Wynn and Encore. Wynn officials have said they expect it to take two years to design and develop a plan.

Don’t be surprised if the current Wynn leadership isn’t around to see whatever it’s going to be come to fruition. The development of the Alon site won’t even start until 2019.

Alon site

It seems the Alon site will remain empty for at least two years. Sigh.

While Wynn Paradise Park seemed overly ambitious and slightly nutty, Las Vegas could use a little more of that at the moment.

It feels like Vegas has traded in audaciousness for prudence, boldness for pragmatism. Prudence and pragmatism might pay some bills, but they don’t exactly scream excitement.

Las Vegas could use less corn hole and more giant King Kong, less sure thing and more Hail Mary.

While Wynn Paradise Park won’t be happening, it felt like something fresh and fearless, and we feel a tinge of sadness at its demise. Big ideas don’t come along every day, and Wynn Paradise Park was just that.

Lucky Dragon Gets Zero Bids at Bankruptcy Auction

An auction for the Asian-themed Lucky Dragon resulted in zero bids, so it will go to the failed casino’s primary lender, Snow Covered Capital.

The auction on Oct. 30, 2018, had a healthy turnout at the offices of Nevada Legal News in downtown Las Vegas. In fact, the auction was so well-attended, it had to be held in the building’s parking lot.

Lucky Dragon auction

Shout-out to all the Toastmasters who know that’s a lectern and not a podium!

Unfortunately for everyone involved, nobody in the crowd was willing to meet or beat Snow Covered Capital’s $35 million minimum bid, so the company will take ownership of the shuttered Lucky Dragon.

Not only did Snow Covered Capital not get the $55 million it needed to recoup its loan, many others are losing their shorts in the Lucky Dragon saga as well.

There’s a second tier of lenders who are likely to never see a dollar, as well as innumerable craftspeople who have yet to be paid for their work on the ill-fated hotel-casino.

Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon may not have been a success, but nobody can say it wasn’t pretty.

The bankruptcy of Lucky Dragon will be especially brutal for the 179 foreign investors who sunk a total of $89 million into the project. Those investors were promised green cards as part of the
federal EB-5 program, and are now what industry experts call “S.O.L.”

We’ve heard a class action lawsuit may be in the making.

Read more about how foreign investors got snookered.

So, what’s next for Lucky Dragon?

While Snow Covered Capital probably would’ve preferred a magical offer of $55 million falling into its lap, having the casino in its possession now means it can pursue a buyer unfettered by the pressures and time constraints of bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings.

It’s unknown what kind of business could make a go of Lucky Dragon, or whatever it becomes next.

Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon was one of our favorite Las Vegas casinos we almost never visited.

More development on the north end of The Strip would certainly make Lucky Dragon more appealing to a potential operator.

We’d love to see a new casino concept, preferably one that serves budget-conscious visitors. A boutique hotel-casino along the lines of Ellis Island could target an under-served customer
looking for a place to stay and play and gamble without being nickel-and-dimed.

In fact, now would be the perfect time for an enterprising operator to establish a casino-hotel built from the ground up to take advantage of growing frustrations about paid parking, resort fees and other irksome practices which have become common in Las Vegas.

Here’s the strategy, enterprising operator:

Swear we’ll never pay for parking, never pay a resort fee or concession fee or venue fee or convenience charge.

Ensure we’ll always get 3-to-2 on blackjack and one zero on roulette, with 100x odds on craps.

Pledge to loosen the slots. We don’t mind losing when we gamble, just make it take longer!

Make the food cheap, quick and a great value.

Pour the liquor brands we want from the bottle, not the gun, and get rid of machines that tell us  when we’re worthy of a drink. Oh, and give us a damn straw with our cocktail without having to ask for one.

Give us a “Do Not Disturb” sign rather than one that says “Room Occupied.”

Let us check in early and check out late.

And while we’re building a wishlist, bring back moving walkways. We loved those things!

Build it (or rather, rebrand it) and they will come.

Lego Las Vegas Skyline Goes on Sale

Lego has released its much-anticipated Las Vegas skyline set, easily the most interesting edition of its Architecture series.

Lego Las Vegas Architecture

We’ve never been so excited to experience severe foot injuries.

The new Lego Architecture Las Vegas set has 501 pieces (shout-out to all our fellow OCD sufferers) and sells for $39.99 on Amazon.

Which is where you should purchase the set because if you click through to Amazon via our link we get a little piece of the action. Hey, this Captain and diet isn’t going to pay for itself.

The Las Vegas skyline set features a number of immediately recognizable buildings, including Bellagio, Luxor, Encore, Stratosphere and the Fremont Street Experience.

The set also boasts a miniature “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

Lego Las Vegas Architecture

Fun fact: We work at Fremont Street Experience as our day job, so we wrote that portion of the booklet which accompanies the Las Vegas skyline Lego set. You should buy it, anyway.

As we’ve shared previously, Bellagio wasn’t originally in the set, but replaced Mandalay Bay following the tragedy of Oct. 1, 2017.

Another adjustment was made to the Las Vegas Lego set in that an early version of the collection identified Encore as Wynn. It’s believed that switch was made in the aftermath of Steve Wynn’s sexual harassment scandal.

Hey, it wouldn’t be a Las Vegas Lego set without a little drama.

Here’s a look at the set being assembled, for whatever reason.

The swap-out of Mandalay Bay for Bellagio means the set is somewhat out of whack in terms of geography, but at least the thing has been released.

We’ve ordered ours, so order yours, and expect an update with photos of our completed Las Vegas skyline sometime in 2022. We are a blog, not an AFOL.

Yes, there’s a name for Lego fanatics. AFOL stands for “Adult Fan of Lego.” Apparently, that means we’re an AFOLV.

We’ll wait.

W Hotel Shown the Door at SLS Las Vegas

It took longer than expected, but W Hotel is no longer a hotel-within-a-hotel at SLS Las Vegas.

SLS marquee

The W sign no longer sits atop the SLS marquee. Thanks a lot, Illuminati!

We were the first to share that SLS would discontinue its relationship with W Las Vegas.

Initially, the plan was to integrate W back into the SLS resort in May 2018, but talks between the two entities hit a snag.

Soon after, it was announced W would be “reincorporated back into SLS Las Vegas as the SLS Grand, a Starwood hotel” on July 20, 2018. Nope.

W hotel notice

The best laid plans.

At one point, W Las Vegas employees were let go, rooms were redecorated to remove W branding and a crane showed up to take down the W sign. Because a deal couldn’t be finalized, employees were invited back, all the rooms in the tower were reverted to the W branding and the crane was asked to turn around.

Finally, the deal between the new owners of SLS (Meruelo Group) and W Las Vegas was done and W is officially out as of Aug. 17, 2018.

Our eagle-eyed reader Michael A. captured the removal of the W sign from the SLS marquee.

W hotel sign removal

Paging M Resort. You should totally bid for this on eBay!

The W sign went up in Oct. 2016. Yep, less than two years ago, making it one of the weirder Las Vegas casino stories in quite some time. (We’re looking at you, The Quad.)

Here’s a shot of the W sign as it was being foisted into place with much fanfare back in 2016. Or maybe it was hoopla. We always get those mixed up.

W Las Vegas at SLS

Not awkward. At all.

So, W is out. Bygones.

All visible signs of W Las Vegas branding have been removed at SLS, and the W tower has been renamed The Grand Tower.

A news release explains, “SLS Las Vegas will assume full operational control of the resort’s reservations system from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and the SLS Las Vegas brand will discontinue membership as a Starwood Tribute Portfolio Hotel & Resort.”

We have only the most superficial understanding of what that means, so you’re on your own.

One of the more distinctive design touches at the W Hotel valet entrance was a wall fashioned from 20,000 poker chips.

W hotel Las Vegas

No, we didn’t count all 20,000 chips. We have a life. Sorry, we probably should’ve put quotation marks around “life.”

Now, SLS has taken a page from Park MGM playbook and replaced the chips with greenery.

SLS rear entrance

This isn’t the first time a Las Vegas casino has made chips disappear.

Otherwise, the W Las Vegas lobby and bar area remain largely untouched.

W hotel lobby

This is the Living Room at the former W. And just as with your own living room, there’s mismatched furniture, a bartender and possibly prostitutes.

Just in case SLS decides to overhaul the former W Las Vegas lobby area, we would like to call dibs on three decorative items.

First, this dice display.

W hotel dice

You’d be surprised how seldom “dibs” actually works once you reach adulthood. Sorry, we should’ve put quotation marks around “adulthood.”

Second, this textured wall accent, inspired by the bumps on a craps table. Glorious.

W Las Vegas

These “alligator bumps” run floor to ceiling and we absolutely love them.

Third, Belvis.

W Las Vegas Belvis

Belvis is like Zoltar, but much, much cooler.

Wresting back operational control of the W Hotel is just one of many changes happening at SLS.

Owner Alex Meruelo and his team have been aggressive at cost-cutting measures so far, and a $100 million “re-imagining” is planned.

How about this? Imagine being profitable for the first time in four years!

Fun fact: SLS opened on Aug. 23, 2014, so the hotel’s fourth anniversary is the very same day we’re publishing this story. You go, synchronicity.

Part of the resort’s re-imagining will undoubtedly involve a name change, most likely to Grand Sahara Resort. The new name plays off the Reno resort owned by Meruelo, Grand Sierra Resort.

Plans for the hotel’s venues haven’t been announced, but we’ve heard Bazaar Meat and the Northside Cafe are likely to be the only restaurants to survive the transition. It’s rumored Bazaar Meat will not only stay, but will get an expansion.

Bazaar Meat

How serious is Bazaar Meat about its meat? This serious.

Since SLS opened, it’s been rumored the resort’s restaurants generate more revenue than its casino.

Cleo is not only our favorite restaurant at SLS, it’s one of our favorites in Las Vegas. Sadly, our “Save Cleo” campaign hasn’t gained much traction, but only because you probably haven’t dined there yet. Ahem.

We’ve long been a cheerleader for SLS, as the quirky spawn of the classic Sahara has a lot to like, despite its challenging location.

SLS casino chip

The crane will be back for this guy. Dibs.

Here’s hoping the new owners and management can defy the odds, turn plans for a turnaround into action and make the north Strip resort a success.

Including keeping Cleo. Yes, we’re saying it again. Traction doesn’t just magically happen, you know.