Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

Golden Entertainment to Buy Stratosphere, Three Other Casinos for $850 Million

The Stratosphere is set to be sold, along with three additional casinos, to Golden Entertainment, owners of the PT’s Pub chain.

The deal includes Stratosphere, locals casinos Arizona Charlie’s Decatur and Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, and the Aquarius in Laughlin.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Laughlin is very much like Las Vegas, but in sweatpants and without makeup.

The sale of the four casinos will cost $850 million.

Funny Stratosphere chip

Please, Golden Entertainment, make this collectible chip a reality.

When the sale gets did, Golden Entertainment will operate about 15,800 slot machines, 114 table games and more than 5,100 hotel rooms across eight casinos, including the world’s most phallic, Stratosphere Las Vegas.

Stratosphere

Well, hello to you, too.

While Golden Entertainment isn’t the best-known name in Las Vegas, their influence is undeniable given they have about 50 bars and restaurants (known in the business as “taverns”) with a gambling component, many of which we personally frequent for the Caesar salad wraps and Captain Morgan, poured from a bottle. Our favorites include PT’s Gold and Sierra Gold.

Golden Entertainment owns several casinos in Pahrump (Pahrump Nugget, Lakeside, Gold Town), as well as the Rocky Gap gap casino in Maryland.

We’re thinking the Rocky Gap and Stratosphere are going to get along just fine, if you get our drift.

Stratosphere

Value of this view from Stratosphere: Priceless.

The sale of Stratosphere and the other casinos is expected to be a done deal by the end of 2017.

The sale of Stratosphere follows on the heels of news another distressed north Strip casino will be sold, SLS Las Vegas. Casinos in that neighborhood continue to face challenges, with rumors the nearby Lucky Dragon is also struggling to find a foothold.

It’s telling that, in 2008, the Stratosphere alone was sold to Goldman Sachs for $1.3 billion.

Sorry we weren’t able to ferret out this story before everyone else, but we have to sleep sometime.

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Paid Parking Kicks In at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Cosmopolitan resort has joined the ever-growing list of Las Vegas resorts now charging for parking.

Cosmopolitan paid parking

Cosmopolitan instituting paid parking is like finding out your mistress is cheating on you. It doesn’t feel great, but it’s not all that surprising, either.

Paid parking applies to both valet and self-parking. Get the skinny on the official Cosmopolitan site.

Fees are waived if you park an hour or less, but after that, it’s $7 for one to four hours and $10 for four to 24 hours.

And, yep, even guests of the hotel have to pay for parking, although they get in-and-out privileges when they pay the 24-hour self-parking fee while non-hotel guests do not.

Motorcycles are exempt from parking fees, which would be great were it not for the fact people who ride motorcycles have exceptionally short lifespans. Buzzkill.

Here are the parking rates at-a-glance.

Cosmopolitan paid parking

It’s $30 for a lost ticket? They must be printing these tickets on Faberge eggs.

Some members of the Cosmo’s Identity loyalty club can sidestep the parking fees. Those who achieve Sterling, Gold or Platinum status can park free with their Identity card.

Parking fees can be paid at pay-on-foot kiosks on each level of the parking garage. Some machines accept cash and credit cards (levels B2 and B3), while others take credit cards only (B4 and B5).

Cosmopolitan paid parking

Obey. Talk about perfect parking kiosk placement.

While parking fees are annoying, they are becoming the norm in Las Vegas, just as they are in other cities.

Cosmopolitan is one of the most spectacular casino resorts not just in Las Vegas but the world, so paying for parking stings a bit less.

If saving a few bucks is important, remember Cosmopolitan is across from the street from the Miracle Mile Shops, where parking remains free. Parking is also free at the Shops at Crystals.

Yes, it took paid parking coming to Cosmopolitan for us to say something nice about shopping.

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SLS Las Vegas Tweaks Loyalty Club Program, Unveils Club 52

SLS Las Vegas has rebranded its player loyalty program following news the resort is being sold to Alex Meruelo and his Meruelo Group.

The casino’s new loyalty club was unveiled June 1, 2017, and is called Club 52.

While the casino hasn’t officially said what Club 52 refers to, we’ve heard the name reflects the fact the Sahara opened in 1952. SLS Las Vegas, of course, was the result of a massive renovation of that classic Las Vegas hotel-casino.

SLS Club 52

The number 52 not only represents the year Sahara opened, it’s also the number of cards in a deck. It can also represent analysis, introspection and adventure. We are not making this up.

Renaming the player’s club could very well be a hint the resort will undergo its own rebrand, potentially back to Sahara.

Which would quite possibly be the coolest thing, ever.

SLS chandelier

Vestiges of Sahara can be found throughout SLS, including this sweet chandelier made of Sahara door handles.

Fun fact: Keen-eyed reader Mike P. shared that the design flourish inside the Club 52 logo was often used in Sahara artwork and around the Sahara itself during its heyday.

Sahara Buddy Hackett

That’s some serious Vegas throwback action right there.

With the launch of Club 52 at SLS, the tiers and their associated benefits have been rejiggered.

The previous loyalty club, The Code, had tiers named Select, Premium, Elite and Legend.

Club 52 has Preferred, VIP, Elite and Legend.

The SLS Las Vegas Web site lays out the perks of the various Club 52 tiers.

Here’s a look at what play will get you what slot points and tier credits.

Code 52 tiers points

Thank you, screen grab technology, for helping us avoid having to type all this information.

There’s been quite a bit of speculation about what changes are coming to SLS Las Vegas following its sale later this year, including spectacularly insightful ideas like, “SLS needs more casino and convention customers.”

The hope is new ownership at SLS Las Vegas can help a great resort find its footing in a challenging location and keep the legacy of Sahara alive.

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Bellagio Skybridge Loses Its Moving Walkways

In recent weeks, Bellagio has removed a series of moving walkways on the skybridge stretching from Las Vegas Boulevard to the porte cochere of the iconic resort.

Bellagio skybridge

Sorry, we don’t have a “before” photo. Use your imagination.

People-movers, like their spotlight-hogging twins, escalators, are notoriously unreliable and expensive to repair, so it’s likely Bellagio and its owners, MGM Resorts, figured it was time to pull the plug.

Bellagio skybridge

Here’s another stretch of the skybridge that also doesn’t have moving walkways.

The demise of the people-movers at Bellagio seems to be part of a larger trend.

For many years, Las Vegas casinos went to great lengths to draw pedestrians into the casino. The more foot traffic, the more gambling. The more gambling, the more revenue.

Now, as casinos pay closer attention to the bottom line, such amenities may not play the part they once did.

Las Vegas visitation continues to be at an all-time high, and when times are good and demand is strong, casinos know customers are willing to make the trek without the need for expensive devices like moving walkways, also known as “travelators” in parts of Europe.

In 2013, when Caesars Palace renovated its Pure nightclub to become Omnia, its perpetually dysfunctional people-mover was killed off.

Caesars Palace moving walkway

This former moving walkway at Caesars was built in the 1980s, considered by historians to be the last decade where there were virgins.

When Bally’s decided to build its Grand Bazaar Shops, its people-mover also got the ax.

Bally's walkway

We sort of miss you, moving walkway at Bally’s.

Here’s a look at the deconstruction of the people-mover at Bally’s, circa January 2014.

Bally's people-mover

Don’t even get us started about what’s there now.

Another interesting aspect of moving walkways has to do with the trend of casinos expanding closer to Las Vegas Boulevard. In the early days of Vegas, most guests arrived by car, so it wasn’t especially important to build close to pedestrian traffic.

Now, millions of people stroll along Las Vegas Boulevard, so casinos are closing the gap between the sidewalks on Las Vegas Boulevard and the casino.

Caesars Entertainment, for example, has talked about developing the “underutilized” land in front of Caesars Palace.

Bally’s is another obvious example where management has made a conscious to generate revenue from under-utilized space by tapping into the large volume of foot traffic. Not surprisingly, CVS was all over it.

Strip CVS

Formerly not much, currently printing money.

At New York-New York, a major overhaul of the resort’s frontage makes restaurants and shops readily accessible to passersby.

New York New York promenade

We try not to go outdoors, but some people seem to like it. There’s more outdoors next door at The Park, an outdoor dining district.

There were even misguided rumblings Bellagio was going to eliminate its fountains to build a shopping and dining area. Although an April Fool’s joke by our friends at Vegas Bright, such a move seemed plausible given recent trends.

So, if you’re strolling by Bellagio and decide to go in (and you should, it’s gorgeous), expect a bit of a trek.

On the bright side, the skybridge offers great views of the Bellagio fountains and its casino neighbors on the Las Vegas Strip.

And it goes without saying walking is good for you. Unless you’re a human centipede with bad knees. Which we’re going to need some time to unsee, so thanks a lot.

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SLS Las Vegas Casino Sold to Alex Meruelo and Meruelo Group

The SLS Las Vegas casino resort has been sold. The sale was officially confirmed following our story.

SLS Las Vegas has been sold to Alex Meruelo and his Meruelo Group, which we didn’t entirely know existed until we wrote this blog post.

SLS Las Vegas

Dibs on this logo thingy.

Which brings two questions to mind immediately. First, what just happened? Second, who is Alex Meruelo?

The Alex Meruelo part we can help with.

Alex Meruelo’s company, Meruelo Group, has a number of assets, but the one most relevant to owning a casino on the Las Vegas Strip is Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada.

Grand Sierra Resort has gone by a few names, including MGM Grand Reno, Bally’s Reno and Reno Hilton.

Meruelo also has interests in construction and engineering, television, radio, real estate, food services and private equity, whatever that might actually be. The company’s most recent purchase was a radio station in Los Angeles.

Meruelo Group

Dude doesn’t care about wearing proper protective gear near a construction site. We like him already.

The sale of SLS Las Vegas is another fascinating chapter in the history of the boutique resort that was once the classic Sahara.

Our source says there’s been some talk of changing the resort’s name back to Sahara, which would be several kinds of cool. There’s apparently been discussion about changing the casino’s loyalty club from “Code” to “Club 52.” The Sahara opened in 1952.

SLS Las Vegas

Time to say farewell to this bad boy.

It’s likely Meruelo will rebrand SLS Las Vegas, as he did with Grand Sierra Resort when it was purchased in 2011.

The sale of SLS would likely lead to the demise of two of the best restaurants in town, Bazaar Meat and Cleo, licensed from a former partner of the resort, SBE Entertainment.

SLS Las Vegas, owned by Stockbridge Real Estate, has struggled since it opened in August 2014.

We’re hearing there’s been some internal drama at SLS Las Vegas, and that the sale has been in the works since October 2016, right around the time when Scott Kreeger, former President and COO of SLS Las Vegas stepped down.

A statement confirming the sale included, “terms of the deal were not disclosed,” and this quote: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire a premier gaming property on the world famous Las Vegas Strip,” said Meruelo Group Chairman and CEO Alex Meruelo. “We look forward to bringing our experience and successful track record as a casino/hotel owner, and to leverage our Los Angeles-based media and entertainment properties, to position the SLS as one of the most desired destinations in Las Vegas.”

The statement also said the sale of SLS Las Vegas “is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2017.”

Update (6/3/17): Our source informs us of another exclusive, that SLS CEO Terry Downey and CFO Robert Schaffhauser (both formerly of Aliante) will step down July 1, 2017.

Update (7/10/17): The rumor about Downey and Schaffhauser leaving has been confirmed.

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Luxor’s Sphinx Once Sported a Nose Ring

We are not making this up.

A friend of ours took a photo of the Great Sphinx of Giza replica at Luxor when it was being built.

It was the summer of 1993, which isn’t as catchy a title as the song’s, but let’s keep our eye on the prize here.

As the Sphinx was being constructed, it had a curious bit of “jewelry” that, in retrospect, makes it seems ahead of its time, fashionwise.

That’s right, Luxor’s Sphinx had a nose ring.

Luxor Sphinx nose ring

Thanks to our pal Tom Jones IV for the epic photo.

Who knows what the ring was for. It’s awesome, and we are not personally a facial ornamentation person.

Luxor opened on Oct. 15, 1993, after just 18 months of construction, at a cost of $375 million.

The Sphinx has endured despite efforts to de-theme the Strip resort. In 2007, MGM Resorts spent about $300 million to remove Egypt-inspired elements inside the resort and to renovate all the rooms.

Luxor Las Vegas

Luxor’s design is distinctive, to say the least. In fact, the hotel doesn’t use elevators, it uses “inclinators.”

Unlike many of the replicas in Las Vegas, like the half-scale Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas or one-third-scale Statue of Liberty at New York-New York, the Sphinx is actually bigger than the original.

Luxor’s Sphinx is 110 feet tall.

Some believe the Sphinx at Luxor was built facing the wrong direction. The Luxor Sphinx faces east. The original faces west. This, among other things (like mysterious deaths and the fact Egyptians used pyramids as tombs), has led the superstitious to think Luxor may be cursed.

People be crazy.

The Sphinx is just one of the distinctive features of Luxor Las Vegas. There’s the beam of light, of course, that can be seen from 250 miles away on a clear night.

There’s also an obelisk, one of the most distinctive phallic objects in Las Vegas.

Luxor

And you thought stepping on a Lego was painful.

Luxor also boasts the world’s largest atrium, at 29 million cubic feet. No, we do not know what a cubic foot is, just play along.

While 80% of the Luxor’s original theme has been removed, we’re still a fan of these iconic themed resorts, curse be damned.

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