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.

Update (3/7/18): Alex Meruelo’s license to operate SLS was approved by the Gaming Control Board.

27 thoughts on “SLS Las Vegas Casino Sold to Alex Meruelo and Meruelo Group

  1. RustyHammer

    New owners expected to add open face cheese sandwiches and flatbread casserole to the restaurant offerings. Whether or not this new concept is in partnership with PIzza Rock is unknown at this time.

  2. RustyHammer

    Call it whatever you want, I’m not sure how that helps.

    Good restaurants, lively pool parties, music/entertainment and nifty rooms are all important to the success of a casino. But it’s a casino, dammit. Lure the casino crowd to the building and the rest will take care of itself.

    It shouldn’t be that hard. Location is a huge detriment these days with so much less happening on the strip between Wynn and SLS, but Orleans ain’t on the strip, and it does just fine. Rio ain’t on the strip, and it does fine. Gold Coast ain’t on the strip….

    And get rid of that stupid statue thing out front.

    1. Bouldersteve

      Good points. The SLS tried to be a high roller hotel/casino in a low roller district. The Orleans and Gold Coast know that and market their property accordingly but then Boyd is a gaming company not a hedge fund.

    1. yetis911

      Your kidding right? Because more gaming is what operators need in Vegas right now….
      If they could pick it up and move it closer to where the action is on the Strip, that is the only think that could help this property!

      1. RustyHammer

        I’m of the belief that better gambling, not simply more, is vital to the future of that propery. (See what I did there?)

        Again, if Orleans can proliferate off the strip, so can the SLS property. It has been reported that they’ve recently made more efforts to appeal to the local crowd.

        Orleans caters to both, successfully. It can be done.


          it’s interesting that you say that because as a tourist I tend to stay on the Strip for the nicer rooms but i gamble at the Orleans and Downtown because of the better odds.

    2. Grid

      I agree 100%! I actually stayed with them shortly after it opened. As someone on vacation, I was bored fast in the casino. It was small, the selection of machines was limited ETC.

      It was obvious to me that they were catering to the club crowds, nothing wrong with that. But it kept gamblers away.

      Their website boasts that they have 600 slot machines. My local casinos in Chicago have double that. And they need a better slot manager. I was just there a month ago to see if it got any better. They have rows of machines all with the same titles. They don’t need 6 Buffalo Golds or 4 of the same WOF. With just a handful of machines now, doubling up of the titles means there is even less choices.

  3. Kevin Rackley

    It’s too bad Derek Stevens’ time and capital is tied up downtown. He might be able to operate this thing at a profit.

    1. Mike L

      It’ll be interesting to see if he’s going to venture over to the strip again since he was part owner of the Riv.

  4. Bouldersteve

    If or when Resorts World is completed things will get better for the north strip including the SLS. I guess Stockbridge was tired of losing money and did not want to wait the 3 years it will take for the turn around. I always thought they should have marketed to locals until the tourists return to that end of the strip.

  5. AccessVegas

    It would be a great buy for two reasons:

    1. The convention center expansion is just down the street from the property.

    2. Once the monorail is extended to the stadium, SLS will be an inviting property to stay at for the 50 events per year the stadium is slated to hold.

    1. Photoncounter

      The convention center expansion should help them but I doubt the stadium will, its too far away. Orleans, Palms, Gold Coast and the disgusting Rio will benefit as will the chain places nearby.

      I visited SLS twice. The parking garage/elevators were third world at best. The rest of the property is nice but the casino is very small as others have mentioned. The outdoor statues should be removed, crushed and turned into road fill. Absolutely stupid.

      I wish them well.

      1. AccessVegas

        The monorail is the great equalizer. It will be quicker to use the monorail to get to the stadium from SLS then surface streets from much farther south. Also, the stadium is going to turn the entire area into a traffic mess on event days.

    1. Wolfdog

      I had long conversations with many GS employees, since I was checking out the place, as my Peppermill backup. They all seemed happy.


    Not surprised. Props to SLS for giving it a go on the north strip, but I think a lack of a clear identity doomed it. It never really differentiated itself enough from the established resorts further south to succeed.

    It was upscale, but why trudge up there when Wynncore is closer? It was smallish, but not really a boutique that could go full quirk like Artisan and bring in a regular crowd. You sure as heck weren’t going to get many of the Circus crowd from across the street.

    Hopefully the new owners can rebrand it in such a way that it finds an audience. The north strip sure needs the traffic.

  7. Rooster

    I’ve gone by there a couple times, but didn’t bother to stay because there was

    Nothing. Zilch. Nada. The place was a ghost town.

    Hopefully, they’ll come up with a way to get people in there.

  8. Lee

    I loved the old Sahara, but it was in desperate need of redevelopment. The biggest problem is Sam Nazarian thought he could slap the “SLS” branding on it, and the L.A. “hipsters” and “trust fund babies” would flock to it. Wrong. That clientele goes to the south end of the strip where everything is within a drunken stupor walking distance. As a prior post stated, the place is nice but its in the wrong neighborhood. This place needs to cater to locals. And you start by changing the name back to Sahara because I figure nearly every local still calls it that to begin with. They also need to cater to all those people at the convention center just down the street. The place now has the foundation to be great, it just needs to be less “hip”. I would think there has to be a market for a resort that caters to “adults”.

    1. Grid

      Nailed it. You just don’t put a club kid and foodie resort that far away from the
      action. A gambler will stay on an island, thats why the Gold Coast or
      Rio has people in them.

      But the cool kids want to walk the strip and
      live the Vegas high life. SLS could never offer them that.

  9. Bear Cornelius

    Check out my Facebook icon, it is a coaster from the SLS; my wife and I liked the place but the writing was on the wall. When the place first opened it felt “similar” to when the Palms opened; a bit of glitz and excitement for the young ones (I am 51) after dark and good games during the day for me. There was 9/6 JOB at the bar with free Stella, low baccarat limits,,,but not enough Blackjack tables (especially pitch).
    For just $500 in theo a day they rolled out the red carpet too, free three nights stays with free-play and concerts.
    I guess it’s back to GVR and the M.

  10. The Vegas Voice

    Lets get real. SLS tried to sell a $400 room that offered a view of an abandoned building or the view of naked city/ crack alley!

  11. Wolfdog

    Some of your cleverest, yes cleverest, captioning in awhile.
    Interesting that he owns the Grand Sierra, too. Stayed there for the first time, a few months ago. It’s a pretty nice place. And they brought in some pretty good video poker.
    He’ll need to do that again, to get me in there.
    Nothing Sahara about the current theme. Perhaps, the New Sahara? Naw

  12. razmaspaz

    This is an interesting sale. I so badly wanted to like SLS, both times I visited it was a ghost town. It seems like they were actively trying to turn away gamblers. Staff was not exactly inviting either. I feel like it is a marketing department pushing all the right millennial buttons, and a casino that is pushing all the wrong ones. If they had $5 or $10 3:2 BJ or 9:6 JOB or something that offered value, they might be able to convince people to stick around after the party, but as it is, it feels like the Casino is there just to remind people at the pool they are in Vegas.


    Wait…what happens to the just opened co-branded “W” tower at SLS? Does all that money that Marriot or whomever owns the W brand go to waste if they re-brand the entire hotel? What a colossal waste of time and resources if yes.


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