Tracking the About-Face of SLS Las Vegas

The overhaul of SLS Las Vegas is underway.

Despite the fact we were summarily given the boot for taking photos during our last visit, we’re determined to keep you apprised of developments, so here’s the latest.

Summarily, it should be noted, is the worst kind of boot to be given. By far.

Grand Sahara Las Vegas

SLS is in a state of flux. We just hope they know what the flux they’re doing.

The new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has said he’ll invest $100 million in “revitalizing” the former Sahara. That’s a whimsical number, but there’s no question a dramatic facelift is taking place in the resort’s casino.

There’s been a dramatic shift in the look and feel of the perennially under-patroned casino, including new carpeting and a rethinking of the dark, unfinished industrial ceiling of SLS.

Grand Sahara SLS

They’re apparently going for the classic portobello mushroom look.

The interior design of SLS was distinctive, but SLS was an unmitigated financial flop, having never made a profit since the day it opened.

Was the decor a contributing factor? Hard to say.

Alex Meruelo and his team clearly believe so, hence their decision to try a more traditional vibe.

SLS Grand Sahara Las Vegas

Nothing new or edgy here, but SLS was new and edgy, and we know how that went.

While changes in the SLS casino are most visible, Meruelo has been chipping away at the resort’s challenges behind-the-scenes as well.

Cost-cutting has been a big priority, with a number of departments pared down to shore up the bottom line.

SLS Grand Sahara lounge

In most casinos, chairs don’t generate nearly as much money as slot machines. This chilling area’s days may be numbered.

The restaurant line-up at SLS has also been scrutinized. Holdovers from the SBE Entertainment era of the resort, Cleo and Katsuya, are unlikely to survive the summer from what we hear.

Look for the introduction of new dining concepts, including a food hall concept, expected to be a welcome addition for value-seekers.

We’ve also heard a buffet could be in the works. SLS had a buffet on the hotel’s second floor when it opened, but it was underwhelming it didn’t last long.

SLS Grand Sahara Vegas

Low ceilings in casinos fosters intimacy. We are always on the lookout for intimacy in casinos, which is one of the reasons we have a bailbondsman.

When the time is right, SLS will presumably get a new name: Grand Sahara Resort. (Alex Murelo also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.)

It remains to be seen if the changes at SLS will help turn the struggling casino around.


Anybody seeing a Park MGM influence here? Just saying.

The resort’s location continues to be an undeniable challenge, as a number of north Strip projects are on hold (Wynn West), dead on arrival (Lucky Dragon) or plodding along at a snail’s pace (The Drew, Resorts World, All Net Resort).

Little foot traffic means the casino needs to get creative with marketing. Easier said than done.

SLS Grand Sahara

Casino carpets typically have busy patterns to better conceal stains. Now you know.

A casino refresh at SLS can’t hurt. Ultimately, though, casino resort fundamentals need to be in place for a venue to succeed.

Loosen up those machines. Give loyal customers generous perks. Pour liquor from the bottle (rather than the gun). Provide value. Keep parking free. Dump the goofy statue out front. Bring back the awesome video screen that was above the casino bar. (That’s the plan, by the way.)

Oh, and let people take photos.

SLS Grand Sahara

Las Vegas casinos resemble its roadways more with each passing day.

We’re rooting for you, SLS.

Sorry, Grand Sahara.

That may take some getting used to.

27 thoughts on “Tracking the About-Face of SLS Las Vegas

  1. Rob-L

    It’s a location problem. With the closing of the Stardust and Riviera, along with the Fountain Bleu project being dormant for a decade there is no foot traffic on that end of the Strip. No one goes down there because the SLS is now essentially in a dead area.

  2. DC

    Is there a timeframe? planning to visit in a month and wanted to go by the sls. Will the majority of the work be done or should I just stick to the strip. I really wanted to see the above the bar video. Any chance that will be back up by feb 16? Thanks!

    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      Haven’t heard anything about when that video screen might be back. They’re making quick work of the casino renovation, though.

      1. Russell Dober

        Ever play VP at that bar? Crazy. It’s gets so bright at times you can’t see screen and then gets dark and can’t see screen. You had to time your play to the video display. Worse than that dragon chandelier reflecting down on the VP screens at unLucky Dragon.


    Interested to see how this renovation and the ones at Palms and Monte Carlo play out. If they turn things around for the better (i.e. make money) you might see more “soft reboots” like these, when the resort stays open while being seriously overhauled. There certainly are a bunch of resorts on strip that could use a pretty serious refresh, beyond just switching out the carpet.

    I like the new interior look here, SLS at the start was kind of going for a “Cosmo north” kind of vibe/clientele, had they actually spent the money on this kind of interior flash maybe it would have had a chance.

  4. Stoner Steve

    What a bummer, man. This place had such a chill, relaxed vibe…. it was perfect, man. They ruined a good thing.

  5. Rooster

    Lipstick on a pig.

    The problem with the SLS wasn’t the carpet. The problem is it sits in casino no-mans-land.

    Nothing will happen here unless the Drew/RW ever get up and running.

    The sad thing is it was a really nice place before the renovation. There was just nobody ever there.

  6. Jeff in OKC

    Where I come from, if you ain’t got customers the problem is you. The public will find a compelling product. Las Vegas as “The Entertainment Capitol Of The World” is exhibit A.

  7. Vegas Insight

    I know, no two casinos are apples to apples, but Orleans does very well off the strip. Allegedly so does Gold Coast. (I haven’t been inside that place in 15 years, and yet I drive by it every visit to Sin City.) Neither of those is marketed toward young money. I stay at Orleans periodically, and it has a diverse crowd, and lots of people. On the north fringe of the strip, perhaps locals aren’t going to venture to the new Grand Sahara when they can hit up Station casinos, Orleans and others away from the strip, but I gotta think that if people like me are interested, and happy, to travel to Vegas and use Orleans as home base for the week, plenty of people would do likewise at a large property with lots of amenities that is neither downtown or in the heart of the strip, yet is minutes away from both. Give me Orleans value at Grand Sahara and that’d be perfect for me. I don’t mind staying downtown, but I don’t always want to. I don’t stay on the strip. But position Grand Sahara to serve the Orleans clientele and it just might work.

  8. Andy

    I guess they are on the right path for this one. The place is starting to look more and more about a comfortable and safe locals casino. If they will hand out right promotions to locals and score them into driving to the Strip they will have a good chance for succeeding. Because face it, attracting locals to the the Strip can be a serious challenge,but they do have a shot here : highway access and no obnoxious touristy casinos nearby. I wish them best of luck,never made into SLS and probably never make into this one aswell,but I’m not a local anymore…

  9. Brian

    This place will never be again. The last owners were a bunch of bozos with big egos and in my opinion killed the property. The area is plagued with crime and I do not recommend anyone parking their car in the garage as the chances of it getting broken into or stolen are super high! Maybe the new owner can put more lipstick on this pig but the old term comes to mind, location, location, location. I wont go their just because of the location. Traffic, crime and better odds at the casino down the street from my house. Their only hope is if they can keep the hotel full.

  10. Jimmy

    Be the Las Vegas resort your parents talked about. Have plenty of $5 tables, with 2 deck BJ and none of this 6-5 bull crap. Loosen the slots and give the player a chance to win a little. Maybe offer some 9-6 JoB video poker. Give the pit supervisor the authority to comp a trip to the coffee shop for the low roller whose been playing for an hour or two. Put a few more cocktail servers on the floor so the players don’t have to wait for their comped drinks. ( I’ve had my fair share of $60 crown and cokes, feeding the machines waiting for a cocktail server to come by). Comp some rooms without gouging the player for a bull crap resort fee. Let players park for free. And here’s a marketing freebie for them, tag everything “Las Vegas the way it was meant to be”.

  11. Jude

    Please include some references to the old Sahara. That alone would get me in the building. Add to that a 24 hour coffee shop, and I would visit regularly.

    I prefer the north end of the strip, just like the south end. They’re quiet.

  12. Doug

    The Sahara was the first Las Vegas casino/ hotel I stayed at (not including visits as a child) and it was awesome. I was in town for a Grateful Dead concert and thoroughly enjoyed about 8 pieces of fried Chicken at the buffet. It wasn’t anything special, I was just really hungry.
    Bring back Panguingue and mah jiang tables and let Buddy Hackett headline the showroom. Also, those giant video screens on all the new slot machines are really annoying and make any casino feel trashy and lonely.

    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      It’s true. They can’t push that element, but you’re probably right that’s a consideration for some visitors.

  13. David

    Unless I missed it why don’t they use the monorail to get people. Its the most convenient stop, drops you right into the hotel. They should make the players club card give you free access to the monorail to ride there, or hand out free tickets in the casino. Maybe free vouchers when you stay in the hotel. Hell stand in front of the convention center station offering free rides to SLS. If you can get people on the monorail for free then the location becomes a non issue if they fix everything else.


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