Can New Ownership And a Different Name Save The SLS Casino?

Written By Jessica Welman on May 25, 2017 - Last Updated on May 26, 2017
SLS Casino in Las Vegas

[toc]The newest major Las Vegas casino on the Strip is changing ownership after less than three years of operation. The SLS Casino is now the property of the Meruelo Group. The company owns a range of companies, most notably the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada.

Meruelo not disclosing SLS’s price tag

Representatives from both casinos refused to confirm a sale price. They did, however, confirm the sale. The timetable they offered projects the deal wraps during the third quarter. Granted, this is pending the approval of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).

VitalVegas broke the story and also reports the changing of the guard could result in a changing of the name. The leading contender is one that probably rings a bell–Sahara.

SLS completely overhauled the former Sahara Casino with $415 million worth of renovations. The result was a large casino with a high-end, boutique feel.

SLS a name with some negative connotations

The current name, SLS, stems from an entire brand of hotels and hospitality, most notably the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Sam Nazarian, the man behind the brand, helped develop the SLS Casino as a minority shareholder.

Nazrian ran into some trouble when he failed a drug test administered by NGCB. He additionally admitted to an extortion scandal prior to his time with the casino. As a result, he sold off his stake in the company in October of 2015, less than a year after the property opened.

With Nazarian gone, along with current owners, it makes sense to revert back to the old brand or pick a new identity.

SLS Casino struggled financially since it opened

For the first year of operation, the SLS failed to turn a profit. The property features high-end restaurants from celebrity chefs like Jose Andres, following in the footsteps of other SLS properties. However, the casino struggled on the food and beverage front. The management tried to change up the buffet and introduce different restaurants to little avail.

Between a lack of profit and mounting debt, 2015 was a rough year for the casino. It is unclear how 2016 compared. A new law allows privately-owned casinos like SLS to keep its financials private.

The company did elect to change up management earlier this year, appointing two new executives from AlianteTerry Downey and Robert Schaffhauser took over day-to-day operations at SLS in January. The hope was the pair could crack the formula to make SLS a success like upscale casinos Aria or Cosmopolitan Casino.

Now that task is up to new owners, and it may take a more than a name change to pull it off.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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