The SLS Las Vegas could begin another transformation soon after the sale of the beleaguered Nevada casino finally closed last month.
A change in general manager and shift in demographic focus lead initial adjustments under new owner Alex Meruelo. He purchased SLS from Stockbridge Capital Group for an undisclosed price, though Meruelo said he posted $100 million in cash and wiped out the casino’s estimated debt of $585 million.
Quick fixes for the Vegas resort
Paul Hobson is the new general manager at SLS, and he detailed to the LA Times what the first $100 million in renovations and upgrades will do. First up are lightening the dark casino interior and lower ceiling put in by former owner Sam Nazarian to give a hip, club-like feel.
“I think we’d like to present something a little more recognizable,” Hobson told the Times. “If we put a more formal ceiling in, we’ll be able to create zones where people feel more comfortable and lighter.”
A new market for SLS?
Meruelo sees potential in marketing SLS to the enormous Latino population in the greater Los Angeles area.
“In my opinion, the Hispanic market has been underserved in Vegas and Reno. That doesn’t mean I’m only going to focus on the Hispanic market. I am Hispanic and I’m very proud of that, but that’s just one more underserved market we plan to go after.”
Meruelo also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.
How Meruelo plans to make SLS popular in LA
A southern California native, Meruelo made his fortune in through a wide variety of ventures and still owns businesses in construction, banking, and food. Notably, he also owns two Spanish-language TV stations and two of the top three radio stations in Los Angeles.
Meruelo plans to use those media outlets to market SLS directly to the Latino population. That group accounted for more than a quarter of southern California’s visitors to Las Vegas in 2016.
SLS should heed Lucky Dragon’s warning
Meruelo need only look across the corner of Sahara Avenue to the failed Lucky Dragon property for a cautionary tale. The Chinese-themed property opened in 2016 focused heavily on the Asian market.
Less than 18 months later, the resort ceased operations and entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Lucky Dragon faced foreclosure after defaulting on a $90 million loan.
Location, location, location
Lucky Dragon and SLS are just two examples of the brutal business environment of the North Strip. The failed Fontainebleau and long-shuttered Resorts World projects sat empty for years before recent revival efforts put them on track for 2020 openings. (Fontainebleau will open as The Drew.)
The proposed All Net Arena project in the area received county approval to go ahead last year. However, few signs of progress exist on the former Wet ‘N’ Wild water park lot.
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