Former Lucky Dragon Las Vegas Reopens as Ahern Hotel, New Owner Not Betting on Gaming

Posted on: February 11, 2020, 12:04h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2020, 04:16h.

The failed Lucky Dragon off-Strip casino resort that cost $165 million to construct but shuttered less than two years after its November 2016 opening is back and open for business.

Lucky Dragon Las Vegas casino hotel
The Lucky Dragon is no more. The ex-casino is now known as the Ahern Hotel. (Image: Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Don Ahern, a Las Vegas businessman whose Ahern Rentals company rents heavy construction equipment, purchased the resort out of bankruptcy in April of last year for $36 million. The 2.5-acre property at 300 W. Sahara Avenue is now the Ahern Hotel.

“The hotel portion is up and running and working beautifully,” Ahern told FOX5. “We’re open to the public and we’re in good shape.”

Ahern added that “thousands” of bookings have been made. The hotel’s website is not currently offering online reservations, instead requesting potential guests to call a telephone number to inquire about accommodations.

Ahern is targeting the July 4 Independence Holiday for a full grand opening.

Beginner’s Luck

Ahern admits he had no experience owning a hotel until now. But he adds that the hotel industry isn’t too unlike the equipment rental business.

The hotel business is really nothing more than the rental business,” said Ahern. “Whether you’re renting a piece of construction equipment or a hotel room, it’s just a rental.”

Ahern is confident that under his ownership, the nine-story, 203-room boutique hotel can flourish without a casino.

The Lucky Dragon was tailored towards Asian gamblers. But foot traffic outside the 27,500-square-foot casino was minimal at best when the resort was in business. Weak player comps were also cited as a reason for many high-rollers from Asian countries taking their gaming dollars elsewhere around town.

Ahern isn’t going to pretend the property can compete with the much larger casinos on the nearby Strip. Instead, he’s focused on transforming the resort into an ideal location for small- to middle-sized conventions and meetings.

He says the goal is to give people a reason to arrive at the Ahern Hotel.

Casino Exiting

While the Ahern Hotel is up and running, the former Lucky Dragon casino remains closed. The hotel tower is separate from the casino space, the two buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge across an alleyway.

Ahern says he is spending less than $10 million in room renovations and to convert the casino into rentable convention and meeting space. New restaurants will also be implemented.

The Lucky Dragon was largely funded through the US government’s EB-5 visa program, which affords foreigners permanent citizenship for investing at least $550,000 into a business that employs a certain number of people in an area with high unemployment. When the project was conceived in 2012, Las Vegas had a double-digit unemployment rate.

Roughly 180 investors bought into the Lucky Dragon, and numerous lawsuits remain active stemming from the resort’s financial demise. Lawyers representing the investors, many of whom are Chinese nationals, say they were defrauded.

Businessman Andrew Fonfa led the project and attracted investors through the visa program.