Long-Beleagured SLS Las Vegas Getting $100 Million Renovation from New Owner Alex Meruelo

Posted on: October 9, 2018, 06:58h. 

Last updated on: October 9, 2018, 07:00h.

Developer Alex Meruelo is ready to turn the SLS Las Vegas — long the butt of many jokes for everything from its Michelin Man-esque entry statue to its poor performance — into a beautiful swan.

New SLS Las Vegas owner Alex Meruelo is hoping he can mirror the success of his Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada which he purchased in 2011. (Photo: LoyaltyTraveler.com)

The plan to reinvigorate SLS Las Vegas with $100 million of renovations began this week. Upgrades to the casino floor and the hotel’s 1,600 room are underway, along with a refurbished pool area and refreshed entertainment venues.

In March, new SLS owner Alex Meruelo announced plans to renovate the Las Vegas Strip property he agreed to purchase in May 2017. The founder of The Meruelo Group also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

The Task Ahead

Shortly after Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) agreed to transfer the SLS gaming license to Meruelo, the new owner informed the Nevada Gaming Commission of his plans to renovate the property.

He said at the time they would “make a dramatic impact” on the casino’s appeal. Since reopening in 2014, the venue has had difficulty overcoming challenges, including its location near north Strip construction sites and unoccupied buildings.

After it reopened in 2014, the casino lost a reported $122.7 million in the first nine months. The next year, SLS lost nearly $84 million, according to financial reports from former owner Stockbridge Real Estate Group.

Meruelo purchased the Grand Sierra in Reno in 2011 and immediately pledged to make improvements. He spent $25 million to upgrade the casino’s floor, lobby, hotel rooms, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

In speaking with the NGCB earlier this year, the new  owner was confident he would be able to duplicate his Reno success in Las Vegas.

I was told there was no way in hell that I would be able to turn the Grand Sierra around. If I can turn around the Grand Sierra Resort, I could do that at SLS,” Meruelo said.

Looking Ahead

After it was announced that the casino would undergo a facelift, rumors began to circulate that Meruelo might be planning to return the building to its original roots.

The SLS was formerly the Sahara — an iconic Strip casino that showcased the Rat Pack in its heyday — until it closed in 2011. Paperwork filed for the renovation project identifies the SLS as the “Grand Sahara,” but a spokesperson for Meruelo said that was just a “working name.”

Aesthetically, one of the most noticeable differences will be the absence of the 32-foot tall “blob” statue in front of the casino, which was the target of ongoing ridicule from the moment it was installed.

When renovations are completed, the property will join the refurbished skyline of the northern Strip. The nearby Resorts World Las Vegas is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by 2020.

Also by 2020, the formerly abandoned Fontainebleau is expected to open as the rebranded The Drew. The casino was purchased earlier in the year for $600 million by developer Steve Witkoff and Miami investment group New Valley.