Gaming Control Board recommends SLS gaming license for its new owner


How many individuals get a chance to buy a property on the Strip,” said Alex Meruelo Wednesday, responding to a question about why he wanted a piece of one of the most famous corners in Las Vegas: Sahara and the Strip, and since 2014, home to the SLS.

Meruelo is the billionaire businessman who appeared before the Nevada Gaming Control Board today, which unanimously recommended a gaming license for the property be transferred to him. It was part of a complex transaction that will allow him to run a gaming business when he eventually closes on the property.

Last May, Meruelo struck a deal for the resort from its current owners, Stockbridge Capital, for an undisclosed price. Reports said the deal dragged on over final negotiations and a wrench thrown by some Chinese SLS investors who took part in the EB5 visa program. They invested in the SLS in exchange for legal residency in this country, and in December sued the SLS’s current owners.

“It has been the most complicated, complex, confusing, misunderstood project that I have ever been involved with,” Meruelo said.

When the sale is finalized, it’s a change, Meruelo says, that the SLS needs.

“It’s a property that I think lacks management, lacks vision,” Meruelo said.

It also lacked a steady stream of customers ever since the property, the old "Sahara," was unveiled as the "SLS" in August 2014.

Part of the SLS's problem was it had no huge database of customers to tap into. Meruelo says his media holdings in customer-rich California could change that.

“Three radio stations and two tv stations in LA, where you can really help promote the property, SLS,” Meruelo said.

The SLS sits at the northernmost end of the North Strip, as other properties around it now accelerate:

Resorts World is going up. The "Fountainebleau" has a new name - "The Drew," new owners, and a new future. And if the SLS really starts percolating, that's good, says Dave Schwartz, the Director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.

“You got somebody coming in who's gonna put some money into the property, trying some new approaches, and I think that's a net win for the North Strip,” said Schwartz.

So, what's in store for the SLS?

Meruelo says he may transplant some ideas from his other resort, the Grand Sierra in Reno. Some of the ideas on the table include redoing rooms and redoing the casino.

“We’re changing the slot machines, we’re gonna change the casino itself,” said Meruelo. “The way it looks, I think it’s very dark.”

The Control Board raised concerns it had about some compliance issues at his Reno resort. Meruelo was told that those items need to be addressed before the Nevada Gaming Control board considers final licensing on March 22.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off