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November 18, 2018

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Despite slow start, SLS boss confident in future

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Mikayla Whitmore

Scott Kreeger, president and COO of SLS Las Vegas, said the resort has an 18-month to two-year period to “ramp up.”

Having worked as an executive at MGM Resorts International and Station Casinos, Scott Kreeger understands the Las Vegas market.

He also knows about struggling resorts, having taken over SLS Las Vegas after leaving the now-closed Revel in Atlantic City. SLS, which opened in August 2014, lost $35 million during the first quarter of this year.

With financial support from majority owner Stockbridge Capital, hotel executives are working hard to try to turn a profit. Kreeger recently spoke with The Sunday about his plans, vision and challenges.

Every hotel in Las Vegas has a “ramp period” for success. What is the ramp period for SLS?

Well, it starts the day you open, and my sense is this is an 18-to-24-month ramp. It may be a little bit elongated compared with others, but every property has its ramp, and they generally are 12 to 18 months. Two years is not uncommon.

The elongated timeline is so the neighborhood can build around you?

Yes. We don’t have the benefit of foot traffic that the center Strip does. We have great access through Paradise Road and the Monorail. But at the end of the day, we have a little bit tougher ramp than what you would have on center Strip.

Why pull back the DJ programming at the nightclub Life and refocus your entertainment strategy at Foxtail?

Life originally was built as a theater. What I want to do is put nightclub events in there where we can bring in couches, electronic dance music DJs or the new open-forum, hip-hop DJs, but at the same time, I want to go and do a live-music concert or comedy. It allows me more options and flexibility to broaden whom we speak to because the SLS brand is a behind-the-velvet-ropes type of a brand. It was a little bit more exclusionary than it was approachable. I’m trying to loosen that up a bit, because Las Vegas is a mass-market experience.

You are pleased with the performance of your restaurants? It was reported that SBE sold Cleo and Katsuya to the One Group, owners of STK at the Cosmopolitan, which is not expected to change the model at SLS Las Vegas.

Our food component on our property I would put against anybody in town. Bazaar Meat is one of the top restaurants in the country. Cleo, Katsuya and Umami are all great products. But what I want to do is create layers of experience. I want you to come and have a great meal, but I want you to be entertained, too. When we opened, it was basically restaurant- and nightlife-oriented. I want to diversify and be more flexible and talk to a larger audience.

Locals love a good buffet, which Station Casinos has proven for decades. But you’ve closed the buffet at SLS. Is it coming back?

It’s not one of my top priorities. The business concept was that we needed the buffet to drive locals, which I would have tended to agree with had I been at the blueprint stage of the development. But then when we programmed it, it was $31 and we had five different kinds of curries. What we intended to do with it and the execution didn’t match.

Are there any design plans to help improve business?

We’re right next to the Las Vegas Convention Center, and I’d like to have at least twice the banquet and convention space we have now, and we’re looking into that. We need the property to be a legitimate convention hotel. There is enough space to more than double where we are now.

Fred Segal Jewels recently closed. Are you assessing your partnership with that company?

Fred Segal is a phenomenal brand, and we’re happy to have them here. Would it be on the table to make changes in retail? Yeah. But there’s nothing that is off the table for us. And that’s a good thing because you’ve got to be nimble in this market and, especially in your first year, you’ve got to listen to your customers and what they want. So, you know, could we augment and are we looking to augment our retail? Yes, we are.

How do you attract Las Vegans to come to SLS to gamble?

Give them a good value. You stay honest. There’s nothing more honest than a Las Vegas local gambler. So we’re giving people a really, truly, good value with their play time. Our new club program, from a play-to-point-redemption ratio, is more attractive than Station’s or Boyd’s. We undercut them both. Your chances to win a drawing for a car here are so much greater than they would be at the big local corporations. I think we’re set up to be a great locals casino.

Do you feel like you’re under heavy scrutiny here at SLS?

I know people are watching us. Everybody is watching this property closely.

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