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August 25, 2019

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Implosions a thing of the past? Maybe!

5 casinos with a serious makeover

Sahara's Last 24 Hours

Leila Navidi

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 2:13 p.m. - A note written by Sam Nazarian, the CEO of SBE Enertainment, the company that owns the Sahara, is taped to the front door of the casino.

Not too long ago, reworking a property on the Strip began with a demolition crew and a plume of dust. But the recession has changed the equation as evidenced, most recently, by the Clark County Commission signing off on a major renovation of the Sahara.

The move last week was the latest in a long line of local properties to go through major renovations or re-branding. Here’s a look at five large-scale makeovers from the past few years:

    • Ruffin's Treasure Island
      Photo by Leila Navidi

      TI — Treasure Island

      Treasure Island, with its signature public pirate show on a replica ship on Las Vegas Boulevard, was built in 1993 by Steve Wynn.

      In May 2000, MGM acquired Mirage Resorts from Wynn. The deal included Treasure Island. A few years later, the gaming giant transformed the property into something sexier and changed its child-friendly pirate battle into a tale of seduction renamed the “Sirens at TI.” MGM also spent $100 million over the next few years on room renovations and a nightclub.

      Phil Ruffin purchased the property from MGM Resorts International in March 2009 and has made changes to attract budget-minded tourists. He spent about $10 million to add the popular country-western restaurant and bar Gilley’s, with its bar stools made of saddles, street-level seating and dance floor. Across from Mystere Theatre, Ruffin replaced a jewelry store with a by-the-slice pizza joint called Francesco’s. He also replaced Social House restaurant, which wasn’t performing up to his standards, and brought in his own Asian-fusion concept, Khotan.

    • Plaza Casino Remodel
      Photo by Justin M. Bowen


      Last year, the Plaza downtown closed for 10 months to remodel more than 1,000 rooms, its casino floor and hotel lobby. The $35 million renovation included restoration of the hotel’s original chandeliers, and new furniture, carpeting and wall coverings acquired from the stalled Fontainebleau project. Along with its new décor, the hotel is now home to eateries including Hash House a Go Go, Island Sushi and Hawaiian Grill, Zaba’s Mexican Grill, GiGi’s Cupcakes and Cafelatte coffee bar. Soon to open is Oscar’s — former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman’s steakhouse and speak-easy.

    • 0517tropicana
      Photo by Steve Marcus


      Tropicana opened in 1957 and underwent major renovations in 1979 and 1985. It had remained virtually unchanged until a $165 million South Beach themed remodel was completed this year. The property emerged from bankruptcy as a stand-alone company under the leadership of Alex Yemenidjian in July 2009.

      Included in the re-branding and renovations were a new sports book operated by Cantor Gaming, a revamped casino floor, hotel rooms, pool and spa facilities and a nightclub.

    • CatHouse
      /Courtesy of Luxor


      Luxor opened in 1993 with an Egyptian theme, including Nile River and talking camels. In 2007, the property de-Egyptified and spent $200 million on renovations to attract a younger crowd. Management brought in trendy venues such as LAX Nightclub and CatHouse, a modern version of a 19th century European bordello that was developed by celebrity Chef Kerry Simon.

      If you were a fan of the ancient Egyptian theme, a few of the old features remain — the sphinx that is part of the porte cochere and the giant obelisk in front of the property.

    • Planet Hollywood
      Photo by Justin M. Bowen

      Planet Hollywood

      Previously the Aladdin, the $1.4 billion megaresort opened in 2000 after the original hotel of the same name was imploded in 1998. The new Aladdin experienced financial woes because of a poorly designed entrance that contributed to the property’s bankruptcy. Planet Hollywood and Starwood Hotel & Resort Worldwide purchased the property for $637 million in 2003. The property went through another renovation to remove the Aladdin theme and reopened in April 2007 as Planet Hollywood. The owners altered the Strip entrance to improve casino access and added novelty restaurants like Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo with a patio view of the fountains at Bellagio and the Eiffel Tower at Paris.

      In 2010, the property was acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment.

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