Vegas Casino Scene Changes Affect SLS and Hard Rock

Big changes are happening in Las Vegas. Three casinos in particular are undergoing significant transformations.

The Hard Rock is closing temporarily to undergo significant changes, SLS is transforming into the Sahara, and Hooter’s is changing ownership.

Vegas Needs Canadians

Las Vegas tracks its visitors each year. Its international contingent is comprised of all nationalities, but Canadians make up the largest percentage of visitors.

In 2018, the total number of visitors from Canada was up nearly 8% from the previous year. It was 27.4% of the international total, the largest of any country outside of the USA.

  • 2018 Vegas visitors from Canada: 1,597,280
  • 2017 Vegas visitors from Canada: 1,480,280

Tracking flights into Las Vegas is easier and offers a more reliable number. And from all flights dropping off passengers in Las Vegas, Canada sends the most from its numerous airports. The total 2018 number from the top Canadian airports is 938,476. That is 49.2% of all arrivals in Vegas from international airports around the world.

Eight of the major airports that delivered visitors to Las Vegas in 2018 were in the top 25, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

  • #1 Toronto: 284,513 visitors (15.7%)
  • #3 Vancouver: 202,800 visitors (11.2%)
  • #4 Calgary: 182,530 visitors (10.1%)
  • #7 Montreal: 94,604 visitors (5.2%)
  • #9 Edmonton: 74,936 visitors (4.1%)
  • #17 Winnipeg: 15,277 visitors (0.8%)
  • #20 Regina: 7,476 visitors (0.4%)
  • #21 Saskatoon: 7,307 visitors (0.4%)

All of this to say that Canadians should be kept updated about major Las Vegas news. We plan to do more of that on this site.

Hard Rock to Close for Renovations

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas may not be on the Strip, but it is one of the most popular casinos in Sin City.

Last year, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group bought the casino/hotel – along with a number of other hotels – to grow his brand. That means the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino will soon become the Virgin Hotel and Casino.

Originally, the plan was to close the establishment for four months in 2020 to renovate, but the new plan is to close it for eight months. The remodeling project will begin in February 2020, and it will reopen in late 2020 rebranded as Virgin.

JC Hospitality President and CEO Richard Bosworth provided more details just weeks ago. He said the eight-month closure “would be most efficient and ensure a timely opening prior to January 2021.”

The last “hurrah” of the Hard Rock will be to celebrate the Super Bowl on February 2, which will take place at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. After that, the hotel and casino will close.

SLS Las Vegas Becomes Sahara Again

During the last week of August, the SLS Las Vegas closed out five years of operations under that name. The hotel/casino property was renamed the Sahara Las Vegas.

When the Sahara first opened in 1952, it was a popular destination in itself. It had a Moroccan theme and 240 hotel rooms, a quaint but memorable experience for Vegas visitors. And it hosted some of the biggest acts in Vegas for many years.

But by the 1990s, other casinos and hotels further south on the Strip were becoming bigger and better, offering more glamour and perks. The Sahara suffered and finally closed in 2011 for renovations.

It reopened in 2014 as SLS Las Vegas, a high-end Vegas experience, much different than the bargain Sahara had been. But it did not resonate with visitors as planned.

The rebranding as Sahara Las Vegas was launched in the hopes of offering a memorable Vegas name with upgraded amenities. There will be approximately $150 million in renovations performed to help with the transformation back to Sahara.

Hooters to Become OYO

The Hooters Hotel and Casino was never a top destination for most Las Vegas visitors, but it had a certain clientele.

Decades ago, it was the Howard Johnson Hotel, then the Paradise and finally the San Remo, which held until the mid-2000s. But in its latest iterations, it rarely lived up to expectations since its 2006 reopening just off the Vegas Strip after the San Remo closed.

A company based in India hopes to change that.

OYO partnered with a company called Highgate to buy the property and will rebrand it to OYO Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. The transformation of the entire property will begin this month.

Some things will not change. Paragon Gaming will continue to manage the casino, and the Hooters restaurant will remain open. OYO will primarily take over the 657-room hotel and rename the entire property. It plans to offer an alternative to the high-priced, mega-resorts on the Strip.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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