Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Farewell Sahara, The Last Of Vegas' Great Rat Pack Casinos

Not even the $100 million renovation the property underwent in the early 00's was enough to save the Sahara, it seems. The storied property lay, alas, on the poor man's end of the Strip, a glitz-free stretch of dingy older casinos and even dingier wedding chapels. It will be closing soon; two of its three hotel towers apparently were shuttered several years ago.

I, for one, will miss the old dame, which still had more than a bit of kick in her. The chandeliers glistened with fine crystals, twins of the original 1952 beauties. The kitschy Arabian carpeting, and Islamic-palace detailing had been restored and while it was far from swank, you got a much better sense here, than at the other older casinos in the area, of just what it might have been like to visit when Americans still thought Jerry Lewis was hilarious. Even the guest rooms were kind of cute, with their camel camel lamps and golden comforters (they were darn clean and quiet, too, I can say as a former guest).

So why's the place being put into its grave? Its no secret that Vegas vacationers have never been big on nostalgia. When it comes to spending their vacation dollars, they go for the new kid on the block (even if that new kid is just another re-tread by Steve Wynn. Is it just me, or does anyone else think all of the gold, the swooping drapes and the massive floral displays is getting a little dull?). 

The management tried to appeal to NASCAR fans. Those areas of the casino that weren't Arabian Nights–themed, were filled with race cars, black checkered flags, and racing memorabilia. But it was a strange fit. I mean, how many NASCAR fans have a secret longing to visit a souk in the Middle East? My guess is not many. They should have been trying to lure the hipsters, those who would have appreciated the Sahara's tattered graces. Ah well. 

Its not too late to visit, though it may be too late to stay at the Sahara, as room rates have reportedly soared above $250 for the casino's last month and a half. According to reports, dealers will throw their final craps on May 16, though its unclear what will happen to the property after that (its the general consensus that the town doesn't need another new casino, what with the recent opening of the massive City Center project). My suggestion? An assisted living community for made men and former show girls. That would be poetic justice.

If you can, head over and put down a bet for me at what have long been among the cheapest and friendliest betting tables on the Strip.


  1. Sad to see those older casinos go- will never forget some times spent in the Sands and Riviera. So how long do you think The Riviera has?

  2. Hmmm....Good question. It never won my heart the way the Sahara did. And its not like they should be building that many new casinos on that end of the Strip right now. I don't think it makes sense economically. My guess is it will be around for another couple of years.

  3. Oh no! I've always heard neat things about the Sahara from my sister who got married in Vegas. I've never been there and looks like I never will. =[