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Archive for January, 2019

Renovation at SLS Las Vegas Progresses with Casino Upgrades and New Mexican Dining Concept

SLS Las Vegas lifted the curtain on a $100 million makeover at a special event held Tuesday at The Sayers Club

Updates to the gaming floor, hotel rooms, and a new fast-casual Mexican restaurant concept will all be part of the ongoing $100 million renovation at the hotel and casino resort, it became clear yesterday.

SLS Las Vegas originally opened doors in 1952 as Sahara Hotel and Casino. The property was the sixth resort to be launched on the legendary Las Vegas Strip. It quickly became a popular hotspot for the Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, and Dean Martin. It operated under the Sahara name until 2011 when it was shuttered by its then owner Stockbridge Capital Group for a $400-million renovation.

The resort reopened in 2014 as the boutique SLS Las Vegas but never earned a profit. The hotel and casino resort located right “at the start of the Strip” was purchased last April by entrepreneur Alex Meruelo and his privately owned Meruelo Group. The businessman announced back then that he would invest more than $100 million to renovate and upgrade the property.

News also emerged last summer that the resort would be rebranded as renovation progressed. There were suggestions that the property would be renamed Grand Sahara Resort as its new owner wanted to pay homage to its glorious past.

Grand Sahara Resort also sounds similar to Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, a Reno-based complex that is owned by Mr. Meruelo’s company. The new owner of SLS Las Vegas explained that the name suggested was only a working name that was used in county filings seeking permission for the start of the renovation from Clark County officials. The actual renovation commenced in October and is expected to take place over several years.

Details about the SLS Las Vegas Makeover

During a special event held yesterday at The Sayers Club, SLS Las Vegas President and General Manager Paul Hobson, Vice President of Food and Beverage Anthony Olheiser, and Innovativo Design Founder and Chief Creating Officer Nancy Paolino provided details about the ongoing renovation at the property. Ms. Paolino and her team are leading the redesign at SLS Las Vegas and previously worked with Mr. Meruelo at his Grand Sierra Resort property.

As recently revealed, the SLS Las Vegas’ 60,000-square-foot casino floor would be updated to feature “a bright modern atmosphere with glamorous finishes including a new layout for the slot and table pits.” The Meruelo Group also plans to add a new high limit gaming salon at the existing gambling facility.

In addition, work is set to begin soon on “an all-new ultra-lounge” that will replace the Foxtail club. The lounge will be the centerpiece of the casino floor with its whimsical design and modern art installation.

Enhancements to the guest service are also expected to be added later this year. Those will include updates to the hotel lobby and guest check-in. Property officials said yesterday that the ongoing redesign of the Story and World Towers as well as upgrades to the Grand Tower are nearing completion.

The resort’s Grand Tower accommodates a former W Hotels-branded hotel, of which SLS Las Vegas assumed ownership back in August. The hotel features 289 rooms and suites and those are, too, undergoing certain updates, as announced by property officials.

All in all, SLS Las Vegas features 1,615 rooms and suites, nearly 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, and a collection of acclaimed food and beverage facilities, and entertainment venues.

Property officials revealed yesterday a new culinary concept that would be added to its list of food and beverage facilities – the fast-casual Mexican dining facility Uno Mas. It is slated to open in March and to offer authentic, traditional Mexican dishes with a modern twist.

Mr. Meruelo has previously said that SLS Las Vegas will look to cater to the “underserved” Hispanic market and the new dining concept at the property is certainly part of that strategy.

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Twin River Adds Three Casinos to Colorado Portfolio

Rhode Island gambling operator Twin River purchases three casinos in the town of Black Hawk to expand Colorado footprint

Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc., the owner of Rhode Island’s Twin River Lincoln and Twin River Tiverton casinos, announced Tuesday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire three casinos in Black Hawk, Colorado.

The move arrives amid consolidation wave within the US land-based casino industry that reflects the growing competition in the gambling space.

Twin River has agreed to buy the Golden Gates, Golden Gulch, and Mardi Gras casinos from a subsidiary of Nevada-based gambling operator Affinity Gaming. All three properties are located in Black Hawk, Colorado, a historic mining town currently popular with its multiple casinos and gaming parlors.

Twin River and Affinity did not disclose details about the transaction, including the purchase price. The deal needs to be reviewed by the Colorado Division of Gaming and approved by the state’s Limited Gaming Control Commission, and is expected to be finalized early next year.

Affinity purchased the three casinos back in 2012. With their sale, the Nevada-based gaming company aims to focus on its operations in its domestic market as well as in the Midwest. Once the transaction is closed, Affinity will own eight gaming facilities in three jurisdictions.


By adding the three Black Hawk properties, Twin River will extend its footprint in Colorado where it already operates the Arapahoe Park horse racing track in Arapahoe County and a network of Off-Track Betting facilities. The company said in a press release from yesterday that it is pleased to further expand its portfolio in “the growing Black Hawk market.”

The once flourishing mining town is popular with its multiple casinos. There are more than 15 gambling venues spread across the town, some of which operating 24 hours a day, seven days of the week.

Combined, Golden Gates, Golden Gulch and Mardi Gras feature 36,000 square feet of gambling space with 20 table games, 700 slot machines, and a poker parlor. The properties also include three restaurants and bars that operate 24/7.

Twin River is headquartered in Lincoln, Rhode Island. As mentioned above, the company operates two casinos in its home state – the Twin River-branded properties in Lincoln and Tiverton. Twin River launched its Tiverton property last fall. In November, its Lincoln casino launched Rhode Island’s first legal sportsbook following last year’s strikedown of a federal ban on sports betting.

The Tiverton casino cut the ribbon of its sportsbook, the state’s second betting facility, in early December. According to official data released on Tuesday, Rhode Island’s sportsbooks handled $13 million in wagers in December, their first full month of operation and generated revenue of $957,900. Overall, handle for the period between late November, when the Lincoln casino went live with sports betting, and December 31, 2018 amounted to $13.8 million, while revenue came in at $1 million.

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Slovak Lawmakers Vote to Move On with Online Gambling Market Re-Organization

Slovakia’s National Council voted on Tuesday to override a presidential veto on the re-regulation of the local gambling market

Slovakia is on track to adopt changes to its gambling law that will re-organize its market and will allow online gaming and betting companies to operate in the central European country, local news outlets report.

The country’s National Council voted Tuesday to override President Andrej Kiska’s veto on the proposed amendments to the existing gambling law. The President vetoed the effort in December after the Parliament had approved the changes earlier that month.

The proposed reform concerns different aspects of Slovakia’s gambling industry. Most notably, it aims to re-organize the nation’s online gaming and betting space. Under the debated gambling legislation, interested domestic and international gambling operators based in other EU jurisdictions will be able to apply for licenses and operate in a regulated environment.

Licenses will be issued for both online betting and casino operations. Currently, the state-run lottery operator TIPOS is the only one authorized to provide this type of services. The entity will keep its monopoly over online lottery games and bingo after the new regime is enforced.

The piece of legislation pushing the changes in the gambling field was introduced by the Finance Ministry last year. It was approved in the National Council in early December. However, President Kiska vetoed it later that month.

During a Tuesday vote, a total of 86 lawmakers supported a proposal to override the veto and carry on with the implementation of the proposed amendments.

In his four-page veto statement, President Kiska voiced a number of concerns regarding the re-organization of the local market. One such concern stemmed from the fact that Slovak gamblers will be asked to provide their Citizen’s Card when registering with gambling websites. President Kiska said that personal data of residents of the country could thus be put at risk.

The New Regime

Under the proposed amendments, interested online gambling companies will be able to pursue 10-year licenses with a five-year extension option. A license for the provision of a single gambling product will come at a €3 million cost, while a combined license for the provision of casino and betting services will cost €5 million.

Licensed online gambling operations will be taxed at 22% on annual revenue. Operators will also be required to contribute an additional 0.7% of their annual revenue to a specially created Office for Regulation of Gambling.

Before the presidential veto, the government targeted March 1 opening of the online casino application process, and July 1 start of the online sports betting application process. It is yet to be seen whether the latest developments would result in any changes in that timetable. It is also important to note that approved gambling operators would not be able to launch regulated operations in Slovakia for another year, under the proposed reform.

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888 Ventures Into Portugal with Casino, Poker License

888 becomes only the second operator to be given the green light to operate online poker in Portugal

Portugal’s gambling regulator Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) has finally issued a second license authorizing the provision of online poker to local players, it became known.

In a press release from Monday, the regulatory body announced that it has granted a license to Gibraltar-headquartered online gambling operator 888. The license gives the company permission to operate online slots, roulette, and different poker variants.

The license was issued on January 14. 888 has thus become only the second operator to be authorized to operate online poker in Portugal. The Stars Group’s flagship PokerStars brand entered the local market in December 2016 and it ran poker operations without any regulated competition for over two years.

Overall, 888’s new license was the 16th one issued by SRIJ since the reorganization of the Portuguese gambling market. The country’s new gambling law came into effect in 2015, providing a regulatory framework that allowed interested local and international operators to apply for a license from the gambling regulator and operate in a regulated and monitored environment.

French group Betclic Everest was the first two go live with online gambling services in the new regime. The company was granted a license in the spring of 2016 and rolled out its offering in May that year. As mentioned above, 15 more licenses have been approved since then to a total of 10 gambling companies. Most of the online gambling permits issued authorized the provision of sports betting services to Portuguese gamblers.

Shared Liquidity

Now, as 888 has entered the Portuguese online gambling market and has been allowed to operate online poker, the company has also expressed interest in joining the shared online poker liquidity project.

Liquidity sharing is the result from an agreement penned by the regulators of France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal in July 2017. While Italy eventually dropped from the scheme, the other three countries launched the project last January, with PokerStars going live with shared tables in Spain and France. The poker operator added Portugal to the mix later last year.

Partypoker, the poker operation of gambling powerhouse GVC Holdings, joined the project, as well, with the launch of shared tables in France and Spain in mid-2018.

Of the participating countries, 888 also operates in Spain, and it intends to roll out shared tables for Spanish and Portuguese players. Commenting on the matter, the company’s newly appointed CEO Itai Pazner said in a press release that they are “very excited about the forthcoming launch of the group’s European interstate poker network, which will pool players across Spain and Portugal.” It is to be seen when the launch will take place.

Meanwhile the regulators of France, Spain, and Portugal issued earlier this month a joint statement to mark the first anniversary of PokerStars launching shared liquidity and to express their general satisfaction with the project.

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Caesars to Debut New Non-Gambling Resort Brand in Scottsdale, Arizona

Caesars Entertainment Corp. is set to expand its portfolio with its first non-gambling resort in the United States, the company revealed on Monday

The property will be located in Scottsdale, Arizona and the Las Vegas gaming and hospitality powerhouse expects to break ground on it in the second half of the year. Caesars Republic Scottsdale will feature a four-star, 266-room hotel and multiple other facilities.

The opening of the Arizona property comes as part of Caesars’ strategy to expand its business geographically both in and outside the United States and to diversify its operations with non-gambling resorts.

With yesterday’s announcement, the company also introduced its newest hotel brand – Caesars Republic. Caesars will license the brand, while HCW Development will build the Arizona resort and Aimbridge Hospitality will operate it. The Las Vegas giant said in a Monday press release that it will “advise on design elements” and integrate its loyalty program, Total Rewards, into the Scottsdale operation.

The new resort will be located just north of Scottsdale Fashion Square, known to be the city’s premium retail space.

Caesars said in its press release announcing the new non-gaming resort that it has selected Scottsdale as the host of the first Caesars Republic property due to the city’s popularity with visitors. It is estimated that Scottsdale welcomed 4.5 million overnight visitors and 4.4 million day-trip visitors in 2017.

Unique Guest Room Experience and Rooftop Pool

The 11-floor tower of Caesars Republic Scottsdale will include 266 hotel rooms. Aside from a mixture of kings, double queens, one and two-bedroom suites, the hotel portion of the property will also feature a bridal suite, and five luxury entertainment suites on the top floor.

The second floor will feature five breakout rooms for 40 people each. Those can be opened for events that can accommodate up to 200 people.

A 7,000-square-foot column-free ballroom will also be part of Caesars’ first non-gambling US resort. Its 34-foot sliding glass doors will open into a lawn that will be suitable for outdoor events for up to 600 people.

A rooftop pool and bar will on the seventh floor will be among the flagship attractions of Caesars Republic Scottsdale. The pool will host different activities such as “yoga at 9 and champagne at 11” and brunches. The pool, the first rooftop one in the city, will offer breathtaking views of the nearby Camelback Mountain.

Caesars plans to further expand the Republic brand in the coming years. The company said Monday that no two properties within the brand will look alike and that “everything the décor to the culinary offerings are inspired by local traditions and tastemakers.” The hospitality giant will look to tap into the unique character of each host city and to amplify its energy and culture.

The announcement about Caesars’ new non-gambling hotel brand arrives shortly after the company debuted its two casino-less beachfront luxury resorts on the Bluewaters Island in Dubai. The company also announced last year that it would develop a non-gaming Caesars Palace complex in Puerto Los Cabos, Mexico.

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