Sahara Hotel Casino, Oldest on Las Vegas Strip, to Close May 16

The Sahara Hotel & Casino, the oldest remaining Las Vegas Strip resort, will close May 16 after owners SBE Entertainment Group and Stockbridge Real Estate Funds postponed its redevelopment amid a record citywide slump.

“We are working with our partners to assess a variety of options for the property, including a complete renovation and repositioning,” SBE Chief Executive Officer Sam Nazarian said in an e-mailed statement. “The continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable.”

Built in 1952, the Moroccan-themed Sahara is the northernmost casino on the Strip and was featured in the 1960 film “Ocean’s Eleven.” Nazarian’s Los Angeles-based hospitality and entertainment group and Stockbridge, based in San Francisco, bought the property in 2007. They announced plans to redevelop and “reinvigorate” Sahara, before the financial crisis triggered record gambling, convention and housing declines in Las Vegas, stalling most development.

Sahara joins six other casino resort projects halted at the north end of the Strip, considered a development hot spot before the crisis. Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) mothballed the Echelon Resort, and Fontainebleau Las Vegas, 70 percent completed, was bought out of bankruptcy by investor Carl Icahn. Four others, including one by MGM Resorts International (MGM) and Kerzner International Ltd., owner of the Atlantis resorts in the Bahamas and Dubai, remain empty lots.

“We see the northern end of the Strip as the future of Las Vegas,” Nazarian said in the statement. “With Las Vegas showing early signs of recovery, we are confident that we ultimately will find a creative and comprehensive new solution.”

Sahara said it is working with MGM Resorts to accommodate its reservations after closing and try to find jobs for its employees at MGM’s 10 properties on the Strip.

Nazarian’s SBE manages Sahara’s hotel, restaurants and bars, while Larry Woolf’s Navegante Group ran the casino, according to a March 2, 2007, statement announcing the acquisition.

To contact the reporter on this story: Beth Jinks in New York at bjinks1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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