Poker News

It’s not every day that a casino closes its doors. Sure, sometimes a gaming establishment is knocked down to pave the way for a brand new mega-resort, but this isn’t one of those times. The Sahara Las Vegas, once the home of icons like Johnny Carson, is closing in May.

This author fondly remembers “Man Versus Food” host Adam Richman trying to tackle the six-pound Big Badass Burrito at the Sahara’s NASCAR Café. After all, if you finish it, it’s free!

Why would a 50-year-old casino on the Las Vegas Strip suddenly cease operations? Sam Nazarian, CEO of SBE Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the Sahara, commented in a press release on Thursday, “The continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable.”

The planned date for closure is May 16th, so if you’ve always wanted to head to the casino, which offers round-the-clock dollar blackjack, now’s your chance. The property sits on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip and serves as a terminus for the city’s monorail.

The Sahara has a rich history. Besides Carson, other performers at the hotel over the years have included Judy Garland, George Carlin, and Bill Cosby. Nazarian and company purchased the Sin City oasis four years ago.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there were no immediate plans to knock down the building after its closure. As to the future of the Las Vegas Strip landmark, Nazarian commented in the same press release, “We see the northern end of the Strip as the future of Las Vegas. With Las Vegas showing early signs of recovery, we are confident that we ultimately will find a creative and comprehensive new solution for this historic property.”

On the other end of the Strip, CityCenter Las Vegas recently opened featuring Aria, the home of the Phil Ivey-named Ivey Room and the host of the new “Poker After Dark” season. CityCenter is flanked by such properties as the MGM Grand, New York New York, and the Monte Carlo.

If you have a room reservation at the Sahara after May 16th, chances are you’ll be staying at an MGM Resorts hotel when you trek to Las Vegas. Likewise, SBE Entertainment Group was working with MGM to reassign 1,000 affected employees to avoid wholesale layoffs.

To that end, Nazarian explained, “SBE is fortunate to have a strategic relationship with MGM Resorts International. As a result, we will work together to try to find jobs for Sahara employees in cases where there are open positions in MGM Resorts’ properties. We will also work with MGM Resorts to accommodate Sahara hotel and group customers with reservations following our closure.”

For our industry, the closing of the Sahara means the loss of a Strip poker room. One poster on TwoPlusTwo lamented, “Their tournament gives free food if you can make it to the second or third break. It was a cheap place to stay in a reasonably safe neighborhood close to the Strip via monorail.”

Another community member recalled his memories of the Sahara poker room: “In 2002, when Vegas poker rooms were being shuttered and new casinos were opening without poker, their room definitely filled a low-limit niche. Not too relevant today, but a lot of old-timers on the forum have probably played there.”

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