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THE VEGAS NAME GAME: Round 2

Don’t feel bad if you can’t remember a name. It’ll probably be called something else when you return.

So you made it through Round One of The Vegas Name Game and you’re back for more. How awesome! The great thing about this jigsaw puzzle is that it’s never completed, Just when you’re about to set the last few pieces into place, someone upsets the table and you’ve got to start from scratch. Here’s your proof:

Bally’s Las Vegas was opened in 1973 as MGM Grand. Seven years later it was the site of one of the worst high-rise fires in the nation’s history. The hotel was rebuilt and operated under the same name until 1986, when it was rechristened as Bally’s.

In 1993, a new MGM Grand debuted in its current location. Boasting nearly 7,000 rooms, the massive resort integrated the existing Marina Hotel, which had 714 rooms of its own. Still in use, those West Wing rooms are smaller and less expensive than newer portions of the resort. However, they re sleek, stylish, and a favorite for solo travelers and those who enjoy easy access to the Strip.

As for Bally’s, the name was sold in 2020 to Twin River Holdings, which later changed its name to Ballys Corporation. Then Bally’s Corporation acquired Tropicana Resort (across from the current MGM Grand Hotel). This has led to speculation that Tropicana may be rebranded as…..Bally’s. Since Caesars Resorts operates the current Bally’s, a new name will have to be found for it. Some believe the hotel-casino will become Horseshoe, the former name for Binion’s on Fremont Street.

UPDATE 1/27/22 – It was confirmed yesterday that Bally’s will be indeed rebranded as “Horseshoe”. The casino will get a do-over with a new western motif and there will be several new restaurants. Also, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported today that Tropicana Hotel Casino will most likely be renamed….Bally’s.

Give me a “C”! Give me an “I”. Give me an “R”. What does that spell? It depends on what part of Bellagio you may have been in at any given time. The luxury resort was seemingly obsessed with those three letters, slapping them on two of their restaurants – Le Cirque and CIRCO, which closed in 2014. Then you could enjoy Cirque du Soleil, whose water-centric “O” has been running at Bellagio since October 1998.

Down on Fremont Street, the latest hotel to open is CIRCA. The 512-room casino resort doesn’t have a water-based production, but it does boast Stadium Swim, a combination amphitheater and multi-level pool complex with a 40-foot video screen. Perform high diving and synchronized swimming at your own risk.

Station Casinos is a company mostly unknown to visitors. Catering primarily to locals, Station Casinos has numerous large and small operations throughout the valley. Budget-conscious and with extremely popular buffets, the larger outlets sported various themes based on their names: Texas Station, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station, and so on. As their importance and image grew, Station branched into luxury resorts like Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Resort.

Attempting to gain a greater foothold in the tourist trade than Palace Station could provide, Station Casinos threw one billion dollars towards the purchase and renovation of Palms Casino. A massive failure under its new ownership, Palms never reopened after the pandemic shutdown. The same holds true for their still-shuttered Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson, and Texas Station. That hasn’t stopped the company from breaking ground on Durango, a new resort at the corner of Interstate 215 and Durango Drive.

Why a company would start construction on a new hotel when four existing ones remain in mothballs is anyone’s guess. Also, the recent sale of Palm Casino to San Manuel Tribe will create a $350 million net loss. Station Casinos already emerged from bankruptcy once before in 2011, so perhaps history will repeat itself.

So why is the company on this list? Because for one brief moment, it wanted to be known as something else. On January 30th, 2016, Stations announced a rebranding as RED ROCK RESORTS. The move took place in conjunction with an initial public offering. Yet the chain still goes by the name of STATION CASINOS. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Aside from its use on NASDAQ, good luck trying to find any evidence that the rebranding ever took place. I couldn’t even find a logo to include in the above collage.

Sahara Las Vegas is unquestionably an iconic property …so much so that a major traffic artery was named after it. Opened in 1952, the highly-themed Sahara hotel-casino was linked to a number of major entertainers, including The Beatles, The Rat Pack, Liberace, Ann-Margret, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland, Johnny Carson, and even Roseanne Barr. As newer megaresorts rose, Sahara declined in popularity and eventually closed in 2011.

After major renovations, the hotel reopened on August 22, 2014, as SLS Las Vegas. The rebranding proved to be a major fiasco, with restaurants, a buffet, several retail outlets, and LIfe Nightclub quickly closing. One of the hotel towers was separated off and sold to W Hotels. W Las Vegas opened in December of 2016, and that too was a flop. W exited in the summer of 2018, and the entire resort became SLS Las Vegas again.

The list of firings, resignations, changes of ownership, and other transactions during this period is way too long to describe. In April of 2018, Meruelo Group took ownership and pumped another $100 million into additional renovations. Fourteen months later, the Sahara name was reinstated in a splashy gala. The resort continues to undergo revisions more than three years into the new ownership.

Flanked by a rebranded The STRAT to the north, floundering Resorts World to the west, and the ever-delayed Fontainebleau (now aiming for late 2023) to the south, it’s difficult to say whether Sahara Las Vegas can be considered a success. But at least the freaky SLS statue that everyone hated is gone forever.

Are you ready for Round Three of THE VEGAS NAME GAME? It’s right here.

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