Goodbye Sahara: Vegas 'Rat Pack' Hotel to Close

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The Sahara Hotel & Casino, one of the last remaining resorts from the Rat Pack era on the Las Vegas Strip, will close its doors after nearly six decades on May 16.

"The continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable," CEO Sam Nazarian and owner of SBE Entertainment Groups tells the Associated Press.

The casino, which was featured in 1960's "Ocean's Eleven" during its heyday, has been trying to reel gamblers in with around-the-clock $1 blackjack and a six-pound burrito-eating challenge at its NASCAR Café.

Nazarian says his company is considering options, which could include a complete renovation and repositioning.

The company has established a relationship with MGM Resorts International, which is helping affected workers find jobs and will work with guests who reserved rooms after May 16 to find accommodations. SBE officials declined to say how many people work at the Sahara.

"While the closing of any hotel is sad, it is a natural and expected part of our great city's history," MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren tells the news outlet. "While today we pause to reflect on many great memories and stories of its legendary past, like so many before it, there is a brighter future for this property."

Murren pointed to several hotels that made way for many of today's mega resorts, such as the Desert Inn becoming the Wynn Las Vegas, the Dunes turning into the Bellagio, Aladdin renovating into Planet Hollywood, and the original Las Vegas Sands making way for the Venetian.

But there is no guarantee something glamorous will materialize – at least not anytime soon. Close by, the former site of the Landmark hotel now holds a parking lot for the Las Vegas Convention Center, while the incomplete $2.9 billion Fountainebleau that went bankrupt looms overhead where the El Rancho and Algiers hotels once sat.

Phil Ruffin, owner of Treasure Island in Las Vegas, says the neighborhood surrounding the Sahara looks "very bad."

But Nazarin is optimistic, calling the northern end of the Strip, which includes the Sahara, 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," he says.

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