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Iconic Sahara hotel-casino celebrates 70 years on Las Vegas Strip

Courtesy: Sahara

If only the walls of the Sahara could talk.  

The legendary hotel-casino at the north border of the Las Vegas Strip celebrates its 70th anniversary this month. 

And what a 70 years it has been.  

There were times it was the place to be in Las Vegas. And, for some superstars, the place to stay and hang out.   

We’re talking The Beatles, Elvis, and, of course, The Rat Pack. 

(Right: This 1974 AP file photo shows the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.)

And there were other times when it was overshadowed by the shinier or bigger new thing down the street.  

In the last 15 years alone, the property has been purchased, rebranded and transformed twice. Nonetheless, its story continues. Helping write the latest chapter of the Sahara is its president, Paul Hobson.  

Courtesy: Sahara Las Vegas

Courtesy: Sahara Las Vegas

On Sahara's survival in a city of reinvention

I think some of it has to do with circumstance, of course. Back in the day, the majority of the population of Las Vegas was to the north, and the first casino you would come to on the Strip was Sahara. We were a touchstone for a lot of families growing up in that era, and the way that the property was developed over time, sort of had it coming in cycles, where the last major investment made was probably in the late '80s, in building about 1,100 additional hotel rooms. That was a period of time where the gravity of the Strip was shifting to the south. And so by virtue of the fact that the timing of those investments, I think that we kind of hit a nice spot of the cycle where all the features of the property remained and were intact. And that's what we found when we got here, post-SLS.




On the Rat Pack era

I think that all the people that we now refer to as the Rat Pack, in that era were very accessible, especially when they were at Sahara, because they were there to be entertained by the likes of Don Rickles, or even Louis Prima in the lounge, and they would be here, enjoying the show and then interacting with the other entertainers and getting up on stage. And just having a good time, like having a party, blowing off some steam. That was some of the magic of that era. One of the things that I think is interesting is that we have a production show now in Magic Mike Live, and the original Magic Mike movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum are now making a new Magic Mike movie. Of course, Steven Soderbergh remade Ocean's 11 a few years ago, and so we even have a thread on the property going back to that rich history.

(Above: In this Aug. 20, 2014 file photo, cars drive past the SLS Las Vegas in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, file)

On the property's history

I've learned a lot of this history recently. ... What I know about that iconic picture [ of The Beatles at the property] is that those slot machines were actually taken to their suite, so that they could goof around and play on them. They couldn't go to the casino, because they would have been mod. Also interesting to me about that, as they were originally going to perform at the Sahara, they had been booked for that purpose. And, of course, over the tour that they were on at the time of the United States, they just blew up. The Sahara wasn't big enough to house the number of people that wanted to see him. So they made that show at the Convention Center instead. Another another example of of the Las Vegas casinos pulling together for the greater good and taking care of as many people as they possibly could.

Courtesy: Sahara Las Vegas

Paul Hobson, president, Sahara Las Vegas

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.