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Arnold M. Knightly

Sahara closing some towers

16 December 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Sahara has closed two of its three hotel towers for the winter season because of low demand, but the casino and other attractions will remain open, a property spokeswoman confirmed.

"Two towers of the Sahara Hotel will remain dark based on demand through the holiday winter," an e-mail statement said late Monday. "Upon further demand, Sahara Hotel will make more rooms available."

Property spokeswoman Verena King could not say how many rooms were shut or how many workers might be laid off because of the closings.

The Tangiers tower will remain open at the Sahara, which opened in 1952 and has 1,720 rooms.

Michael Zaletel, owner of travel site, said hotels often shut rooms during slow seasons to help reduce expenses and salaries.

Sahara also shut down its buffet last week, as it does every year at this time.

The Sahara is privately owned by SBE Entertainment of Los Angeles and private equity firm Stockbridge Real Estate Funds of San Francisco. They purchased the Rat Pack-era Sahara in late 2007 for $331.8 million.

Before the economic downturn, the new owners planned to build a new 1,000-room hotel tower. The renovation plans also called for demolishing the 200-room Tunis tower, and renovating the 17-acre property.

The Sahara does not release its financial information, but nearby mid- and lower-tier hotel-casinos have struggled during the recession.

The Riviera's revenues declined 28.9 percent the first nine months of the year while its room rates dropping 20.8 percent. The Stratosphere's revenues fell 17 percent and room rates dropped 31.3 percent, and Circus Circus saw revenues drop 21.9 percent, with room rates dropping 32.3 percent.

Binion's downtown closed all of its hotel rooms Monday and cut 100 positions. The downtown casino company also blamed the decline in visitor traffic and revenues for the closing.