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What Lucky Dragon's Struggles Foretell For The Las Vegas Strip

By James Welch, via Wikimedia Commons

The front entrance to the Lucky Dragon. The hotel-casino stopped all restaurant and casino operations last week.

There has been a slew of developments along the Las Vegas Strip -- new projects, resurrected ones, and some that are on life support.

Nobody knows that part of town better than Scott Roeben. He's editor and founder of VitalVegas

Last week, the Lucky Dragon hotel-casino announced it was shutting down its casino and restaurant operations, but the hotel was still open.

Roeben said the property has been looking for a buyer but it is in a tight spot for several reasons, including location, theming and investors.

"They are in pretty deep," he said. "It is a substantial amount of money that they need to pay off their investors -- both their primary investors and these folks that are doing this EB-5 [visa] financing -- [and it's] far more than what they resort is worth at this point."

Roeben said the resort's target audience of Asian-American tourists and locals did not materialize. He said guests of that demographic have generally stuck with properties that have already earned their loyalty. 

The Lucky Dragon's struggle is actually spurring another deal on the Strip that was lingering. The owner of Reno's Grand Sierra Resort announced last spring it was going to buy the SLS Las Vegas, which was once the old Sahara hotel-casino. 

However, the deal stagnated. Now, Roeben said the problems at the Lucky Dragon has spurred the owners of the SLS Las Vegas to step up the process.

Roeben said people should expect several changes at the resort, including personnel shakeups. He said he expects the new owners to focus on the heart of a resort -- the casino.

"I think you're going to see the same kind of focus on the casino that you saw at the Cosmopolitan," he said. "The whimsy will be gone. SLS' whimsy was, 'Hey, we're going to have the nightclub kids from LA come in.' It was just a very different direction that has turned out to be what makes a place profitable."

The property is also home to a W Hotel and Roeben believes it is a good idea for the new owners to keep that partnership.

A few hundred yards down the street from the SLS Las Vegas is the hulking and unfinished mass of the Fontainebleau. The property was bought by two investment groups last year who said they want to finish and open the resort.

Roeben said every company with properties on the north end of the Strip is watching everyone else to calculate their next move.

But with Resorts World moving forward -- Roeben said the cranes are up at the construction site and it is "a beautiful thing" -- the Convention Center expansion underway and construction of Wynn Paradise Park on the horizon, things are looking up for the long-neglected end of the Strip.

"Some of these projects aren't even question marks," Roeben said. "The Las Vegas Convention Center is expanding. It is going to be huge. Fontainebleau is feet away from this expansion. They are absolutely motivated to move forward. Resorts World is right there. SLS is going to benefit. Wynn Paradise Park is going to be absolutely huge."

Along with those more well-known projects, the All-Net Stadium also has funding in place. The stadium, which would be located where Wet 'n' Wild once stood next to the SLS Las Vegas, would have a hotel and resort attached to it. The developers of that project are also trying to lure an NBA team to the city.

Further south on Las Vegas Boulevard, the rebranding of the Monte-Carlo to the Park MGM is well underway. Roeben said all the restaurants have either already been retooled or are in the process. 

He said the resort is also going through a dramatic change -- from the facade to the clientele.  

"It is a dramatic change in the look and the feel," he said. "I think it's going to be a big change in the client base because Monte-Carlo has always been considered that mid-level, value-oriented resort. I don't get the feeling that's what they're going for anymore."

Scott Roeben, VitalVegas

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)