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Sahara Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

December 23rd, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

The Sahara Hotel and Casino is a hotel casino located on the Las Vegas Strip in Winchester, Nevada. The Moroccan-themed hotel has 1,720 rooms and a casino covering more than 85,000 square feet (7,896 m²), and sits on 55 acres (174,000 m²) including the empty adjoining land. The hotel is the northernmost stop for the Las Vegas Monorail. The Sahara is the last remaining "Rat Pack" hotel, and is the northernmost resort on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip. The porte-cochere entrance, topped by an onion-dome minaret, is designed to set the Moroccan theme for arriving guests.

The hotel was opened in 1952 by Milton Prell just outside of the City of Las Vegas, and was the sixth resort to open on the Strip. The resort was built by Del Webb.

In late 1954, the hotel hired jazz musician Louis Prima to be their late night lounge act, one of the earliest ones on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with his then wife Keely Smith and sax player Sam Butera, they created one of the hottest latenight attractions on the Strip.

In 1961, the hotel was purchased by Del Webb. In 1962, a Don the Beachcomber restaurant opened in the hotel, becoming a top attraction to not only hotel guests but a variety of celebrities as well. A 24-story tower was added in 1963.

The resort was the site of the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for many years, mostly in the 1970s, and for a brief time in the 1990s.

Ownership changed in 1995 when Archon Corporation sold the property to Bill Bennet. Bill Bennett owned the hotel until his death on December 22, 2002. The property has since been owned by the Bill Bennett Family Trust.

The 27-story tower addition was added in 1987 and a new porte-cochere was added by the relocated pool in 1997.

In 1999 further renovations added a roller coaster and the NASCAR restaurant. The roller coaster, called Speed-The Ride, shoots riders from the hotel outside along the Las Vegas Strip, where it loops through the grandiose Sahara sign in front of the hotel, goes straight up, stops and then takes a return trip backwards.

Rumours of the Sahara's closure surfaced in the media in February 2006. In a news article on June 30, 2006, it was reported that the Sahara site, as well as a defunct adjacent Wet 'n Wild property, were for sale .

On March 2, 2007, Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group signed an agreement to purchase the Sahara from the Bennett family. The transaction is said to be valued between $300 and $400 million for just the hotel/casino and its 17.45 acre lot. The deal does not include the 26-acre lot across the Strip from the Sahara and 11-acre lot east of the Sahara on Paradise Road . Nazarian's current plans are for Navegante Management Group, current operators of the downtown casinos The Plaza, The Western, The Vegas Club, and The Gold Spike, to run the Sahara's casino while Nazarian's SBE Hotel Group will manage the hotel and Nazarian's SBE Restaurant and Nightlife Groups manages its food and beverage operations .

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