The San Manuel Tribe of Mission Indians, a major player in Southern California gambling for over three decades, have made a big leap into Las Vegas.
The tribe on Tuesday agreed to purchase Palms Casinos Resort – which reinvigorated the Las Vegas nightlife scene in the early 2000s by attracting a hip, young clientele to its lounges and fantasy-themed suites – for $650 million from Red Rock Resorts. The transaction is expected to close later this year, subject to regulatory approval.
The San Manuel tribe has operated the San Manuel Casino near San Bernardino, Calif., for 35 years. San Manuel will become the second Native American tribe to operate a casino near the Las Vegas Strip, joining Connecticut’s Mohegan Indian tribe, which manages the casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, on the site of the former Hard Rock.
”Today represents an important step for the Tribe and its long-term economic diversification strategy,” San Manuel chairman Ken Ramirez said in a company release. “On behalf of the Tribe, we are thankful for the opportunity to join a community that we have come to know and appreciate.”
Located a mile from the Strip, The Palms became a pop culture phenomenon when it was opened by the Maloof brothers in 2001. It served as the location for a season of MTV’s “The Real World” program and featured expansive suites that included basketball courts and bowling alleys or themes inspired by Hugh Hefner and Barbie. Red Rock, a subsidiary of Station Casinos, bought the property in 2016 for $312 million, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The new owner then began a $620 million renovation of the facility, which included the addition of artwork by the likes of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as an overhaul of some areas that had remained untouched since 2001. But the renovation placed a financial strain on Red Rock, and The Palms has remained closed since March of 2020 following the state’s 78-day shutdown of casinos because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The purchase furthers the San Manuel tribe’s interests in Las Vegas, which have included contributions to nonprofits and institutions including UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality and William S. Boyd School of Law, the Public Education Foundation and Shade Tree Shelter, plus partnerships with the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL and the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL.
”The Palms is a well-designed property which has been beautifully redeveloped and maintained by Red Rock Resorts. Our Board believes that the Palms is a casino resort that many of San Manuel Casino’s loyal guests would enjoy,” tribe chairwoman Latisha Casas said. “We are excited to move forward with this transaction.”
Elsewhere in Las Vegas, the two Strip casinos operated by Wynn Resorts will become the first gaming facilities in Nevada to return to 100% percent operational occupancy. The state Gaming Control Board allowed the Wynn and Encore to drop their occupancy limits after 88% of the company’s employees had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Plexiglass dividers will also be removed from all table games and slot machines, the company announced. Wynn gave employees the choice of either receiving the vaccine or providing weekly proof of a negative coronavirus test. Within one day, over 1,000 Wynn employees submitted proof of vaccination, according to KTNV-TV in Las Vegas.
Once coronavirus case rates began to drop, Nevada undertook a phased reopening plan for the state’s gaming facilities. As of March, casinos were allowed to operate at 50% percent capacity. In early April, the Review-Journal reported that the Gaming Control Board would consider increased occupancy only for casinos that have taken “measurable and material steps to vaccinate, and thereby, protect their workforce, visitors, and the community.”