Sorry, but this casino is no longer in business!

Sahara Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Las Vegas Strip once was ruled by casinos themed to reflect their Nevada desert setting: The Dunes. The Sands. The Desert Inn. The Sahara.

Today, the Sahara stands alone. The others have imploded to make way for newer, bigger, glitzier resorts. The Sahara remains as a reminder of the days when Frank and Dean and Sammy and Joey were Rat-Packing ’em in at each other’s shows up and down the Strip.

There were rumors over the years that the Sahara was about to join the Dunes, Sands and Desert Inn among the rubble of Las Vegas history. Instead, the Sahara has met the challenge of changing times and changing competition by renovating and upgrading.  The hotel’s 1,730 rooms have been spruced up repeatedly over the decades since the Sahara opened in 1952, and are among the Strip’s better bargains at rack rates starting at $39. If you join the Club Sahara players club and have your play tracked in the casino, the rooms quickly become even better bargains through direct-mail offers or, with enough play, asking if you qualify for a comp or the casino rate.


Sahara Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Saharah Hotel & Casino on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada

There’s a challenge in convincing customers the north end of the Strip is still worth a visit. Down at the south end, newer megaresorts dominate, with MGM Grand, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and New York-New York among the attractions. Center Strip? That’s the home of Caesars Palace and the Mirage, the Venetian and Bellagio, among other glamorous resorts.

At the north end, the Sahara, Riviera and Circus Circus remain from the old days, while the area waits for the long-halted construction to resume on Echelon Place, on the site of the old Stardust.

The Sahara has risen to meet the challenge by offering a modern entertainment experience, keyed to the exploding popularity of NASCAR’s brand of stock car racing.

A $100 million spruce-up in 1999 picked up the pace to meet the need for speed, starting with Speed – The Ride, a state of the art roller-coaster that rocks and rolls from the hotel, out to the Strip and even through the giant Sahara sign. Inside, there’s a NASCAR fan’s paradise, though you don’t have to be an enthusiast to get the heart racing. You can stop for a bite to eat at the NASCAR Café, among a background of genuine NASCAR stock cars.


Sahara Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Nascar Cafe and Roller Coaster at The Saharah Hotel & Casino

You can try your hand at racing in the Las Vegas Cyber Speedway, with realistic simulated racing. Or you can pass the time at the Pit Pass Arcade, with 120 player stations for up-to-date video games.

The NASCAR Café Las Vegas Entertainment Experience, as the whole package is called, has become a tourist attraction in itself, but, of course, there’s a casino waiting for you.

By the numbers, there’s 45,290 square feet of gaming space. A long table games pit snakes down the middle of the casino, with blackjack, craps, roulette, pai-gow poker, Three Card Poker, Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker, Let It Ride and a Big Six wheel. Low-rollers will find plenty to do here. There are always $5 tables at most games, and the Sahara has gone that one better – or is it four better? – with its popular Dollar Days. On Dollar Days, there are $1 minimum bets on blackjack to go with $1 beers, $1 hot dogs and $1 shots in free souvenir glasses. That’s pretty good bang for your buck.


Sahara Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

A Standard Room at The Saharah Hotel & Casino

Surrounding all that is lots and lots of slots, with the newest electronic games including both video and reel-spinning slots, video poker and video keno. More than 400 games are penny machines, with penny slots being the fastest-growing segment of the casino industry today, but denominations go up to $5. The Sahara makes a play for business from picky Las Vegas locals in its Locals Lane area — but tourists will want to check it out, too. Locals Lane features a mix of video slots and video poker, and the video poker includes some of the best games you’ll find on the Strip. Among the games in Locals Lane, you’ll find full-pay 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, a 98.98 percent payback with expert play, on multidemonination games where you can play for quarters, half dollars or dollars. You can also find 9-6 Double Double Bonus around the main casino, along with a few other good games – 8-5 Bonus Poker (99.2) and 9-7-5 Double Bonus Poker (99.1) among them.


Sahara Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

A Small view of The Saharah’s Casino Floor

Tournaments are big at the Sahara. A daily slot tournament offers free entry to Club Sahara members, while poker players can find Hold’em tournaments every day in the poker room. The 16-table poker room also brings plenty of cash action with $2 to $4 Hold-‘Em games and $1-$4-$4-$8 Spread Hold ‘Em games.

Away from the tables and slots and aside from the NASCAR experience, there’s plenty of old-style Las Vegas entertainment with Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show. Sandy is the son of the late comedy legend Buddy Hackett. Before dad died, he recorded a voiceover, playing the voice of God sending the Rat Packers back from heaven for one final show – this musical revue that pays tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop.

The other nightly show is The Magic and Tigers of Rick Thomas, with magic and music, dance and Bengal tigers.

When it’s time to dine, the House of Lords is an intimate steakhouse of the old Las Vegas style, with steaks, seafood and pasta. The Affordable Elegance Tasting Menu gives you the option of a prix fixe four-course meal for $29.95 between 5 and 11 p.m. daily. For more casual fare, there’s the Caravan Café, an traditional Las Vegas coffee shop. Ask about the specials, such as the $8.99 prime rib available to Club Sahara members.

The bottom line is a mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the up to date, from the NASCAR Café to the House of Lords and from Speed – The Ride to Hackett’s Rat Pack tribute. It’s a fun desert blend, and a good reason to visit the Strip’s north end.

The Sahara Hotel & Casino is  located at 2535 Las Vegas Blvd. South. For more information call them at (800) 634-6010 or (702) 737-2111