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Houston mogul Tilman Fertitta gets approval for new hotel-casino on Strip

Updated October 19, 2022 - 1:55 pm

Clark County commissioners gave billionaire Tilman Fertitta the green light on Wednesday to develop a towering hotel-casino on the Strip.

The commission approved Fertitta’s plans for a 43-story, 2,420-room project in the tourist-choked casino corridor. The upscale resort, at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, would include restaurants, convention space, spa, wedding chapel, auto showroom and a roughly 2,500-seat theater.

It would also feature suites and villas, VIP salons, and a bar and lounge for high-limit gamblers, building plans indicate.

Fertitta has owned downtown Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget for years. But the proposed high-rise on the Strip would give him a foothold in the heart of America’s casino capital, and his plans follow a surge of other real estate activity on Las Vegas Boulevard over the past year or so.

Project representative Rebecca Miltenberger, attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, told the commission Wednesday the development would be a “high-end casino resort.”

“We are very excited to bring this project to fruition over the next two years,” she said.

Miltenberger declined to comment to the Review-Journal after the vote, including on when Fertitta plans to start demolishing existing buildings on the project site.

‘Big-ticket purchase’

Fertitta, owner and CEO of Fertitta Entertainment, purchased the roughly 6-acre spread in June for $270 million. The sale included the Tex Mex Tequila Bar &Grill building, a cluster of souvenir shops and a 1960s-era Travelodge motel property that had closed by July.

According to Miltenberger, the resort will feature high-end dining, a 37,000-square-foot spa and fitness center and around 91,000 square feet of convention facilities.

More than 20 carpenters came to the hearing Wednesday to show support for the proposal.

Steven Dudley, lead representative for Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Local 1977, told the Review-Journal that such projects “build confidence and put a lot of skilled tradesmen to work.”

David Katz, casino analyst at financial services firm Jefferies, told the Review-Journal this week that it’s a “big-ticket purchase” to enter the Strip, adding it would cost around $3 billion to build a competitive resort from the ground up.

Fertitta, 65, oversees a corporate empire that spans dozens of restaurant brands, the NBA’s Houston Rockets, multiple Golden Nugget casinos and other enterprises, including the upscale Post Oak Hotel in Houston.

The 250-room hotel boasts a helicopter pad on top of the building, a 20,000-square-foot spa, a steakhouse and other restaurants, a wine bar, meeting space and an adjacent auto dealership with Bentley and Rolls-Royce vehicles.

‘Most economically productive street’

Las Vegas Boulevard, which turned into a ghost town of shuttered resorts during the pandemic, has seen tourism climb back and plenty of sales and construction plans.

Casino landlord Vici Properties vastly expanded its holdings in Las Vegas when it acquired MGM Resorts International’s real estate spinoff in a $17 billion-plus deal. As part of the buyout, which closed this spring, Vici acquired several MGM-operated properties along Las Vegas Boulevard including The Mirage, Park MGM, New York-New York, Luxor and Excalibur.

Vici now owns 660 acres of real estate along the Strip, “the most economically productive street in the world,” the company said.

Last year, MGM Resorts sold the Aria and Vdara resorts to financial giant Blackstone for nearly $3.9 billion and leased them back. MGM also acquired The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ operations from Blackstone for more than $1.6 billion.

Blackstone, which sold the Cosmopolitan in a $5.65 billion deal with multiple companies that closed this spring, said it was the “most profitable single asset sale ever” for the firm’s real estate business.

On the construction side, the long-awaited 67-story Fontainebleau was reacquired by its original developer, Jeffrey Soffer, early last year and is set to open in 2023 on the north Strip. Also, the developers of Dream Las Vegas broke ground this summer on the 531-room hotel-casino along the south edge of the Strip.

Fertitta isn’t the only one with plans on his stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, either, as other projects are already in the works.

Clark County commissioners in August approved plans by New York investment firm Gindi Capital for a new three-story retail complex just south of Fertitta’s property. Gindi’s project would span more than 300,000 square feet and include retail shops, restaurants and outdoor entertainment space.

Also, developer Brett Torino and New York’s Flag Luxury Group put up the new four-story retail complex at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon.

Ocean Prime, a seafood and steakhouse chain, announced plans to invest nearly $20 million in a 400-plus-seat restaurant there.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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