Palms in Las Vegas transforming image with $620M renovation

You thought you only found card sharks in casinos.

Don’t be alarmed when you’re confronted with a 13-foot tiger shark prominently displayed at the Unknown, the Palms’ new center bar that opened Thursday night.

The shark, encased in three pieces in steel and glass cases filled with formaldehyde, is a triptych art piece by Damien Hirst who was at the property for the unveiling and the opening of the bar that he designed.

It’s one of dozens of art pieces scattered throughout the hotel and casino — some of them commissioned, and some of them on loan from the personal collections of Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.

Displaying art in a casino isn’t a new concept. MGM Resorts International has placed art throughout its National Harbor property in suburban Washington D.C. and Steve Wynn has done it in his resorts, most notably Wynn Palace in Macau.

“We think it makes sense because the gaming industry and the entertainment industry is fun and it creates an energy, it creates an emotional response,” said Jon Gray, general manager of the Palms. “That’s what art is supposed to do as well. To me, they’re intertwined.”

It’s all part of the strategy to return the Palms to its glory days of when it first opened by the Maloof family in the early 2000s. The Fertittas were minority investors back then. Now, almost exactly two years to the date from when Station Casinos acquired the Palms for $312.5 million, the public is getting its first look at the first phase of transformation resulting from a $620 million property-wide renovation.

Gray explained that the transition is still a work in progress with even more changes coming through the late first quarter or early second quarter of 2019.

Station is attempting to market the Palms as a hybrid property — an off-Strip resort catering to out-of-town visitors as well as a locals hangout where Las Vegans can mix with the occasional VIP.

“Our local slot customers wanted to be where the cool kids were,” said Gray, who worked for the Maloofs when the Palms opened. “They loved rocking their Palms T-shirts and made them feel cool in front of their grandkids. That was something we captured really well in the past and I think we’ve captured that again with the partnerships we’ve brought in.”

The Palms is designed with that in mind. Two floors are being added to a parking garage on the west side of the property where there’s easy access to the promotions desk, the upgraded 14-screen Branden movie theaters and the property’s A.Y.C.E. Buffet that opened in December.

Over the next year, crews will continue to work on more amenities.

Four restaurants are on the horizon with celebrity chefs Marc Vetri, Michael Symon and Bobby Flay doing the planning. The Tao Group will bring in its Vandal restaurant from New York.

Gray said the Palms’ dayclub pool parties by Tao would go year-round beginning next spring with the addition of a climate-controlled enclosure for the city’s largest pool venue. Tao also is adding a 29,000-square-foot nightclub.

Work also is scheduled to begin on renovations of rooms and suites in the Fantasy Tower, including the six famed Sky Villas.

Station launched a largely social media-driven national marketing campaign, “From dust to gold,” to call attention to the property’s changes.

Gray figures the national drive is also going to get the attention of locals.

“It’s going to drive that great national buzz as well as bring in the locals for all the reasons — convenience, value and free parking — we want to be known for,” he said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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