In our first article, published here on AVP on May 22nd, we took a look at the long history of the Aladdin. Constructed and opened in 1966, the Aladdin grand opened with great fanfare under the direction of long time casino mogul Milton Prell. Investing over $3m into the property (in 1966 dollars), he transformed what was a sleepy motel called the King's Crown into a luxury resort that would comparably rival the modern equivalents that one finds on the Strip today. Though the honeymoon period of the Aladdin didn't last long, the property became a well documented mainstay of the burgeoning Las Vegas Strip. Over the next 30 years, the Aladdin would go through endless amounts of buy outs, ownership changes, and regulation missteps. Eventually, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation would close the Aladdin due to proven skimming and other gaming violations. Though the property managed to recover and survive the tumultuous period of the 1980's, by 1994, the Aladdin was once again on the market for a buyer. Taking up where we left off, we once again take a look back at the sordid history of the former Aladdin Hotel and Casino.
By the time 1994 came around, the Aladdin had fallen to significant disrepair. The decade of the 1980s did not help the property, as it along with nearly all other older resorts were suffering from low numbers and lack of consistent tourism, the lifeblood of the Vegas economy. Though $34m was spent to expand and refurbish the property by Japanese owner Ginji Yasuda, he lost his license shortly after and was forced to sell the property at a loss. Bell Atlantic-Tricon Leasing Corp. of Paramus, N.J. purchased the property and did very little, as their hope was to resell it at a significant profit, due to the costly renovations that had been performed. This plan did not come to fruition, and Bell placed it once again for sale in the early 1990s. An independent Las Vegas land investor, Jack Sommer, purchased the Aladdin along with his family's Trust in 1994 and immediately started publicly speaking of large plans for the venerable property.
The Sommer family maintained business as usual for 3 years. The original Aladdin continued to operate under the ownership of the Sommer Family Trust during this time as plans were laid out for an ambitious plan to renovate the property. Eventually, it was learned that a "renovation" was not what would be occurring, but instead a complete demolition of the original hotel and casino structures, and a complete rebuild from the ground up, all the while maintaining the original theme and name. The original Aladdin closed forever on November 25th, 1997.
The property was shuttered and liquidated shortly after the closure. Finally, on April 27th, 1998, the Aladdin was imploded and brought to the ground in a well documented and publicized display of demolition. This demolition was especially unique because at the owner's request, the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts was saved from the demolition. This actually added significantly to the cost and planning, since the other adjacent towers and buildings were literally connected to the theater and extra effort had to be made to preserve it. Over the next 3 years construction was ongoing at the Aladdin. The original sign adjacent to Las Vegas Boulevard continued to be lit and stated "Aladdin Arises Anew 2000." The Sommer Family Trust was the principal investor, but the family was forced to seek several other investors due to the apparent underestimate of construction costs. The owners were insistent on attempting to preserve the long term customer base that the original Aladdin had, especially when it came to design and construction. The owners chose to preserve the Theater because of the long history that the building had and because they were the only property that had an actual performing arts theater on property at the time. The idea was that the Aladdin brand was one that would stand the test of time, and had been up until that point. The Las Vegas ecomony was booming, with several new highlevel casinos opening one after the other in the 1990s, and the Aladdin could not compete with the likes of Excalibur, Mirage, Treasure Island, and MGM Grand. However, the history of the Aladdin was integral to the owners, so when the Aladdin was being built, it was immediately apparent that the construction efforts would take into consideration the old designs.
The new Aladdin came together as a behemoth property. Two wings were constructed as a direct homage to the original Aladdin tower, both mirroring the building design of the original towers. The Arabian theme continued throughout the property, with many restaurants keeping their original names as well as different lounges also maintaining their historical significance. Originally scheduled to be opened on August 17th, 2000, Clark County Fire Inspectors delayed opening by a day due to last minute inspections. This caused the hotel to not honor reservations for opening night (when they were already sold out), and caused a flurry of guest displacement and negative news items. The Desert Passage mall, however, was able to open on time, and guests were able to see a large themed circular mall that was the first luxury shopping complex to open since the Forum Shoppes had been built some ten years earlier. However, the Desert Passage opening, though on time, was plagued in and of itself. Protestors from the Culinary Union came together to march outside of the Aladdin over concerns regarding union contracts. Over 1000 protestors were involved, which detracted many from wanting to enter the property.
Finally, on August 18th, 2000, the Aladdin was open to the public. The owners of the Aladdin had many unique innovations in place to attempt to differentiate it from the other megaresorts that had been built recently in Las Vegas, including the ability to advertise that every single hotel room was only 7 doors or less away from an elevator. This was an attempt to alleviate the woes that many tourists would complain about and the stereotype that the Las Vegas casinos were so large that it was impossible to find your room or your elevator. Also, the lobby was on a different level than the casino. Offering a completely separate hotel lobby, guests were able to check in, and go to their hotel rooms without ever setting foot in the casino. This was an innovation that was heavily criticized by casino operators and industry experts as being simply "too convenient" for guests as it would detract them from gaming in the casino. Finally, the Aladdin designed their self parking in such a way that guests were required to walk through the Desert Passage shops in order to enter the casino or hotel. This idea was rooted in the idea that mall foot traffic would be quite high since all self parked hotel guests would be required to walk through the mall in order to get to the hotel/casino. This resulted in many unhappy guests that did not want to trek their luggage through a half mile walk to get to the hotel, and instead opted for the valet service, leading to frequent filled valet areas and high delays in car pickups.
The new Aladdin managed to work through its early opening troubles and started to enjoy its honeymoon period of guests wanting to check out the newly revamped property and the first property ever to be completely torn down and rebuilt in the same location with the same theme. Unfortunately, this early glow period didn't last long as 13 months after its grand opening, the September 11th attacks in New York City occurred and crippled the Las Vegas economy. The Aladdin was perhaps the hardest hit of the Las Vegas resorts since investors seeking repayment depend on the first two years of a new property to make their largest and quickest return. This in addition to the unfortunate Arabian theme of the resort did not bode well with casual tourists. With the attacks occurring only a year after the grand opening, the Aladdin began to lose money at lightening speeds. Over $1b was spent on the construction, and the initial investors were very impatient. Less than three years after grand opening, the Aladdin was in bankruptcy court once again, seeking a buyer. At the time, the Aladdin reopening was deemed the largest and costliest casino failure in history.
In June 2003, nine years ago, and less than 3 years after its grand opening, the Aladdin was sold once again. The Sommer Family Trust relinquished their shares to Planet Hollywood and Starwood Resorts at a significant loss. Planet Hollywood intended to completely rebrand the property as a modern Hollywood resort, with a movie and entertainment theme. Robert Earl, Planet Hollywood's top executive publicly spoke of how the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino would NOT carry the same theme elements used in the restaurants around the country. Movie memorabilia would not be displayed throughout the property nor would the casino be adding a Planet Hollywood restaurant (which is still in operation at Caesars Palace Forum Shoppes). Earl's idea was to fix the architectural flaws that Aladdin had, and to make the theme one that would draw people to the property. The property was quickly rethemed in sections, all the while staying open to the public. The Desert Passage Mall became the Miracle Mile Shops, and Sinbad's Lounge became the Heart Bar. Eventually, all the theming was done, and the casino slowly picked up speed, with the official grand opening of Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino occurring in 2007.
For the final time, the honeymoon period didn't last long. Once again, the property started to accumulate excessive amounts of debt, and the crash of the Las Vegas economy didn't help. Slowly, but methodically, Caesars Entertainment started to purchase debt that Planet Hollywood was accruing, and finally by February 2010, Caesars Entertainment had successfully acquired the property altogether, and continues to own the property today. Caesars first step in the new ownership was to convert all A List Player's Card Members to Total Rewards Members and to convert the computer systems to accept Caesars Total Rewards points. This massive built-in customer base has allowed Caesars to seemingly make a profit on the old Aladdin, a amazing feat that no one was able to do for over forty years.
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