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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Palms ready to make Las Vegas 'history' with grand re-opening

31 Jan 2022

By Gary Trask
A long-time dream of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is inching closer to reality. When it finally happens this spring, it will also be a historic moment for Las Vegas.

Last May, the tribe and the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority announced they agreed to purchase The Palms Casino Resort for a reported $650 million from Red Rock Resorts. After an extensive renovation and refresh of the property, the tribe is just weeks away from celebrating a grand re-opening.

While Hard Rock Entertainment, owned by the Seminole Indian Tribe in Florida, purchased The Mirage from MGM Resorts International in December, and the Mohegan Tribe’s Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment operates the Mohegan Sun Casino at the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, the Palms will become the first and only Native American-owned casino in Las Vegas.

“It’s historic and it’s very exciting,” said Palms General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey, who added an official opening date has yet to be determined, but confirmed it is projected to happen this spring. “The tribe has long been searching for the right time to enter the Las Vegas market and when the Palms became available, they really took their time, did their due diligence and decided it would be a perfect fit.”

The Palms is a glimmering 31.5-acre property with twin hotel towers that sits a mile west off the Strip, just past the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Flamingo Road. It opened in November 2001 and was originally owned by the Maloof family, the former owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Palms quickly became famous for its vibrant pool/nightlife scene and the Playboy Club. A $50 million renovation was completed in 2012, before Station Casinos acquired the resort in 2016 and subsequently poured a staggering $620 million into the property.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the resort closed in March 2020 and it never reopened.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which has owned and operated Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel (formerly San Manuel Casino) in Highland, California for 35 years, is certainly no stranger to running a world-class casino resort operation. According to Kiser Murphey, who joined the Palms in December following a 28-year run as a high-level executive in Las Vegas with MGM Resorts International, the tribe will be bringing its best-in-class hospitality and service to the Palms while also incorporating its esteemed culture and tradition.

“Las Vegas is a special market and our job will be to bring something new, fresh and exciting while honoring the San Manuel tradition,” she said. “The culture of the tribe is very people-first. It’s focused on tradition, integrity and respect. We want to educate people about the history of San Manuel and part of that will be rolling up our sleeves and being extremely integrated with the local community.”

A major step in achieving that goal is the ongoing, concerted effort to entice as many of the 1,200 employees who worked at Palms before it closed to return. The tribe, which is a top 10 private employer in San Bernardino County in Southern California with more than 4,900 team members, has spent the last month or so actively reaching out to the former employees and asking them to come back.

“There's no way to underscore how important it is to the Palms to have these employees come home,” Kiser Murphey said. “It would be great to get them all back, but that’s probably not realistic. But we want to get as many back as we can.”

As for the property itself, Palms will feature a 85,000 square-foot casino, with approximately 700 hotel rooms and suites, meeting and convention space, a 2,500-seat theater, a lavish pool area and spa, and the Palms Place condominiums. There will not be a poker room, but the property is in the process of refreshing the former sportsbook space and updating all of the technology in conjunction with a major sportsbook operator that will be formally announced soon.

But what may be most attractive to guests of the Palms will be the wide range of 23 casual and upscale dining venues.

“When people ask me about the Palms, they usually have a lot of questions about the dining options,” Kiser Murphey said with a laugh. “And I am always very happy to discuss that because we have so many great options. We’ll certainly have something for everyone.”

Most notably, the tribe formally announced via Twitter last week that Ghostbar, the hip indoor-outdoor nightclub venue perched on the 55th story, offering marvelous views of the Strip and beyond, will return, which was met with much excitement by Palms regulars.

Other F&B highlights include Scotch 80 Prime, the signature steakhouse with a name that honors the luxurious residential neighborhood near the Strip, Mabel’s BBQ by celebrity chef Michael Symon, a Cleveland-style barbecue restaurant renowned for its Eastern European spices and smoking meat over local fruitwood, and an upscale buffet. Kiser Murphey also told us that Green St. Kitchen, inspired by the trendy SoHo neighborhood in New York City, is “one of the most beautifully designed spaces you’ll ever see” and will have a “secret door” as an entrance and patio seating overlooking the pool area.

Above all, however, Kiser Murphey said that the element the tribe hopes both new and former guests of the property will be blown away by will be the level of service and hospitality. The tribe plans to use the successful model of customer service that sister property Yaamava' Resort & Casino at San Manuel has become notorious for.

“(Yaamava’ Resort & Casino) is immaculate; it’s truly a model of excellence for any gaming operator and we're super proud to have that as a foundation of our company,” she said. “The Palms is a spectacular property. The attention to detail is incredible. But our job right now is to bring in a team to operate the resort so when someone walks in they are immediately going to feel an incredible sense of welcome, hospitality and a degree of friendliness that they have never experienced before.

“This property will be as much about the quality of service as it will all of the fabulous amenities. We can’t wait to open the doors and show the world what we have in store.”
 
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