The old Sahara casino and hotel in Las Vegas used to entertain members of the Rat Pack, like Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. The casino closed, but it looks like it might get a second chance with a $415 million renovation coming its way.
Hotelier Sam Nazarian and his partners have been trying to finance the project since 2007 and finally have enough money to move forward. They already have almost $215 million from EB-5 immigrant investment program. The program awards green cards to foreigners who make job-creating investments, and it's become really popular among hospitality developers seeking financing. Mr. Nazarian's group says it already has $150 million in commitments from Chinese and Thai citizens who are each investing $500,000 in exchange for their green cards.
The Sahara will be renamed the SLS Las Vegas and would become one of the first EB-5 financed casinos. Hotels are becoming popular choices for investors because it's easier for them to produce the ten jobs that are required with their investment—the hotels need desk attendants, housekeepers, valets, managers, etc. Hotel developers and government officials are praising the EB-5 program because it helps create jobs.
David Loeb, a hotel analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co. estimates that hotel projects financed at least in part with EB-5 could account for as much as a quarter of a percentage point of the industry's growth this year. Major chains are even beginning to use the EB-5 visa more frequently, including Hilton Worldwide Inc.