First tribe to own a Vegas casino

Nevada regulators approve San Manuel tribe to buy Palms; $650M deal to close Friday

Reading time 2:31 min

The San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority, the gaming and hospitality businesses arm of the California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, has received approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission as licensee for the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, the tribe announced on Thursday.

The tribal nation described the Gaming Commission's decision as “historic,” clearing San Manuel to assume ownership of Palms. The Palms purchase is now set to close on Friday, and the tribe announced plans “to reopen next year in spring,” by March.

The tribe was given unanimous approval from the Gaming Commission. The San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority is set to acquire the venue from Red Rock Resorts for $650 million. It will be the first American Indian-owned enterprise to own and operate a casino resort in Las Vegas.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to share our long-standing tradition of hospitality with Las Vegas and execute our vision for this iconic resort, starting by welcoming back former and current Palms employees,” said SMGHA Chairwoman Latisha Casas. “Together, we will create history.” 

According to the tribe, little capital improvement is required before reopening, since the previous owner spent roughly $1 billion to renovate the off-Strip property. Only a few minor upgrades are needed to “fire up a building” that hasn’t been occupied for a few years, said Palms new General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey.

Following the announcement, recruitment for more than 1,000 positions, ranging from casino operations, hotel management, food and beverage, along with supervisor positions, is now underway. Interested parties will be allowed to apply following the close of the transaction at the casino’s website.

While Murphey said the company intended to hire back many of the 1,200 former Palms employees, who have been sidelined since March 2020, she admitted to the Gaming Commission she was unsure just how many could be rehired, according to The Nevada Independent, “given the current labor market conditions in Las Vegas.” However, she estimated between 500 and 600 could possibly come back.

In addition to its casino, the Palms includes more than 700 hotel rooms and suites, multiple casual and upscale dining options, meeting and convention space, a 2,500-seat theater, pool and spa, and Palms Place condominiums

Guests will be able to make reservations at Palms Place “within days of the close of the deal,” at the venue’s webpage. However, room reservations for Palms Casino Resort will be available “in early 2022.”

“It’s such an honor to reach this milestone today. As we forge ahead, it's important we bring forward the strong values and culture of the Tribe into everything we do at the property,” said Kiser Murphey. “From team member culture to exceptional guest service, it's our intent to create a lively and fun environment not only for customers but our dedicated staff as well.”

The tribe owns and operates Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel in Highland, California. The now-rebranded venue was formerly known as San Manuel Casino, and started 35 years ago as a bingo hall. It now has become one of Southern California’s premier gaming and hospitality destinations.

Earlier this year, the tribe unveiled the first of a three-part expansion project at the casino, adding more than 6,500 slot machines, a new high-limit gaming room, retail shops, bars and new restaurants. 

Earlier this week, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians celebrated the opening of the resort at Yaamava’, featuring 432 guest rooms with 127 suites, a pool, private cabanas, a full-service spa and salon and new food and beverage options. In 2022, the expansion will be completed with the debut of a 2,800-seat entertainment venue.