Palms reopens under new tribal owners

People walk into the Palms for the first time during a reception on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, ...

Curious casino players, hoping to get a glimpse of what’s new — and old — at the Palms began flowing into the property on a historic night at the off-Strip resort Wednesday.

Property officials flung open the doors at 9 p.m. and players made their way to their favorite slot machines and table games as a new era for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and its San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority of Highland, California, began.

For the first time, a Native American tribe owns and operates a resort in Las Vegas. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and its San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority of Highland, California, opened the doors to the public, hours after more than 1,500 invited guests arrived for a pre-opening party at the property’s poolside Kaos nightclub and dayclub.

Fireworks took place late Wednesday night.

Crowds waiting to enter the property were orderly and mingled in lines outside the building as they took in entertainment provided by colorful dancers, acrobats and even a stilt-walker.

VIP guest Dino DiCienzo, surrounded by tribal executives, made the first craps roll in the casino, throwing out a 4 and a 1.

VIP guests browsed the resort floor before the public opening, sampling food from six Palms restaurants and admiring performers tap dancing and wearing colorful, extravagant costumes.

Las Vegas residents Ariana Reyna and Brandon Malonzo said they were invited to the pre-opening reception and had only visited the Palms once before. They admired the “gorgeous” ambiance and the event’s flow.

“It’s really cool, the different experiences,” Malonzo, a YouTuber, said. “You have a sweet area, a street-style food area and seafood. The set-up is really cool.”

‘They’re doing everything right’

Others in attendance were happy to be back inside the resort after two years. Bobby and Julie Singer have lived at the nearby Palms Place condominiums for about 10 years. They said they’re particularly pleased that the San Manuel group now runs the site.

“We’re delighted, absolutely delighted (about the reopening),” Bobby Singer said. “It’s a first-class event. They’re doing everything right. They run a great casino in California. These are good people.”

Highland, California, resident Julisa Alvizo-Silva was staying at the hotel as an invited guest of a San Manuel tribal member.

She said she was proud of the mark that the tribe is making in Southern Nevada.

“Just the thought of a tribe purchasing a casino in Las Vegas is monumental for them,” Alvizo-Silva said. “We’re extremely happy for them and want to see where this is going. I hope this goes further and further for the tribe. They’ve had such an impact in the city of Highland and I’m glad they’re making an impact now in Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas resident Lucy Angelo was one of the first to file through the doors during the public opening. She operates a Las Vegas tourism YouTube channel and wanted to capture the first night.

“I went to Kaos when it was open a few years ago and it was a lot of fun, so I’m excited to see what they’ve done with that space,” she said

Asked if she plans to place any bets, Angelo said: “I’ll have to see how I feel and how lucky I am.”

Tribal touch

Members of the tribe earlier offered a special ceremony in the resort’s porte cochere on a perfect spring afternoon before VIP guests strolled in.

Voices sang over rhythmic music at the Palms’ main entrance, heralding the festivities for the resort’s public reopening a few hours later.

The songs marked a special commemoration for the opening of the first tribal-owned-and-operated casino resort in Las Vegas.

Guests cheered the historic ownership and the songs and dance by the Moapa Band of Paiute and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Bird Singers.

Palms executives say they’re ready for the potentially big crowds expected to come calling, given the tens of thousands of people in town ahead of Thursday’s opening of the NFL draft, just down Flamingo Road from the 766-room resort.

San Manuel purchased the property from Station Casinos, Inc. for $650 million about a year ago and revamped it with a new cafe, improved furniture and upgraded back-of-the-house features.

The Drumbot drum line of the Vegas Golden Knights and Henderson Silver Knights provided the drum roll for the ribbon-cutting for the William Hill sportsbook at the property and dignitaries Latisha Casas, the tribe’s chairwoman, Palms General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey, and David Grolman, senior vice president of retail operations for Caesars Entertainment Inc., cut the ribbon with oversized scissors. Caesars Entertainment owns the William Hill brand.

Long-awaited return

Wednesday night was the first time the property has been accessible to the public since March 17, 2020, when Gov. Steve Sisolak instituted an emergency order to close casinos to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Sisolak toured the resort Wednesday morning, greeting many of the 900 employees, more than half of which returned to the Palms after working there prior to the pandemic.

Tribal leaders were licensed by Nevada gaming regulators in December. The Palms will operate under state gaming statutes and regulations.

The San Manuel Band isn’t the first tribe to run a casino in Las Vegas. That designation goes to the Mohegan Sun tribe of Uncasville, Connecticut, which was contracted to operate the casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which opened in March 2021.

That tribe oversees the casino interests of the hotel with Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels Group and JC Hospitality, owner of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, sharing the operational responsibilities of the property.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.