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Vegas says farewell to top casino

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The front doors are chained shut at the Sahara hotel and casino during its final day of operation (AP)

The front doors are chained shut at the Sahara hotel and casino during its final day of operation (AP)

The front doors are chained shut at the Sahara hotel and casino during its final day of operation (AP)

The Sahara casino made its name over six decades in Las Vegas as a playground and stage for some of the biggest names in showbiz - including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sonny and Cher.

Elvis Presley played slots there as he filmed Viva Las Vegas, and the Beatles stayed while in town to perform a concert.

On Monday, the famed hotel and casino's towering, Moroccan-themed marquis sent a final message to patrons: "Thanks for the memories."

Padlocks and chains were wrapped around the Sahara's S-shaped handles on the glass doors.

The Sahara's closure came after its owners earlier this year decided it was no longer economically viable to keep it open. It had operated for nearly 59 years on the north side of the Strip, an area that has struggled to keep visitors since the onset of the Great Recession three years ago.

"It's almost like you're at a wake for an old friend," SBE Entertainment's chief executive Sam Nazarian said as he walked the casino floor.

"Everyone gets together and really reminisces, so there's a little sentimental value for me."

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Before officials shut the doors, visitors snapped pictures, drank morning cocktails and gambled for the final time in the casino. Employees inside hugged, swapped stories and wondered might come next for themselves and the casino.

Casino officials gave away the last of the Sahara's progressive jackpot cash on Friday, awarding 63 winners about 500 US dollars each. The free drawings started a weekend of people taking one last stroll through the casino.

Unlike other casino closings in Sin City that make way for newer projects, it's not clear what the future of the site will be. Past hotels, including the Stardust, Landmark and Boardwalk, were razed to make way for new developments. The casino's owner SBE Entertainment has not announced its plans.


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