Losing The Sands

the sands expo

The news came out last week that Las Vegas will finally lose one of the most iconic names on the Las Vegas Strip. Although many newcomers probably never even knew that it still existed, at least in the name form.

Scott Roeben’s Vital Vegas broke the news that what has been called since it was built in 1990, “The Sands Expo”, one of the world’s largest privately-owned convention centers is changing its name to better match the name of the resort it’s attached to. Starting in September, it will be known as “The Venetian Expo”.

In 1989, Sheldon Adelson and his group purchased the aging Sands casino then imploded the resort to build the Venetian and then the Pallazo.  Combined, it is now the largest hotel in the world.

Movie buffs will remember at the end of the 1997 movie CON AIR, the doomed prisoner plane crash lands on the Las Vegas Strip and ends up crashing in the main tower of the Sands. By that point, a majority of the resort had already been demolished, they saved the implosion of the front tower and entrance for the explosive movie climax (and let the studio pay for it all).

Although he demolished the resort and built a new resort with a new name, Sheldon wanted the memory of the infamous resort to live on. Mr. Adelson even changed the name of his company to The Las Vegas Sands Corporation.  Then in 1990, when he built the convention center, he called it the Sands Expo.

But times change. Sheldon Adelson passed away in January and in March, the Las Vegas resorts were sold for $6.2 Billion.

The Curious History of the Sands resort

The Sands casino resort, the renowned landmark, opened its doors in 1952 as a casino and resort with 200 rooms. . It was established by Mack Kufferman, and this new gambling resort set Las Vegas in the national spotlight as the center of entertainment and a place for celebrity hangouts.

The problems started at the beginning. Mack Kufferman, who planned to make the Sands hotel a casino, had failed to gain the gaming license, and his project shares were sold to Jake Freedman.

According to many resources, crime bosses Doc Stacher and Meyer Lansky acquired shares in it. Also, many other organized crime figures, illegal bookmakers like Mike Shapiro, Ed Levinson, and Sid Wyman, Hyman Abrams, and Jack Entratter were involved in the financing of Sands and had shares in it.

The Sands?

Initially, Freedman intended to name the hotel based on the film name ‘Holiday Inn’ released in 1942. But when being there and saw that his socks were full of sand, he decided to name it Sands (which is also the name of a race track). So, really. it was named after a race track.

However, its tagline, “A place in the sun” was named after a recently released film at that time. This idea suits the hot desert place perfectly where Sands casino resort was located.

The Famous Came Out For The Sands’ Grand Opening 

Not only the famous stars were invited but there are also more surprising details of the inauguration.

Sands Casino Opening

Sands opening advertisement on Billboard in 1952.

12,000 people visited the Sands casino resort in the first few hours of opening because it was so widely publicized.

The celebrities Arlene Dahl, Fernando Lamas, Esther Williams, and Terry Moore were invited as special guests. Moreover, there were 146 journalists at the inauguration.

Opening Night Performers

Some of the most renowned stars Danny Thomas, Jimmy McHughRay Sinatra, and his Orchestra were the initial house band, and the Copa girls, labeled “the most beautiful girls in the world” performed at inauguration night.

These performances were held in the casino’s showroom, Copa room which was the signature attraction of Sands casino resort.

Actor Danny Thomas was hired to perform for the first two weeks of the inauguration but plans needed to be changed on the second night because he had laryngitis.

Therefore, more famous stars were hired to replace Danny Thomas. Those were Jimmy Durante, Frankie Laine, Jane Powell, the Ritz Brothers, and Ray Anthony.

Jack Entratter, nicknamed “Mr. Entertainment,” took the manager position at the Sands, who was best known for his managing positions at New York Club, Copacabana. He brought numerous brightest stars of the day to the casino’s Copa Room. That made Copa the hottest ticket in America and one of the most coveted stages for performers.

The Sands and The Rat Pack 

When crime bosses Doc Stacher and Meyer Lansky acquired shares in Sands, they attracted Frank Sinatra (Member of Rat Pack, greatest musician of 20th century and best-selling musical artist of all time) to Sands. Moreover, Sinatra made his performing debut in October 1953 at Sands after an invitation from its manager Jack Entratter. Later he bought shares in the hotel and started living there during his breaks from Hollywood.

According to sources, Sinatra was not a hardcore gambler. He earned notoriety for “keeping his winnings and ignoring his losses.” The interesting part is that the mobsters involved in financing and had shares in Sands were not concerned about Frank Sinatra’s actions because Sinatra was good for business and kept bringing in the big rollers.

Films Shot at The Sands

1960, a caper film “Ocean’s 11” was shot at Sands.

1972 the Sands hosted several scenes for the movie “The Godfather

1997 – CON AIR – final demolition of the Sands main tower and casino for the ending of the movie

The Famous Owners

Howard Hughes / Summa Corporation Owned it from 1967 to 1988.

In 1983, Summa Corp had sold it to Pratt Corporation, but the new owner could not operate at a profit, and Summa regained the property.

1988 MGM Grand owned it for a few months before selling it to Interface Group.

1989 Interface group became Las Vegas Sands Corporation headed by Sheldon Adelson.

In a glance at history, one owner sold the Sands to another because their idea was not fulfilled as they wanted, or they were unable to make a profit.

Sands had 44 years of successful history regardless of who had purchased it.

Renowned Faces That Passed Through the Doors of Sands:

America’s center of attention, Sands attracted the most renowned, respected, and influential people of America. Here are a few more names other than the above-listed famous celebrities (actors and singers).

Rat Pack and their many friends – Musical group and group of entertainers

Jerry Lewis – The King of Comedy

Author Mario Puzo – Best author of crime novels

Apollo astronauts – of that time

Adnan Khashoggi – Wealthy Saudi Arms Dealer

Ronald Reagan – 40th President of U.S.

Out with the Old, in with the New 

In 1996, Sands introduced a 500-room tower in its exciting system. It gained more popularity after that and became the first of several hotels purchased by Howard Hughes (the most influential and financially successful individual). After the purchase, its final owners were  Sheldon Adelson, Richard Katzeff, Ted Bernard, Irwin Chafetz, and Jordan Shapiro. After buying out its partners, Sheldon Adelson closed it in June 1996 (25 years ago) to build a brand-new resort.

In 1989 the Sands Hotel began construction on the Sands convention center. At its completion in 1990, it was the only privately owned and operated convention center in the United States and was the second-largest convention center in the world. Today it boasts 2.2 million square feet.  As a comparison, The public-owned Las Vegas Convention Center encompasses 3.2 million square feet of total building space


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