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Iconic Sahara hotel and casino closing in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - The owners of the Sahara hotel and casino, one of the last postwar hotels still standing on the Las Vegas Strip, announced on Friday that the iconic property would close.

Sam Nazarian, chief executive of SBE Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the Sahara, said the hotel will shut its doors May 16.

Nazarian left open the possibility of reopening the property at a later date and said he would help the Sahara's employees seek new jobs.

"While no final decisions have been made at this point, the continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable," Nazarian said in a press release.

Nazarian's company acquired the Moroccan-themed Sahara in 2007, but the hotel has a history dating to 1952.

If the hotel and its 1,720 rooms are razed, as often happens with shuttered Strip properties, only the Flamingo and the Riviera remain from that era, said Las Vegas-based historian Michael Green.

The hotel's guests and performers over the years included Johnny Carson, Hollywood's "Rat Pack," comedian Don Rickles and even the Beatles, Green said.

The hotel "really made the lounge act central to Las Vegas," he said.

Nazarian said that his company "ultimately will find a creative and comprehensive new solution for this historic property."

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)

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