Drumroll please … after months of speculation, reports say that San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority are purchasing Palms Casino Resort from Station Casinos. Palms shuttered in March 2020, along with the rest of Las Vegas’ casino-resorts, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it never reopened. There has been much speculation over what would become of the property, which underwent a $690-million remodel in 2018. Rumors have swirled about Palms being on the market, and that it has been shopped by every player in the game. Now, we know who the winner is and the Tribe is excited to start this journey.
Cynthia Kiser Murphey Named GM
Now that we know who bought The Palms, all that was left was details about who would run it and how. And now, we have some more information about the new era for the Vegas landmark. Cynthia Kiser Murphey has been named the new General Manager, according to the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority (SMGHA).
Kiser Murphey has a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, and a Master’s degree in Hotel Administration. According to the announcement of her appointment, “Since 2020, Kiser Murphey has served as Chief Executive Officer to a large benefits fund. In 2008, Kiser Murphey was named President and Chief Operating Officer of New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In this role, she oversaw operational activities for the 2,024-room on-strip property. Prior to her role at New York-New York, Kiser Murphey held multiple leadership positions at MGM Resorts International from 1992-2008, including serving as Senior Vice President of MGM MIRAGE Human Resources.”
With an impressive career under her belt and academic accomplishments, The new GM promises to usher in a successful new era for The Palms. Kiser Murphey shared her thoughts on the exciting new opportunity; “I am humbled to be chosen to lead this exciting endeavor, as the SMGHA becomes the first Native American owner and operator of a Las Vegas casino. The Palms is an iconic property with a rich connection to the community. I look forward to strengthening those ties while working with the team to create a wholly unique experience for Team Members and customers that reflects the SMGHA’s values and culture.”
The SMGHA said they were looking for someone who shares their values, personifies their commitment to diversity, and exhibits a leadership style that puts people first, and Kiser Murphey was the perfect candidate to fill those shoes. With a bright future for The Palms and Kiser Murphey in charge, SMGHA is standing at the start of something new and wonderful.
San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Makes Big Vegas Purchase
Now that we know who snagged this incredible opportunity, we can look more closely at what it means for the future of the Palms and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. This venture marks the second foray of tribal gaming into Las Vegas in 2021. Virgin Hotel las Vegas Casino features the first Las Vegas casino run by a tribal gaming company, Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun.
SMBMI has been operating San Manuel Casino in Highland, California, for 35 years now, so they’re not new to the world of casino ownership and management. The Tribe has also been keenly interested and invested in Las Vegas itself, through individual contributions and support for Vegas institutions including UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality and William S. Boyd School of Law, the Public Education Foundation and Shade Tree Shelter.
“‘The Palms is a well-designed property which has been beautifully redeveloped and maintained by Red Rock Resorts. Our Board believes that the Palms is a casino resort that many of San Manuel Casino’s loyal guests would enjoy,’ said SMGHA Chairwoman Latisha Casas, in a statement. ‘We are excited to move forward with this transaction.’”
What Happens to the Palms’ Art?
The Palms’ famous art is on the mind of many as the purchase agreement moves forward. So what will happen to it? That remains anyone’s guess. Along with the world’s most expensive hotel room, Damien Hirst’s Empathy Suite, Palms boasts a stellar collection of commissioned and blue chip art. It was not considered part of the $690-million renovation, so theoretically it should still remain part of the Fertitta family collection, the owners of Station Casinos. Some of the artists included in the world-class collection include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami, REVOK, Olivia Steele, KAWS, Felipe Pantone, Scott Hove, Richard Prince, Timothy Curtis and Robert Munday.
And that “most expensive suite in the world” we mentioned? It really is something to see. The Empathy Suite is 9,000 square feet and has been perfectly tailored to the smallest detail to be a work of art in and of itself. A two-night stay will put you back $200,000. Included is a 24-hour butler service, endless amenities, a behind-the-scenes art tour of the suite and property, chauffered car service, and A-list access to the entire property’s amenities. On top of that, you receive a $10K credit to use at the resort. The contemporary, sleek, fantasy suite is unique in the world.
Palms is beloved by visitors and locals alike, and the nightclub KAOS was consistently booking huge names like Cardi B and Skrillex, but the property has been plagued with problems. Although Palms has a long history by Vegas standards—having been opened in 2001 by George Maloof—it has never really shed the financial woes that struck in 2010. In 2016, Red Rock Inc., the parent company of Station Casinos, purchased the Palms, and since then it’s been dealt a series of high highs, and low lows. In 2018, it severed ties with TAO Group, who was supposed to operate it’s dayclub/nightclub and a restaurant. On the heels of that breakup, it announced the behemoth known as KAOS nightclub—which closed six months after opening when operating costs skyrocketed and the DJs began launching lawsuits at the club. Once COVID hit, it seemed as though the writing was on the wall for Palms.
More Details of the Purchase
But it appears that the SMBMI has snatched the Palms. The purchase agreement is for $650 million in cash, and is subject to regulatory approvals and other conditions. The sale is expected to close later this year, if all goes as planned. “Today represents an important step for the Tribe and its long-term economic diversification strategy,” San Manuel Chairman Ken Ramirez said in a statement. “On behalf of the Tribe, we are thankful for the opportunity to join a community that we have come to know and appreciate.”
While no concrete plans have been released as to what the Palms will look like or operate like in the future, it’s certainly a positive outcome for a property that has become beloved over the past two decades. With the passion and experience of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Palms’ signature style and amenities, anything is possible.