Losing The Sands

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

 

Mondays with Mark – The Vegas Tourist Podcast #301

Highlights of Mondays with Mark
The Vegas Tourist Podcast  #301

As we always learn at times like this, Las Vegas is never “down” for long. it is always growing always changing. As much as our king/governor keeps trying to kill it off, Las Vegas is still here.

  • Tim Arnold – Pinball hall of fame founder (owner) released a short video asking for donations to help complete the construction of the new location on Las Vegas Blvd, just north of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. ( Here is Facebook link to video)

The loss of two Las Vegas Icons.

  • Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried and Roy passed away
  • Sheldon Adelson, the man behind the Vegentian Resort, Passed away
  • How a tour guest convinced me of the merits of the Seminole Indians buying the Venetian and Palazzo would be good for the Hard Rock Brand and for Las Vegas.

 

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Sheldon Adelson. A True American Success Story

Let me be Very clear on this: I could care less what you think of this man’s political dealing or his support of candidates. It was His money, He earned it and He could Spend it Any Way He Liked!

If you can match your life story to his, I may listen to what you have to say.  Otherwise, sit down, shut up and maybe you will learn something about this (still) great country of ours and about one man who helped keep it that way.

Sheldon Adelson, the founder of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The company that gave us the Venetian and Palazzo Resorts.  The company also gave Las Vegas tourism an extra boost with the creation of the Sands Convention Center. Putting seven thousand suites in the hotels with two million square feet of modern convention and meeting space on the Las Vegas Strip. We like that!

He was one of only two Americans (the other one was Steve Wynn) to receive a license from the Chinese government to open up casinos in Macau, China. That boosted our international tourism to record numbers.  That visionary leader, Sheldon G. Adelson, passed away last night at the age of 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The Man Had a Story Like Few Others

When I tell my tour guests who this man is/was, I always explain that he is a true “only in America” success story.  As he explained in an editorial posted in the Boulder City Review: “I’ve often said the story of my career would be a true rags-to-riches story, except for the fact that my parents couldn’t even afford the rags.” – He was not joking.

Like other American success stories, he started life with no advantages except some loving parents who instilled in him the need to help others even when you need help yourself.  He had to leave school early in order to earn a living to help the family survive. Yet he ended up building a corporation that employs thousands of people around the world. And never forget the people who helped him out along the way.

I believe that to start out in life dirt poor and to end it as being one of the wealthiest (and most generous) people in the world is a story by itself.  With an estimated net worth of roughly $35 billion dollars, making him the 28th-richest person in the world and 17th in the Forbes 400. Not bad when you realize all that he had done not only in the world of business but in philanthropy.  If you can leave this world better than when you came into it, that’s a nice way to leave.

The Venetian Resort

 

Leading By Example

Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam did not just talk about things that need to be done, they backed up their words with actions.  When the pandemic struck, he tried his best to keep the staff employed. He made sure they had their wages and their benefits paid.  While encouraging other resort business owners to do the same.  In the world at large, they gave heavily to worthy causes around the world, especially when it came to Jewish causes and the human needs in Israel.

When word got out that there were two million surgical masks available in China, but they were not going to last very long.  It was the Las Vegas Sands Corporation that flew one of their 767 jets into china to get them and bring them back here. One million to first responders in New York and one million for Las Vegas first responders.  It wasn’t cheap to do and it wasn’t easy.  But Sheldon Adelson made it happen.

I often remember going to the Sands website for some needed information and seeing press release after press release announcing some large donation of money or equipment to charities of all sizes. These donations were often for Las Vegas’ needs as well as causes worldwide. In many cases, these donations were made without any fanfare or big media announcement. They just happened.

Sheldon Adelson Jets

The Las Vegas Sands Hanger at McCarren International Airport – Sometimes referred to as “Sheldon Adelson Airport”

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Enemies for Good

Here in Las Vegas, it seemed like Mr. Adelson was always in a battle with his neighbor and fellow casino mogul Steve Wynn. They argued often and publicly about some of the pettiest stuff.  From the number of parking spaces in their parking garages to the advertised sizes of their suites.  However, out of those battles came great competition and that competition helped cement Las Vegas into the destination capital of the world.

Right now, I would give almost anything to have these two champions of Las Vegas tourism back in their positions of power.  I would love to see what the two of them would do with Las Vegas and with our power-hungry governor.  How their battles for business would certainly help kickstart the rebuilding of  Las Vegas.

Yes, I know they were business advisories, but I also know they respected each other greatly. They were leaders who loved Las Vegas and they loved helping people succeed in life.

In the end, with all the other drama happening in Las Vegas, if not the world, waking up to read of his passing this morning wasn’t how I was wanting to start the day!

Las Vegas, if not the world, lost a great man last night.  His time on earth was well used and his actions changed the lives of many people for the better.  He will certainly be missed.

Steve Wynn and Rule #39

Steve Wynn and Rule #39

Every time a new story about Steve Wynn and the decades-old allegations of sexual harassment makes the news, the famous scene in the movie Casablanca replays in my head.  The scene where Captain Renault is shutting down Rick’s Cabarete to show the German officials that he is truly in charge of Casablanca. Captain Renault tells Rick,  ” I’m shockedshocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” just as a croupier/dealer hands Renault a pile of money he won gambling.

That’s pretty much how the Steve Wynn Witch hunt played out.  It’s a piece of old news/non-news regurgitated just in time to wash other politically damaging news off the public radar. The story worked, it took hold and has since gone viral.

So I have to ask, did the #metoo gang ever stop to wonder why,  of all the stories in Las Vegas of overpowering CEO’s, sexism in the line of duty, why this story is the one they were hand-fed?  Do they care?  I guess I answered my own question.  The #metoo gang was led blindly down a path with the promise of a big named victim. Never asking any questions from the people who were feeding them the “shocking” information.

To put it mildly, they were played by the Las Vegas political machine.  So now we get to wait and see what the real damage to the future of Las Vegas tourism will be without the Wynn influence.

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Rule 39 – There are No Coincidences

If you are a fan of the CBS show “NCIS” like I am, you know the lead character  Leroy Jethro Gibbs lives by a set of rules.  And rule 39 is in effect here.  “There is no such thing as coincidences”. That fits this story so well.  Everything that happened to bring down Steve Wynn was for purposes other than the supposed sexual assaults that the media made him guilty of.  The coincidences are too many to think it was just a story that had merit.

The stories I have been told by women who worked the corporate offices of the major Vegas casinos of that time would make Hugh Hefner look like a choir boy.  That doesn’t clear Steve Wynn of being an asshole or any other name you want. It just shows that this was not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination.

The stories cited in the media are so generic and common, you could easily replace Steve Wynn’s name with almost any casino manager over the last 30 years and easily find witnesses to back them up. So again, it makes you ask:  Why this one? Why Steve Wynn and especially, why now?? 

There are way too many coincidences in this story to believe it was just one that the #metoo gang discovered and ran with. No, the timing and the players in it just scream for something a little deeper and political.

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A good example would be to look at the one man who could benefit most from this change at the Wynn empire, Jim Murren.  The CEO of MGM, the company that controls 55% of the Las Vegas Strip.  Mr. Murren has the ego of Wynn, just not the ability to back it up as Steve Wynn can.  Being Mr. MGM, Jim Murren is often cited as “the man who runs Las Vegas”.  The gang over at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) will vouch for that.  Yet, one phone call, one whisper, one interview from Steve Wynn, and things change instantly.  So let’s be honest, Steve still held the reins of this city tightly.

Jim Murren needed to buy a 40-foot statue of a naked lady to prove that his company “protects women”.  Now after this, he may need to get a second one just to cement this point.   In my mind, if you need to buy a statue of a naked woman to prove a point about women, you have some really deep, dark secrets that will one day have to come out and shame you.

When Steve opened the Wynn and then the Encore, MGM properties lost their best front-line employees. Most of them were former Wynn employees from the time he owned and built the properties.  Steve Wynn knows that if you take care of the employees, they will take care of the guests. As a result, many employees faithfully followed him as he built his empire, one mega-resort at a time.

MGM, on the other hand, is known to use the lack of labor laws here as a tool to shed employees at any moment possible.  MGM is famous for their horrible treatment of employees and their questionable employment practices.  They don’t discriminate when it comes to abusing the hired help. They mistreat male AND female staff alike.

Ask just about anyone who has ever played or stayed at a former Wynn property,  and they will tell you it’s not the same place.  MGM took over and it became a second-tier property.  No matter if the same fountains danced or not.  MGM doesn’t know how to treat guests or staff like Wynn does. Ouch!

The MGM Nude Lady

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To Boldly Build

Steve Wynn and company had recently started on two major projects that would add almost 5,000 new high-end suites and a mini-convention center to their Las Vegas empire.  A serious threat to the MGM monopoly.  The Wynn base clientele (high rollers) is the one customer segment MGM has never been able to hang on to with much success and would love to grab the Wynn Roladex/Contact List.

I also believe Jim Murren is agitated by the cozy relationship Wynn has started to build with his neighbor, Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Palazzo and the Venetian.  Adelson has been one of the most vocal critics of Jim Murren and his handling of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Agency (LVCVA) funds (Your room tax money) .  Although Adelson has one of the largest convention centers in Las Vegas and has 7,000 suites that pay room tax funds that go to support the LVCVA mission, the LVCVA and Jim Murren treat him as if he owned a Motel 6 on Boulder Highway.  Basically, he is seen as another CEO who is a serious thorn in MGM’s backside.

Adelson and Wynn have never been really good neighbors until recently.  But as Wynn and Adelson congratulate each other on their newest projects (Steve Wynn’s Paradise Park and Adelson’s proposed concert hall/sphere) that will add more firepower to the battle over room tax distribution.  Their new friendship would certainly spill over and hurt MGM’s control of the LVCVA purse strings.

< Interesting Article: MSG Owners To Open MSG Sphere, A High-Tech New Concert Arena, On The Las Vegas Strip [Video]>

If the new rulers of the Wynn kingdom cannot continue to push the Wynn vision and innovate as in the past, the company could falter and be in line for a hostile takeover.  Maybe a little déjà vu,  Bellagio??   Do we really need another showroom with circus acrobats or more horrible reality TV magicians??

Toppling the man who still holds the most power on the Vegas Strip, could mean some bargains waiting to be picked up after the burning of the emperor’s body at the stake!  With some members of the Gaming Control Board looking to supplement a job at Caesars or MGM after retirement, no worry about them raising a concern about growing the MGM monopoly even larger and stronger.

The Politics of Vegas

Steve Wynn is not alone in these sexual accusations. It’s just for the political cause, they have singled him out and fed him to the piranhas. Buying off cocktail waitresses who have dirty secrets on the boss or the big named clients?? I think Caesars has a department dedicated to that function alone, or at least they did until a certain Canadian singer’s manager/husband passed away!

In the last presidential election, Steve Wynn had gone against the traditional thinking of most of the other Vegas casino CEO’s and supported Donald Trump.   MGM and Caesars management basically licked the boots of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and continually bowed and kissed the ring on Nevada’s US Senator Harry Reid’s hand until the very end.  It was known that Elaine Wynn, Steve Wynn’s ex-wife, was a Hillary supporter in past elections and is currently in a nasty battle with Steve over her voting rights to the stock she owns since their divorce.

Hmm… Hillary, Reid, divorce, major ownership/control of stock for a major casino, power, then suddenly a 20-year-old non-story gets refresh and goes viral… Coincidence.

I keep finding the timing of it all too coincidental to be anything real.  And many of those on the Strip or in the State Captial, jumping on the “let’s crucify Wynn” campaign has a few too many skeletons in their own closet to take them seriously other than to think they are trying to divert attention away from their own issues coming public. Hoping if they feed the angry mob of vagina wearing hats, a high profile person, they will leave the rest of them alone??

Unlikely.  Las Vegas is a town that was created out of corruption and it never changed and we don’t try to hide it.  The passing of white envelopes filled with faces of dead presidents between business owners and politicians in broad daylight is legendary and true.

Read: Murder in Sin City: Death of a Casino Boss(Amazon)

Some people here pride themselves and like to display the fact that they have “juice” in this town and can make a golf course turn into a stadium parking garage or a plot of excess land designated for cemetery use only, suddenly be magically rezoned for a Walmart shopping center just after the land lease was signed by county commissioners. Amazing how that happens here and its never hidden!

The timing of the article in the Wall Street Journal, the people involved, the age of the allegations and the lack of any real damaging evidence, all add up to a Harry Reid inspired plot of dirty tricks. His specialty.  Our now retired US Senator and the man many claimed was “Most Powerful Man in the US Senate” has not been heard from since he retired from the Senate shortly after his exercise ball attacked him in his bathroom.

His prolonged silence around Las Vegas and the nation has a few people concerned as to what he has been plotting … I mean what he’s been up to lately.

Steve Wynn never backed down from his support of Harry Reid.  However, Steve Wynn had an infamous epic rant against Harry Reid’s handler, Barrack Obama in 2011.  Growing up, I was always told that you can never really be friends with a pit bull on a leash until the man holding the leash says he likes you. Let’s just say the pit bull wasn’t happy about the rant.

Feeding the media a 30-year old story about sexual allegations against Steve Wynn just as the Federal government starts to think about holding public hearings on why the Clive Bundy case was so mismanaged that a federal judge dismissed the charges and released the Nevada rancher last month, screams coincidences out of the normal path of coincidences.

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The Bundy Story

Clive Bundy was the Nevada rancher who in 2014, with a growing group of supports, had an armed standoff against agents from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) who came locked and loaded in military-style equipment and weapons.  All this was supposedly due to some overdue federal/state grazing rights and fees. No, the BLM is not known to evict ranchers using M16 assault rifles and tanks at the front gate.  Except in this case.  They wanted Budy off the land now and weren’t taking “No” for an answer.

If you were to connect the dots between the standoff and the government land Clive Budy was leasing for his cattle grazing, you may start to see some connections between the sudden need to move some endangered desert tortoises off government land near Laughlin, Nevada and put them where a longtime Nevada rancher has been leasing said government land for cattle grazing for decades.  The sudden need to move the tortoise to the new grazing area has some strange coincidences to a Chinese solar energy company that was being represented here in the United States by the son of now-retired Nevada US Senator Harry Reid and their desire to build a solar power plant on government land they acquired dirt cheap, near Laughlin, Nevada.   Hmmm…

Now it’s a back page story again…

Can we say Hypocrocy?

The faux concern about all this by the Nevada Gaming Control Board reaks of hypocrisy.  Claiming such allegations against Mr. Wynn, if true, could be deemed a detriment to the gaming industry and hurt the reputation of the state.

Really?  I don’t remember the Gaming Control Board so concerned about the reputation of the State, or the safety of the gamblers visiting Las Vegas when in 2007, it was found that Harrahs (now Ceasars Entertainment) remodeled 17 floors of the original Ipanema tower at the Rio, without permits or safety inspections. It wasn’t until a whistleblower caught the attention of a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter, did the story even see the light of day.

Upon outside investigation, they found the new layout of the suites did not match the official drawings in the county recorders office.  Meaning had a fire happened in that tower, the firefighters would be planning search and rescues and fire containment using obsolete schematics of the rooms.  The locations of a hotel room door, fire exits, and windows on the plans did not match what was in the hotel tower.

Think of it this way: Imagine the October 1 massacre and the SWAT team was planning the raid on the shooters suite using schematics and drawings on file.  OOps, no door there, an exit that they didn’t know about there…  Get the picture??

That incident once made public, caused Harrah’s to give the State, County and City authorities their best puppy dog eyes, apologize, promising never to do it again.  So by doing that, everyone was happy.  Nobody died, no harm, no foul.  They said “Sorry” and the CEO kept his job and life went on.

Yet, this “minor” violation has not deemed a detriment to the gaming industry and hurt the reputation of the state??

It should be noted that the executive from Harrah’s that was the spokesperson during all this, was former Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones. Coincidence?

So the risk of not being able to rescue tourists trapped in a burning building is not a threat to the State, yet a 20-year-old story of a casino CEO possibly paying off a cocktail waitress for sexual favors is??  Or could it be that the CEO in question happened to do the unthinkable, vote for Donald Trump, piss off Harry Reid and became finance chairman of the Republican National Committee??   Oh my god, NOW that could cause harm to the Las Vegas economy!!  It needs to be deeply and thoroughly researched and the man must be taken down!! Really??

In the end, It’s Vegas, we will survive and tourists may still come no matter what the end result of this witch hunt is…  But it is a witch hunt that shows no signs of ending…

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Those Secret Jets – Area 51

By Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - (EG & G) N288DP Boeing 737-600 C/N 29892, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58267079

 

The Area 51 Jets – Also known as “Janet Airways” – People are always talking about them.  Some even want to go out and see where they land.  Others joke about how the planes are nicknamed Janet Airways.  But they are real and they do exist.  Just look for the white 737’s with a red stripe going down the fuselage.  No other markings are visible from the air or during landings, but they are real planes that take the civilian workers out to “Area 51” as well as other top-secret military installations in the desert.

The fleet is collectively known as “Janet Airways” with terminal and jet services located on the west side of McCarren International Airport.  Being operated for the United States Air Force, they used to get priority takeoff and landing privileges.

You can often see them taxiing to and from the terminal from the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

JANET is said to stand for “Just Another Non-Existent Terminal” because up until a few years ago, the military never even claimed the aircraft or the terminal existed and since they did not exist, they always had priority take off and landings at the airport.

The Secret Jets of Area 51

This photo was taken as we were flying out from Maverick Helicopters.  Janet airport terminal is on the left, the blue-trimmed planes next to “Janet” on the right, are part of the fleet of private aircraft belonging to Sheldon Adelson/Las Vegas Sands/Venetian Hotel.

 

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