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Las Vegas Casino Death Watch

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Last updated: July 10, 2020

Recent News


Lots of things happening in the casino world, a lot of which is turmoil, but most of that has only temporary known effects, and what the business will look like in the longer term is a complete unknown at the present time. In the midst of this, we do have some hard news! Gaming Control approves the Eldorado acquisition of Caesars. Of course, a leveraged buyout of one of the largest casino companies in the world immediately before a worldwide pandemic doesn't look like the greatest business move in hindsight, but that ship has sailed. Is the new company with it's brand new debt load based on a pre-COVID valuation going to be viable? We'll see, but it seems like some stormy seas may be in its future.


We have yet another sort-of sale. This time the Rio has been sold to Dreamscape Companies who will lease their property back to Caesars to operate. So, this is just like the Bellagio deal where the ownership technically changes hands, but customers won't see a difference. Consequently, while it is techincally true that the Rio has been sold, the real world consequences are so minor as to not really be the sort of thing the Death Watch was created to report. Nonetheless, here we are.


It's official, Phil Ruffin will be the new owner of the Circus Circus. This is sad for the Deathwatch staff, as now there is no MGM sports book where we can park for free. In related news, MGM agreed to sell the land underneath the Bellagio to Blackstone and lease it back. Both deals will free up cash for MGM, although there's no word on what they plan to do with it. Dun dun dun!


Apparently, Resorts World is on track to open in 2020. When in 2020? Late. That's all. Of course, by "on track" they mean "on track based on the latest track, which has been rescheduled many times", but that's kind of understood. For those who might not remember, Resorts World is the project of Genting that is being constructed on the site of the former Stardust.


The Suncoast land is up for sale. Note, the Suncoast casino is not for sale, just the land it sits on. The property owners are looking to sell with an asking price of $87 million. No matter who buys it, we don't expect it to change the operation of the Suncoast, but since the Suncoast has a two-bit management team who prefers to kick out any customer who knows the first thing about how to gamble, we don't really care. Remember, if you're allowed to gamble at the Suncoast, the management there thinks you're a complete sucker.


We're hearing a bunch of rumors that has MGM selling Circus Circus to Phil Ruffin, the owner of Treasure Island. It's entirely possible, as some sources report, that a handshake deal already exists to make the sale happen, but we have yet to hear anything official. If these talks are, indeed, occurring, they're obviously related to other talks MGM is having about selling off other assets. Stay tuned.


Well, they finally went ahead and did it. Caesars Entertainment, or is it Eldorado Resorts, has gone ahead and sold the Rio. Sort of. Oh, they sold it alright, to some mostly undefined consortium of real estate investors for $516.3 million. However, Caesars is basically leasing it back, and will operate it for at least two years. So, for at least the next two years, absolutely nothing in the customer experience will change.


According to Bloomberg, the Bellagio and the MGM Grand are on the auction block. Apparently, the potential buyer is Blackstone Group. We have no idea how real this is, since all parties alleged to be involved deny it, and no idea if it would come to pass if the negotiations were serious. Blackstone already owns the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.


We here at the Death Watch have long memories and that's more than a euphemism for being old. Every now and then we enter a reflective state, and ask ourselves, "Hey, wasn't X event supposed to have happened by now?" One of these that has seemed like it has been pending for at least a decade is Hooters rebranding. Well, that day has finally come. It has been sold and will become OYO Hotel & Casino, with the transformation allegedly occurring by the end of the year.


Alert! Hotel Closing. The Hard Rock had initially planned to remain open during its renovation and renaming to become Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Now they plan to close down for most of 2020. So, if you want to visit the Hard Rock Hotel, you have until just after the upcoming Super Bowl to do so.


Owner Alex Meruelo has announced that the name of the SLS Las Vegas will be changing ... back ... to Sahara. Okay. We think "excited" would be to strong a word to describe how we feel about this, but we're not opposed.


Caesars Entertainment has agreed to have a majority of its shares acquired by Eldorado Resorts. While Eldorado has grown mightily since it first opened its namesake property in Reno in 1973, this still seems like a seriously levereged buyout, and we recall that the last time a levereged buyout of Caesars occurred it didn't end up going so well. But once again, we weren't consulted.


The new owner of the shuttered Lucky Dragon says he plans to have the hotel up and running in about two months, and to have the casino floor converted into a convention hall by the end of November. He also plans to change the property's name, but doesn't yet have a new one selected. It kinda sounds like the dim sum restaurant, our favorite part of this property, won't be part of it's future.


The Lucky Dragon has been sold. The new owner is Don Ahern, head cheese of Ahern Rentals, a familiar name in Las Vegas. He paid $36 million for the property, which is a really low winning bid. As far as we know, Ahern himself doesn't have a casino license or any direct experience in the gambling business, so we don't know what his plans are. The place had some good things going for it, so we hope that someone can turn it into a successful business. In any case, we wish the new owner good luck.


The Wall Street Journal reports that the Cosmopolitan is for sale (article behind a paywall). The article speculates that its sale could bring in as much as $4 billion. We think that's a wild number. We do have to congratulate Blackstone, the current owners, on sticking with this property long enough for it to turn around. There was a time when despite good reviews, this place was considered a financial albatross.


There's an article at the Las Vegas Independent that does a pretty good job of summarizing the changes that have been affecting the casinos of the Las Vegas strip. While nothing going on seems to rise to the level of casino closings, there are reasons to think that the casino industry may be heading for some changes.


This one kind of slipped through the cracks on us. The Hard Rock Hotel will close at some point, either late this year or early next, and after four months it will reopen as the Virgin Hotel. So, this is more rebranding than a real "permanent" closing, and there won't be an implosion of any sorts, but it's kind of a hotel closing.


Carl Icahn has taken an ownership stake in Caesars Entertainment. He owns about 10% of the company's stock and controls a quarter of its board. Icahn usually doesn't take a significant stake in a company unless he thinks it should make changes. The idea of significant management changes, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and asset sales all seem more likely going forward. What these changes will actually be remains to be seen.


We now know the name of the resort that will occupy the site of the former Las Vegas Club, it will be called Circa. The current schedule has this place opening in December 2020. It will be nice to have a shiny new attraction downtown, so obviously we wish the Stevens' success in this venture.


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