Las Vegas Casino Death Watch
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Last updated: August 25, 2014
Could there possibly be an implosion in Las Vegas' near future?
Las Vegas Sun reports that the Clarion (formerly the Greek Isles, and
before that the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hote, and before that
the Paddlewheel, and before that the Royal Americana, and before
that the Royal Inn) is closing down. What, you don't know about
this place? Well, it's on Convention Center Drive, east of Las
Vegas Boulevard. It's small, with about 200 rooms and 7000 square
feet of gaming, and hasn't had table games in years. What, you
knew it existed but didn't know that as of yesterday it was still
open? We're sure you're not alone. We don't know what will happen
to it, but the article speculates that it might be torn down or
imploded. Of course, nobody is giving any official word, much less
a time table, but we can hope.
opens on the site of the former Sahara. We at LV Revealed are not
exactly squarely in owner SBE's target demographic, but the place
does have some intriguing amenities. In any case, as always, we
wish the new owners luck.
Periodically, we see shareholder lawsuits, where people who own shares
in a company or corporate bonds sue that company for lying or mismanagement
or whatnot, but it's pretty uncommon to see a company sue the folks who
hold its equity. Be that as it may,
exactly what Caesars is doing. They claim that their bond holders
are hindering the company's efforts to restructure their debt and are
pushing the company into default. The bondholders, on the other hand,
are claiming that Caesars is transferring assets to subsidiaries in
order to create a protected company with the best pieces with the
intention to declare bankruptcy on the unprotected part with the
worst assets and most of the debt.
Okay, we rarely track closings here that aren't of the "whole property"
type, but we think this one is kind of special. As the Death Watch
is a home for those who wish to remember the old Las Vegas, we think
our readers will want to know.
Flame Steakhouse at the El Cortez is due to close at the end of August
and be replaced by Siegel's, a 24 hour restaurant. This is a
real piece of old Las Vegas. It may not be the best or most up-to-date
restaurant, but it's one of the last and best throwbacks to the concept
of the old Las Vegas steakhouse at reasonable prices. Get the steaks,
some french onion soup, an iceberg wedge, some standard steakhouse sides,
and a nice red wine and you're set. Visit if you get a chance before
it becomes yet another memory.
You know that big blank patch of land across the street from The Wynn
that used to be the New Frontier? The one that has sat idle for years?
Well, nobody is moving heavy equipment to the site yet, but
are reasons to think that the wheels are finally in motion that will
lead to development there. James Packer is looking at getting back
into Las Vegas, and (a) is talking to folks about developing a property
there and (b) now owns part of the debt on the property itself. We
expect there's still a lot to be ironed out before folks start digging
holes, but at least there are real reasons to think something might
happen there in our lifetimes. As they say, a journey of installing
a couple thousand slot machines begins with a single step.
we have some more information on the now former LVH. First, it will
apparently be called Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. We'll be
making updates to the LV Revealed web site in the near future. Second,
200 rooms are expected to be converted to time shares, so this is unlikely
to have a huge effect on how the property is run. Third, the Westgate
folks seem serious about making a real go at returning the property to,
well, maybe not its former glory, but at least to a much better state
than it is now. In any case, while it is run down, there's a lot to
like about this property, and we wish the new owners well.
is going to rename the Quad, formerly the Imperial Palace, as Linq
Hotel & Casino, leveraging their nearby promenade. It will
transition to the new name between now and October 30. Caesars also
says they'll invest a couple hundred million in revamping it. So,
for those of you who want to rush to grab your Quad themed memorabilia
before this august incarnation of this property is gone, you better
get a move on.
official, Westgate has, indeed, purchased the LVH. The purchase
price is reported to be in the $150 to $170 million range. We don't
know how this will affect the operation of this property, but we
expect some changes are coming.
We've been hearing rumors about this for a while, but have been uncertain
about at what point to discuss it here.
appears that the LVH is in the process of being sold to Westgate
Resorts, although nobody involved in the process is willing to
talk about it publically. The sale price is rumored to be in the
$150 million range, just over half what it sold for in 2004. If
Westgate does close the deal, we expect the place to go time share.
Cosmopolitan has been sold to the Blackstone Group. The sale price
is $1.73 billion. The sale has not yet been approved by the Nevada
Gaming Commission. Once this is finalized, we expect some changes at
the property, but nothing that will alter its fundamental character.
The Hard Rock has until June 2 to make a $44.3 million payment,
it doesn't appear that they have it. Actually, this was
due on March 1, but wasn't paid then. Foreclosure by its lender
seems to be a real possibility at this point. We don't think
that will significantly affect the operation of the property
in the short term, and we certainly don't think it will close,
but if this happens it wouldn't be a good sign by any means.
On Nevada Week in Review
Howard Stutz reported that Deutsche Bank is actively shopping the
Cosmopolitan. Word is that James Packer, son of the the late
legendary casino owner and gambler Kerry Packer, is interested.
The Cosmopolitan hasn't turned a profit in any quarter since
it opened, so we'd expect a new owner to make some changes. But
there are many things that everyone seems to like about the place,
so we don't expect a demolition or anything close to that.
Stutz also writes on the story in the
Vegas Review Journal.
Cromwell officially opens it's gaming floor today, with some hotel
rooms available for select guests tonight and general booking available
starting May 21. So, stop on by while it still has that new casino
smell. As always, we wish this new venture good luck.
From the No Real News Here Department,
hear what will happen to the Harmon. There will be no implosion
for this monmument to enthusiasm over of good sense. It
will slowly be dismantled, floor by floor, over the course of more
than a year.
Okay, we basically already knew this. What would be news is if we
knew when they were going to start. Honestly, just not a very good
article, in our opinion.
From the Pretty Much Beating a Dead Horse Department,
& Poors has lowered its credit rating for Caesars Entertainment
from CCC+ to CCC-, which isn't just a "junk" rating, but pretty
close to the "I can't find a sanitation crew willing to take this
thing off my curb" territory. The article also indicates that S&P
believes that some sort of reorganization has become more likely,
although they don't seem to indicate how likely. Worse, they call
Caesars' capital structure "unsustainable". Without an additional
infusion of cash or sell-off of assets, they may not make it to
the end of 2015 without having to file for bankruptcy.
Gaughan has passed away. We can't call it a tragedy when a man who
was working well into his 80s dies at 93, but it's still a sad day.
Mr. Gaughan as much as anyone shaped the evolution of Las Vegas, especially
downtown. As much a gambling pioneer as he was, what impressed me most
about him was his decency. It may be a cliche to say that we're unlikely
to see someone like Mr. Gaughan again, but it's true. He left an
indelible and positive mark on this town, and his influence will be
have more on the recent financial moves by Caesars. This is an
examination of the moves that Caesars made last week. The analysts
quoted in the article and much of Stutz' commentary on the subject
echos ours. Bottom line: Besides raising some capital to keep the
operation running, another plausible reason for making the move is
to keep some key assets, such as Caesars Interactive, separate in
case the bulk of the company has to file for bankruptcy some day.
From the Way Inside Baseball Department,
is selling some of its casinos to another company with Caesars in its
name. To wit, Bally's Las Vegas, the Quad, Harrah's New Orleans,
and the not-yet-reopened casino now named the Cromwell will be sold for
$2.2 billion to Caesars Growth Partners. It seems that Caesars owners
Apollo and TPG own the majority of Caesars Growth Partners, but not all
of it, so this deal allows them to raise some desperately needed cash.
As a consequence of this, debt rating organization Moody's
announced it's looking carefully at the big Caesars and is considering
downgrading its ratings depending on whether it spends the money
raised by these shenanigans wisely or not.
We'd explain all the implications of this move to you, except that it's
all very complicated involving tax laws, and carried interest, and
depreciation and all that, which is to say, we don't really understand
it all either. But, if it seems to you to be reminiscent of someone
rearranging deck chairs, let's just say you're not alone. Again, we
don't think that an implosion of Caesars is imminent, but it has been
a long time since we've been optimistic about the long term financial
health of Caesars as a company.
We have a projected opening date for the SLS,
Day weekend, 2014. Not being night club types, we're not really
the target demo for the property, but some of the restaurants look
intriguing. In any case, we wish them luck and applaud what we hope
is the beginning of a revitalization of the north Strip.
From the "Here We Go Again" department,
judge has issued an order requiring a delay in demolition of the Harmon
tower. It would also not surprise us in the least if some other
judge issues an order contravening this one. It certainly wouldn't
surprise us if the legal system keeps batting this thing back and
forth like a slightly bored cat for the rest of the year. If we
watch this saga long enough, something might actually happen!
We have a new name for Bill's Gamblin' Hall or Gansevoort Las Vegas
or whatever you want to call the former Barbary Coast.
you ready for "The Cromwell"? Howard Stutz' article at the RJ
says they'll start accepting reservations on February 24, although
they haven't announced an opening day. We thought the idea when
Caesars dumped Gansevoort as a partner was to find another partner?
We don't see any sign of one. We're curious as to why? Did no one
want to parter with Caesars on this?
First, Happy New Year to the Death Watch readership. Second, despite
may reader concerns, we haven't gone anywhere. The reason there
haven't been any posts for a while is that there hasn't been any relevant
news for a while. We don't make the news here, we can only report on
it when it happens. Third,
starting to clear out some refuse from inside the Harmon Hotel in
preparation for its demolition. Honestly, we had expected they
were at least this far along, and we sorta thought the next news we
heard on the building was that they had started the actual deconstruction.
However, this story indicates that it will probably be months yet
before that occurs. Still, our prediction is that this process will
begin some time this year.
Westin Casuarina casino has changed its name to Max Casino. If
your response to this is, "Huh?" don't worry about it. Also, they're
updating their sports book. What, are they adding a chair?
Word is that the Downtown Grand, the former Lady Luck, will open on
October 27 with the official Grand Opening on November 12. Allegedly,
the renovation costs for the casino and development costs for the
surrounding neighborhood runs more than $200 million. Given that
the Golden Nugget's entire sales price in 2005, near the top of
the casino market, was $295 million, and that any other downtown
casino could probably be had for less than $40 million, this is a
big bet in a market that hasn't proven it can support this property.
Nonetheless, we're interested in taking a look at this place and
we wish them luck in their venture.
is dropping Gansevoort, their partner in redeveloping
Bill's Gamblin' Hall on the Strip. So, who will be the new
partner? How much money have they sunk in this deal? How does
this affect what they're going to build? How does this affect
the schedule? How long will it take to find a new partner?
More bad news for Caesars who doesn't need any.
There is more bad news on the Caesars front. Investment web site
the Motley Fool has written
analysis of the Caesars situation. Summary: They don't think
it looks good for Caesars going forward. Here are their facts:
Caesars is assuming an additional $2.15 billion in debt on top
of a total of $28 billion on gross revenues of $8.6 billion
which is down 15% from last year. They've posted negative free
cash flow for each of the past five years. Even if one removes
capital expenditures from this, then their free cash flow is
positive, but the highest number they've produced in the last five
years is $535 million. Interest costs for Caesars runs about
$2.1 billion per year. We're not in the business of giving
investment advice, but given this information, it's hard for
us to see a way out.
Howard Stutz of the RJ
us more information about Caesars' financial situation. Basically,
they've got $23.5 billion in debt. They're refinancing about $5 billion
that comes due next year, as mentioned in our previous posting. Now
they're spinning off a new company to hold Planet Hollywood and the
new Horseshoe Casino Baltimore as a separate entity. They'll raise
some money from this but not a lot as a percentage of their debt.
At the same time, they don't specifically say that they'll use this
money to pay down their debt.
What's also not clear to us is why should specifically these
properties be split off? We might guess, and this is all just wild
speculation, that Planet Hollywood would be a low performance property with
a significant amount of debt attached to it, so spinning that off
might be a way to send some non-core holdings into Chapter 11 separate
from the rest of the company, but if this is the strategy and, again,
we have no strong reason to think it is, why link that with a brand new
property, unless they now expect it to underperform? The S-1 Caesars
filed with the SEC doesn't tell us much about their strategy. So,
we don't know what their plan is, but we find a statement Stutz quotes
in his article from a representative of the company to be telling:
"Caesars has a lot of debt. We think it's manageable, but others
disagree." Not exactly confidence inspiring.
More on the issue of Caesars and financing. The RJ reports that
has restructured more than $4 billion in debt that was scheduled to
come due this year. On the one hand, this will help Caesars
navigate through the current lean years. However, at some point we
have to start to wonder whether continually pushing off this debt
isn't the corporate equivalent of paying off one credit card with
the other. What happens if the future economic world in which it
becomes easy to pay off this mounting debt doesn't happen?
Rich Velotta of Vegas, Inc. notifies us that
publisher of the "Openings and Closing in Las Vegas" newsletter has
warned its subscribers that Caesars may be on the verge of bankruptcy.
This seems possible, based on what little we know, as it appears to us
that during the economic downturn Caesars deferred a lot of its debt,
but it still has to come due some day, it's not like the economy has
gotten a whole lot better in the last few years, and Caesars, unlike
Las Vegas Sands or MGM can't pay off their Las Vegas debts with
income generated by properties in Macao or Singapore. On the other
hand, no offense to the maintainer of the newsletter, but it's not
like we read this in Business Week, so we're more than
a little skeptical. But, if it's reputable enough for Velotta to
report, that makes it reputable for us to pass on... . On the off
chance Caesars' resorts does declare bankruptcy, we don't
believe that significantly affects already open casinos or players'
deposits with those casinos.
Downtown Grand seems like it's still headed toward opening this fall,
although we haven't heard a specific date. Of course, this place is
the reincarnated Lady Luck, which closed back in 2006. The owners claim
to be investing more than $100 million on the project. That's a lot of
money for a downtown casino that's not the Golden Nugget. It's always
nice to see a new place open up, and we wish the new owners luck.