Monthly Archives: April 2021

Tao Group Acquires Hakkasan Group as Foretold By Incredibly Modest Blog

In shocking news, Tao Group has confirmed it has acquired Hakkasan Group.

Well, the news is shocking for people who don’t read this blog, because we told you this would happen four months before anyone else. “Boom,” as the kids say.

While not surprising to those with good taste in Las Vegas blogs, this news is still huge as it involves two of the biggest nightlife companies in the world, as well as some of the most successful venues in the history of nightlife.

Tao Hakkasan

We are your sweeping generalizations headquarters.

The scope of this acquisition is staggering. The newly-combined company operates 61 entertainment, dining and nightlife venues in 22 markets across five continents.

And, yes, we knew that off the top of our head and most definitely didn’t just copy and paste it from the official news release.

Tao Hakkasan empire

Sorry Greenland and South America, no vibe dining for you.

Some of the company’s brands include Tao at Venetian, Marquee at Cosmo, Lavo Italian restaurant at Venetian, Beauty & Essex at Cosmo, Hakkasan at MGM Grand, Omnia at Caesars Palace, Jewel Nightclub at Aria and others.

As with anything related to Las Vegas, there was tons of behind-the-scenes drama leading up to the Tao Group acquisition of Hakkasan Group, and were are confident our local Las Vegas journalists are feverishly digging into the story right now.

Just kidding. But the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider or The Guardian might take a stab at it, eventually.

Now seems like a great time to watch the overhead light thingy at Hakkasan nightclub.

Suffice to say, this acquisition changes everything in Las Vegas. Tao Group now has undisputed dominance in the Las Vegas nightlife scene, a scene we tend to stay as far away from as possible, but a lot of people seem to like it.

Nightlife has been devastated by the pandemic, and only after a year have some venues begun to open up, often with capacity limits and other restrictions that make them unable to even break even.

Nightlife venues will get a big boost in the next month or two as capacities and restrictions are lifted, but some entities, like Hakkasan, weren’t able to navigate the financial challenges of a once-bulletproof business model.

It sounds like the Hakkasan name isn’t going anywhere, so there’s that.

There remain a lot of questions about that business model in post-pandemic Las Vegas.

Resorts World made a splash with the announcement (sorry, confirmation, because we ruin everything with our scoop) of headliners Zedd and Tiesto. High-priced talent is what doomed Kaos at Palms (now being purchased by the San Manuel tribe), but Resorts World is confident the landscape hasn’t changed, that Kaos was just a matter of poor management and a
challenging location.

Prior to the implosion of Kaos, several other nightlife venues closed, including Intrigue at Wynn, Hyde at Bellagio and 1OAK at Mirage, among others.

With the acquisiton of Hakkasan, Tao Group (majority owned by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp.) is positioned for success if anyone is.

The world is ready to eat, drink, dance and fornicate in Las Vegas again! Please pass along video of that last thing for our official review and verification. Just saying.

Cirque-Style “Celestia” Closes Permanently at The Strat

While a number of Las Vegas shows are returning to their theaters after more than a year of being dark, that’s not the case for “Celestia” at The Strat.

We hear “Celestia” has closed permanently and won’t be back.

The show, performed in a giant tent, was well-received, but had a relatively big cast (with the associated big budget), so we trust returning didn’t just pencil out following the pandemic.

Celestia closed at Strat

“Celestia” did a lot for a little.

We’ve heard the production will seek another location for its 30,000-square-foot tent, but we’ve heard that tune before.

In this instance, we hope that’s the case, because the family-friendly show was well done and a solid value. Tickets were as low as $29, a fraction of the cost of a real Cirque du Soleil show.

The permanent closure isn’t great news for the approximately 30 performers in the show specializing in circus-style specialty acts.

Celestia closed

Las Vegas has the highest concentration of bendy performers with superhuman strength and dexterity in the world.

A highlight of the show (or any show, really) was the “Wheel of Death.” How do we put this delicately? Dudes be kray.

“Celestia” opened June 5, 2019.

“Celestia” is a reminder that while Las Vegas entertainment is coming back, not every show can  or will.

Shows and their profitability are being scrutinized like never before, and difficult decisions are being made affecting the lives and livelihoods of many talented performers, technical crews and myriad others who support such productions.

Celestia tent

You sort of couldn’t miss the “Celestia” tent.

We’re rooting for “Celestia” to find a new home, and you’ll hear about it when we do.

Palms Casino Sold to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

As we reported days ago, Palms Casino has reportedly been sold. Now, we can share who’s buying: The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

San Manuel runs an wildly successful casino in Southern California, but this is the first time the tribe has undertaken a venture in Las Vegas.

This scoop hasn’t been officially confirmed, but you know it will be soon.

San Manuel

Las Vegas is about to get even more tribal.

While this purchase may come as a surprise to many, San Manuel did a pretty good job of telegraphing their intention to get into the Las Vegas market.

The tribe has advertised extensively in Las Vegas, including on the digital billboards at T-Mobile during Vegas Golden Knights games.

While it didn’t get nearly the media coverage it deserved, San Manuel also donated $250,000 to Las Vegas non-profits during the pandemic. The non-profits included Shade Tree, Make-A-Wish, Nevada Public Radio and The Smith Center.

Feel free to start taking our word as gospel at any time.

San Manuel also donated $9 million to UNLV’s hospitality and law schools to expand tribal gaming and hospitality studies.

San Manuel is also a founding partner of the Las Vegas Raiders.

For anyone paying attention, it was pretty clear San Manuel Band of Mission Indians was coming to Las Vegas. Now, you know where.

Station Casinos invested $1 billion in Palms. Let’s just say it went pear-shaped.

Fun fact: The CEO of San Manuel, Laurens Vosloo, was formerly the Exec. Director of Finance for Las Vegas Sands Corp. Vosloo graduated with dual Bachelor of Science Degrees from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Accounting and Management and earned his CPA license in Nevada.

Palms never reopened after the mandatory casino closure on March 18, 2020. The casino struggled following an expensive overhaul, and suffered serious losses with its doomed nightclub/dayclub, Kaos. Read more.

We trust San Manuel won’t make the same missteps as the former owner. All due respect to Cardi B and her 15-minute, $300,000 “shows.”

We’re just relieved the buyer of Palms isn’t a REIT (real estate investment trust) or investment fund. New blood, please.

San Manuel’s purchase of Palms is one of several moves by tribes in Las Vegas. Mohegan Sun currently runs the casino at Virgin Las Vegas, and we’ve shared the rumor the Seminoles are expected to purchase Bally’s.

Details of the Palms purchase aren’t available yet, but we wanted to drop some boom, anyway.

More to come!

Update (4/30/21): As promised we’ve got updates up the yang. We’re hearing the sale price of Palms to San Manuel is in the neighborhood of $660 million. (See below for an update. Sale price is confirmed at $650 million.)

The Palms sale deal with San Manuel is expected to close in about 90 days.

We understand San Manuel plans to reopen Palms as quickly as possible after the sale is finalized, and the resort will keep the Palms name (which makes sense, as it’s still a strong, recognized brand). A Palms job fair in the coming weeks is anticipated.

Early plans do not include a splashy dayclub/nightclub scene, or expensive headliner entertainment, avoiding some pitfalls of the prior ownership.

We assumed none of the existing restaurant partnerships, such as with Michael Symon at Mabel’s, wouldn’t survive the change in ownership, but it appears discussions are being had to carry certain venues over.

The timing of the reopening of Palms is not only contingent upon staffing up, but San Manuel doesn’t currently have a Nevada gaming license. We understand the license approval will be fast-tracked, but it’s unknown when that will be finalized.

Check back again for all the exclusive scoop about the Palms casino sale to the San Manuel tribe! Exciting changes are in the works at this popular off-Strip casino resort.

Update (5/4/21): The sale of Palms to San Manuel has been confirmed. The sale price is $650 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2021. Translation: Boom.

Palms Casino Resort Reportedly Sold

We hear reliably and exclusively the off-Strip Palms Casino Resort has been sold.

Yes, we know to whom, and no, we can’t say yet. Half a scoop is still a scoop, so make the best of it.

All we can share is the buyer isn’t currently in the Las Vegas market. Also, it’s not a REIT or private equity fund, a welcome relief.

Palms

What a strange and wonderful journey for Palms. A new fork in the road is just ahead. No, that’s not a clue about who the buyer is, it’s just a lame analogy. Or possibly metaphor.

Palms never reopened after Las Vegas casinos were shut down on March 18, 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Palms was in trouble even prior to the pandemic.

The resort’s owner, Red Rock Resorts (Station Casinos), sunk an ungodly amount of money into a renovation ($690 million), then its Kaos nightclub and dayclub imploded right before our eyes, resulting in millions in losses.

Palms was purchased for $312.5 million in 2016.

Mid-2020, Red Rock Resorts CEO Frank Fertitta went public in an attempt to “squash” our rumors about Palms being for sale. We don’t squash easily, so we responded as we occasionally do.

All due respect.

Finally, an official announcement of the sale of Palms resort is close at hand.

No financial details of the sale are available yet, but we’d expect the sale price to be between $800-900 million. Red Rock Resorts was motivated to relinquish Palms, but it’s not a fire sale.

The new owner will reap the benefits of all the Palms improvements, without the burden of misguided decisions about nightlife and restaurants. We trust you weren’t emotionally attached to places like Bobby Flay’s Shark restaurant, as those partnerships aren’t likely to survive the transition.

Still, under new ownership and management, Palms’ best days could still be ahead.

Our usual disclaimer applies: This is an unconfirmed rumor. Things change and not all rumors pan out. Often, they do.

More news soon!

Update (5/4/21): The sale of Palms to San Manuel has been confirmed. The sale price is $650 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2021. Translation: Boom.

Former Harmon Tower Site at CityCenter Sold for $80 Million

MGM Resorts has finally unloaded the site of a classic Las Vegas boondoggle for an eye-popping $80 million.

The two-acre plot sits at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. and Harmon Avenue, a Bvlgari gemstone’s throw from Cosmopolitan.

Strip retail center

Your sense of underwhelm is palpable.

The land was purchased by Brett Torino of Torino Development and Paul and Dayssi Kanavos of Flag Luxury.

The plan is to build a retail complex on the site, which is incredibly boring, but the history of the space is so fascinating, we felt obligated to pass the news along.

Harmon tower demolition

A lone crane and the last remaining stub of Harmon Tower before it disappeared forever.

Harmon Tower was part of CityCenter, but the discovery of building defects meant it had to come down before it ever welcomed a single guest.

Construction stopped in 2008, and eventually Harmon Tower was dismantled piece by piece.

Harmon Tower was an expensive fiasco. It cost $275 million to construct and $173 million to deconstruct.

Here’s the definitive chronology of the trainwreck that was the Harmon Tower at CityCenter. Which MGM Resorts conveniently left out of their news release, by the way.

Some additional scoop you won’t see anywhere else: The rumor is the tenants at the adjoining Shops at Crystals are, to paraphrase our source, “losing their shit” about the sale. And not the good kind of “losing their shit.” Because competition.

Shopping: That thing you do when you run out of gambling money.

A source also shares a good deal of the new retail center’s revenue will come from a large digital display.

The massive digital billboard across the street at Harmon Corner prints money, so the new owners of this site are looking to get a piece of that advertising action.

Here’s another look at what’s in the works.

Fun fact: The plans are a proven cure for insomnia.

Strip retail center

We presume they’re building this because Crystals was just too packed with customers. Related: National Sarcasm Day is Dec. 10.

While more retail isn’t exactly the most thrilling news, something is better than a vacant plot of land, so we’ll take it.

At the very least, we may get a new restaurant on The Strip.

If it’s Italian, that’s worth at least $80 million.

Lucky Bastard Wins $2.1 Million Jackpot at Cosmopolitan

A player at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas hit the kind of jackpot all gamblers pine for on April 25, 2021.

The jackpot was for more than $2.1 million ($2,101,093.50 to be exact).

Technically, “Millionsaire.”

We first heard about the win on Twitter via @SlotWinsByChico, but rest assured Cosmo will be sending out a news release about the win within the next few days.

The big win was on a Monopoly Millionaire machine, and the winning bet was a mere $4. (The player put a total of $40 in the machine.)

According to our horrible math, that’s a 52,500,000% return on investment.

Whenever a bigass jackpot hits, we get lots of questions about how much the player actually keeps.

Right off the top, there’s 27% in federal taxes withheld.

For a really big jackpot, like Megabucks, players get the option of receiving a lump sum or annuity. For a $2 million jackpot, the player probably took a lump sum, less the 27% deducted by The Man ($567,295), leaving the lucky bastard (a visitor from Alaska) about $1,533,798. Ish.

That’s a lot of Holsteins burgers.

It’s worth noting the Cosmopolitan doesn’t pay a big jackpot like this, the slot maker does. In this case, SG Gaming.

If you hit a big jackpot, settle in, as the paperwork can sometimes take hours.

The prospect of winning big is part of what makes Vegas so Vegas, and we’re pretty sure the lucky winner at Cosmopolitan is still in a state of shock.

The dream of snagging a massive slot jackpot is alive and well in Las Vegas!