Category Archives: Las Vegas Casinos

Tropicana Sold to Bally’s Corp. for Deal Worth $308 Million

The Tropicana Las Vegas resort has been sold to Bally’s Corp., the company formerly known as Twin River, for a deal worth $308 million.

Tropicana is currently owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. (GLPI), the REIT (real estate investment trust) spin-off of Penn National Gaming.

Here’s the story in human English: Penn needed to unload Trop, sold it to itself, took a year to find a buyer and now Bally’s gets to deal with it.

Tropicana Las Vegas

Trop could become Bally’s, but it can’t be Bally’s while there’s a Bally’s. Long story.

In case you don’t know anything about Bally’s Corp., the company owns 11 casinos across seven states and describes itself as “a leading U.S. omnichannel provider of land-based gaming and interactive entertainment.”

Somebody’s really fluffing up their LinkedIn profile.

As if that didn’t turn you on enough, the official news release about the sale says this, “The transaction is expected to be accretive to Bally’s shareholders long-term and will require no cash outlay from Bally’s at closing. Bally’s and GLPI have agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to negotiate and enter into definitive documents with respect to these transactions as promptly as practicable in order to fully reflect the contemplated terms.”

Here’s what they mean.

Bally’s Corp. will pay $150 million for Tropicana, but just the above-ground part. GLPI will still own the land underneath.

Since the owner didn’t sell the land, this seems to put to bed speculation the purchase of Trop would be a land play, and that the classic resort could be demolished. Then again, it’s Vegas, where there are no sure things.

Tropicana Shops

This was the plan for Tropicana at one time. Ah, plans.

Apparently, Bally’s wasn’t willing to pony up to purchase Trop outright. The asking price for the building and land (based upon the value of the land) was $384 million.

Bally’s Corp. will have a 50-year lease, with annual rent coming in at a super cheap $10.5 million.

Well, super cheap compared to other Strip casino resorts. We’ve heard Trop made about $20 million in EBIDTA (earnings before interest, depreciation taxes and amortization) pre-COVID.

If Bally’s sounds familiar, that’s because there’s a Bally’s resort in Las Vegas.

Which takes us down the path we recently talked about with an incredibly informative and entertaining blog post about how Bally’s (the resort) is likely to be rebranded as Horseshoe.

While the Bally’s rebrand hasn’t been confirmed, we’re right about everything, so just go with it.

Don’t laugh. Who told you way back in June Bally’s (Twin River) was looking to purchase at Tropicana?

Tropicana sold

Technically, it’s just the one river, but you get the idea.

The sale of Tropicana is part of a bigger deal between Bally’s and GLPI, but it involves casinos that aren’t in Las Vegas, so who really gives a crap?

What does the sale of Tropicana mean to you?

Well, first, you didn’t got to Trop that much, if at all. So, it doesn’t mean anything to you.

To people who like Tropicana, which includes us (despite the fact we don’t go to Trop that much), Bally’s says it is looking forward to “exploring significant redevelopment of the property.” Yeah, so, don’t hold your breath.

The potential for “enhancing the financial profile” of Tropicana isn’t great, so expect little movement on that front once Bally’s takes the reins.

So, here’s another twist. Twin River purchased the Bally’s brand in Oct. 2020. How about Bally’s resort rebrands to Horseshoe, then Tropicana rebrands to Bally’s Las Vegas?

Have our hastily slapped-together Photoshops ever been wrong?

Beyond a rebrand, it’s likely some of the existing partnerships at Trop, forged under Penn’s ownership, will go away.

We’d place a little money on the forgettable Robert Irvine’s Public House being among the contracts to end when the sale to Bally’s is finalized.

We would share which existing brands at Trop are Penn brands, but that would require “legwork” and “effort,” so you’re on your own.

Gird your REITs, because there’s an epic hell-ton more mergers, acquisitions and purchases in the works in Las Vegas.

You know you’ll hear about them here first! Actual results may vary.

Virgin Las Vegas Opens, We’ve Got a Hell-Ton of Pics and Video

Las Vegas has a new casino resort, Virgin Las Vegas!

Virgin officially opened at 6:00 p.m. on March 25, 2021, with all the appropriate hoopla.

Here she is, the long-awaited Virgin Las Vegas, formerly the Hard Rock casino.

Virgin Las Vegas

Big guitars are out, modern desert is in.

It’s been a wild ride for Virgin as it’s transitioned from Hard Rock.

In a case of uncanny timing, Hard Rock closed Feb. 3, 2020, just a month before all Las Vegas casinos shut down due to the pandemic. A couple of preliminary reopening dates were set, but were pushed back as the pandemic dragged on.

Now, the doors have flung open at Virgin and we can finally get inside!

Virgin Las Vegas

They’re not sex swings. You are so predictable.

We’ve visited Vigin twice since it opened, to get a feel for the place, and it’s certainly unlike any other casino in town.

Many have commented on the “Austin Powers vibe,” and there seem to be more feminine flourishes than in a typical Las Vegas casino. No, we’re not entirely sure what that means, but when has “understanding something” ever been a requirement for including it in one of our blog posts?

Opening night was a little crazy, but we got acclimated during on our second visit, and enjoyed dinner at one of the more buzzed-about new restaurants, Night + Market.

We love having new restaurants and bars to explore, although, not necessarily in that order.

Here’s a better look at the menu for Night + Market at Virgin Las Vegas.

Our favorite part of Night + Market was our Talesai Mai Tai.

Disco balls for a little drama!

We figured you’d also want to get a feel for Virgin, so we did a quick walk-through of the resort.

We didn’t venture outside to the pool complex, but it isn’t done yet, and isn’t expected to be completed until May.

Here’s our hastily slapped-together video of Virgin Las Vegas. Remember, you get what you pay for!

Rather than bore you with “words,” we’ll just share a few random thoughts about Virgin to keep the photos from slapping together.

There are several new restaurants (including Casa Calavera and the aforementioned Night + Market), some holdovers from Hard Rock (Nobu, Pizza Forte), and a couple of rebranded dining spots as well.

Here’s the menu for Casa Calavera at Virgin. Check out the menu for Pizza Forte.

Mr. Lucky’s is now Kitchen at Commons Club, and MB Steak is now One Steakhouse.

We never got to try MB Steak, but you can bet your rump roast we’re checking out One Steakhouse.

You’ll want to check out the menu for Kitchen at Commons Club at Virgin.

Kitchen at Commons Club has many of the same faces as when it was Mr. Lucky’s.

In fact, most of the staffers you’ll meet at Virgin once worked at Hard Rock. It lends to a family feeling, and we found the service to be quick and friendly throughout the resort.

We had a burger at the counter at Kitchen, and it was solid. We would pass on the creme brulee next time, despite the lovely presentation, including white chocolate lips.

We’re sort of a creme brulee snob. Somebody has to be.

On opening night, none other than Pauly Shore sat next to us at the Kitchen at Commons Club counter. That was surreal to say the least.

Moving into the casino, let’s get the carpet out of the way, for all the casino carpet enthusiasts, of which we are definitely one.

Law of unintended consequences in effect: The carpeting makes dice difficult to spot when they fly off the craps table.

There are also casino chip enthusiasts, so let’s get those out of the way as well.

Come on, Mohegan Sun, please make the $1 chip a tad more collectible.

Fun casino chip fact: If you look closely at the chips, you can see denominations of $25 and up have RFID technology (the little dots). Presumably, at $5 and lower, the cost of including these devices doesn’t pencil out.

We should also take care of the cocktail waitress uniform enthusiasts. You know who you are.

Thanks for playing along, ladies. We look forward to the maskless versions of you.

While we’re in the casino, we should mention the TITO (ticket in, ticket out) redemption machines don’t give coins. You get another voucher to take to the cashier cage. Not a fan, but this practice is increasingly popular in Las Vegas casinos. Some offer the option to donate coins to charity. Virgin doesn’t.

Even if we have to trek to the cage, those quarters add up.

Yes, everything in the casino has Mohegan Sun on it. That’s because Mohegan Sun manages the casino at Virgin.

Mohegan Sun at Virgin Las Vegas is the first native American casino in Las Vegas, and this first foray is seen as a sign the tribe may give casino ownership a shot down the road. Others, like San Manuel, have also expressed interest in owning a Las Vegas casino.

As for the Mohegan partnership, pretty much the whole resort is carved up like that, with deals for each element of the business. This helps insulate the owners from risk, and lets specialists (in gaming, restaurants, entertainment) do what they do best. For example, the hotel portion of the resort is operated by Hilton.

These deals seem to have been seamlessly integrated, so there’s cohesion throughout Virgin, despite different entities running each part of the resort.

The dice tables were getting a lot of action when we played, and table minimums are reasonable.

Let’s dice. Yes, “dice” can be a verb. It can also be an expletive, trust us.

We even tried a couple of sucker bets, including Repeater Bets. We even won. Once. After a few minutes of calling it a sucker bet, the dealers began playing along. It feels like these folks are happy to be back to work, so it adds to the energy and fun of the casino.

We like these repeater bets. We like these repeater bets.

It’s worth mentioning Virgin has a single zero roulette table ($50 minimum) in high limit.

The fewer the zeroes, the better the odds. Long story.

One of the hidden gems of Virgin Las Vegas is a little video poker bar inside the high limit table games room. The bar is called Heat, and it’s easily our favorite place to settle in for some free cocktails and video poker with reasonably good pay tables.

Oh, look, our personal ATM.

There’s no way to cover an entire resort with two visits, so there are many more amenities not mentioned here.

Before we hand you off to our girthy photo gallery, we’ll say our overall impression of Virgin is quite positive. We need to hit Casa Calavera and the steakhouse to round out the dining offerings, and we look forward to checking the venues that haven’t reopened yet (like the pool and theater) when they come online in the next few months.

The resort’s sportsbook, for example, is finished, but isn’t expected to take wagers until May for some reason.

Virgin has some challenges ahead given its off-Strip location, as did Hard Rock.

We’re 34% sure this used to be Smash Bar.

The place is undeniably distinctive, and opening with no resort fees, no parking fees and free WiFi will appeal to some travelers.

Virgin is the first Las Vegas casino to open since Circa downtown. It has a social feel, with lots of open spaces to just sit and hang out, rare for casino resorts. It’s an awkward time to open a resort that encourages human interaction, but there will be a time when commingling is a thing again, and it feels not too far off.

We have high hope for Virgin, and hope our collection of poorly focused images will give you an idea of what to expect during your next visit.

Exclusive First Look Inside Virgin Las Vegas Resort

Virgin Las Vegas resort opens March 25, 2021, but we couldn’t wait, so our inside source provided some sweet photos to provide a taste of what’s to come.

Virgin Vegas

Does Virgin make you horny, baby?

Keep in mind, Virgin is still under construction, and they probably aren’t thrilled these photos are being shared, but we’re excited and can’t sit on them any longer.

We are incorrigible. And, you are correct, we had to look up how to spell that. Anyway, exclusive pics!

Virgin Las Vegas

Yes, our mole was disguised as a Majesty Palm.

From what we’ve seen, Virgin will definitely have a distinctive vibe, a style and sensibility unlike any other Las Vegas resort.

That unique sensibility was telegraphed by the announcement Virgin Las Vegas will not have resort fees when it opens. It will also boast free WiFi and parking.

Talk about winning hearts and minds before the doors even open.

Here’s an eye-popping preview of the Commons Lounge at Virgin.

Virgin Las Vegas photos

Sorry about the leaked pics, Virgin. Can’t get too mad that we can’t wait to get inside you!

They pretty much nailed it on this lounge, as the rendering (below) is fairly indistinguishable from the real thing. Although, they opted for a colorful carpet instead of tile. We dig it.

Virgin

Nailed the execution there, Virgin. Bonus points if there’s a ram.

Here’s another shot inside Virgin Las Vegas, and we are 60 percent sure these are not sex swings.

Virgin sex swings

Oh, please grow up.

The overall feel of the hotel has a distinctively feminine energy, which makes sense as women business travelers are expected to be a significant portion of Virgin’s clientele.

We have access to more photos, but sort of don’t want to spoil the surprise any more than we already have.

The owners of Virgin Hotel (technically, “Hotels”) Las Vegas have spend months and a pretty penny overhauling the former Hard Rock, and they even pushed back their opening a couple of times because they wanted to do the launch right.

That doesn’t mean we can’t tease. The place is called “Virgin” after all.

Virgin Las Vegas sports book

Had to include one for the sportsball fans.

There are a lot more surprises in store based upon the renderings of the pool complex, casino, restaurants and lounges in the works.

Virgin door

Not a trace of Hard Rock remains. Don’t worry, though, the Seminoles are still poking around in Las Vegas and promise to return.

A few of the Hard Rock’s restaurants will be back—MB Steak (rebranded One Steakhouse), Pizza Forte and Nobu—but Virgin has several new offerings lined up, including Night + Market, Kassi Beach Club, Casa Calavera (from Hakkasan Group), Money, Baby, Afters Ice Cream, Olives and the Funny Library Coffee Shop. Get more details.

While Virgin Las Vegas hasn’t confirmed which of its venues will open March 25, 2021, we trust a few won’t come online right away. Here’s a look at the former Vinyl space, expected to be rebranded once live entertainment is a thing again (very soon).

Virgin Vinyl

Vinyl is expected to have a new groove.

We hope you’ve enjoyed a little taste of what’s brewing at Virgin, the first new Las Vegas casino resort to open in 2021.

Next up, Resorts World, expected in May or June.

There’s a lot to look forward to in Las Vegas, and the opening of Virgin Las Vegas sits right at the top of our list.

Players Say Caesars Ent. Has Dumped “Grandfathering” at Table Games

Players at Caesars Entertainment casinos in Las Vegas have shared a new company policy nixes the long-standing tradition of “grandfathering” at table games.

“Grandfathering” means when table minimums are raised during play, anyone already at the table can continue to play that minimum. New players must play the higher minimum.

For example, if there’s a $10 minimum bet at a dice table, the minimum might be raised to $25 if there’s more demand. With “grandfathering,” those already at the table can continue with the $10 minimum. New players would have to adhere to the $25 minimum.

Craps

There’s nothing more Vegas than craps. And possibly drunk people sleeping in hotel hallways. But mostly craps.

Multiple players have shared their experiences at Caesars resorts, and while the policy change hasn’t been officially confirmed, at least one player was informed of the new rule by casino management at Cromwell. The manager said the new policy came from “corporate.”

The new policy has also been witnessed at Planet Hollywood and Paris Las Vegas.

While “grandfathering” is customary in most places, the procedure can vary depending upon the casino.

It appears Caesars Entertainment may be formalizing a rule that’s been enforced inconsistently at the company’s casinos.

There are a number of reasons casinos don’t like to “grandfather” in lower minimum players.

For some, it’s frustrating to see other player at the same table wagering a lower minimums. Different minimums at the same table can cause confusion, and dealers don’t love having to address the concerns.

Primarily, though, “grandfathering” locks in lower value players who could potentially be replaced by higher value players. “Grandfathering” prevents better players from taking their spot.

Roll to Win Craps Las Vegas

If you’re love low minimums, try bubble craps or a hybrid game, like this contraption at Harrah’s. Read more.

Table minimums are often raised when demand for a game increases. It’s like dynamic (or “surge”) pricing, but for table games.

From a casino’s perspective, “grandfathering” may be a courtesy, but it’s a courtesy with a hard cost.

We reached out to Caesars Entertainment for comment, but haven’t received an official response.

Thanks to Jake on Twitter for being the first to bring this to our attention.

It’s always irksome when we’re playing craps and the minimums are raised mid-session, but it’s hard to fault casinos for taking advantage of busier periods (such as night versus day) to up their revenue.

Or try, anyway. Higher minimums mean you can also win more, more quickly, so there’s that.

Update (3/8/21): It’s worth noting Caesars Entertainment uses computer software that analyzes demand on every table game at its casinos. The yield management software recommends table minimums based upon demand. We understand supervisors often ignored these recommendations prior to the pandemic, but are now required to strictly adhere to the automated guidelines.

Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo Sold for $6.25 Billion

Las Vegas Sands Corp. has sold Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo and Convention Center for $6.25 billion.

The buyers are Apollo Global Management and Vici Property.

Venetian Las Vegas gondola

“Iconic” gets thrown around a lot, but we can’t think of a better way to describe Venetian.

The sale follows the recent death of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

With this sale, Las Vegas Sands is effectively out of the casino business in Las Vegas.

In layperson’s terms: “Just wow.” Or possibly, “Just wow, bro.” Take your pick.

Las Vegas Sands will now turn its attention to Asia, where the company derives most of its revenue.

Venetian and Palazzo will keep their names.

Rumors about a Venetian sale have been swirling since Oct. 2020, including those related to who the potential buyer could be. We should know, we swirled a good number of them.

Venetian sale

Sharing news first is like gambling. You only share the winners.

The ultimate winner of quest to acquire Venetian and Palazzo went to Apollo and Vici, and this was no “everything must go” sale. The price tag was $6.5 billion, or 13x pre-pandemic EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization), which industry experts agree was a strong vote of confidence about a Las Vegas rebound, especially in the area of conventions.

In the deal, Vici gets the resort for $4 billion. Apollo gets the operations of the Venetian for $2.25 billion.

This kind of deal has become common in Las Vegas, and is not unlike the joint venture between MGM Growth Properties and Blackstone. MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and others have a similar ownership/management arrangement.

Apollo will pay $250 million a year in rent to Vici.

Venetian

Inny.

Apollo and Vici are familiar entities to Vegas watchers.

Private equity firms Apollo and TPG Capital owned Caesars Entertainment for a decade. Let’s just say it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Among the highlights: Creditors claimed Apollo and TPG stripped Caesars of billions of dollars of assets prior to the casino company filing for Chapter 11 in January 2015. Read more about the glorious drama.

Vici Properties is a real estate investment trust, a spin-off of Caesars Entertainment. At last count, Vici owns 28 casinos. Those casinos include Caesars Palace and Harrah’s, as well as many other much less interesting casinos because, well, they aren’t in Las Vegas.

The Dorsey Venetian

This is the waitstaff at The Dorsey. It’s at Venetian, so it’s totally relevant to this story.

All the confounding financial aspects aside, the real question is: How will this affect your next visit to Venetian and Palazzo?

The answer: It probably won’t.

We could’ve just said that earlier, but this story would only be two paragraphs long and you’d just end up getting into trouble with all that additional free time. You’re welcome.

The focus for Apollo and Vici will be conventions, as was the case with Las Vegas Sands.

While convention business took a massive hit during the pandemic, Apollo and Vici are positioned to take advantage of what’s expected to be a convention boom in the months to come. Las Vegas Sands was less optimistic about how quickly conventions will return, but a lot of hopes are resting upon midweek business coming back stronger than ever as the pandemic recedes.

Sands Expo Las Vegas

The Sands Expo was built in 1990. The Venetian sits on the site of the former Sands Hotel.

It’s surreal to think about the Las Vegas Strip without Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas Sands.

The Las Vegas Sands headquarters is expected to stay in Las Vegas, but Venetian and Palazzo being sold is a symbolic end of an era.

Venetian and Palazzo are two of our favorite Las Vegas casinos, for their sheer beauty, variety of restaurants and bars, as well as their outstanding service levels.

Here’s hoping Apollo and Vici will continue to keep Venetian and Palazzo the extraordinary destinations they are.

First item of business. Fix this wrap! Long story.

Venetian torn wrap

There was hope Venetian might finish St. Regis tower. Now, not so much.

While the sale of Venetian and Palazzo made headlines, it’s worth noting the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by Sheldon Adelson’s News + Media Capital Group, seems likely to change hands soon as well.

Whoever said “May you live in interesting times” wasn’t kidding.

15 Wildly Useless Facts About Casino Chips

We love casino chips! Here’s a hastily slapped-together collection of chip facts to stuff into your Vegas-hungry brain.

1. Chips are also called “checks” or “cheques.”

2. Nevada regulations say casino chips must be 1.55 inches in diameter (for chips used in games other than baccarat). Baccarat chips can be 1.55 inches or 1.6875 inches.

3. Regulations require Las Vegas casino chips to be .130 inch thick.

4. Gaming regulations also specify chips must be “disk-shaped.”

casino chips

Imagine the shapes we’d see if round wasn’t mandated. And we know what you’re thinking. Please grow up.

5. Chips are made from sand, chalk and clay, similar to the materials used in kitty litter.

6. One of the reasons casino chips are used is players gamble more with chips than cash. It’s not money, it’s chips!

7. Each casino’s chips have a unique design.

Strat new chips

Some of our favorite casino chips in Las Vegas.

8. Chip colors represent the chip’s value. Common colors are white ($1), red ($5), green ($25) and black ($100).

9. Chip denominations often have nicknames based upon their color. A purple $500 chip is called a “Barney.” Yellow chips, worth $1,000, are “bananas” or “canaries” or “bumblebees” (some casinos use orange, they’re “pumpkins”). A $5,000 chip is a “flag” (red, white and blue). “Melons” are worth $25,000. At Bellagio, they’re “cranberries.”

10. After a casino closes, customers have 120 days to redeem their chips. After that, they’re SOL.

11. Chip collectors grade the quality of chips with these designations: New (N), Slightly Used (SU), Average (A), Well Used (WU), Poor (P), Canceled or Modified (Can/Mod) and Damaged (Dam).

Casino chip design

Casino chips sometimes serve as snark delivery devices.

12. Casino chip collecting falls under the category of “numismatics,” the study or collection of currency (coins, tokens, paper money and related objects). To get even more specific, chip collecting is considered “exonumia,” the area of numismatics that focuses on items that are not
legal tender.

13. In the late 1800s, higher value chips were blue. That’s where we get the term “blue chip stocks.”

14. One of the security measures used in casino chips is RFID technology. Embedded RFID tags (most often used in high value chips) broadcast unique identifiers over radio frequencies. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID tags allow casinos to keep track of chips, monitor play and even thwart thieves. For example, when an asshat robbed Bellagio, his $1.5 million in chips were rendered worthless when the casino turned off the RFID chips.

15. Adding chips to your bet after an outcome (such as the ball landing in a pocket at roulette) is a method of cheating called “capping.” Removing chips is called “pinching.” It’s also known as “not very smart.”

Bonus chip trivia: A chip made famous by the Game Show Network series “Catch 21” is called the “Power Chip.” We should know. We were on the show and won five grand.

Catch 21

Yes, that’s Carlton. No, we didn’t do the dance.

The advent of electronic games has eliminated chips in some games, but there’s still nothing quite like the feel of chips when you’re in the middle of an epic craps roll.

Roll to Win Craps Las Vegas

Craps with dice is like Kanye without Kim. Yes, we consume pop culture. It’s not always about Las Vegas, you know.

The sound of clicking chips is so intertwined with casinos, it simply wouldn’t be the same without them.

The COVID-19 crisis has inspired casinos to clean their chips much more frequently, a practice that should continue into the future as some had not cleaned their chips since the Carter administration.

When people think of Las Vegas things, casino chips are often at the top of the list. Right after stripper poles.

If you’re into casino paraphernalia, you’ll want to check out 11 Casino Dice Security Measures to Keep Players From Cheating.