Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

Tropicana Las Vegas Sold Amidst Coronavirus Shutdown

The owner of Tropicana Las Vegas, Penn National Gaming, has sold the casino to its real estate investment trust (REIT), Gaming & Leisure Properties, Inc.

Penn National Gaming will continue to operate the resort.

Penn National will get $337.5 million in “rent credits” from Gaming & Leisure.

Tropicana hotel

The Trop has a history of drama, and this qualifies as that.

For comparison purposes, MGM Resorts pays $292 million a year in rent to Blackstone Real Estate for Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.

A sale of Tropicana has long been rumored. We know this because it was our rumor. No one could’ve predicted this turn of events, however.

The sale of Tropicana is largely due to “liquidity pressure” resulting from the coronavirus shutdown. Translation: Casino companies are taking it in the butt right now.

Always happy when we can help cut through the jargon.

What Penn isn’t saying is this move was probably driven by the desire to avoid a future bankruptcy. The company has additional assets it could shed, to that move doesn’t appear to be in the immediate future.

More bad news is on the horizon, as Penn (which operates 41 casinos in 19 states, including M Resort in Las Vegas) has said it will furlough about 26,000 employees starting April 1, 2020. The company will pay employees through March 31.

Here’s the letter sent to Penn National customers on March 27, 2020.

Penn National Gaming

Free vision test. You’re welcome.

The upshot of the unceremonious sale of Tropicana is guests won’t see any changes at the resort when they visit again. And everyone’s hoping that’s relatively soon.

Resort Fees Jacked Up at Caesars Entertainment’s Four Mid-Strip Casinos

Somebody didn’t get the memo.

Despite a non-stop cavalcade of Las Vegas visitors griping about resort fees, and rightly so, Caesars Entertainment is bumping up resort fees at four mid-Strip casinos: Harrah’s, Flamingo, Linq and Bally’s.

resort fees

For shame, already.

The resort fees at these casinos will go up to $41.95 a night. That’s $37 a night (currently $35), plus tax. Yes, you’re taxed on resort fees, to make them extra fun.

The resort fee increase goes into effect on March 3, 2020.

Resort fees don’t apply to Diamond or Seven Stars loyalty club members, as that “perk” is included in their tier benefits.

No resort fees rally

That time Caesars Entertainment used “no resort fees” as a marketing tool. It seemed like a good idea a the time.

So, about that memo.

See, visitation to Las Vegas has been flat for two years now. This has been caused by a number of factors, including the legalization of gambling across the country.

What casinos don’t seem to get, though, is people are also not visiting because they’re angry. They’re frustrated by parking fees, CNF charges, venue fees and $20 minibar bottles of Fiji water (looking at you, Aria).

Accurate or not, to many, the perception of Las Vegas has shifted from a value destination to a nickel-and-diming destination.

Where there have been glimmers of hope, including Wynn and Encore eliminating paid parking, most casinos don’t seem to realize their short-term decisions will hurt Las Vegas in the long run.

It’s time to make Vegas a value again. It’s also time for us to share this, again.

make Vegas a value

We made this. It should be a thing.

There are still a lot of great values in Vegas, you just have to know where to look. Our totally unbiased recommendation is read more Las Vegas blogs.

 

Hard Rock Las Vegas Closes for Renovation and Rebrand

It’s the end of an era. Hard Rock Las Vegas hotel-casino closed on Feb. 3, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

Hard Rock will remain closed for renovations and will re-open as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in Nov. 2020.

We stopped by to say farewell to Hard Rock, a Vegas fixture since it opened on March 9, 1995.

Hard Rock hotel closed

The ceremonial lock and chain seal the deal. Dobs on one of those handles.

Virgin Hotels and a group of investors led by JC Hospitality purchased the Hard Rock in 2018.

By the time Hard Rock closed, it’s table games had been shut down (at 3:00 a.m. the night before), but a few stragglers were still playing slots.

The casino’s restaurants and retail shops were already packed up or in the process of doing so. Some will be back (MB Steak and Pizza Forte), some will not (Pink Taco and Mr. Lucky’s).

Hard Rock closed

Adios, Pink Taco.

It was surreal making the rounds at Hard Rock as it closed, and we experienced what others have, a flood of memories from this casino that at one time was one of the hottest spots in town.

Hard Rock closed

Whenever a craps pit closes in Las Vegas, an angel loses its hymen. Or something.

We get a lot of questions about the music memorabilia at Hard Rock. Thousands of pieces were part of the purchase. Some of the memorabilia has been sold off, some is going into storage, some has been donated to charity and it’s expected some will return in a retail shop at Virgin.

We also scooped the fact there will be a new hotel tower built as part of Virgin, with a Hard Rock presence, so expect to see memorabilia in that new offering as well.

Hard Rock closed

We’re not crying, you’re crying.

Now, all eyes will be on Virgin Hotels.

Estimates put the cost of the rebrand to Virgin at about $200 million.

The Virgin Las Vegas renderings so far have been pretty sweet. The new look and feel has been described as “modern desert resort oasis.”

Hard Rock closed

One last look.

Virgin will have 1,504 rooms and suites (called “chambers” in Virginland), as well as a 60,000-square-foot casino, new restaurants and 130,000-square-feet of meeting space.

As we were the first to share, because you expect nothing less, the casino at Virgin will be managed by Mohegan Gaming.

Hard Rock closed

Iconic wasn’t paying the bills. Next up, Virgin.

Because we are a badass, as Hard Rock was closing, we snagged an interview with the CEO of JC Hospitality, Richard “Boz” Bosworth.

As you listen, at 4:16, you’ll hear the very last song ever played on the P.A. at Hard Rock Las Vegas.

 

For posterity: The last song ever played at Hard Rock was “Trouble” by Coldplay.

Hard Rock

Thank you, Hard Rock, for a quarter century of party.

Enjoy some of the last photos ever taken inside Hard Rock Las Vegas, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay Sold for $4.6 Billion

MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay have been sold for $4.6 billion. Which is only news to you if you don’t read headlines, but whatever.

According to a news release, MGM Growth Properties (MGP) and Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT) will co-own the resorts. MGP will own 50.1% of the joint venture, and Blackstone will own 49.9%. Blackstone also owns Cosmopolitan.

Yeah, not exactly sexy, but news is news.

Mandalay Bay

Customers won’t notice any changes at Mandalay Bay, so don’t freak out.

The bottom line is this deal is similar to the recent sale of Bellagio in that MGM Resorts will continue to operate the resorts.

The sale of MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay are part of a larger “asset light” strategy on the part of MGM Resorts. It also seems to be part of a larger “boring us to death” strategy involving REITs, lots of initialisms and companies paying themselves rent.

MGM Resorts’ initial annual rent will be $292 million. Which shouldn’t be a big deal until the recession hits, then everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

MGM Grand

MGM Grand is the green one.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Checking In on Downtown Grand’s New Hotel Tower

It’s been a minute since we shared photos of Downtown Grand’s new hotel tower, so consider this that.

Downtown Grand construction

We’re calling it topped off.

The new tower is set to open in mid-2020, and will have seven guest room floors, adding 495 new rooms to the downtown hotel-casino.

The 495 new rooms will include 405 standard rooms, 67 studio units, 20 one-bedroom suites and three presidential suites. Guests will be able to recognize the presidential suites immediately because their quality will be unimpeachable.

Downtown Grand construction

Downtown Grand says it’s known for its “industrial chic aura.” We enjoy visiting, anyway.

The new Downtown Grand tower is being build where the hotel’s valet parking was once located.┬áConstruction began about a year ago.

The new tower will connect to Downtown Grand on the casino and pool levels.

While Downtown Grand’s casino has struggled since the resort opened in Oct. 2013, its hotel business is said to be stronger, so the owners are clearly playing to the resort’s strengths in an attempt to drive more room revenue.

Downtown Grand tower

The views won’t win any awards, but Downtown Grand’s rooms are some of the best downtown and quieter than those along Fremont Street, as is the casino.

Downtown Grand, formerly Lady Luck, is owned by CIM Group and operated by Fifth Street Gaming.

While we’re on the subject of Downtown Grand, we recently spoiled the surprise the hotel will be getting a new restaurant, Hot N Juicy Crawfish.┬áNo, the new restaurant hasn’t yet been announced yet, that’s just how we roll.

Hot N Juicy Downtown Grand

Interesting how “hot” gets top billing. “Juicy” needs a better agent.

The Louisiana-style seafood restaurant will move into the space previously home to Commissary After Dark and the short-lived Downtown Underground eSports Lounge.

We’ll keep an eye on the construction at Downtown Grand, so check back for further updates whenever you’re done skimming stories on blogs where you don’t even bother to read the last sentence. Rude.

Circa Resort Construction is Halfway to Completion

Circa Las Vegas has made impressive progress during its first year of construction, and we’ve got a look at the current state of the new hotel-casino downtown.

The $1.2 billion Circa is expected to open in December 2020. The project broke ground on February 19, 2019.

Circa Las Vegas construction

Downtown’s about to get some new shiny.

Here’s an amazing fun fact about Circa: Since Oct. 3, 2019, Circa has been adding a floor per week.

The 44-story, 500-foot-tall Circa will eventually have 777 rooms, but will open with closer to 500 rooms, plus 71 suites. The final mix of rooms and suites will be based upon demand.

Among the new resort’s features will be what’s billed as the “world’s largest sports book.” Gird your loins, Westgate.

Here’s a look at the space where the sports book will reside when it slides into home. Or something.

Circa sports book

They’ll probably spruce it up a bit before opening day.

The three-level Circa sports book, expected to cost about $20 million, will have a 78 million pixel high-definition screen.

Here’s a rendering of the finished product for comparison purposes, reversed angle from the perspective above.

Circa Las Vegas

Consider it spruced.

The jewel of Circa will be its rooftop pool complex, with six pools open 365 days a year. It’s projected the pools will be able to serve about 4,000 people a day.

The video screen at the pool will have 14 million pixels.

Here’s the owner of Circa, Derek Stevens, showing off his baby. Stevens and his brother Greg also own The D and Golden Gate.

Circa Las Vegas Derek Stevens

We were the first to quote Derek Stevens as saying, “Downtown is under-pooled.” He’s determined to remedy that.

Here’s the rendering of what the pool deck will look like when it’s completed.

Circa Las Vegas

Good luck escaping the sports at Circa.

It was a blast being among the first to walk around the future Circa casino, where we fully anticipate making regular donations.

Circa will have 1,350 slot machines and 49 table games.

Here’s a “before” shot of Circa’s casino!

Circa Las Vegas casino

Savsies on Wheel of Fortune.

During our tour, we spotted an area we’re pretty sure will be the home of Vegas Vickie upon her much-anticipated return to Fremont Street. She is set to be a featured part of Circa’s
lobby.

Circa

The Circa lobby will have a moon roof.

From what we can tell, the Vegas Vickie sign is so tall (40 feet), she’ll actually extend beyond the ceiling of the casino, protruding through an opening in the ceiling.

We couldn’t help but create this weak and entirely speculative image of where Vegas Vickie might go at Circa.

Vegas Vickie Circa

When we asked a friend at Circa which way Vickie’s leg will go, the reply was, “We don’t know.” If they don’t know, we sure as hell don’t.

Our mole got some sweets shots of Vegas Vickie during her renovation at Yesco Signs. She’s got a fresh coat of paint!

Vegas Vickie renovation

If you love classic Vegas signs, this photo gives a whole new meaning to “halfway to completion.”

Across the street from Circa is another key element of the project, deemed Garage Mahal.

The nine-story Garage Mahal structure will hold about 1,200 vehicles, but the big selling point is it’s the first parking garage in Las Vegas to be built around catering to rideshare services like Lyft and Uber.

Garage Mahal

In Persian, “Mahal” means mansion or palace. Because writing photo captions is hard.

More fun facts: More than 10.75 million pounds of rebar (emphasis on “bar,” because Vegas) have been installed at Circa to-date, as well as 12.2 million pounds of structural steel (emphasis on “pounds,” because you know how we are).

Circa is set to announce more about its bars and five restaurants in the next couple of months. Let’s just say the mix of cuisines will augment the already popular options at The D. Hint: Think “east,” both “coast” and “far.”

We haven’t heard much about non-sports entertainment at Circa, although a stage production called “Circa du Soleil” would have been absolute gold, marketingwise.

How is Circa coming along so quickly? Credit has to go to the stellar efforts of Steelman Partners (architecture and design), McCarthy Building Companies (general contractor) and Tre Builders (construction manager).

Oh, and the construction folks, of course. The total number of construction workers on Circa and Garage Mahal is about 600. Note: Safety vests are hawt. Are we right, ladies?

Circa

Oh, like we were going to write this entire story without a single use of the word “erection”? Do you know this blog at all?

Disclosure: We work in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience as our day job, and The D and Golden Gate are member casinos of that organization. Our opinions are our own.

Update (1/7/20): The first windows have been put into place at Circa.

Circa windows

No panes, no gain.

Enjoy a few more photos of Circa’s construction, several of which are accidentally in focus.

Update (1/14/20): On Jan. 14, 2020, the pedestrian bridge between Circa and Garage Mahal appeared overnight, literally.

Circa

Overnight Bridge would be a decent band name.