Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

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.

Look for a Bally’s Rebrand to Horseshoe Las Vegas

Gird your spectacles, there are some twists and turns ahead.

Not too long ago, Caesars Entertainment, owner of Bally’s Las Vegas resort, sold its Bally’s brand to another company, Twin River Worldwide Holdings.

Twin Rivers is now Bally’s Corporation.

We good so far?

The problem is Las Vegas still has a Bally’s casino, and it’s not part of Bally’s.

That look on your face is completely appropriate. Deep breaths.

Bally's Las Vegas

This Bally’s sign doesn’t exist anymore. We told you there would be “twists and turns.”

The solution to this awkward situation: Caesars Entertainment is rumored to be rebranding its Bally’s casino to Horseshoe Las Vegas.

We asked Caesars Entertainment about this rumor, and were told they don’t respond to rumors. Which was technically a response, but let’s not get bogged down with details.

We love the Horseshoe brand because it’s a throwback to an old-timey Vegas when men were men, women were women and cheaters knew if they were caught their hands would be broken, the way Mother Nature intended.

Binion’s used to be Binion’s Horseshoe.

Caesars Entertainment acquired the Horseshoe brand back when it was still called Harrah’s Entertainment.

We warned you to gird.

Horseshoe

Never hang a horseshoe with the ends pointing down. All the good luck will fall out.

Caesars (then Harrah’s) took the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, then sold Binion’s off.

Which brings us full circle to Bally’s.

We refuse to further complicate this saga by mentioning the fact there’s a Bally Entertainment (formerly Bally Manufacturing) that makes slot machines and has nothing to do with Bally’s (formerly Twin River) or Bally’s (the Caesars Entertainment casino).

We also won’t get into the fact Bally’s was once MGM Grand. It’s awkward.

It’s worth noting we shared some chatter back in June 2019 that Bally’s would at some point end up the location of the World Series of Poker (it’s current home, the Rio, was sold in 2019). How awesome would it be to have the World Series of Poker at the Horseshoe. Poker fan and Vegas historian brains would ‘splode.

So, when is Caesars Entertainment likely to rebrand Bally’s? Who knows? We are not a mind reader. It’s an unconfirmed rumor. We first heard the rumor from our friends at the 360 Vegas podcast, but have since heard it from two independent sources.

Interestingly, Twin River (now Bally’s) is rumored to be poking around in Las Vegas to potentially buy a Strip casino. We don’t get the feeling it will be Bally’s, ironically.

Bally's lobby lounge

This lounge at Bally’s is sort of horseshoe-shaped. Coincidence?

It would be awesome to see Bally’s become Horseshoe. Bally’s never really had all that much character, but Horseshoe is charming and kind of represents value and a good gamble. The Strip could use a good gamble.

There are currently five Horseshoe casinos: Horseshoe Baltimore, Horseshoe Hammond, Horseshoe Bossier City, Horseshoe Council Bluffs and Horseshoe Tunica. The one in Las Vegas will be the best Horseshoe, because Las Vegas.

We’ll let you know if we hear more about Horseshoe Las Vegas becoming a thing.

Of course, all bets are off if Caesars Entertainment sells Bally’s. One of the cool things about buying a casino is you get to name it. Well, that and the super quick cocktail service.

In the meantime, you can see some of the Horseshoe signage at the Neon Museum downtown.

Binion's Horseshoe sign

Binion’s didn’t listen to our advice about hanging a horseshoe right side up. Which might explain why it’s not Binion’s Horseshoe anymore.

We’ve said it many time, but the only constant in Las Vegas is change. That, and drunk couples fighting and ugly crying in public. But mostly change.

Rio to Be Remodeled, Towers Will Get Hyatt Brands

The new owner of Rio casino, Dreamscape, is partnering with Hyatt Hotels, and the underwhelm is palpable.

Dreamscape announced it signed a deal with Hyatt that involves a major renovation as well as rebranding its hotel towers, but the resort will keep the Rio name.

Rio Las Vegas casino

Rio is tired of being everyone’s punching bag. We could also have ended that sentence with “tired.”

Dreamscape acquired Rio from Caesars Entertainment for $516.3 million in December 2019.

One hotel tower, presumably Masquerade Tower, will have 1,501 rooms and be rebranded Hyatt Regency.

Beyond that, Rio will be rebranded into “multiple Hyatt full-service brand flags.”

There are a metric hell-ton of Hyatt brands to choose from for a rebrand.

So, it’s a lot like what’s happening at Resorts World, with three “flags” operating under one umbrella. In the case of Resorts World, it’s three Hilton brands: Hilton, Conrad and Crockfords.

Cosmo has Marriott. Virgin has Hilton. All the cool kids are doing it.

Rio Las Vegas sign

Whatever you do, Dreamscape, don’t muck with the sign. Unless you’re fixing it, then muck away.

On the bright side, the resort’s “revitalization” will include all public spaces, including the casino, retail, bars and restaurants, spa and pool complex.

The renovation and rebrands will happen in phases.

It’s been painful to watch the slow decline of Rio. Dreamscape’s plans at least provide a glimmer of hope the resort could be a thing again.

Still, one need only look across the street to Palms to see where big investments and plans have failed to pan out. Palms has yet to reopen since closing in March 2020, and our sources say it won’t reopen again under its current ownership, Station Casinos.

Carnival World Buffet

For a time, this was the bomb. Or just bomb. We are a blog, not an Urban Dictionary.

Off-Strip resorts are a tricky business, and it remains to be seen if Dreamscape’s plans are, indeed, its plans (so many juicy rumors), and whether those dreams fulfilled could mean a chance at success for our beloved and beleaguered Rio.

For now, we’re reserving judgment on where all this could go. At least until Dreamscape removes the apostrophe in “Caesar’s Palace” on its Web site. They might have deep pockets, but they have a lot to learn about Las Vegas. We’ll wait.

Virgin Reveals Its Rejuvenated Opening

The construction walls are down outside Virgin, and we’ve got a peek at what’s in store when the new resort opens at 6:00 p.m. on March 25, 2021.

The fence came down sans hoopla, now those anxiously awaiting the debut of Virgin can get a clear look at how far the casino has come since it was Hard Rock.

Virgin entrance

It’s all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out.

Virgin’s signage is going full bore, promoting its new offerings and touting the fact the resort will open with no resort fees.

Virgin no resort fees

One of the greatest phrases ever invented: No resort fees.

Here’s another pic of the shiny new porte-cochere (fancy talk for driveway) at Virgin Las Vegas. Technically, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Which is awkward, but we’re so excited about having a new casino in Las Vegas, we’ll give it a pass.

Virgin porte cochere

Rumor has it spaces in the parking lot won’t be numbered, but lettered. Good luck finding the G spot.

One more shot of the Virgin entrance for posterity. We suspect it’s the last time the surface parking lot will be empty at Virgin.

Virgin Las Vegas

Fun game: Find the suspicious security guard.

The only other thing we’d add is Virgin Las Vegas is really close to the airport (at the corner of Harmon and Paradise).

The planes fly so close, you can almost reach up and scratch their bellies. Or something.

Virgin sign

Just spit-balling here, but Virgin should sell “flight path view” room upgrades for all the aviation nerds.

Check out our exclusive pics of some Virgin venues, and get all the scoop on Virgin’s new bars and restaurants. Emphasis on bars.

The opening of Virgin Las Vegas is close at hand, and we can wait to get inside her.

Luxor Shows Off Pyramid Tower Room Renovations

Luxor thinks a new batch of renovated rooms will be a draw for customers. They may have a point.

We’re pretty sure you need to circle back to read that first paragraph again. We’ll wait.

Because Luxor is in the shape of a pyramid.

We don’t have all day, so here’s a photo of one of Luxor’s overhauled Pyramid Tower rooms, the Pyramid King.

Luxor room reservation

Luxor opened on Oct. 13, 1993, because people were much less superstitious in 1993.

The Pyramid tower is the 30-story pointy one. Luxor also has twin 22-story towers. They’re referred to as “ziggurat towers,” but because we have no idea what that means, we’re just going to breeze right by it.

The remodeled Pyramid Tower rooms will be available for stays starting in mid-April.

Here’s another room.

Luxor room renovation

This is the Pyramid Two Queen room. In poker, a pair of queens are called “ladies.”

Here’s a fun fact: No hotel room window in the history of Las Vegas has ever had the view from that window.

There are lots of reasons for that, including the fact many views just suck.

Mostly, though, it’s because the contrast between the light level in the room (artificial) and outside (sunlight) is so great, either the room ends up being too dark or outside is washed out. Even with HDR (high dynamic range) software, photographers and graphic designers swap out what’s in the window with a better resolution image to enhance the appeal of the room.

Look, this whole story is about a couple of hotel rooms, so we needed to pad it a little to keep the photos from slapping together.

Oh, look, a renovated bathroom!

Luxor

In ancient Egypt, a toilet was basically a stool with a hole in it. A container with sand was placed underneath. Classy.

The news release about the renovated rooms says, “Luxor’s new Pyramid King and Pyramid Two Queen guest rooms are inspired by Moroccan and North African cultures with bold splashes of orange and blue, with brilliant gold accents.”

Wild coincidence: The name of our band in high school was The Bold Splashes.

You can see all the room types on Luxor’s official Web site. If you decide to book, don’t bother calling. We were on hold 20 minutes, no luck speaking to anyone. The hotels haven’t really staffed back up based upon increasing demand. Give it a minute.

Luxor’s room remodel is ongoing, and will continue through the summer. Eventually, all 1,715 standard king and queen rooms will get a facelift.

Luxor is still about as iconic as it gets in Las Vegas, despite the fact much of the Egyptian theming has been removed inside.

The Luxor beam is only half as bright as when the hotel opened (part cost-cutting, but also it was causing too many crow’s feet due to all the squinting), but got some fancy LED light strips along the pyramid’s edges not too long ago.

It’s great to see MGM Resorts investing in a refresh of its Pyramid Tower rooms, and we are big fans of the color scheme.

Insert pyramid scheme joke here. Hey, we can’t do everything for you.

Update (3/23/21): Wow, this got awkward. Thanks to our alert readers who pointed out Luxor’s room renovations feature hand-me-down furniture from Bellagio.

Luxor hand-me-downs

Chairs, lamps, dressers. At least you tried, Luxor.