Rumored Riviera Sale to LVCVA Makes Sense

John Mehaffey February 13, 2015

There are multiple reports in the local media that Riviera Las Vegas will be sold and imploded. Reports originated on Twitter and were published by Vital Vegas and the Las Vegas Advisor.

The buyer is the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), according to these reports. This is the same group that owns the Las Vegas Convention Center.

An official announcement is expected on February 17. USPoker reached out to Riviera Las Vegas and the LVCVA for comment. We did not receive a response.

New Reports State Implosion by June

There are new reports that suggest Riviera would be imploded in June. This would require the property sale to be contracted in the next few weeks. Federal law requires the workers at Riviera receive 60 days of notice of the closure, meaning the earliest the property could feasibly cease operations is late April or early May.

The local CBS station has gone so far as to say the story has been confirmed.  It is a done deal, according to that report, although no official announcement has been made.

The close of the sale to LVCVA would point towards an almost immediately closure.  The convention group cannot operate a gaming business.

Why the Riviera Closure Makes Sense

The Riviera is the oldest casino on the Las Vegas Strip that operates within some of its original buildings. It will turn 60 years old on April 20, 2015.

The casino emerged from bankruptcy in November 2010, the third in its history. The former creditors took over the casino. A Colorado Riviera property was sold to generate operating cash for the Las Vegas resort.  Analysts were bearish about the casino’s ability to ever become profitable, even after shedding most of its debt, citing its poor location and investment needed to refurbish the property.

It took less than two years for Riviera to default on its credit agreements.  The accountant firm expressed at the time its “doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern,” meaning the company’s financial condition was dire.  This created a unique situation as the creditors were also the equity owners due to the 2010 restructuring.  All equity in the public traded company was wiped out in the bankruptcy.

The casino continued to lose money due to its poor location. Four casinos within walking distance of Riviera closed during the past decade. This devastated foot traffic, leaving only Circus Circus and LVH/Westgate within close proximity.

Riviera has done little to improve its property since the bankruptcy. The same food options remain, although some have different names. A food court consisting of few recognizable names is located on the property. Most of the entertainment acts are not well known to visitors.

The casino has walled off much of its gaming floor. One section in the rear of the property that once hosted slot machines is now covered with temporary walls. Another became a lounge. A separate area that once hosted high limit slots and a host office is inaccessible.

The Riviera table game selection has declined dramatically in the past few years. An Asian table games pit and a party pit were removed from the casino floor. Bottoms Up Blackjack, a face up version of the game, was also uninstalled. Riviera was the only place in Las Vegas that spread it.

An attempt at the only bingo room on the Strip failed.  It has installed few new machines in recent years.

Riviera has resorted to spreading $1 blackjack tables as a gimmick.  Sahara did the same before its demise.

Why LVCVA Makes Sense as Buyer

The Las Vegas Convention Center announced an expansion late last year. It cannot accomplish that on the property that already hosts the convention center. The LVCVA owns land adjacent to Riviera on Paradise Road that is currently used as surface parking, a massive waste considering the land value.

Assembling these properties could created a mega convention complex.  Access and connectivity could be created through a tram or other internal transportation systems.

Riviera would add more adjacent property. It would also give the LVCVA frontage on Las Vegas Blvd.
The LVCVA has purchased and attempted to acquire land in the area of Convention Center Drive for years. Some of this land may be set aside for the Las Vegas Global Business District.

It Could Spur Stalled Development

The owner of the former Clarion property that was imploded this week is betting big on the area. Lorenzo Doumani, the developer of the property now known as 305CCD, “envisions a tower so high he can look down on Wynn and Encore from its rooftop.”

There are three stalled developments in the area of Riviera. The former Stardust property is owned by Genting. This property is slated to become Resorts World. That property has been vacant since Stardust closed in 2005.

Another project on the former New Frontier property is in the early planning stages. Fontainebleau Las Vegas is 70 percent completed and overshadows Riviera. It has been mothballed since 2008. This property was purchased by Carl Icahn. He has not given any indication what his plans are.

Circus Circus, SLS Las Vegas and Westgate would also benefit from the Las Vegas Convention Center expanding into the Riviera Las Vegas footprint.

Last of an Era

Riviera is an old relic that is out of place in the new Las Vegas business model. It is the last from its time period. That is what gives it charm. When Las Vegas loses Riviera, it will signal the end of an era.

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