Late Thursday night, Vital Vegas tweeted a rumor that the World Series of Poker will move from its home at the Rio to the new Caesars Forum Convention Center when it opens on the Strip in 2020. The reason? According to Vital Vegas, a sale of the Rio is progressing.
You know those persistent rumors of Rio sale? Next level chatter happening, Caesars seriously shopping this fixer-upper.
— Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) August 3, 2018
However, a Caesars spokesperson flatly denied the rumor about the WSOP this morning.
In an email to USPoker, the spokesperson wrote:
“We have had no discussions to move the WSOP. We consider the Rio its home for the foreseeable future.”
For its part, Vital Vegas stuck to its guns in subsequent tweets. The website has accurately predicted events in the past, but the concrete denial from Caesars casts this particular prediction in doubt.
However, it got us thinking about the possibility of such a move.
The pros of a WSOP move away from Rio
Since 2005, the Rio All-Suites Casino and Hotel has hosted the series and seen poker through its most explosive growth period. However, a move to the Strip would make sense for several reasons.
The Rio has always been something of an odd choice to host the marquee event for poker players. The off-Strip casino became the home of the WSOP after Caesars (well, Harrah’s) purchased Binion’s Horseshoe.
However, the Rio has never been a crown jewel in the Caesars family of casinos. It seems more appropriate for such an important event to be center stage.
The new Caesars Forum would be exactly that location. A sparkling $375-million building with 300,000 square feet of meeting space would be a perfect place to compete at the highest level of poker.
The Caesars Forum is under construction behind Harrah’s, the Linq, and the Flamingo. The facility will be accessible via both car and walkways from those three properties.
Having the World Series of Poker in the middle of the Strip is guaranteed to increase accessibility for the millions of people who visit Las Vegas each year. The prospect of taking a taxi or one of the free shuttles from the Strip to the somewhat remote Rio drives away more casual players and fans.
Those casual players and fans could potentially spark a new phase of development for the WSOP. A WSOP accessible to foot traffic would increase player numbers and player pools simply by virtue of people dropping by to see the show.
The presence of the WSOP next to those three casinos would also increase their value immensely. Those three casinos have long been trouble spots for Caesars.
However, the WSOP occurring next door would make those rooms incredibly valuable real estate. This effect would be particularly noticeable during the summer months.
The cons of a WSOP move away from Rio
Of course, there are good reasons for the WSOP to stay put, as well. There’s a reason that the concept drew such an unequivocal denial.
A waste of convention space
The biggest reason that Caesars would not move from the Rio would be that a new convention center is far more valuable in its intended purpose. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Caesars has already booked more than $70 million in convention business for a building that won’t exist for another two years.
A convention center in the heart of the Strip can command top dollar. Also, the revitalization of the three properties mentioned above — Harrah’s, the Linq, and Flamingo — may benefit even more greatly than if the WSOP moved in.
In fact, conventions at the Forum would run year-round. Potentially, all three casinos would see a near-permanent uptick in business if they just stood pat.
Devaluation of the Rio
Moving the WSOP away from the Rio would also have a deleterious effect on the Rio itself.
Most off-Strip casinos struggle to stand out from the crowd. Unless they establish themselves as a place for locals, off-Strip locations have to maintain some sort of novelty for tourists to make the trip.
Unlike a property like Hard Rock or Hooters, there’s nothing that truly stands out about the Rio aside from its position as home of the WSOP. In fact, it’s likely that the move in 2005 was Caesars’s effort to distinguish one of its lesser casinos.
Holding the WSOP at a Strip location would create incredible logistical nightmares for the entire area. The increased traffic, both foot and car, would congest the area even further.
There would also be ongoing complaints about parking fees and hotel rooms. Every nearby casino would find itself swarmed with poker players, who are traditionally a lower-profit group for gambling establishments.
There would also be an increased need for staff and security. With so much activity on the Strip, the chance of criminals preying on WSOP players would be a problem.
We cannot say for sure which option we prefer. However, for the time being, the WSOP appears to be staying put.
There’s no denying that the 2019 World Series of Poker will proceed from the Rio. Beyond that, you never know what might happen in Vegas.