Last Saturday, Las Vegas journalist and former Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach tweeted:
Has a major off Strip hotel just sold for $400million? Digging for details
— Robin Leach (@Robin_Leach) October 4, 2014
No indication as to which hotel Leach was referring to came to light until Wednesday, when 2+2 user KKAnderson began a thread on the site’s News, Views, and Gossip forum stating that he “was just advised by a confidential employee that the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas will be closing.”
KKAnderson elaborates that the Rio’s employees were notified of the closure in late-September and advised to transfer elsewhere within the Caesars conglomerate.
Shortly after KKAnderson’s bold proclamation, a tidal wave of speculation among prominent members of the poker media ensued on Twitter, culminating in Chris Grove including the rumor in his weekday newsletter, OPR Quick Take.
Should the rumor be true it would hail the end of the WSOP’s 10-year run at the Brazilian-themed resort. But that’s a big if.
Do the rumors hold any weight?
At this point it’s difficult to determine. On one side of the coin, Rio sales talk has been circulating around the Internet for years, indicating that owner Caesars Entertainment has a vested interest in unloading the casino.
Why, just last year PokerStars executive Eric Hollreiser confirmed that Caesars Entertainment made the online poker giant an offer to purchase “certain assets,” which included the Rio. The offer was promptly declined.
Furthermore, Caesars’ debt, which last I heard currently sits at $24.2 billion, is the stuff of legends. It would certainly not be unfathomable that Caesars would want to sell a rotting, outdated, non-strip casino, and if that didn’t work out, shutter its doors. After all, the company took little issue shutting down the antiquated Showboat in Atlantic City last September, largely in an attempt to reduce internal competition among its own properties.
Even still, the idea that the house of the WSOP will be here today, gone tomorrow seems a bit far fetched. The 2+2 rumor states that the Rio’s employees were informed about the transition in late-September. There isn’t a non-disclosure agreement in the world that would have prevented the news from breaking by now. My two cents.
Furthermore, the hotel recently installed a VooDoo ZipLine connecting the two towers. And to top things off, it’s currently accepting reservations up to one year in advance.
At the time of this writing, I could only find two accounts that something is up at the Rio. One is from an alleged employee who claims the casino is “done” in thirty days. The other from the mysterious Privateworld (is he Viffer, Johnny “World” Hennigan, some random poker hack?) who states, “I only know that some upper management employees were transferred to other hotels. Did not hear why.” That’s hardly a confirmation.
And so expect speculation to continue until official word breaks (if it does) regarding Caesars’ plans for the Rio.
Should the Rio close, what happens to the WSOP?
Short answer: it moves.
Long answer: In the most likely scenario, the WSOP would be shipped off to another Caesars Entertainment property. If I had to guess that property would be Planet Hollywood. Located on the east side of the strip and boasting a gigantic grand ballroom, PH has the space, allure and name recognition to draw the crowds.
Another option is to host the WSOP at Caesars’ flagship casino. And why not? Caesars has massive space, and there would no longer be any questions regarding who owns the WSOP brand. Seems like a win-win.
A third option is to spread out the WSOP across multiple Caesars properties. While this solution would certainly alleviate some of the long bathroom and restaurant lines, it presents other hurdles. Namely, players would no longer associate the WSOP with one casino, which in a sense devalues the brand.
Maybe I’m in a minority here, but part of the fun of the WSOP is experiencing first hand the enormity of poker’s largest annual tournament event. Spread the action across half a dozen convention centers, and the WSOP’s “Wow” factor just wouldn’t be as prevalent. It would also present an inconvenience to players, many of whom have grown accustomed to staying at the same hotel where the WSOP tournaments are located.
There are plenty of players and poker media personnel who already advocate moving the WSOP onto the Strip, regardless of what happens to the Rio, which leads me to believe that regardless of whether the casino remains under Caesars watchful eye, is sold or shut down, it will eventually be moving elsewhere.
But in either case, rest easy knowing that the WSOP has a future, and that future is probably bright.