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The Rio Sells for $516.3 Million, Caesars Retains WSOP Ownership

The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino has been sold.

It's official: Caesars Entertainment's property the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino has been sold for $516.3 million to New York-based real estate company Imperial Companies, announced in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Monday.

“This deal allows Caesars Entertainment to focus our resources on strengthening our attractive portfolio of recently renovated Strip properties and is expected to result in incremental (cash flow) at those properties,” CEO of Caesars Entertainment Tony Rodio said in a statement announcing the deal.

"While hosting rights to WSOP will remain with Caesars, there are no answers to other future-looking questions related to Rio or WSOP."

As part of the deal, Caesars will continue to operate the off-strip casino property for at least two years, paying $45 million per year for rent in a lease-back agreement, according to CDC Gaming Reports. The Rio will also remain part of the Caesars Rewards customer loyalty program while Caesars maintains operations, and will continue to play host to the WSOP for the time being.

“The retention of the World Series of Poker and retention of Caesars Rewards customers are all factors that make this a valuable transaction for Caesars,” Rodio said in his statement.

Future of the WSOP

The news of the Rio's sale seems to change this little for the time being. The WSOP will not be changing hands as part of the deal, as Caesars retains ownership of the most prestigious and longest-running poker festival in the world. As reported by PokerNews last week, the deal should not change the long-time location of the World Series of Poker, at least not for 2020. We reached out to WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky to confirm.

"The sale of Rio is expected to close by the end of the year," said Palansky. "Caesars will continue to operate Rio for at least two years, and will remain part of the Caesars Rewards network during this period. Additionally, WSOP will be hosted at Rio in 2020. While hosting rights to WSOP will remain with Caesars, there are no answers to other future-looking questions related to Rio or WSOP."

“The retention of the World Series of Poker and retention of Caesars Rewards customers are all factors that make this a valuable transaction for Caesars.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that written into the contract, Imperial will have the option to pay Caesars $7 million to "extend the lease under similar terms for a third year and, at the request of the buyer, Caesars may continue to manage the Rio or provide transition services to Imperial." What that would mean for the WSOP would be a question for a future date.

Rumors to Rest

You may recall that Caesars was acquired by Reno-based Eldorado Resorts Inc. back in June, in a deal worth $17.3 billion that saw the two casino brands merge into the largest gaming company in the U.S.

That left rumors surrounding the Rio's future ownership, potential demolition and the eventual re-location of the World Series of Poker yet unresolved.

The sale of the Brazil-themed hotel-casino was foreshadowed in June by Eldorado CEO Thomas Reeg when he told investors that he expected one or two of Caesars' nine Las Vegas properties to be sold as part of their deal.

“It should reduce leverage and exposure to the Las Vegas market, both of which are stated goals of Eldorado.”

The Rio opened in January 1990 west of Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas strip, and is now home to 2,522 suites. In 1998, the property was sold for around $880 million to Harrah's Entertainment, which would later become Caesars Entertainment. For 15 years, the Rio has played host to the WSOP.

Jefferies gaming analyst David Katz called the sale “both a strategic and financial positive” for Caesars and Eldorado, in a research note to investors, as reported by CDC Gaming Reports. “It should reduce leverage and exposure to the Las Vegas market, both of which are stated goals of Eldorado,” Katz said.

The Rio's buyer, Imperial Companies, founded in 2014 by Eric Birnbaum and Michael Fascitelli is "a vertically integrated real estate investment, development and management platform focused primarily on mixed-use, residential, hospitality assets across all major US markets," according to the company's website.

Pending shareholder and regulatory approval, the sale of the Rio should be closed prior to the planned finalization of the Caesars-Eldorado merger expected in Spring 2020. It appears that the Rio rumors can now be put to rest — at least until we get through another WSOP.

Image courtesy of www.flickr.com/Matt Kieffer

Sharelines
  • The Rio goes for $516.3 million to New-York based real estate business, Imperial Companies.

  • Palansky: "Hosting rights to WSOP will remain with Caesars."

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