Las Vegas Strip’s Big, Blue Eyesore Sells For $600 Million

After buying the Fountainebleau casino in bankruptcy court for $150 million in 2009, Carl Icahn just sold it to real estate firm Witkoff for $600 million.

Yet another casino on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip is changing hands. Granted, it is probably generous to call the building once intended to be the Fountainebleau Resort a casino.

Investors never finished construction on the giant blue building. Problems with nearby condo owners in Turnberry Place and financial struggles during the Great Recession resulted in the project shutting down 2009.

Billionaire Carl Icahn is always on the hunt for a bargain. With that in mind, he bought the unfinished property out of bankruptcy court for $150 million.

Witkoff buys property for $600 million

After years of letting the property sit, Icahn took action earlier this year and put a wrap on the unifnished part of the building.

That was not exactly Icahn’s idea though. Rather, Clark County officials pushed Icahn to wrap the building. Many complained it was an eyesore standing incomplete among a sea of operating Nevada casinos.

Even if the wrap cost him a pretty penny, Icahn certainly profited on this latest sale.

Witkoff paid $600 million for the former Fountainebleau after four months of looking into the investment. The global real estate group is confident they can turn the vacant building into a major Las Vegas competitor.

The Chairman and CEO of Witkoff, Steve Witkoff, spoke highly of the asset in a press release announcing its sale

“2755 Las Vegas Boulevard South is one of the best physical assets in the country, which is one of the reasons we were attracted to it. Furthermore, the resort is ideally located on the Las Vegas Strip, directly across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is in the midst of a $1.4 billion expansion and renovation. At the basis, we acquired a well-designed, structurally sound integrated resort at a significant discount to both replacement cost and the implied public market valuations of comparable Las Vegas Strip resorts. We look forward to applying our industry-leading value-enhancing platform to this property to unlock its true growth potential.”

North end of the Strip is bustling now

After a period of inactivity, the north end of the Las Vegas Strip is bustling these days.

When the SLS Casino completely overhauled the old Sahara Casino in 2014, it hoped to inject some life into that area of the Strip.

Instead, the property sold recently. In fact, the rumor currently is that it will be going back to its old Sahara name.

SLS is not the only property coming up or changing hands. There is also:

  • Paradise Park at Wynn and Encore
  • Resorts World
  • Stratosphere changing ownership to Golden Gaming

People have high hopes for this currently quiet area of the Strip. It will still be a few years before we will know if Witkoff got a casino bargain or not though.

Photo by trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

MGM And Caesars Taking Different Tacts On Terrorism

While some casinos like Caesars are upping security in the wake of terrorism, MGM Resorts is matching employee donations to civil rights organizations.

When it comes to taking a stand, MGM Resorts is putting its money where its mouth is. The Nevada-based casino company recently launched a campaign against hate to raise funds for several civil rights organizations.

MGM matching employee donations to select groups

On Aug. 18, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren emailed all of his employees. His email focused on the recent terrorist incidents in Charlottesville, VA. and Barcelona, Spain. More specifically, he discussed what the MGM family could do to try to prevent these events from happening again.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal received a copy of the email and published pieces of Murren’s remarks, including:

“While hate mongers and white supremacists have a constitutional right to express their views, we must stand strongly in defiance of violence, bigotry and anything that threatens our precious right to equality. You have my commitment that we will vigorously and zealously continue to reject hate speech and hate-based actions in any form.”

Additionally, Murren let employees know the company intended to match employee donations to a list of charitable groups.

ACLU, Anti-Defamation League among places to donate

Certainly the list of charities doing good work related to civil rights causes. However, for practical measures, MGM limited the employee matching to the following groups:

  • NAACP
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Council on American Islamic Relations
  • Asian Pacific American Advocates
  • League of United Latin American Citizens

MGM Resorts owns ten Nevada casinos which employ over 77,000 people, including Aria and Bellagio. The corporate office for the company is also based out of Las Vegas.

Other casinos aware terrorism is an issue

MGM is not the only casino to consider how the terrorism going on elsewhere in the world is impacting its employees in Las Vegas either. However, other companies are taking a more reactive approach to terrorism, while MGM is trying to be proactive and facilitate positive changes in the world.

In May of last year, it was Caesars Entertainment taking on terrorism. Their approach was a little less optimistic than MGM’s though.

Rather, the company adjusted employee training to better prepare for terrorism attacks. That training included better identifying possible explosive devices.

The upgrade in security training came after Las Vegas news outlet 8 News Now discovered ISIS prominently featured Sin City in one of its latest propaganda videos. The hope is if the casino is more proactive with security, potential terrorists will hopefully be more intimidated to try an attack.

So, while some casinos are proactive about protecting themselves from terrorism, MGM would rather try and champion some change, hopefully protecting more than just its employees and customers in the process.

Photo by Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Unibet Qualifying 200 European Players Into Wynn Fall Classic Event

This year’s Wynn Fall Classic will be an international affair thanks to the addition of the European Open event co-hosted by Unibet Open.

This fall the Wynn Fall Classic will return to Las Vegas. This time around, it will have a decidedly more international flair too.

The eight-tournament series runs from Sept. 27 – Oct. 8. It features over $1.3 million in guarantees.

$1,600 Main Event features $500,000 guarantee

The big show of the tournament series is the $1,500 + $100 buy-in Main Event. The event runs features starting days on Friday, Oct.6 and Saturday, Oct. 7. There will be a number of $200 buy-in Super Satellite events at Wynn during the series as well.

This year, Wynn upped the guarantee on the event from $400,000 to $500,000. The half-million mark should not be difficult for the Nevada casino to hit. In 2016, the tournament drew 361 players, generating a $525,165 prize pool.

British pro Tom Middleton defeated that crop of players to pocket $99,000 and the title. He was one of three non-American players at the final table.

Wynn and Unibet partnering for European Open

There were a handful of international players in the field last year, but you can expect more in contention this time around.

The popular live tournament series Unibet Open is traveling across the pond to put on a Las Vegas event. The North American stop kicks off the tour’s tenth season.

The event, called the European Open, runs from Friday, Sept. 29 through Monday, Oct. 2. Like the Main Event, it features two starting days. The buy-in for the event is $1,020 + $80. Players are allowed a single re-entry on each starting day.

The tournament boasts a $400,000 guarantee.

As part of the celebration, Unibet is awarding 200 packages to players on the Unibet online poker room. The Unibet site is open to a number of European countries, including:

  • Great Britain
  • France
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Portugal

Qualifier tournaments to win these Las Vegas packages feature buy-ins as low as €.01.

The prize packages include more than just the buy-in for the event. It also features:

  • Travel expenses
  • Four-night hotel stay
  • Meals
  • Invite to the Welcome Party

Altogether, the package is valued at €3,000.

One player you will see at the Wynn, but probably won’t see in the field is former November Niner Kenny Haalert. The sometimes poker player also has a day job. That day job is as the tournament director for the Unibet Open, so he will be on hand for the action in that capacity:

Wynn Fall Classic prelim schedule

In addition to these two marquee events, the Wynn Fall Classic will also include six smaller buy-in events. One is a seniors event, which kicks off series action on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 11 a.m.

The 50+ crowd can take part in the event for $545 + $55. The tournament features a $60,000 guarantee.

Here is a look at the other prelim events on the Wynn Fall Classic schedule:

  • 9/28 – $360 + $40 No-limit hold’em w/ $50,000 GTD
  • 10/1 – $360 + $40 No-limit hold’em
  • 10/2 – $545 + 55 No-limit hold’em w/ $200K GTD Day 1A
  • 10/3 – $545 + 55 No-limit hold’em w/ $200K GTD Day 1B
  • 10/4 – $545 + 55 No-limit hold’em w/ $200K GTD Day 1C
  • 10/5 – $360 + $40 No-limit hold’em w/ $50,000 GTD
  • 10/8 – $360 + $40 No-limit hold’em

Photo by Michael Gordon / Shutterstock.com

Wynn And Encore Among 19 Casinos Now Charging For Parking

Wynn and Encore are the 18th and 19th Las Vegas casinos to implement paid parking garages since 2015. Now there are a handful of free lots on the Strip.

Thanks to a new decision by Wynn Resorts, there are now 19 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip charging for parking.

MGM Resorts was the first company to pull the trigger on paid parking. Caesars Entertainment and Cosmopolitan followed suit around a year later. Now, Wynn is joining the ranks too.

Wynn and Encore paid parking began August 7

The parking garages at both Wynn Casino and Encore Casino began charging for parking on Aug. 7.

As President of Wynn Las Vegas Maurice Wooden explained in a statement, the parking measure is an attempt to address increased demand in parking once the resort expands.

“On the heels of recent growth announcements at Wynn Las Vegas, including the upcoming opening of Wynn Plaza and the construction of Paradise Park, demand for parking at the resort will continue to increase.”

The new Paradise Park project is a $1.5 billion expansion on the golf course behind Wynn and Encore casinos. The project’s centerpiece is a giant lagoon.

The expansion is unique in that it includes no gaming, just entertainment and hotel ventures.

Parking rates start at $7

The rates for Wynn parking are on par with other parking rates throughout the city. Like many other venues, the first hour is free.

After the first hour, the rates are as follows:

  • One hour: $7
  • Two to four hours: $12
  • Four to 24 hours: $15
  • Each additional 24 hours: $24

Unlike Caesars and MGM before it, Wynn is not delaying charges for Nevada residents. The other companies rolled out parking charges for out-of-towners first. MGM currently charges the same price for all patrons. Caesars properties still allow a discount for locals.

Wynn started charging for valet back in 2015. Those rates start at $15.

Where can you park for free on the Strip?

Those looking for free parking in Las Vegas are increasingly running out of choices, but there are still a few options to choose from.

The following Las Vegas Strip casinos still have free parking:

  • Tropicana
  • TI
  • Palazzo
  • Venetian
  • Planet Hollywood
  • SLS
  • Circus Circus
  • Stratosphere

In fact, TI uses its free parking as a marketing tool. The casino is next to Mirage and located in an area of Las Vegas Blvd. where most other properties charge to park.

While some guests are parking at TI and walking elsewhere, for now it seems like TI management is fine getting a little extra foot traffic by leveraging its parking garage.

Now eyes are on Las Vegas Sands, owners of Venetian and Palazzo. Far and away the largest of the free parking casinos, the properties seem like the next likely culprits to start charging cars.

Currently there are no plans to implement paid parking at Sands properties though. Moreover, Sands owner Sheldon Adelson is often one to buck convention, so it is far from a given they will give in to the latest Nevada casino fad.

PokerGO And Aria Hoping Purple Is The New Black

Aria and PokerGO are teaming up to stream both Poker After Dark and the upcoming Poker Masters, a high roller series with a purple blazer to the winner.

It is probably fair to consider Aria Casino in Las Vegas the unofficial home of streaming channel PokerGO. Sure, the action on PokerGO was all World Series of Poker (WSOP) this summer. However, Aria hosted the Super High Roller Bowl in May.

Plus, the Nevada casino is hosting the return of Poker After Dark in August. There is also a brand-new poker TV tournament series at Aria in September, the Poker Masters.

Poker Masters brings golf concept to poker

The new Poker Masters event will feature five different poker tournaments. All of the events are tied together, however.

Players will earn points based on their finish in each of the events. The player with the most points at the end of the series wins a purple jacket designed by fashion designer Waraire Boswell.

The series consists of four two-day $50,000 buy-in events and a single three-day $100,000 buy-in. The $50,000 event features one re-entry, while the $100,000 event is a freezeout.

Here is the full schedule of Poker Masters events:

September 13 – Event No. 1: $50,000 buy-in
September 14 – Event No. 2: $50,000 buy-in
September 15 – Event No. 3: $50,000 buy-in
September 16 – Event No. 4: $50,000 buy-in
September 18 – Event No. 5: $100,000 buy-in

Event capitalizes on popularity of Aria High Rollers

For the past couple of years, Aria has quietly become the High Roller destination in the United States. The property hosts regular $25,000 and $50,000 buy-in tournaments. These events are frequented by some of the top poker players in the world.

So far, the poker room put on 72 High Roller poker events, including 18 just this summer. Some drew just two tables, while others drew upwards of 30. The small numbers may not be impressive, but the competition was as tough as you were going to find in Vegas this summer.

Tollerene and Koon among confirmed participants

So far, it is unclear exactly who will participate in the event. Poker pros Jason Koon and Ben Tollerene confirmed to PokerGO’s parent site, PokerCentral, that they will play.

It is also fair to assume PokerCentral’s roster of ambassadors will take part as well. Those players include:

  • Daniel Negreanu
  • Brian Rast
  • Phil Hellmuth
  • Maria Ho
  • Tom Marchese
  • Antonio Esfandiari

Every player save for Ho played in the Super High Roller Bowl. Both Esfandiari and Negreanu are also in the line-up for the return of Poker After Dark at Aria on August 7.

The popular duo of Ali Nejad and Nick Schulman will handle Poker After Dark commentary. There is no announcement yet who will be in the booth for Poker Masters though.

Photo by 4kclips / Shutterstock.com

WSOP.com Offering Smorgasbord Of Leaderboards In August

If you’re playing online poker on WSOP.com in Nevada this August, there is a leaderboard for any type of poker player around.

Most of the poker players that flooded Las Vegas this summer are gone now. Even though the live poker scene is quieting down, August will be a good time for online grinders. WSOP.com is offering an array of leaderboard promotions to help keep that bankroll growing after the busy Summer Grind Tour.

Not only does the leaderboard competition keep players motivated, there is also money to win. With so many leaderboards to choose from, there is a little something for everybody too.

Mega Monster MTT leaderboard

The reason the MTT leaderboard sports such an intimidating name is because it offers the most lucrative prizes. The top 20 finishers on this leaderboard each week take home a piece of more than $2,000 in prizes.

Rather than hand out cash, these finishers earn tournament tickets. The 20th place finisher earns one $5 tournament ticket. Meanwhile, the top finisher gets $345 in tournament tickets, broken down as follows:

  • One $200 ticket
  • One $100 ticket
  • Four $10 tickets
  • One $5 ticket

Short-handed leaderboard

WSOP.com is incentivizing players to grab seats at nearly empty tables. The short-handed leaderboard tracks points for players playing at tables that are not full.

Per the rules, nine-handed tables with five or fewer players and six-handed tables with three or fewer players.

Like other leaderboard contests on the site, player APPs at the short-handed tables determine the standings. Each week there is $500 up for grabs to the top 10 finishers.

Prizes for the top 10 range from $20-$95 in cash deposited into their WSOP.com account.

Limit leaderboard

If no-limit hold’em is not your thing, then this leaderboard is. The weekly leaderboard contest is for all the limit hold’em, Omaha and Omaha hi-lo, and stud and stud hi-lo cash game players.

The leaderboard measures APPs earned at the limit tables. The top 15 APP earners each week get a piece of the $1,000 prize pool. The top player gets $250, while everyone else earns at least $20.

SNG leaderboards

No matter what stakes you play, there is a Sit n’ Go leaderboard for you to take part in. WSOP.com offers a trio of leaderboards to try your hand in this August.

The leaderboards are divided by buy-in:

  • Low limit – $5 and below
  • Mid limit – $20 and below
  • High limit – $25 and up

The low limit offers $500 in weekly prizes, while the mid limit has $1,000 up for grabs. The high limit features a $1,500 weekly prizepool. In each pool, the top 30 players on the leaderboard get a piece of the cash prizes.

Record-Setting WSOP Has Us Hoping Poker Just Might Be Growing After All

It was a record-setting summer for the World Series of Poker, with the third-largest Main Event field ever and over 120,000 bracelet event participants.

The 2017 World Series of Poker (WSOP) wraps up this weekend. For the first time since 2008, the festivities will finish up at the Rio Casino entirely in July. Previously the poker series’ Main Event would get down to a nine-handed final table, then take a four-month break.

Perhaps it is the elimination of the November Nine concept, or perhaps flatter payout structures drew more people to the game. Whatever the answer, the WSOP drew some huge numbers this year. That big turnout was not exclusive to the Main Event either.

2017 WSOP topped 120,000 participants

Surely the Main Event was the crowning achievement in a busy summer. The $10,000 buy-in tournament drew 7,221 players. That makes it the third-largest Main Event ever. It is also the biggest turnout since 2010.

However, the one tournament is just a piece of the series’ overall success. According to a press release from WSOP, the 74-tournament series had 120,995 participants from 111 different countries. That is an all-time record for the WSOP.

Don’t be so quick to take that number at face value though. The 120,995 number reflects total number of entries across the 74 bracelet events. What is not specified is how many unique individuals make up that number. For example, several pros play the majority of the events, so they count for multiple entries.

Turnout down in some events, but WSOP series still growing

Nonetheless, the continued growth of the WSOP is promising, especially considering how many people scrutinized the low turnout in the early events.

Across the summer, WSOP generated over $231 million in prize pools, which is another record. Thanks to popular “gimmick” events anchoring most weekends, like the Millionaire Maker, Monster Stack, Colossus, and Little One for One Drop, the drop in high buy-in prestige events did not make a dent in overall numbers.

In fact, per the WSOP, the average field size was up to 1,635 participants in each event. Some of this is thanks to the proliferation of re-entry events, inflating the numbers.

However, something should be said about the popularity of lower buy-in events, like the $365 Giant tournament. WSOP does not release numbers for unique entries or new players. Nonetheless, there is evidence to suggest these lower buy-in tournaments are bringing in a different set of players than before.

WSOP.com bracelet event set prize pool record

After introducing an online bracelet in 2015, WSOP expanded to three bracelet events hosted exclusively on online poker site WSOP.com this year.

Two of the three tournaments posted seven-figure prize pools. The $3,333 buy-in Online High Roller set the record for largest online poker prize pool in Nevada online gambling history at $1,335,600.

Nevada online poker is still mostly a seasonal affair. This summer, with an extensive online schedule, does indicate it can generate some big prize pools though. Perhaps in 2018 there will be more than three online bracelets, and maybe we will see the first-ever $2 million online prize pool in the Silver State.

SLS Casino Rebrand Could Be A Reboot Of Famous Sahara Property

After trying to move far away from the old Sahara Casino, the recently sold SLS Casino might be going back to its roots with a major rebrand.

When the SLS Casino opened in 2014, it did its best to be as far from its predecessor, Sahara Casino. The Nevada casino positioned itself as a contemporary with Aria or Cosmopolitan rather than Tropicana and Flamingo.

Now that the SLS has a new owner though, it appears the property is giving up on being a boutique property. Instead it is going back to its roots, with several hints the casino will soon be the Sahara once again.

Several hints suggest resurrecting Sahara

Alex Meruelo of The Meruelo Group purchased the SLS Casino for an undisclosed price in May. The privately-owned casino has not released financials in a couple of years.

However, it is unlikely the numbers turned around all that much from the first nine months of SLS operation, when the property lost over $100 million.

Meruelo is already overhauling many major elements of the casino. The property recently changed the name of its player rewards program.

The program originally was The Code. The new name is Club 52. The 52 is an homage to the year the Sahara Casino originally opened.

In addition to directly acknowledge its roots with its rewards club, SLS Casino’s social media feed is embracing the nostalgia as well.

Recently the SLS Instagram feed posted a photo of an old Sahara Casino match book, lending even more credence to the idea the casino is going back to its old name.

You and SLS make a perfect match! #TBT #Club52 #Sahara 📷: @nadineblake

A post shared by SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (@slslasvegas) on

Recent Aliente hires suggest a focus on local customers

The other big shake up at the SLS is the management. The property brought in top Aliente Casino execs  Terry Downey and Robert Schaffhauser in January.

Downey and Schaffhauser stole away a dozen different Aliente executives, who came on board to help with the rebrand.

Aliente is a casino best known for catering to local customers. Turning to this group to turn things around indicates a big change in approach for the SLS.

Instead of trying to compete with high-end casinos, it appears the new tact is to be the on-the-Strip place to be for local players.

Downey and Schaffhauser step down

Though Downey and Schaffhauser helped restock the upper management at SLS, the pair are actually no longer with the company. A few days ago, the SLS confirmed both execs parted ways with the casino.

What that means for the rest of the Aliente defectors is unclear. What is for sure is more big changes are in store for SLS, and it is looking increasingly more likely they will look quite a bit like the past than the present.