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Bally’s exec: Tropicana Las Vegas will be the company’s ‘western flagship’

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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More than a year after first announcing a deal to acquire the Tropicana Las Vegas, Bally’s Corp. received preliminary approval from Nevada gaming regulators Wednesday to acquire the Rat Pack-era hotel-casino in a $308 million transaction.

Company officials told the Gaming Control Board in Las Vegas they plan to close the purchase by the end of the month.

Penn Entertainment operates the hotel-casino through a management agreement with real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties, which owns the site. The contract will go away once Bally’s takes over.

“Over the last several years, we've been very busy growing Bally’s footprint,” said Bally’s President George Papanier, who oversees the company’s casino resort division. “We view Tropicana Las Vegas as an opportunity for a flagship property for our western region.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final ruling on Sept. 22.

Control Board members spent much of the nearly two-hour hearing discussing Bally’s compliance program and asked questions surrounding the company’s interactive division that has operations in “gray markets,” international locations that may not be legal.

The international interactive division was acquired in the company's $2 billion merger last year with United Kingdom-based Gamesys Group PLC. Gamesys CEO Lee Fenton became CEO of Bally's.

Fenton told regulators the company has the right to immediately end any contractual agreements with clients “if we think that they ever compromise our position with any regulator around the world.”

Papanier described Bally’s rapid development as one of the larger regional casino operators in the U.S., including the company’s winning bid earlier this year to develop a $1.7 billion hotel-casino complex in downtown Chicago. Bally’s has 14 regional hotel-casinos in the U.S., including Bally’s Atlantic City.

The company was formerly known as Twin River Worldwide Resorts before acquiring Bally’s name and trademarks from Caesars Entertainment.

Rhode Island-based Bally’s first announced the acquisition of the 1,500-room Tropicana in April 2021 as part of a $308 million deal with GLPI that included sales-leasebacks of regional casinos in Colorado and Indiana.

Bally’s will pay GLPI $10.5 million annually to lease the Tropicana site under a 50-year rental agreement that is subject to increases. Company officials told the control board it could be well into 2023 before any redevelopment takes place on the 34-acre south-Strip location.

The site has been reported to be a potential location to house a $1 billion stadium for Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s, should the team choose to relocate from the Bay Area. There was no mention of the baseball stadium during the presentation.

Papanier said there wouldn’t be any changes to the Tropicana’s restaurant operations, and the casino will eventually be converted to the Bally’s player database.

Dan Reaser, outside legal counsel for Bally’s, told regulators the company will develop a marketing plan for the first 90 days to 120 days of ownership.

“Concurrent with that, we’ll be drilling down on reinvestment redevelopment of the property,” Reaser said.

The property is expected to undergo a name change to the Bally’s brand, as the company has done with 13 of its 14 casinos, including its Evansville, Indiana, property that was formerly known as Tropicana Evansville.

Bally’s acquired the former MontBleu Casino Resort in Lake Tahoe last year and renamed the resort Bally’s Lake Tahoe. Papanier said the company plans to bring its interactive division, which includes the BallyBet sports wagering business to Nevada.

Caesars Entertainment is converting the current Bally’s Las Vegas on the Strip into Horseshoe Las Vegas. Caesars also owns Tropicana Atlantic City and Tropicana Laughlin but has not announced any plans to rebrand those properties.

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