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Indy Gaming: A’s juggling act is fit for a Strip showroom

Numerous questions about the team’s move are unresolved ahead of the ballclub’s two spring training games in Las Vegas this weekend.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
A's stadiumEconomyGamingNewslettersSports

Good morning. The first day of spring is less than two weeks away, providing a perfect opportunity to revise and adjust Indy Gaming. Think of it as spring cleaning. 

The newsletter was established in June 2021 as a way to report on news and events surrounding Nevada’s powerful gaming and tourism industry and its ties to business, hospitality and sports throughout the state.

In the past few weeks, I’ve adjusted the newsletter, shortening stories and adding more eclectic items to the news, notes and quotes section to better reflect and refocus how gaming ties into the state’s economy. 

So what do you think?

I’d love to hear your feedback, whether you’re a new subscriber to Indy Gaming or a longtime reader who has followed my work throughout a four-decade career in Nevada. Drop me an email at [email protected] with your comments.

As for this week’s edition, the Oakland Athletics have two spring training games in Las Vegas this week. Where does everything stand with the team’s pending move to Las Vegas? 

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The Oakland Athletics' pending move to Las Vegas is akin to a Cirque du Soleil acrobat juggling atop a ladder high above the stage.

Can the A’s stick a dismount without dropping any balls?

No one is certain given the constraints facing the Major League Baseball team. The A’s want to move to a $1.5 billion stadium on the Strip for opening day in April 2028. The balls hanging in the air are the many questions needing answers before the three-year stadium construction begins next spring. 

Answers about private financing, development plans, a lease agreement, a community benefits package, bonding, a construction timeline and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for the planned 33,000-seat venue are pending. 

A few of these questions could be answered by this weekend when the A’s play two spring training games against the Milwaukee Brewers at the Triple-A Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin. 

One lingering question was answered Tuesday when the team released four renderings of the stadium, which resembles the Sydney Opera House in Australia and features a non-retractable roof described as a “spherical armadillo.” 

The A’s are locked into 9 acres of a 35-acre site that houses the Tropicana Las Vegas. Bally’s Corp., which operates the hotel-casino, is closing the property April 2, giving construction crews time to clear the parcel.

Bally’s executives said last month the company is still considering plans for its portion of the site, and nothing new on that was revealed Tuesday.

But could Bally’s cash in its chips, allowing the A’s to have a new development partner? 

The casino operator has more than $3.6 billion in long-term debt on its books, took a net loss of $172.6 million in 2023 and is trying to build a $1.7 billion casino resort in downtown Chicago.

However, A’s owner John Fisher said in an interview with The Nevada Independent on Tuesday there have not been any discussions about Bally’s selling its stake in the project. 

“Bally's has been great to work with,” Fisher said. “I know they're actively involved with their architects on coming up with a design plan for the resort. Fitting our stadium with the resort and parking is a major undertaking and so we're in close collaboration with them.”

A pedestrian walks by the Tropicana Las Vegas on Jan. 16, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties owns the Tropicana land and leases the hotel-casino to Bally’s for $10.5 million a year. The company committed $175 million toward the Tropicana’s demolition and might consider additional funding. 

Gaming and Leisure Chief Operating Officer Brandon Moore told analysts on the company's fourth-quarter conference call last week that he wasn’t concerned about the “somewhat negative questioning [of] the timing and development, and maybe the viability of that project.”

Moore said the stadium plans are “proceeding along the timelines that we would've expected.”

“Bally’s made some comments on the past two earnings calls suggesting that it may be open to [selling its interest in the Tropicana] but I do not have any specific information,” Moore wrote in an email.

Bally’s executives declined a request for comment.

The A’s are still seeking private financing for part of the stadium’s costs. Fisher said in January he was exploring the sale of ownership shares in the team to “local investors,” telling The Nevada Independent it “creates another connection to the community” and offers the team a “greater chance we have for success.” 

Nevada lawmakers approved $380 million in public financing last year but the A’s can’t access that money until all the agreements are signed.

Beyond the stadium construction, there are concerns about where the A’s will play in 2025 through 2027 after the team’s contract at the Oakland Coliseum expires. Minor league stadiums in Salt Lake City and Sacramento have been mentioned, as well as extending the lease in Oakland to remain at the Coliseum.

“The sooner that it can be figured out the better,” MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark recently told The Athletic.

The Poker Room inside the Peppermill Resort and Casino in Reno on Jan. 9, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Milder weather in January boosts Reno casinos, statewide gaming numbers 

Northern Nevada’s relatively mild weather in January kept the state’s casino industry from reporting its first monthly gaming revenue decline since last June. 

While Strip gaming revenue declined by almost 3.8 percent in January, Reno casinos saw a 55 percent increase for the month to almost $65.4 million. Washoe County as a whole saw a 35.4 percent gaming revenue jump to almost $87.7 million.

According to the website, Certified Snowfall Totals, the Reno area had just four snow days in January. A year ago, Reno experienced 13 snow days spread throughout the month, which led to a 13 percent gaming revenue decline, said Gaming Control Board Senior Economic Analyst Michael Lawton.

He said one Washoe County casino operator reported its revenue totals from slot machines earned over the New Year’s Eve holiday in January, which skewed the numbers. However, Lawton said the combined slot machine revenue increased by more than 11 percent for the two months.

Statewide gaming revenue in January was up less than 1 percent to $1.28 billion, which included $686.2 million from the Strip. December’s Strip gaming revenue was a single-month record of $905.4 million, leading Lawton and other gaming analysts to surmise that visitors bypassed January for February, which included Super Bowl LVIII and Chinese New Year.

Vehicles park at the at Rio Hotel & Casino on Feb. 23, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

News, notes and quotes

Rio to become part of Hyatt Hotels’ loyalty program

The Rio Hotel & Casino announced an agreement with Hyatt Hotels Corp. that allows World of Hyatt loyalty program members to earn and redeem points while staying at the off-Strip resort, which is undergoing an extensive renovation by new owner Dreamscape Cos.

Once the remodel of the 2,500-room property is complete later this year, the Rio will be added to Hyatt’s Independent Collection under the Destination by Hyatt brand. Dreamscape owner Eric Birnbaum said having Rio included in the Hyatt program will place the property in front of an “entirely new group of travelers.”


Las Vegas Peppermill restaurant wins James Beard honor

The Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge on the Strip was awarded a 2024 James Beard Foundation Award as an “American Classic,” and was one of six establishments honored by the organization. The award recognizes restaurants that serve “quality food, have a timeless appeal, and reflect the character of their communities.”

The 51-year-old eatery with plush lounge seating and indoor fire pits, founded by Nat Carasali and Bill Paganetti, has appeared in movies, including Casino, and has been frequented by mobsters and celebrities. Paganetti, who co-owned the Peppermill Resort and Casino in Reno, died in December at age 85.


LVCVA partners with a Premier League team

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and AFC Bournemouth of the English Premier Soccer League announced a partnership with the “Visit Las Vegas” logo on the team’s training kit and in-stadium messages. 

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley is a part-owner of the club, which is based in the United Kingdom.


Slot Hall of Fame welcomes two members 

The late Si Redd, founder of International Game Technology (IGT), and longtime gaming executive Tom Mikulich were inducted into the EKG Slot Awards Hall of Fame during last week’s annual event at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Redd is credited with introducing video slot machines and video poker to the gaming industry. Mikulich, who is currently a senior executive at Red Rock Resorts, has spent 37 years in the gaming industry working for MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts and IGT.


Primmer earns promotion to Aristocrat executive role

Aristocrat Technologies, the Australian-based corporate parent of Aristocrat Gaming, promoted Matt Primmer to chief product officer for the company. He will remain based in Las Vegas and report to CEO Trevor Croker.

Primmer has 20 years of experience in gaming including the last 10 years in senior management roles with Aristocrat in Australia and Las Vegas. Primmer has led Aristocrat Gaming’s design and development division during the last four years, which is the company’s largest operating segment.


Ending Quote: STRAT operator calls F1 a ‘disappointing experience’

“There is a general acknowledgment that the event needs to appeal to more than just high-end properties at the center Strip that are connected to the event to make it a real success for all of Las Vegas.” 

Golden Entertainment President Charles Protell about the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix’s effect on business at the STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod, which is located just north of the Strip in downtown.


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