Indy Gaming: Sands Regency renamed J Resort as part of sweeping Reno redevelopment
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The J Resort in Reno is just the beginning.
Jacobs Entertainment CEO Jeff Jacobs unveiled a new name for the former Sands Regency Tuesday along with portions of a $300 million redevelopment of the 750-room downtown Reno hotel-casino he has owned for more than six years.
The remodel is expected to be completed in June. But the developer, who also owns three Gold Dust West casinos in Northern Nevada, two Colorado casinos and an entertainment destination in Cleveland, said it will lead into a second phase that will begin almost as soon as the celebratory ribbon is cut on the current project.
Jacobs believes the J Resort will set a new bar for Northern Nevada’s resort industry. A giant J was lifted to the top of the hotel tower earlier this week to replace the Sands Regency signage, signifying an all-new resort.
“I think people here are ready for first-class, high-end suites,” Jacobs said in an interview Tuesday. “We have the nicest and largest rooms downtown.”
Jacobs has financed the redevelopment through publicly traded debt.
A portion of the first phase – 500 remodeled hotel rooms and half of the renovated casino – opened Tuesday. New food and beverage outlets – including J Paul’s Italian steakhouse, which is named for Jacobs’ son – expanded parking and a 65-foot-by-65-foot outdoor digital wall on the north side of the hotel tower, will be unveiled in June.
The outdoor video display will feature one-of-a-kind digital art videos. Jacobs called J Resort “Nevada's first arts and entertainment-themed resort property.” He said the location “will attract artists from around the world” to create content for the outdoor digital video display wall.
“I like to think of this property as the Bellagio of the north,” Jacobs said of the Strip resort that opened with a high-end art gallery. Jacobs said J Resort would include $100 million worth of paintings and sculptures.
J Resort is the centerpiece within the half-mile-long Reno Neon Line. The arts and entertainment district is carved out of a 20-block parcel and includes a collection of sculptures, several of which came from the Burning Man Festival.
The location includes The Glow Plaza Festival Grounds, a downtown entertainment district that has space for up to 6,000 customers. Jacobs said more than 50 days have been booked for special events in the plaza this year.
The $100 million second phase will include doubling the size of the casino and adding a rooftop pool deck and spa.
“We’re starting this summer on an expansion toward Fourth Street of the gaming, food and beverage and a new front door that is basically a valet porte-cochère entrance,” Jacobs said.
Reno has been exploring downtown redevelopment over the last several years, with much of the change coming from non-gaming projects. Harrah’s Reno closed in 2020 after 84 years as a downtown destination and is being redeveloped as the non-gaming Reno City Center, a mixed-use development with residential units, commercial office space, restaurants and retail offerings.
In 2014, the shuttered Fitzgeralds Reno was reopened as the Whitney Peak Hotel, an independent non-gaming, non-smoking, 310-room hotel near the Reno Arch.
Jacobs is increasing the gaming opportunities at J Resort, but he expects the area to be teeming with non-gaming attractions as well.
His grand vision for J Resort and the property includes a second hotel tower with 1,200 guest rooms, more than 100,000 square feet of conference space, a 6,500-seat outdoor amphitheater, a 3,500-seat Las Vegas-style indoor showroom, a 400-seat dinner theater, a 1,500-foot-long zip line attraction located 150 feet above Reno's Neon Line and additional covered parking.
“I want to appeal to the Bay Area with the arts and entertainment,” Jacobs said, adding that his company is with working AEG, a live entertainment empire that runs his entertainment facility in Cleveland and is partners with MGM Resorts International in T-Mobile Arena on the Strip.
When finished, Jacobs expects J Resort and the surrounding development will employ more than 2,000 workers.
“Completing phase one of J Resort and the opening of the adjoining Glow Plaza Festival Grounds mark another chapter of the revitalization of downtown Reno,” Jacobs Entertainment Regional Vice President Jonathan Boulware said in a statement. “It is a chapter of transition from the remnants of the last growth period downtown in the 1960s to a complete makeover currently underway.”
Jacobs began buying up property in the area surrounding the former Sands Regency in 2010, hoping to create a downtown redevelopment effort similar to one he headed in downtown Cleveland some three decades ago. But the Reno effort hasn’t been without controversy over the eviction of poor residents during a housing crisis, as reported by ProPublica.
In a 2021 interview, Jacobs said he envisioned Reno’s downtown redevelopment mirroring what was accomplished in Cleveland.
“We created different districts, such as entertainment along the Cuyahoga River. Other parts of downtown came along,” Jacobs said of the changes in Ohio’s second-largest city in terms of population. “I think that’s what is going to happen here … We’re planting seeds for change.”
Everi moving its manufacturing and production facility from Austin to Las Vegas
Gaming equipment provider Everi Holdings is spending $15 million to construct a 182,000-square-foot manufacturing, warehouse and distribution facility in southwestern Las Vegas.
The project replaces the current facility in Austin, Texas, which is a holdover from the $1.2 billion merger between payment provider Global Cash Access and slot machine developer Multimedia Games in 2014 that created Everi. Multimedia was headquartered in Austin.
Everi said the new facility, which is expected to open in October, will consolidate the manufacturing, assembly and distribution of its gaming machines currently done in Austin into a new facility that will include cash access kiosks, loyalty kiosks and other financial technology products already being assembled in Las Vegas.
On last week’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call, Everi CEO Randy Taylor said consolidating the company’s manufacturing and distribution would streamline production costs and reduce any supply chain issues in the distribution of completed products to customers.
“We had always expected at some point in time to consolidate manufacturing warehouses,” Taylor said, adding that having all the production under one roof could lead to cost synergies. He credited Las Vegas with having a talented workforce from a manufacturing assembly standpoint.
Everi said there are 35 employees in Austin affected by the move who are being offered opportunities to relocate to Las Vegas for positions with the company. The facility will house more than 100 employees.
Taylor said Everi first considered the project at the end of 2019. The company pushed it to 2020, but the development was on hold when the pandemic shut down gaming nationwide and the company cut back on costs.
“We felt like this was the year to do it,” Taylor said.
Aristocrat's partnership with F1 doesn’t include a slot machine
Aristocrat Gaming isn’t planning to launch a slot machine themed after the Formula One racing circuit, even though the company’s games were named the official slot machines of F1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.
The U.S. subsidiary of the Australian slot machine giant announced a partnership agreement last week.
However, casino customers won’t find a game with one of the ubiquitous buffaloes featured on Aristocrat’s slot trying to chase down an F1 race car.
But given that November’s race along the Strip and neighboring streets is the first event in a multi-year package, the company “has a number of ideas ready to be launched,” said Mark Wadley, Aristocrat Gamig’s chief marketing officer.
The partnership is with the operators of the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix and not any of the other races on the 23-event circuit, including a race in Australia from March 31-April 2.
Ahead of F1, Aristocrat expects to unveil its NFL-themed slot machine. The company signed an agreement with the NFL last year for the exclusive rights to use the logos of the league’s 32 teams on slot machines in casinos worldwide.
Wadley said the NFL slots mark the first time a player can select the art for the slot machine reels by choosing which team logo they want to feature.
“It will likely be one of the most anticipated games to hit the floor,” Wadley said. “For a player to walk up and choose the imagery and the experience from their favorite team in the game is a pretty cool innovation for the players and all of our casino partners.”
Boyd Gaming submits bid for $160M historical horse racing project in Kansas
Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming is looking to expand its presence in the Midwest.
The company said last week it applied to the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission (KRGC) to develop and operate a new historical horse racing (HHR) gaming facility in Sedgwick County, the state’s second-most populous region.
Boyd said it would privately finance the construction of the $160 million location in Park City that would include 1,000 historical horse racing games and other non-gaming amenities. Park City is north of Wichita, the state’s largest city.
Historical horse racing games look and operate much like traditional slot machines. Instead of randomizing the outcome, the machines determine winners based on previously run horse races. All wagering is done in a pari-mutuel fashion, allowing users to auto-bet or manually handicap the races.
State lawmakers last year approved the addition of one historical horse racing casino in the county and a competitive bidding process was put into place. In addition to Boyd Gaming, billionaire Phil Ruffin, a native of Wichita and owner of Treasure Island and Circus Circus on the Strip, has submitted a bid for the project.
Boyd has 28 casinos in 10 states, including the Kansas Star Casino, located just south of Wichita in Sumner County. The casino has 1,600 traditional slot machines, more than 50 table games and four restaurants.
In a statement, Boyd said its proposed Kansas HHR facility would be named Diamond Jo Park City. The company operates two Diamond Jo branded casinos in Iowa – Diamond Jo Dubuque and Diamond Jo Worth.
Boyd CEO Keith Smith said the proposal would take the company’s relationship with the state “to the next level,” creating an entertainment destination that will draw customers from Wichita.
“We are confident that our compelling proposal, backed by our company’s experience, national scale and strong financial position, makes Boyd uniquely suited to realize the maximum possible benefits of the new HHR license for the people of Sedgwick County,” Smith said.
Boyd also operates two casino resorts in neighboring Missouri — Ameristar Casino Kansas City, and Ameristar Casino St. Charles, which is near St. Louis.
Via press release from MGM Resorts International
Award-winning producer and director Ben Winston has been appointed to MGM Resorts International Board of Directors. Winston has earned 12 Emmy Awards and 31 Emmy nominations. He has been the co-executive producer of The Late Late Show with James Corden since 2015. Winston also served as executive producer of The Grammy Awards for CBS, The Kardashians for Hulu and Carpool Karaoke for Apple TV+. He directed 2021's Friends: The Reunion, which is on HBO Max.
"Ben's creativity, passion and leadership will be most valuable as he advises the board and management on ways to continue driving unparalleled guests experiences today, while also innovating for the future."
- MGM Resorts Chairman Paul Salem
Via research note from CBRE Equity Research
Monday’s announcement that Golden Entertainment was selling its slot machine route operations in Nevada and Montana for $322.5 million was viewed positively by shareholders, who sent the company’s stock price up more than 6.8 percent. Analysts said stockholders could be in store for a payday once the transaction closes later this year.
“Golden looks more attractive and saleable to potential suitors as a pure-play southern Nevada wholly-owned casino business with virtually no net debt or breakage costs.”
- CBRE gaming analyst John DeCree
Via press release from Entain Foundation, NFLPA Professional Athletes Foundation, EPIC Risk Management
The three organizations renewed a partnership that began in July 2020 to provide gambling harm prevention awareness and education, sports integrity programs and advisory services to members of the National Football League Players Association. The new program will provide workshops, seminars, events and customized projects.
“Since being the first Players’ Association in the U.S. to partner with EPIC Risk Management, we have been positively reassured by how well we have collaborated to raise awareness around the issue of problem gambling to a statistically more vulnerable demographic.”
- Caryl Banks, senior manager, NFLPA