Purchase of Tropicana Las Vegas keeps alive Rat Pack-era name

During the past decade, Penn National Gaming was named as a potential buyer of nearly every Strip resort that was for sale or rumored to be on the market.

So it was no surprise when the regional gaming company announced April 29 it would spend $360 million to buy the Tropicana Las Vegas.

The transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the year, not only gives Penn National its long-sought address on the Strip, but keeps alive an historic name and a Rat Pack-era property.

Most of those places from the 1960s and 1970s have been relegated to the Las Vegas history pages.

“There is not a lot left of the hotel from when it first opened because of expansions, but it’s good for the city that we will still have the name Tropicana,” said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

A week after Penn National’s deal was announced, the Riviera closed and is scheduled for demolition this year. A day later, Resorts World Las Vegas began rising out of the former Stardust site. The hotel-casino was demolished in 2007.

SLS Las Vegas opened last year out of the shell of the Sahara, which closed in 2011. The Sands, Frontier, Dunes and Desert Inn have all been wiped away.

Penn National CEO Tim Wilmott made no mention of rebranding the Tropicana as one of the company’s Hollywood-themed casinos when the deal was announced. He said the property fills a void for Penn National and gives the company — which operates 26 casinos nationwide — a new option for its 3 million-member customer database.

Last week, Penn National Chief Operating Officer Jay Snowden told the Nevada Gaming Control Board that 25 percent of the company’s customers regularly visit Las Vegas.

Penn National, which took over ownership of M Resort in Henderson in 2011, attracts some of that business to the stylish 390-room hotel-casino. But the property is about 10 miles from the heart of the Strip.

Snowden admitted most of its customers want to be in the middle of the action. The Tropicana fulfills that wish.

Goldman Sachs gaming Steven Kent called the Tropicana “very complementary” to Penn National’s regional properties.

Kent told investors the Tropicana’s average room rate of $154 a night “will likely resonate with the typical regional gaming customer who wants a fun weekend in Las Vegas but may not be willing or able to pay the rates charged by the higher-end properties.”

Schwartz said it’s good for Las Vegas to have midpriced hotel offerings. With 1,500 guest rooms and a 50,000-square-foot casino, the Tropicana adds to an important niche.

The Tropicana is just one development in Penn National’s pipeline that has analysts singing its praises.

The company last year opened two slot machine-only racetrack casinos in Ohio. Next month, it plans to open the $225 million Plainridge Park casino in Massachusetts, a slot machine-only facility attached to the Plainridge Park Racecourse. Penn National also is building and will manage a $360 million Indian casino near San Diego for the Jamul Indian Village, which is expected to open next year.

“We expect Penn to benefit meaningfully from its three new projects that are coming online,” Kent told investors. “In our opinion, this will position the company to grow faster than its peers and the broader U.S. regional gaming market. We expect Penn will be the master of its own destiny, given its new capacity.”

Kent is not alone in his assessment.

J.P. Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said the Tropicana fits nicely into Penn National’s portfolio and makes the company an attractive investment opportunity.

“(This) makes strategic and financial sense to us, as it allows Penn to fulfill its long-term goal of having a Las Vegas Strip asset that will enable it to leverage its database,” Greff said.

Snowden told the Control Board the Tropicana is in good shape. Current owners Alex Yemenidjian and the Onex Group invested more than $200 million in remodeling much of the property over the past three years.

“We think we are getting a quality asset with a great legacy of 60 years of history here in Las Vegas,” Snowden said. “We think our database is going to respond very favorably to the recent renovations that have been made at that facility.”

The Tropicana’s previously failed owners — Columbia Sussex — planned to build 8,000 hotel rooms on the 35-acre site.

Schwartz said Penn National has the more prudent and correct idea. It also keeps a property named Tropicana operating on Tropicana Boulevard.

“It’s good they’re keeping the name,” he said. “It preserves something.”

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Find on Twitter: @howardstutz.

Business Videos
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA/Boring Company Press Conference
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced a collaboration with Elon Musk's The Boring Company to develop and operate an autonomous people mover system for the Las Vegas Convention Center District.
International Pizza Expo includes green and gluten free
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included companies focused on vegan and gluten free, and plant-based pizza boxes. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo kicks off in Las Vegas
The first day of the International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center is everything Pizza. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
T-Mobile program aids guests with sensory needs
A program at T-Mobile Arena is designed to provide a more sensory friendly experience for guests.
Photo Booth Expo
Danielle May talks about how Simple Booth transformed her Volkswagen bus into a business.
Nevada Gaming Commission's highest fines
The highest fines assessed by the Nevada Gaming Commission, according to commission Chairman Tony Alamo: 1) Wynn Resorts Ltd., $20 million, 2019 2) CG Technology (then known as Cantor G&W Holdings), $5.5 million, 2014 3) The Mirage, $5 million ($3 million fine, $2 million compensatory payment), 2003 4) Stardust, $3 million, 1985 5) Santa Fe Station, $2.2 million ($1.5 million fine, $700,000 compensatory payment), 2005 6) Las Vegas Sands, $2 million, 2016 7) CG Technology, $1.75 million, 2018 8) CG Technology, $1.5 million (also $25,000 in escrow for underpaid patrons), 2016 9) Caesars Entertainment, $1.5 million, 2015 10) Imperial Palace, $1.5 million, 1989 11) Peppermill Casinos, $1 million, 2014
Tiny Pipe Home vs Shipping Crate
A Tiny pipe home was displayed at the International Builders Show this week in Las Vegas.
Auto repair shortage affects Las Vegas
The auto repair industry is facing a national shortage of workers.
Franchising industry booming
Experts say Las Vegas is a hotbed for the franchise industry.
Africa Love owner talks about his store in Las Vegas
Mara Diakhate, owner of Africa Love, gift and decor store, talks about his store in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Developer gets approval to build homes at Bonnie Springs
The Clark County Planning Commission has approved a plan to build 20 homes on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dig This opens new location In Las Vegas
Remember when you were a kid and played with construction toys in the sand box? Dig This Las Vegas has the same idea, except instead of toy bulldozers, you get to play with the real thing. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Town Square developer Jim Stuart building again in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ real estate bubble took developers on a wild ride, something Jim Stuart knows all too well. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Salon opens at Veterans Village
T.H.E. Salon, owned by Nicole Christie, celebrated their opening at the Veterans Village with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Southwest Airlines considering Las Vegas-Hawaii flights
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says the airline is "very focused" on Hawaii. Hawaiians have a strong presence in Las Vegas.The city’s unofficial status is “Hawaii’s ninth island.” In 2018, at least 2,958 people from Hawaii moved to Nevada. Of those, 88.7 percent moved into Clark County, according to driver license surrender data. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 310,249 people came to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2018.
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day. About 1.2 million Nevadans are expected to celebrate this year, a 5 percent drop from 2018. A growing number of people consider Valentine’s Day over-commercialized. Others weren’t interested in the holiday or had nobody to celebrate with. But spending is expected to rise. Those who do celebrate are buying for more people. The average American is expected to spend about $162 this year for Valentine’s Day, a 57 percent jump from a decade prior. Katherine Cullen, director of industry and consumer insights at NRF
Foreclosures of mansions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas was ground zero for America's foreclosure crisis after the housing bubble burst. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Helfenbein talks about the impact of tariffs on the clothing industry
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Air flight attendants learn how to handle a water landing
Field instructor Ashleigh Markel talks about training prospective flight attendants for Allegiant Air getting live training with a raft for a water landing at the Heritage Park Aquatic Complex in Henderson on Monday. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery talks about Las Vegas return
Michael Feighery, CEO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, discusses the restaurant's upcoming return to the Las Vegas Strip.
Apartments to Come to Hughes Center
Developer Eric Cohen discusses his current building project at the Hughes Center office park in Las Vegas, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stratosphere to rebrand to The STRAT
The Stratosphere, a 1,150-foot-tall property in Las Vegas will be renamed The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod.
Local designers’ picks for the Las Vegas Market
The trends that local interior designers are noticing at the Las Vegas Market this year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing