Owner of Dotty’s buys River Palms in Laughlin for $6.75 million

For the second time in less than a year, the Las Vegas-based parent company of tavern operator Dotty’s has bought an under-performing hotel-casino in Southern Nevada.

Nevada Restaurant Services, Inc. announced last week it was paying $6.75 million to acquire the River Palms in Laughlin from Atlantic City-based Tropicana Entertainment. The deal is expected to close in September.

In a statement, Nevada Restaurant Services said it would close the River Palms for an undetermined time period while the 1,000-room hotel-casino undergoes renovations and other improvements.

Last fall, Nevada Restaurant Services acquired the Hacienda near Boulder City for an undisclosed price. The 289-room hotel-casino that overlooks Lake Mead closed for a week last Christmas. The hotel-casino is open and is undergoing a renovation. The property is being renamed the Hoover Dam Lodge.

The company did not announce any plans for the River Palms, which was originally built along the banks of the Colorado River by Laughlin developer John Midby. The property, which includes a 25-story hotel tower, has had several owners since it opened in 1984.

“Nevada Restaurant Services is excited about the opportunity to operate the River Palms in the Laughlin market,” Nevada Restaurant Services President Craig Estey said in a statement.

Laughlin, which includes 10 casinos, is averaging $41.6 million a month in gaming revenue for the fist five months of 2014. Through May, gaming revenue in the market is down 0.3 percent compared to 2013.

The River Palms casino has 600 slot machines, 13 table games and sports book operated by William Hill. The River Palms was originally operated as Sam’s Town Gold River by Boyd Gaming Corp. until 1991.

Nevada Restaurant Services operates more than 80 Dotty’s taverns statewide. The Dotty’s business model has come under fire in recent years by local government officials, rival tavern operators and locals-oriented gaming companies. Foes said the operations are nothing more than a glorified slot machine parlor, offering snack food and minimal alcohol while focusing solely on gaming.

Estey created the Dotty’s business model in Oregon and brought the concept to Nevada in 1995.

Tropicana Entertainment has been trying to sell the casino for several years. A deal in May 2013 to sell River Palms to Reno-based M1 Gaming fell apart.

Tropicana Entertainment owns nine casinos in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Missouri and Aruba. In Nevada, the company owns the Tropicana Laughlin and the Montbleau in Lake Tahoe. The company’s flagship resort is the Tropicana Atlantic City. The company does not own the Tropicana Las Vegas.

Under the sales agreement, Tropicana Entertainment will lease the resort from Nevada Restaurant Services for up to 90 days, subject to an additional 30-day extension. The company plans to terminate the lease in September.

“We have had River Palms on the market for some time and upon the closing of this transaction … we will be able to focus our Laughlin efforts exclusively on (the) Tropicana Laughlin,” Tropicana Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio said in a statement.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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