Las Vegas downtown casino institution Binion’s celebrated its 60th birthday this week. Benny Binion bought the old Eldorado Club and Apache Hotel in 1951, combining the two into a single operation he dubbed the Horseshoe. It was the first Vegas casino to offer free drinks to gamblers and air-conditioning to all. It was also the first home of the World Series of Poker in 1970. Binion’s hotel rooms were shut a couple years ago, but investors are being sought to fund a $15-20m renovation that would allow them to reopen. So far, no takers.
No doubt the backers holding the note on Las Vegas’ newest hotel/casino would like a time machine so that they could undo what they’ve done to themselves. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas lost $54.3m in Q2 2011, a very slight improvement over the $56.8m loss in Q1. With an outstanding mortgage of $3.4b, this is not good news for owners Deutsche Bank. The Cosmo’s hotel occupancy rate was 91%, and restaurant/bar revenue ($70m) far outstripped gaming revenue ($28m). The Cosmo now plans to add a 15-table high-roller section to its casino, but still refuses to add a poker room.
If possible, things are worse over at CityCenter, the $9b MGM Resorts/Dubai-government co-venture. MGM is asking local officials for permission to implode the 26-floor Harmon Building, intended as a hotel, shopping and condominium complex, but which has sat vacant since CityCenter opened in Dec. 2009. MGM claims contractor goofs have left the structure vulnerable to collapse in the event of an earthquake, while the contractors claim MGM is scapegoating them in order “to avoid adding the Harmon as an additional glut to its other vacant properties in CityCenter.” MGM also wants the contractors to return the $200m+ they were paid to erect the allegedly flawed facility.
Is there any good news in Vegas? Enter Caesars Entertainment’s The Linq, a new $550m retail, dining, entertainment and hospitality project facing Caesars Palace that will be centered around (we kid you not) a giant Ferris wheel called the Las Vegas High Roller. At 550 feet, the ‘observation wheel’ will be the tallest in the world, with 28 transparent ‘cabins’ that can each hold 40 people. (Amazingly, it’s not the only wheel in development. A 500-foot apparatus is under construction across from Mandalay Bay as we speak.) The Linq project has been on the drawing boards for some time, but construction is expected to commence in Q4 2011 and will open to the public in 2013.