Aussie investment firm buys the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas is an icon of the city’s beginnings. It was the first racially-integrated casino in the city, although for just a short amount of time, and was the site of a historic meeting in 1960 that led to the desegregation of the Vegas Strip and Vegas Downtown. However, it lost all of its shine in later years and has sat vacant, waiting for someone to come along and breathe some new air into it. That someone has arrived, and an investment company out of Australia, BBC Capital, is now the proud owner of the iconic property.

The Moulin Rouge has seen better days and, over the past several years, has managed to survive general neglect, fires and other problems that threatened its position on the Vegas landscape. However, indicative of its stubbornness in the face of massive racial discrimination, it has persevered for over 60 years to remain a part of the city. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that BBC Capital was approved to purchase the property a couple of weeks ago, with the deal being closed this past Friday.

The recent history of the property has been just as difficult as its beginnings. 300 investors had put up money to revamp the casino prior to the recession of 2008 but, when the real estate bubble burst and the economy flipped upside down, so did everything related to the property. The developer brought in to oversee the revitalization efforts went bankrupt and the company that had collected investor funds to give the developer a $19-million loan also went out of business. That led, in 2013, to the property being placed in receivership.

The courts assigned Kevin Hanchett as the receiver, responsible for finding a buyer and helping investors recover their lost funds. There have been several offers that have appeared since then; however, nothing solid ever emerged. The most promising lead was last year when the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority was considering a purchase of the property. Like all other attempts, though, that one fell flat, as well. 

The Moulin Rouge has never given up its casino license, even though it hasn’t been operational for decades. Every two years, a pop-up casino opens at the site, which is good enough for regulators to keep the license active. Because of its history, and its resiliency as countless other casinos come and go, the property is virtually untouchable. Local residents are protective of the site and won’t let just anyone come in, which is a good sign for BBC Capital and RAH Capital, a new Nevada-based firm that is holding BBC’s interest in the casino.

It isn’t clear yet what will ultimately emerge on the Moulin Rouge site, but RAH Capital has reportedly purchased 11.3 vacant acres, including the casino site, for which it paid $3.1 million. It has also agreed to take responsibility for almost $2 million, plus interest, in liens that are tied to removing construction material and debris from the site. The definitive purchase agreement is a huge step in the right direction, and former Councilman Ricki Barlow sees it as a huge economic bonus for the area. He asserts, “[The announcement] provides hope and that’s what the residents in the community need — a shot in the arm that something is coming.”