WSOP staying at Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas through 2020

WSOP staying at Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas through 2020

Caesars Entertainment announced on Monday an agreement to sell the home of the World Series of Poker to a New York-based real estate company, but the deal apparently doesn’t mean the event will be moving to a different location until at least after 2020.

"The retention of the World Series of Poker and retention of Caesars Rewards customers are all factors that make this a valuable transaction for Caesars,” Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio said in a news release announcing the deal.

The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, home of the World Series of Poker since 2005, was sold to Imperial Companies, a real estate company focused on mixed-use hospitality assets, for $516.3 million, according to the release. The 2,500-suite hotel and casino, which opened in 1990, will be leased back by Caesars for at least two years at more than $40 million per year with a $7 million buyer option to extend that lease for another year under similar terms.

The deal is pending regulatory approval but is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2019.

World Series of Poker May Move After Lease

While the World Series of Poker won’t have a new home next year, it might at some point in the future. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Caesars is expected to move the tournament into its new Caesars Forum conference center when the facility opens next year. The $375 million, 550,000 square-foot space will likely become the flagship property of the new Caesars company that will take shape next year after the Eldorado merger.

It would make sense then that the World Series of Poker might move to that location in 2021 or soon after. Caesars Forum will be a state-of-the-art space with multiple configurations possible and direct access to more than 8,500 hotel rooms at Harrah's Las Vegas, the LINQ Hotel + Experience and Flamingo hotels. Caesars will likely want to attract customers to the new location once it is open, and hosting the World Series of Poker would give the company ample opportunity to showcase its new property.

Vegas Casino Sale Was Expected

Caesars selling the Rio became an expected move after the company announced its historic merger with Eldorado Resorts earlier this year which will culminate in a single company with up to 60 casinos and resorts in 16 states under one corporate entity. The new company will retain the Caesars name but will be led by Eldorado Resorts executives.

The sale of the Rio and subsequent retention of the World Series of Poker hosting rights seems to align with one of the merger’s intended strategies of increasing the company’s cash.

“This deal allows Caesars Entertainment to focus our resources on strengthening our attractive portfolio of recently renovated Strip properties and is expected to result in incremental (cash flow) at those properties,” Rodio said in the release.

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