Exclusive Content   Join Now

Rio rumors keep swirling

Aug 14, 2007 6:58 AM

Will the Maloof family buy the Rio? The rumor continues to circulate, just as it did months ago when I first reviewed this possibility, pointing out that whatever the Maloofs wanted to do it made a lot of sense.

It would be so easy to link the Rio with the Maloof-owned Palms a block to the west on Flamingo.

Particularly since Harrah’s has already identified the property as a non-core asset, being nearly a mile  west of the property Harrah’s owns near the Strip and Flamingo.

George Maloof did not respond to a request for comment on his interest in the Rio, which suggests one or two things: 

One, he doesn’t want to talk about a deal in the works.

Or, he felt no need to comment on a rumor that he considers laughable, a rumor that has absolutely no place on his list of priorities.

But still it goes round and round, making sense  to those who like the Rio without regard to whatever Harrah’s may expect to get for it. Linking the Maloof-owned Palms and the Rio with its 90-plus acres of real estate with a monorail or tram system would be a snap.

Then there is that other Rio-related rumor, the one that says the Marnell family (remember them — the people who sold the Rio to Harrah’s?) would like to buy it back.

Marnell had master-planned the Rio property for a second hotel and casino on some of the dozens of empty acres between the Rio and I-15 and the railroad track.

The Harrah’s casinos are expected to be in the hands of their new private owners by the end of the years and it has been widely speculated that some of  these facilities will be sold to pay down debt and provide a fast return to the purchasing principals in Apollo Management and Texas Pacific.

Except that some of the people who have done a little kicking of tires and slamming of doors at the  Harrah’s hotels and casinos  across  the U.S. claim to be amazed at some of the prices Harrah’s seems to expect,

"You tell me," said one dismayed shopper, "which of their places is worth what amounts to 11 and 12 times earning."

This could have been a full color picture of true dismay or it could have been the kind of posturing a potential buyer indulges in when he is not anxious to tip his hand.

We’ll see, won’t we?

It’s Wynn vs. the
Boardwalk Boys

The testosterone was flowing like molten lava as rival CEOs sounded off on their differing views of how to manage the development potential offered by Atlantic City’s Bader Field.

The flurry of sound bites that were thrown like so many heavyweight punches underscored the continuing strong feelings associated with the 140-plus acres of real estate just a few blocks from the Boardwalk.

Steve Wynn appears to be bypassing the city hall factions that struggle to get much of anything done as he recently got together over lunch with Gov. Jon Corzine. Wynn’s hope is that the governor will be the man who makes a difference as the Bader issue rolls toward whatever fate awaits it.

Pinnacle Entertainment CEO Dan Lee growled that he won’t hesitate to call off his company’s plans  to develop the Sands Boardwalk site should Wynn be allowed to do anything on the Bader acreage before other sites already zoned for casinos are fully developed.

Wynn countered with a comment to a reporter that if Lee is so inclined he’ll be happy to buy Pinnacle’s Boardwalk location, thereby enabling Lee to go off and try to control gambling elsewhere.

What Wynn would like to do, if he can get his hands on Bader, is make  Atlantic City "fashionable again."

Which prompted a slow shake of the head from Revel Entertainment CEO Kevin DeSanctis. "I guess all this makes for interesting sound bites, but it does not really do justice to a complex situation. Everyone has tried to state their positions about Bader in a dozen words or less and that is hard to do with something that has so many moving parts." 

Bader, DeSanctis says, is crucial to how Atlantic City is going to be  developed over the next decade or so since it is a large chunk of land just a few blocks from the Boardwalk. Its development, he insists, should be considered thoughtfully by all parties with a stake in Atlantic City.