Poker Hall of Famer Bobby Baldwin was named Chief Executive Officer of Drew Las Vegas, a new casino that is currently under construction on the Las Vegas Strip. At the same time, he was also named Vice Chairman of Witkoff, the real estate firm that is developing the property.
A long history for a casino that isn’t even built yet
Drew Las Vegas is situated on the north end of the Strip, across from Circus Circus. It used to be known as Fontainebleu and was originally supposed to open by 2008 (no that’s not a typo, that’s 11 years ago). Construction began in February 2007, but was halted in 2009 when Fontainebleau Las Vegas LLC filed for bankruptcy.
Notorious real estate mogul Carl Icahn won control of the project in bankruptcy court in February 2010 for $150 million, outbidding Penn National Gaming. Witkoff Group and New Valley LLC acquired it from Icahn for $600 million in August 2017. Fontainebleu was later renamed to Drew Las Vegas.
“As we were making final preparations for construction, we had a unique opportunity to work with a transformational leader who has unrivaled experience,” said Steven Witkoff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Witkoff, in a press release.
“Bobby sees how far the project has come and is supportive of our vision and strategy.”
Bobby Baldwin: from poker star to gaming exec
Bobby Baldwin won the 1978 World Series of Poker Main Event at the age of 28, becoming the youngest Main Event winner ever at the time. His age mark has been broken several times since. He has four total World Series bracelets. Nowadays, he is rarely seen in tournaments except for the rare high roller event, sticking to the highest stakes cash games.
Baldwin was the lone inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2003.
Just a few years after his Main Event victory, he began a climb up the executive ranks in Las Vegas casinos. Baldwin became a consultant for the Golden Nugget in 1982, parlaying that into the presidency of the casino just two years later. He took the helm at the Mirage in 1987 and in 1998, became president of the Bellagio. The following year, Baldwin was named CFO of Mirage Resorts and in 2000 became CEO.
In October 2018, Baldwin was unceremoniously released from his role as Chief Customer Development Officer of MGM Resorts and CEO and President of CityCenter. A brief, to the point press release said that Baldwin was leaving the company, but rumors were that he was forced out.
Adding to the intrigue was that beyond one or two typical sentences of thanks in the press release, the statement from MGM was oddly short and non-celebratory for a man who is such a legend in Las Vegas and the gambling world.
There were also rumors at the time that “Bobby’s Room,” the famed high stakes poker room at the Bellagio named after Baldwin, was going to be renamed. That has not happened.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the Witkoff organization as well as the team at Drew Las Vegas,” said Baldwin. “Witkoff’s proven track record in global real estate development, financing, and operations makes this the right opportunity, particularly when combined with the introduction of the Drew.”