Poker News

Rumors of a sale of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas by casino giant Harrah’s are exactly that – rumors – according to Seth Palansky, Communications Director for Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment and the World Series of Poker (WSOP). In fact, Palansky and company are currently planning the 2011 WSOP, with a final table to be held once again in November at the Rio’s Penn and Teller Theater.

The rumor mill began churning on August 4th, when Pokerati published a short article entitled “Rumorati: Harrah’s Sale of the Rio Complete, New Home for 2011 WSOP Almost 100 Percent Unofficially Semi-Confirmed.” The story read in part, “The end of an era is upon us … with Harrah’s finally selling the Rio — that horrendous dump of a property at 3700 W. Flamingo Rd. that reminds us how quickly Las Vegas luxe can deteriorate, but also a place that the World Series of Poker and so many of us connected to it have long called home — at least for most of our 21st century summers.”

However, on the same day as Pokerati published its story detailing the rumored sale of the Rio to a group of private investors, Harrah’s, the casino’s owner, released its Q2 2010 financial results. Nowhere in the call to investors or a corresponding news release was there a mention of the Rio being sold. Instead, Harrah’s owners noted that the company dropped $274 million during the second quarter.

Harrah’s CEO Gary Loveman spoke on Wednesday about two recent acquisitions, one in Las Vegas and the other in Cleveland: “During the past two years, we’ve reduced expenses and debt substantially, increased our liquidity to about $3 billion, and acquired the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and Thistledown Racetrack in Cleveland.” The Rio is mentioned just twice in the company’s financial report.

Palansky shot down any finalized sale of the Rio, telling Poker News Daily on Thursday, “We’ve already been meeting about the 2011 WSOP and are planning on having it at the Rio with the Main Event final table in November at the Penn and Teller Theater.” 2011 would mark the fourth year of the so-called November Nine format.

In April, an article that appeared in Business Week detailed that Starwood Capital Group LLC and Colony Capital LLC were among the groups bidding for the Rio, an Off-Strip property located on Flamingo Road. Business Week noted that the asking price was $500 million for the 89-acre facility. The leading destinations for the WSOP seemed to be Caesars Palace or the newly-acquired Planet Hollywood, both of which are located on the Strip.

Meanwhile, the TwoPlusTwo community has been buzzing about the rumored Rio sale, quoting Pokerati and various Twitter posts as sources. One TwoPlusTwo member cited the logistical nightmare that would ensue by bringing the mammoth WSOP to the heart of the Strip: “The Strip is a traffic nightmare already for anyone driving or taking a cab to a property. Trying to get all those people in at the same time is going to be ugly.”

To put the added traffic the WSOP brings into perspective, the 2010 cycle featured 72,966 entries in 57 bracelet events. This year marked the largest WSOP prize pool in history at $187 million. Players from 117 countries around the world flocked to the Nevada desert for the tournament series, ranging in age from 21 to 97.

It appears that the Rio is not yet sold and is safely still in the hands of Harrah’s. Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest WSOP headlines.

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