Bally’s executives to appear at Nevada Gaming Board ahead of Tropicana demolition

March 4, 2024 9:05 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
March 4, 2024 9:05 PM

The demolition of the Tropicana Las Vegas and its reconstruction, along with building a new $1.5 billion baseball stadium for the relocation of the MLB Oakland A’s, is likely to take center stage Wednesday during a monthly meeting of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

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The first item on Wednesday’s agenda that starts at 9 a.m. lists the licensing of executives and officers for the Tropicana Las Vegas, which is operated by the Bally’s Corp.

The licensing covers Gerard Glover, chief financial officer and executive vice president, and Ameet Patel, senior vice president and regional general manager of the western region. Sophia Harris, chair of Bally’s audit committee, is also up for licensing as part of Bally’s Corp.

Bally’s has already announced that the Tropicana will be shuttered on April 2, the day before the property’s 67th birthday, to pave the way for its demolition and construction of a new resort and a 33,000-seat enclosed stadium scheduled to open in 2028.

The 35-acre Tropicana site is owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties, which leases it to Bally’s for $10.5 million a year. GLPI is giving the A’s nine acres for the ballpark, which is scheduled to start construction in 2025.

The A’s have yet to release renderings of the proposed stadium; they could be made available as early as this weekend, when the team is in town for two spring training games at the Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin.

The state of Nevada has funded up to $380 million of the cost of the stadium, while the A’s are responsible for about $1 billion. GLPI has agreed to fund up to $175 million toward certain shared improvements within the future development in exchange for a commensurate rent increase.

While public officials and tourism executives remain optimistic that the project will come to fruition, there’s been some skepticism from the public and national media about whether the nine acres is large enough and the A’s ownership can secure the financing for the project.

Casino consultant Brendan Bussmann, managing partner of B Global who tracks the Gaming Control Board meetings, said the stadium’s future and Tropicana reconstruction are valids issue and are certain to be addressed this month. The matter will also go before the Nevada Gaming Commission March 21.

“With this Commission, I don’t know what to expect. They all have their own thoughts as they relate to different aspects of the gaming enterprise,” Bussmann said. “With Bally’s, you will see not only where they sit with the future of the Trop, but where the company sits as a whole in the other markets they operate in. I don’t think we will have any full clarity until the A’s launch their plan and we see when that is.”

The most recent earnings reports issued by GLPI, Bally’s, and MGM Resorts International, which controls the other three corners of the stadium’s site on the Strip, provided few clues about the future of the project, Bussmann said.

“I don’t know if we have all of the answers for a future stadium,” Bussmann said. “All we know is that on April 2nd, the Trop will start shutting down. There’s general skepticism, because everyone is looking for specific answers as they relate to the stadium voted on last June in the state legislature for funding and for a gaming property that needs to be torn down to make room for it. That makes it interesting and challenging.

“No one seems to have a definitive answer about how everything is progressing with the projects,” Bussmann added. “Bally’s answered one way. MGM answered another. GLPI answered a third. The one that seems the most behind on the development is Bally’s. It’s really concerning. GLPI says things are very advanced. (MGM CEO Bill) Hornbuckle say he’s seen three different versions of the stadium and Bally’s said we’ll figure it out when we get to our point in the process. Which one is it?”

Bussmann cited “robust conversations” on how best to redevelop the site, regardless of whether a stadium is built there. Something needed to be done with the Tropicana, which has “good bones” for an older resort, but it’s been difficult to get that property to work in a modern resort setting. The outer buildings don’t flow with a modern resort, and there’s a limited gaming floor with ceiling heights because it sits under the tower. All of that limits the property’s ability to move to the next level, he said.

“First and foremost is how to best situate a stadium that I guarantee will go beyond the nine acres said to exist today,” Bussmann said. “I continue to say that, based on the more than 10 acres to build a 24,000-seat venue in Omaha.”

Despite all concerns he’s raised, Bussmann said he remains optimistic that Major League Baseball will work in southern Nevada and the visitors that come with it.

“A stadium will help the overall resort corridor more than anything,” Bussmann said. “It gives another venue and another driver to bring people to the destination.”

Bussmann pointed out that Hornbuckle said on MGM’s fourth-quarter earnings call that he’s waiting for the stadium plans before he starts any renovations at the MGM Grand.

“MGM has grand plans when they hold three of those corners,” Bussmann said. “I assume you’ll see something with New York-New York and Excalibur as part of that.”