Have you ever moved or cleaned out a property? It can be bittersweet to say goodbye to memories built over years.My parents lived 40 years in my childhood suburban Philadelphia home. After they passed away, my sister Linda and I faced the daunting clean up. I was amazed at what they had kept, but loved seeing those mementos once again.
Gaming people understand leaving memories behind as skylines within many gaming jurisdictions change over time. Las Vegas is a prime example, as many glamorous hotels of yesteryear now hold a place only in the city’s history and legend. Remember iconic casinos like the Sands, Dunes, Frontier, Desert Inn, Riviera, Circus Circus and several others?
Once past their prime, casino land owners/ developers like Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson, the late Terry Lanni, the Boyds and others had to reshape their futures. Should they spend hundreds of millions in renovations or start fresh from the ground up?
They chose to “go new” and replaced these properties with showplaces like Bellagio, Wynn, the Venetian and Aria, to name a few. I actually enjoyed a lovely room at the Sands – the current Venetian/Palazzo site –right before its implosion.
However, new complexes have also stalled. Boyd Gaming’s Echelon in Las Vegas stopped cold after the economic crash, but they at least erected the steel. Others had to scaled back their scope.
Smaller casino operators have sometimes taken a different path, usually due to costs. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005, regional operators typically rebuilt, using the shells of their battered casinos. Although they surely made improvements, the bulk stayed intact.
Since the 1990s, Atlantic City casinos have faced similar questions about their obsolete properties. Living here for 17 years, I‘ve witnessed both demolition and development.
The Golden Nugget, formerly the Trump Marina, is one success story. In early 2011, Landry’s CEO and owner Tillman Fertitta paid $38 million for the ailing waterfront location, later adding $100 million-plus. Today, Golden Nugget is a profitable gem with a thriving online gaming program.
Carl Icahn’s Tropicana continues upgrading and expanding, as does Mohegan Sun’s Resorts Atlantic City. Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein bought and renovated Caesars shuttered Showboat, reopening as a hotel only in July 2016.
But, what happens when promises made are promises broken and cause lasting damage? Pinnacle bought the off-Boardwalk Sands in 2006, imploded the building in 2007 and promised a first-class new development. It never happened.
The Sands was the East Coast’s first gaming property implosion and demolished more than 2,000 jobs along with the concrete. Pinnacle delayed the project, following the 2008 economic downturn, and soon left town. They never returned and the empty space remains. For me, 10 years later, sending the Sands into oblivion and then exiting rings disappointing and unsavory at best.
So, I am thrilled the Hard Rock International investors have committed $500 million to rebuild and rebrand the former Trump Taj Mahal, closed since last October. Everything will change when completed next summer. Under the prestigious Hard Rock name, the venue will employ thousands.
To prepare, the Hard Rock is now auctioning off the hotel casino’s furnishings, electronics and equipment through September. Everyone wins – the public can buy merchandise at a fraction of their original costs while the Hard Rock empties the site and earns extra revenues. Large items with the Trump name were previously removed for security.
Hundreds are participating, but one guy‘s recent audacity or “chutzpah” seems extreme. A video caught him showering in an open hotel room.
His explanation? “…it’s a liquidation sale. They’re giving us a sample…I thought maybe I could get a free shower. Also because I have cold water at my house…this is a nice way…to get a nice little hot shower.”
Have you now heard everything? I hope this guy patronizes the Hard Rock next summer so he can at least pay back his water usage bill.