Las Vegas tourism agency approves deal to buy, demolish Riviera to expand convention center

Industries Associated Press

Within six months, the Riviera hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip will be history now that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has approved a deal to buy it and demolish it.

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The agency's board members voted unanimously Friday with one member absent to spend up to $191 million to buy the 26-acre property on the north end of the Strip to make way for an expanded convention center, part of a $2.3 billion project it's calling the Las Vegas Global Business District.

The now-2,075-room Riviera first opened in 1955 and has had its share of facelifts and revivals, along with multiple bouts with bankruptcy, over the years.

HOW IS THE AGENCY PAYING FOR IT?

The tourism agency expects to spend $182.5 million to buy the property itself and up to $8.5 million in related costs.

The agency's operations are funded with a tax on room nights at Las Vegas area hotels. But the money for the Riviera purchase is expected to come from the agency's line of credit with JP Morgan. That amount is then expected to be retired within two years after the agency issues long-term bonds.

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CASINO SHUTS DOWN?

Nevada's Gaming Control Board staff, particularly its audit division, will conduct a final audit to make sure the casino is current on any taxes and fees it might owe, Gaming Control Board chairman AG Burnett said. If it is, the Riviera will simply surrender its gaming license. The casino also has to show it has enough money on hand to potentially pay out any progressive slot machine jackpots won before it closes.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE EMPLOYEES?

John Groom, chief operating officer of Paragon Gaming, which has been managing the Riviera, said in a statement his company would be assisting in providing resources and alternative job options for the estimated 1,000 employees at the casino-hotel.

WHAT IS THE GLOBAL BUSINESS DISTRCT?

The $2.3 billion expansion plan is aimed at adding nearly 1 million square feet to the convention center's existing 2.18 million square feet. The build-out is expected to happen in two phases over five to eight years with the Riviera parcel's exhibit space to be built first. The project also includes a transportation element and business space.