Question of the Day October 2, 2014
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Q:I was wondering who the current owners of the Riviera Hotel & Casino are and if there are any plans for the property? (QoD 8/14/14 revisited.)
A:(Note: To any reader who, upon reading today’s question, is experiencing a strange sense of deja vu, rest assured that you’re not hallucinating. We first addressed this query back in the middle of August, but there have been some pertinent developments since then, so we figured a timely re-visitation was in order.)
First things first, the Riv is owned by Riveria Holdings Corp., whose directors include Barry Sternlicht and Derek Stevens. Secondly, Las Vegans were given a peek this week into the closely held workings of the Riviera, when management company Paragon Gaming had its licensing hearing with the Nevada Gaming Commission, a year (!) after taking charge of the property. From the sound of the testimony, it seems as though a renovation begun under the previous administration is still far from finished.
Paragon President Scott Menke said that hotel rooms and bathrooms still remained to be renovated (the price tag is estimated at $100 million). Using a $6 million fund, set aside by co-owner Starwood Capital, carpeting – some of which hadn’t been cleaned in 50 years -- has been replaced, though, and the exterior has been power-washed and the showroom remodeled. Reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "contractors recently worked through 200 code notices issued by Clark County regarding bad wiring and mechanical problems throughout the property." According to Commissioner Tony Alamo, however, it remains a "tired building" in a "challenged area," in spite of the "hip" reincarnation of neighboring SLS, not to mention MGM Resorts’ plans for a massive open-air live-entertainment venue on just a tad to the north, on the opposite side of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Commissioners were impressed by the Riviera’s improved regulatory performance, however, the property having reduced 20 violations in 2013 to just three this year. Revenue, which had been skidding downhill, is up 39 percent and net losses have been halved. Commissioner John Moran gushed to current CEO Diana Bennett, "It doesn’t surprise me that the Riviera is doing so much better under your management," Commissioner John Moran told Menke and Paragon CEO Diana Bennett. "I just think it’s pretty incredible that you can take that kind of a property and really make it start working."
By winning the approval of the Gaming Commission, Paragon can now partake of the casino’s revenue stream, which may incentivize it to accelerate renovations to the property throughout the remainder of its contract, which runs through June 2015. During the next quarter, Paragon’s stated priority is to upgrade the Riviera’s technological infrastructure, while continuing to deliver cosmetic renovations. "It basically came down to what we know best. We gave the employees back their pride," Bennett said of Paragon’s work to date. "It was basic ‘casino operations 101.’"