Hard Rock owner: Eldorado properties may sell again

MINDEN, Nev. — One of the owners of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino said last week she wouldn't be surprised if two of the three Stateline properties involved in the recent Caesars-Eldorado Resorts merger sell in the near future.

Harveys, Harrah's and Montbleu were all involved in the merger, which Diana Bennett, Paragon Gaming Chairwoman of the Board, said might result in further property sales.

“I think you're going to see two of those properties being sold again,” she said on Thursday, Sept. 26. “That could be good for the area. With three of them being held by Eldorado, I don't see they'll see major improvements if they don't get sold again."

Bennett was the keynote speaker at the 27th annual Critical Issues Conference at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden.

In late June, Reno-based Eldorado Resorts announced it would be purchasing Caesars in a mega merger valued at $17.3 billion.

Ownership will be split between Eldorado and Caesars shareholders, 51% to 49% respectively. The new company would retain the Caesars brand, but the executive leadership will come from Eldorado, with corporate headquarters in Reno.

The Eldorado-Caesars deal is targeted to close in the first half of 2020 if approved by gaming regulators and shareholders.

Pictured are the four larger casinos in Stateline, on Lake Tahoe's South Shore. With the Caesars/Eldorado merger announced, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino would be the lone “Big Four” properties owned by a different company.

In terms of the three Tahoe properties, Caesars already owned Harrah's and Harveys Lake Tahoe in Stateline at the time of the announcement.

Further, Eldorado had acquired MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa in 2018 as part of a larger, $1.85 billion deal to purchase assets owned by Tropicana Entertainment.

"I could be wrong," Bennett said at the Sept. 26 conference regarding the potential sale of Tahoe properties. "Putting some money into them would be really important to making Stateline a more improved destination.”

Considering Bennett's speculative comments, the NNBV reached out to the leadership team at Eldorado Resorts for comment.

"Thank you for checking with us. At this time, we will not have a comment," Angela T. Kabisch, Executive Director of Advertising & Public Relations for Eldorado Resorts, said in email.

The state of gaming in Nevada

A second-generation casino operator, Bennett said there isn't much unique about the inside of a casino.

“In Reno and Tahoe you have to take advantage of what you have that makes you unique,” she said. “I think Tahoe has never taken advantage of fall. Fall in Tahoe is gorgeous.”

She pointed out that while western Nevada tourists focus on summer and winter, they don't do much with the shoulder seasons.

“We have to sell what's so beautiful here,” she said. “I walked up and down the street yesterday when we got here, and I'm thinking to myself, ‘This is so beautiful. I wonder what my family would do if I said I think I want to retire to Minden.' We need to figure out what is so unique about your environment.”

Paragon Gaming is the majority shareholder of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Stateline.

Bennett said taking over the Hard Rock was like coming home because her father got his start in gaming at the Sahara Tahoe.

“I was so excited,” she said. “That's the first place my dad ever had a job in gaming.”

Bennett said she attended Whittell High School for a year until her father, gaming legend William Bennett, was transferred to Las Vegas

“My dad only worked here for one year before they gave him a promotion to Las Vegas as assistant general manager of the Mint and then made him general manager of the Sahara,” she said. “For me to be able come back and own the property that was his very first job was something very special.”

Bennett and Paragon co-founder Scott Menke took over the Hard Rock when it was the subject of around 60 lawsuits filed in the wake of its remodel.

“We've been able to gradually turn that property around from a losing proposition to a profitable proposition,” she said.

She was positive about Tahoe's future as a gaming destination.

“The thing that is so exciting is the recognition that we have to take Tahoe from a seasonal destination where people only come in the summer and the winter to a year-round destination,” she said. “The events center and the pedestrian walkway are such a major part of making Tahoe a year round destination.”

NNBV staff contributed to this report.


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