Caesars Sells Rio but Keeps WSOP

Caesars Sells Rio but Keeps WSOP

The rumors were true – some of them.

Just a few weeks ago, World Series of Poker VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky had to address rumors as he had done so many times before.

Palansky took to Twitter to type, “Can 100% confirm @WSOP will take place at the Rio in Las Vegas in 2020.” This was in response to a tweet from Vital Vegas about the Rio being sold.

Looking back now, though, it was clear. Even if Palansky didn’t know about the sale of the Rio, he only addressed the WSOP’s location. He was careful not to dispute the Rio sale.

That was a good thing because it did happen shortly thereafter. Caesars sold the Rio.

Even so, the WSOP will – as Palansky stated – be held at the Rio next year and most likely the one after that. Let’s get into the details.

Imperial Companies Buys Rio

On September 23, the announcement made it official. Caesars entered into an agreement to sell the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to an affiliate of Imperial Companies for $516.3 million.

The Imperial affiliate’s identity is unclear, as is the goal of the purchase.

However, as the new owner figures out what to do with the Rio, Caesars retained the right to operate the property for the next two years. Caesars will pay $45 million in annualized rent. And if it wants a third year, Caesars can pay an extra $7 million for that option and another $45 million.

The Rio had long been a struggling property, off the Strip and without a successful theme. The time that the Rio truly shines and makes money is during the annual World Series of Poker. It runs each summer from the end of May through the middle of July and brings thousands of poker players to the convention center – and attached casino, restaurant, and hotel – during that time.

So, Caesars finally offloaded the property just a few months after the company agreed to be acquired by Eldorado Resorts.

Caesars Keeps WSOP

The WSOP itself could have been sold as well. However, Caesars decided to keep it.

Caesars CEO Tony Rodio noted, “The retention of the world Series of Poker and retention of Caesars Rewards customers are all factors that make this a valuable transaction for Caesars.”

The press release also noted that the WSOP will be hosted at the Rio in 2020 and “hosting rights will remain with Caesars Entertainment thereafter.”

With the rental agreement in place, Caesars will continue operating the Rio for a minimum of two years, which will also allow the WSOP to stay at the Rio during that time.

This explains why Palansky was so confident – 100% so – about the location of the WSOP in 2020. He likely knew that Caesars would retain the WSOP as a part of any deal and manage the Rio property for at least another year.

WSOP Going Forward

Since we know the location of the WSOP in 2020 and probably 2021, speculation can begin about 2022.

Quite a bit can change between now and then.

It does appear that Caesars is determined to hold the WSOP. This means that the WSOP will likely move to another Caesars property in Las Vegas by 2022. However, it is unclear which properties will be under the Caesars umbrella after the Eldorado acquisition is complete next year.

Only when the dust settles from that deal will true options emerge. The WSOP requires a large setting for nearly two months, one with plenty of large rooms, parking options, and restaurants and hotel rooms. And seeing as the WSOP has been growing over the past few years – more tournaments and more players – it might behoove Caesars to find a space that allows the WSOP to spread out and offer more to its players and fans.

Expect the rumors to ramp up next summer.



About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

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