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Name change ‘musical chairs’ may be on horizon for Strip properties

Some big name changes are ahead for properties on the Strip, but it’s not happening right away.

The executive team for Providence, Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp. previewed what’s in store for the Tropicana Las Vegas, in a two-hour licensing hearing Wednesday before the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The 65-year-old, 1,467-room resort at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue is destined for a management change if the Nevada Gaming Commission follows the Control Board’s licensing recommendation when it meets Sept. 22.

What could transpire is a musical-chairs transition of Strip hotel names.

Bally’s, which isn’t affiliated with the Bally’s casino-resort on the Strip, is destined to take over operations at the Trop from Penn Entertainment Inc., a Pennsylvania company that also runs the M Resort at the far southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Bally’s has a history of attaching its name to the location of its resorts. There’s Bally’s Atlantic City, Bally’s Lake Tahoe, Bally’s Kansas City and, soon, Bally’s Chicago, since it submitted the winning proposal for the Windy City’s first and only casino.

Horseshoe brand

Meanwhile, the hotel currently known as Bally’s — and it used to be the MGM Grand before today’s MGM Grand was built across the street from the Tropicana — is destined for its own name change.

Caesars Entertainment Inc. owns the resort Bally’s and agreed to dust off one of its brands — Horseshoe — and put that name on the building. The Bally’s signage is already coming off the building.

Las Vegas long-timers know that there used to be a Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas.

What is now Binion’s on Fremont Street was once Binion’s Horseshoe until 2005. Founded in 1951 by Benny Binion, it’s now owned by Terry Caudill’s TLC Casino Enterprises, the same company that owns Four Queens.

There’s a certain symmetry surrounding Horseshoe.

When Binion owned it, the casino was known as “the place that made poker famous.” When Caesars acquired the Horseshoe brand and the famed World Series of Poker, it decided to move the 101-event poker tournament from the Rio to Bally’s, or the soon-to-be-named Horseshoe.

A’s still in play

In testimony from last week’s Control Board hearing, Bally’s executives Lee Fenton and George Papanier said there are big plans ahead for the Tropicana, but it hasn’t reached any final decisions.

Papanier, who heads Bally’s retail operations, said the company generally takes several months to develop a plan for the future. As for the Tropicana, it hasn’t been determined whether the company will do a few nips and tucks or whether it will be a complete redevelopment overhaul.

One of the topics that often comes up regarding the Tropicana is the role it could play in luring Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s to Southern Nevada.

The Trop was one of the early sites the A’s had their eyes on when they first began investigating Las Vegas as a potential relocation destination.

Because Fenton and Papanier didn’t say anything about baseball during the Control Board hearing, I asked Papanier if the Trop was still in play as a potential stadium site.

“A lot of this information is already public and we certainly are in discussions with the A’s organization,” Papanier said.

“They (the A’s) have other opportunities as well, a couple of other sites they’re considering in the market as well as ultimately having to make a decision on Oakland,” he said. “They’re continuing to engage with us and hopefully there will be an opportunity where we could do a joint development.”

Papanier said the lengthy process of determining what’s ahead for the Trop has nothing to do with the A’s stadium timeline. He also reiterated that for the immediate future the Tropicana name will stick.

“Under the current version of the Tropicana property, it will stay Tropicana,” he said. “Ultimately, when we go through that evaluation period and determine what we’re going to do futuristically and ultimately redevelop the property, that’s when we’ll carry the Bally brand.”

The A’s, who also have been negotiating for a potential stadium site with Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin, who owns the 37-acre Las Vegas Festival Grounds at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, say they don’t plan to make a public statement about the stadium until they’ve chosen a site.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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