Caesars, Gansevoort Part Ways on $185M Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall Makeover

By Alex Girda, Associate Editor, and Paul Rosta, Senior Editor Caesars Entertainment’s $185 million makeover of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon is going forward without one of its original partners. In response to concerns raised by Massachusetts regulators about an investor’s alleged links to Russian crime syndicates, Gansevoort Hotel Group is stepping away from its [...]

Caesars Entertainment’s $185 million makeover of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon is going forward without one of its original partners. In response to concerns raised by Massachusetts regulators about an investor’s alleged links to Russian crime syndicates, Gansevoort Hotel Group is stepping away from its role as developer of a 188-key boutique hotel. Statements from Caesars and Gansevoort strongly dispute the problems cited by regulators, and imply a reluctant but amicable parting.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that New York City-based Gansevoort’s departure stemmed from an unrelated billion-dollar casino venture in Boston, on which Caesars teamed with Suffolk Downs Race Track.  Massachusetts Gaming Commission officials raised a red flag because of a 2012 report in the New York Post, which suggested that an investor in Gansevoort has connections to Russian crime syndicates.

Although Gansevoort had no connection to the Boston proposal, officials nevertheless raised concerns about its partnership with Caesars on the Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall project. Massachusetts regulators prompted Suffolk Downs Race Track to drop Caesars from the Boston project. Also at issue was Caesars’ $23 billion debt load.

The action drew a sharp response from Caesars, which called Massachusetts’ standards “arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent with those that exist in every other gaming jurisdiction,” according to the Review-Journal. After consulting its partners, the statement added, Caesars had decided “to focus on our 54 properties around the world as well as other growth opportunities.”

Gansevoort expressed equal dismay. Michael Achenbaum, the company’s president, released a statement charging Massachusetts regulators with relying on what it called “rumor” and “innuendo.” “No new facts have arisen since we passed the internal gaming compliance process of Caesars prior to the execution of our agreements,” Achenbaum added, according to the Journal-Review.  “However, in order to minimize any controversy for Caesars, we have agreed to end our role in the Las Vegas project. Gansevoort wishes Caesars and its team continued success.”

According to statements from Caesars, Gansevoort’s departure will have no impact on the transformation of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, which will include a 40,000-square-foot casino. Nor will other planned attractions be affected, such as the 65,000-square-foot nightclub owned by Victor Drai, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014, or  celebrity chef Giada De Laurentis’ restaurant.

 

A while ago, part of a city-wide trend to improve or redevelop old gambling spots on the Strip, Caesars Entertainment announced plans to turn a local staple into a completely revamped, high-end hospitality spot. The Las Vegas giant had presented its project to put new life into the former Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, with the aid of New York-based Gansevoort Hotel Group. The idea was to turn the aging casino property into a fresh-faced, 188-key boutique-style hotel, sporting the signature style of the iconic hospitality company. That partnership however, is now ancient history, The Las Vegas Sun reports.

While Caesars Entertainment is set to go ahead with the $185 million investment in the boutique hotel project, Gansevoort is no longer part of the scheme, marking a split between the two organizations. The breakdown will also not affect other planned attractions at the rebranded property, with the Victor Drai-owned 65,000-square-foot nightclub set to open in the spring of 2014, as well as celebrity chef Giada De Laurentis’ new Italian restaurant at the address.

According to press statements from Caesars, the split with Gansevoort will have no impact on the transformation of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon into a new nightlife-oriented spot, with a 40,000-square-foot casino also part of the proposed package.

The backstory regarding the split with Gansevoort has received quite the amount of coverage recently. The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported that Caesars ended its partnership with the hospitality company for Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Casino as a result of its forced exit from a billion dollar casino venture in Boston, MS. State regulators prompted Caesars’ partner in the joint venture, Suffolk Downs Race Track to drop the Las Vegas company due to its involvement with Gansevoort in the Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall redevelopment project, and denied Caesars’ gambling license in the state of Massachusetts. The action came as a result of information regarding one of Gansevoort’s current investors having ties to Russian organized crime. Caesars and Gansevoort ended their partnership amicably, as press releases from both sides point out, mainly in order to prevent the gambling company to take any more hits from their association.