Remembering The Mirage, the Vegas Game-Changer That Closes This Week

This Thursday, The Mirage, the casino resort that remade Las Vegas, closes up shop for good.

Tourists line Las Vegas Boulevard to watch The Mirage’s volcano show one last time. (Image: Wall St. Journal)

The body of what was once the world’s largest resort will live on, as the 3,000-room structure with the 91,000-square-foot casino gets transformed into the second Hard Rock Las Vegas over the next three years. Its owners, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, plan to gut the joint and build a 600-suite tower shaped like a guitar out front, where The Mirage volcano now sits in its lagoon.

According to many users of social media, however, The Mirage will live on only in a zombie-like state, with a new guitar hotel but without a soul.

“Vegas is now dead to me,” Christopher Vance wrote in a post on the resort’s official Facebook group.

“This is so wrong,” added Matt Treat. “That casino is still beautiful. Do Treasure Island instead.”

The Mirage That Saved Vegas

In the mid-1980s, Las Vegas had lost its way. Once-glittering casino hotels the Dunes, Desert Inn, and Riviera were aging badly. The Strip had become a national punchline — a place to lose money while barely being placated by cheap, second-rate entertainment and cheaper third-rate buffets.

The 1987 “Black Monday” stock-market crash and resulting global recession ate into visitor numbers as well — as did the Atlantic City, which offered East Coasters the same unimpressive experience closer to home.

Steve Wynn poses in front of his vision during its construction. Its name, The Mirage, was apt because it stuck out as an unbelievable addition to the Strip at the time. Wynn paid the owners of the local Mirage Motel and La Mirage $250K each to change their property names. (Image:

A radical new vision was required to transform Las Vegas’ image and attract new interest and investment.

That vision would come from Steve Wynn, the intractable Golden Nugget owner who sold the Atlantic City outpost of that casino resort, for $440 million, just to help will his vision into reality.

Wynn’s radical idea was to impart the feeling of a Polynesian paradise smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert — a resort so crammed with luxury, entertainment, and surprises, it would be a destination in itself.

Before then, Vegas tourism basically involved picking a hotel and spending most of your vacation casino-hopping along the Strip.

Guests would enter Wynn’s new resort, which would open as the largest in the world, through a rainforest atrium with huge palm trees, exotic plants, and water features. They would look out onto a pool area with waterfalls and lagoons. And when they checked in, 450 fish from 80 species would swim around a 20,000-gallon saltwater tank behind the clerk’s head.

The simulated volcano out front would erupt every 15 minutes from dusk until midnight, giving passersby their first free Las Vegas Strip show.

An Unlikely Wynn

Today, Wynn’s vision is credited with transforming Las Vegas into a destination for world-class amenities, superstar residencies, and fine dining — along with prices to match.

Chevy Chase, as Clark Griswold, gets pulled into Siegfried & Roy’s show at The Mirage in the 1997 movie “Vegas Vacation.” (Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Most new Strip casinos resorts that followed, followed The Mirage formula — from the new MGM Grand in 1993, to the Monte Carlo in 1997, Wynn’s own Bellagio in 1998, Mandalay Bay in 1999, Paris Las Vegas and the Aladdin in 2000, the Palms in 2001, Wynn Las Vegas in 2005, the Cosmopolitan in 2010, Resorts World in 2021, and the Fontainebleau in 2023.

But when it first opened in November 1989, success was far from a sure bet for The Mirage.

Though the resort’s $630 million cost seems commonplace now, even when adjusted for inflation to $1.6 billion, that was more money than had ever been spent on a casino resort. Anywhere.

When it was reported at the time that The Mirage needed to generate an unheard-of $1.1 million per day just to service its debt — and that Wynn had financed it using risky junk bonds — analysts and competitors alike predicted failure.

The victim not only of new ownership, but of changing tastes, priorities, and morals, Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat permanently closed last year. (Image: Trip Advisor)

According to Wynn, Henry Gluck, CEO of Caesars World, told Mirage VP of Sports Bob Halloran at the time that the resort “would never open.”

But Wynn knew what he was doing by creating a haven for the wealthy. It allowed The Mirage to break Vegas’ $100-per-night room ceiling for the first time, to host the Strip’s very first $100-per-ticket permanent resident headliner, Siegfried & Roy, and to open a dozen restaurants where meals for two routinely doubled that price.

”How could anyone understand Disneyland if all they’d ever seen was the Santa Monica Pier?” he told CNN in 1996.

Some Firsts Were Also Lasts

We’re looking at you, Siegfried & Roy. Ushered into Vegas by Jan Vinicky and her elephant, Tanya — late-’60s regulars at Circus Circus — the idea of wild animals performing for human entertainment didn’t age well.

Though it would have been doomed by the 2010s anyway, the trend came to an abrupt and savage end in Vegas on Oct. 3, 2003, on stage at The Mirage. That’s the night Mantacore the tiger nearly killed Roy Horn before a shocked live audience in what remains one of the most infamous moments in entertainment history.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr take a curtain call with cast members to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles LOVE” in 2016. (Image: LA Times)

Though Wynn had already sold The Mirage to MGM Resorts by then, securing the only stage show ever produced by the Beatles, “LOVE,” was pretty much the only way to follow up a Siegfried & Roy without disappointing.

The much-loved Cirque du Soleil show took its final bows on July 7, after playing to 11.5 million satisfied guests, including former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on at least three occasions each.

“I can’t imagine Vegas without The Mirage Hotel and Casino,” commented Elena Stevens Boldrin in the official Facebook group. “I’ve spent many years going to Vegas and staying there, celebrating my birthdays. Took all three kids to Vegas for their 21st birthday and stayed at The Mirage. Memories to last a lifetime. Just got back from there, our last hurrah! Saw The Love show for the 4th and final time.

“You will be missed.”

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Bally’s Plugs Chicago Casino Funding Gap in $2B Deal with GLPI

Shares of Bally’s (NYSE: BALY) surged Friday after the gaming company announced it will strike deals with Gaming and Leisure Properties (NASDAQ: GLPI) for an aggregate of $2.07 billion in financing. That closes an $800 million shortfall the operator faced on its Chicago casino hotel project.

Bally's Chicago casino revenue
Bally’s temporary casino in Chicago. The operator announced a series of agreements with GLPI that provide financing for the permanent casino in the Windy City. (Image: Chicago Tribune)

An affiliate of Gaming and Leisure — one of the largest owners of gaming real estate — is acquiring the property assets associated with Bally’s Chicago venture and will “fund construction hard costs of up to $940 million at an 8.5% initial cash yield.” That funding will be delivered from August 2024 through December 2026.

In addition to the development funding of hard costs, GLPI also intends to acquire the Chicago land for approximately $250 million before development begins. Upon GLPI’s purchase of the Chicago land, rent will commence under a new lease carrying a 15-year initial term with an initial cash yield of 8%,” according to a statement issued by the real estate investment trust (REIT).

The announcement arrived at a critical time for Bally’s in Chicago. In March, executives from the Rhode Island-based regional casino operator told the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) the company was facing an $800 million funding gap in Chicago, stoking concerns that the much-ballyhooed debut of a casino resort in the city may not come to life.

The lease agreement on the Chicago property has been amended to reflect annual rent of $20 million at a cap rate of 8.5%. Shares of Bally’s are higher by 4.71% at this writing.

More Details on Bally’s Chicago Casino

By procuring the needed financing and, assuming various local regulatory approvals are granted over the near term, it’s possible that Bally’s could soon commence demolition of the Freedom Center, potentially positioning the operator to meet the expected September 2026 debut of the Chicago gaming venue.

Bally’s also announced that the location of the 500-room hotel tower will be moved to the southern end of the property. The initial plan called for the hotel to be located at the northern end, but it was later discovered that would damage underground infrastructure, sparking criticism that neither Bally’s nor the city had properly thought out the project.

The gaming company also implied it intends to move forward with an initial public offering (IPO) tied to the Chicago plan that is designed to allow local investors, including business owners and minority groups, to own up to 25% of the venture.

Other Moving Parts in Bally’s/GLPI Agreement

Before Friday, Bally’s and GLPI had an existing relationship that was poised to grow, and not just because of the Chicago pact. As part of the broader agreement, the REIT is acquiring the real estate of Bally’s Kansas City and Bally’s Shreveport for a total of $395 million. The combined annual rent on those properties will be $32.2 million, “representing an 8.2% initial cash capitalization rate.”

The two sides also agreed to alter the terms of an agreement under which the REIT can acquire the property assets of Bally’s Twin River casino in Lincoln, RI before the end of 2026 for $735 million, down from a previously agreed upon $771 million. Initial annual rent would be $58.8 million.

“As a part of the amendment, GLPI will be granted a right to call the Lincoln Transaction beginning in October 2026, coinciding with the scheduled maturity of Bally’s revolving credit facility. All such transactions are subject to required regulatory approvals,” according to the press release issued by the gaming company.

GLPI already owns the property associated with Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel. The REIT’s existing New England footprint consists of the Tiverton venue, the  Hollywood  Casino Hotel in Bangor, Maine, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Mass., both of which are operated by Penn Entertainment (NASDAQ: PENN).

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VEGAS MYTHS RE-BUSTED: The Imperial Palace was Shaped Like a Swastika

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Vegas Myths Busted” publishes every Monday, with a bonus Flashback Friday edition. Today’s entry in our ongoing series originally ran on Nov. 11, 2022.

A popular myth has resurfaced since the LINQ Hotel replaced the Imperial Palace on the Las Vegas Strip in 2014 — that the latter was shaped like a swastika because its builder-owner was a Nazi sympathizer.

Ralph Engelstad, founder/owner of the Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace builder/owner Ralph Engelstad, shown in an undated press conference photo, did many good things in his career, and one very bad thing. (Image:

Oh, the Nazi sympathizer part was true, though Ralph Engelstad denied it, and it was never proven by any government entity. But that’s only because the hotelier agreed to pay $1.5 million to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in 1989 — then its second-highest fine ever — for “damaging Nevada’s image by glorifying Hitler and the Third Reich.”

Engelstad also agreed to nine restrictions on his gaming license to avoid a full-blown inquiry that could have resulted in its revocation.

According to a never-retracted 1988 New York Times article, Engelstad used his casino hotel to throw birthday parties for Adolf Hitler on April 20, 1986, and 1988. They celebrated what would have been the genocidal dictator’s 97th and 99th birthdays.

The Hitler bashes were thrown in Engelstad’s “war room,” a secret, 3,000 square-foot Imperial Palace lair decorated with Nazi memorabilia, murals of Hitler, and a painting of Engelstad dressed in full Nazi uniform. Oh yeah, and, according to the Times, the parties were staffed by bartenders in T-shirts reading “Adolf Hitler: European tour 1939-45.”

Engelstad claimed his interest in Hitler was purely historical and that the festivities were just ”theme” parties to boost employee morale. The gaming authority didn’t see it that way. According to the Times, their investigation also turned up a printing plate used to make hundreds of bumper stickers bearing the words ”Hitler Was Right.”

According to a never-retracted 2005 article on, one guest of the 1988 Hitler celebration claimed that Engelstad “forced some Jewish employees to come against their wishes. He wanted one Jew to cut the cake, but the person ducked out. Ralph ran around trying to find him.”

Myth Understanding

Imperial Palace aerial view
This aerial view of the Imperial Palace is a myth-buster. (Image:

The myth of the swastika-shaped Imperial Palace, which, frankly, never seemed so outlandish, considering what happened inside the building, pretty much ended with the advent of Google Earth in 2005.

While the casino hotel had swastika-like angles, aerial shots clearly showed that it bore no distinct resemblance to a swastika or any other known symbol.

But the myth has resurfaced since the Imperial Palace was imploded, and that’s another myth because it wasn’t imploded. It was supposed to be, but then the Great Recession hit, and Harrah’s (now Caesars), the debt-plagued company that purchased the hotel from the Engelstad family in 2005, opted to build the LINQ over the bones of the Imperial Palace instead.

So, when viewed from above, the current hotel retains the former hotel’s exact, non-swastika shape today.

Taking the Good with the Bad

Engelstad did a lot of good for Las Vegas. He built up the Imperial Palace, originally the Flamingo Capri, from 650 to 2,700 rooms, and reopened it in 1979. He also co-developed the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He donated generously to charity. His contributions included $104 million to build a hockey arena at his alma mater, the University of North Dakota.

And he was never convicted of a crime, or even brought up on charges, in connection with the scandal.

Engelstad later denounced Hitler and apologized to the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas for his “error in judgment.” He called the parties he threw for his employees on Hitler’s birthday “stupid, insensitive, and held in bad taste.”

Engelstad died of cancer in 2002. Two arenas, the one at his alma mater in Grand Forks, ND, and a second in Thief River Falls, Minn., still bear his name.

Look for “Vegas Myths Busted” every Monday on Click here to read previously busted Vegas myths. Got a suggestion for a Vegas myth that needs busting? Email

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The High Line Announces Opposition to Wynn New York Casino

The High Line, a nonprofit group named after a park on the West Side of Manhattan, launched the “Protect the High Line” campaign in opposition to plans by Related Cos. and Wynn Resorts to bring a casino hotel to that part of New York City.

High Line
Part of the High Line area of New York City. Locals there are opposing a plan to bring a casino to the neighborhood. (Image: NPR)

The group claimed the real estate developer and the gaming company are attempting to undo a 2009 pact with the city to develop more housing and protect the Western Rail Yards. Under the terms of that agreement, Related promised to deliver between 3,454 and 5,700 housing units as part of its ongoing development of Hudson Yards.

The plan currently being pushed calls for three towers, two of which would be zoned commercial and one that would have just over 1,500 residential units. One of the towers would be three million square feet and bear the Wynn name.

Related and Wynn Resorts are now applying to the City for approval to replace the original 2009 zoning agreement and make significant changes to the zoning for the Western Rail Yards at Hudson Yards (located between West 30th and West 33rd Street and 11th and 12th Avenues). Their application includes two scenarios, one with a casino and one without,” according a statement issued by the High Line.

Should Wynn not procure one of the three downstate casino permits New York regulators could award late next year, exactly how much development Related will commit to at the site could be up for debate because many of the sites being pitched for New York City-area gaming venues lack allure if casinos are excluded. As such “Plan B’s” are largely perfunctory motions designed to satisfy regulatory requirements and may never see the light of day.

High Line Not Pleased with Either Scenario

The High Line group said there are flaws with both pitches from Related because even without the Wynn casino, the real estate firm could deliver fewer housing units than originally promised while increasing the size of skyscrapers, thus blocking park views.

If the casino is approved, it would be located at the north end of the property and it would be part of a broader $12 billion commitment by Related. It’s expected the gaming venue could command 2.7 million square feet, making it bigger than Wynn Las Vegas.

The High Line isn’t moved by such superlatives, but the group said it’s not opposed to development. Rather, it wants to see the Western Rail Yards developed in such a way that the result is an improvement upon the 2009 agreement.

“We have expressed our concerns directly to Related and feel it is critical to broaden the conversation to include all relevant stakeholders and our community so we can all move forward together with a better plan,” said Alan van Capelle, executive director of Friends of the High Line, in the statement.

Related, Wynn Not Alone in Facing Opposition

From the High Line to Times Square to Queens to Nassau County, proposed downstate casinos are facing varying levels of opposition.

Specific to Related and Wynn, High Line’s formal opposition emerged about three months after Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4) questioned the companies’ plans while appearing critical of what it called a “dramatic” reduction in residential units. There are some other hurdles to be cleared on the West Side, and those could take considerable amounts of time to be addressed.

“The proposed rezoning is subject to the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Process, which requires multiple levels of public review, including approval by the City Council. The casino component of the development plan requires the award of a casino license in a competitive process overseen by the State Gaming Commission,” concludes the High Line.

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Strat Could Be Mirage Closing Winner, Says Analyst

With the Tropicana shuttered in April, and with the Mirage heading for a temporary closure starting July 17, it doesn’t take an expert to figure out that room supply on the Las Vegas Strip is declining.

Golden Entertainment
Golden Entertainment’s Strat Las Vegas. The venue could benefit from the Mirage and Tropicana closures, says an analyst. (Image: Vegas Means Business)

Some experts and analysts have stated the obvious, but the astute ones are identifying potential winners under the scenario of about 4,500 rooms going offline between the Tropicana and Mirage closures. Reduced room supply is a potential positive for MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) and Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR) — the two largest operators on the Strip — but other venues could benefit.

In a new report to clients, CBRE analyst John DeCree highlighted The Strat, which is owned and operated by Golden Entertainment (NASDAQ: GDEN), as a potential beneficiary of the Tropicana and Mirage closures. Citing some fundamental issues, he lowered his price target on Golden to $40 from $47, but reiterated a “buy” rating on the shares.

The Strat is one of Golden’s three Las Vegas casinos, with the other two being a pair of off-Strip Arizona Charlie’s venues that cater to Las Vegas locals.

Strat Not On Strip, but Could Still Benefit

Many visitors to Las Vegas consider the Strat a Strip casino hotel because it’s located on Las Vegas Boulevard, but in reality, it’s situated just north of the Strip, and Clark County doesn’t consider the area in which the venue resides to be part of the Strip. That doesn’t diminish Strat’s status as a potential beneficiary of the Mirage and Tropicana closures.

Most importantly, the closure of The Tropicana Las Vegas in April and the scheduled closure of Mirage later this month could accelerate the occupancy recovery at the Strat and improve overall customer mix and margins,” wrote DeCree.

Golden has taken steps to spruce up the Strat and add new nongaming amenities. And, while the venue typically doesn’t capture a lot of business from the consumers who frequent the Strip’s toniest properties, it could be a compelling alternative for customers who previously enjoyed the Trop.

“With Caesars and MGM (properties) at or near full occupancy on the Strip, we see an opportunity for Golden to potentially pick up more than its fair share of displaced room nights,” according to DeCree. “The Strat midweek occupancy is still 12 points below 2019 levels. And although weekend occupancy at the property hit 96% in the first quarter, there should be more upside from higher rates with fewer rooms available on the Strip going forward.”

Other Potential Catalysts for Golden

DeCree also pointed out that the Strat has been among the Las Vegas casinos that have been hampered by elevated promotional activity among smaller independent rivals — a scenario that’s lasted longer than expected. Elevated labor costs and some softness among cost-conscious guests have also been a drag on Golden.

However, there are potential catalysts for the stock, including the recent additions of some new gaming taverns to Golden’s already expansive portfolio. The company is the largest operator of such venues in the Las Vegas Valley.

DeCree also highlighted the operator’s recently implemented dividend and the fact that the company has $90 million remaining on a previously authorized share repurchase plan. He expects the entirety of that amount will be spent over the next year.

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Bally’s Files Implosion Permit Application to Drop Trop

Bally’s Corporation, which closed the Tropicana Las Vegas last April and has slowly been demolishing it since, filed an application to implode the casino resort’s two 22-story towers on Thursday.

One of the Tropicana’s two main towers stands gutted down to its concrete and steel on July 6. (Image: YouTube/@AmericaJR)

The permit application, filed with Clark County, requests the implosion of the vintage Las Vegas Strip resort’s Tropicana Club and Paradise towers in “a single explosive event.”

Unnamed demolition companies would begin setting up by Sept. 30 at the earliest, and complete the blast before Oct. 8, according to the permit application, which values the cost of the implosion contract at $1.2 million.

This implosion permit application was filed by Bally’s with Clark County on Thursday. (Image: X/Twitter/@seventensuited)

So When Will the Trop Drop?

Representative of the Bally’s Corporation, the operator of the 1950s relic, are keeping mum on all specifics. No doubt, they will try to hide the implosion date from the public, and conduct it in the wee morning hours.

Their only logical goal would be to discourage as many  in-person observers as possible, should anything not proceed as planned.

Clark County approved a demolition permit for the site on April 20. Since then, Bally’s has been slowly deconstructing the Tropicana, which closed on April 2, just shy of its 67th birthday.

The Oakland A’s have expressed their intention to build a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat ballpark on 9 of the site’s 36 acres. According to Bally’s and Gaming & Leisure Properties, which owns the land, the other 27 acres will be developed as a casino resort.

Critics of the project include’s own Vital Vegas blogger Scott Roeben, who has written that “the A’s have shown no signs they have financing for a $1.5 billion anything, including a stadium.”

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Live! Casino Pittsburgh Announces Renovation of Gaming Venue

Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Hempfield at the Westmoreland Mall is undergoing change.

Live! Casino Pittsburgh Pennsylvania gaming
Live! Casino Pittsburgh is undergoing a floor modification and expansion of its high-limit area. Baltimore-based Cordish Companies says the renovation will run about $3 million. (Image: Tripadvisor)

Owned and operated by The Cordish Companies, the Baltimore casino firm that additionally runs Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, a full-scale resort casino in Pennsylvania, renovation work recently began at Live! Pittsburgh. The venue is a mini-casino, or satellite, of the larger destination resort in Philly.

Cordish says it’s investing $3 million to reconfigure the two-story gaming layout in Hempfield. The project is highlighted by relocating the poker room from the second floor to the first level.

The poker facility will continue to feature Texas Hold’em and varying Omaha games in its new 1,050-square-foot home. The previous 1,600-square-foot wood-paneled poker room on the second floor will be converted into a special events space that will complement Venue Live!, which has hosted an array of special casino promotions and private happenings since debuting in 2022. 

Casino Overhaul

Along with moving the poker room down a level, the $3 million project will expand the first-story High Limit Slots room to include three high-limit table games. A bar will also be placed inside the small high roller area.

Sean Sullivan, general manager of Live! Casino Pittsburgh, said the gaming modifications are the result of player feedback. Some gamblers who visited the casino reportedly were unaware of a poker room.

These improvements are a result of the continuous feedback we receive through a robust engagement process with our guests and our dedicated team members,” said Sullivan. “We are proud to continue to reinvest in the facility and serve as a world-class gaming and entertainment destination for Westmoreland County. We think our guests will be delighted with the new offerings.”

Live! Pittsburgh opened in October 2020 as the first satellite casino in the state. Being a Category 4 casino, the gaming floor is limited to a maximum of 750 slot machines and 40 live dealer table games.

Live! has operated at its slot and table cap since late 2021. The casino offers a FanDuel Sportsbook on the first floor and sports betting kiosks throughout the two-story facility.

Casino Success

Live! Casino Pittsburgh replaced what was formerly a Bon-Ton department store. The casino has helped reignite mall traffic and has aided in the Westmoreland Mall’s return to 95% occupancy.

Cordish invested $150 million to transform the Bon-Ton into a commercial casino. Along with its slots, tables, and sports betting, the casino offers three full-service restaurants — Sports & Social, Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen + Bar, and PBR Country Bar.

The second level section of Sports & Social offers social, non-gambling games like foosball, skeeball, arcade basketball, shuffleboard, bowling, and a golf simulator. The arcade games vary in price from about $5 per half hour for shuffleboard and ping pong to $45 an hour for a bowling lane during peak hours.

Pennsylvania is home to four mini-casinos, with Hollywood Casino York, Hollywood Casino Morgantown, and Parx Shippensburg being the other three. Live! Casino Pittsburgh was the top Cat. 4 casino revenue generator last year with gross gaming revenue of $114.7 million. Its FanDuel Sportsbook added another $1.7 million.

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Petersburg Casino Details Emerge as Virginia Lottery Approves City for Gambling

New details regarding the Petersburg casino project expected to go before city voters during the November 5 presidential election have emerged from would-be developers The Cordish Companies and Bruce Smith Enterprises.

Petersburg casino Virginia Live!
A rendering of the Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia entertainment complex, with subsequent mixed-use development phases completed. Petersburg voters will likely determine the fate of the proposed $1.4 billion undertaking on November 5. (Image: The Cordish Companies)

Baltimore-based Cordish and Bruce Smith Enterprises, a Virginia firm owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Virginia Tech alum Bruce Smith, are working together in the Virginia city as PPE Casino Resorts Petersburg, LLC. PPE recently divulged specifics regarding its proposed Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia.

The first phase of the development, should city voters back the casino referendum this fall, would include a $142.63 million investment to construct a provisional casino. The casino would commence operations within a year of a successful referendum.

The subsequent development phase would include an investment of $454.22 million and bring a five-star hotel resort with numerous restaurants and amenities, plus a larger permanent casino floor, to the entertainment complex. No timeline for the larger development phase was provided.

PPE wants to build its approximately $597 million casino resort on 92 acres off Wagner Road and Interstate 95.

The final resort, PPE projects, will employ 7,500 people with an average compensation of $70K including benefits and tips. According to the US Census Bureau, Petersburg’s median household income in 2022 was $47K. The city’s unemployment rate remains around 5%, nearly double Virginia’s statewide unemployment rate of just 2.7%.

The developers forecast that the resort will generate an annual economic impact north of $200 million for the City of Petersburg.  

Lottery Approval

The Virginia Lottery, which regulates commercial casino gambling in the commonwealth, this week certified Petersburg as an eligible host casino city pending resident support. Virginia lawmakers and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) earlier this year approved legislation qualifying Petersburg for a casino enterprise after Richmond voters, for a second time, rejected a proposed resort with slot machines, table games, and sports betting.

With the lottery’s blessing, the final step in moving the casino question to the ballot for Petersburg voters is having the City Council obtain a support letter for the referendum from the Petersburg Circuit Court to conduct the election. City councilors on Monday will ask for that judicial endorsement, which is expected to be granted.

Should a simple majority of Petersburg voters back the Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia project, the enterprise would proceed to the licensing phase where lottery officials would conduct background checks of key personnel to determine if all involved are suitable to hold gaming licenses in the state.

Mixed-Use Components

PPE sweetened its casino bid to the Petersburg City Council by pledging to bring mixed-use real estate to the area surrounding the casino in the years after the resort is up and running.

Cordish and Bruce Smith Enterprises plan to invest another $803 million in the subsequent 15 years after the resort opens to develop residential units, office space, an additional hotel, and retail shopping. PPE will retain full equity ownership in the destination.

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Las Vegas Stripper Sued for Committing Relationship Fraud

An Arkansas man is suing a Las Vegas exotic dancer for $38.5 million, claiming that she “hoodwinked [him] into thinking they were in an exclusive, romantic relationship” for 10 years.

Exotic dancers in Las Vegas can make up to $300K per year by only working on the weekends. (Image: Thrillist)

According to KNWA-TV/Fayetteville, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit and broke the story on Wednesday, Fred Brunner claims to have given Melanie Sterling $3.5 million in cash and gifts since 2014 — much of which she turned over to her real boyfriend in Las Vegas — in addition to funding multiple trips and even a home for her.

Brunner’s lawsuit seeks at least $3.5 million in compensatory damages and $35 million in punitive damages.

In his suit, Brunner states that he was going through a divorce when he visited an unnamed Las Vegas gentleman’s club to “smoke a cigar and have a few cocktails.”

While at the club, he met Sterling, whom Brunner’s lawsuit claims earned “a significant amount of money” from him that night. This gave Sterling the impression Brunner was “far wealthier than her normal patrons — wealthy enough to change her life.”

The lawsuit alleges that Sterling communicated with Brunner on the daily for 10 years, creating the charade of a relationship for her own financial gain.

“All along, she had no intention of following through on her representations, doing only that necessary to keep [the] plaintiff from becoming suspicious of her actual intentions,” the lawsuit claims.

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Casino Trade Group Endorses Federal Bill to Expand Human Trafficking Awareness

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the leading trade group in Washington, DC, representing the interests of commercial and tribal casinos across the United States, is supporting federal legislation that seeks to increase human trafficking awareness through education.

casino trade human trafficking AGA
Airport workers at Harry Reid International, Las Vegas’s primary commercial air hub undergo training on combatting human trafficking in January 2023. The American Gaming Association is supporting newly introduced federal legislation that seeks to offer a certificate program through the US Department of Homeland Security to companies that train their workers on how to detect and respond to suspected trafficking. (Image: Harry Reid International Airport)

Congressmen David Valadao (R-California) and Troy Carter (D-Louisiana) this week introduced the “Human Trafficking Awareness Training Recognition Act.” The federal bill seeks to expand the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign to establish an annual certificate program that employers can use to help train employees in human trafficking cognizance.

Employers that provide and complete the annual educational program with their employees will be given a certificate of completion from the US agency that they can display for one year.

“This bipartisan bill recognizes employers who are trained to identify and respond to signs of human trafficking, harnessing the power of industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and transportation, where staff are often the first to spot potential trafficking scenarios,” said Carter. “This initiative honors the commitment of businesses actively working to combat these crimes and encourages more companies to join the cause. We must do everything in our power to prevent the sale and transportation of human lives.”

The Blue Campaign is the DHS’ national public awareness campaign designed to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industries on how to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond.

In June 2020, the AGA deployed its first-ever Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force to increase education, empowerment, and prevention of trafficking at commercial and tribal casinos. The task force worked with the DHS and US Treasury and Justice departments to better educate casino workers and patrons.

Gaming Workers on Trafficking Frontlines

Valadao and Carter’s bill seeks to create a system to honor companies that are diligently working to reduce human trafficking. The AGA is fully supportive of the initiative.

Businesses across hospitality, entertainment, and transportation have a responsibility to bolster the front lines in the fight against human trafficking and the gaming industry is wholly committed to this imperative,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “The AGA thanks Reps. Valadao and Carter for their commitment to combating this detestable crime and for recognizing businesses that share this commitment.”

The lawmakers believe initiating a certificate program will incentivize employers to participate in the DHS Blue Campaign program. While the Blue Campaign offers tools to help combat trafficking, it currently lacks an initiative for recognizing businesses that have trained employees on how to detect and respond to suspected human trafficking.

By the Numbers

Human trafficking, the DHS explains, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain free labor or sexual acts. It’s estimated that millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide each year.

Traffickers often target people who are psychologically or emotionally vulnerable, facing economic hardship, or who lack a support system. DHS officials say many victims suffer so much trauma that they might not identify themselves as a victim or seek help, even when in highly public settings like casinos.

Casinos have long been considered prime exchanges for traffickers, as the gaming floors can be used to launder dirty money received in exchange for a trafficked person. Casinos are also frequented by sex workers who were forced into the industry by their handlers.

DHS arrested more than 2,500 individuals last year on human trafficking allegations and offenses, and rescued more than 700 trafficked persons. Police in Las Vegas in recent months have also ramped up their arresting of suspected prostitutes and their clients.

In January, the AGA teamed up with RG24seven to launch a virtual training program made free to casino companies and their employees. Those who complete the course receive a certificate of completion.

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