Harrah’s Reno to Be Sold, Transformed into Non-Gaming Property

  • Sale to Reno City Center LLC has not been formally announced yet
  • Property will cease gaming operations later this year
  • Eldorado already owns three downtown Reno casinos, may not want more
  • Harrah’s Reno was Harrah’s Entertainment’s first hotel
street view of Harrah's Reno
VICI Properties will reportedly announce soon that it is selling Harrah’s Reno to Reno City Center LLC, which will change it into a non-gaming property. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: Shortly after publication, VICI Properties announced the sale for $50 million to an “affiliate” of CAI Investments. 75% will go to VICI and 25% will go to Caesars Entertainment. The plan is to cease gaming operations in the second half of 2020, when Harrah’s Reno will become a “non-gaming hotel and mixed-use development.” Until then, Caesars will continue to operate the property.

Property will remain, casino will disappear

More than 82 years since it first opened, Harrah’s Reno will soon be no more. A sale announcement by the casino’s owner, VICI Properties, is in the offing, scheduled for later this week.

The news was first reported by Howard Stutz of The Nevada Independent. Stutz wrote that sources told him the buyer is Reno City Center LLC. The property will not remain as a casino and 940-room hotel; Reno City Center will convert it to a non-gaming “business entity.”

Stutz wrote that sources told him the buyer is Reno City Center LLC

Harrah’s Reno is currently operated by Caesars Entertainment, which leases it from VICI. VICI Properties is a real estate investment trust formed as a spinoff of Caesars after Caesars went through bankruptcy in 2017. Most of its properties are leased to Caesars.

Eldorado already owns downtown Reno

According to Stutz, industry analysts point to the in-progress merger between Caesars and Eldorado Resorts as the impetus for the sale. Eldorado would take control of the Harrah’s Reno lease, but it likely does not want to.

Eldorado already owns three downtown Reno casinos: Circus Circus Reno, Silver Legacy, and its namesake, Eldorado. The three casinos form what is called “The Row,” lining up right down Virginia Street, downtown’s main drag. Harrah’s is just south of the Eldorado casino; analysts speculate that the company does not want a fourth casino in Reno.

It is also possible that there could be antitrust considerations in play. The Row forms the bulk of casino gaming in downtown Reno; many of the other area casinos are further out. Adding Harrah’s to the mix would give Eldorado a near monopoly downtown.

Adding Harrah’s to the mix would give Eldorado a near monopoly downtown

Eldorado has been shuffling its property deck since agreeing to merge with Caesars. In December, it sold Isle Casino Cape Girardeau and Lady Luck Casino in Missouri and Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in West Virginia.

Earlier this week, it announced the sale of Eldorado Resort and Casino in Shreveport, Louisiana. It has also been reported that it will sell the Montbleu resort in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada in the near future.

Harrah’s Entertainment’s first hotel

Harrah’s Reno opened on October 29, 1937 by company founder William F. Harrah as a bingo parlor. After just a couple months, he closed it, re-opening it the next year as the Heart Tango casino.

Over the next three decades, Harrah bought up the properties around Heart Tango, including competing casinos and the Reno Grand Hotel.

A 24-story tower was completed in 1969. In 1981, Holiday Inn, which had become the owner of the property, built another 100-room tower.

Harrah’s Entertainment, which was spun off from Holiday Inn (called Promus Hotel Company at that point) in 1995, bought more property adjacent to Harrah’s Reno in the late 1990’s, eventually using it to open an entertainment area called The Plaza.

VICI Properties took ownership of Harrah’s Reno when VICI was created in 2017.