Riviera Holdings Corp. will invest $20 million to $30 million to refurbish the Riviera Hotel & Casino on the Strip.
Tullio Marchionne, the company’s corporate secretary, said that the company has closed on the sale of Riviera’s property in Black Hawk, Colo., and that the proceeds from the sale would be reinvested in the Las Vegas property.
Marchionne explained the project during a licensing hearing before the state Gaming Control Board on Wednesday. Regulators often get updates from property executives during licensing matters.
Monarch Casino & Resort Inc., which owns the Atlantis in Reno, is acquiring Riviera’s Black Hawk property for $76 million in a deal first announced in September.
“We’re looking to improve all of the public areas within the casino,” Marchionne said.
The company already has begun painting the property’s exterior and relocating the hotel’s front desk to an area near the property’s convention center entrance. A greater emphasis is being placed on the convention area, as the project also includes plans to build a porte cochere at that convention entrance.
Marchionne said the company refurbished hotel rooms with an investment of $20 million to $22 million in 2007, just before the economy tanked.
“Life in the neighborhood is a struggle,” Marchionne said, referencing the nearby Fontainebleau and Echelon sites. “We are an island.”
But he added that his team thinks the worst days are behind them and the company expects better things in 2013 as the economy picks up.
Board members unanimously approved a recommendation to license Marchionne as an officer following a suitability hearing. The Nevada Gaming Commission will consider final approval of the license at its May 17 meeting.
Board members also questioned Marchionne about why Riviera failed to register 34 employees, a shortcoming the company self-reported after an internal audit. Once the error was discovered, Marchionne said two of those employees had already been laid off, one was on medical leave and two others were determined to not meet registration standards and were fired. The remaining 29 were registered with the state, and the company revised its human resources policies to prevent a similar occurrence.
The board also inquired about an incident in which Marchionne was arrested while he was the general manager of a casino in Greece. He said a regulatory turf war led to officers arriving at the casino one night demanding to arrest an entertainment director because of the music that was being played at the casino. Marchionne told officers they should arrest him instead of his employee — so they did. He was exonerated the next day.
“And we thought our entertainment tax was tough,” quipped board Chairman Mark Lipparelli.
Board member A.G. Burnett commended Marchionne for stepping up and protecting his employee.
In other business, the board recommended approval of a series of licenses and registrations for Houston-based Landry’s Inc., which operates downtown Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget property.
Steven Scheinthal, vice president and secretary of Landry’s and several of its affiliate companies, told board members that within the next few months, three floors of rooms at Golden Nugget’s Rush Tower would be equipped, adding about 100 rooms to the property’s inventory.
The tower opened in 2009 and Landry’s didn’t equip every floor, but is now confident that the downtown market can bear an additional 100 rooms.
The matters recommended for approval for Landry’s is a part of its deregistration as a publicly traded company. Scheinthal also said the company is entering the Biloxi, Miss. market by acquiring a Gulf of Mexico-fronting casino from Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.
The Las Vegas property also is remodeling its access to the Fremont Street Experience through its Club 46 lounge.
Scheinthal said the company also plans to be a participant in legalized Internet wagering if that is approved and that the company is contracting with Bally Technologies subsidiary Chili Gaming to develop online games.