[The Incidental Tourist]

Get ready for Las Vegas Strip transformations at Bally’s and the Tropicana

The Tropicana could rebrand as Bally’s.
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There’s no doubt about it—the post-pandemic period of the Las Vegas Strip is going to be an era of sweeping change.

Allegiant Stadium, Resorts World and the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall expansion all arrived during COVID and are beginning to impact the Strip and the city in major ways. Fontainebleau and MSG Sphere are scheduled to open in 2023, adding more hotel rooms, casino space and entertainment experiences to the tourism corridor.

More new operators will continue to join the party, including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians gaming group that’s set to reopen the Palms resort this month, and whoever buys whichever Caesars Entertainment property is up for grabs.

It’s tough to track all these transactions and easy to forget mega-deals that have transpired recently, such as Hard Rock International’s purchase of the Mirage and upcoming redevelopment project that will turn the historic resort into a new Hard Rock Hotel.

A rendering of the new Horseshoe Las Vegas

A rendering of the new Horseshoe Las Vegas

But let’s try to get a grip on a few other pieces. Two well-known Strip spots that have already seen significant change through the decades are about to change again: Starting right about now, Bally’s will be transforming into Horseshoe, and sometime soon, the Tropicana is very likely to become Bally’s.

Originally opened as MGM Grand Hotel & Casino at the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard in 1973, Bally’s Las Vegas took its current name when Bally’s Entertainment bought it and the Reno resort now known as Grand Sierra in 1985. Hilton Hotels Corporation acquired the company a decade later and spun its casino resorts division into Park Place Entertainment, which was later renamed Caesars Entertainment and acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment in 2005. That company still owns Bally’s today, known again as Caesars after the recent merger with Eldorado Resorts.

Perhaps best identified through the years by its entertainment offerings (including the long-running Jubilee! spectacle and a string of famous headliners in the Celebrity Room in the ’70s and ’80s), Bally’s was rumored to be one of the Strip properties Caesars might unload. Instead, a bold renovation project is getting started this spring, using the Horseshoe brand known for gambling—specifically poker—and an embrace of the city’s historic Western culture.

The transformation will include a renovated exterior, new entertainment and food and beverage options and a reimagined casino floor designed around Horseshoe iconography. One of its main draws will most certainly be the World Series of Poker, which will debut there this summer after taking place at the Rio in recent years. Caesars acquired the event in 2004 along with its purchase of Binion’s Horseshoe in Downtown Las Vegas, where the tournament originated and was held for more than 30 years.

The other high-profile spot coming to the new Horseshoe is Ole Red, country music star Blake Shelton’s bar, restaurant and live music venue set to open in 2023 on the Strip in front of the resort, where part of the Grand Bazaar Shops outdoor mall currently resides. The $30 million, three-story venue will allow guests views of the Bellagio fountains across the street while they drink, dine and take in a concert.

Less is known about the Tropicana’s transition, but the Horseshoe rebranding would allow the Bally’s name to be used at the south-Strip resort, which is expected to finalize its purchase by the current Bally’s Corporation by the third quarter of this year.

Twin River Holdings bought the Bally’s brand from Caesars in 2020 and changed its own name to Bally’s Corp. In April 2021, the company announced it was acquiring the Tropicana, originally opened in 1957 and currently operated by Penn Gaming.

In January, Bally’s Corp. chairman Soohyung Kim indicated the company is planning to re-establish its brand across the country, including here in Las Vegas.

The company could renovate and redevelop the property, or tear it all down and start fresh, but if any kind of casino continues on at the southeast corner of Trop and the Strip, it’ll almost certainly be under the banner of Bally’s.

It’s one plus one minus one. Two iconic Vegas casinos will come alive again, but another will disappear … unless somebody builds a new Tropicana.

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Brock Radke

Brock Radke is an award-winning writer and columnist who currently occupies the role of editor-at-large at Las Vegas Weekly magazine. ...

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