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Rivera Las Vegas - How Can the Rivera Hotel Survive in Today's Economy?

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Do not be surprised if the Rivera (The name is not actually spelled like the last name of TV personality Geraldo Rivera, but Riviera, as in the French Riviera) Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip eventually succumbs to the economic downturn and is reincarnated as a sparkling new mega casino/hotel. On July 12, 2010, the owners of the Rivera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. This is a reorganization bankruptcy and the hotel continues to operate under the court directed reorganization. Whether it will be successful remains to be seen.

The Rivera Hotel and Casino was one of the early Strip hotels in Las Vegas. When it opened in April of 1955, it became the first high-rise hotel on the Strip. The design changed the look of Las Vegas casino hotels from a simple, one or two floor, ranch like configuration into a much more elaborate structure which was the predecessor to today’s extraordinary, ultra-modern casino-hotels.

In the early years, the hotel and casino was rumored to be owned and run by the Mafia which was quite common for many of the Las Vegas properties. At one point, the Marx Brothers held an ownership stake in the Rivera. Many famous entertainers called the Rivera home. Liberace, one of the legendary performers in Las Vegas, set up his piano and candelabra and entertained crowds for many years at the Las Vegas Rivera. Dean Martin and many other headline acts also had long engagements at this landmark hotel.

Many movies that used Las Vegas as a backdrop, included the Rivera in their script. Some of the most popular were “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960), “Casino” (1995) and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (1997). The hotel has appeared in numerous television shows and has, up unto very recent years, been a large part of the Las Vegas scene.

With the emergence of the first hotels and casinos financed by the big dollars of Wall Street, the older casinos and hotels, including the Rivera, were placed at a distinct disadvantage. In the late 1980s, Steve Wynn opened The Mirage and then Treasure Island. Many other billion dollar resorts followed such as Mandalay Bay, Paris and The Venetian. Older strip properties were bought up with big bucks, torn down and replaced by glamorous new casino/hotels. The prime central Strip saw the most activity. The Dunes was torn down to make room for The Bellagio. The Venetian was built on the grounds where the very famous Sands Hotel and Casino once stood. And Steve Wynn’s most recent creations, the Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Encore, rose out of the dust of the Desert Inn.

Perhaps because of its less desirable northern Strip location or maybe because of a sense of nostalgia held by its owners, the Rivera has managed to survive since its inception some 55 years ago. The bankruptcy filing rendered shareholders stock in the old Rivera worthless. New financing was provided where secured lenders would receive equity shares (stock) in the newly organized company. Having lost over $4 million in the first quarter of 2010, the Rivera has to take steps to turn around business so it can once again become a profitable and thriving company.

What are they doing and what can they do to bring visitors in to their casino? The property was renovated in 1999 and the 2100 rooms in 5 different towers were all given cosmetic facelifts. Today the rooms are comfortable, if not elegant. They appeal to a more budget conscious traveler as recent midweek prices for rooms have been as low as $30.00 per night. There are still all the table games. They have a sports book and of course, plenty of slot and video poker machines. There is a poker room and the Rivera has one of the largest billiard (pool) rooms where they host many tournaments and competitions.

Outside the casino stands a large bronze statue of the showgirls in their popular “Crazy Girls” topless review. It beckons visitors to come in and play, but so far, the statue has not drawn the crowds. It appears to be a major gamble for anyone betting on the long term survival of the Rivera.

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