After months of uncertainty whether or not the pending sale of Bally’s Atlantic City to Twin River would actually go through, we finally have the answer.
On Wed., Nov. 4, 2020, the Casino Control Commission met (two weeks ahead of the previously announced date) to deliberate.
As a result, NJ gambling regulators have now given Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc. the green light to own and operate Bally’s AC on an interim basis under certain stipulated conditions.
What prompted the CCC to conditionally approve Twin River as the new owner of Bally’s Atlantic City?
At the Nov. 4 public hearing, Twin River executives described in detail how they plan to renovate and upgrade the aging property. According to a Nov. 5, 2020 article on ThePressofAtlanticCity.com, specific improvements mentioned include the following:
- A new permanent FanDuel Sportsbook in the space that was previously the Blue Martini Lounge
- Renovation of more than 900 hotel rooms and the creation of 30-40 new mini-suites
- A new restaurant and bar to open by the summer of 2021
- A revamped spa and fitness center
Lloyd D. Levenson, a local gaming attorney representing Twin River, also spoke. He declared that his client’s entrance into the local gaming market signified “a new day in Atlantic City.”
The Commission was very impressed by the testimony that Twin Rivers gave. Accordingly, it decided that it was the right company to put Bally’s AC back on the map as a casino destination of choice.
Commission Chairman James Plousis stated the following:
“It is clear that Twin River’s executive team has put a great deal of thought into the best path to improve Bally’s fading conditions.”
Commissioner Alisa Cooper concurred. She had this to say about Twin River as the new owner and operator of Bally’s Atlantic City:
“I’m confident, with the testimony that was presented, that they possess the right vision, the right management, and the experience, and that this once grand property will be restored, renovated and updated to become a vital and competitive part of the gaming industry in Atlantic City.”
But a permanent casino license is contingent on substantial capital improvements during Twin River’s first year of ownership
Prior to granting Twin River interim authorization to take over as the new owner/operator of Bally’s Atlantic City, the company had to agree to make a substantial investment in the property the first year.
More specifically, the CCC stipulated that at least $25 million in capital improvements must start within the first year of ownership and that at least $75 million must be spent over the first three years. Twin River agreed to those terms. It also promised to invest at least $90 million on its new acquisition over a period of five years.
Based on the foregoing, Plousis indicated that at the 2021 plenary licensing hearing, he expects “a considerable progress report.”
The 41-year old Bally’s will require a lot of work
Bally’s Atlantic City opened on Dec. 30, 1979 as the city’s third casino hotel. Once one of the highest-performing casinos in Atlantic City, in recent years, this aging property has fallen on very hard times.
Virtually every month from 2016 to the present, Bally’s has ranked at or near the bottom in gaming revenue. And over the past 18 months (not counting the 107 days when all of the Atlantic City casinos were closed) out of the nine Atlantic City casinos, Bally’s ranked dead last.
Twin River acknowledged Bally’s precipitous decline but doesn’t seem deterred by it.
Twin River CEO and President George Papanier assured the Commission that his company is equal to the task.
“We don’t shy away from competition,” Papanier said. “We plan to bring (Bally’s), physically, to a level not seen in several years.”
The terms of the sale
The $25 million purchase of Bally’s Atlantic City from Caesars Entertainment Inc. will proceed as planned. VICI Properties, a partner of Caesars Entertainment, will receive $19 million, and Caesars Entertainment will receive $6 million.
The sale will not include Bally’s Wild Wild West and its recently rebranded William Hill Sportsbook. Instead, they will become part of Caesars Atlantic City.
What’s next for Twin River and Bally’s Atlantic City
Now that Bally’s Atlantic City has a new owner, a lot is expected to happen very quickly. In fact, the sale is expected to close within the next two weeks.
But first, on Monday, Nov. 9, Twin River will officially change its corporate name to Bally’s. Twin River had purchased the rights to the Bally’s name in October. The casino hotel will also continue to be known as Bally’s.
The rationale for keeping the Bally’s name is that it is a very well known and respected brand that has been a fixture in Atlantic City for decades. As Twin River CEO and President Papanier said in so many words, “I can’t imagine Atlantic City without Bally’s on the skyline.”
Twin Rivers Vice President and Manager Nicholas Polcino, who was granted a temporary casino license, will take over the position of General Manager at Bally’s.
Within the next 45 days, Bally’s new owner must submit a detailed capital improvement plan to the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
It will be exciting to learn more about what Twin River has in store for Bally’s. As always, NJ Online Casino will continue to follow this story closely and report on new developments.