First phase to begin this month

Las Vegas: Rio's new owner unveils upcoming $350M, two-phased renovation details

Las Vegas' Rio Hotel and Casino.
Reading time 2:37 min

In a gaming industry twist of fate, the Rio, a Brazilian-themed resort in Las Vegas, is poised to make a triumphant return with a $350 million renovation under Dreamscape Cos. ownership. This project, helmed by Dreamscape CEO Eric Birnbaum, is scheduled to begin this month and will unfold in two phases, with the first one expected to take a year and a half to complete.

The primary focus will be on modernizing the rooms, creating a "modern-day look" that exudes "approachable luxury." Birnbaum aims to strike a balance between value and experience, offering guests an exceptional gaming experience with top-of-the-line amenities and ambiance.

"We’re really not looking to compete and get in a knife fight with the Wynns of the world," he said, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Our goal is not to win on price and undercut the market by being the cheapest out there by any stretch of the imagination. What we’re really trying to do is balance value for experience. When I look at the market and look at who is focused on that, I find it very hard to find a real true competitor."

Eric Birnbaum

Managed by Caesars Entertainment, the resort was acquired by Dreamscape Companies in December 2019 for $516 million, with an existing Caesars management agreement ending in October, giving Birnbaum plenty of time to make plans for his first foray into Las Vegas.

Dreamscape has a plan to take about 10% of the rooms offline at a time in the Ipanema Tower, assuring that there’s no construction noise on the floor above and below the floor that’s getting the overhaul. After 18 months, the second phase of renovation will occur with rooms in the Masquerade Tower.

Birnbaum’s company plans to take advantage of the resort's 250,000-square-foot convention facility that has separate access, ingress, and egress. Conventions will be part of the strategy, but not the only strategy.  

"There’s not just one thing that you can say, 'Hey this is why a guest is going to come to your asset.' You have to give them reasons, plural, to come to your asset. So a great gaming experience, hopefully, great food, great ambiance, and a place that they feel comfortable with (is what Rio will offer)," the investor further told Review-Journal.

Moreover, according to Birnbaum, the casino would have all new slot machines and orientation with a new loyalty club on the way on October 1, which will be called "Rio Rewards". Birnbaum promises that it will be "the most lucrative reward program in the city." The program aims to entice both new and loyal patrons, setting the resort apart as a prime gaming destination in Las Vegas. 

Despite the extensive renovations, the Rio's iconic entertainment lineup remains unchanged. The legendary duo Penn & Teller will continue to grace the stage with their hilarious takes on magic. Birnbaum recognizes the historical significance of Penn & Teller at the Rio, embracing them as cherished partners in this new chapter. 

Birnbaum was also cryptic about possibly restarting the Masquerade Show in the Sky. "An element of that is in the cards," he said, according to the above-mentioned media. "All the floats still exist and are ready to be brought out. How we implement the floats and what narrative we do around that is still to be determined. But that’s certainly something that’s on the table."

Last but not least, Birnbaum informed the Rio's iconic buffets will be replaced with an innovative food hall. While acknowledging the buffet's historical significance, Birnbaum recognizes the evolving consumer preferences and the impact of COVID-19. By partnering with executives from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Dreamscape plans to create a fresh, 2.0 version of a well-executed food hall.

To conclude, Birnbaum said he has been appreciative of Caesars’ management of the property through the transition, calling it "an unbelievably good, collegial partnership for us." 

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