The 2021 World Series of Poker (WSOP) live festival is set to take place at The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this September for the last time. The upcoming event is expected to become among the biggest in WSOP history, as it makes a return after being on hiatus for more than two years due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Rio Set To Bid Goodbye to WSOP
The Rio has exclusively hosted the WSOP since 2005. The Las Vegas casino has been home to the world’s longest-running and most prestigious poker festival for 15 years, but that long-standing relationship could be nearing its end amid speculations that the WSOP would move to a new venue from 2022 onwards.
Rumors like this are not new. In fact, in 2019, when Caesars decided to sell The Rio to New York-based real estate firm Imperial Companies for $516.3 million, many believed that the WSOP would no longer take place at the Rio from 2020 and beyond.
This notion was quickly dismissed by WSOP’s former Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky, saying that he could confirm 100% that The Rio would remain as WSOP’s home in 2020. Palansky also said that the 2021 WSOP would also be held at the Rio as well. His assertions proved to be true.
While a 2020 WSOP was cancelled as a result of the pandemic, the festival is returning this year, with The Rio still hosting the action, but it could be the last time that the festival is taking place at the casino.
Unlikely Source Confirms WSOP’s Transfer to Bally’s
On July 15, the poker world woke up to the news that the WSOP will have a new home starting 2022. It was mentioned in a Facebook post by the Valley National 8-Ball League Association (VNEA), one of the biggest amateur pool leagues in the world.
In a lengthy post on its Facebook page, VNEA announced that it has secured a new partnership with the Westgate Las Vegas which will soon be the new venue for the VNEA World Championships.
On the same post, the association also revealed that its long-term contract with Bally’s Hotel & Casino was cancelled as the WSOP will move to the property next year. Bally’s has been the venue of VNEA’s championship events for many years.
Nobody from the WSOP or Caesars has released any statement on the news, but as it currently appears, there could be some truth to the rumors. So what’s now for Rio?
Rio To Be Rebranded to Hyatt
In March 2021, it was announced that Rio Las Vegas will undergo renovation and rebranding to convert it into multiple Hyatt properties. The redevelopment is part of franchise agreements between an affiliate of the Hyatt Hotels Corp and an affiliate of Dreamscape Companies.
When Imperial Companies acquired The Rio in 2019, it allowed Caesars to continue to operate the casino for two years under a lease-back agreement which required Caesars to pay $45 million in annual rent to the real estate company. The deal hasn’t been extended, and so Caesars will now finally let go of The Rio.
While it’s also previously speculated that the WSOP could transfer to the new Caesars Convention Center, Bally’s seems like a more viable option considering its massive space. At The Rio, the WSOP occupies approximately 235,000 square feet in combined space. Bally’s and the neighboring Paris property offers a similarly huge space, making it suitable to host a massive event like the WSOP. Both the Bally’s and Paris properties are owned by Caesars.
Assuming the speculations are all true, then the 2021 WSOP this September will be the last WSOP festival to take place at The Rio, which will soon become a Hyatt Regency Hotel. Players will prepare for a new environment starting next year; some would surely miss The Rio, but others would definitely welcome this new chapter.