The Rise and Fall of American Casinos in 2015: The Ups and Downs of It All

Posted on: December 31, 2015, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2015, 07:58h.

SLS Blob Las Vegas American casinos 2015
The so-called “Happy Blob” outside the SLS Las Vegas had little to be cheery about in 2015, the resort being just one of many American casinos taking a hit over the last 12 months. (Image: David Becker/

American casinos are a dime a dozen, but they of course cost many trillions of dimes to construct and operate.

Over the last 12 months, these mammoth land-based financial ventures both struggled and flourished.

Several dove underwater through demolition and bankruptcy, others just beginning to lay the foundation for what’s hoped to be a long and prosperous existence.

It’s the natural evolution of not only the casino industry, where when it’s not new and shiny anymore, it’s gotta go.

Casinos Cave

The Riviera: No venue was more esteemed than “the Riv,” which came down in 2015. The first high-rise casino on the Las Vegas Strip, the Riviera had cameos in an abundance of iconic films, including the original Ocean’s Eleven in 1960 and Martin Scorsese’s Casino in 1995.

After a storied 60-year career, the venue fell on hard times following the economic collapse in 2007-2008, with the Riviera filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010.

This year, the building and its assets were sold off to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the casino officially closing its doors on Monday, May 4. The Riviera will be demolished to make way for the LVCVA global business district.

Caesars Entertainment: One of the most recognizable brands in gambling, Caesars restructured its business into two units in 2015 to file for bankruptcy for 18 of its properties, including Caesars Palace Las Vegas, two casinos in Atlantic City, and a dozen Harrah’s and Horseshoe locations nationwide.

SLS Vegas: The former iconic rat pack Sahara has been revamped into what to date has been an iconic failure. Hotelier Sam Nazarian announced a $415 million conversion to the SLS brand, which stands for style, luxury, and service.

Nazarian dumped his ownership in the resort after the venue lost $49 million in the second quarter and a subsequent investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Current owners Stockbridge Capital now plan to transform the location into W Las Vegas.

Casinos Surge

Massachusetts: The Plainridge Park Casino, Wynn Everett, and MGM Springfield are transforming the gambling market in Massachusetts. It’s been a tedious and combative process among residents, lawmakers, and commercial gambling companies, but the projects are finally beginning to move forward.

Plainridge has already opened its doors, and the MGM and Wynn are expected to finish erecting their multibillion-dollar resorts in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Penn National: One of the fastest-growing gambling conglomerates in the country, Penn National Gaming finally landed its long-desired marque location on the Las Vegas Strip when it acquired the Tropicana for $360 million in August. It already holds all the paper on the South Strip’s M Resort.

Scarlet Pearl: 20 years in the making, the Scarlet Pearl Casino opened this month to become Mississippi’s 12th gambling venue. The $300 million Gulf Coast resort is the first in the city of D’Iberville. You’ve heard of D’Iberville, right?

Alon Las Vegas: The former home of the New Frontier, the vacant 35-acre plot on the Strip is finally getting one step closer to becoming the planned Alon Las Vegas hotel and casino. Construction workers are currently cleaning and surveying the site, with additional details forthcoming in the New Year, according to executives involved in the project.

Atlantic City’s Mixed Bag

While there are highlights out west in the desert, the former gambling mecca of the east coast continues its decline. Thanks mostly due to neighboring states legalizing commercial gambling at land-based venues, Atlantic City hard-pressed to attract tourists.

Though gaming revenues are up 2.9 percent, former Boardwalk locations sit vacant and in debt, most notably the $2.4 billion Revel.