As rumors go, this is a good one, coming from a well-placed but unconnected-to-poker source with little reason to make something up: The World Series of Poker may be headed for the Las Vegas Strip in 2022, to be split between adjoining Caesars properties, Bally’s and Paris.
News of the presumptive change comes from a Facebook post made by the Valley National 8-Ball League Association, a collective or more than 1,400 amateur pool clubs. The VNEA has had a long-running contract for floor space at Bally’s, much the same way that the Cue Sports International Expo (also pool and billards) has occupied the Rio Convention Center immediately following the WSOP for the past many summers.
So the VNEA had this long-running gig, until it didn’t. An excerpt from the Facebook post:
“VNEA’s long-term contract with Bally’s Hotel & Casino was suddenly canceled by Bally’s as a result of the World Series Of Poker (WSOP) moving from Rio to the Bally’s/Paris properties in 2022 and beyond.
“The Valley National 8-Ball League Association (VNEA) is excited to announce its new partnership with the Westgate Las Vegas! This incredible property will be the new home to the VNEA World Championships for the next several years beginning with our 2022 Championships scheduled for May 26th through June 4th!”
Properties appear large enough to host series
It’s very, very believable. PokerNews’ Chad Holloway happened to be in town, helping to cover the current WSOP-free Vegas poker scene, and he scouted out the two properties. Holloway reported finding plenty of available convention-room floor space between the two properties combined, enough in his opinion to house the WSOP, which has had the Rio bursting at the seams for years, as anyone who’s played in the hallway outside Buzio’s can attest.
Holloway posted a thread (with plenty of photos) on PokerNews’ Twitter feed, and he makes a relatively solid “pro” case. The big issue, as it is with any poker venue in Las Vegas, will be the parking. Bally’s and Paris sit on the east side of the Strip, across from the Bellagio, and that’s truly the center of the Strip, meaning parking is always going to be at a premium.
Both Bally’s and Paris have their own covered parking ramps, but those aren’t huge; as Holloway noted, the key part of this equation may be whether Caesars can obtain (or already owns) the parking rights to a another open parking area a little to the east, and I’m sure they’re be a certain amount of overflow into nearby ramps as well, such as the one at next-door Planet Hollywood.
Rio WSOP endured despite venue’s issues
Parking was really the one big advantage to having the WSOP at the Rio anyway. The Rio’s conference center has parking on three sides, with the largest open area to the east. Parking a little further away, in the Rio casino’s parking ramps or across the street in the ramps at the Gold Coast, were also acceptable options, even if you had a 10- or 15-minute walk ahead. Gettint to and from the Rio was easier and faster as well, compared to the inevitable traffic jams awaiting WSOP players and staff at center Strip.
Yet the Rio is an old, leaky, rundown structure, and Caesars doesn’t even own it anyway. In 2019, the cash-strapped Caesars sold the Rio for $516 million to New York-base Imperial Companies, a real-estate investment firm. Caesars has been renting back the convention-center portion of the Rio ever since. The 2020 WSOP never happened, and it looks like the 2021 edition, moved for this year to October and November, will be the Rio’s last dance as a WSOP-hosting venue.
Now, as for the VNEA, who’s going to offer them a new home? Ah, we know that already. They’ll find the Westgate, east of the Strip proper, to be a nice new home.