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This is a breaking story and may be updated as new information comes in.
It looks as if this fall will be the last time that the World Series of Poker will take place at the Rio All-Suited Hotel & Casino. It’s been apparent for a while that such a move was coming. Until today, however, there was no firm indication of when or where.
VNEA, a pool league and tournament organizer, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that its contract with Bally’s had been cancelled unexpectedly. The reason it was given was that the Bally’s and Paris properties would be used for the WSOP and therefore unavailable.
The post caught the attention of local Twitter user Andy Hughes, who then posted it to Twitter, tagging PokerGO Senior Media Manager Remko Rinkema.
It’s worth noting that neither the casinos in question nor the WSOP itself have yet confirmed the news. However, the phrasing of the VNEA post implies that they heard it directly from Bally’s. Visitors to the Bally’s poker room have also been hearing similar rumors for months.
In its Facebook post, VNEA furthermore says that it’s looking for a new home for its 2022 Championship, which will take place from May 26th through June 4th.
This makes it sound as if the WSOP move will take place next year. Furthermore, it suggests that the series will move back to its original spot on the calendar. Ordinarily, it runs from the end of May through mid-July. This year, it is taking place from Sep. 30 to Nov. 23, having been pushed back due to uncertainties surrounding the COVID pandemic.
The WSOP has been held entirely at the Rio since 2005. Up until 2003, its home was Binion’s Horseshoe, with 2004 being a year of transition between the two.
Until recently, the Rio was owned by Caesars, which also owns the WSOP. The property has been showing its age in recent years, however. That prompted numerous waves of speculation that Caesars might choose to sell it rather than renovate. That prediction finally came true in 2019, but the company said it wouldn’t move the WSOP right away.
This spring, it was additionally revealed that the property’s destiny was to become a Hyatt Hotel. That made it all the more likely that the WSOP’s days there were numbered.
Caesars and the WSOP itself have avoided commenting too much about the rumors. With the cat out of the bag thanks to VNEA, however, a formal announcement might be imminent. No WSOP representative was immediately available for comment.
One important and confusing thing to understand about this story is that Bally’s Las Vegas is not owned by the casino company of the same name. Rather, it is a Caesars property, as is the Paris Las Vegas.
The Bally’s brand used to belong to Caesars as well. However, it sold the name along with Bally’s Atlantic City last year to the company then known as Twin River Worldwide Holdings. Twin River proceeded to take the name as it own, and is in the process of rebranding most of its US properties. However, as part of the deal, Caesars retained the rights to continue using the name for the Las Vegas property.
Players speculating about the WSOP’s future have often gravitated towards the Caesars Forum as a possibility. Aside from being owned by the same parent company, it’s a nice new property and one of the few locations that would have the requisite space. However, it’s not set up to be used for gambling, and converting it temporarily for that purpose would be an additional expense.
Renting it out is also an important revenue source for Caesars. The venue tends to be booked years in advance. Many of those convention organizers would furthermore be unlikely to be excited at the prospect of hosting their events alongside the chaos that accompanies the WSOP.
Bally’s and Paris each have a convention space rivaling the Rio’s in size, and the two are connected. This could prove important, since the WSOP has a tendency to grow larger with each passing year.
The two also share a large parking garage, and a lack of adequate parking space was one concern often raised whenever the Forum was suggested. Traffic will still be a concern, but unfortunately there’s no equivalently large off-strip property to replace the Rio.