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California Tribe to Buy Palms Casino in Vegas for $650 Million

The deal, by the San Manuel Bank of Mission Indians, will mark the biggest Las Vegas purchase by a Native Indian tribe.

(Bloomberg)—The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians agreed to buy the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas from Red Rocks Resorts Inc. for $650 million, the biggest purchase by a Native-Indian tribe in the U.S. gambling capital.

The tribe operates the San Manuel Casino in Highland, California, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. That property has been open for 35 years and is undergoing an expansion of its casino and hotel. The Palms sale, announced Tuesday, is expected to close later this year, the tribe said.

Indian gaming has become a huge business in the U.S., reaching nearly $35 billion in 2019 before the pandemic crimped travel and spending. There are some 245 tribes operating casinos in 29 states. And while tribes have long been expanding beyond their traditional reservations, they’ve only recently set their sites on Las Vegas.

More than 45,000 cars a day traveled to Nevada from Southern California in March, about one third of all auto traffic to the city, creating a marketing opportunity for the tribe.

Hard Rock International, owned by Florida’s Seminole tribe, acquired the rights to the Hard Rock name in Las Vegas last year. It has a restaurant in the city but has yet to announce casino plans.

The old Hard Rock, just off the city’s famous Strip, reopened in March under the Virgin Hotels brand. Its casino is operated by the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut under their Mohegan Sun brand, marking the first entry of a Native-American gaming operator in the city.

The Palms casino, which is also located off of the Strip, was opened in 2001 by the city’s Maloof family. It was one of the hottest nightlife spots in Las Vegas for a time, hosting music videos and reality TV shows. Red Rock, controlled by the Fertitta family, purchased it in 2016 for $313 million and began a $690 million renovation that included a focus on modern art.

The new resort never quite regained its prior buzz, however, and the property has been closed since the pandemic began last year.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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