Playing regulators give preliminary OK to new Rio operator

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada gambling regulators granted preliminary approval to the new owners of the Rio hotel-casino to operate the off-Strip property.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Friday that the Nevada Gaming Commission’s preliminary finding of suitability for executives of Dreamscape Companies LLC will set the owners up to operate the hotel-casino in a few years.

Dreamscape purchased Rio in late 2019 from Caesars Entertainment Inc. for $516.3 million. The deal called for Caesars to continue managing the property for two years at an annual $45 million rent, with an optional third year at $7 million. The lease agreement has been extended a year because of COVID-19, allowing Dreamscape to takeover management as late as Dec. 2023.

Dreamscape executives Eric Birnbaum and Thomas Ellis told commissioners that their vision for Rio will be “approachable luxury” and plan to give the 2,500-room property a “monster refresh” when Dreamscape takes over.

Birnbaum and Ellis will be required to apply for a more thorough suitability finding when Dreamscape takes over. Gambling licenses can be denied or revoked for those who aren’t found suitable and can hinge on background checks or action deemed damaging to public safety or morals or the industry’s standards and reputation.