Riviera (hotel and casino)
|Address||2901 Las Vegas Boulevard South|
|Opening date||April 20, 1955|
|Closing date||May 4, 2015|
|Number of rooms||2,100|
|Total gaming space||110,000 sq ft (10,000 m2)|
|Permanent shows||Crazy Girls|
|Owner||Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority|
The Riviera (colloquially, "the Riv") is a closed hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Winchester, Nevada, which operated from April 1955 to May 2015. It is owned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which plans to demolish it to make way for convention and meeting facilities.
The hotel had over 2,100 rooms, less than half of which are located in a 23-story tower. The casino had 110,000 sq ft (10,000 m2) of gaming space.
The casino was first proposed by Detroit mobster William Bischoff as the Casa Blanca, and received a gaming license in 1952. Bischoff later withdrew from the project, which was taken over by Miami businessman Samuel Cohen. By March 1955, Cohen, identified as a member of Miami's S & G gambling syndicate, was no longer part of the investment group, though rumors persisted that he secretly maintained an involvement. Harpo Marx and Gummo Marx held minority interests at the opening.
The Riviera opened on April 20, 1955 as the first high-rise and the ninth resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Liberace cut the opening ribbon, and became the first resident performer. The Riviera is one of the oldest and most famous casino resorts in Las Vegas. The Riviera also broke new ground in its design: previously, Strip resorts resembled roadside motor courts.
The opening of the Riviera, along with The Dunes and the Royal Nevada casino resorts within a month were the subject of a famous issue of Life Magazine, on June 20, 1955 with a Moulin Rouge showgirl on its cover. The headline was "Las Vegas—Is Boom Overextended?" and a story about how Las Vegas had built too many hotel rooms to be profitable.
The Riviera casino went bankrupt just three months after opening. A group of former Flamingo Hotel managers led by Gus Greenbaum took over operation of the property, leasing it from the ownership group. Greenbaum had recently retired, and it was widely suspected that he was coerced to return to work by threats from Chicago mob boss Tony Accardo.
Greenbaum's drug and gambling addictions led to his embezzling from the casino. In December 1958, Greenbaum and his wife were murdered in their Phoenix, Arizona home, reportedly on the orders of either Meyer Lansky or Tony Accardo.
Mob fixer Sidney Korshak played a major role in the property's management. Law enforcement agencies suspected that he represented the Chicago Outfit's interest in the Riviera, and was responsible for skimming the casino's revenue and delivering the proceeds to Chicago.
The Riviera was purchased in June 1968 by a group including bankers E. Parry Thomas and Jerome Mack, and investors tied to the Parvin-Dohrmann Corp., owner of the Aladdin, Stardust, and Fremont casinos. In 1969, a deal was made to sell the Riviera to the Parvin-Dohrmann Corp., but the sale was blocked by the Nevada Gaming Control Board due to the company's previous failure to report a change of ownership.
Dean Martin was hired in 1969 to perform in the casino's showroom, and was given a 10 percent interest in the Riviera. Martin left in 1972, after management refused his request to cut his performance schedule from two nightly shows to one; the Riviera bought back his shares.
In 1973, the Riviera was purchased for $60 million by AITS Inc., a Boston-based travel company controlled by Meshulam Riklis and Isidore Becker. The Riviera is the setting for the movie Fake-Out (aka. Nevada Heat, 1982), which was financed by Riklis and starring his wife, Pia Zadora.
The Riviera filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1983. Riklis pledged money to keep the business in operation, and appointed Jeffrey Silver as CEO to turn the Riviera around. Silver begin shifting the Riviera's marketing focus away from high rollers, and towards middle- and working-class gamblers. He opened a Burger King franchise in the building, the first fast food chain outlet in a casino; this move inspired the phrase "Burger King Revolution" to refer to the broader trend of Las Vegas casinos catering to middle-class customers.
The Riviera underwent an expansion from 1988 to 1990. The project went significantly over budget, leading the parent company to file again for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991. The business emerged from bankruptcy in 1993 as Riviera Holdings Corp., owned by the previous secured creditors.
On July 12, 2010, Riviera Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its bankruptcy included a reorganization plan under which secured lenders, led by Starwood Capital Group, would receive new debt and stock. The plan was negotiated with holders of 2/3 of the secured debt worth over $275 million, which included a $225 million term loan, unpaid interest and amounts owing on a swap agreement. Riviera Holdings listed assets and liabilities of $100 to $500 million each.
Under the terms of the agreement negotiated by Starwood, secured lenders would receive a new $50 million loan plus 80% of the new stock. Lenders who provide $20 million in a so-called new money loan would receive 8 percent of the new stock plus warrants for another 10 percent. Creditors who provide a $10 million working capital loan would receive 7 percent of the new stock. The last 5 percent of the new stock goes to the lenders in return for providing a backstop insuring availability for the $30 million in loans. Existing Riviera shareholders received nothing.
The Riviera lost $4.5 million on income of $30.8 million in the first quarter of 2010. The decline in popularity of the Riviera was caused in part by the decline of pedestrian foot traffic in the vicinity. Previously, the Riviera was surrounded by the Stardust, New Frontier, and Westward Ho, properties which were demolished to make room for new construction. A shutdown in the new construction in progress at the adjacent Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas and Echelon Place contributed to the Riviera's decline. The company had 1300 employees in Las Vegas and 260 employees in Black Hawk, Colorado.
In February 2015, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority acquired the Riviera hotel and its associated land for $182.5 million. The property was leased back to its existing operators, Paragon Gaming, who officially closed the establishment on Monday, May 4, 2015. After winding down operations the hotel will be closed and demolished to make way for a planned expansion of LVCVA's Las Vegas Global Business District exhibit and meeting center project.
The 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) casino floor offered about 1,000 slot machines and 25 table games, including craps, blackjack, and roulette, along with mini-baccarat, Let It Ride, and Three Card Poker. The Riviera poker room closed in 2013, two years before the remaining gaming operations.
In August 2011, the Riviera re-opened its bingo room, in an attempt to bring in new customers and compete against newer resorts on the Strip. At that time, it was the only casino on the Strip to offer bingo. The Riviera also had one of the largest bingo rooms in Las Vegas, and was recently voted the 'Best Bingo Room' by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Riviera later launched a marketing partnership with Buffalo Studios, a company that had created a Facebook bingo game titled Bingo Blitz. Beginning in May 2012, the game allowed players to play online bingo on a web page that featured an image of the Riviera, as a marketing move to attract customers.
Liberace was the featured headliner at the resort's opening, and for many years afterward.
In 2006, Splash, a traditional Las Vegas revue, ended an extended run at the Riviera.
The resort had one long-running show:
- Crazy Girls, a topless show. The performers for Crazy Girls, including deceased transgender showgirl Jahna Steele, are immortalized with a bronze sculpture at the front of the casino unveiled in 1997 with the phrase No "Ifs", "Ands" or.... The thong-clad buttocks on it have been worn to a shine by passers-by rubbing them. The sculpture is based on a promotional photo for the show. Riviera ads with the same photo used to appear on Vegas taxicabs, and it was restored for a shot in the film Domino. The Crazy Girls were the inspiration for the 2008 film Crazy Girls Undercover.
These shows were booked by Sam Distefano, who was brought on board by the Riviera's owner Meshulam Riklis. He signed George Burns, Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra to a special two-year contract to perform at the "Riv" on a recurring basis.
- Starlight Theater In June 2011 the Starlite Theatre reopened its doors. Mary Wilson of The Supremes was the headliner through July 4, 2011. The Village People and comedian Andrew Dice Clay also headlined the venue. In June 2012 German Illusionist Jan Rouven took over the Starlite Theatre to headline there six nights a week. His show Illusions became one of the most successful shows the Riviera ever had. He is now headlining at The New Tropicana Las Vegas.
- Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was, (Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra impersonators). This show has now moved to the off strip Las Vegas Westin Casuarina.
- Dao – The Asian Celebration, which according to the Riviera's website offers "acrobatics, dance and martial arts in fusion with stunning costumes, exquisite stage design and beautiful music... mind and body in motion".
- ICE, an ice dancing show featuring Russian skaters; cancelled in November 2009.
- Greg London's ICONS
- Society of Seven
- Pat DiNizio's 'Confessions Of A Rock Star'
- Mike Tricarichi Presents Steve-O & Tom Green's 'Icons of Comedy: Original Pranksters Tour' with opening act Tom Garland
- The 5th Dimension
- Trace Adkins
- Allen & Rossi
- Louie Anderson
- Paul Anka
- Louis Armstrong
- Burt Bacharach
- The Beach Boys
- Harry Belafonte
- Polly Bergen
- Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Debby Boone
- Elayne Boosler
- David Brenner
- Brett Butler
- John Byner
- George Carlin
- The Carpenters
- Carol Channing
- Cyd Charisse
- Vic Dibitetto 
- Andrew Dice Clay
- Vic Damone
- Charlie Daniels Band
- John Davidson
- Tommy Davidson
- Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Peter Lawford
- Dennis Day
- Marlene Dietrich
- Phyllis Diller
- Pat DiNizio
- Lonnie Donegan
- Mike Douglas
- Vince Edwards
- Lola Falana
- Totie Fields
- Eddie Fisher
- David Frost
- The Gatlin Brothers
- Mitzi Gaynor
- Gilbert Gottfried
- Betty Grable
- Shecky Greene
- MC Hammer
- Lionel Hampton
- Bob Hope
- D. L. Hughley
- Engelbert Humperdinck
- Herb Jeffries
- Kitty Kallen
- Sammy Kaye
- Stan Kenton
- B.B. King
- Sonny King
- Abbe Lane
- Jack E. Leonard
- Trini Lopez
- Shirley MacLaine
- Barry Manilow
- Dean Martin
- Steve Martin
- Tony Martin
- Johnny Mathis
- Bret Michaels
- Mills Brothers
- Liza Minnelli
- Anne Murray
- Jan Murray
- Bob Newhart
- The Oak Ridge Boys
- Olivia Newton-John
- Tony Orlando
- Dolly Parton
- Luciano Pavarotti
- Jan Peerce
- Bernadette Peters
- Elvis Presley
- Debbie Reynolds
- Don Rickles
- Chita Rivera
- Joan Rivers
- Ginger Rogers
- Kenny Rogers
- Mickey Rooney
- Amy Schumer
- Neil Sedaka
- The Shangri-Las
- Dinah Shore
- Frank Sinatra
- Frank Sinatra Jr.
- Hal Sparks
- Red Skelton
- Connie Stevens
- Kaye Stevens
- Barbra Streisand
- Gatlin Brothers
- The Temptations
- The Treniers
- Mamie Van Doren
- Bobby Vee
- Village People
- Ben Vereen
- Orson Welles
- Deniece Williams
- Vanessa Williams
- Mary Wilson
Pocket billiards (pool)
As of 2010, the Riviera had a near-monopoly on championship-level North American and international amateur pool (pocket billiards) tournaments held in the United States, aside from the Florida-based U.S. Amateur Championship. The hotel's convention center hosted the Billiard Congress of America, American Poolplayers Association, Valley National 8-Ball Association and American Cuesports Alliance pool leagues' annual international championships, and various related events. BCA scheduled their 2011 and 2012 amateur championships at the Riviera, as well as the 2011 professional U.S. Open Ten-ball Championship. BCA moved their 2013 events to Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino VNEA announced in May 2010 that their event would move to Bally's, further down the Strip, in 2011.
APA held annual events at the Riviera for 23 years up until its closure. In the week prior to the Riviera's close, the APA held their Annual League Operator's Convention as well as their 2015 National Singles Championship. At 7PM on May 3, 2015 APA President Reneé Lyle and Marketing Director Jason Bowman held an awards ceremony for the APA's 2015 8-Ball Classic - the final event to be held at the Riviera.
In popular culture
The Riviera is often chosen as a shooting location due to its history and recognition as a landmark. Portions of the following features were filmed at The Riviera:
- Ocean's Eleven (1960)
- Butterfly (1982)
- Casino (1995)
- Showgirls (1995)
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
- Vegas Vacation (1997)
- Go (1999)
- 3000 Miles To Graceland (2001)
- Crazy Girls Undercover (2008)
- 21 (2008)
- The Hangover (2009)
- Ghost Adventures (2012)
The majority of the television series Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was shot in the Riviera Hotel during its four-year run and subsequent 1991 pay-per-view. The game show Hollywood Squares also taped its final syndicated season at the Riviera, from 1980-81. There was also a radio booth inside the casino where live telecasts were made featuring various guests.
- Richard N. Velotta; Howard Stutz (February 20, 2015). "In historic vote, LVCVA approves purchase of Riviera". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
- Michael Newton (2009). Mr. Mob: The Life and Crimes of Moe Dalitz. McFarland. p. 163.
- Milt Sosin (March 3, 1955). "Beach men granted Nevada casino OKs". Miami Daily News – via Google News.
- "Clark County's Riviera Hotel changes hands". Nevada State Journal. Reno, NV. UP. July 28, 1955. – via Newspapers.com (subscription required)
- "Finances of Riviera are under scrutiny". Nevada State Journal. Reno, NV. UP. October 27, 1955. – via Newspapers.com (subscription required)
- Alan Balboni (Fall 1995). "Southern Italians and Eastern European Jews: Cautious Cooperation in Las Vegas Casinos, 1940-1967" (PDF). Nevada Historical Society Quarterly: 163. Retrieved 2015-03-22.
- Gus Russo (2008). Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 215–16.
- Gus Russo (2008). Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 143–44.
- The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes by Michael Newton, Checkmark Books (August 2004) ISBN 0-8160-4981-5
- Gus Russo (2008). Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 209–16.
- Gus Russo (2008). Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 215.
- Philip Greer (May 30, 1969). "Combination may now be right for full Las Vegas potential". Greeley Daily Tribune. Greeley, CO. Washington Post. – via Newspapers.com (subscription required)
- "Swiss firm sells stock as ordered". Nevada State Journal. UPI. April 24, 1969. – via Newspapers.com (subscription required)
- "Dean Martin in show hassle". Billboard. March 4, 1972 – via Google Books.
- "Las Vegas Riviera sale approved". Redlands Daily Facts. Redlands, CA. UPI. September 20, 1973. – via Newspapers.com (subscription required)
- Marlo Barnhart (April 8, 1976). "Giant firm lost 3 buildings here". The Daily Mail. Hagerstown, MD. – via Newspapers.com (subscription required)
- "Riviera Chapter 11". New York Times. AP. August 26, 1983. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
- Al Martinez (April 27, 1984). "Fast food invades Riviera hotel as Vegas seeks middle class". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service.
- Nicholas D. Kristof (November 28, 1995). "Vegas courts low rollers". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
- D.G. Schwartz (2010). "The Burger King Revolution: How Las Vegas bounced back, 1983-1989". Gaming Law Review and Economics: Regulation, Compliance, and Policy. 14 (4): 261–273. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
- Form 10-K: Annual Report (Report). Riviera Holdings Corporation. March 10, 1997. p. 3. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
- "Casino exits Chap. 11". The Star-Ledger. Newark, NJ. AP. July 2, 1993 – via NewsBank.
- Las Vegas Sun
- Las Vegas Sun
- Crazy Girls News
- Crazy Girls Main Page
- BUTT SERIOUSLY …
- "Short Takes: Riviera Signs Frank Sinatra". Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1990. Accessed December 19, 2015.
- "Upcoming Events". PlayBCA.com. Henderson, NV: CueSports International. 2010. "Events" section. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- "National Singles Championships - American Poolplayers Association". PoolPlayers.com. Lake Saint Louis, MO: American Poolplayers Association. 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- "30th Anniversary: VNEA International Pool Championships" (PDF). VNEA.com. Bay City, MI: Valley National 8-Ball Association (VNEA). 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010. Cite error: Invalid
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- "2010 National 8-Ball & 9-Ball – June 6–12, 2010: Tournament Guidelines and Entry Forms". AmericanCueSports.org. Green Bay, WI: American CueSports Alliance. 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- Mike Fieldhammer (2013). "BCAPL CSI Move to the Rio Hotel Las Vegas in July". Retrieved May 4, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Riviera (casino).|
- Riviera Hotel and Casino – Official Site
- Chicago Mob influence on Las Vegas
- Reuters: Riviera shareholders reject offer (August 29, 2006)
- Riviera Hotel and Casino bankruptcy in Las Vegas
- Riviera Hotel and Casino bankruptcy in the news
- Riviera Holdings Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
- Las Vegas' Riviera Hotel & Casino owner files for bankruptcy
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