If the faux-Venice walls of the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas could talk, they would discuss the joint venture that just placed the biggest bet the casino has ever seen: a bet on the casino itself.
They would also talk about how the covid era, which has decimated the gaming industry, has seen the casino’s long-time owner, Las Vegas Sands, slump to significant losses and quit the Nevada gaming mecca and its founder Sheldon Adelson succumb to illness.
These events have led to a sale to private equity firm Apollo Global Management, which is buying the operating businesses of the resort and other associated facilities for $2.25 billion, and property company VICI Properties, which is buying the properties for $4 billion.
Such a sale might have been hard to envisage prior to the pandemic. But the transaction’s reported yield of 6.25 percent in no way reflects distress at the asset level. Indeed, it sits between the 5.75 percent yield reflected in the sale to Blackstone of fellow Strip favorite The Bellagio in late 2019 and the 6.35 percent achieved when the same New York-private real estate estate giant acquired the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay casinos early last year.
Indeed, its buyers believe The Venetian’s very availability is the coup. In their statement on the deal, they portray their belief they have capitalized on a rare opportunity to buy an iconic asset, with Apollo calling the Venetian “America’s premier integrated resort” and VICI Properties describing it as “one of the most coveted properties in Las Vegas.”
Gondolas gone by
The 4,000-room Venetian opened in 1999, offering gamers 120,000 square feet of gambling space, a convention center, a heritage museum, two nightclubs and a shopping area called The Grand Canal Shoppes replete with gondolas for visitors to ride.
The casino’s next 20 years were not trouble free. Settlements to the Gaming Control Board and the US Department of Justice for rigging and laundering activities were among its controversies. But its biggest obstacle has been the coronavirus pandemic that spread to US soil last year and led to the indefinite closure of the resort.
By the time its sale to Apollo and VICI Properties is expected to conclude in the fourth quarter this year, its doors are anticipated to have opened once more. By then, while former tenant Las Vegas Sands focuses on its Asia exploits, Apollo’s acquisition will have started its triple-net lease with the building’s new landlords and its walls will be talking of a return to action.