“Don’t bring me a slot machine and tell me it’s a horse.” — Nebraska state Sen. Dave Bloomfield, stating his opposition to VLT “instant racing” at Cornhusker State racetracks.
Well, they weren’t that dramatic about it. But Boyd Gaming executives surprised Wall Street analysts by announcing their interest in having a Japanese casino. For all the ongoing success of Borgata, we still think of Boyd as a small-casino company, getting by on locals play and Hawaiian tourists. “We’re much larger today than we were in early the early 2000s,” said CEO Keith Smith, who added that it was too early to talk about financing. Small wonder, with $178 million cash on hand against $4.5 billion in debt. Downtown business improved last quarter while Las Vegas locals business remained on a flat trajectory. (“Relatively OK,” said JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff.) However, Boyd has improved cash flow for four quarters in a row.
A $1 billion writedown on the abandoned Echelon project pushed Boyd to a 4Q13 loss. The company also did the responsible thing, retiring an aggregate $585 million in debt and interest. We like seeing that kind of probity in the gaming biz.
Were I Steve Wynn, I would be feeling somewhat discouraged by my prospects in Massachusetts. Just look at what happened to Cordish Gaming. Its Leominster slot-parlor proposal got high marks, but was ultimately passed over because Penn National Gaming‘s rival project in Plainville would incorporate horse racing. If, as appears to be the case, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is in the tank for horseracing, Suffolk Downs will ace Wynn just by showing up.
Further aiding Suffolk Downs’ cause is a marketing program by Mohegan Sun. It is recruiting local businesses at a furious clip for a program where player points can be redeemed at area businesses — “garages, print shops, insurance agents, beauty suppliers, hair salons, markets, local chambers of commerce” — reaching as far as Salem. Wynn has its own gift-voucher program for Everett and Malden, but the breadth and comprehensiveness of Mohegan Sun’s effort may have him beat. The promise to Continued >>