“Poker is an all-American game. It’s a game that I learned as a teen and continue to play today. Just like millions of other players I enjoy the strategy and skill involved.” So said Rep. Joe Barton (R) as he introduced the Internet Poker Freedom Act, a counterthrust to Rep. Jason Chaffetz‘s efforts to shut down online gambling altogether. (It should be noted that Internet gambling was never outlawed at the federal level, only the processing of financial transactions related thereto … creating a legal penumbra in which operators like PokerStars continued to operate.)
“Can the one-armed bandit reinvent itself? There is no doubt that gaming, specifically the slot machine, needs a face-lift.” — Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Zarnetton new developments in casino technology.
Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli visited Macao recently and found “limited signs of help on the way.” For instance, the anti-corruption campaign continues merrily forward, with arrests up 32% from last year. Give a dearth of VIP play, operators are moving more table games into the mass-market areas in their Cotai projects. There’s also hope, albeit cautious, that a compromise may be worked out in the no-smoking policy whereby smoking lounges could be retained on casino floors.
While Santarelli senses no major decline in business forthcoming, “we found nothing thesis changing and continue to see more Continue reading →
For all the hoopla about the (fixed?) Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, Strip gaming revenues sent mixed signals. The game that matters most, baccarat, saw somewhat less play (-7%) but the house got beaten badly, its winnings down 36%. By contrast, all other table games saw 23% more volume and revenue. Slot coin-in was up 6% but here luck was with the house, which saw 12% higher winnings. Concluded J.P. Morgan analyst Joseph Greff, “Overall, we continue to think that LV Strip can generate low to mid-single RevPAR and visitation growth, though given a likely slowdown in Chinese players, we expect the market to continue to experiencing volatility in baccarat play.”
Two presidential aspirants, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R) and Marco Rubio (R), joined forces with a gaggle of other senators in reintroducing “Restoration of America’s Wire Act,” Sheldon Adelson‘s pet vehicle for keeping his competitors out of Internet gambling. Among those joining Graham were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R), giving the bill bipartisan and bicoastal sponsorship. It’s not clear from the language if state lotteries would still be allowed to use servers outside their borders but the horsey set still gets a carve-out for bets on the ponies.
Three casino proposals were weighed in the balance and two were found wanting, as the Kansas State Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board sifted the pros and cons, ultimately settling on the lowest-budgeted of the contenders, Kansas Crossing. The project, named for its strategic location at the intersection of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69, was deemed to be of the best size and the most realistic in its revenue projections. The fact that several of its investors, somewhat incestuously, are involved with two otherKansas casinos actually counted as a plus. Kansas Crossing got five of the seven votes.
“I understand the desire to stick it to the tribe, given that it has outmaneuvered, well, everyone. But this lawsuit seems like a loser for the state … I haven’t seen any signs of plague ravaging the land. No frogs running amok. Not so much as a single locust.” — Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, advocating that the state, with political jujitsu, legalize racinos instead of continuing to fight the Tohono O’odham Nation‘s Glendale casino project.
In case Steve Wynn is having second thoughts that maybe it was a bad idea to try and muzzle stock-picker James Chanos, a federal court made it official. On top of two defeats in the courtroom, Wynn has been handed a $422,380 bill for Chanos’ legal expenses. Chanos had asked for six hundred dimes but, as John L. Smith puts it, “I’m guessing Wynn’s legal eagles didn’t brag to their client that they got him a nifty 25 percent discount.”
Chanos’ crime was basically to tell the truth about the volatility of the Macao casino business and its treacherous undercurrents. As though to Continue reading →
Casino investment in the U.S. has largely been a bust for private equity firms. However, two funds — Silver Point Capital and Oaktree Capital Management — could be about to hit the jackpot in Macao. It seems that Melco Crown Entertainmentjust secured a package of loans and credit lines. What do Lawrence Ho and James Packer plan to do with all that money, especially since they intend to draw down the loan portion immediately?
Almost lost in the excitement over the opening of Plainridge Park, in Plainview, is a little-reported event: New Bedford‘s vote on casino host-community status. To say that KG Urban Enterprises won is rather an understatement. It garnered 73% of votes cast, in a rout of anti-casino forces, who were evidently unmotivated to get out and vote. (Turnout was light: 21%.) This sets up a confrontation between KG’s partner, Foxwoods Resort Casino, and Neil Bluhm‘s Rush Street Gaming for the last casino license in Massachusetts.
After seemingly being in shock from the stampede to put casinos in northern New Jersey, civic leaders of Atlantic City are starting to put up a fight. The terms of battle vary, with some dead-set against a breaking of the Boardwalk’s monopoly, and others saying the goal is to get as much money for Atlantic City out of outstate casinos as possible. Mayor Don Guardian took a hard-line stance, saying, Continue reading →
Are executives at Penn National Gaming getting high on their own supply … of slot machines, that is? The industry’s desired average for slots is $200 but Penn is predicting a sky-high $500/slot/day at Plainridge Park, which opens tomorrow, inaugurating the casino epoch in Massachusetts. “I don’t see Plainridge getting that kind of money. Almost twice what Foxwoods does on its machines? I don’t think so,” Lasell College Assistant Professor of Political Science Paul L. DeBole told the Boston Globe. Even Penn’s most successful racino in Ohio ‘only’ does $290/VLT/day. Laudably, Penn will have problem-gambling counselors on site 16 hours a day.
“It’s as if these regulations were drafted in a vacuum by someone who has no idea about the gaming industry and how it operates.” — David Bean, Puyallup Tribe council member, on the IRS‘ proposed lowering of the threshold on jackpot reporting, which is estimated to create a 300%-500% increase in “IRS lockups” of slot machines.
It’s hard to believe but we’re only a few days from the opening of Plainridge Park Casino, bringing gambling to one of the last major, untapped markets in the U.S.: Massachusetts. While the Penn National Gaming property hasn’t been entirely free from controversy, it also comes with a ready-made player base in the form of the 7,500 Bay Staters who drive to Rhode Island every day for their fix of slot action.
“Because of your reporting, we’ve seen patrons using casinos and card clubs to conceal narcotics transactions, to move money in support of international fraud schemes, to launder real estate fraud money, or to transfer money for other illicit purposes.” — FinCEN Associate Director of Enforcement Stephanie Brooker, telling casino executives that the good news is that they’re doing a much better job of regulatory activity and the bad news is that their properties seem to be revealed as beehives of dodgy transactions.
Carl Icahnhas won his gambit to take over Trump Taj Mahal but that doesn’t mean he and Unite-Here are all lovey-dovey. Although Icahn earlier called Trump Entertainment Resorts the most distressed company he’s ever seen, he’s giving CEO Bob Griffin a reprieve and $15 million a year to fix up the Taj, starting with its exterior. However, slapping a new coat of paint on this house of cards won’t address the labor turmoil. Unite-Here continues to appeal the revocation of health benefits and pension contributions. Griffin and Icahn were so petty they even took away workers’ paid lunch breaks.
Icahn has positioned all of this as a necessary survival mechanism and has repeatedly threatened Continue reading →
According to Vital Vegas, the first Strip outing of Rock in Rio might be its last, as the music festival may have lost as much as $28 million. Vital Vegas puts attendance at a dreadful 130,000 (out of a possible 320,000) and even the MGM Resorts International-friendly Las Vegas Review Journal places the head count at just 50% of capacity, with only 15% coming from locals. (I’m told that the music carried so loudly into some neighborhoods that a ticket was superfluous.) The poor showing can partly be attributed to Continue reading →
Here in Las Vegas, the impact of Kirk Kerkorian‘s death is still sinking in. A man known for self-effacing personal habits left the world as discreetly as he passed through it in his Ford Taurus, leaving accomplishments that far exceeded any personal ego. Tributes were quick to roll in. The Fremont Street Experience played a memorial video montage — a valediction as outsized as Kerkorian’s career. He is only the second casino owner to rate such a salute, Jackie Gaughan being the other. Aria has dedicated its I-15 video billboard to a series of Kerkorian portraits.
“What good does it do being rich? I can’t do what I want to do. I don’t like to get dressed up and go to see bankers. I hate that kind of thing.” — the late Kirk Kerkorian, to Dial Torgerson in “Kerkorian: An American Success Story.”