“The bottom line is you have a casino. Instead of downplaying that, let’s celebrate it.” That’s Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas CEO Bill McBeath outlining the besetting sin of his predecessors, ignoring the central role of gambling as the Cosmo’s revenue driver. His changes ran the gamut from moving the sports book to welcoming higher-limit play, $200,000 a hand, with $5 million lines of credit and bigger slot jackpots, ending risk-averse Deutsche Bank policies. The Cosmo isn’t out of the woods yet, lacking a hotel-loyalty affiliation while trying to compete in the $300/night tier among other problems, the big difference between the Cosmo’s Deutsche Bank era and the new Blackstone Group is that the latter is actually turning a profit.
Investment banker William Newby describes the Cosmo’s original, back-asswards market positioning thusly: “The joke was you’d go there later at night, you’d notice the Continue reading →
Besieged on all sides, daily fantasy sports operators find themselves in retreat. DraftKings said it “will voluntarily pause” its operations in Hawaii in response to a ruling by state Attorney General Doug Chinthat DFS is gambling and therefore illegal in the 50th state. That prompted prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro (right) to issue cease-and-desist orders to DraftKings and FanDuel. The alternative is to face prosecution for promoting gambling, a Class C felony.
The Hawaiian trouble comes at the same time that DFS is being chased out Continue reading →
It was bound to happen and finally did: An activist group in Taunton has filed suit to stop the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe from building its dreamt-of casino, Project First Light. The litigants’ argument is as predictable as the filing itself. Namely, that the Carcieri v. Salazar decision prevents the Mashpee Wamps from being given reservation acreage in Taunton because the tribe was not under federal recognition in 1934, the cutoff date established in Carcieri and the time of passage of the Indian Reorganization Act.
The tribe’s opponents contend that the Department of Interior took an overly liberal attitude in how it construed “Indian” with regard to the Mashpee, “falsely proclaiming ambiguity where none exists.” Being unable to get a “Carcieri fix” through Congress, they add, Interior Department bureaucrats decided to Continue reading →
Well, here’s a novel piece of news out of Illinois, where it always seems that gloom and doom hold sway. Gaming revenues were up 2% last month. That’s even more impressive when you consider that it’s being measured against a January 2015 that saw an 8.5% boost in casino winnings. Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli reports that foot traffic was down 2% but player spending rose 4.5%. The worst blotch on the ledger was Argosy Belle, down 25% on a $4 million gross. It was a rough month along the Mississippi River, with Harrah’s Metropolis (above) reporting a 9.5% decline ($6.5 million).
Smaller declines were seen at Boyd Gaming‘s Par A Dice (-4%, $7 million) and Penn National Gaming‘s Hollywood Aurora (-2%, $10 million). Otherwise it was all Continue reading →
Just when Melco Crown Entertainment and other operators have gone heavily into the Manila market, they stand to take a hit from a potential Philippine Amusement & Gaming policy change that would end the Pagor’s monopoly on casino gambling outside Manila. Pagcor Chairman Cristino Naguiat said that there are (unspecified) areas in the archipelago that are “very ripe for a casino.” The criteria for entry would include a minimum $300 million investment. “We’re developing a template to ensure that no one would be granted a license unless an investment commitment is made,” Naguiat added.
A bigger loser than Melco could be Kazuo Okada, who has committed $2 billion to Continue reading →
If a casino is losing money, does that qualify it for state relief? That’s the philosophical question in Delaware, where Dover Downs is pursuing a public bailout. A bill by state Sen. Brian Bushweller (D) would waive table-game franchise fees and reduce the casino tax rate from 29% to 15%, making it one of the lower imposts on the East Coast. The changes would be phased in between now and 2018. Dover Downs President Brian McGlynn predicts Delaware “will experience a significant long-term decline in contributions to the General Fund from its video lottery operations” without lower taxation.
Other changes would include extending the state’s sports betting to the Internet, as well as tax credits for Continue reading →
Prior to its conference call with analysts, Penn National Gaming shared some earnings guidance and hints of what is to come. Perceptions of the performance of Plainridge Park Casino have become something of a sore point with Penn execs. While it continues to undershoot Wall Street‘s expectations, the glass is more than half-full when one considers that Plainridge has the highest win/slot/day numbers of any Penn property. However, management continues to fine-tune promotions and marketing, the better to compete with Twin River Casino, which has proven a formidable adversary. It’s concentrating on Marquee Rewards signups, which have reached 160,000 in Massachusetts. Penn is also writing off the costs of its Plainridge license and that of its Hollywood Dayton racino, which JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff called “not so large in the grand scheme of things.”
As for the big question mark in Penn’s portfolio, the Tropicana Las Vegas, the focus is on Continue reading →
A bill to legalize Internet poker in New York State advanced unanimously out of the state Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming & Wagering. That’s the easy part. It now goes to the Finance Committee, where tougher Continue reading →
Las Vegans are still in an uproar over MGM Resorts International‘s new pay-for-parking policy. And yet MGM had the gall to issue a press release calling the added fees part of a “strategy to provide significant improvements.” Yes, because paying more for the same product is always an improvement. MGM was even so nervy as to call the $10 self-parking and $17 valet-parking charges “modest.” Executives at MGM need to get out of their biosphere and breathe some fresh air. Seventeen bucks is real money to you and me.
The meat of MGM’s announcement was that it was offloading the bulk of its parking-attendant staff to service provider SP+. Parking employees are promised continuation of the same salaries and benefits they enjoyed under MGM. The exceptions to the new policy are Continue reading →
Sheldon Adelson once called it “a mistake” but Sands Bethlehem is proving to be a bright spot on the Las Vegas Sands balance sheet. Last year, its profitability rose 9%, adding $108 million to Adelson’s coffers. As the CEO would be quick to point out, the company isn’t exactly collecting chump change from Macao, where casino revenues were $6.7 billion even after a net revenue drop of 28%. What’s more, not even all-time-high room rates at Sands Bethlehem did nothing to discourage overnight visits, with the hotel running at 91.5% occupancy.
* From Pocahontas to slot machines. The could be the trajectory of Virginia‘s Pamunkey Indian nation, which staved off a challenge to its recognition by the Interior Board of Indian Appeals. The tribe was pleasantly surprised by how quickly litigation against it by Stand Up for California was struck down. The Pamunkey are Continue reading →
“We didn’t kick anybody out. All we said is play by the rules. This board has been progressive toward innovation.” — Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnetton the state’s stance toward daily fantasy sports.
If Carl Icahn has his way, executives at Trump Taj Mahal may have to start updating their resumes. Tropicana Atlantic City President Anthony Rodiois expected to add the Taj to his portfolio as well. It’s well past time that inept Trump Entertainment Resorts managers were sent packing and the advent of Rodio would actually inspire hope for a turnaround at the Taj, similar to what he has achieved at the Trop.
In addition, many more details have emerged on the Trop’s $25 million renovation. These include “spa-inspired bathrooms with large walk-in showers and modern artwork in the rooms.” Meanwhile, Borgata‘s planned “Roman-style pool” will cannibalize space formerly occupied by an al fresco concert stage. “The occasional concerts simply did not Continue reading →
“[Donald] Trump insists that he’s a conservative, but in his pronouncements and policies, conservatism seems more of a rental — a three-story penthouse rental with Central Park view, to be sure — than an ideological home.” — Charles Krauthammer, on the conversion of conservatism into ‘Trumpism.’
“From the looks on your faces, you don’t like ‘Kumbaya’ moments. I’m sorry for that. It’s time for some tough decisions and some pain as we move forward.” So said Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian (R) as he acceded to a state takeover that will effectively render him the puppet monarch of the Boardwalk. Although the length of the new regime has been curbed from 15 years to five, the state is still granted sweeping powers. One that unions are certain to hate is the ability to dissolve collective bargaining agreements … along with municipal departments and such, and to consolidate public services. It also gives state Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D) his much-coveted right to sell off Atlantic City’s water authority, seen as a giveaway to New Jersey American Water Co. (Its magnate, George Norcross, is a Sweeney crony.)
City-owned land and other assets are up for grabs, and Atlantic City’s debt will be restructured. The unilateral state power to Continue reading →
In one day, attorney Robert Lubin‘s plan for a new Gulfport, Mississippi, casino went from being the next big thing to “Yes, but …” Lubin, whose speciality is EB-5 visa financing, envisions a two-pronged project: a $140 million casino plus a $30 rehabilitation of the abandoned Markham Hotel for either residential or office use. The initiative would fulfill Gulfport’s long-unsatisfied desire for a casino in its harbor district (site of a failed Donald Trump initiative in the wayback). A rain-drenched Lubin jetted into Gulfport just in time to testify in favor of his 10-acre, 300-room casino project. Enthused Mayor Billy Hewes (right), “This is a great day for Gulfport and the Coast.”
Las Vegas Strip gaming revenues were up 8% last month but Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli is calling that headline “misleading,” the increase “purely optical.” Volume of table play was down 11% and slot coin-in was 2% less. But increased hold, rule changes and luck conspired in the casinos’ favor. By contrast, a 4% increase in slot play in the Las Vegas locals market couldn’t stave off a 5% revenue slippage. The state of Nevada as a whole was up 3%. Strip slot revenue rose 7% and baccarat winnings shot up 20% despite 11% less volume of play. Other table revenues were flat on 11% less in wagers.
Both the Boulder Strip and Laughlin had a bad time of it, down 15% and 14% respectively. North Las Vegas was off 7% but Downtown eked out a Continue reading →
In the end, it was all about the money. In return for an extra $400,000 per year for the next 15 years, plus reimbursement of $750,000 in legal fees, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh dropped his efforts to block Wynn Everett. “We fought the good fight, but at the end of the day, the judge dismissed our lawsuit,” Walsh said, bowing to the will of the courts. He also tried to palliate casino adversaries in the Charlestown area by pointing out that they’d benefit from traffic improvements in Sullivan Square and Wynn-funded spending on civic programs.
An additional win for Wynn was the abandonment of a potential fine of $20 million if casino-area traffic exceeds a prescribed level. Under the new regimen, Wynn Resorts will have to Continue reading →
“The Las Vegas Strip is a uniquely American landmark, an amalgamation of public square and private space, famous around the world for projecting bounty to all comers. [MGM Resorts International] has for decades benefited from being part of that, but now it has violated the public trust. It might propose strip-mining the Grand Canyon next.” — Las Vegas journalist C. Moon Reed, going nuclear on MGM’s pay-for-parking initiative.
One of the many first-ever things that Geoff Freeman has done to remake the American Gaming Association in his image is compile a voting guide for industry workers, walking them through the primary and caucus processes in their states, and providing a rundown on where the candidates stand on gaming. Fortunately, gaming policy is largely an intrastate game of political football in which Washington, D.C., cannot intervene. However, tribal casinos and Internet gambling are very much at the mercy of whoever is in power in Foggy Bottom. For instance, federal attitudes towards tribal gaming have been far more expansive during the Obama administration than they were under Bush II, including the scrapping of a proposed rollback of Class II gaming — so tribes like the Mashpee Wampanaog and Tohono O’odham know where to send their ‘thank-you’ notes.
But I digress. You can read the AGA report here, so I’ll just note some of the highlights. Candidates’ attitudes towards casinos range from Continue reading →
“I guess [the Sands general counsel] could have filed something that said, ‘Dear Public: Our chairman is a little cuckoo.'” — Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, testifying to the impairment of his job performance caused by painkillers. Interestingly, now that he owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Adelson is granting it interviews, as he did in this definitive chronicle of the Richard Suen litigation.