Some people either put up or shut up. Glenn Straubcan’t put up and won’t shut up. His latest brush with the news pages is his welshing on a bet with Bart Blatstein that the latter couldn’t open the Showboat by his self-imposed deadline. When Blatstein won the bet and asked for the money so he could give it to charity, Straub claimed there was no bet and he was keeping the 100 dimes for himself. Now he’s scrapping with Blatstein over the latter’s plans to redevelop Garden Pier, which just seems like sour grapes. Blatstein has crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in dealing with Atlantic City bureaucracy. Straub, by contrast, seems illiterate. And, yes, there’s still not even hint of a new reopening date for Revel, let alone the much-ballyhooed new name. Rival casino owners shouldn’t be worried because we don’t think Straub can throw up a serious challenge, even if he ever gets Revel back on its feet. We’ll say this for Donald Trump‘s legacy: Continue reading →
Pulled under by the Shreveport/Bossier City market (-6%), June gaming numbers in Louisiana came in 3% off last year’s. Pinnacle Entertainment‘s Boomtown Bossier ($5 million) far outperformed the competition, up 11%. Hardest hit were the Caesars Entertainment properties, with usually reliable Horseshoe Bossier City plunging 16% ($14 million) and Louisiana Downs 9% off the pace, at $3 million. Eldorado Shreveport also had an aberrantly bad month, down 8% and grossing $10 million. Except for Sam’s Town (-1%, $6 million, above), all other casinos were essentially flat for June. In fact, Boyd Gaming had a rough month of it across the market. Delta Downs was down indeed (-5.5%, $14 million), Amelia Belle swooned 7% ($4 million, below) and Evangeline Downs was 6% off, to $7 million. Only old reliable, Treasure Chest, had a good month. It grossed $9 million, a 3% gain.
Considering that Pinnacle’s Boomtown New Orleans (-1%, $9 million) wasn’t up for the month, it isn’t necessarily a case of Continue reading →
“It is anything but a victimless crime. Just as we have partnered with law enforcement at every level, including the FBI, state attorneys general, sheriffs and chiefs of police, we look forward to supporting efforts of the Ohio Casino Control Commission and Attorney General Mike DeWine, who also has been a leader, in any way we can.” — American Gaming Association Vice President of Government Relations Whit Askew, on gray-market, Internet “sweepstakes cafes.”
Last year was the best ever for tribal casinos, up 5% from 2014, coming in just a bit shy of $30 billion. Recent efforts to align tribal and private-sector casino interests come at a time when the tribal sector could plausibly achieve revenue supremacy. The latter have the advantage of not being beholden to Wall Street and the grail of maximizing shareholder returns. “They’re not really profits,” Cabazon Band of Mission Indians member Brenda Soulliere said of tribal revenues. “They’re funds that Continue reading →
While gaming companies on the Las Vegas Strip are fairly sanguine about 2016, a new report by Alex Bumazhny of Fitch Ratings takes a somewhat gloomier view. For one, he notes that revenue per available room “growth during the recovery has lagged the national average despite virtually no new capacity since 2010, which may suggest that the market is still digesting decade-old new supply.” Should there be another recession, though, he says the big boys are better positioned to ride it out, not being deeply into merger activity or new, capital-intensive projects. But the good news sort of ends there: “The weakness in Macau has spilled over with the Strip baccarat volume on track to decline by around 20% in 2016. Weakness may persist into 2017 as four additional resorts open in Macau and the dollar further strengthens.” At least Las Vegas‘ economic diversification (think restaurants, amenities) shields it from “lackluster” regional gaming prospects, according to Bumazhny, who says this “supports a view that the Strip resorts are real estate investments and should trade at comparable multiples.” So I guess that’s one more vote for REITmania.
* As Westgate Las Vegas Sports Book Director Jay Kornegay points out to the Los Angeles Times, the Olympics are now tantamount to a Continue reading →
It’s never too late to count out litigious Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone but it looks like Wynn Boston Harbormay finally be inevitable. The casino project received a development permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Sore losers Mohegan Sun are still suing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, but it doesn’t look like their litigation will affect Wynn Resorts‘ prospects. “One does not need to be a casino enthusiast to recognize and acknowledge the benefit that accrues to a city when a long-dormant, contaminated-waste site is cleaned up and brought back to useful life,” said MDEP hearing officer Jane Rothchild. Anti-casino Curtatone may still try to get the decision overturned but Wynn Resorts can start focusing its attention on remediating the aresenic, lead and other industrial goodies with which its land is laced.
“In the 16 years we’ve been down there, I’ve paid the city $80.5 million in tax revenue. We saved the city from bankruptcy. We’ve been paying the city payroll including the Police Department for the last 16 years and I don’t think anyone has done as much for the city and received so little.” So speaks Larry Flynt, who is balking at Gardena, California‘s quid pro quo for tax breaks he is seeking for his existing card room and his proposed rehabilitation of the disgraced Normandie Casino as the Lucky Lady Casino. The city wants a guaranteed $800,000 a month from each card room before it will give Flynt tax rebates on revenues exceeding $2 million monthly. City officials also don’t like the buxom woman who serves as Flynt’s logo but there’s nothing they can do about it — and she looks pretty inoffensive to us.
Flynt’s got a point: It does seem extortionate. His response is to threaten to shutter the Lucky Lady before it even reopens. “Yes, I did add a Continue reading →
Continuing its sudden flurry of activity, Station Casinos is reviving its dormant Reno-area aspirations. The company is acting on its eight-acre parcel opposite the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, a strategic location if ever there were one. The $50 million-$70 million project will be sort of a pocket casino, its amenities limited to two fast-food outlets, a café and a sports bar. No hotel has been announced, which strongly suggests that Station is going to deploy the portable license for a no-hotel casino that it acquired a decade ago from the Reno Turf Club and has been keeping its back pocket ever since. Station is proceeding cautiously, holding off developing a larger parcel in the area of Sierra Summit Mall, which would require a more capital-intensive entry into the market. (Yes, I know the captions are reversed on the picture there and, no, there’s nothing I can do about it.)
Station needs a zoning change for the convention-center site and permission from state regulators to use the old Turf Club license, but those should Continue reading →
“Amen. I recently took over a property, and using good old-fashioned guest interactions, we have seen an increase in gaming revenue of 9% in just six months. While it takes really smart people to run these businesses, it’s not as complicated as some would want you to believe. Simply, find out what the players want and within reason, give it to them.” — Reserve Hotel & Casino General Manager Barry Phillips, offering his point of view in a stimulating and lively debate over the merits of statisticians versus customer interactions.
As protests against Carl Icahn spilled over into New York City, his casino CEO, Anthony Rodio, sent ominously mixed signals about the future of Trump Taj Mahal. On the one hand, he offered a partial restoration of health benefits and a reduction in the room-cleaning quota to 14 rooms a day (the Atlantic City standard). On the other, he called the Taj “a money pit,” raising questions about the depth of his and Icahn’s commitment to the property. “The company offered to fund a health insurance plan that was offered by Unite-Here but was not quite as rich as the plan at the other A.C. casinos. But it did provide medical insurance for all union members and their families. In addition, the Taj Mahal would have extended health insurance to all non-union members, as well. This one concession would have cost the company multiple millions of dollars,” he also offered to renegotiate terms in 18 months, as well as that new job openings would be coming on line. However, he also said his deal was only valid through end of business Monday, raising the specter of a bare-bones follow-up offer.
Palazzo is currently hosting the second coming of Baz: Star-Crossed Love, a song-and-dance mishmash of iconic moments from such Baz Luhrmann epics as Gatsby, Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet. (What, nothing from Australia? Awwwww.) There’s even a passing nod to his first — and still best — movie, Strictly Ballroom. The good news is that Baz plays better in the reconfigured Palazzo Showroom than it did when shoehorned into Light at Mandalay Bay. The bad news is that it’s afflicted with the same heartlessness and ADHD mania as the movies themselves. For Baz’s new iteration, the showroom has been reconfigured with a multi-pronged catwalk that goes into and around the audience. More’s the pity that it’s used without much imagination. An overworked trope has one star-crossed lover, far upstage, addressing another who’s way out in the center aisle. They’re then brought together, with a long, white sheet usually involved. Another much-abused device is to have scenes from two different stories playing out simultaneously. Don’t go in expecting a linear experience.
Just when it should have been booming with the summer season, Atlantic City casino revenue fell 4% — $197.5 million — although online casino revenues rose 41% (to $16 million). Resorts Digital — akaPokerStars — is still bringing up the rear, but it’s closing the gap, having raised its market share to 16.5% (Caesars Interactive has 18.5% and Borgata leads the market with 23%.) Luck magnified table and slot revenues at Borgata. Table play was 7% down and revenues dropped 12%. Slot handle rose 1% and casino winnings were up 4%. The megaresort grossed $56 million for a 1% decline.
Other operators would like to have that problem. Their slot and table declines were indicative of 7% less table play and 3% less coin-in at Continue reading →
We’ve been surprised that Sheldon Adelson isn’t overtly pushing for casinos in Israel, especially upon reading that the city of Eilat “smells and feels a little bit like a very small version of Vegas.” It’s well away from the rest of Israel and exempt from the country’s value-added tax system. But, although pro-casino sentiment has been on the upswing in the Holy Land, obstacles abound. For one thing, a tourists-only casino or four might not only be hard-pressed to make ends meet, many Israels hold two passports, so verifying their nationality could be “an absolute nightmare” according to one consultant.
“The Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, recently said to a source on our behalf that he desires to recreate Las Vegas in Eilat … we believe that for the first time in the history of Israel there is some actual hope for it,” said attorney Tal Itzhak Ron. Concedes Marcon Consulting Group CEO Peter Marcus, “Israel is a dichotomy because Continue reading →
Spurning Nevada and Delaware, the state of New Jersey is exploring an online-poker compact with the United Kingdom. The deal, if consummated, would allow the two entities to share players and liquidity. “Even when you discount children and non-gamblers, it gives us access to a market that is very familiar with online gaming. That number is one-fifth of the total U.S. population,” said Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck. Online casino games would be foreseeable but sports betting is out of court. However, not all New Jersey i-casino operators — who include GVC and 888.com (the latter is the only operator in the Nevada/Delaware compact) — offer online poker and you’re registered with one of those platforms you’re SOL.
According to Rebuck, “We’d still have to figure out lots of issues: specific regulations, how the tax rate from each jurisdiction would be applied, player ID and geolocation issues, and other things we Continue reading →
After having spent four years being clobbered by slot routes (the installed slot base has reached 23,406 machines), Illinois casinos have decided they’d rather switch than fight. Investors in Rivers Casino have purchased a stake in lead operator Acel Entertainment Gaming, although Rivers owner Neil Bluhm (right) is a slot-route opponent. (Unlike his dad, Andrew Bluhm took a flyer into slot-route investment, although it apparently isn’t going so well for him.) The news comes after Penn National Gaming bought out Prairie State Gaming and another route operator, Gaming & Entertainment Management, was swooped up by Jumer’s Rock Island Casino. Traditional gaming houses “see another revenue source out there and see a way to hedge their bets on the future. If you have a regional casino and you feel video gaming is eating your lunch, then you have the ability to be a part of it,” said Illinois Gaming Machine Operators President Michael Gelatka.
Slot-route locations, which are limited to five machines apiece, still succeeded in Continue reading →
There’s a happy ending to the saga of Bavarian Brewery, which had been purchased by Columbia Sussex a decade back in hopes that it would be Kentucky‘s first casino. The building has lain fallow ever since and ColSux has gone to board after board, court after court, seeking permission to tear the antique brewery down. Its odds of prevailing got consistently worse but it found a win-win solution to its problem, selling the Bavarian Brewery to Kenton County, which will use it as office space. “In regards to the physical structure of the old Bavarian Brewery itself, we will make every effort to incorporate it into the planning for the new county administration building. We’ll learn a lot more in the months to come, but I’m confident that the old tower at the Bavarian Brewery will remain an iconic structure in Covington and Kenton County for many, many years to come,” said County Judge Kris Knochelmann. The county will tear down parts of the building to make room for new infrastructure, but will strive to preserve its medieval-looking façade.
ColSux takes a bit of a bath on the deal, pocketing $4.5 million for a structure that cost it Continue reading →
Two Boston-area mayors are digging in against a slot parlor proposed for Revere. New Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone (below) have both voiced opposition to the project, which would be near Suffolk Downs (the ballot question is worded in such a way that no other site in the state would be eligible). Wannabe casino owner Eugene McCain has spent at least $6.5 million snapping up land near the racetrack. “I am making offers on many properties, but this is not something I can presently address as these are private discussions and contingent transactions,” McCain told the Boston Globe from his hideout in Thailand. McCain has good reason to keep a low profile, since his colleagues include a convicted felon — something you think would get his project nixed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission outright.
McCain claims to have an (unnamed) gaming operator lined up and a hotel deal with Accor-Novotel. His stated aim is Continue reading →
Station Casinoshas vaulted to the forefront of the parties vying to host an NFL-size stadium on their property. While Station’s vast real estate bank has long been viewed as the ace up its sleeve, the company has had difficulty cashing in on its value — until now. Forget Viva, forget the mixed-use development Station recently previewed for Wall Street. No, the Wild Wild West site, which comes with 100 acres of overdue-for-redevelopment real estate is suddenly a prime contender for a stadium — as is a parking lot northwest of the Thomas & Mack Center (which still might be too close to McCarran International Airport for the FAA‘s comfort). The presumptive favorite site, Trop 42, next door to McCarran, crashed and burned last week when Southwest Airlines raised objections and threatened to reduce flights into Vegas. (And if you’re Las Vegas, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Southwest Airlines.) Already, passenger loads into McCarran were likely to be reduced due to Trop 42’s proximity to the north-south runways.
You can measure the acrimony between Unite-Here Local 54 and Tropicana Entertainment by the fact that striking workers at Trump Taj Mahal are using Donald Trumpas a stick with which to beatCarl Icahn. By astutely negotiating a pact with workers in 2004, Trump-owned casinos prospered while the rest of the market weathered a month-long strike. In fact, a picket line hasn’t been seen in front of a Trump-branded property since the last century. Said cocktail waitress Valerie McMorris, “We always had a contract. He never took away our health care, our pension, our wage break. In that regard, I feel he always had our backs,” drawing a contrast between Trump and Icahn catspaw Bob Griffin. Her sentiments were seconded by server Bill Rampolla: “Every time a contract came up for renewal, he was the very first one to sign the deal.” “I didn’t have any problems,” threw in a former Trump employee. (Strike breakers at the Taj, incidentally, will include Flo Rida, in case you needed an excuse to boycott him.)
Added McMorris, “I also see conversely what he did and how he used bankruptcy court to Continue reading →
Cleveland Cavaliers playoff games were good for Dan Gilbert‘s casino businesses. His Jack Cleveland casino was up 13%, to $16 million last month. It’s far too soon for a verdict on the “Jack” (as in “up yours, asshole”) brand, which produced a 5% uptick at misbegotten ThistleDown Racino ($9 million) but saw a 13% dive at Jack Cincinnati, which grossed ($14 million). Another property that was a big miscalculation, Pinnacle Entertainment‘s racino Belterra Park, was up 16%, registering $6 million. At other tracks, Eldorado Resorts‘ Scioto Downs was flat, notching $12 million, while Hard Rock Rocksino continued to lead the state with $18 million, up 7%. Miami Valley Gaming gained 8%, for an $11 million score, while Penn National Gaming properties were mostly ‘meh,’ although even in a flat month Hollywood Austintown ($8 million) generated a remarkable $273/slot/day. Hollywood Toledo ($16 million) fell 6%, Hollywood Dayton ($7 million) lost a percentage point but Hollywood Columbus pulled the chestnuts from the fire with a $17 million haul, up 3%. As for that “Jack” thing, why didn’t Gilbert just re-brand as, say, Douchebag Cleveland and have done with it?
* The American Gaming Association has evolved dramatically in the changeover from Frank Fahrenkopf‘s presidency to Geoff Freeman‘s. During the courtly Fahrenkopf’s reign, Continue reading →