“We don’t have anything that’s been as successful as this, at least that political science literature has been able to capture.” — Fernando Guerra, of Loyola Marymount University‘s Center for the Study Of Los Angeles on ‘Voteria,’ which offered cash prizes to random voters in an effort to increase civic participation. The Los Angeles Times blasted Voteria as a “gimmick [that] perverts the motivation to vote.”
There’s another entrant in the perpetual sweepstakes to redevelop the Moulin Rouge site. This time it’s British firm Psi Key Entertainment. It is proposing a 1,288-room hotel for the acreage. However, Psi Key’s redevelopment plans have to be taken with several grains of salt, as they are predicated upon an “elevated transport system that will bring guests from the airport, through the Las Vegas Strip, past the Downtown area to the Moulin Rouge.” Anybody care to pencil out the cost of that, let alone its probability? Psi Key execs need to take some sanity pills. Though not as much of a jumble of ideas as the last idea pitched for a new Moulin Rouge, the British proposal would combine an African-American history museum “showcasing figures of yesteryear throughout history in an artistic immersive and interactive 3-D and holographic experience,” with a convention center, spa, multiple showrooms and a 60,000-square-foot casino floor.
None of the big ideas floated for the Moulin Rouge site seems to take into account its relative isolation, away from Continue reading →
An S&G reader suggested that, given the sudden dropoff in traffic to Hollywood Casino Jamul, we have a look at customer reviews on Yelp. We did and, boy, has Penn National Gaming laid an egg — the more so for the protracted lead time it had to get the casino (originally slotted for a late-summer opening) into fighting trim. It has an overall rating of one and a half stars, out of a possible five. Some player comments …
“This place is too far to come just hand over your money. The other casinos at least let you play for some time. This casino is a closed chapter for me and many others. It’s empty on a Thursday……all of the smart people are at Barona!”
“Worst grand opening ever!!! Disorganized to the fullest!!! Lines and lines every where [sic] for Continue reading →
Despite having an extra weekend day last month, casino receipts in Atlantic City were down 3.5%, largely driven by the Trump Taj Mahal. (Subtract the Taj from the equation and you’d have a flat year/year comparison.) Table game revenues were down 2% on flat wagering and slot winnings were 4% off, in line with 4% less coin-in. Borgata outperformed the market (big surprise, I know), with 6% more coin-in producing 4% more slot revenue. But Lady Luck wasn’t with MGM Resorts International at the tables, where the house was down 2% despite 8% higher wagering.
Online gambling was the brightest spot, with Internet revenues up 35%. The market-share leader, surprisingly, was the Golden Nugget, with 22.5% market share. For all the ballyhoo over the dramatic impact PokerStars would Continue reading →
While the eyes of the industry were focused on the closing of Trump Taj Mahal, there was another long-awaited event on Monday: the opening of Hollywood Casino Jamul, near San Diego. Combine in-progress road construction with a new casino and you had an opening-prescription for gridlock. However, by Tuesday traffic was reported as being back to normal. “This is pretty much nothing, compared to yesterday,” a California Highway Patrol spokesman told The Times of San Diego. Casino opponent and County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was guilty of the Bad Pun of the Week, when she chided Caltrans for the incomplete road work, saying, “I advise motorists to not gamble with their lives and stay away.” (Groan!)
Casino developer and manager Penn National Gaming opened Hollywood Jamul with 1,700 slots and 43 table games, plus a Tony Gwynn-branded restaurant that will now be a de facto memorial to the beloved slugger. There’s still no sign of Penn being able to offload the Continue reading →
While the last vestiges of Donald Trump‘s ownership of Trump Taj Mahal were liquidated when Carl Icahn took over, it retained the name and continued to buy Trump Water. (The taste of douchebaggery?) What concerns politicians in Trenton is the prospect that the Taj could reopen with a new name and a non-union workforce. “What I don’t want to see him do is shut it down and then reopen it up and fire all the union workers. It’s called union-busting,“ said state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D), perceived frontrunner to be the next governor of New Jersey. And, after all, Icahn has yet to surrender the Taj’s casino license to the Division of Gaming Enforcement and is under no time constraint to do so. Casino workers willing to cross a picket line would have a crack at as many as 2,500 jobs in the mammoth casino, if it is reopened. Icahn’s promised $100 million reinvestment would probably be spent on diversifying the property’s appeal beyond gaming, pundits say.
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren has had a come-to-Jesus moment on Sheldon Adelson‘s proposed NFL stadium. After all, MGM stands the most to benefit from proximity to its all-but-certain Russell Road location. Failing to fund the stadium, Murren told legislators, would be “just tragic, really. Why not? What could possibly be a valid reason? We know this state thrives on innovation, it thrives on reinventing itself, and we need to continue to diversify. This will bring more jobs, more diversity to the economy. This is exactly what these room taxes were designed to do many, many years ago, and that’s why I’m so supportive of it.” The CEO acknowledged that “What’s good for Las Vegas is good for MGM Resorts,” explaining that “I’m far more supportive than of a vague idea of a year ago. It’s a much better than a vague idea that had open-ended liability.”
Murren added that he was “utterly confident” that Las Vegas was three years away from getting Continue reading →
“It’s the city’s problems in a nutshell: a preference for generic slot boxes in place of resorts that capitalized on Atlantic City’s unique geography and history. A decent bet when it’s the only game in town, but a sure loser when it’s not.” — UNLV Center for Gaming Research Director David G. Schwartzon the larger ramifications of Trump Taj Mahal‘s closing.
Foot traffic at Indiana casinos was down last month but players wagered more freely, 4.5% up from last year, leading to an almost 2% increase in casino revenues. Penn National Gaming was right in line with overall state performance and Boyd Gaming outperformed, but Caesars Entertainment and Pinnacle Entertainment underachieved for the month. The latter’s 4.5% gain at Belterra ($9 million) was undone by a weak performance (-7%) at Ameristar East Chicago, which grossed $16.5 million. Ameristar’s difficulties didn’t redound to the benefit of Horseshoe Hammond, which dipped 2.5%, though it grossed a mammoth $32 million. Horseshoe Southern Indiana ($20 million) was also down a bit, -2%.
French Lick Resort had the biggest gain — 10% — on a $7 million gross, while Tropicana Evansville pulled in $10 million for a nearly 5% uptick. Boyd’s Blue Chip was up just over 2%, raking in Continue reading →
Motley Fool columnist Travis Hoium says investors are missing a good bet if they overlook Las Vegas locals operators to focus on the big Las Vegas Strip players. He cites Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming and Penn National Gaming (presumably for M Resort) as good off-Strip investments. “Most people who don’t live in Las Vegas probably don’t realize what a big business the locals market is for gaming companies. In the past 12 months, $2.8 billion has been won by casinos in Clark County that aren’t on the Strip or in downtown Las Vegas. That’s up 5.6% from 2011, which isn’t a lot of growth, but it’s something,” Hoium writes, noting that Station and Boyd are both in the process of enlarging their Vegas Valley presence.
“Smaller bets are a little easier for companies to stomach,” he adds, citing Boyd’s $380 million purchase of Aliante Casino and Station snapping up the Palms for $313 million. The bargain play of them all was M Resort, acquired for a mere $23 million. Combined with the Tropicana Las Vegas, Penn is seeing a 12% Continue reading →
“It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend for the final time. I worked here and lived here, it was my whole life and now it’s closing. It’s all been taken away. My whole body is shaking.” So said longtime Trump Taj Mahal patron Michael Angelo as the casino closed just before 6 a.m. this morning. Owner Carl Icahn gambled that Unite-Here Local 54 would bend to his my-way-or-the-highway ‘negotiation’ style and lost. But Taj workers lost, too, as they now join the thousands of casino workers put out on the streets as the Boardwalk continues its overdue market correction. Icahn claimed to have lost $350 million on the Taj and shed a few crocodile tears, saying, “I am extremely grateful to all of the almost 3,000 employees for their hard work, especially those that stayed loyal to us during this trying period.” Too bad he wasn’t grateful enough to give those workers proper health and benefit plans.
“I gave most of my adult life to this place. I had to pay for health care out of my own pocket, and if you don’t think that’s expensive, you haven’t looked. I lost my fiance to cancer just when Continue reading →
It looks like Dan Gilbert is gaining traction with his “Jack” brand (soon to be slathered over Greektown Casino in Gilbert’s native Detroit). Although Jack Cincinnati was flat ($15 million), its counterparts in Cleveland ($17 million) and at ThistleDown Racino ($10 million) were up 8% and 16%, respectively, last month. Hard Rock Rocksino continued to lead the state with $18 million (up 3%). Statewide gaming revenues were up 4% despite a 2% dip in the Penn National Gaming portfolio. Culprits were Hollywood Toledo ($15 million, -7%) and Hollywood Columbus ($17 million, -3%). Slot revenues dominated the cash count, representing 84% of revenues, and the house played lucky, raking in 6% more table game revenue on 6% less money wagered.
Pittsburgh is essentially saying “Pretty please” to Rush Street Gaming‘s Rivers Casino, begging the latter to keep voluntarily paying $10 million a year to the city, even though Rush Street is no longer under any legal obligation to do so. Pittsburgh Finance Director Paul Leger, who presumably believes in unicorns and Santa Claus, expressed confidence that Rivers would continue playing Lady Bountiful to the city. Rivers spokesman Jack Horner would go no farther than to say, “Discussions are under way, and options are being considered.” Admittedly, while the state Supreme Court’s revocation of host-community payments removes a financial burden from casinos it puts them in a tricky PR position. If counties and cities start laying off cops and teachers, they can blame it on the Big Bad Casinos. (In the case of Rivers, it initially sued Pittsburgh over the host-community fee, then dropped its litigation.) The Steel City isn’t exactly having an easy time of it either, having baked the anticipated Rivers “true-up” into its 2017 budget. Given that state of affairs, I’d say Rush Street is in the driver’s seat in any negotiations with the city.
* Maryland casinos had a very good September, with revenues of $97 million. Of that, $54 million went to omnivorous Continue reading →
Things are looking grim for Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s case against the Seminole Tribe. An attorney for the state was described as getting “shellacked” by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. The latter zeroed in on the state’s “designated player games” — banked versions of blackjack. “You’re not going to win that argument; you’re just not,” Hinkle told attorney Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe, after warning her that in the case of a finding by the court that designated-player games are really house games “then the tribe can keep offering banking games for 20 years.” Also hurting the state’s case was the revelation that a banked game had been approved for a card room in Daytona. Moe tried to pass the buck on the designated-player games, arguing that it was the parimutuel operators themselves who had pushed the envelope.
The state itself has had to rein in parimutuels for offering verboten forms of gambling, cracking down on Continue reading →
Lucky Dragon Casino had better enjoy its 15 minutes of fame while they last because all eyes will turn to the East Coast on Dec. 8, when MGM Resorts International opens MGM National Harbor. CEO Jim Murren is already predicting blockbuster financial results. The company is scrambling to line up entertainers and events — I was asked to scrub some speculation on that topic from an interview I did with MGM President Bill Hornbuckle. While they’re not going so far as to call it their best casino to date, MGM execs are saying it will be their most distinct, whether in its public art or its conservatory, among other amenities. MGM’s also going with a repertory company of chefs new to the company — a nice change of the same old-same old that has prevailed at its Las Vegas properties (when in doubt, call Wolfgang Puck).
Although the property itself opens on Dec. 8, you can shoot craps but not stay in the hotel until Continue reading →
Who broke the compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe? That question is at the nub of a bench trial over the Seminoles’ disputed blackjack games. A win for Gov. Rick Scott (R) could be Pyrrhic, costing the state untold millions of dollars that the Seminoles are setting aside on the presumption that the games are ruled valid and the tribe’s revenue-sharing arrangement with the state is upheld. Hard Rock International Chairman James Allen testified that Scott played dirty, permitting electronic blackjack at parimutuels, violating the spirit of the previous compact. “Just because blackjack is played on a computer doesn’t make it OK,” argued tribal attorney Barry Richard, making the case that the Seminoles had paid dearly ($1.7 billion dearly) for exclusive rights to blackjack and the state had gone back on its word.
What’s more, the 2010 compact in question allowed the Seminoles to keep blackjack if their exclusivity was breached. (Oops.) While admitting that Continue reading →
On Oct. 10, the same day that Trump Taj Mahal is scheduled to close, Penn National Gaming will open the long-deferred Hollywood Casino Jamul (federal approvals had been holding it up). In celebration, Penn is announcing that relief of the $460 million it spent financing the project will come any day now … any day now, folks … folks? The company will still carry $125 million in debt related to the structuring of the deal. Penn has shown its inexperience in tribal-casino affairs here: Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming don’t bankroll the tribal casinos they develop, and Penn’s decision to do so has created a lengthy overhang. And don’t think the Street hasn’t noticed: Penn stock has declined 14%, compared to an average 8% for other regional operators. Still, once the casino is open this will be a sweet deal for Penn. It gets to skim 1.5% right off the top in licensing fees, collect a management fee of 30% of pre-tax earnings (a good incentive for Penn to do its job) and will run the property for at least seven years.
“Frankly, the bar industry was dead. A lot of people were coming out of the good times when small business owners were making money, when business went bad. Three or four of our locations went bankrupt. And when a small business goes bankrupt, the people who own it go bankrupt. They lost everything they had saved. Video gaming gave them that additional spark and revenue source.” — Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association President Mike Gelatkaon the impact of slot routes on bars in the Land of Lincoln.
Although Pennsylvania lawmakers theoretically have three months to amend an “incredibly complex” state law that directs casino revenue to host cities and counties, the grim reality is that the Lege has only eight session days in which to get it done. It’s not just a question of reconciling the casinos with their host communities, and finding a solution that both deem fair, the process also pits big casinos like Sands Bethlehem (which had supported the tax) against small ones like Mount Airy, the David who slew the tax goliath. Already the affected cities are crying foul. The mayor of Bensalem, Joseph DiGirolamo, staring a $15 million a year shortfall in the face, has already raised the specter of police layoff and/or tax increases if revenue-sharing from Parx Casino comes to a halt. On the opposite side of the coin, state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R) has floated the prospect of a flat fee for all casinos. This would still fall harder on small casinos like Presque Isle Downs but it would eliminate the “true-up” payments the high court ruled unconstitutional, along with the the disproportionate effects of making host-community payments percentage-based.
* When Morgans Hotel Group made its ill-fated purchase of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, in Las Vegas, the deal split the rights for the Hard Rock brand between Continue reading →