If you live in a Pennsylvania county with a casino, a local tax increase could be staring you in the face. That’s because lawmakers have until the close of business today (plus one day in November) to fix the unconstitutional host-community fees but have shown no signs of reaching an accord. There are three factions at odds: A) lawmakers who want host-community fees to be part of a bigger package that includes Internet gambling; B) those who want any solution to be at least revenue-neutral; C) representatives of non-casino communities who see this as an opportunity to get a slice of the action. Getting to B will be hard enough, never mind reaching an elusive solution on A, and the C faction are just plain spoilers. Senate President Joe Scarnati (R) showed a mastery of understatement when he told The Morning Call, “Threading the needle on the local share is a little difficult.” We sympathize.
Noting that 47 counties don’t get any host-community money at present, House Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman John Payne said, “That’s the danger of
Never mind that casino expansion in New Jersey will probably be routed at the ballot box on Nov. 8. Real estate mogul Miles Berger suddenly wants in, saying he has a ‘preliminary partnership’ with an existing Atlantic City casino operator (and wouldn’t we love to know who this traitor is) to put a casino in Newark. “I know there has been a big advertising campaign against the referendum and that the polling has not been good,” Berger told USA Today, “but even if we had to wait another two years that would not be a deterrent.” In that respect Berger’s more optimistic than Democratic pol Ralph Caputo, who says, “If we get clocked we’re not coming back.”
“You can’t beat the location,” Berger said of his site, which is near rail, light rail and several highways. Said just like a real estate man: Location, location, location. And Berger actually seems to live in the real world, unlike Continue reading
New Jersey lawmakers are determined to make Carl Icahn pay for shutting down Trump Taj Mahal. A bill that would retroactively apply to Icahn and Icahn only — although several other casinos have recently closed — was voted out of the state Senate. The Assembly has yet to consider the measure and Gov. Chris Christie (R) is almost certain to veto it. As much as I dislike how Icahn treated Taj workers (basically as a lower form of life), principle dictates that I object to the state taking vengeance upon him, as well as to making this bill retroactive. Assuming that government should be dictating how casino owners run their properties — which the regulatory process tends to handle just fine — at minimum the Lege’s second thoughts should only apply going forward.
Said Tropicana Entertainment CEO Anthony Rodio, in a prepared statement, “I don’t see any reason for anyone to want to Continue reading
Congratulations, Las Vegas, you are now a major-league city … If by “major league” you mean “hosed right up the ass.” In the defining accomplishment of his administration, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) strapped on a special session of the Legislature and rammed through a $1.9 billion financing package — the largest in NFL history — for Sheldon Adelson‘s stadium project. While the ostensible beneficiary is [your city here] Raiders owner Mark Davis, He Who Must Be Obeyed will do the majority of booking for his vanity stadium, a white elephant that will be paid for you, the tourist, in the form of increased room taxes. Since one-third of Raiders tickets are expected to be sold to out-of-town fans (yes, they expect tens of thousands of pigskin partisans to descend upon Vegas for an average three-plus days apiece, spending $375 million), the cost of the stadium will largely be borne by those it is supposed to attract. The presence of a brass band and Pom-Pom-shaking cheerleaders was indicative of the gravitas of the bill-signing ceremony.
The Adelson Stadium is predicated upon a scary number of “ifs,” such as if two-thirds of NFL owners vote to move the Raiders, especially if Continue reading
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker might want to curb casino expansions within the existing
Ho-Chunk Nation empire, as he did earlier this year in Kenosha but he can’t. Under pressure from the Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes, Walker put the blame for his constraint upon a compact signed by the Ho-Chunk and his predecessor, then-Gov. Jim Doyle (D) 13 years ago. “For me, I’d apply the same standards that applied to the [Menominee] site in Kenosha,” Walker said. The controversial expansion “was approved under the compact that Jim Doyle settled with the Ho-Chunk years ago. They chose to invoke it now. But I have no legal authority to block that.” Non-Ho-Chunk tribes in the Badger State are just going to have to grind their teeth in envy.
* It hardly comes as surprising news that Lucky Dragon Casino received its gaming license this week, although one notes with approval that, for once, Continue reading
Carl Icahn is understandably umbrage-ridden about a bill in the New Jersey Lege that would prevent him from reopening Trump Taj Mahal as a scab casino. The Lightning rod on the bill, which is picking up support, is its retroactivity, clearly aimed at Icahn and the Taj, although the bill would apply to any casino owner, pulling licenses from casinos that are closed due to labor disputes. “Punishing Mr. Icahn by revoking his ability to reopen the Taj or making further investments in Atlantic City for five years, as well as restricting his ability to sell the Taj is unconscionable, especially in light of his record in saving the Tropicana,” said Tropicana Entertainment CEO Anthony Rodio. The part about selling the Taj is especially interesting. Why did Icahn go to such lengths to obtain the Taj if his endgame were to flip it to a potential competitor? Icahn’s ability to keep us guessing is masterful.
* I really need to get out of the soothsayer racket because when I’m wrong, Continue reading
Nothing illustrates the precariousness of a Macao casino concession like the mass arrest of Crown Resorts casino executives earlier this week, a development that sent gaming stocks into a slough of despond. Eighteen Crown employees, including international-VIP-gaming viceroy Jason O’Connor were detained by Chinese authorities for “gambling crimes.” Some were rounded up at midnight, as the arrests were made in dramatic fashion, All you have to do is whisper the word ‘corruption’ in connection with Macao and Beijing goes to DefCon 4. Crown employee Jeff Sikemma‘s wife was taken into custody, along with her phone, laptop and iPad, with police only saying coldly, “Don’t worry. If we need to get ahold of you, we’ll contact you.”
Sanford Bernstein analyst Vitaly Umansky interpreted the move as tit for tat, telling Reuters “The Chinese government seems to be Continue reading
“If we could run this country the way I run my company … ” — Donald Trump. Now there’s food for thought.
“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
Posted in Atlantic City, Boyd Gaming, Dining, Downtown, Eldorado Resorts, Election, Hooters, Iowa, Isle of Capri, Marketing, Missouri, Moulin Rouge, Palms, Politics, Station Casinos, The Strip, Westgate LV
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
Posted in Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Glenn Straub, Harrah's, Internet gambling, MGM Mirage, Mohegan Sun, PokerStars, Revel, Tilman Fertitta, Tropicana Entertainment
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
Posted in Arkansas, Atlantic City, California, Cannery Casino Resorts, Dining, Election, GLPI, Harrah's, Horseracing, Isle of Capri, New York, Oklahoma, Penn National, Pennsylvania, Pinnacle Entertainment, Politics, Racinos, Taxes, Technology, The Strip, Transportation, Tribal
“If you’re in this business, you’re in the failure business.” — Scientific Games Senior Vice President of Table Games Roger Snow on the long odds facing the developers of specialty games. One such, Color War, was yanked by Palace Station two weeks into a six-week trial.
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.
A proposed law that would prevent Icahn from “warehousing” the Taj license until he can reopen it as a scab casino is gaining traction in Trenton. Said Sweeney, Continue reading
Posted in Affinity Gaming, Architecture, Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Charity, Cirque du Soleil, Donald Trump, Downtown, Entertainment, Harrah's, International, Politics, Sheldon Adelson, The Strip, Tilman Fertitta, Tropicana Entertainment
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. Schwartz on 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
Posted in Boyd Gaming, Entertainment, Full House Resorts, Golden Gaming, Harrah's, Indiana, Isle of Capri, Majestic Star, Missouri, Penn National, Pinnacle Entertainment, Racinos, The Strip, Tropicana Entertainment
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
Posted in Atlantic City, Boyd Gaming, Cosmopolitan, Downtown, Economy, Entertainment, history, Law enforcement, M Resort, Maryland, MGM Mirage, Palms, Penn National, Regulation, Sheldon Adelson, Station Casinos, Steve Wynn, Taxes, Technology, The Strip, Wall Street
“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
Posted in Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Cordish Co., Donald Trump, Election, Florida, Geoff Freeman, Georgia, Greenwood Racing, Harrah's, history, International, Internet gambling, Neil Bluhm, Pennsylvania, Seminole Tribe, Steve Wynn, Tropicana Entertainment, Unite-Here