Industry braces for post-Reid void

Why has Geoff Freeman become such an outspoken voice in favor of the gaming industry? In part to fill the vacuum soon to be left by retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D). One of the two candidates running to replace him, Rep. Joe Heck (R), has several terms on Capitol Hill but hasn’t emerged as a go-to guy for the industry and Democratic Party rival Catherine Cortez Masto would be a Washington newbie (don’t let the campaign ads fool you). With no disrespect to Freeman — one of our favorite S&G readers — nobody’s got the pull of Old Sixty Votes, even on a bad day. Let’s hope Sen. Dean Heller (R) has been studying the Reid playbook closely, because the role of point man for Big Gaming now falls to him.

As Caesars Entertainment lobbyist Jan Jones Blackhurst put it, “Now we need to learn to be smart and fast on our own. All of us are acutely aware that Continue reading

Posted in Election, Geoff Freeman, Harrah's, Harry Reid, MGM Mirage, Pinnacle Entertainment, Politics, Sheldon Adelson, Station Casinos | Leave a comment

Pennsylvania casinos trounce state; MGM looks to Brazil

Pennsylvania cities and counties could find themselves short of money soon — and legislators have to locate even more cash on short notice, as though the current budget Coat_of_arms_of_Pennsylvania.svgimpasse wasn’t trouble enough. The commonwealth has been given three months, tops, by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to fix the host-fee regime under which Keystone State casino disburse funds to their surrounding communities. The court found that the current law — which Mount Airy Casino and Rivers Casino have loudly decried — violates the state constitution’s ban on non-uniform taxation. (Bethlehem counts on the tax for 12% of its budget but Sands Bethlehem pointedly refrained from litigation, saying it was happy to pay the levy.) Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez equated the upcoming shortfall to the cost of 100 police officers, adding that the city would have to scramble to cover an anticipated $9 million shortfall — on top of a $2 million budget gap that was already looming.

The law in question, enacted in 2004, imposes a 2% levy on gross slot machine receipts. But that was only if slot revenue went above $500 million a year. If not, a Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Eldorado Resorts, Greenwood Racing, IGT, International, Internet gambling, Japan, MGM Mirage, Neil Bluhm, Pennsylvania, Politics, Sheldon Adelson, Taxes, The Strip | Leave a comment

Quote of the Day

“What we have found is that the current slot product simply does not appeal. Just taking ‘Call of Duty’ and sticking on a slot machine will not do anything.” — Downtown Grand Chairman Seth Schorr, advocating e-sports and a new approach to gambling technology at Global Gaming Expo.

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Quote of the Day

Our jobs are every bit as patriotic as auto-worker jobs.” — MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren, on the emergence of the casino industry as a power player in national politics.

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GameCo hearts the Boardwalk; Internet gambling fails in Pennsylvania

GameCo CEO Blaine Graboyes promised that his company’s first skill-based slots would be rolled out in Atlantic City … and he was as good as his word. While the eyes of the industry were on Las Vegas for Global Gaming Expo, it was announced that the Parx slotsBoardwalk would be the recipient of GameCo’s first skill-based product. (In fairness, it should be noted that Graboyes is “not in love with the term skill-based slots” but we can’t think of anything better.) Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s will jointly debut Danger Arena. Its minimum wager is 50 cents but you can bet up to $20 on your ability to “shoot” digitally animated robots. The game contains 10,000 “maps,” randomized in their degree of difficulty, to provide the required element of chance. Graboyes told The Bergen Record that it’s a more “cartoonish” game than other first-person-shooter ones like Call of Duty. As for his choice of Atlantic City as his primary market, Graboyes cited his nostalgic fondness for the Boardwalk, an attachment dating back to his youth.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement hasn’t signed off on Danger Arena yet but, if it does, expect a stampede for the game: Applications are pending in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and maybe even Continue reading

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New obstacle for Icahn; Macao’s loss is Packer’s gain

Could Carl Icahn‘s real plan for Trump Taj Mahal be to close it on Oct. 10, then reopen it as a scab property? Not if state Sen. James Whelan (D) has anything to say about it. Icahn pensiveHe’s advancing a bill that would bar any casino owner who closes his business from reopening for five years. Is Uncle Carl willing to wait that long? Whelan’s betting against it. And it remains to be seen why the Taj employees have been singled out by Icahn for punishment for trying to obtain a living wage. His insistence on maintaining the vile Bob Griffin‘s wage and benefit cuts is costing Icahn far more than it’s saving him. At any rate, Whelan’s bill sailed unanimously through the Senate Budget Committee, although no Assembly counterpart has been written yet.

In other Atlantic City news, Mayor Don Guardian (R) continues to devise strategies that prevent Trenton from taking his city away from him. The latest is the sale of Bader Field to the Municipal Water Authority for a minimum of Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Australia, Carl Icahn, Glenn Straub, James Packer, Lawrence Ho, Macau, Tribal, Tropicana Entertainment, Unite-Here, Wisconsin | 1 Comment

Live by baccarat, die by baccarat; Donald Trump, Stiff of the Century

With one less weekend this year and weak baccarat volumes, the Las Vegas Strip got hammered, down 15%. Statewide, gross gaming revenues were off by 5%. Late-July slot Bellagio-300-02win that was reported in August softened the blow, contributing to a 13% increase in gross gaming revenue from local players. Comparisons in September don’t get easier, as last year was a strong month for baccarat (up 20%) and 2% better on the Strip overall. This August, slot handle on the Strip dipped 3% but win was down 5%. Table wagering fell 12% but the house got pummeled, with win plummeting 24%. (Nevada now includes poker in “table games,” presumably in hopes of making the numbers look better.) Minus baccarat, the table-game picture wasn’t so bad, off 8% on 6% less wagering. Baccarat “win” was catastrophic, plunging 42% on 18% less play.

Downtown Las Vegas was unfazed, up 7%, while the Boulder Strip vaulted 22% and North Las Vegas rose 13%. Reno was absolutely Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Boulder Strip, Boyd Gaming, California, Donald Trump, Downtown, Election, Lake Tahoe, Laughlin, Mesquite, Nevada, North Las Vegas, Penn National, Reno, Station Casinos, The Strip, Tribal, Wall Street | 1 Comment

Sheldon’s new errand boy; Caesars: Let’s make a deal

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is known to be the Lady Bountiful of the 2016 election, showering promising senatorial candidates with cash. One such hopeful is tom_cottonArkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R), who has thrown a legislative Hail Mary, attempting to reverse the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Wire Act. At least that seems to be Cotton’s intent, which could be as broad as to ban Internet gambling altogether. Trouble is, the bill has a number but actually hasn’t been written yet, a technicality that hasn’t kept Cotton from putting in the hopper, perhaps hoping to attach it as a rider to some must-pass piece of legislation at year’s end. (Adelson’s minions tried this with Restore America’s Wire Act and failed miserably.) What we know for sure about the Cotton bill is that it is “to ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by Federal Government lawyers.” At the least, that sounds like an attempt to give UIGEA more teeth. While the Poker Players Alliance monitors the situation, it remains to be seen whether Cotton is attempting to curry favor with Sheldon or is acting at his behest. Generally speaking, Continue reading

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Big Gaming meets the Street

Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli has been in town and conducting a busy schedule of meetings. Pride of place must go to Wynn Resorts, which declared the wynn-palace-macau-image_largeopening of Wynn Palace “very clean,” with “solid” VIP business. Hotel occupancy is running a 70%, although two-thirds of those rooms are comped. No cannibalization of Wynn Macau business has been seen, “noting the bifurcation of the market remains pronounced between Cotai and Peninsula customers.” Closer to home, the company sees “stable” group business and “rational” pricing. Gaming business was described as “flattish,” with all-important baccarat “less bad,” even stable. The Wynn board continues to withhold judgment on Wynn Paradise Park, while construction continues to ramp up at Wynn Boston Harbor, which has 500 workers on staff. A May 2019 opening is planned.

Strip-centric MGM Resorts International is enjoying growth in room rates, due in part both to a continuation of the rise in visitation and a growing number of airline capacity into Las Vegas. The company expects continued improvement for Continue reading

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Atlantic City saved

It’s all over. The fat lady hath sung. And Atlantic City lives to gamble another day. Discouraged by poll numbers that showed insurmountable support for the status quo in atlantic-cityNew Jersey, expansion PAC Our Turn NJ is closing up shop. That means that well-heeled potential casino developers Jeff Gural and Paul Fireman (the two frontrunners) are out of the fight. They’re pulling their ads from Garden State media. Sure, they would have been mandated to construct billion-dollar pleasure palaces, but you know what we would have gotten on Election Day Plus One: slots in a box. (Strangely, the American Gaming Association buried this banner-headline story deep in its daily briefing.)

Polling showed the voters were skeptical that the state would do as it said in terms of using the new tax proceeds to shore up economically blighted areas of New Jersey (a big vote of no-confidence for state leaders). Gural and Fireman covered their retreat with self-serving verbiage. “We believe deeply that gaming expansion to Northern New Jersey is a Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Cordish Co., Election, Entertainment, Harrah's, Illinois, International, Maryland, MGM Mirage, Mohegan Sun, New York, Penn National, Politics, Rhode Island, Slot routes, South Korea, Transportation | 1 Comment

Adelson expands; Caesars sweetens the pot

Las Vegas Sands never did get around to building that historical museum it promised Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and it finished its hotel in quick-and-dirty (and fugly) fashion. But that doesn’t mean that Sands is still clinging to CEO Sheldon Adelson‘s Sands Bethworkspronouncement that going into Bethlehem was “a mistake.” After all, it’s beating the pants off most of its competitors and — when it comes to table-game play — is in a class of its own, making $228 million last year. Sands Bethlehem is going to invest $40 million into an extension of the gaming floor, right up to the shores of the Lehigh River. This enlargement, described as being the size of two football fields, will give Sands Pennsylvania’s largest gaming floor — would you expect Sheldon to settle for anything less?

A poker room and new restaurants are also components of the plan. Even though detailed specifications have been filed with the Department of Community & Economic Development, casino CEO Mark Juliano took the rather silly position of saying,  Continue reading

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Round One to Adelson; Berman honored; Atlantic City winning in polls

Sands China has been getting mad props for its handling of the Parisian rollout last week. Compared to Wynn Palace‘s “passive” approach to the market (and despite a hailstorm of Sheldon pashaupbeat verbiage from Steve Wynn), analyst Christopher Jones wrote, “The awareness of the Parisian among gamblers was high, with Sands having blanketed the region with social media impressions of the new property over the last couple months. “This is in contrast to the recent Wynn Palace opening that took a more passive strategy relative to marketing, prior to opening. We believe that Wynn is looking to address this, as it adjusts to the operating environment in Cotai.” Not only was Parisian doing strong business, it was drawing off players from luckless Studio City, a project taken in haste by Melco Crown Entertainment, to be repented at leisure. Parisian is also said to have benefited from being more fully completed than previous Sheldon Adelson offerings in Macao.

“The bottom line is that Parisian seems to be significantly more compelling than Studio City from a mass-market consumer perspective, and should these trends be maintained, Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Election, Harrah's, history, International, Lyle Berman, Macau, Marketing, Melco Crown Entertainment, Mississippi, Nevada, Regulation, Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, The Strip, Transportation, Wall Street, World Series of Poker | 1 Comment

Macao: Dirty money; What Millennial problem?

Is Macao‘s gaming prosperity built on “often shady links to organised crime and racketeering” through the junket business? The South China Morning Post‘s Niall Fraser contends that it is. As of 2013, $202 billion in ill-gotten-gains were flowing through the enclave, according to the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China. With junketeers looking farther afield, casino CEOs are suggesting unthinkable — that Macao might have peaked. “The number of junket representatives has shrunk dramatically over the last two years. It would have to regrow again to come back with the same vigor that we’ve experienced in the past. I’m not sure that’s going to happen because other locations are trying to pick up the excess market that’s no longer here,” said Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson last week.

Junkets are putting their resources into asset management, pawnbroking and mining, among many other activities, while “Others have sought to expand Continue reading

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Quote of the Day

macao-from-st-pauls“By 2018, at the latest, some casinos failing to make ends meet would be forced to restructure. But the point is, why does the market cling to the hope of a turnaround,defying the fact that the gambling business has already developed excessively in Macao?” — Delta Asia Financial Group Chairman Stanley Au Chong-kit, defying conventional wisdom that the Chinese enclave’s casinos are on the comeback trail.

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Revel becomes Ten; Bluhm enters Atlantic City market

As we enter the waning months of 2016, Glenn Straub has decided to wait until next year to reopen Revel. He also announced its long-awaited new name: Ten (actually it’s Revel_0947“TEN” but we don’t go for that all-caps tomfoolery at S&G). Ten was chosen as preferable to “Zen.” “Ten joined with our infinity logo represents our mission to provide the highest-rated amenities and our daily endeavor to offer an infinitely perfect escape for our guests, families and businesses,” said property CEO Robert A. Landino. There will be one holdover from the old Revel team in the form of CFO Alan Greenstein, who presumably knows where all the bodies are buried. Ten is pinning its hopes on refugee gamblers from the casinos that have closed — or, in the case of Trump Taj Mahal — soon will. But those are low-rollers, which leads one to question the strategy.

Nobody could blame Straub if he wanted to wait until the spring of 2017 to reopen — he can certainly afford it. But he’s shooting for Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Glenn Straub, Internet gambling, Macau, Neil Bluhm, Pennsylvania, Philippines, Regulation, Revel, Tilman Fertitta, Tropicana Entertainment, Unite-Here | 1 Comment

Arkansas casino proposal hotly contested; Straub gains support

Although a ballot initiative to legalize casinos in three Arkansas counties could draw some gambling dollars away from Oklahoma, that hasn’t stopped a Sooner State tribe from supporting it. Cherokee Nation Businesses has ponied up $400,000 to support Flag_of_Arkansas.svgthe ballot question. What’s in it for them? Management of the northwesternmost casino, which would siphon business away from the Branson, Missouri area. (Branson businessman Marc Williams is also a campaign backer.) Arkansas Winning Initiative, as the campaign is called, is hotly opposed by the state’s horse tracks, which have VLTs, to the tune of a hundred grand. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a casino opponent, is also trying to tip the scales against Arkansas Winning Initiative. He’s appointed failed Continue reading

Posted in Arkansas, Atlantic City, Glenn Straub, Horseracing, Internet gambling, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Politics, Racinos, Regulation, Revel, Tribal | Leave a comment

Quote of the Day

“If this was the old days Gov. Doug Ducey would have sent a telegram to Sen. McCain in Washington, D.C., and asked him to get the government to send in the cavalry to run off the tribe occupying a patch of land in the West Valley. It wouldn’t matter that that the tribe was occupying land that it owned. Apparently … that still doesn’t.” — Arizona Republic columnist Mike Montini on the state’s “sleazy schemes and secret meetings” to thwart the Tohono O’odham Nation‘s Scottsdale-area casino.

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Eldorado captures Isle; Adelson thwarted; Perlman dies

Scratch one more casino company from the checkerboard. This morning it was announced that Eldorado Resorts was buying Isle of Capri Casinos (long mooted as a takeover target. Isle_of_Capri_Casinos-1Eldorado will pay $1.7 billion for Isle — or $23 a share (and including $929 million in long-term debt). Isle stock shot up from $17 to $22 a share over the weekend, plateauing at the latter figure. Wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli, “we view the transaction as an obvious win for ISLE shareholders and a net positive for broader regional gaming operators.” It’s also a David-and-Goliath situation, with Eldorado — owner of seven casinos — swallowing the much larger Isle of Capri network. Eldorado already has experience working in large markets like Reno, Shreveport and Columbus, Ohio. Now it will get to test its experience on podunk Isle facilities in places like Boonville, Missouri, and Nemacolin, Pennsylvania.

“Despite ISLE’s more challenged regional asset portfolio,” Santarelli wrote, Eldorado wanted Isle badly enough to pay an above-average 8.4X cash flow for its assets, “a healthy premium” as Santarelli called it. Eldorado expects to Continue reading

Posted in Alabama, Atlantic City, Eldorado Resorts, Florida, Foxwoods, Geoff Freeman, Harrah's, history, Internet gambling, Isle of Capri, Louisiana, Massachusetts, MGM Mirage, Missouri, Mohegan Sun, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Politics, Reno, Sheldon Adelson, Taxes, The Mob, The Strip, Tribal, Vietnam, Wall Street | Leave a comment

Judge to Caesars: Get naked; Bite the wax tadpole

IMG-20130507-00006“These folks are going to have to pony up the paper,” said U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Benjamin Goldgar, stripping the fig leaf from Caesars Entertainment owners Marc Rowan, David Bonderman and others. They’ll have to reveal details of their personal wealth — which includes lavish bonuses they paid themselves for cutting costs in the Roman empire. Junior creditors aren’t going to release their claims on the company without knowing how much its owners have in the bank. Caesars Chairman of the Board Gary Loveman and former CFO Eric Hession are among those who are going to have to come clean under Goldgar’s order. While Goldgar threw out some of the junior creditors’ demands — like details of the defendants’ domestic life — he backed the plaintiffs in the main. Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group has already promised to appeal.

* Southwest Airlines appears to have the deciding vote in where a proposed [your city here] Raiders stadium would go. It has expressed vexation with Continue reading

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Tribal opponents caught in the act; Freeman gets ratings boost

Opponents of the Tohono O’odham casino in Glendale may have really stepped in it. According to the Arizona Republic, “lawyers and lobbyists representing the state and two danberginrival Indian communities held confidential meetings about ways to stop it, according to depositions released Wednesday.” However, if any minutes of those meetings were kept, they were subsequently destroyed. “They were of no further use,” a representative of the state argued lamely. No, documentation of a conspiracy to stop the tribe’s casino ambitions couldn’t possibly have any probative value in ongoing legal proceedings. The Tohono O’odham want Arizona Department of Gaming Director Daniel Bergin [right] sanctioned for sweeping the meetings under the rug. “If you have a duty to keep certain documents and you destroy them, then the judge could consider a … sanction,” argued Arizona First Amendment Coalition attorney Dan Barr — particularly when litigation is anticipation. At present, the State of Arizona and the tribe are deadlocked over whether the latter’s casino can offer Class III gaming — it presently has Class II machines and there’s nothing the state can do about it.

A state official pushed the Gila River Indian Community and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community under the bus, saying Continue reading

Posted in Arizona, Geoff Freeman, Harrah's, Internet gambling, MGM Mirage, Problem gambling, Sheldon Adelson, Sports, Steve Wynn, Tribal, TV | Leave a comment