Pennsylvania gets a second look; Tioga Downs debuts new casino

Funny that we should have been discussing Pennsylvania yesterday. Fitch Ratings analyst Alex Bumazhny made a field trip to Philadelphia and Bethlehem, and came away impressed by the $164 million expansion of SugarHouse. He concluded that its new HET Chesterfeatures, which include a high-limit area and expanded restaurant offerings, made SugarHouse “much more of a regional competitor … As opposed to an urban-centric casino.” Caesars Entertainment is also reinvesting at Harrah’s Philadelphia, laying down new carpeting and carving out a party lounge. Electronic table games are evidently doing so well up at Sands Bethlehem (Bumazhny found Sands’ to be “very busy … Especially baccarat”) that Philly casinos are already talking about following suit. And although I wasn’t aware of any uncertainty surrounding Cordish Gaming‘s south-Philadelphia casino project, the consensus among gaming execs surveyed was that it would move forward … “eventually.”

Bumazhny projects a flat 2017 for operators and suppliers alike. “Those looking on robust growth to delever will have to Continue reading

Posted in Cordish Co., Economy, Harrah's, Horseracing, Lucky Dragon, Macau, Marketing, Melco Crown Entertainment, MGM Mirage, Neil Bluhm, New York, Penn National, Pennsylvania, Racinos, Singapore, Stanley Ho, Taxes, The Strip, Wall Street | Leave a comment

Japan: Hold your horses!

Contrary to a press report over the weekend — and too credulously picked up by S&G — casino gambling is far from out of the woods in the Japanese Diet. True, it was voted out of committee in the lower house but it must pass two more votes before parliament adjourns Shinzo Abeon December 14. JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff estimates its chances of ultimate passage at only 50%. At this point, the legislation hasn’t even been sent to the corresponding upper-house committee, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli. He describes previous pro-casino initiatives by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s administration as “delicate” (we agree) but not so this time around, with debate being limited and opposition parties balking at Abe’s fast pace, which also reportedly alienated some upper-house members of his own Liberal Democratic Party. He notes that “considerable discord remains amongst the parties.” There’s also the question of public opinion, which Santarelli describes as “rather unenthusiastic” toward casinos. A recent poll finds the concept bombing with the populace, 34% for and 57% against.

Putting all that aside, what is the best-case-scenario timeline? A task force would probably be formed to draft regulations, a process that could last a year. Sites among Japan‘s 47 prefectures would have to Continue reading

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Running the tables in Pennsylvania; MGM woos Georgia (again)

Due to Pennsylvania‘s quirky habit of releasing slot and table game revenue numbers in staggered fashion, we don’t often comment on Keystone State gambling revenues. Fortunately, the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV consolidates the information into sugar-house-800one handy-dandy report. In October, for instance, table game revenue was remarkably volatile yet had no correlation to whether the casino in question had a revenue-positive month or not. For instance, winnings were up 40% at The Meadows but the casino overall was down 2% for the month. SugarHouse, by contrast, rode a 45% growth in table winnings to a 19% increase casino-wide. The Neil Bluhm-owned casino ate Harrah’s Philadelphia‘s lunch, with the latter down 11%. Bluhm’s Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh was off 2% (11% more table revenues be damned).

The state’s revenue leader was, as almost always, Parx Casino, whose $45 million haul was good for a 2% increase, while Sands Bethlehem banked $42 million, a 3% dip. The state’s table games leader, it nonetheless Continue reading

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Japan: The impossible happens

Just when even Wall Street analysts were giving up hope — and ahead of schedule — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got a casino-legalization bill through the Diet. This Diet_of_Japan-e1401350602863isn’t the end of the process, although casinos are now legal, more like a promising first step. The parliament still has to reconvene and enact a second law setting forth the regulatory apparatus whereby Japanese casinos will be governed. Also remaining to be addressed are how many casinos will be built and where they will go. Conventional wisdom holds that there will be megaresorts in Tokyo and Osaka, plus the potential for smaller ones in cities like Hokkaido. For now, there will probably be a stampede of lobbyists from the usual suspects (led by Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International), as well as by favorite-son candidate Sega Sammy and Kazuo Okada‘s Universal Entertainment, not to mention late entrant Hard Rock International. Estimates of the revenue potential of the Nipponese gambling market are as high as $40 billion a year and as conservative as $7 billion — hardly chicken feed. Although Abe has raised and dashed our hopes many times before, he deserves props for getting the job done this time.

* Thanks to the potential of a Faraday Future electric-car plant in North Las Vegas, Boyd Gaming went all in earlier this year, purchasing both Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Boyd Gaming, Cannery Casino Resorts, Donald Trump, Economy, Geoff Freeman, Hard Rock International, Japan, Kazuo Okada, MGM Mirage, North Las Vegas, Regulation, Sheldon Adelson, Technology, Tourism, Transportation | Leave a comment

Caesars: No free ride; Straub sues New Jersey

In an utterly predictable move, Caesars Entertainment will begin charging for parking at its Las Vegas Strip casinos in late December, at the same when MGM Resorts International‘s paid-parking regime is expected to go wide, encompassing locals. (December 29 is the date we overheard from an MGM exec.) It’s bad Linq revisedenough that you have to pay a premium for everything in a Strip casino, even a simple cup coffee but the industry wants an even-bigger share of your wallet. In the case of Caesars, the surprise is not that it followed MGM’s lead but that it didn’t do it sooner, given the company’s financial straits. Only The Rio will be exempt for the new policy (good for business there, I should expect). That’s not out of clemency but because it would not be “feasible.” Said a Caesars spokesman, “It’s simply a huge parking area with ample places to park.” Once the necessary infrastructure is in place at Harrah’s Las Vegas and Linq they will be first, with other Caesars properties following irregularly.

There will be an exemption for locals, at least initially, and for platinum-level Total Rewards members. It’s a heckuva way to keep guests on-property, if it costs you Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Economy, Encore, Entertainment, Glenn Straub, Harrah's, Japan, Macau, MGM Mirage, Movies, Politics, Regulation, Revel, Steve Wynn, The Strip, Tourism, Wall Street | 1 Comment

Reboot for Wynn Palace; Does Trump still heart sports betting?

Gaming analysts confirm reports of a slow opening at Wynn Palace in Macao, likening its performance to that of the early days of Studio City — not the sort of comparison Wynn Resorts probably wanted to hear. Room rates have been slashed to as low as $131 a night Wynn-Palaceand occupancy has been running at 71% … At a time when the market overall is averaging 92%. Already drastic action is being taken to appeal to the mass-market crowd. More casual dining (“as hard-core gamblers are likely to be more interested in eating quickly and returning to the gaming tables”) will be added and the casino floor will be reconfigured, a reconstruction that is expected to take anywhere from six months and 18 months. The idea is to “create compressed energy” around the baccarat tables, although I guess we’ll get to find out how players like gambling in the middle of a construction area. Morningstar analyst Chelsey Tam spun it positively as “meaningful disruption,” although with construction barricades impeding pedestrian access to Wynn Palace there’s got to be a limit on how much disruption it can afford.

* In a bit of history that should have the American Gaming Association over the moon, Donald Trump supported legalized sports betting when it was initially Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Donald Trump, Economy, Horseracing, Internet gambling, Macau, Melco Crown Entertainment, Politics, Racinos, Sports, Steve Wynn | 1 Comment

Quote of the Day

“They don’t want to sit in front of a metal box with spinning wheels in a building the size of a warehouse.” — gaming-law expert I. Nelson Rose on millennials’ preference for mobile gambling. Pennsylvania lawmakers had the opportunity to approve skill-based slots in the last legislative session but whiffed.

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Strip booms in October; Trouble in Tiverton

Not even a 16.5% decline in table wagers could hold back the Las Vegas Strip last month, as gaming revenues shot up 14%, to $563 million. Statewide, casinos didn’t do so badly either, up 11%. The one-armed bandits on the Strip weren’t very generous to players, Encore 1who put in 3% more coin, only to see the house win 10% more than last year. Gaming revenue was also 10% up in locals casinos, fattened by some end-of-September play that was rolled into October’s count. The volume of baccarat play was anemic, down 32%, but the luck was with the house on other table games, where winnings were 22% higher. Locals slot players lost 15% more to the house but an 11% drop off in table wagering produced a 10% decline in win. Even considering that October 2015 (-5%) provided a weak comparison, these numbers are mostly quite impressive.

Excepting the ever-fickle Lake Tahoe market ($14 million, -22%), the news was largely good across the Silver State. True, the grab-bag “balance of Clark County” was Continue reading

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End of a golden tribal era; Vegas Vic gets his due

Already gaming pundits are reading the entrails of the presidential election and predicting that while a Donald Trump administration could be Bad News for Internet gambling it will be Very Bad News Indeed for tribal gaming. Words like “disaster” are being used. (FinCEN regulation of the casino industry for money laundering is expected to be eased, Obamahowever.) In the case of ‘Net betting, the last few years may be looked back upon as a missed opportunity, state after state having lost its legislative nerve to enact Web gaming. Had more states followed the lead of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, the fait accompli of Internet gambling might have been too much for Washington to try and unspool.

When it comes to Native American gaming, some argue that there’s not a lot of growth to impede. However, when it comes to land-into-trust applications, the Obama administration inherited a huge backlog from its predecessor and Continue reading

Posted in Donald Trump, Downtown, Economy, history, Indiana, Internet gambling, Law enforcement, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Regulation, Tribal | 4 Comments

All right in Atlantic City; Trump: The Asia connection

Columnist Steve Ruddock recently took a deep dive into Atlantic City and found the water to be just fine, thank you. He didn’t just mean his hotel room at Resorts Atlantic atlantic-cityCity, which he deemed cleaner and better-maintained than many on the Las Vegas Strip. No, he was talking about the operating profits of the surviving casinos, many of which are skyrocketing as the market goes through the process of right sizing itself. The only exception was Carl Icahn‘s Tropicana Atlantic City, where operating profit dipped 22% from 2014 to 2015. By contrast, though you wouldn’t know it on a month-by-month basis, the repositioning of Bally’s Atlantic City as a grind joint has fattened the bottom line, with operating profit up 77%. The tightest-run ships appear to be Resorts (+525%) and Golden Nugget (+396%). Borgata (+36%) had the highest dollar volume of profit, while Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort (+39% and +26%) made respectable gains.

As these numbers might suggest, Ruddock concludes that the answer in Atlantic City is not more casinos. However, altruism is not the foremost characteristic of Continue reading

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New stumbling block for Caesars; ‘Net betting powers New Jersey

Just when it looked like Caesars Entertainment was out of the woods in its bankruptcy reorganization the federal trustee intervened with an objection. At issue are the releases caesars-palace-02from litigation that Caesars wrested from creditors as part of the price of being made whole. The bankruptcy trustee calls this “blanket immunity” applying to “a wide array of parties far beyond the plan or the Chapter 11 cases.” So broad were the releases, that outright fraud was among the forms of misconduct they shielded. As we have already seen, a court-appointed examiner deemed Caesars to be potentially on the hook for $5 billion worth of fraudulent asset transfers — and consciously acted to dilute Caesars Entertainment Operating Company of as much value as possible — and some dissident creditors vowed to seek even more. The federal trustee’s objections will be heard at the January bankruptcy trial. If Caesars prevails, the trustee can appeal, although we think the incoming Trump administration will let Caesars off the hook to whatever extent possible.

* Penn National Gaming got a rap on the knuckles for overpromising and underdelivering on Continue reading

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Ducey: Let’s make a deal; Trump = legal sports betting?

It looks like the State of Arizona may be ready to throw in the towel in its losing fight against the Tohono O’odham Nation over its Desert Diamond casino. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) Tohono casinohas inked a new compact with 10 other tribes that gives them expanded keno and poker, in return for a proviso that they will not build any new casinos in the greater Phoenix area. The “T-O” as they’re locally known, are mulling whether to sign on. Ducey has hinted that their signature could pave the way to Class III gaming at Desert Diamond, but who knows what options the tribe would like to keep in reserve? It has been holding a winning hand in the federal courts and may want to get a compact from Ducey that doesn’t include any concessions. Based on the way things have gone, we expect the Tohono O’odham to drive a hard bargain.

* Contrary to earlier reports, the newly opened Lucky Dragon Casino is being more ecumenical than previously thought, in terms of customer service. While developers Andrew Fonfa and William Weidner have done a thorough job of Continue reading

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(Pot) Smoke gets in their eyes; Enter the Lucky Dragon

Just say “No.” That’s what Nevada gaming regulators are advising casinos who might be tempted to take advantage of the new legality of recreational marijuana in the Silver State. Bowing to federal law, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission are hewing to the stand they staked out when medicinal marijuana was legalized two years ago: that participation “reflects discredit” upon the gaming industry and is inconsistent with effective regulation. The state’s stance is “a work in progress,” said NGC Chairman Tony Alamo. But, he added, “The tilt was that there’s a federal law and we expect people to follow the federal law.” (Now if they could only get casinos to be as diligent about money laundering.)

However, policy is easier set than enforced. How do casinos prevent guests from lighting up or otherwise consuming loco weed in Continue reading

Posted in Colorado, Cordish Co., Downtown, Environment, Geoff Freeman, Internet gambling, Lucky Dragon, Maryland, MGM Mirage, Nevada, Regulation, Sports, The Strip, Tourism | Leave a comment

Quote of the Day

“1984. What does that year mean to us? In 1984, across Nevada and Atlantic City, it was the year when slot revenue began to exceed table revenue.” — casino consultant Michael Meczka, on the pernicious effects of corporate ownership on casino play, including understaffed table games and the despised 6:5 blackjack. “We just don’t give them enough time to play the game,” Meczka concluded.

Posted in Atlantic City, Entertainment, Nevada | Leave a comment

Trump Taj saves Atlantic City; Barrack resurfaces; Visiting Memory Lane

When we rounded up Atlantic City gaming numbers yesterday, we didn’t get into market-adjusted comparisons and thus buried the lead. The Boardwalk’s surviving casinos saw, on average, a 6% increase in gaming revenue, thanks to the Oct. 10 closing of Trump Taj trump-taj mahaMahal. Take out the Taj (which labor troubles did) and a slightly revenue-negative month swings to a significantly positive one. And, for the year, the seven surviving casinos are up by 3%, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. If it’s too soon to say “comeback,” we can at least say “market correction” and throw a little ticker tape out the windows. PokerStars hasn’t been the shot in the arm it was supposed to be but Resorts Digital is an amazing 204% ahead of October 2015’s revenue. So while Atlantic City isn’t out of the woods — the revival of Ten threatens to dilute the revenue base — it’s looking a lot better than it has in a long time.

* New Jersey won’t be going it alone this time when it supplicates the Supreme Court to be allowed sports betting. Amicus briefs have been filed by Continue reading

Posted in Arizona, Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Cirque du Soleil, Colony Capital, Donald Trump, Economy, Entertainment, Genting, history, Internet gambling, Japan, Law enforcement, Louisiana, Macau, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, PokerStars, Regulation, Revel, Sahara, Sheldon Adelson, Sports, Steve Wynn, Taxes, The Strip, West Virginia, Wisconsin | 1 Comment

Atlantic City: Golden Nugget now tops; MGM’s holy rollers

There’s a new leader in Atlantic City‘s Internet-gambling arena. Not PokerStars over at Resorts Digital. They’re still in last place. No, grabbing 24.5% of market share, Golden Nugget now heads the pack. Borgata has 22%, Caesars Interactive holds 18% and Tropicana Entertainment 19%. ‘Net revenues continue to rocket upward, Caesars ACrising 30%, to just short of $17 million. Terrestrial casinos were down 3%, raking in $186 million. Slot play was down 3.5%, leading to a 5% revenue decline. However, table games were up 4%, both in wagering and revenue. Borgata grossed $60.5 million (+5%) and a 6% increase in table game wagering translated into 12% more revenue. All these gains helped Borgata overshoot Deutsche Bank‘s projections for the month by $5 million.

The Caesars Entertainment portfolio snapped out of a 16-month funk in terms of market share. Harrah’s Resort was incrementally higher, for a $29 million gross, while a 4% gain at Caesars Atlantic City spelled $23.5 million in revenue. The prosperity did not extend to Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Carl Icahn, Harrah's, Internet gambling, Massachusetts, MGM Mirage, Mohegan Sun, Neil Bluhm, Pennsylvania, PokerStars, Taxes, Tilman Fertitta, Tropicana Entertainment, Wall Street | Leave a comment

Japan: Another failure; Reading the Trump tea leaves

According to Morgan Stanley analysts, the chances of pro-casino legislation passing in Japan this year are “quite low.” Yes, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has booted the ball yet Shinzo Abeagain. His big push [sic] to bring casinos to the Land of the Rising Sun didn’t start until the Diet had but one month left in which to pass legislation — hardly propitious timing for so controversial an issue. Abe’s only hope, having frittered away a majority in both Houses of Parliament, is for gridlock to move the adjournment date from Nov. 30 to mid-December. Morgan Stanley blames Abe’s weak hand on the expenditure of political capital on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and uncertainly following the presidential election over here. Heck, Abe doesn’t even have a consensus within his own party: Morgan Stanley estimates that 80% of the ruling Liberal Democrats are behind him on the casino issue and he can’t look to help from frequent coalition partner, the Komeito Party: It’s against gambling.

We’ve lost track of the number of times casino legalization was just around a Japanese corner. Major gaming companies thought this was finally it. Las Vegas Sands committed to Continue reading

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Ivey loses a round; Freeman loses it

Emboldened by a federal court ruling that Phil Ivey and an associate violated the New Jersey Casino Control Act by using “edge sorting” to alter the odds of baccarat in their favor, Borgata is upping its demands against the pair, requesting $15.5 million in damages. That not only covers the $9.6 million that Ivey and co-defendant Cheng Yin Sun won from the casino but “expectation damages” of $5.4 million, based on the ‘expectation’ that without edge sorting, Ivey would have lost $5.4 million, not won almost twice that amount. Oh, and Borgata wants to be refunded for interest and for $249,000 in comps. Casino.org took a jaundiced view of the latter claim, opining that “private jets were involved or they were drinking Chateau Margaux by the bath-load.”

* Damn those pesky anti-money-laundering rules! That seems to be the coded message coming from American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman when Continue reading

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Wayne Newton’s peacock peril

If you live near Casa de Shenandoah, look out: The neighborhood is being terrorized by roaming peacocks who make their base of operations at the mansion/museum of Mr. Las. Wayne+NewtonVegas himself, Wayne Newton. The latter’s people are trying to have it both ways, saying that the peafowl were present when Newton originally bought the estate but also remarking, “These are feral peacocks. This is a neighborhood problem, not a Newton problem, in fairness.” (Newton lawyer Jay Brown also offered this non-denial denial: “We never bought a peacock. We never brought in a peacock.”) But how is the neighborhood to solve the problem when the birds are making the Newton ranch their base of operations?

The situation at the Newton estate has become such a flashpoint that it occupied 30 minutes of a Clark County Commission meeting, but Continue reading

Posted in Animals, Dining, Massachusetts, Penn National, The Strip, Wayne F. Newton | 1 Comment

Trump, Adelson make a deal; Brazil moves toward casinos

Donald Trump may have sold his soul to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and cheaply at that. Pro-Trump Global Gaming Business is reporting that the mogul promised not to sheldon-adelson-25oppose Sheldon Adelson‘s anti-Internet gaming legislation if only the R-J would endorse him. It was, if true, a poor bargain. The R-J is a piddling newspaper in the grand scheme of things and its political endorsements (anyone remember anti-casino scold Sharron Angle? Or its threefold endorsement of Marco Rubio?) are widely ignored: The Silver State went “blue” at the presidential, senatorial and congressional levels this year, so Trump could have kept his Faustian pact in his back pocket. Perhaps he made his promise knowing that Adelson’s RAWA has bombed in Congress this year and was likely to do so again without any intervention from him. The congressional makeup has not changed enough to affect the political calculus.

* Instead of trying to catch the wind in a ‘Net, Adelson might be better advised to Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Donald Trump, Election, Entertainment, International, Internet gambling, Macau, Mohegan Sun, Pennsylvania, Politics, Stanley Ho, Taxes, The Strip, Tourism | Leave a comment