To hear the Los Angeles Times tell it, Margaret Elardi — crusty, superannuated, former owner of the Frontier — has called it a day over at Casino Royale. Now redubbed “Best Western Plus Casino Royale,” the small-but-splashy casino has a new brand affiliation for certain — whereby a room for tomorrow night would set you back $199. However, a search of Clark County property records shows no transfer of title since 1993. Pending a call to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, it would appear that the Elardi family has farmed out management of the Casino Royale to Best Western but hung onto the land and casino license. There’s certainly been nothing in the newspapers or on the wires to indicate otherwise. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Elardi — who vowed to die with her boots on — is still alive, so I won’t believe the Elardis have cashed out of the Royale until their cantankerous matriarch is carried out, feet first.
Okay, so we made it past that “fiscal cliff” scare — by dint of the usual half-measures, of course. But now there’s a high-stakes game of chicken in Washington, D.C., over the raising of the debt ceiling. (For a town that frowns upon legalized, regulated gambling, Foggy Bottom sure loves to play baccarat with the future of our country.) The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has run the numbers and the bottom line is: Be afraid, be very afraid. “The damage to the economy would be tremendous, and it would occur at every level, from individuals looking for a loan to buy a house to hedge funders trying to play the markets,” he writes.
My boss senses that consumers are scared — have been for some time — and are sitting on their discretionary dollars. This would certainly account for the fiscal malaise seen in most regional casino markets. Compound that economic stagnation with a sudden default by Uncle Sam on the people to whom it owes money — including his own employees– and all can say is Big Gaming had better be lobbying, and lobbying hard, against a default … especially Sheldon Adelson, who has a lot of chits he can call in on the right-hand side of the aisle. The immediate consequences would likely include a spike in credit card interest rates, so forget about John Q. Public putting a Las Vegas vacation on his “charge plate” and paying for it later. As I’ve said before, when times are tight, the federal government is the last “whale” at the table. Now we might very well find out what happens when it welshes on its markers. Sending Clark County Assistant District Attorney Bernie “Dr. Evil” Zadrowski to the Beltway with an arrest warrant isn’t going to work this time.
Coming soon: Today was cutoff day for casino applicants in Massachusetts. We’ll see who put their money and the table and who called it quits.