Horseshoe Baltimore launches; Hypocrisy in Indiana

By David McKee ~ August 26th, 2014 @ 11:53 am

On a “gritty stretch of Russell Street” in Baltimore, partners Caesars Entertainment and Rock Gaming are preparing to bust out their Horseshoe Baltimorelatest inner-city casino. Not only will it provide commendable urban renewal, it will also give Maryland Live! its most serious competition to date. As the Washington Post‘s map shows, they are the most centrally located of the Maryland casinos, although Maryland Live! is much larger than Horseshoe, so it will be a heavyweight and a middleweight duking it out for Baltimoreans’ money.

Live! is already projected to lose 18% of its revenue to MGM National Harbor in two years. How big of a chomp will Horseshoe make? One casino consultant “said that given the region’s population size and affluence, all the casinos should all be able to survive, provided they are well-managed and have not taken on too much debt.” [*cough*Caesars*cough*]

It looks as though the casino was tastefully done, although — as is the nature of such things — preparations for the opening are going down to the wire. It also may have been a tactical mistake to slate the debut for a night when the division-leading Baltimore Orioles are playing a block away. One foresees much car-parking angst from that. But Caesars needs the money, stat, and can’t afford to wait for ideal timing.

* Is going from a divisional presidency at Caesars to the top job at Affinity Gaming a step up, down or sideways? That’s the terribles-picphilosophical question to be pondered as Michael Silberling trades in a portfolio of 12 international casinos for Affinity’s 11 mostly minor-league casinos, including the rattletrap threesome in Primm. “There is a meaningful opportunity to establish Affinity as the premier operator of regional gaming assets,” said an optimistic Silberling, although Affinity’s got a long way to go to get there.

In other company news, Affinity appointed three new board members, two from 34% owner Z Capital and one from 25% owner Silver Point Capital. That way, institutional investors will be able to keep a close eye on the $382 million debt under which Affinity groans.

* Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R, below) is full of it, if only where casinos are concerned. He says he wants “prudent and responsible ways that we could maintain the status quo” of keeping those icky-poo casinos off Hoosier State soil. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed the folly of Pence’s thinking.

PenceDoing what the state of Mississippi has partially done and what Illinois ought to do, Sen. Earline Rogers (D) is proposing legislation to bring Indiana casinos onshore. She even managed to get a bill to do that through the state senate in 2013. “I’m much more hopeful that [Pence will] see the data on the negative impacts existing policies are having on local communities,” said Rogers.

Pence claims that “it’s not my aim to reduce the role of gaming in our state budget or in our state’s overall economy,” but nonsensically defines movement ashore as an expansion of the industry. Rogers balks at this discriminatory attitude, saying “There have been no incidents to cause us to regret being involved in the casino business. I just want us to treat casinos like any other business.” Indeed, would the prissy Pence single out any other industry for stigmatization — and risk being called ‘anti-business’ into the bargain?

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