Wynn shows Adelson up; Schenectady casino opens tonight

Contrary to crude insinuations by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steve Wynn‘s gift of $7 million in company stock late last year went mainly toward medical research at the University of Iowa’s Wynn Institute for Vision Research ($5 million), while another $1.7 million was disbursed to various and sundry Las Vegas charities. Although it’s nobody business but Wynn’s what he did with the stock, he may have felt compelled to go public with the donations after Sheldon Adelson‘s newspaper added one and one, and came up with three, assuming that Wynn had given the stock to Donald Trump in return for high visibility in Republican Party affairs. While the R-J doesn’t owe Wynn an apology, neither should it go off half-cocked again.

Speaking of Adelson, he may be well rid of the ongoing NFL stadium fiasco. Seems that the self-serving lease the [your city here] Raiders submitted to Clark County has a subtle escape clause that could enable the Raiders to leave Vegas before their stadium lease expires. The Raiders have played Nevada politicians like a harp and the Clark County Commission needs to stiffen its spine when negotiating with team owner Mark Davis, whose father was no slouch at shuttling the Raiders from hither to yon.

* Neil Bluhm‘s latest Rivers Casino, in Schenectady, is expected to be a wellspring of economic benefits, particularly for the State of New York, which looks to collect most of the $81.5 million in taxes. Employees of the $330 million casino will average $38,000 a year in pay. A tight labor market in the area meant that Bluhm had to offer competitive
salaries. Rivers Casino will look to make it back in part by busing customers in from as far away as Maine. It expects to get a bigger share of the wallet ($300 per visit) of long-distance customers than locals ($100). Area residents’ enthusiasm for the new pleasure palace seems a tad muted, with 50% planning to visit, a mild number by Las Vegas standards. Is Schenectady so exciting that half the population is going to give Rivers Casino a pass?

They’ll certainly get more excited if the revenue stream from Rivers enables the city to cut taxes again. The casino is also an inarguable improvement on what was just a brownfield and some citizens are already voicing hope for additional infrastructure improvements in the area. As Eastern Avenue Neighborhood Association President Bob Harvey says, “Anything that produces 1,000 jobs and creates a riverscape is good.” His counterpart at the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, Marva Isaacs says, “I think the casino is going to be the best thing for Schenectady.”

* How do you sell more drinks? If you’re Caesars Palace‘s Alto Bar you do it by rewarding customers with a 10-minute thrill ride on an Oculus Rift virtual reality head set. Heck, I’d pay an (inflated) cocktail price in order to see what all the VR fuss is about. Right now, Caesars is just offering the Oculus experiences on a trial basis but they will probably become permanent if their popularity endures, as it probably will. Kudos to Caesars Entertainment for its imagination. The exec who saw the Oculus Rift devices while visiting Facebook headquarters and brought them to his company’s attention definitely deserves a bonus.

* On the topic of social media, tribal casinos are pivoting their marketing efforts in that direction … but perhaps more slowly than they should. Still, the results of a recent Raving Consulting study of tribal marketing are bad news for traditional media. Newspapers are getting 37% less advertising, and TV and radio are averaging a 20% decline. At the same time, use of social media and the Internet have shot up more than 60%. However, this shift is being driven by a minority of casinos. Over 55% are using e-mail for 25% or less of their marketing messaging, while 13% seemingly haven’t heard of this e-mail thingamajig. However, we’re sure those numbers will continue to shift in a more with-it direction. By the way, entertainment continues to be a loss-leader at a plurality of tribal casinos surveyed (44%), while it’s a profit center at only 7%, quite unlike the Las Vegas mentality.

* Whenever Wynn Boston Harbor opens, make a side trip to the New England Aquarium to meet Myrtle, the giant, 90-year-old sea turtle. She’s pretty frisky for a senior citizen and certain to be awwww-inspiring.

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