Sinusitis had us down for the count for a few days but we’re back with a fresh serving of S&G. First off, New Year’s was boffo for Nevada (up 12%) with the Las Vegas Strip pulling in 14% more than last year, $609 million. It didn’t hurt either that Chinese New Year fell into January. The would tend to explain why baccarat play was huge — up 44% — and the house won big, too, 52% more than last year. Non-baccarat wagers were down 3% but the house managed to win 5% more. Even flat coin-in at the slots couldn’t stand in the way of a 6% gain in Strip slot win. Even locals did their part. Locals asinos were up 6% in January 2016 and 13% more this year.
Downtown saw an amazing, 32% gain (to $55.5 million), while the Boulder Strip was up 24.5% to $85 million. North Las Vegas gained 26% for $29 million and Laughlin was up a relatively modest 5% to $44 million. Unclassified Clark County jurisdictions — that includes you, Mesquite and Primm — were pretty flat, up 1% for a still-robust $93.5 million haul. Reno had an uncharacteristic stumble, down 8% to $39 million, while Lake Tahoe forged blithely ahead by 11%, grossing $17 million.
* It’s “Wait ’til next year” time in Georgia, where a casino bill failed to get out of committee (again). Lawmakers in neighboring South Carolina may see opportunity in Georgia’s hesitation. However, the GOP is blocking efforts in the Palmetto State, even in the light of a new poll showing 68% of South Carolinians favoring land-based gambling. (Myrtle Beach hosts “cruises to nowhere.”) To put the numbers into proper context, seven out of 10 voters favor casinos if the money goes to infrastructure improvements.
Republicans simply refused to put credence in the numbers. “I don’t think gambling is a solution to our problems. It likely creates even more problems. I can’t imagine that 68% of my constituents would support that,” huffed state Sen. Shane Massey (R, above). Joining him in high dudgeon was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Greg Delleney (R, below), who proclaimed, “The state ought to be enhancing responsibility among its citizens, good conduct and moral conduct. That’s not gambling.”
There’s also the small problem of reaching a two-third majority in the statehouse to amend the constitution, then persuade the electorate (if the poll results are as bogus as Republicans claim). Said Massey, “We were just barely able to get enough support to allow nonprofits to have raffles. I just don’t think you’re going to have anywhere near the support needed to open casinos or turn the Grand Strand into Las Vegas.”
After the 2016 election, GOPers also refuse to believe in poll results, whether they show a shift from 2014 of 47% for vs. 47% against, to 54% now in favor and going up above two-thirds when road repairs are thrown in as an incentive. Statehouse Republicans would prefer to accomplish the latter via gas taxes, a bitter bill for their constituents to swallow.
As for Georgia, legislative defeat there is noxious medicine for casino owners. The first hint of trouble came when a state Senate committee scheduled, then deferred a vote on the measure. The proposed constitutional amendment had already been downsized to permit just two casinos, at a tax rate of 20%. The question seems to be not how much gambling will the legislature tolerate but how little. Alas, Gov. Nathan Deal‘s conversion into a cautious casino supporter has been for naught.
* With scarcely more than 100 tables, live poker isn’t much of a draw in New York State (pardon the pun) but Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D) is betting that Internet poker will be a different game. “When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision,” he said of his Hamlet-like posturing on the issue. “They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So, I don’t really see that there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.” Well, that may be so but there are rumblings that Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s cabinet isn’t on board.
Pretlow says he’s been studying the issue of geofencing New York from surrounding states and getting a consensus of support from casinos. He reports success on both fronts. He’s also confident that online poker could jump-start live play in New York, adding, “I wouldn’t want to see [it] in every hotel lobby. Controlling that would be an onerous task … We take baby steps.” Instead, existing casinos and racinos would be the beneficiaries. Pretlow’s bobbed and weaved in the past but he sounds in earnest this time,