Bicycle Casino gets busted; Macao bounces back

For the second time in its history, the Feds have busted the Bicycle Hotel & Casino, in Bell Gardens, California. They’re hot on the trail of laundered money and think Bicycle was providing some drip-dry service. Agents from multilateral task force (including the IRS) descended upon the casino and temporarily shut it down. The alleged scam is a classic: Buy chips with dirty money, play a little, then cash out the chips for “clean” cash. The Bicycle has been through this before. In 1991, the casino was confiscated, Washington having discovered that Florida drug lords were washing their $12 million of money there. In fact, with a total of an additional $10 million cleaned through the Bicycle Club cage, the card room was a full-service laundromat for scofflaws. The casino was literally built with laundered money.

Players watching the spectacle, however, were more concerned about being cheated by the casino. One cast aspersions on Pai Gow dealing but conceded, “It’s an addiction. You always think you’re gonna get your money back. We know we’re being cheated, but the addiction is in you. I’ve lost so much in here, I probably built half the hotel.” Said another Pai Gow player, “Let’s put it like this. Gambling is a game of luck. I consider myself a lucky person. But you can never win at the Bicycle.” That’s not the Feds’ worry — although the real worrying will be on the Bicycle Club’s part, as it looks at some very serious accusations. In the meantime the watchword is Let the games resume. That’s good news for Bell Gardens, whose tax base essentially consists of “the Bike” and little else.

* Maybe we can begin to believe in the Macao-comeback story. The enclave beat Wall Street‘s expectations and posted an 18% revenue growth last month, mostly propelled by the return of the whales. JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff speculates the VIP gambling was around 20% higher and mass-market growth was only in the single digits. Yet despite the surge he wrote “Our confidence in near-term positive earnings estimate revisions for the [casino concessionaire] group is low. Like his opposite number at Deutsche Bank, Carlo Santarelli, Greff expects revenue — while still driven by VIP play to moderate once past 2Q17, for which growth in the high teens is expected.

* The Wall Street Journal gives Las Vegans a foretaste of what they can expect from the (for the moment) Oakland Raiders, especially if the team gets to dictate the terms its own lease, as Mark Davis has been doing. The Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority loses a million dollars a year, since it costs so much ($8 million) to host Raider games. And because the Davis family is so peripatetic, “taxpayers have been losing money on the lease with the football team and are still paying off renovations made to the stadium in the 1990s.” reported the WSJ. Judging by Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak‘s eagerness to bend over and grab his ankles, a similar sweetheart deal on the Strip can be expected.

“From a purely business perspective, it is much better for us that the Raiders exit and that they exit now,” added the Coliseum Authority’s Scott McKibben and, indeed, city officials are reportedly looking at ways to be rid of the Raiders ASAP. Better get Sam Boyd Stadium ready and pronto.

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