In the biggest vote of confidence Atlantic City has received in a decade, Hard Rock International has announced that it intends to invest $375 million in the former Trump Taj Mahal. On top of the 1,000 projected construction jobs, Hard Rock predicts the ex-Taj will need 3,000 full-time employees. That’s music to a job market that’s been hard hit by a wave of casino closures. The Hard Rock-branded resort should be reopened in time for the 2018 summer season. Since the casino could cannibalize business in a market that’s finally been right-sized, Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen is advocating joint marketing efforts, to promote Atlantic City as a varied destination.
He’s already getting some help already from Bart Blatstein, The latter has opened a huge e-sports pavilion at the Showboat. It’s an enterprising move on Blatstein’s part and demonstrates there’s potential in Atlantic City for more than one type of gaming. Hard Rock, meanwhile, might even ante up for Revel, although that’s going to be a tougher nut to crack than the Taj.
* Slot operators got some bad news today from Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli. His people have been tracking slot bases at 120 casinos and — much to the probable chagrin of manufacturers — a sustained shrinkage in the installed base. “Looking at this same-store footprint, our analysis shows that slot floors have shrunk by roughly 43,400 units from 2007 to the present,” he writes. “We believe this trend is likely to continue into the foreseeable future as operators shift financial resources to other amenities and continue to seek efficiency on floors. Since 2007, our domestic same-store slot proxy set has experienced an ~21% decline. While the absolute level of decline is unlikely to surprise, as operators adjusted to lower visitation and sought cost cuts, we believe the steadiness of the declines is a bit surprising.”
MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming, he continued, “have been the most aggressive with respect to slot removals. Caesars [Entertainment], the largest slot operator in our same-store analysis, has taken slots off its floor at ~2.5% per year since 2007, while [Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos and Pinnacle Entertainment] have each cut their floors at an ~2% annual pace. Interestingly, Mohegan Tribal Gaming has done the least.” This doesn’t portend well for the future and Santarelli predicts declining expansion opportunities and “a relatively muted replacement environment.” This isn’t good news for those slot-makers who levered up last year in an orgy of mergers and acquisitions.
* Although MGM National Harbor continues to drive up Maryland gaming receipts, an astonishing 44% higher last month, it’s chipping away at existing operators, who were down 8% overall. “We view this as positive/encouraging for MGM, as it shows the property’s momentum has continued into March,” wrote JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff. It leapfrogged past Maryland Live to gross $51 million, including $278 win/slot/day, far above industry average. Maryland Live fell over 14.5%, grossing $46.5 million (win/slot/day $251), while Horseshoe Baltimore got off easy, down 2% and grossing $27 million. Hollywood Perryville was only off 1%, pulling in $7 million. As far as the outlying casinos are concerned, Ocean Downs was up 4.5% to $5 million and Golden Entertainment continues to work its magic at Rocky Gap Casino, up 15% to $5 million.
* The Russian casino business is looking very promising, as Lawrence Ho‘s Tigre de Cristal posted a $72 million profit for 2016, a year in which revenue grew at exponential rates. The casino, owned by Ho’s Oriental Regent Ltd. is near Vladivostok and caters to players from Northeast Asia, a market American operators are keen to tap. And, closer to home …