Temporary relief for Illinois; CityCenter for sale?

As a huge gambling expansion works its way through the Legislature, casino owners in Illinois must feel like condemned men awaiting the execution. At any rate, it behooves them to gather roses while yet they may. Fortunately, gamblers felt like playing last month, propelling revenues up 3%. There were 2% fewer patrons but they spent 5.5% more. Penn National Gaming‘s Hollywood Aurora rocketed 18.5% upward ($12 million), while its Argosy Belle was flat ($4.5 million) and its Empress Joliet rose 3%, to $11 million. Boyd Gaming was not so fortunate, as long-suffering Par A Dice fell 8.5% to $7.5 million, well below analyst expectations. GLPI‘s Casino Queen in East St. Louis was up just a bit (1%) for a $10 million take.

Jumer’s Casino Rock Island was one of the few revenue-negative properties, dropping a percentage point to gross $6.5 million. Neil Bluhm‘s Rivers Casino posted a competition-crushing $39 million, a 5% increase. MGM Resorts International made 6% more at Grand Victoria, grossing $16 million. Harrah’s Metropolis did 3.5% greater, to gross $7 million, while Harrah’s Joliet didn’t do so well, down 3% to $16 million and change — still good enough for second place in the state. Enjoy it while you can, guys. The “Grand Bargain” is galumphing through the Lege. In addition to a major casino expansion, including one in Chicago, it would contain a significant increase in personal income taxes. So it’s bad news all around.

* At the risk of burying the lead, Carlo Santarelli of Deutsche Bank speculates that says CityCenter could be for sale. Let him tell you himself: “Most believe there to be the potential for a deal involving City Center, or aspects of City Center, though it doesn’t appear to be driving the incremental investment dollar.” What do you make of that?

* Things aren’t looking good for The Crown 18. Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun told Xinhua News Agency, “We must seriously investigate and severely punish those companies and individuals involved in enticing and organising Chinese tourists to gamble in overseas casinos,” he said. “We must severely punish those casino-related illegal labour agents and crack down on activities for investing in overseas casinos.”

Overseas casinos are a particular burr under the Chinese government’s saddle. For almost two years, China has been running an operation called Chain Break, to both constrain foreign casinos’ access to Chinese funds and the ability of their agents to recruit players from the People’s Republic. The government’s aim is to keep players going to Macao and it’s counting on tensions over the deployment of U.S. missiles to South Korea to keep punters away from the latter country. Indeed, in a radical event, a shipload of Chinese tourists actually refused to disembark at Korean gambling haven Jeju Island. Considering the love of gambling that pervades China, such a display demonstrates serious patriotic resolve. Is pretty dramatic.

Having been denied gaming permits, two developers are taking their cases to Hancock County Circuit Court. They are contending that, by meeting in closed session, the Mississippi Gaming Commission violated state open-meeting laws. Both Diamondhead Real Estate and RW Development were denied permission to build casinos because they were deemed not to adhere to state requirements vis-a-vis the Biloxi waterline.

“The commission simply accepted the recommendation without stating any evidence to deny the application, gave no reason or explanation, failed entirely to allow applicant to present its support for the application, failed to allow (the) applicant to present its support for the application, failed to allow the applicant to address the commission, either in its slot on the agenda or during public comment, and then immediately adjourned the meeting without allowing public comment,” say the appellants, who are certainly hard-luck cases, with three previous rejections behind them. Whether the Biloxi market can support two more casinos is very much open to question but Diamondhead and RW are welcome to try.

* The Oakland Raiders could be vagabonds for two of the next three seasons unless they pay their parking revenues to the city of Oakland. The latter is saying that shallow-pocketed owner Mark Davis is in arrears for at least three years’ worth of payments to Oakland. Which means the team could be evicted and have to move to a new stadium. Don’t get your hopes up, Las Vegas: The Raiders have reportedly found Sam Boyd Stadium to be inadequate to their needs.

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