Saturation in Ohio; Japan: Go big or go home

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) leveled the playing field when he allowed third-party racinos to join the juiced-in Penn National Gaming and Caesars Entertainment casinos in the Buckeye State. The question now is how level a playing field is a good thing. KeyBanc Capital Markets exec Jay Masurekar takes a gloomy view, saying, “Ohio has been doing pretty well but I don’t think it requires 11 properties. One or two may drop off at some point — there are winners and losers in any market.” If we picked one casino to “drop off,” it would be low-grossing Belterra Park, a Pinnacle Entertainment property that is intractably stuck in last place.

Detroit and Toledo appear to have fought to a standoff but Pennsylvania casinos continue to pose a threat, some contend. The most secure position is enjoyed by Hard Rock Rocksino, followed by the Penn/GLPI quartet. As for other forms of gambling, Ohio lawmakers have been emitting a lot of noise about outlawing daily fantasy sports but so far it’s just talk.

* Rather than scattering casinos across Japan (intended as a form of economic stimulus), Global Market Advisors is suggesting that the Land of the Rising Sun put all its eggs in one basket and create an ‘Osaka Strip,’ similar to ones in Las Vegas and Macao. GMA thinks Japan will do better with critical gambling mass. What’s also interesting is the conservativeness of its estimate of Japan’s market size: $11 billion — way less than blue-sky estimates of $40 billion promulgated by others. Tourists are projected to account for 47% of revenue.

The report doesn’t mean that GMA is against smaller, regional casinos. It argues that they “be allowed [in order] to further stimulate tourism and economic growth.” Despite its own advocacy of an Osaka Strip, GMA released estimates that would speak in favor of spreading the wealth: A pair of megaresorts in Osaka and Yokohama would garner $12.5 billion by 2025, while sprinkling casinos across Tokyo, Osaka, Sasebo, Sendai, Yokohama and Hokkaido would generate over $24 billion by 2030. “GMA anticipates that this will be the most competitive [requests for proposals] process since Singapore awarded its two IRs over 10 years ago,” the white paper read, adding that we’ll be kept on the tips of our fannies until late summer or autumn of next year. Local partners, it almost goes without saying, are highly recommended as part of the RFP. Hard Rock International and serially unsuccessful casino suitor Clairvest Group picked up the tab for GMA’s work, which tells you how widespread interest in the Japanese market is.

* Genting Group must have been market-researching the brand equity of Montreign as the name of its soon-to-be Catskills casino. If so, the results evidently came back negative, because Montreign has given way to Resorts World. Hey, why mess with a brand that’s a proven winner from Singapore to Queens?

* Long-suffering Baha Mar Casino & Hotel got its gaming license last week, ending the first chapter of one of the most protracted soap operas in gambling. But the ultimate end isn’t remotely in sight because five *more* hotels have to be built before the project is complete. For the time being, Baha Mar is in the stewardship of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, which has jobbed in Vegas veterans Alex Pariente, late of Wynncore, and John Zaremba to handle the gambling side of things. The resort will have the softest opening imaginable: unmarketed and only attended by invited, non-paying guests. Original Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian is on the outside looking in, having failed in his goal to open Baha Mar by mid-2014. We’re glad things are finally looking up for the metaresort but think that getting out of it was one of the best decisions Caesars Entertainment ever made.

* There’s not much that can close a casino (Bellagio wasn’t even evacuated during last week’s fire) but Iowa law says that if your IT system goes down, so does everything else. Ergo, Hard Rock Casino Sioux City was shuttered for 12 hours last weekend, hard luck for anyone on a winning streak.

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