Regardless of whether or not resort casinos are voted into law in Florida, one company that won’t be in the running is Boyd Gaming. The firm threw in the towel on the Miami market today. The Sunshine State “no longer fits our current growth strategy” said CEO Keith Smith. Not to be unkind but I wasn’t aware that Boyd had a growth strategy in action (aside from making an economically questionable run at Station Casinos last year), being in stand-pat mode until the Great Recession passes. But when you consider that Boyd got $80 million for an old facility with a badly performing poker room, no wonder Wall Street is cheering the news.
If you’re a fan of Miami Vice, you’ve seen Dania Jai-alai in the credit sequence of every episode (and one or two actually used it as a location). Boyd’s partners in the venture were known to be chafing at the casino company’s inaction. Dania was purchased by Boyd in the wake of racino legalization in South Florida but when competitors like Isle of Capri Casinos encountered disappointing revenues, Boyd shelved its plans for the fronton. Those slots that Bill Boyd personally promised in 2006 never manifested themselves.
Boyd’s withdrawal may be read as a pessimistic take on the chances for further casino expansion in Florida, to the extent of taking at least a $72.5 million bath on Dania Jai-alai. But its purchasers aren’t taking any chances. It looks like they want to get slots up and running, pronto. Once they are, it would be lot harder for Sheldon Adelson to try and have his new friends in the political establishment revoke the gaming entitlement at Dania. And if he gets a Miami-area gaming concession, sure as shooting he’ll try to litigate the racinos and slot-enabled frontons out of existence, if he’s still the Sheldon we know and love.
British Invasion. U.K. journo Paul Carr has been spending 33 days and nights on the Strip, staying at Imperial Palace so you don’t have to — and encountering housekeeping typical of the Gary Loveman Era at Caesars Entertainment. “Impotent Palace” is an easy target, but if we can’t make fun of it the terrorists will have won. (Speaking of piñatas, pallid crooner Matt Goss turns out to be as thin-skinned as ever.)
On to the Riv. On Day Eight of his quest, Carr had the misfortune to encounter “Rudely, angrily, terrifyingly awful” service at the Riviera from employees he likens to Oompa Loompas. Among the bright ideas that General Manager Bobby Ray Harris , late of Tamares Group, has apparently brought in is the impending removal of self-check-in terminals. Lovely. Whoever had this backward-thinking notion might want to consider giving Riviera staffers (who I’ve repeatedly heard described as even more superannuated than the clientele) an attitude adjustment. If the atmosphere is as hostile as Carr says, a few pink slips — or a few hundred — might do the trick. Las Vegas is nowhere near suffering a shortage of people ready, willing and able to take their place. Carr might have fared better at Trump International but he’s boycotting it for reasons I scarcely need to recapitulate.
On a happier note, the Riv rolled out a new player-recruitment program, as a means of promoting 250 new slot machines. It wasn’t too smart to announce it late on Friday afternoon, but new management will eventually figure this news-cycle thing out. Basically, sign up for a Club Riviera card and 50% of your losses will be rebated, $100 maximum. You have to lose $200 in 48 hours to take full advantage but Strip slots are tight as a tick, so I don’t doubt it’s possible. Give the Riv your e-mail address and they’ll enter you in a drawing for a $1K free-play award.
Continuing to pick over the carcass of the Sahara, home of plastic bedsheets, Riv management has signed newly available Rick Thomas and his big cats. This means the Versailles Theater will be taken out of mothballs. Thomas predicts his fixed costs at the Riv will be “controllable,” which seems to be a diplomatic way of saying he got a heckuva deal on the room. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Mike Weatherford reveals that the late William Westerman and his Cerberus of successors had been demanding that would-be Versailles tenants upgrade the venue out of their own pockets. New owner Barry Sternlicht has, thank God, reversed that classless edict. The nearby Las Vegas Hilton continues to bottom-feed, adding Steve Wyrick to impersonator Trent Carlini, two performers who have worn out their welcome along the Strip.
Sheldon’s revenge. After Huffington Post’s Carr went undercover with the Culinary Union (who aired some anti-Adelson gripes), he ran into a buzzsaw of snaufs when staying at Venelazzo — including being booked into both hotels. Way to boost that occupancy rate, Las Vegas Sands! Word of Carr’s spilkes got back to M Resort, which was quick to extend a comp. Score one for the outgoing management team at M, who will give way to Penn National Gaming sometime next month (or so Penn expects, per its latest earnings call). Carr reviews M, Venelazzo and six other Vegas properties in haiku form, including this gem about Mandalay Bay: “Decent mid-range place/But crawling with screaming kids/Like bees in The Swarm.” (MBay’s THEhotel fares much better.) New York-New York apparently has a rapid-response team patrolling social media, because Carr’s grumpy Tweet about his room resulted in an upgrade. Somewhere, Michael Leven is clueless.
As for Sands President of Global Operations Rob Goldstein, I hope he doesn’t get into trouble with Big Shel for allowing that Wynn Macau has bested Sands in the Chinese VIP market and Resorts World Sentosa is currently doing the same in Singapore. The latter could mean that Genting Bhd is playing a little faster and looser with the junket rules there (or so Goldstein implies), Adelson having recently blown the whistle on some junketeers whose probity he found dubious.
Trumpdate: If the casino pitchman thinks this was rough, he’s not going to like it any better if he ventures into the world of real politics, where they can say anything they like — and it doesn’t have to be funny. What’s most hilarious is the stuff that comes out of Trump’s own mouth, making his faux campaign/ratings stunt too funny not to cover.