What party?

Dec 28, 2004 6:47 AM

Super Bowl party plans are still developing just four weeks before the actual event. They would normally be set in stone by now, but times are not what they used to be.

Gumming up the works is the NFL’s so-called party police, who have vowed to come down hard on casinos putting up super-sized screens and then charging customers to come in, watch the game and enjoy the festivities.

The result is that party plans for the Feb. 6 event are being held under wraps by some casinos to keep the NFL’s spotlight from shining harshly on them.

A dismayed official in the Boyd Gaming organization confided, "We’ve got everyone from property people to lawyers and intellectual property experts looking at this thing. We may invite some of our customers to private parties, but as for everything else, we’re not sure what we’re going to do."

"Private" parties are apparently not covered by the National Football League’s cease and desist order. The League is objecting to casinos — and anyone else — charging to watch its copyright broadcast.

The first reaction of some defiant casino executives was to thumb their noses at the NFL. But they’ve decided it’s better to stay beneath the radar and keep their high-roller party plans to themselves.

Some casinos have other reasons this year to remain low-key rather than raise high-profile opposition to the League’s effort to put a lid on party plans.

Distracting influences are not needed right now, one insider says, as merger plans involving four of the industry’s biggest companies are being reviewed. Federal and state officials haven’t yet signed off on MGM Mirage’s purchase of Mandalay Resortsand Harrah’s purchase of Caesars Entertainment.

"Why risk stirring the pot now?" asks one Caesars insider.

Or as another executive bluntly put it, "Getting into a pissing match with the NFL is not in our best interests, as satisfying as it might be."

As the biggest weekend of the year behind New Year’s Eve, it’s interesting to see how some casinos will handle the issue of the NFL’s no-charge rule. Stay tuned.

The sounds of change along the Las Vegas Strip travel slowly. But the message gets there eventually.

It’s been more than a decade since big thinkers such as Terry Lanni, Glenn Schaeffer and Steve Wynn first spoke publicly about how the Las Vegas Strip would re-invent itself as a center of "total resort experiences."

Gaming would do well, they said, but there would be a lot more than gambling and the result would have companies being rewarded with the higher-margin revenue.

I recall one respected executive pointing out several years ago that "Many people who should know better have a view of Las Vegas that is about 10 years behind the times."

Which may explain the story in the New York Times this past weekend that made it sound like the Strip has only recently discovered the significance of non-gaming revenue streams. The truth is that this realization began to occur with the opening of The Mirage (late 1989) and the success of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace (1993.)

The Times piece focused on MGM’s huge CityCenter concept, an idea that’s viewed as bringing an "urbanization" approach to design and construction on the Strip. CityCenter will be significant because MGM has deep pockets and a proven preference for first-class thinking.

But the process of change did not begin with CityCenter and it will not stop there.

Here-n-There

Look for Las Vegas poker professional Daniel Negreanu to be hired as a card room host at Wynn Las Vegas. Negreanu is one of the best known and most successful of the under-30 professionals on the poker tournament circuit. He added to his 2004 credits by winning the recent World Poker Tour championship at Bellagio. The win was apparently enough to guarantee him Player of the Year honors. Negreanu’s expected presence in the Wynn card room clearly implies that the poker operation headed by Debra Giardina will not take a backseat to any operation and will spread games with limits that go as high as anyone wants.

Look for an effort to modify rules governing those private gaming salons operated by just a few of the biggest gaming companies. Those effort toward change will probably not occur until the mergers involving, Harrah’s, Caesars, MGM Mirage and Mandalay are complete. Current salon rules governing minimum bets and front money or credit requirements are seen as too restrictive to make the salons appealing.