Engelstad puts ‘for sale sign’ on Imperial Palace

Nov 28, 2000 8:11 AM

Ralph Engelstad, by his own words, has put "For Sale" signs on his two casinos — the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas and the Imperial Palace in Biloxi, Miss. However, officials at the Las Vegas property say they know nothing about it.

For the past couple of years, there have been rumors that Engelstad was looking to sell his gaming properties, but they’ve been consistently denied. However, in recent interviews with news personnel in both North Dakota and Mississippi, he has been quoted as saying that he’s ready for retirement.

"I’m strongly working toward that goal," he told one reporter. He said he was selling off some of his real estate investments and would soon be left with just the two casinos.

"I’m looking forward to stretching out and watching the clouds drift by," he was quoted as saying. His retirement, he said, would take place at his home in the Cayman Islands.

Contacted Monday, Connie Ross, spokesperson for the Imperial Palace, said. "I’m sorry, but I know nothing about it."

In his interviews, Engelstad did not put a price on his Las Vegas property, but he did say he was looking for $200 million for his 1,100-room hotel/casino on Biloxi’s Back Bay.


National Airlines sale

It sounded like Santa’s bells ringing with an offer "in the spirit of the holiday season," but National Airlines has come forward with a winter fare sale for all the destinations it reaches.

The Las Vegas-based airline said travelers between Las Vegas and Los Angeles will be offered fares as low as $68 during this special period. What’s required is that the flights are booked and tickets purchased before Dec. 8, with travel taking place between Dec. 4 and Feb. 14.

"In the spirit of the holiday season, National Airlines is giving travelers the opportunity to take advantage of low fares throughout our entire route system," said Mark S. Suman, senior vice president for strategic planning. "We are confident that customers will find the combination of our low fares and high-quality service a real holiday value."

Among the special round-trip fares being offered are: Chicago Midway-Las Vegas, $228; Dallas/Ft. Worth-Las Vegas, $228; Las Vegas-Miami, $258; Miami-Los Angeles, $288; New York-Las Vegas, $258; Philadelphia-San Francisco, $288; San Francisco-Las Vegas, $108; and Washington, D.C.-Los Angeles, $288.

During the period, there are blackout dates on Dec. 28-29 and on Jan. 1, 2, 26 and 29. Tickets require a seven-day advance purchase and a minimum stay of one night.

Recently, National Airlines was ranked above all U.S. major airlines in quality service by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s "2000 Reader’s Choice Awards."


Jackpot departs gaming

Jackpot Enterprises Inc. (J) has completed its intended departure from the gaming industry to concentrate its efforts as an incubator investment company. The firm has completed its announced sale of its gaming machine route operations to E-T-T Inc.

The sale will provide Jackpot about $44 million in pre-tax proceeds.

E-T-T- Inc., a company involving three Herbst Brothers, received approval last week to open Terrible’s Hotel/Casino, at Flamingo and Paradise Roads in Las Vegas.

Jackpot said its balance sheet, adjusted for the sale of the slots route and its recent investment in InterWorld Corporation, reflects total assets of $137 million and shareholder equity of $101 million, or $11.28 per primary share outstanding.

Jackpot intends to rename the company J Net Enterprises Inc.

"Now that we have completed the sale of our gaming route business, " said Chairman and CEO Allan R. Tessler, "we intend to focus on consolidating our relationship with InterWorld Corporation."


Ladbroke bailout

Looks like the English gambling firm, Ladbroke Casinos, will soon have a new owner if the deal between its owner, Hilton Group Plc, and Gala Bingo, goes through.

Gala Bingo, Britain’s biggest bingo hall operator, has been talking with Hilton Group in a deal that has been estimated to bring about 250 million pounds, or about $358 million.

Involved would be Ladbroke’s 27 casinos, six of them in London.

Like its American counterpart, Hilton Hotels Corp. (HLT), Hilton Group has indicated it plans to shed all gaming relationships and concentrate operating its hotel business.


Colorado casinos gain

Colorado’s 45 casinos generated $54.3 million in gaming revenue during October, according to state gaming regulators.

The revenue showed an increase of 13.4 percent over last year’s $47.8 million, but was about equal with the month of September.

In a breakdown of the revenues, the state said in the principal gaming market of Black Hawk, where there are 19 casinos, revenues amounted to $36.9 million, a slight decrease from September’s $37.8 million. The 19 casinos in Cripple Creek reported a gaming win of $11.4 million, while Central City’s seven casinos generated $6 million.


Edwards sentencing delayed

They haven’t locked the prison door on former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards yet. In fact, on the day he was scheduled for sentencing, Edwards, convicted of racketeering, will be given a rehearing based on a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Defense attorneys contend that a separate high court ruling on federal mail fraud law, used against Edwards, doesn’t apply to state licenses that have been applied for but not yet granted, provided grounds to set aside the conviction.

Prosecutors agree the ruling does impact three of the charges against Edwards. They have petitioned for a new trial on those charges. But they say there was enough evidence for conviction on the other charges and Edwards should be sentenced according to prescribed guidelines.

A federal judge has set a Dec. 6 hearing date.


Penn National push

Officials of Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) announced last week that they were moving forward with the establishment of the OK Corral Slots facility at Charles Town (W.Va.) Racetrack.

It will feature 374 new reel-spinning, coin-out gaming machines, bringing the total number of slot machines to 1,896. That number will be increased to the allotted 2,000 machines by early 2001.

In September, the West Virginia Lottery Commission granted Penn National permission to increase the number of slot machines from 1,500 to 2,000.


Bankruptcy protection

Darrell Luery, who recently left his post as head of operations of The Regent Las Vegas, returned last week to guide the company through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing.

Recognized for his ability to turn properties around, Luery was designated to help the property get resituated after financial problems aggravated by significant construction delays and cost overruns. The company said it had secured new financing for the Chapter 11 period to ensure that it will continue operating.

The property, off Rampart Street in Summerlin, is considered one of the premier properties in Las Vegas.


Florida test case

While the nation watches Florida and the way it counts the presidential ballots, another part of the state is focused on its gambling ships.

State Attorney General Bob Butterworth has been trying to get the courts to ban slots, dice and other gaming activities on these cruises to

nowhere. But last week, a state court judge in Volusia County rejected Butterworth’s efforts.

Named in the complaint was the 150-foot SunCruz III, which features 232 slot machines and a dozen table games. The ship is operated out of Ponce Inlet by Tropic Casino Cruises. There are two cruises per day.

Lawyers defending the cruises point out that, under Florida law, there is no prohibition to gambling ships docking in Florida as long as the gambling takes place in international waters.


Unexpected delay

Sale of the two Station Casinos Inc. (STN) riverboat casinos in Missouri to Ameristar Casino Inc. (ASCA) had been on a fast track until last week, when Port Authority of Kansas City members postponed an approval vote.

They say they still have questions about both financing and minority ownership.

The Missouri Gaming Commission will take up the $475 million sale on Dec. 20. The Port Authority said it wouldn’t consider the matter until Dec. 11.

A representative of the financial consultant, Fahnestock & Co., is to report back to the authority with further evidence that Ameristar will be financially able to swing the deal and will go forward with a Stations promise to establish a 10 percent minority share in Station Casino Kansas City.


The race is on

Bidding began escalating last week for the right to acquire the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., an enterprise that last year generated over $1 billion in handle.

Where several weeks ago there were nine potential bidders for the activity, there now are only five. They are: N.Y. Racing Association (NYRA), and its partner, TV Games; Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN); Catskill Off-Track Betting Corp.; Nomura Securities of Japan; and Magna Entertainment Co. (MIEC), the Frank Stronach controlled public company partnering with Greenwood Racing, operators of Philadelphia Park.

The OTB enterprises was put on the auction block by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said he wanted to privatize more city-owned operations.

THE INSIDER: Casino Data Systems (CSDS) has received formal approval from Gaming Laboratories International Inc. for its newest multi-site progressive jackpot system, Jackpot Bingo.

Gaming authorities in Louisiana have fined Harrah’s New Orleans Casino $85,000 for what was described as poor record keeping on its 3,000 slot machines.

Bill Schmitt, gaming analyst at CIBC World Markets, has re-iterated his strong buy rating on Isle of Capri Inc. (ISLE).

Gaming properties in Mississippi showed a solid increase of 8.6 percent October. Officials said the improvement was in both the Gulf Coast and River Counties regions.

Also showing improvements in gaming revenues during the month were Indiana, up 3.3 percent; and Louisiana, up 5.9 percent.

International Lottery & Totalizator Systems Inc. (ITSI) has signed a contract worth $1.7 million to provide a central system hardware and software for betting kiosks for the Singapore Turf Club.

Publishers of the weekly newspaper known locally as Las Vegas Sporting News have been charged with running an illegal sports betting business. Dennis and Joseph Atiyeh were arraigned in Philadelphia.