Race is on for resort
(casino?) in Singapore

Mar 1, 2005 9:01 AM

Singapore’s government, fearful that its tourist trade will suffer if it doesn’t compete with other Asian attractions, wants a resort built on its downtown waterfront or on the nearby island of Sentosa and well-known gaming companies are responding.

Although few actual plans were received prior to Monday (the deadline for filing was Monday at noon), several companies indicated that their plans would be filed in time to be considered.

Filing on Monday was Wynn Resorts Limited (WYNN) with a design for the Marina Bayfront site.

"Steve Wynn’s design excellence and proven track record of developing resorts that define destination entertainment uniquely qualifies us to develop Singapore’s integrated resort," said Ron Kramer, president of Wynn Resorts, who made the announcement.

Whether the resort that receives Singapore’s approval contains a casino won’t be known until next month. At that time, the government said it will make its final decision. If it approves a casino, an official said, the government will introduce safeguards for its citizens. Also, the government would require that residents pay for memberships to the casino while tourists would be admitted free.

Among the companies expected to be competing for the Singapore license are Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. (HET), MGM MIRAGE Inc.(MGG), Las Vegas Sands Inc. (LVS), Kerzner International (KZR), Genting Bhd., Asia’s biggest publicly-traded casino operator, and Australia’s Tabcorp. In its bid, Harrah’s will indicate that it will partner with the Keppel Group, one of Singapore’s largest conglomerates.

Without comment, the company headed by Macau gaming kingpin Stanley Ho indicated it would not be among the bidders for the Singapore license.

Power struggle

There was no joy in Maryland last week after the General Assembly finally passed a bill that permits slot machines at certain locations.

The reason there was no euphoria was simple: the House bill was completely different from the one approved by the state Senate and the House majority was 71-66 or exactly the 71 votes needed for passage, according to lawmakers’ rules. That puts House Speaker Michael Busch, an outspoken gaming opponent, in the drivers’ seat.

He immediately put Gov. Robert Ehrlich and the Senate on notice that he will not tolerate any tinkering with the House version that is substantially different from that passed in the Senate. Busch said he will not permit the slightest change in the House version.

The governor had proposed 15,500 slot machines at four racetrack and three off-track locations. The House bill would authorize 9,500 slot machines in counties that have no racetracks, except for the harness track, Rosecroft Raceway.

A House Delegate from Baltimore County summed it up by saying, "If one word changes”¦bye-bye. It’s the speaker’s bill or no bill."

Rank regroups

For decades, Rank Group Plc was a prominent contributor to the movie industry worldwide. No more.

Pleased with the success of its gaming operations through its Hard Rock chain, the company has decided to sell its DVD business and split off its film production to concentrate on gambling, hotels and restaurants.

The company noted that losses from its two movie divisions had put a drain on the growing success of its gaming operations.

Rank operates 36 casinos and a large bingo chain. Plans call for the expansion of the gaming operations should the government approve relaxing the current strict gambling laws in England.

Casino delayed

Although the focus of the bankruptcy proceedings involving Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, Inc., was primarily in Atlantic City one of the other affected areas has been French Lick, Ind.

The community seemed assured a casino several months ago but the plans ran into trouble when the Indiana Gaming Commission chose Trump as the developer over plans submitted by others including hometown hero, basketball legend Larry Bird.

Following his election, Gov. Mitch Daniels dumped most of the gaming commissioners and ordered the new commission executive director to review the reasons Trump was awarded the state’s 11th license even thought he seemed to lack the necessary funds.

Local officials said conflicting statements from Trump officials relative to the project has left them confused. The company’s bankruptcy is expected to be resolved in the coming weeks but there has been no indication that it will go forward with the French Lick casino project.

Sticking to business

Speaking at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos Summit in Los Angeles last week, Lorenzo Fertitta, president of Station Casinos Inc., (STN) said his company planned to stay with the strategy that has made it such a success since it went public in 1993.

The company is the largest operator of so-called "ocals" casinos in the Las Vegas area.

"Vegas right now," Fertitta was quoted as saying, "is beyond anyone’s expectations. We think geographic diversification is almost a bad thing. The gaming industry is very elastic. There is not enough supply to meet demand. If you make a product that is more convenient, the market grows."

As for competition, he said, "Our position can never be replicated."

In addition to its Las Vegas operations, the company operates an Indian-owned casino near Sacramento, Cal.

THE INSIDER: Now that Sen. John McCain has become chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell has asked that he review recent decisions by federal Indian Affairs executives to grant recognition to Connecticut tribes. State officials are fearful that such recognition will result in additional casinos.

The Sands Regent (SNDS) plans to purchase two privately held casino properties in Dayton, Nev. They are the Depot Casino and the Red Hawk Sports Bar.

Aztar Corp. (AZR) has promoted Neil Ciarfalia to the position of chief financial officer. He replaces Robert Haddock who is now CEO.

WMS Industries Inc (WMS) has extended the employment agreements of Orrin J. Edidin, executive vice president and COO, and Scott Schweinfurth, executive vice president and CFO. The new agreements run through Dec. 31, 2007.

Cherokee Nation Enterprises has selected the Bally Systems solution to be installed at the Cherokee Casino near Tulsa, Okla. Bally is a business unit of Alliance Gaming Corp. (AGI).