‘Other’ Fertitta eyes another purchase

May 24, 2005 3:20 AM

Houston-based Landry’s Restaurants Chairman Tilman Fertitta may not be finished buying casinos. His bid to acquire the Golden Nugget awaits the approval of state officials, but it’s now rumored that Fertitta will make Barrick Gaming an offer it cannot refuse for the Golden Nugget in Laughlin.

Nugget owners Tim Poster and Tom Breitling agreed to sell the Laughlin Nugget to Barrick. It was originally believed the proceeds from this deal would help finance improvements at the Las Vegas Nugget.

But those beliefs dissolved when the dotcom wizards decided to sell their flagship property to Fertitta — the cousin of Station Casinos’ Frank Fertitta III — who said then that he might be in the market for additional casinos.

The Laughlin area is on the verge of something big, if you accept the thinking of those who claim to have a feel for the area. Also, Fertitta seems to think the Nugget brand could have "legs" in other gaming jurisdictions.

We’ll see what happens. People with entrepreneurial ability are often able to change directions on a dime. It’s all a matter of having a nose for opportunity.

Wynn working out the kinks

It’s been awhile since Steve Wynn opened a big, expensive resort without a thoroughly seasoned team of his own to work out the kinks and make the difficult look easy.

He probably won’t make a habit of it.

The strain has been showing in certain areas as Wynn and his crew slowly bring the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas toward cruising altitude.

The complaints I hear about have nothing to do with the willingness of people to spend money there, unless you count the fact "Le Reve" is only doing one show a night for the time being.

The problem is not all the pieces seem to fit nicely, not yet, anyway.

For instance, there’s been a problem getting computer and casino management systems to interface in a timely fashion. The result has been, shall we say "intense conversations," with Wynn and Wynn Las Vegas President Marc Schorr striving to make certain points with their frontline people in the casino.

"A guy calls for a marker and it takes 20 minutes to get the paperwork," says a casino source. "By then people are tired of waiting and you have to chase them down."

Some frustrated employees have even thrown up their hands and left, even when they don’t have jobs to go back to.

But few people doubt it will all come together eventually. One of the worst openings in the recent history of the Strip was the 1993 debut of Luxor, but a decade later Luxor was part of the success story that made a Mandalay sale to MGM Mirage possible.

And Wynn has pointed out in the past that many problems with a project this size don’t become visible until after opening — some are anticipated and some are a complete surprise, Wynn has said.

Wynn also believes the endless hyping that preceded the hotel opening hoisted expectations to a ridiculous level.

In any case, even Wynn’s competition is rooting for all tthe "corrective surgery" to be completed as quickly as possible.

"Steve’s success is important to the entire Strip," says a senior official with another company.

NBC may seek
poker deal

NBC may go after the World Series of Poker if this past weekend’s telecast of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship from the Golden Nugget generated solid ratings.

Jon Miller, NBC’s man in charge of sports programming, declines comment on the possibility, which, by itself, is an interesting comment.

ESPN’s World Series of Poker contract expires with the completion of this year’s World Series in mid-June, so it’s not likely we’ll be getting much in the way of public comments.

But with the contract up for grabs this year and NBC showing a lot of interest and doing a very good job with its recent Nugget production, Harrah’s appears to be in the right place at the right time with a very hot brand.

Trop misses ”˜the list’

A Sunday commentary piece in a local newspaper suggested a 4,000-room development of the Las Vegas Tropicana is on the least-likely-to-happen list.

Wrong!

The location is so strong — Tropicana and the Strip is one of the busiest intersections in the world — that it will almost certainly happen.

The question is whether it will be done by Aztar Corp., or the next owner of the prime 34 acres.