Brunson ‘offer’ still an enigma

Aug 2, 2005 3:57 AM

Although it’s been three weeks since Doyle Brunson’s mysterious bid/non-bid to purchase the World Poker Tour, there’s no sign that anyone is interested in unearthing the story behind the story.

Conversely, lots of people — some of them very highly placed — appear very interested in not being caught anywhere near this story.

I was surprised at the number of big names who had their assistants call to say they would not be available to discuss it.

It could have something to do with the casino industry’s reluctance to be caught anywhere near an issue that involves Internet gaming.

Or there could be an SEC investigation in the offing in the wake of WPT’s bump in stock prices on news of the now-questionable offer to purchase.

With no official comment from the principles involved, I checked in with one of the respected high-limit pros for insight on what has or may be happening.

He didn’t give it a lot of thought before responding: "I know both of these guys (Brunson and Lyle Berman, whose Lakes Entertainment owns more than 60 percent of the WPT stock) and the SEC is almost certainly going to be taking a close look at this, so I don’t see that I have much to gain by being quoted in any publication right now."

Not exactly Deep Throat, but we’ll keep probing.

Harrah’s takes
swig of Bourbon

Harrah’s has purchased property around its just-acquired Flamingo Hotel & Casino through a no-name subsidiary.

The property includes the Bourbon Street casino on Flamingo Road, Battista’s Hole in the Wall restaurant on Audrie Street and several stores.

This move obviously makes it less likely there will be a sale of the Flamingo. Rather, the land could be used to create an impressive gateway to the Flamingo.

On the Strip, Harrah’s has taken what looks like a so-far-unsuccessful shot at buying the Imperial Palace with its 18 acres between the Strip and Koval Road to the east.

And, of course, it is well-known that Harrah’s wants to purchase the Barbary Coast, but there’s no sign that its new owner, Boyd Gaming, is interested in selling.

Aztar eyes
Penn slots

Look for Aztar resort bosses to bid for one of the Pennsylvania slot licenses before they get around to redeveloping in Las Vegas.

Officials are still reluctant to disclose plans for the 34 acres that is the site of the Tropicana. There’s enough land there to build a second hotel and casino, but they have made it clear that they would like to bid for one of the slot licenses in Pennsylvania.

"We think there are some attractive market opportunities," chairman Bob Haddock says of the latter.

A Pennsylvania license is generally viewed as a nice complement to Aztar’s Atlantic City Boardwalk operation.

MGM tightens belt

How does MGM Mirage expect to spend the cash that will be generated over the next year or so before the big spending required by its CityCenter development?

President Jim Murren says to look for a "balance" between debt reduction ("That’s a priority"), share repurchases and growth initiatives.

High rollers
hit the Strip

The second quarter saw Las Vegas Strip revenues increase as Wynn Las Vegas opened, but other properties serving the high-end trade did not suffer.

Mandalay Bay, for instance, posted the highest baccarat drop in the history of the property. Adjusted earnings per share by MGM Mirage for the second quarter were 46 cents, the highest in its history. At the Bellagio, slot revenue for the quarter exceeded $40 million, the first time that level has ever been reached.

Illinois back
on track

Illinois casino companies have what they wanted — "a healthier operating environment" — what with the rollback of taxes and casino boarding fees.

But Penn National Chairman Peter Carlino warns industry watchers about expecting immediate "dramatic changes" in his company’s casinos there.

It takes time, he says, to reap the results of refocused marketing programs to reach the bigger, broader audience that was not previously profitable because of the higher tax rates.

The Penn boss says there’s no "magical process" for simply turning on a faucet to increase revenues. Look for a "slow growth process, but it is nice that we now have the ability to run our business more aggressively. That’s good for us and it will be good for the state."

CBS to go ”˜all-in’

CBS will reportedly join the growing roster of television networks with an interest in big time poker. The nature of the CBS product is not known yet, but the interest is easy to understand.

NBC hit a home run with its airing of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship, and is now negotiating to film its second Heads-Up event in Las Vegas, at either the Golden Nugget or Caesars Palace.

ESPN and the Discovery cable channels have done just as well with the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour, respectively.