Olive branch or a Trojan horse?

Sep 27, 2005 7:31 AM

American Gaming Association Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf expects to meet with the NCAA official in charge of gaming matters amid signs that efforts to prohibit Nevada bookies from taking bets on college games is dead.

There is "no indication" now, Fahrenkopf said, that the issue is going to resurface. "There are some very, very positive signs," he continued. "There is new leadership at the NCAA and that leadership is new all the way through."

NCAA officials have said they want to "re-establish a working relationship with Nevada sports books."

Fahrenkopf expects to meet with the individual in charge of gaming matters in Washington some time in the next few weeks.

"It seems to me," he said, "that our message finally got through to them that we are not the problem, we are the solution. We are like the canary in the mine shaft, the first ones to be able to recognize whether something is wrong in a betting pattern."

Fahrenkopf hopes the upcoming meeting will help bring to an end the effort to shut down legal betting on college events.

Tax relief for
ravaged casinos

Gaming’s biggest companies have much of their attention focused on Capital Hill, where industry lobbyists have had no trouble getting quick action on various hurricane relief packages.

Fahrenkopf says the action last week and this week by lawmakers included tax relief.

"What we’re working on are the Katrina relief packages that will deal with the question of tax credits to our companies for employee continuation and support packages," Fahrenkopf said. "This is to be followed by packages dealing with re-construction and how they can assist businesses that were wiped out, how they can rebuild and get back on their feet."

No one is wasting time with this effort. The first package zipped through Congress and has probably been signed by the president by press time.

"They’re not even having any committee meetings. They’re just throwing it together and having conferences," Fahrenkopf says.

At the time of this discussion it was not known what problems Rita might cause, but Fahrenkopf’s point was that there’s no foot-dragging from either side of the aisle on efforts to get relief to where it is needed.

Nugget closing set

Tim Poster is ready to turn over his top floor corner office at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street to Tilman Fertitta as the time for the transfer of the Nugget to publicly traded Landry’s Restaurants nears.

Perhaps Tilman, the Landry’s chairman, will use the space for an expansion of suites, a project Poster had in mind before the Houston-based Fertitta made Poster and partner Tom Breitling an offer they could not refuse for the Nuggets on Fremont and in Laughlin.

But Poster expects to be back in the gaming business, probably in the Las Vegas area, and as soon as possible. It’s in his blood, is what he has said to insiders.

With members of the Gaming Commission scheduled to act on the Landry’s deal this week and the closing shortly thereafter, Poster is understandably not ready to talk about his next venture.

But he expects downtown Las Vegas to continue to get a lot of attention from people who want an affordable point of entry as real estate prices on the Strip soar toward $20 million an acre and beyond. "Downtown offers an attractive and more affordable alternative," he said.

Fertitta has said he’s not going to make the same effort to attract high-rollers that Poster and Breitling did, instead opting for a focus on the middle-class clientele that has made his chain of restaurans a big success.

One of the marketing projects destined for the Nugget is a poker reality show that will put eight or nine invited poker pros at a table for an extended high-end poker game. The show is earmarked for one of the cable networks.

No, Steve, not
the golf course!

Steve Wynn may eventually rip up his brand new golf course and turn it into a high-density development.

But don’t look for the grass to be uprooted anytime soon.

For the moment he has the best of both worlds, a high-end resort hotel and a championship course. It’s something pretty to look at from one of the upper story windows at Wynn Las Vegas. The same point will apply once the Encore project is complete north of Wynn.

Wynn appears to be fully focused on Encore’s design. It will connect to Wynn — something like the Paris/Bally’s complex — giving the combined hotels a very broad reach along the Strip at a time when every resort of significance in the neighborhood is striving to heighten its Strip profile.

So why rip up an attraction that, for the moment, provides a marketing edge? It’s probably easier to market two resorts over looking a world-class course than it is to market the same two resorts overlooking a lot of high-rise glass and concrete.

Elaine Wynn some months ago rhetorically asked, "What would New York be without Central Park? The golf course is our Central Park."

Let’s see how Wynn feels about that a year or two down the line as Encore and the Macau casino advance toward their respective openings, and there is time for him to re-think about what comes next. It could only take him a New York-minute to decide to level "Central Park west."