Harrah’s may sell Gulf Coast Palace

Nov 29, 2005 3:35 AM

Look for the Imperial Palace to be sold as recovery plans continue taking shape on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Harrah’s might have snapped it up when it bought the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas as part of a pre-Katrina bid to boost real estate holdings along the Strip.

But Harrah’s already had casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport. How could its people know those properties would be mangled by the summer storms?

IP founder Ralph Engelstad was interested in selling the casinos even before his death several years ago. He explained his thought processes on the matter during a conversation in his office. There’s no indication since then that his family has any more interest in hanging onto them at a time when circumstances appear to have dealt the Engelstads a chance for a quick sale.

Who might be interested in buying? Any company that would otherwise be facing a lengthy rebuilding process and is already licensed in Mississippi. For that matter, it could be any buyer wanting to get into action in a hurry.

And with U.S. 90 in bad shape, the IP’s location off I-110 is a big plus.

Wireless on tap

Nevada casino regulators may begin testing remote or mobile gambling devices early in the new year.

Proposed regulations got another public airing at a workshop in Carson City and may go to the Gaming Control Board and then on to the Gaming Commission for final action in January.

Several companies "are in a rush to get to market" with devices of one kind or another, but none is better positioned than Cantor Fitzgerald, the U.K. company whose interest sparked the process leading to the enabling legislation and the regulations nearing finalization.

Cantor already has an office open in Las Vegas and has hired Ron Rushin from Mandalay Bay and Eric Freed from the Wynn organization to spearhead the Cantor marketing effort in Nevada.

Different companies have different views about how to exploit the advantages offered by this technology but Cantor expects to offer a mostly full range of casino activities from slot machines to blackjack.

A senior gaming executive who would rather not be identified for the moment thinks the most logical use would be in locales such as showrooms, bars and restaurants, thereby minimizing a player’s "down time."

An MGM executive speculates that once the industry satisfies itself about security concerns, the logical use of remote wagering units might best be utilized in sports and race books.

The idea in either case is to make is to make it possible for customers to spend money in more than one place at a time.

How quickly is Cantor ready to move into other jurisdictions?

Quite quickly, says Cantor executive Joe Asher, who explains that the company’s game plan was to first of all get its approach to expanded gaming licensed and running in Nevada before moving on to other jurisdictions such as Atlantic City, Indian casinos and all the possibilities that the rest of the U.S. offers.

"After all," Asher says, "Nevada is the capital of the gaming business. If we can be successful in Nevada than we can do a good job anywhere."

Asher first met with gaming attorney Bob Faiss almost two years ago. Faiss took Asher to Neilander with the result that Faiss subsequently spearheaded efforts to get the necessary enabling action through the Legislature.

Barrick Gaming COO Phil Flaherty says the gaming business is at the beginning of something big as it heads toward the introduction of wireless technology proposed by Cantor and others.

"The thing to keep in mind," he says, "is that this kind of technology may be new to gaming but it is not new to the rest of the world."