Survey says that the felt is greener in Las Vegas

Jan 17, 2001 2:39 AM

"Go West, casino executives!" That advice comes from a survey by Bristol Associates of industry leader attitudes on location, location, location.

Las Vegas is the gaming Mecca, earning four times as many votes as Mississippi among the 152 executives queried. As a place to live, Las Vegas and California combined "dwarf all others in perceived desirability," the survey found.

Most important to those surveyed was base pay. Bonus pay was second; location, third. Other findings:

"Casinos in the South and Midwest were perceived to have the brightest future, but few respondents prefer to live there.

Only about a dozen of those surveyed "favored the Atlantic City region as a place to live, while 20 percent believe it has a bright future."

Detroit casinos rev up revenue

The Motor City’s three casinos had adjusted revenue of $743 million last year, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board:

MGM Grand $396.8 million

MotorCity Casino $315.7 million

Greektown $30.6 million

The year-end report notes that Greektown only opened in November.

Riverboats take in $1.65 billion

In their first full year of operation, Illinois riverboats posted $1.65 billion in revenues. Elgin’s Grand Victoria racked up $386 million; Harrah’s Joliet operation, $280.8 million; Empress (also in Joliet) $235.4 million; Aurora Hollywood, $217.4 million. Casinos in East St. Louis, East Peoria, Alton, Metropolis and Rock Island tallied another $537 million among them.

Kansas City’s a hot market

Gamblers at Kansas City’s four casinos took in $998 million before taxes, wages and other expenses last year. That’s $60 million more than the preceding year, in spite of the state’s $500 loss limit.

Industry watchers said frigid December weather kept the win from topping the $1 billion mark. They noted that local gamblers also dropped $49 million playing Missouri and Kansas lotteries in the seven-county metropolitan region.

Turnberry Place

Tower One at Turnberry Place is complete, and closing on individual residences have begun. It is anticipated that all 185 residences in Tower One will be closed by the end of February.

Approximately 75 percent of those who have purchased a condominium at Turnberry Place are from out-of-state, according to Turnberry Place Vice President of Sales John Riordan.

While Tower One at the $600 million luxury community is sold out, 130 of the 175 residences in Tower Two have also been sold. Tower Two is currently under construction with completion scheduled for spring 2002.

Tower Three will be introduced to the market this month.

Fresh dates

PH Casino Resorts, an affiliate of Harveys Casino Resorts, has delayed its acquisition date of Pinnacle Entertainment two weeks, to Jan. 31. Pinnacle owns and runs seven casinos (four with hotels) in Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana and Argentina. Pinnacle was formerly known as Hollywood Park Inc. (HPK). PH Casino Resorts last week was marketing $625 million in bonds, the largest junk bond sale in the past three months.

MGM Mirage has scheduled its annual shareholders meeting for May 1. Time and location will be announced in proxy materials being mailed April 6.

Bunnies snagged in London

The 20-year absence of Playboy Bunnies from the London scene may be extended even further. Hilton’s casinos there were sold to privately owned Gala Group in December, but the sale did not include a Hilton-Playboy Enterprises deal signed nine months earlier for a Playboy-brand casino in London’s West End.

Gala chief executive John Kelly said he will meet soon with Playboy agents, but he was not sure if there were "compelling economic reasons to take on a project of this nature." Neither did Gala’s pre-Christmas acquisition of Ladbroke casinos include any Hilton-Playboy agreement, Kelly added.

Reach for a star

Some residents of White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia want to reclaim a star the historic Greenbrier lost in the Mobil Travel Guide. It had a five-star rating for 38 years. They defeated a proposal for a casino in the resort. "It was never a campaign against The Greenbrier hotel, said Anti-Casino Coalition spokesman Mike Queen. "It was always a campaign against the expansion of gambling in West Virginia."

The hotel lost a star last year because its furniture was aging, it didn’t provide radios, purchase TV stands or install bathroom telephones.

Doubling down

The Rincon Band of Mission Indians plans to more than double the Casino’s gaming area, just opened in a temporary facility.

San Diego County’s newest casino has 759 slot machines and two snack bars, no card tables or restaurants. It cost $14 million. There were 1,600 gamblers inside at its Thursday opening, and lines waiting outside.

With only 35,000 square feet in the casino, it is less than a third the size of its county rivals Barona, Sycuan and Viejas. Rincon and Viejas are the only two tribal casinos in the county with state liquor licenses. Rincon is building a $100 million, 200-room Harrah’s hotel-casino, scheduled to open next year.

The Barona Indian band, meanwhile, opened its $12 million, 18-hole par-72 course last week. Only 90 of its 250 acres are sodded; the rest is natural terrain.

Megabucks and more jackpots

U.S. Airways flight attendant Cynthia Malinoski became an instant millionaire Friday night when she hit a Megabucks jackpot for $9.3 million at Harrah’s Las Vegas Casino & Hotel on the Strip.

The Mississauga, Ontario, resident had played "about $15" on the machine when it hit. She is the 55th major jackpot winner in Megabucks 13 years.

Elvis was really in the building at the Argosy Casino riverboat in Missouri when a player hit the progressive jackpot for $1.99 million. The winner, who chose to remain anonymous, said he didn’t know how big he hit when the three Elvis systems lined up on the IGT machine’s pay line.

A bingo manager was off duty when he lined up B-I-N-G-O on a Casino Data System machine at Sparks’ Rail City Casino. He had invested about $20 before he jackpotted for $657,757.

Big year

It was a big year for Shuffle Master Inc. (SHFL), the Las Vegas-based designer of gaming devices and systems. For the fiscal year ending Oct. 31, the company earned 75 cents per diluted share, up from 30 cents the preceding year. SHFL recently completed a 3-2 stock split. Chairman and CEO Joe Lahti said fourth quarter earnings were 22 cents a share, compared to a loss of two cents a share the year before.

Strip plans

There will be fewer construction cranes on the Las Vegas Strip with the casino resort-building boom slowing, but the cranes will still be nesting.

Park Place Entertainment president and CEO Thomas Gallagher says there will be "imaginative things in front of Bally’s in the next few years." That space is now taken up by decorative pedestrian ramps.

Bob Haddock, executive vice president and CFO of Aztar Corp., says plans are being studied for an addition to its Tropicana resort, but he gives no details.

A major retail center will be built, linking Mandalay Bay and Luxor, according to Mandalay Bay Resort Group president and CFO Glenn Schaeffer. "We control 80 acres of ”˜beachfront’ (vacant) property on the Las Vegas Strip, but have no plans for it."

Recent buyers of 77 acres across from Mandalay Bay are trying to lure resort developers, including Virgin Atlantic entrepreneur Richard Branson, with a London-themed pitch. "I hope they find someone," said Schaeffer.

Off the Las Vegas Strip, George Maloof Jr.’s 400-room Palms hotel-casino is scheduled to open in December, across Flamingo Road from the Rio and Gold Coast. At 42 stories, it will be one story taller than the Rio.