Water deep offshore on net gaming

Jan 30, 2001 6:54 AM

BEWARE OF DEEP WATER! "Especially," said a pipe, "if it’s the water offshore, as in offshore betting. The word coming out of Casino Central USA (Las Vegas) is that Sen. John Ashcroft will be the next attorney general.

"If so, look out for companies doing business with offshore operators. Ashcroft will hit hard as it relates to Internet betting operators who have been targeting gamblers in the U.S."

More pipe: "They got a pass under the (Bill) Clinton administration. They won’t with George W. Bush in the White House. Ashcroft may have

softened up on some of his ardent oppositions, but don’t expect gambling to be one of them. My casino sources tell me that Ashcroft will put teeth into the Internet Gambling Act. He will be assisted by the Justice Dept. and anti-gaming forces in both the House and Senate."

 ON TIME/ON BUDGET! And, says George Maloof, The Palms, now under construction on Flamingo Road, across the street from the Gold Coast, will be the cat’s pajamas.

"We are looking to open in December," Maloof told GamingToday. He has named Jim Hughes, formerly of Palace Station, as general manager. His team will also include some of the marketing crew from Fiesta, which he sold to Station Casinos (STN).

"I’m also looking for more help," he added.

At the same time, he explained that he would bring in Michael Morton and Scott Degraff to oversee lounges at the new resort. Both are basking in the sun of the highly successful NINE restaurant recently opened in Chicago. Both also formerly operated the nightclub Drink in Las Vegas.

More Maloof: "The Palms will be a complete resort, yet unique in the sense that it will be a hip place and will cater to locals and tourists alike. There will be 470 rooms and suites. The rooms will be quite large — between 450 and 550 square feet. And the suites will range in size up to 3,000 square feet."

 KILLING THE GOLDEN GOOSE? "Leave it to the politicians to mess things up, which they are about to do in Indiana," telephoned our Midwest rosebud.

"Competition has been pretty stiff for the riverboats in the northern part of the state, so they’ve been pressuring to get dockside approval, rather than those hurtful two-hour cruises.

"It sounded OK to the politicians, but typical of past behavior, when they give something they also want to take something for themselves. So last week, the Indiana House passed a bill approving dockside gaming, but added a provision that would boost the gaming tax from an onerous 20% to an overpowering 32%.

"No wonder all the riverboat operators have been sitting on their hands.

"However, they may be saved, after all. The governor is an anti-gambling zealot who may just veto the bill if it reaches his desk," the rosebud said.

 OUCH! The president of Midwest Game Supply Co. in Kearney, Mo., doesn’t think highly of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Midwest’s bread and butter is the making of dice — the ones that bounce across casino craps tables.

"Its main competitor is Las Vegas-based Paul-Son Gaming Corp. (PSON)," said a rosebud. "They are the market leader in dice, chips, playing cards, furniture and other casino products. Most of their manufacturing is done in Mexico. With lower Mexican and duty-free advantages of NAFTA, Midwest is having a tough time competing."

"Anyone who thinks NAFTA isn’t hurting American business is out of their tree," said Linda Sohm, president of Midwest.

 GETS OK! PDS Financial Corp. (PDSF) was given approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission last week to operate The Gambler casino in downtown Reno.

Plans at the site include expansion to the existing gaming operation and adding to the current under-utilized second floor of the property. The Las Vegas based company finances, leases, sells, manufactures and refurbishes gaming equipment for casinos.

 FIRST CHOICE! The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority selected Jeff Beckelman as its first choice to be president and chief executive officer of the authority. A special meeting was scheduled Tuesday to make it final.

Beckelman, 54, was vice president of sales and marketing for The Venetian hotel and Sands Expo center. He would replace Phil Keene, who was fired from his $180,000-a-year post last May for using authority credit cards for personal use.

 MY HOW THINGS CHANGE! Rick Springfield, who once avoided Las Vegas like the plague, is now the lead in MGM Grand’s $75 million production, EFX. He replaced Tommy Tune.

It was once widely circulated that Springfield would never play Vegas. Supposedly, the Valley of Dollars did not have a venue large enough for all of his many fans. At 51, it appears as if the rock star has mellowed. Are the venues larger or have his fans decreased?

 PLAYING PENNY ANTE! Forget the fractions that used to accompany the Wall Street stock prices as they flew across the ticker tape. It’s become a penny ante game.

As of Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, all stocks were trading with the decimal system, rather than fractions. From the investor’s point of view, the decimals probably will reduce some of the vigorish brokers used to price into a purchase or sale.

Example: "IBM opened at 114.69," said a TV talking head. "Nope, make that 114.71," corrected an associate.

Reminds us of good old Benny Franklin, who advised, "A penny saved is a penny earned." That’s about what you’ll get out of your broker, these days.