Future looks bright for L.V.

Jan 30, 2001 7:01 AM

The future seems bright for Las Vegas, according to area businessmen.

Rossi Ralenkotter, marketing vice president for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, spoke about his current and future campaigns about bringing tourists to Las Vegas and the advertising campaign.

"Las Vegas provides freedom for people," he said. "We used our ‘Las Vegas freedom campaign’ with a parody of the election campaign."

The freedom campaign ads have been on television, radio and newspapers nationally. He added that three new TV spots were aired in 12 local markets during Super Bowl XXXV.

Currently, the "Desert Drive" is a spot ad connected with the freedom campaign. "Parkaman" hasn’t aired yet, but features a man who wants to escape to Las Vegas.

"We’re very excited about an integrated marketing blend," he said.

Ralenkotter expects 38.2 million visitors in 2002, based on room projections.

Gary Loveman, chief operating officer at Harrah’s Entertainment, talked about how Las Vegas gaming regulations could be a model for national reform. His two themes: software is beating out hardware; and the gaming industry is over-regulated. Loveman added it was foolish there is a public fear of gaming from regulations.

The gaming industry "is a safe, exciting activity," he said. "Our best customers are folks like your parents: older, retired, and not sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy."

Mark Suman, senior vice president for Las Vegas-based National Airlines, cited fuel costs as the reason it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December.

Jet fuel costs $1.15 a gallon today. When National initially took to the air in May 1999, it was 60 cents, Suman said.

Seminole pitch

For the past decade, the Seminole Indians of South Florida have been trying to get state approval for their gaming expansion plans. They’ve made some progress but not enough for full-fledged casinos.

Currently, the tribe has casinos that offer electronic pull tab and lotto machines, bingo and low-stakes poker with a $10 limit. That will change. Approval has been given by the Interior Department for high-stakes poker but not blackjack.

The Seminoles said they will accept the limited approval they received, but true casino-style gambling could make a significant financial impact at the tribe’s two new Hard Rock Café-themed casinos. They are being planned for Hollywood, Fla., and Tampa, Fla.

Work has begun on a $300 million casino in Hollywood.

Louisiana shuffle

Although supporters of a tax cut for the land-based Harrah’s New Orleans Casino hope to have a special session of the legislature meet to address that issue alone, other gambling supporters will try another approach.

Rep. Ronnie Johns said he will file legislation to permit dockside barge casinos in southwestern Louisiana. The bill, to be filed in early March in the hope that it will be considered by the special session expected to be called by Gov. Mike Foster, would permit existing riverboats, which technically are required to cruise, to replace these boats with permanent barges.

Johns said he believes that permanent barges would generate up to $100 million in extra annual revenue. The move would help replace the $50 million the legislature is expected to cut from the $100 million required annually from Harrah’s New Orleans.

Back on track

A casino in upstate New York was Arthur Goldberg’s dream when he was CEO of Park Place Entertainment Inc. (PPE). When he died last year, many thought the dream died with him.

"Not so," said Goldberg replacement Tom Gallagher. "That’s back on track."

Gallagher said the company has been meeting with the St. Regis Mohawks, in hoping to establish a tribal casino at the long-established Catskills resort called Kutsher’s. He added that he and his associates were working to finalize the agreement with the tribe and to prepare an application to be submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.