Pillow Talk for Gamblers

February 06, 2001 5:39 AM
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PILLOWS FOR GAMBLERS ONLY! It could only happen in New Orleans. When Harrah’s Entertainment (HET) threatened to take a hike from being a taxpayer in Louisiana with its land-based casino in New Orleans, Jazz City pols began rocking. It didn’t take them long to cut back the tax bite (nearly in half). But when the casino company also insisted on hotel rooms and dining facilities, the rocking began.

Since its inception, the New Orleans casino has been forbidden from installing hotel rooms and/or restaurants to feed its players. The New Orleans Hotel Association is not without power. They didn’t want competition from the casino.

Cleverly, someone put out the word — Cajun style — that maybe the city should build a 1,500-room hotel. It is not certain if that is what brought the hoteliers to the bargaining table. Something did. And now the word is that Harrah’s can build a 150-room hotel. It is not certain if that is what brought the hoteliers to the bargaining table. Something did. And now the word is that Harrah’s can build a 150-room hotel to be used only by its players. The food request is still being debated.

When the hotel is built, will there be someone handing out pillows for gamblers only?

TAKE OUT THE SOUTHPAW! A pipe who’s in the casino pipeline told an amazing story about a rumble at Caesars Palace that didn’t sit well with the hierarchy.

For what it’s worth: "A left-handed blackjack dealer was yanked from dealing a double-deck game to a high roller recently at Caesars. It just so happens that the player himself is a southpaw. When he asked why the dealer was taken off the game, he was told, ‘They may not have liked the way southpaws pick up the cards at the end of a hand. Sometimes it’s easy to catch the hole card. Or, maybe a superstition took over: a southpaw pitching to a high roller.’

"When the smoke cleared, I heard a casino honcho who put the rule in place was spared. But the incident may have played a part in still a higher head being cut off."

DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE! With shoes made for walking, Jack Binion has made a deal in Illinois to walk away from his riverboat in Joliet.

The buzz is, he may have already made a deal with a buyer. Who? Take your pick. — MGM MIRAGE (MGG) or Park Place Entertainment (PPE).

In telling about strong quarterly earnings last week, top gun Terry Lanni indicated that the Chicago area now makes sense. The riverboats in Illinois are no longer floating; they’re dockside casinos. And, to boot, Illinois has limited its casino licensing to 10 operators.

Recall, years ago when Chicago area casinos were being talked about Lanni expressed an interest and lobbied for a limited license.

If MGG is not the successful bidder, Park Place certainly figures prominently. The company had previously talked to Binion about buying the property.

MAGIC MAN NOT TALKING! Robbie Knievel, son of Evel Knievel, wanted to ride a motorcycle out of a top floor window at the Desert Inn as it was being imploded. So it has been written. Moreover, it has been whispered that Fox Television would broadcast the dramatic event, but could find no room in its schedule. It is also being rumored that Steve Wynn wanted the event to be staged in May.

Whether or not it’s true that Wynn ever entertained such an idea is not known. And so, the story — true or false — continues to make the rounds. One thing for sure — it’s getting a lot of ink.

WAS HE PRICKING HIS EARS? "Not at all," said casino executive Dan Chandler, "his ears were pinned back and he went right to the wire, an easy winner!"

Chandler was talking about his namesake, Handlerthechandler. He won going a mile Sunday at Santa Anita Park.

More Chandler: "Could he be Kentucky Derby material come the first Saturday in May? Why not? He won going two turns at first asking."

Mike Pegram, owner of the horse, named the colt in honor of Chandler.

"He says I can handle everything I throw at him, thus the name," Chandler explained.

Pegram owns a powerful stable of horses. Bob Baffert is the trainer. As for Pegram, he’s a frequent Las Vegas visitor who enjoys testing his luck whenever he can. And — you guessed it, Chandler handles his accommodations.

BEING ON THE EDGE! Don Marrandino, captain of the ship at Sunset Station (also Boulder Station and the newly acquired Reserve), enjoys being first to introduce the latest slots games. Presently, Aristocrat Gaming, a newcomer in the Nevada casino industry, has eight units of its newest game, Penguin Pays, on trial at the site.

"From what I can tell," Marrandino said, "the test is being well received by patrons. I know people at Aristocrat are in the casino, drawing out comments from the customers. That’s always a good sign!"

LEGENDARY SPORTS BETTOR Abraham Rabinovitz, best known as Yoccum, crossed the finish line in his hometown, Cleveland. He was 94.

"He is one of the last of the legendary bettors," said Herb "Speedy" Newman, a well-known player. "He came to town (Las Vegas) in the good old days with the likes of Moe Dalitz and bet with both fists. He was a gentleman. He will be missed."

HARVARD LAW SCHOOL has expressed an interest in the controversy brewing between Nevada legal betting parlors and the NCAA. The prestigious tower of higher learning is putting a debate panel together on the subject of banning sports betting in the USA. I hear that Brian Sandoval, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, will take part in the debate.

Hmmm! I wonder if the NCAA will send a panel member?

The debate is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the New England campus.

POWER OF THE PRESS! Barron’s, the financial weekly, put a knock on Las Vegas-based PurchasePro.com (PPRO) over the weekend and the stock took an awful wallop when trading began on Monday.

After being down almost 4½ points, the stock’s price rose a little at the market close to finish at $21.50, down $3.63 for the day.

The Barron’s article really riled analyst Christin Armacost of SG Cowen.

She screamed that the "article misses the mark; does not present any new info and misrepresents several facts." She immediately reiterated her "strong buy" recommendation.

HOW BIG A GAMBLE IS IT? For gaming executive Jack Binion, who’s being forced to sell his Joliet, Ill., riverboat operation, the gamble doesn’t even exist.

"You know, the regulators may be doing Jack a favor," said a pipe in the know. "Early press reports indicated the property might bring $430 million. But with the announcement made and the telephone ringing, the bidding war could shoot the price through the roof.

More pipe: "One gaming analyst, Robin Farley of UBS Warburg, is already estimating the sale could push toward the $500 million mark. That would leave Jack with a lot of pocket change to do a deal elsewhere. It certainly would ease the building of a new gaming complex in Shreveport, La., if he gets that state’s 15th and last operating license. That property would enhance his big winner across the river in Bossier City.

"But who’s to say that Jack might not find his way back ‘home’ to Las Vegas?"