Foxwoods celebrates its ninth birthday

Feb 6, 2001 5:46 AM

Foxwoods Resort Casino, considered one of the most phenomenal success stories in all of gaming, celebrates its ninth anniversary Feb. 15 with a spectacular birthday party.

"This will be our way of thanking both our employees and our customers for the great ride they have provided us since that fateful day nine years ago when this property was born," said Bill Sherlock, Foxwoods president and CEO.

"No one could have imagined that the market would drive the growth of Foxwoods the way it has over the last nine years," he said. "It’s the envy of the industry. Without the dedication of our talented team members, this achievement would not have been possible."

Employees’ festivities will take place in the team member dining rooms with "great food and prizes." Radio Stations from New London, Conn., will broadcast live from both dining rooms.

At 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, Foxwoods will begin offering prizes through drawings, on the stage of the Atrium Nite Club. Free cake and coffee will be served.

"To top things off," said Tom Cantone, vice president of Foxwoods Entertainment Group, "Foxwoods" presents a free concert by the Magical Mystery Tour Friday, Feb. 16. The team members’ show will be at 7 p.m. and the patrons’ at 10 p.m." The Magical Mystery Tour presents music of The Beatles.

Chase is on

Gaming entrepreneur Jack Binion will have trouble finding a moment’s peace now that he has decided to sell his Empress Casino in Joliet, Ill.

Of course, the decision was forced on him by the Illinois Gaming Board members. They focused on some old allegations that had been investigated repeatedly by other jurisdictions, including Nevada.

Nonetheless, Binion will now preside over a bidding war by casinos operators, big and small, who are drooling over the prospects of entering the Midwest market with a successful property about 40 miles from Chicago.

And a bidding war it will be, with all four major casino companies — MGM MIRAGE, Harrah’s, Park Place and Mandalay Resort Group —fending off some of the smaller players in the industry. In addition, said a source, it would not be surprising if one or two of the more successful Native American casino operators enter the bidding fray. Some have put a figure of $450 million on the property, but bids may exceed that amount.

Another plum

On another front, the Illinois regulators caused another shuffling of chairs when it rejected former license holder Emerald Casinos’ hopes of being licensed to operate a riverboat in Chicago’s suburb of Rosemont.

Emerald had conducted a failed operation in East Dubuque and petitioned to be granted the state’s 10th licensed. The board rejected the application. That opened the door to an unlimited number of casinos and private casino operators to move in on Rosemont Mayor Donald E. Stephens. Many feel he will exert influence on those seeking the license.

Detroit’s due date

Time is running out on Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer’s plans to place all three licensed casinos in permanent facilities in the city’s Riverfront area.

The three operators — MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown — were granted licenses to operate temporary casinos for four years with the understanding they would build their permanent facilities in locations selected by city officials. The mayor’s choice was an area east of the Renaissance Center and south of Jefferson Avenue. But two years of negotiations have produced little or no results. Archer reportedly has until March to acquire the necessary land area for these casinos, primarily because some of the deals he has with property owners expire then.

Some area developers have proposed other uses for the property.

If the Riverfront idea evaporates, some activists suggest placing all three permanent casinos on the old Packard site. That would link the casinos with a motor race track and "would save the Detroit Grand Prix."

Gambling with booze

Park Place Entertainment Corp. (PPE), which stands to participate should New Hampshire put slots into racetracks, will be out of the picture if a state legislator has his way.

Ted Gatsas of Manchester proposes a two-year trial period of installing about 1,000 slot machines in the state-operated liquor stores.

"No grand hotels, no racetracks," he said in proposing his bill. "This is very similar to the way the sweepstakes started."

Actually, the 1964 New Hampshire lottery, the first in the 20th century for any jurisdiction within the U.S., began at the instigation of Rockingham Park.

It hoped to conduct an "Irish Sweepstakes" kind of promotion.

The Granite State has been struggling with the slot machine issue since it was determined that the traditional way of paying for education through high real estate taxes was unconstitutional.

Park Place Entertainment gained a 50% slot machine position in Rockingham Park when it bought Showboat.

The latter company had loaned track operators $8 million at 10% interest and the right to participate in any slot machine activity subsequently allowed.

More caution

Casino revenue growth could be severely impacted within the next two years by the expansion of gaming in California, according to a report from Nevada Gaming Control Board to the Nevada Legislature last week.

Speaking for the panel, Scott Sherer said that although the regulators don’t anticipate actual declines in total revenues, they feel that growth will flatten out substantially.

Total impact of creating Las Vegas-like casinos on California Indian reservations is not expected until 2003.

Cautious Approach

Despite glowing numbers reported for its fourth fiscal quarter, MGM MIRAGE (MGG) was still being viewed with caution by Wall Street gaming analysts last week.

Both Robin Farley of UBS Warburg and William Schmitt of CIBC World Markets retained their "hold" ratings for the company.

Schmitt said he had concerns "over the economy and MGG’s exposure to the Las Vegas market and, by extension, the Southern California market."

Farley said that when all was said and done, MGG was trading at 8.2 times EBITDA" (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), "while the (gaming) group average is at 6.8 times."

 Coast posts record revenues

Coast Resorts Inc. posted record revenues for the calendar and fiscal year ending Dec. 31, the company said Monday.

Quarterly revenues were inflated by the inclusion of the revenues from its newly opened Suncoast Hotel and Casino. It actually opened Sept. 12, but for the full year, revenues increased 15.7% to $419.5 million compared to $362 million in 1999.

"We had record years at both the Gold Coast and The Orleans," said Harlan Braaten, president and COO. "The Barbary Coast enjoyed its best year since 1992, and we successful opened the Suncoast."

Last month, the company announced a $100 million expansion plan for The Orleans. It will be completed in phases through 2002.

California growing

"Go West," was the advice of executives from Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) who spoke Monday at the 2001 Global Leveraged Finance Conference hosted by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Harrah’s noted factors the company felt would impact gaming growth through the year 2005:

  • The number of available licenses is slowing.
  • There will be limited market growth over the next five years.
  • Supply will be increased minimally in the secondary markets.
  • There are financial barriers to entering the marketplace.
  • California is the only market where supply will increase significantly.

As for the industry as a whole, Harrah’s said there were "excellent fundamentals" to encourage current players in the various marketplaces.

Kerzner pitches Hawaii

In the midst of divesting itself of the Resort Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City, Sun International (SIH) is looking to motivate Hawaii to join the other 48 gambling states in America.

Only Utah and Hawaii have avoided all possible gambling — from lotteries to pari-mutuel tracks to slots to full-fledged casinos.

That would change if Butch Kerzner, president of Sun International and son of the founder Sol Kerzner, succeeds. He has been lobbying Hawaii’s governor to look kindly on an $800 million gaming resort at Ko Olina. Kerzner entertained Gov. Ben Cayetano and other Hawaiian guests at Sun International’s spectacular Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Kerzner, an MBA holder from Stanford University, said the development would be a natural for Hawaii.

"Gaming would be just one element…it is just part of the experience," he said when asked about the proposal. "The market is primed for this kind of a destination … There is a real opportunity to develop a product that will catch the Japanese market."

Doubts were expressed that Kerzner could convince the Legislature to approve gambling.

Fulton donation

Stan Fulton, founder and former chairman of Anchor Gaming (SLOT) and now owner of Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in New Mexico, has contributed $2.2 million toward building a sports medicine complex. The contribution, to be made in three separate gifts over several months, will be for building and operating a facility to provide treatment and therapeutic rehabilitation areas, hydrotherapy, classrooms for sports medicine, and offices for its staff.

While at Anchor Gaming, Fulton donated $6 million to build the UNLV Gaming Institute.