Good news helps Las Vegas
Sands avoid Monday’s slump

Nov 28, 2006 4:31 AM

Wall Street investors cringed Monday as most market indices went south but not those who had bet on Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) and that company’s developments in the Chinese enclave of Macau.

Two favorable reports boosted the first U.S.-based gaming company to establish itself in Macau: first, a government report that said visitor arrivals in October rose 19.6% from a year earlier to 2 million, and second, an analyst note from Larry Klatzkin of Jefferies & Co. who raised his price target for the LVS shares to $124.50 from $87.50.

Alas, the euphoria that had driven the share price to $$96.97 earlier in the trading day, succumbed to what became Black Monday and closed at $93.10.

Klatzkin said he had decided to include in his evaluation of Las Vegas Sands its Macau real estate holdings including the 2,000 acres it owns on Hengqin Island.

"Ultimately," he wrote in a client’s note, "Hengqin Island will complement Cotai with its eight square kilometers of hotels, retail, golf courses, marinas, vacation homes and other amenities."

He reaffirmed a "buy" rating on LVS and said it is still one of his top picks.

Macau officials noted that the enclave had received 17.9 million visitors in the January-October period, an increase of 15.9% over the same period of 2005. They predicted that the gambling industry would continue to boost tourism for the area, particularly when Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) and MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) finish building massive shopping, hotel and resort complexes.

That report, however, failed to help the shares of WYNN and MGM, in Monday’s trading. WYNN was down $1.36 at $88.66 per share while MGM finished at $53.92, down $0.30 per share.

Official quits

Timothy Lockinger, chief financial officer, secretary and treasurer of American Wagering, Inc., and a member of the company’s board of directors, has advised the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that he has given the company a 30-day termination notice.

Lockinger said he told the company he was terminating his employment agreement that became effective on June 28, 2002, and was scheduled to expire on Jan. 31, 2009.

The agreement provided a salary arrangement of $150,000 per year, plus bonuses and other benefits. Also, the pact specified that Lockinger would be entitled to a termination benefit of three times his annual salary, or $450,000, if he claimed the termination was for "good reason."

The company disputed the "good reason" claim and charged that Lockinger was not entitled to the termination payments.

Lockinger did not elaborate on his "good reason" claim.

License hearings

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has been traveling cross-state to hear applicants in their bids for stand-alone slots licenses that the state plans to issue.

Initially, the board heard applicants for the Philadelphia-area license that brought out a number of well-known personalities. Among them were actor Sylvester Stallone, actor Bruce Willis, music producer Quincy Jones, entrepreneur Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television; basketball legend Michael Jordan and hotel/casino mogul Donald Trump.

For the Pittsburgh hearings, board members heard from representatives of gaming enterprises including Don Barden, casino operator in Gary, Ind., and downtown Las Vegas, and from the country’s largest casino company, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) whose partner is Forest City Enterprises, a major Cleveland, Ohio, real estate developer.

Major re-opening

After a $16 million makeover to undue the damage suffered at the hands of Hurricane Katrina, Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans was re-opened last week by owner, Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN).

Returning to its annual tradition of opening on Thanksgiving Day, Fair Grounds greeted some 9,000 fans, many of whom were forced last year to attend a back-up race meeting at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs because the New Orleans facility suffered severe damage.

Among the celebrities attending the opening day festivities were singer/actor Harry Connick, Jr., and his father, retired Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, and Louisiana native Jake Delhomme, the Carolina Panthers quarterback whose father, Jerry, trains a stable of horses at the race meeting.

Appointments

Retiring Gov. Kenny Guinn didn’t wait until the last minute to name his chief of staff, Keith Munro, to replace Bobby Siller on the Nevada Gaming Control Board whose term expires on Dec. 31.

Munro, 41, a former deputy attorney general, held other posts in the governor’s office before becoming chief of staff.

Re-appointed to another four-year term on the board was Chairman Dennis Neilander, who already has served two four-year terms on the gaming board.

THE INSIDER: Columbia Sussex has received the approval of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to purchase Aztar Corp. (AZR).

Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS) has signed a letter of intent to purchase Games Media Ltd., a British company that manufactures "Amusement with Prizes" machines.

Sumner Redstone, an investor in WMS Industries (WMS) since the mid-1990s, has amended his proxy agreement to grant his voting proxy for the company’s stock to Brian Gamache, president, CEO, from the previous WMS executive, Neil Nicastro.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) is among 29 applicants for a British gaming license that have received initial approval from Britain’s Gambling Commission. The U.S. company hopes to enter Britain’s growing gaming colony by acquiring London Clubs International.

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK) hopes to get a local option referendum before the voters of Baton Rouge Parish on May 5 for its plan to locate a riverboat casino in Baton Rouge.

Also, Pinnacle Entertainment has announced it has retained Carl Zeitz, a former N.J. gaming regulator, as a consultant as it enters the Atlantic City gaming market.

Melco PBL Entertainment, the joint venture between James Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd. and Lawrence Ho’s Melco International Development Ltd. has announced it will provide an initial public offering for $1 billion on the Nasdaq next month.

Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) has declared an annual dividend of $0.50 per share to be paid on Jan. 24, 2007 to shareholders of record on Dec. 28.

The owners of the Greektown Casino in Detroit, Mich., have asked gaming regulators to delay by 12 months their requirement that the private operators build a permanent facility for a proposed $675 million.