Binion’s in dire
need of a makeover

Apr 10, 2007 3:21 AM

The former Horseshoe, as most Las Vegans still think of it, faces serious issues.

If the casino that traces its roots back to the early 1950s were likened to an accident victim, people would be rushing it to the intensive care ward for some serious life support.

The issue is money.

Gaming Control Board sources say Binion’s Gambling Hall does not appear to have taken the steps (toward a turn-around) that were promised when the West Virginia-based MTR Racing headed by Ted Arneault was licensed as owner following the purchase from Harrah’s.

Some 200 new slots sat in storage for months because the money necessary to install the proper interfaces had not been spent.

And have you seen those restrooms? It’s not a pretty picture.

A source at another company describes Arneault as a "micromanager" who has kept most serious decisions out of the hands of local managers.

The firm in charge of marketing the Horseshoe is based in New Jersey and answers to Arneault in West Virginia.

So, what should the Horseshoe be doing?

The neighboring Golden Nugget is an example of one very nice answer.

Perhaps Arneault and MTR cannot afford the kind of spending Landry’s Chairman Tilman Fertitta has invested at the Nugget.

But just about anything would be better than the current situation.

MTR’s Las Vegas chief of operations Bill Robinson did not respond to calls for his comments.

Wynn: Macau’s steep
learning curve

Steve Wynn was thinking about Macau, all he’s seen and all he’s experienced there. He was saying, "I don’t think we’ve ever been on as steep a learning curve in my whole 40 years in this business."

There’s been a long list of what he thinks of as learning experiences. Managing the inventory of rooms is one example. The Wynn Macau opened with 440 standard rooms and 160 suites.

How should they be filled? It was a question that Wynn has said required some careful thinking about the interests of the expected customer base.

"We did not mount a big resort advertising campaign. We wanted to see during the first 90 days we were open what the demand for suites would be from our high-end customers ”¦

"So we deliberately backed off from doing the kinds of things we do in Las Vegas."

They purposely kept the rooms empty. There was no underwriting of the occupancy as might be done with a 3,000-room facility in Las Vegas. With (only) 600 rooms, success depended on who was staying in the rooms.

"It was aggravating," Wynn said, "to watch how the junket agents and the VIP room folks and the VIP customers would change their minds every five minutes.

"So you take 160 suites and you always keep about half of them available because you really don’t know where you stand every day."

That’s the sort of thing that can make a numbers-crunching analyst shift uncomfortably. Couldn’t the rooms be sold?

The answer was yes, but ”¦

It’s one example of the factors to keep in mind as Las Vegas and Macau numbers have been stacked up next to each other for comparison purposes.

As time goes by, Wynn believes the similarities will outnumber the differences as people become aware of the changes taking shape on Macau.

"Maybe what we’re learning," Wynn adds, "is that human behavior is not all that different from culture to culture.

"You’ve got to hand it to the Chinese," he continued. "They decided they wanted to alter the market peacefully and quietly, but dramatically, and change it to a destination resort. You may not see it if you look at what’s happening with a microscope."

But back away far enough to take in what Wynn thinks of as the big picture and the change is obvious. There is an unmistakable and growing appetite for the look and feel of a destination resort as Macau transcends its past.

Brit casinos on
shaky ground

The very real prospect of British Chancellor Gordon Brown succeeding Tony Blair at No. 10 Downing Street during the next couple of months appears to "put plans in doubt" for Parliament taking another look at the revised gambling UK regs.

This is the view of a senior official with one of the Las Vegas companies hoping to take advantage of relaxed casino rules that would have permitted 16 regional casinos and one "super casino."

The executive said Brown is no fan of the casino business. He’s called for big tax hikes.

Gaming leaders were disappointed by the recent House of Lords vote that rejected casinos despite earlier approval in the House of Commons.