Regulators to revisit cell phone ban

April 29, 2008 7:02 PM
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Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener | Nevada casino regulators are preparing for a May 23 Las Vegas workshop when they will look for public input on proposals that could have them lightening up on the rules for the use of cell phones and private gaming salons.

The idea is to make these regs mesh with the realities of a changing world. Cell phones in the hands of race and sports book patrons were perceived as a menace that would facilitate illegal wagering when they came on the scene in a big way during the early 1980s.

Gaming regulators eventually passed rules that prohibited the use of the phones in books. They could imagine bettors using the then-new technology to discuss sports across state lines and compare lines at books up and down the Strip. Few people then had any inkling of the big world we would come to know as the Internet.

Tracking varying betting lines no longer requires people, their cell phones in hand, or scurrying from casino to casino. Also, most of the men and women in a casino at any given time for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with wagering on anything probably have a phone in a pocket or purse.

The world is a changing place.

A Las Vegas man was sitting in the sports book lounge visiting with a friend at the Suncoast recently, his phone on the table, when he got a call from his daughter. Answering the call, he had not been on the phone 30 seconds when he was approached by a security person who said he could not use the phone in the lounge.

He explained that his back was to the sports book area and his call had nothing to do with sports betting. Rules are rules, he was informed. Multiply such situations by the thousands of people walking around with a phone in hand or in a pocket or purse, and we can see why resort officials believe a change is necessary.

As for the private salon rules, I’ve previously discussed in this space the thinking behind expected changes.

Present rules have never been enforced as written and with all the biggest Las Vegas resorts hoping to lure Asian customers in this direction there is a need to enable casinos to offer private gambling with a minimal number of strings attached.

Tough entry for
Harrah’s in Macau

Harrah’s must do some serious deal-making if it expects to land a Macau casino venture in the next couple of years.

The recent announcement that there will be no new concessions or land opened to additional casinos means Harrah’s may not be able to develop the Macau golf course that it purchased last year.

But finding a path through these restrictions should not be all that difficult for TPG Equity and Apollo Management, the two private equity funds with a combined worldwide reach that purchased Harrah’s for nearly $28 billion.

A joint venture or buyout of an existing licensee looks like the most logical route to a Harrah’s casino there, or, perhaps the Harrah’s bosses will wait patiently for the rules to change . . . again.

Desperately seeking fresh entertainment

Steve Wynn is going back a few years to find what he imagines will be a crucial key to the future of showroom entertainment at his Las Vegas properties. He has had his fill of Broadway imports that don’t get the job done, shows that don’t work in Las Vegas as they did in New York.

Whatever or whoever the audiences may be for the likes of "Spamalot" and "Avenue Q," they are not spending a lot of time in Las Vegas, not in numbers large enough to generate the kind of crowds that fuel business in the Wynn casino, restaurants and shops.

As Wynn explained at the time he was preparing to pull the plug on the Tony-winning "Avenue Q," it brought a respectable number of bodies into the 1,200-seat theater when it was playing at the Wynn … but Wynn wanted more than respectable.

He wanted bodies to fuel the kind of ancillary spending he had become accustomed to seeing at The Mirage and Bellagio, the kind of business Siegfried and Roy had pulled into The Mirage and "O" had produced at Bellagio.

Oh, for another "O."

It’s not just Wynn who has had a difficult time giving Broadway success stories a successful Las Vegas spin.

"The Producers" mostly sputtered at Paris. A made for Las Vegas version of "Phantom of the Opera" is said to be wobbling at the Venetian even as "The Jersey Boys" debut there.

"Mama Mia" was something of a phenomenon, drawing strong audience counts for about six years at Mandalay Bay.

Go figure … which is what Las Vegas entertainment strategists have been trying to do.

"It’s easy," says Las Vegas choreographer and producer Minnie Madden. "The show’s the thing in New York. People go to New York with shows at the top of their things-to-do list. There are so many distractions in Las Vegas, the things that pull people this way and that. You can start out the evening headed for a show and end up at a craps table."