Poker action biggest ever!

May 1, 2001 10:26 AM

"THE GREATEST GAME ON EARTH!" So said a pipe when he called to describe the high stakes poker games taking place at the Regent Hotel. "They’re mainly dealing Omaha, Stud and Kansas City Lowball. Betting caps have been set at $75,000 and there are tables with $3.5 million at stake.

"There are about 15 players, including a number of world class poker players involved, including Texas Dolly Doyle Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, Chip Reese,Bob Stupak and others.

"There’s never been a poker game of such dimensions anytime, anywhere," the pipe added.

Why the Regent hotel/casino?

"From what I can tell, the players love it there. There are now gawkers and when they need a little shut-eye, they slip upstairs and rest in high fashion at the financially troubled resort.

"The games began last week and figure to continue for another two or three weeks. I’ve never seen action like it.

"Obviously," said the pipe, "many of the players are also in the World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe. They are shuttling to the northwest side of town to tee high and let it fly."

FIRST THEY SAY THEY DO, THEN THEY DON’T! That’s how a rosebud described Colony’s recent romance with casino gaming.

"Nearly everyone thought the company was going to become a Big Player among casino owners," the rosebud explained.

"They ponied up $400 million-plus to buy Harveys last February. Then they came within inches of spending $1 billion to buy seven casinos owned by Pinnacle Entertainment. Forget it. The deal never made it to the finish line.

"Then they turned around and sold Harveys. It was profitable, but it left the company with Resorts International in Atlantic City only. With MGM MIRAGE (MGG) and Boyd Group (BYD) ready to go with gusto in the marina area of the seashore, I wonder what Colony’s chances are of success?

"And, please don’t forget Tom Gallagher. The new Park Place entertainment guru is not likely to sit by without building up tempo at its lucrative New Jersey casinos.

"I’d say, Tom Barrack Jr. (top gun at Colony) is going to have his work cut out for him at Resorts," the rosebud concluded.

"POP THE CORK!" As in good champagne.

That’s what an in-the-knowster told us on Monday, as he sang the praises of Harrah’s Entertainment (HET), the company that recently purchased Harveys Resort in Lake Tahoe.

"Wise guys will soon discover that the Lake Tahoe resort is a berry patch and will cause HET to go north by more than 7% as forecast by gaming analysts," the source said.

He went on: "Initially, Harveys was a publicly traded company with Chuck Scharer at the helm. For 20 consecutive quarters, corks were popping as the property soared with increased earnings.

"Then, along came Colony Capital and they took the company private. It remained that way for nearly two years until Harrah’s recent purchase.

"Don’t think for one minute that the northern Nevada resort isn’t still a pot of gold that should be well mined by aggressive HET management."

Pass the bubbly, please!

STILL BANGING THE CASH REGISTER! We hate to say, "I told you so," but Acres Gaming Inc. (AGAM) just reported its quarterly financials on Monday and the numbers were great - record revenues, record earnings and a quarter-end backlog of more than $31 million.

Wall Street reacted to the positive numbers on Monday, sending the Las Vegas-company’s shares to $7.15 a share, up 37 cents for the day. Look for the good news to continue.

MAKING A BIG SCORE! "Word isn’t out yet, but JNLU, the small Las Vegas company which does big work in casinos, just signed a huge contract with Foxwoods Resort and Casino for signage on their table games," said a pipe.

"Insiders aren’t talking numbers, but they do admit that it’s one of their larger orders for this type of equipment.

"They do say, however, that the new signs will be in place within the next six months.

"Foxwoods doesn’t identify the number of tables on their gaming floor since they don’t share the revenue with the state, unlike their slots, where they give the state 25% of the gross revenue.

"Nevertheless, anyone who has ever been to the massive casino - believed to be the most successful in the world - knows that the property has beaucoup tables," he said.

WHALES GET LESS "WATER" TO SPLASH IN! In the world of casinos a Big Player is commonly known as a whale. That was the type of player being held responsible for making a run on the cage at the Star City Casino in Sydney. The Australian casino reported losses in excess of $15 million last quarter. The main villain was an Aussie businessman who is now being hailed as a bigger player than the notorious Kerry Packer.

I wish I could pass on the gent’s name. I can’t at this time. But, it seems to me that every casino player developer should be buying a ticket to Australia to find Mr. XXX. It is said that he alone walked off with $10 million, almost two-thirds of the reported quarterly loss by two high-end players.

Now comes word that the Star City Casino is taking measures to save the store. Australia’s three major casinos are well known for the commissions they pay back to million dollar-and-up players. It is said that whales can get up $600,000 commission paid back on the loss of $1 million. That would be Crown and Jupiter. Star City has dropped out of the race. Not entirely, but they pay far less commission. The way I hear it, for every $1 million lost, whales are only eligible for $300,000 in commission.

Big-spending Asian players are price sensitive. Aren’t we all?

I wonder how it will affect Mr. Packer? He is recovering from a kidney transplant and Sun City is close to his doctor and his digs. Will the lure of higher commissions force him to toss caution to the wind and travel farther from home to Crown or Jupiter?

Time will tell.

A BYLINE, NO LESS! One of the local dailies had a Friday headline that read: "Roski levels new charges in Park Place law suit, claims Hilton bid for hotel!" The reporter even got a byline for her find.

Two weeks earlier in the April 17 issue, GamingToday bannered across the front page: "Roski sues, says he was dealt the ”˜nine of hearts!’" It broke the story about Roski’s beef with Park Place Entertainment (PPE) and Las Vegas Hilton. Would that qualify as news before it’s news?

A ONE-COMPANY MAN! Bob Harpling, a gaming manufacturer who wore only one set of pinstripes his whole career, was remembered fondly at his recent funeral services in Las Vegas. Harpling died at the age of 77.

"Bob was one hell of a guy," said Si Redd, slot pioneer and founder of International Game Technology (IGT). "Harp, as he was fondly known, joined up with Bally Manufacturing in 1946 and never looked back."

Attendees at the service resembled a who’s who in the world of slot gaming. Among those present was Mickey Wichinsky. Also, John Woodrum from the Klondike, Charlie Lombardi for Park Place Entertainment (PPE), Rick Scheer from The Venetian and a wide array of former Bally people from Chicago and Las Vegas. Just about every slot manufacturer was represented with former Bally people who knew and loved Harps.

Also on hand were Harp’s family - his wife, Dolores, daughter, Dawn and son, Brian.

"Anyone who thinks casino people have no heart should have shown up for Harp’s service," said one observer.

"MAKE IT A DONE DEAL!" So said a rosebud as she asserted that casino gambling in Mexico - a long time on the horizon - is moving forward rapidly.

"I’ve been saying for a long time," said the rosebud, "that casinos would be coming to Mexico. Now I can almost reach out and touch."

She didn’t seem a bit concerned that Phoenix Leisure Corp. (PLS) and Viva Gaming (VIGA) have joined hands to sell and market instant "Scratch and Win" lottery tickets using 500 slot machines in one of Mexico City’s malls - Granseur Paque Commercial.

"The Lottery Commission has been allowing slot machines for prizes and lottery tickets.It means little in the scheme of casino gambling," she said.

DIPPING INTO THE TILL! Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. (DJT) continues to wallow in red ink, but that didn’t stop its top gun, real estate developer Donald Trump, from granting himself a salary increase of $250,000 last year. This was on top of his regular salary of $1 million.

Maybe he figures that since he dumped his right-hand man, Nick Ribis, that the pressures of the job have increased.

Not only did he grab a big salary bump, he also was awarded options on 500,000 shares with an exercise price of $2.625. He has until 2010 to exercise the options, but the way things have been going for the company, it’s possible that the options might expire while still under water.

In trading on Monday, DJT fell to $2.03, slightly higher than its 52-week low of $1.75, but a far cry from the $14 level it reached before gaming analyst Bruce Turner downgraded the stock about four years ago and watched it plummet to its recent trading range.