Diversity sparks Wall Street’s love affair with Harrah’s

Jun 19, 2001 10:17 AM

Now that Harrah’s Entertainment (HET) has settled its problems in Louisiana, more gaming analysts have been boosting the company’s share price, resulting in new highs being set in recent weeks.

In fact, for the year, Harrah’s has seen its stock price rise by more than 40 percent, reaching a new 52-week high of $38.29 last week. On Monday, it closed at $37.78 per share.

The reason given for its popularity has been the company’s diversity. Whereas such giants as Park Place Entertainment (PPE), MGM Mirage (MGG), and Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) are located primarily in the country’s two biggest gaming centers - Las Vegas and Atlantic City - Harrah’s has developed major properties in both those cities but also has spread out to encompass nine riverboat casinos and three Indian casinos from one coast to another.

Not only has Harrah’s resolved its problems with the state of Louisiana regarding its New Orleans casino, in which it has a 43 percent interest, but the company has finally turned around the fortunes of the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

For the first year, after acquiring the property from original owner Tony Marnell, Harrah’s saw its investment flounder with some of the lowest table game holds anywhere in the industry. But come 2001, that unlucky streak came to an end and the Rio became viable again.

Last week, David Anders, gaming analyst for Merrill Lynch, raised his earnings per share estimate for Harrah’s to $2.79 from $2.50 for 2002, citing the company’s recent purchase of Harveys Casino Resorts as the reason. The purchase is being studied by the Federal Trade Commission, but it’s expected to be approved.

As a 12-month price target for Harrah’s, Anders listed $45 a share.

Keno revitalized

With the introduction of gaming in Detroit, an "old game" has become new again.

It’s keno.

In a recent article published in the Detroit Free Press, writer Tina Lam and associates reported on the sudden popularity of video keno machines. Because of the recent interest in keno, MGM Grand Detroit has converted a second-floor table game room into the city’s first keno parlor.

Remarked an MGM Grand executive, "We wouldn’t have dedicated the area to video keno if it wasn’t popular and it wasn’t making money." They’ve installed 39 video machines in the dedicated area.

Keno’s popularity seems to be extending beyond Detroit. Ed Rogich, vice president of marketing for IGT, credits some of the growth to the recent upgrading of the machines. He noted that it had taken a number of years for the company to introduce newer versions of the "old line" game.

THE INSIDER: Argosy Gaming Co. (AGY) has filed with the SEC to periodically sell up to $300 million in debt securities and common stock. David Anders of Merrill Lynch has raised the company’s expected earnings to $2.68 from $2.18.

A Massachusetts lawyer, accused of stealing $1.6 million from the state treasury, has been ordered held until his trial on September 5. Investigators allege Richard C. Arrighi gambled part of that money in periodic trips to Las Vegas, where he enjoyed playing at a $100 minimum table at The Mirage.

Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) announced that its directors have authorized a new 15 percent share repurchase program. The announcement came as a surprise to some analysts, who were told during a recent teleconference by President and CFO Glenn Schaeffer that no buy-back program was being contemplated.

PurchasePro.com (PPRO), the Las Vegas-based B2B company, announced Monday it was reducing its staff by 50 percent, thus bringing the total number of employees to fewer than 300.

According to a recent study conducted by a Washington, D.C., company, stock car races, slot machines and horse races conducted at Dover Downs in Delaware generate more than $250 million a year in direct spending.

Taglich Brothers Inc. of New York has initiated coverage on Nevada Gold & Casinos (UWIN) with a "Buy" rating and an 18-month price target of $9.85. Nevada Gold has a share of the Isle of Capri-Black Hawk Casino Hotel in Black Hawk, Colo.

The Securities and Exchange Commission says it is investigating "certain current and former officers" of International Thoroughbred Breeders (ITB) who recently sold Garden State Park for $30 million. Part of the proceeds reportedly went to company founder, Robert Brennan, who recently was convicted of bankruptcy fraud.

In a filing with the SEC, two executives of Harrah’s Entertainment (HET) have reported their intention to sell company stock. Gary Loveman, president and COO, filed to sell 52,500 shares, grossing $1.86 million, while Richard Mirman, senior vice president of marketing, filed to sell 23,280 shares, generating proceeds of $860,400.