Madonna tickets
Going, going, gone!

August 14, 2001 6:24 AM
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JUNE IN JANUARY? Nearly everyone has heard that song before. However, there’s a new tune making the rounds. It’s called New Year’s Eve on Labor Day.

Major Strip hotels expect that the cash registers will ring loud and clear when Madonna comes to the MGM Grand for a two-nighter over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1 and 2). There are even stories floating around that MGM Mirage (MGG) maestro Terry Lanni is shying away from his telephone in fear that the caller might be a good customer in need of seats.

There are none! GONZO!

Even the seats that casinos usually nest away for high rollers have been un-nested.

The Big Green House will state Madonna in the Grand Garden Arena. Every seat in the house ”” all 13,000 of them ”” will be filled with high rollers who rated tickets for this very special event.

I talked to one old timer. He said the lust for tickets reminded him of the old days when Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack appeared.

He added: “I guess the parade has passed me by, but I wouldn’t walk across the street to see her even if she could sing!”

Spoken like a Frank Sinatra fan, no doubt.

At any rate, casino revenues will likely soar almost as high as if it was New Year’s Eve.

Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

STATE RUN CASINOS? “Don’t laugh,” said a rosebud. “It’s in the cards. State politicians searching for painless tax extractions are eyeing the growth of Indian casinos (275 presently with another 175 tribes in the wings).

“Casinos have sex appeal. Tax receipts always need a friend to make it through the night.”

The rosebud continued: “After the way they botched up New York City OTB, the city privatized amid strong opposition. Frank Stronach was the winning bidder. He is a horse racing whiz kid. He figures to out fox government run betting shops. It could be a good example of how private enterprise is far better than a business run by politicians.”

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES! No, our thoughts are not of one of America’s greatest entertainers, Bob Hope, but of one of Wall Street’s most successful moguls, Sumner Redstone, Viacom’s (VIA) CEO. He’s got a new book out, titled, “A Passion to Win.” It should be made a “must read” for all the up and coming MBAs.

Of course, sometimes memories get a little clouded. Especially when you are remembering back more than a half-century. In his book, he tells of being offered a job by Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, the man who started everything on the Las Vegas Strip with the Flamingo Hotel/Casino. At the time, the middle ”˜50s, Redstone said he was a tax lawyer right out of Harvard Law School. Too bad, Bugsy was transported from this earth in a hail of bullets in 1947.

Well, maybe the offer was from some other notorious character. What difference does it make? The important point is MBAs could do a lot worse than to emulate a man whose “Passion to Win” made him a winner.

JACKIE GAUGHAN, who has helped develop more casino giants than anyone in the business, has a new protégé. His name is Mike Nolan and he recently was given the green light by gaming regulators to manage both the Plaza and Gold Strike in downtown Las Vegas.

TAKING A STAND! I’ve watched Terry Lanni play the ponies. And, fire up with gusto on occasion at the blackjack tables. I am an eyewitness to the fact that he’s a guy not afraid to take a stand.

Take a look MGM MIRAGE’s (MGG) recent application for a cybercasino license from the United Kingdom’s Isle of Man. Unlike other casino honchos, Lanni goes way out on the line with his belief that playing on the Internet is inevitable and it’s just a matter of time before it occurs in the United States.

The chief executive doesn’t duck the fact that cybercasinos have problems to overcome ”” underage wagering, betting from jurisdictions where it is illegal and compulsive gambling. Neither does he lessen his belief that it will grow to a level where it could be bigger than the existing business within 10 years.

Lanni’s views were clearly expressed in a recent release by CBS MarketWatch.com.

SKEPTICS are more skeptical than ever before about the future of Reno’s newest hotel, the Siena. Nearly everyone admits that owner Barney Ng has built a beautiful property.

But, it seems there are doubts that the $70 million Siena with its 214 rooms and more than 800 slot machines can survive.

“That comes to about four slot machines per room, a ratio way out of step for Reno,” said a pipe.

He added: “The average hotel in Reno has approximately one slot machine per room. If the slots don’t ring, the Siena will sing nothing but the blues.”

ON THE BUY! Donald Trump plunked down more than $50,000 with his purchase of 255,000 shares of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (DJT). The price ”” $1.96 to $1.99 a share.

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE! Diana Bennett, majordomo of Paragon Gaming of Las Vegas is talking to the Augustine Band of Mission Indians about an Indian casino proposal in Ventura County, California.

The daughter of legendary gaming figure Bill Bennett, president of the Sahara Hotel, has pitched the Augustine plan to potential investors. Her company is negotiating with a number of Indian tribes in the United States and Canada, including the Augustines.

I hear there’s no agreement yet and the tribe has yet to decide who would manage the proposed casino. The tribe is licensed to operate up to 700 slot machines. That would be the fewest number of slots in any existing Coachella Valley casino.

Diana has a history in the commercial casino industry. She served as general manager at the Sahara and two Laughlin casinos. She was also president of Casino Data Systems, a company that pioneered player-tracking systems for slot machines.

TWIN TOWERS rate a pair of reminders.

I said it before. I’ll say it again. Churchill Downs (CHDN) still looks promising. It’s selling for 29-and-change. I was high on the stock when it traded for less and I’m still high on it now.

Years ago when horseracing simulcasting was still in the oven, there was a three-step plan in place. Approval of the live signals and betting into track pools were to be followed by setting up racetrack networks. It’s finally becoming a reality. Churchill Downs is doing just that. Insiders are buying with both fists. Arlington Park guru Dick Duchossois owns nearly 25% of CHDN. Recently, a director reached into his kick and purchased 66,300 shares at prices between $27.38 and $28.25 per share.

“I DARE YA!” That’s the challenge an Arizona businessman seems to be hurling at law enforcement officials. He’s been placing Internet kiosks in businesses around Phoenix, places like sports bars, Laundromats, coffee shops, etc. Users pay a fee, unless they’re using the Internet access to gamble at two particular gambling sites he’s promoting. He’s tied in with a Costa Rica offshore casino.

The guy knows that online gambling is illegal in Arizona. “It will bring some heat down from the powers that be,” he admits, adding, “but any publicity is good publicity.”

He should be consulting with Jay Cohen, the former San Francisco stockbroker who challenged the “powers that be” in the State of New York with his offshore betting site. He now faces 21 months in jail.