Las Vegas visitor volume takes big dip in September

Nov 13, 2001 6:27 AM

Although gaming saw a shortfall of 5.4% on the Las Vegas Strip during the month of September, visitor volume to Las Vegas was even harder hit, falling 14.1%, according to figures developed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Total room occupancy also was down 14.2% and convention attendance fell 37.4%. At McCarran airport, total passengers declined by 28.3% to 2,124,864 passengers from last year’s 2,965,021. Charter flights also dipped from 271,276 passengers to this year’s 188,393.

The only bright spot in the picture was the automobile traffic measured at the Southern California Traffic Station at Yermo. A total of 493,249 cars were counted showing an increase of 5.5% over last year’s 467,482.

Also impacted by the September tragedies was visitor volume in Laughlin which dipped 6.9% while total room nights occupied at the area’s hotels dipped 7.3%.

Showing surprising strength during the period were the hotel/casinos in Mesquite which reported 139,637 visitors, an increase of 11.7% over last year’s 125,065.

Services integrated

Aristocrat Technologies Inc., the U.S. division of Aristocrat Leisure Limited, has consolidated its various service teams into an integrated organization.

Under the new organization, all services offered by the company relative to its games, systems and signs will be provided by the new group. Heading the service organization will be Jason Walbridge, the new vice president of Technology Services of the Americas. He will be assisted by Jim Hamersley, director of service support.

Walbridge previously was business services manager for Aristocrat New Zealand. Hamersley was director of information systems at the Prairie Meadows Racing and Casino in Iowa.

Ease the pain

Michael Lazaroff, the discredited St. Louis, Mo., attorney who admitted defrauding his clients and partners for an amount close to three-quarters of a million dollars, has asked the court to reduce his penalty.

Under his proposal, Lazaroff, who represented Station Casinos Inc. (STN) as well as others who sought casino licenses, would pay only $135,000 of the total amount reimbursed to his law firm by the Federal Insurance Co.

The proposal is being opposed by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Lazaroff is complying with a court order to pay a certain amount to the insurance company to offset the company’s loss. However, the insurance company has indicated it would prefer the $135,000 in a lump sum rather than be paid off a larger amount over 20 years.

During his years as a high-powered attorney, Lazaroff helped obtain gaming licenses for Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp. in Caruthersville, President Casino on the Admiral in St. Louis and the riverboats operated by Station Casinos that later were sold to Ameristar Casinos.

Out of Africa

Management contracts for four casinos in South Africa are being sold by MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG). The sale, which must be approved by South African gaming regulators, is expected to be completed in early 2002.

The casinos are owned by Tsogo Investment Holding Company Limited and Southern Sun Gaming Investments Limited.

Announcing the sale, Jim Murren, MGM MIRAGE president and CFO, said that although the management contracts have been highly successful, the company planned to use the proceeds of the sale to reduce debt and permit the company to focus on its core businesses while looking for larger opportunities.

Out of debt

Reports out of England last week indicated that London Clubs International (LCI) was on the verge of working a deal that will take them out from under the staggering debt owed by bankrupt Aladdin Hotel and Casino.

Indications were that LCI was negotiating with the Bank of Nova Scotia and others in the consortium that would release it from the $150 million “keep well” payment triggered by Aladdin’s bankruptcy filing. The reports have indicated that most banks have agreed to the plan and that an announcement was expected shortly.

Following the agreement, it is expected that LCI will give up a good portion, if not all of its Aladdin holding, and that it will write off its nearly $200 million investment in the Strip property.

Sitting in the wings are several companies, both English and American, that have indicated an interest in acquiring London Clubs because of its casino operations in England and other parts of Europe.

Gambling channel

MSN is involved in a number of activities in the U.S. but none is in the gaming business.

That will change soon as MSN’s United Kingdom subsidiary launches a new online gambling channel. The microsite will have four distinct areas: fixed odds, casino, lottery and wagering pools.

And to insure that the player gets the best odds, the site will have a special function that will allow users to access the best odds for a specific bet using a specialized search engine.

Partners in the MSN project are the English firm Aspinalls, and Sun International Holdings (SIH).

Constant battering

Tough times continue for Sun International Holdings (SIH), operator of the Atlantis Resort Casino/Hotel on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

In the wake of the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, the attendance at the property dropped precipitously. However, by mid-October, bookings began improving to the extent that management felt positive about the future.

Then last week, it was Hurricane Michelle that pummeled the island. When it was over, property officials said the more serious damage was to the Ocean Club and that guests scheduled to stay there would be offered suite accommodations at the Atlantis through Nov. 14.

Damage to the Atlantis was described as non-significant.

But, then Monday’s American Airlines crash on a flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was expected to have a further impact on vacation travelers.

Down, not out

Credit is being given to the operators of Beau Rivage Resort Casino in Biloxi, Miss., for setting up a program to help the 340 employees who were laid off following the September slowdown caused by the terrorists attacks on the east coast.

The property, owned by MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) established a jobs program, as well as providing assistance in filing for unemployment benefits as well as other services.

The recent layoffs didn’t discourage area residents who saw the employee reductions as “a temporary bounce.”

It was felt that in the long-term, the casino job market would continue to grow.

The Insider

The State of Washington has approved the application from Phoenix Leisure Corporation (PLS) for ownership in four house-banked cardrooms.

Park Place Entertainment Corporation (PPE) announced that its exchange offer for the senior notes due 2009 has been extended until Nov. 15. It originally had been scheduled to end on Nov. 9.

Black Hawk Gaming and Development Co. reported earnings of 36 cents a share compared for the quarter ended on Sept. 30.

Century Casinos Inc. (CNTY) and partners have applied for a license to operate a gaming resort at the Uruguayan beach of Punta del Este.

Art Chevalier and his Quick & Reilly troops will move their office from the Bank of America building on Westcliff Drive to 761 Rainbow. Said Chevalier, “We believe our Las Vegas customers will like the convenience of our expanded and modernized new Investor Center (which) provides state of the art customer information systems and tools.”

Innovative Gaming Corporation of America (IGCA) said it will release its third quarter earnings on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Youbet.com Inc. (UBET) will also release its quarter earnings report on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Bill Schmitt, chief gaming analyst with CIBC World Markets, says he’s confused by the volatility of earnings at Mandalay Resort Group (MBG). “The company consistently pre-announces earnings either positive or negative, while also providing vague disclosures, such as in its September 2001 warning,” he writes. Because of the slowing economy and travel safety concerns, he says, he retains his hold rating.