Satre says Las Vegas gaming business is ‘near normal’

March 12, 2002 10:05 AM
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Business in Las Vegas has returned to “near normal,” according to Phil Satre, chairman and CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET).

In an interview Monday with Martha McCallum on CNBC, Satre said that business in Las Vegas and northern Nevada took longer than other gaming venues to recover from the 9/11 attacks.

“Business in Atlantic City returned to normal by the latter part of 2001,” Satre said. As for the riverboat business, he said, business returned to normal “more rapidly.” But for Las Vegas and northern Nevada, “business was slower to Âí­recover.”

Satre explained that the gauge used by gaming businesses is the mid-week room pricing level that saw a “real softening following 9/11.” Another barometer, he said, was the level of convention business. He said both mid-week pricing and the convention interest had improved substantially and that he was “very optimistic for Las Vegas.”

Using the Super Bowl as an example, Satre said, “people want to enjoy themselves” and this, he said, should bode well for the gaming industry.

Harrah’s stands firm

Over the weekend, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. management stood firm in its support of Dr. Charles Teamer as “the best qualified candidate” for nomination as an independent outside director of JCC Holding Company.

JCC Holding is the operator of Harrah’s New Orleans Casino, a property in which Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. holds a 43% interest.

Last week, JCC Holding alleged that Harrah’s was in violation of its compliance with corporate governance documents by nominating two candidates for the JCC Holding board of directors. The other nominee is current director Phil Satre, chairman and CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Satre said he was disappointed with JCC’s contention relative to the governance documents, saying that the move was consistent with the laws of the state of Delaware in which JCC Holding is incorporated.

Organized push

The man that has been credited with orchestrating the approval and licensing of Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut has begun a movement to locate a casino in Kittery, Maine.

Tom Tureen, a Portland, Me., attorney, was identified in the book, “Without Reservation,” as the person who initiated and shepherded the successful Mashantucket Pequot land claims settlement in 1983 that gave rise to Foxwoods.

Now Tureen is lobbying for two Native American Tribes, the Penobscots and the Passamaquoddys. But, his task has been identified as “more than formidable.”

A recent survey by area newspapers have shown the residents of Kittery as opposed to having a casino in their community. And, the state’s governor, Gov. Angus S. King has described the movement as “the worst thing that could happen to the state of Maine.”

Kittery is located in the southeastern part of the state, just over the line from Portsmouth, N.H. It is easily reached via Interstate 95, less than an hour’s drive from the metropolis of Boston, Mass.

A rosy market

Taking advantage of the rise in the company’s shares prices, several executives at MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) have filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to cash in on the options the company has provided.

Leading the list is Dan Wade, the former co-president, who indicated he would sell 397,200 shares with proceeds of approximately $13 million.

Next was Terry Lanni, chairman and CEO of the company, who indicated he would sell 276,208 shares with proceeds exceeding $9 million.

Bill Hornbuckle, executive vice president of marketing, listed 100,000 shares for sale with proceeds of about $3.14 million.

John Redmond, company president and its point-man in development, plans to sell 30,000 shares that should be in excess of $900,000, and Cynthia Kiser Murphey, senior vice president of human services, reported the planned sale of 10,000 shares that would generate more than $340,000.

Heavy action

Shares of two of the leading makers of slot machines were very active on Wall Street Monday.

International Game Technology (IGT) saw its shares drop $3.85 a share in value with more than 1.6 million shares changing hands. The closing price was $64.00.

Williams Industries (WMS), parent of Williams Gaming, had just the opposite experience. The price of a share rose $2.29 to $20 a share with 691,000 shares being traded.

Two weeks, Gene Marcial in his Business Week column, suggested that WMS would be acquired either by Summer Redstone, who owns 30% of the outstanding shares, or Aristocrat, the Australian game device manufacturer that has been attempting to establish market share here in the U.S.

Seeks Tyson fight

West Virginia politicians aren’t eager to see controversial felon Mike Tyson enter the ring for another try at the world’s boxing championship but that hasn’t deterred racetrack operator Ted Arneault from trying to set up the match.

Arneault, president and CEO of MTR Gaming Group (MNTG), says that Tyson and Champion Lennox Lewis, “deserve a chance to get it on.”

Hoping to generate interest in the fight, Arneault has met with the West Virginia Athletic Commission that reportedly has “serious concerns” about the match and “probably would not sanction it.”

This view is consistent with the opinion of Gov. Bob Wise who has been adamant in saying the fight should not be held in West Virginia.

Meanwhile, support for the fight seems to have been growing in Washington, D.C., where officials have said the fight would be very beneficial to the city’s economy.

The Insider

A new wrinkle has emerged in the movement to get slots approved for Kentucky racetracks. An influential House Democrat has suggested that a portion of the slots revenue be allocated to assist seniors with the cost of prescription drugs.

Hollywood Casino Corp. (HWD) says it expects to be paid $13 million once the bankrupt Greate Bay Casino Corp. sells its advanced casino system to Bally Gaming, a division of Alliance Gaming (ALLY).

Illinois gaming revenues jumped 4.6% to $149.8 million during the month of February, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. Officials said the increases were broadbased. In Missouri, February revenues reached $102.1 million, an increase of $18.4%.

An investors group in Austin, Texas, said on Monday that their research report indicated PurchasePro (PPRO) is substantially undervalued compared with its e-commerce peers.

Virginia lawmakers have rejected a bill to permit account wagering in that state.

Las Vegas businessman Shawn Scott, who recently sold Delta Downs to Boyd Gaming (BYD, reportedly is attempting to acquired Vernon Downs, a trotting track in upstate New York.

GTECH Holdings Inc. (GTK) has received a $40 million, seven-year contract with the United Kingdom to provide online gaming activities.