Is The Venetian sniffing Wall Street?

March 19, 2002 7:54 AM
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DON’T BE SURPRISED if The Venetian hotel and casino announces soon that it plans to go public.

Why?

“Monies raised in the sale would be used for future expansion plans, which include a new tower,” said a well-known gaming executive who asked for anonymity.

“It would also go towards beefing up some plans that haven’t met expectations,” he continued. “The Guggenheim Heritage Museum cost The Venetian $30 million. It has yet to attract the anticipated standing room only crowds.”

It also cut its exposure to high-end play. The casino reportedly discounted high roller losses by as much as 20 cents on the dollar. Slot win slipped from $140 a machine to $132.

Cash flow at the Strip resort fell nearly 15% last year causing the company to post a loss of $1.26 million as net revenue slid nearly 10%. As a result, plans to expand by adding 1,000 rooms atop The Venetian’s parking garage have been put on hold. Ditto a second 3,000-room hotel.

But, all the negativity evaporated almost immediately when The Venetian was named as one of the three finalists to receive preliminary approval for a Macau gaming license.

A casino in Macau figures to bring major revenues to the company.

It should work. And, when it does, don’t be surprised to see the IPO come out.

SUNSHINE FOLLOWS RAIN! During my rainy days a few weeks back I was able to do a little research.

I smoked out a few gaming stocks that I plan to put in my portfolio. One is Magna Entertainment Corp. (MIEC).

Frank Stronach, the company’s founder and chairman, who also happens to be the world’s largest and most diversified supplier of auto systems and components, has victory in his eyes. The Austria-born Stronach is buying up racetracks the way kids buy hotdogs at the ballpark.

His portfolio is impressive. It includes Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, home of the Florida Derby; Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Thistle Down, Remington Park, Portland Meadows, Multnomah Greyhounds, The Meadows and Great Lakes Downs. There is also a pending agreement to acquire Lone Star Park.

Why am I interested? Because Frank Stronach wants to do what I dreamed of doing ”” get simulcast rights at racetracks and offer them on a betting network.

But, good ideas are often shared by others. The others become known as rivals. In this case, Stronach’s opposition includes Tom Meeker and his Churchill Downs network.

Why do I favor Stronach? Seldom, if ever, do I bet on the fave. Churchill is a favorite to get the best network in the game. It has TV Guide as a driving force, thus the name TVG Network. Nearly everyone knows that the future of horse racing will depend on who has the best simulcast chain in its network.

The match up between Meeker and Stronach and his XpressBet, which will conduct account betting in California, will be a tough one.

But, Magna, currently selling for less than $10 a share, is worth a few of my bucks.

YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART! And, MGM MIRAGE President and CFO Jim Murren and his wife, Heather, have plenty of it. Murren will sell 200,000 shares of his personal holdings in the company mainly to finance the development of a cancer research and treatment center in Las Vegas.

MGM MIRAGE stock closed Monday at $36.67, up $.92. Multiply 200,000 shares by the price it was when sold. It’s easy to see the couple cares a lot. Cancer claimed the lives of family members.

GamingToday takes pleasure in accenting the positive in gaming.

DITS & DOTS . . . Hitting the slots? Three workers at the Isle of Capri riverboat in Lake Charles, La., were arrested in a scheme to steal money from slot machines, state police said last week. Moreover, they said as much as $1 million may have been stolen from the machines in the past six months by at least three employees . . . Indian givers! Two American Indian-run casinos in Connecticut (Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun) gave more than $30 million to the Nutmeg State coffers in taxes for the month of February, based on a total slot machine net win of $120 million. Foxwoods, run by the Mashantucket Pequots, won $65.2 million last month, while Mohegan Sun, run by the Mohegan tribe, reported a February win of $55.1 million. . . Robert J. Colucci, a long-time casino host in both Las Vegas and ­­Atlantic City, died last week at the age of 63.