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Gaming ‘tidbits’ from the G2E conference

Oct 1, 2002 6:52 AM

   Interactive gaming. Online gaming. Internet gaming. They all mean pretty much the same thing. But, in a subtle shift, the Interactive Gaming Institute has renamed itself the Global Institute for Gaming Innovation.

   Richard Fitzpatrick, president of the Las Vegas-based group, announced the change with little fanfare on the closing day of the Global Gaming Expo last week. He did not explain the rationale for the new moniker, but GIGI now routinely refers to Internet gaming as “network gaming.”

   RISKY BUSINESS- Ameristar, which has racked up big numbers of late, could be cruising for a bruising. David Anders of Merrill Lynch predicts that hefty gaming tax hikes are coming in Missouri and Iowa, where Ameristar does much of its business. “There’s more bad news than good news on taxes,’’ Anders says.

   Robin Farley of UBS Warburg concurs: “Missouri and Iowa look risky.’’

   TABLES AT TRACKS?-Don’t count on it, says Penn National. Chief financial officer Bill Clifford says table games aren’t likely to join slots at its Charles Town, W.VA., track. “A $5 limit won’t work,’’ he says of the current state-imposed maximum bet. However, he said the deal could change if the limits are lifted or if the state reduces its stiff 60 percent “takeout” (tax) on gaming revenue.

   GAMING GROWS-Gaming’s share of U.S. recreational spending continues to climb. In the past decade, gaming’s piece of the recreational pie has doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent. That’s more than movies or sporting events.

   CONVENTIONEERS-Glenn Schaefer of Mandalay Resorts, which is building a 1.5 million-square-foot convention center on the south Strip, says Las Vegas is bucking the trend on convention attendance. “Unlike other markets, we’re seeing no delegate attrition here.’’ His explanation? “Have you ever tried to go out after 10 p.m. in Phoenix?”

   MISSISSIPPI BLUES-If you thought Las Vegas had a tough summer, check out Mississippi. August gaming revenue there was 10 percent below a year ago. Brian Richard of the Mississippi Gaming Association called the decline “surprising” and said he would have to crunch some more numbers to explain it.

   BOUNCING BACK-Expecting a busy fall and winter season, Las Vegas visitor volume is predicted to hit 35.4 million this year. That’s a 1.1 percent improvement over last year but still 400,000 short of the 2000 figure.

   CHOWING DOWN-Food and beverage spending has jumped 72 percent over the past five years, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That translates into $213 per person, per trip. Other five-year spending increases: transportation, 20 percent; rooms and shows, 37 percent; and shopping, 43 percent.

            ALADDIN UPDATE-The bankrupt resort was the subject of many questions but few answers at G2E. From Pinnacle to Park Place, execs stayed tight-lipped about the Strip property. One reason: The $435 million asked by Aladdin’s bankers is 10 times its cash flow. “We have our hands full improving the EBIDTA at our own properties,’’ said Park Place CFO Harry Hagerty.