Comdex visitations to grow over 2001’s no-fly year

Nov 5, 2002 4:54 AM

   In the wake of last year’s 9/11 attacks, visitation during the Comdex convention plummeted, causing Las Vegas Strip properties to substantially reduce their rates. That will be reversed this year, according to a survey conducted by Bear Stearns.

   For the period ending on Nov. 23, average weekday rates across the Strip rose 21.6% to $101 on easy comparisons since the properties last year were forced to reduce their rates by more than 13%.

   However, even when compared with the prices charged for the convention in 2000, this year’s prices are higher. In fact, they top 2000 by 7.4%.

   As for weekends, this year’s rates are expected to be about 38% higher, rising to $137.

   Showing strong gains in rates was Park Place Entertainment Corp. (PPE) properties. Collectively, they are showing an increase of 43.9% at $107 weekday and an increase of 19% to $152 on weekdays.

   MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) is posting increases of 11.9% at $100 average rates while the weekend average is at $131 on strong results from the Bellagio which is up 44.7% at $259.

   The Mandalay Resort Group Inc. (MBG) properties reported a jump of 8.5% with $96 weekday rates and 13.7% to $139 on weekends.

   This year’s Comdex will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from Nov. 18 to Nov. 22 with Park Place Entertainment playing the role of host.

Track approved

   Pennsylvanians make up the Chester Downs group of developers that last week received approval for a new harness racing track and entertainment complex in Chester, Pa. The track has been proposed to take advantage of the expected legislative approval for state tracks to operate slot machines on their properties.

   The $20 million development, involving Joseph Lashinger, former president of Pocono Downs racetrack; Kevin Flynn, a Philadelphia developer, and George K. Miller, calls for a five-eighths mile track, a marina, two restaurants, an open-air amphitheater and a 45,000-square foot simulcast betting center and clubhouse.

   If the legislature approves racetrack slots, the developers say the facility could handle 3,000 machines that would have an estimated annual take between $255 million and $300 million.

   The property being considered for the track is owned by the county. However, the Delaware County Redevelopment Authority has agreed to a lease-purchase agreement with the Chester Downs group.

   The group has submitted one of two plans for a racetrack in Chester. The other plan is being developed by the owners and operators of Philadelphia Park.

Hotel delayed

   Two years ago, when Isle of Capri (ISLE) bought the former Flamingo Hilton Casino in Kansas City, Mo., the company all but promised the Missouri Gaming Commission it would build a hotel on the riverboat site.

   But, based on recent statements by company officials, such a project will be a couple of years down the road.

   Last week, an official said that big-ticket corporate spending decisions for the 2004 fiscal year won’t be made until next February. However, he didn’t sound too confident that the proposed hotel would be part of it.

   When the promise was made, the company indicated that market conditions would determine when the hotel would be constructed. And, by improving efficiencies and offering a better product, Isle has outdone its predecessor, Hilton Hotels Inc.

   It has been suggested that the company’s growth rate has been below par and that there is concern that the overall tax rate in the state will be increased.

Evaluating racinos

   With Kentucky on the cusp of debating the legality of slot machines at its racetracks, the University of Louisville offered casinos and state lotteries as the theme of its annual “State of the Industry Forum for 2002.”

   Addressing the attendees were racetrack operators experienced in transforming their facilities into properties that offer slot machines or video lottery terminals as a gambling adjunct to their pari-mutuel racing.

   Dr. Richard Thalheimer, professor of equine administration, warned the listeners that studies have show that “people who play slots don’t play the horses.” This, he said, resulted in a decline in racing handle. However, “the handle doesn’t decrease as much as it would without slots.”

   Tom Early of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association noted that since slot machines went online at Delta Downs, now owned by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD), about $1.6 million per month is being generated for racing purses.

   Ted Arneault of Mountaineer Park in West Virginia said he originally feared slots would ruin the racing product. However, just the opposite has been true. He said his company has now been transformed into an “entertainment company.”

Gaming conspiracy?

   A candidate for governor of Ohio charged during a campaign swing last week that both the Senate president and House speaker have “cut a deal to allow slot machines at racetracks (in Ohio).”

   The allegation was strongly denied by both Senate President Richard Finan and House Speaker Larry Householder.

   The candidate, Tim Hagan, said, “Finan and Householder have met and are prepared to pass a bill on gambling and Gov. Bob Taft has agreed to let ie pass without a veto.”

   The governor immediately denied that a deal has been cut and that he remained “opposed to gambling because of the social costs.” He also said he would veto any bill that contained gambling devices.

Detroit plans

   MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) is planning to build a 16-story hotel/casino complex as its permanent gaming operation in Detroit.

   News reports indicated that the company will go before the Detroit Planning Commission this week to seek approval of its request to rezone a 25.5 acre parcel of land where it plans to build the $500 million facility.

   According to the Detroit News, quoting a commission planner, “the building has a traditional, even conservative, appearance. It appears to have taken a design approach that is a hotel and a casino rather than a casino with a hotel.”

   The second floor of the complex would include a conference center and ballroom tied to the hotel, which also will have a full-serve spa and pool.

CMA Kickoff

   The Las Vegas Chapter of Casino Management Association (CMA) will hold its “Kickoff” on Monday, Nov. 18, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino beginning at 6:30 p.m.

   The event will allow CMAQ members and those interested in becoming members an opportunity to learn about what plans have been outlined to re-establish the Las Vegas Chapter.

   The Insider

   Alliance Gaming Corp. (ALLY) announced last week that the Bally Gaming and Systems’ unit had awarded its 100th jackpot on the Betty Boop wide-area progressive slots.

   CIBC World Markets gaming analysts have upgraded both Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) and Isle of Capri (ISLE) to Sector Outperform.

   Bondholders of $100 million of debt issued by Black Hawk Resort Corp., owned of the Black Hawk Casino by Hyatt in Black Hawk, Colo., have launched foreclosure procedures.

   Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts Inc. (WYNN) announced last week that he hoped to break ground on a casino in Macau in January.

   The Venetian Casino Resort has sued a Hong Kong businessman for $700,000 he allegedly owes on unpaid gaming markers. The suit charges that Stephen Chu Nin-yiu repaid only $300,000 of a $1 million marker.

   Global Cash Assess announced last week it had signed an agreement with Youbet.com to have the online wagering company utilize its services.

   A major row is being conducted in Indiana over the location of off-track betting parlors. Involved are Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) and the builders of a new track, Indiana Downs, about 15 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

   A special meeting of stockholders will be held on Dec. 18 to seek approval of the acquisition of Hollywood Casino Corporation (HWD) by Penn National Gaming Corp. (PENN).