Is the Castaways about to go under?

Feb 18, 2003 7:40 AM

IS THE CASINO SINKING? Rumors are swirling that the Castaways may not be a survivor. The East Fremont Street property formerly known as the Showboat is said to be facing a hefty overdue bill for employee taxes.

Officials would not comment, but readily acknowledge that business is weak. The hotel-casino recently shut down its buffet and there have been layoffs in the front office.

Harrah’s sold the property for a bargain-basement price of $13 million to Las Vegas businessman Dan Shaw and veteran casino exec Mike Villamor in 2000.

"The neighborhood has changed and they’re just not getting the local business like the Showboat did back in the old days,’’ said one industry insider. "It’s too bad.’’


NEVADA’S TITLE BEING CHALLENGED: Beware Nevada, says Leo McCarthy, a former member of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, California is threatening your position as the gambling Mecca of the U.S.

"In the very near future," McCarthy was recently quoted as saying, "California will be the gambling capital of the world — not of the U.S. — of the world." And then the San Francisco attorney who previously served terms as lieutenant governor of the Golden State, went on to say warn: "Nevada will become merely a California gambling satellite."

Much of the California gambling rhetoric is developing because next month Gov. Gray Davis, who negotiated 61 Indian gaming compacts without extracting one cent for the state or counties to cover infrastructure expenses, will be re-negotiating the compacts. He has announced he plans to seek $1.5 billion donations to the state’s coffers from the Indians gaming revenues, to which Indian casino operators have said, "no way."

Some gaming experts are on record as noting that California gaming revenues will soon top $8 billion, with $10 billion within easy reach.


INSIDER SALES CONTINUE: Station Casinos Inc. (STN) executives continue to dispose of some of their shares, according to filings listed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Feb. 7, according to the filing, Frank Fertitta, III, company chairman and CEO, sold 242,000 shares to generate proceeds of about $4 million. His brother, Lorenzo, company president, sold 72,700 shares for about $1 million.

Just three days earlier, Frank Fertitta III was listed as having sold 219,000 shares for $4 million while Lorenzo disposed of 65,800 shares, picking up about $1 million.


BIG NAMES MEAN GREAT PUBLICITY: The story ended up in a gossip column in the New York Post but was denied vehemently by press flaks. According to the report, Ben Affleck and his paramour, Jennifer Lopez, were planning a bachelor/bachelorette party for 100 of their closest friends to be held at Las Vegas’ famous strip club Crazy Horse Too.

Reportedly the story originated with a club insider. But, when word reached Affleck’s publicity representative, he called it "utter nonsense," using an unmentionable word.

Which begs the question: "Was the flak calling the idea of a bachelor/bachelorette party utter nonsense?”¦or was the idea of holding the party in Las Vegas utter nonsense?”¦or was it the venue?"

Things to ponder while studying the Oscar nominations.


PERFECT TIMING: What better way to observe St. Valentine’s Day than to attend a performance of A.R. Gurney’s "Love Letters" starring Dawn Wells and Adam West?

The two popular television stars of the 1960’s — she was Mary Ann on "Gilligan’s Island" and he was "Batman" — appeared at the Golden Phoenix Hotel/Casino in Reno last Friday in a fund raiser for Project Solution, a Reno-based program that promotes education, recreation, arts and affordable housing.

But for Miss Wells, it was a homecoming of sorts. For those who weren’t around during those days, she grew up in Reno and competed in the 1960 Miss America contest as Miss Nevada.