Gaming share prices rise
with Wall St. euphoria

Apr 8, 2003 7:24 AM

Early morning euphoria on Wall Street sent gaming stocks soaring Monday and although the levels declined as the various indices gave up their huge advances late in the day, major gaming companies fared relatively well.

MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG), which hit a high for the day of $30.87 during the early morning hours, was able to retain a gain of $0.82 for the day, closing at $30.12 with a very moderate 545,700 shares changing hands.

Retaining a gain of $0.50 a share was Mandalay Resorts Group Inc. (MBG) that saw its shares rise to $28.85 during the early trading before falling in the last hour to $28.19 a share.

Park Place Entertainment Corp. (PPE), the country’s largest gaming company, saw its shares rise to $7.43 each, a gain of $0.28 a share, before falling at closing to $7.24 or a gain of $0.09 a share for the day.

International Game Technology (IGT), which leads the nation in the manufacture and distribution of gaming devices, showed the most volatility for the day. During the morning, the shares hit a high of $85.45 a share, an increase of $2.27 a share. By day’s end, however, the share price had dropped to $82.31, a gain of a modest $0.13 for the day.

Also showing substantial improvement were the regional companies, such as Argosy Gaming Inc. (AGY), up $0.37 to $20.25; Ameristar Gaming Inc. (ASCA), up $0.45 to $12.07; Aztar Corp. (AZR) up $0.52 to $14; Boyd Gaming Inc. (BYD), up $0.46 to $13.61; Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK) up $0.27 to $5.48, and the locals giant, Station Casinos Inc., up $0.50 to $21.69.

Raising stakes

It has taken several years, but Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) is finally on the verge of having its own restaurant in the Harrah’s New Orleans Casino. The steakhouse is due to open in July.

When the original legislation permitting Louisiana’s only land-based casino was passed, specifications precluded the casino from having either a hotel or a restaurant. Obviously, heavy lobbying from both the hotel and restaurant industries influenced the bill’s authors.

But, as time passed, with the first temporary casino going bust and the permanent casino doing far less business than had been expected, caused a major change in the anti-casino mindset. Two years ago, the legislature modified the casino bill with new operating freedoms.

The new restaurant will have famed chef John Besh at the helm. He seemed the obvious person to run the restaurant since he already operates Restaurant August, located about a block from the casino.

Another Dennis dazzle

Leave it to Dennis Gomes to come up with another gadget to attract more players to the Tropicana Casino and Resort on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

For months, Gomes featured the Tic-Tac-Toe playing chickens to increase business, initially in Atlantic City and later at the Tropicana Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. The gimmick was if the player could beat the game playing chicken the reward was an astounding $10,000.

Now that the chickens’ popularity has waned, Gomes has installed a new gimmick in his New Jersey property. According to Joe Weinert, staff writer for the Press of Atlantic City, the new attraction is the Amazing Cash Contraption, a $1.5 million Rube Goldberg device that rewards unsuspecting slot players with a cash prize.

Every 15 minutes, according to Weinert’s description, a puff of smoke upstairs signals another start of the Cash Contraption. During the next minute, a bowling ball snakes overhead through colorful, gadget-filled tubes and machines that lead down to and through a new $8 million slot room.

At the end, a cartoon professor announces one random cash winner among the 281 participating slot machines. The prize ranges form $5 to $10,000.

A hospitable move

Alpha Hospitality Corporation (ALHY) and its affiliate, Catskill Development LLC, has joined the Cayuga Nation in planning a casino to be developed next to Monticello Raceway, an upstate New York trotting track owned by the company.

The agreement with the tribe provides for the development, construction, financing, operation and management of the casino. Also, the agreement provides for a joint venture to construct and operate hotels, retail and other support facilities in Sullivan County, N.Y., that will compliment casino operations.

In effect, Alpha Hospitality will transfer to the tribe about 30 acres adjacent to the Monticello racetrack for the casino development. The tribe must now seek federal approval for taking the land in trust and must negotiate a gaming compact with the state.

Patents acquired

International Game Technology Inc. (IGT) announced Monday it had acquired 13 U.S. patents from Eagle Co. Ltd. of Japan. The patents cover technology in use in a number of gaming machines.

One patent covers the use of one or more bonus reels on a slot machine and is currently in use on The Price is Right slot machine.

Speaking for IGT, Rich Pennington, executive vice president of product development said, "After carefully reviewing the patents, our game design team was extremely impressed with the inventions. Games based on these concepts have a proven player appeal that sets them apart from the rest of the field."

A slots variation

For the past couple of years, many of the country’ racetracks have been arguing for the need to increase their revenues by having slot machines installed at their facility. Now a state lawmaker in New York has come up with the idea to use slot machines to save the City of New York.

N.Y. City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has threatened to re-install a commuter tax in order to raise about $1 billion in additional revenue for the city, a move that has caused a lot of consternation among the city’s commuters.

"Forgedaboudit," said a slots plan spokesman. Just expand the city’s Off-Track Betting parlors, properties that already are owned by the city, to include slot machines, or using the euphemism, video slot machines.

"This could be a substitute for the commuter tax, raising hundreds of millions of dollars a year for Mayor Bloomberg, the source told the New York Post.

Trump inks deal

No official announcement was made as of Monday but sources in Illinois indicated that Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts Inc. (DJT) and the village of Crestwood, Ill., have signed a deal to berth a riverboat casino in that suburb of Chicago.

The official announcement reportedly was delayed so as to see what action will be taken by the Illinois Gaming Board next week relative to the state’s 10th casino license now in the hands of embattled Emerald Casino Inc.

Crestwood is the lead community in a consortium of 11 communities that banded together in order to make a more meaningful presentation for the license. Although there is nothing official, it is expected that if a license is granted to the group, the riverboat casino would be located in an area known as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

The Insider

Gil Cohen, a Las Vegas native who has been a gaming industry executive for the past three decades, has joined the Rampart Casino at The Resort at Summerlin as director of customer development. He most recently spent the past 13 years with The Mirage Hotel Casino Resort.

Century Casinos Inc. (CNTY) has signed a casino concession agreement with Oceania Cruises, a new Miami based cruise line catering to the upper premium segment of the cruise market.

Analysts at Banc of America Securities have raised their investment rating for Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) from "neutral" to "buy."

A judge in Maine has refused to throw out a ballot question on whether to allow an Indian casino in Maine, setting the stage for a November referendum on the issue.

Youbet.com Inc. (UBET) has signed a joint marketing agreement with the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF), giving the online wagering company access to all of the CARF facilities.

GTECH Holdings Corp. (GTK) has scheduled an earnings conference call for Thursday, April 10, at 5.30 a.m. PDT.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. (LACO) has agreed to sell 3.5 acres of undeveloped land near Harmon and Las Vegas Boulevard to Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc. for $15 million.

Shuffle Master Inc. (SHFL) says it plans to acquire certain assets and intellectual property rights owned by Sega Gaming Technology Inc. Included will be the rights to Royal Ascot, Royal Derby, Sega Blackjack, Bingo Party and Roulette Club.

Also, Shuffle Master announced that it and WMS Industries Inc. (WMS) had agreed to settle all existing lawsuits relative to various patents.