No bull: Merrill Lynch boosts tribes

Jul 15, 2003 4:09 AM

If Merrill Lynch stands behind something, that’s usually good news. So, Indian casinos must be on cloud nine.

The famed finance corporation announced last week in New York that American Indian casinos will take in $15 billion this year, or 36 percent of the national gaming revenue.

Merrill Lynch analyst Kurt van Kuller wrote that "with stagnant markets in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the dynamic growth in gaming is all in Indian country."

However, van Kuller warned that this upward trend can be a mixed blessing.

"Casino bonds often come with a gusher of revenues," van Kuller told Indian Country Today. "But investors need to ponder market saturation and the impact of potential new competitors in a fast-changing environment."

California, with a dozen major casino proposals, leads the Indian casino revenues at $5 billion. New York is also a primary player, projected $2 billion. Connecticut is behind California at $2 billion, followed by Michigan at $1 billion. New compacts have come online this year in Arizona and Wisconsin.

Brown leaves RSCVA

Bob Brown resigned last Friday as vice president of sales for the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority.

The resignation was described by Brown and an RSCVA spokesperson as "a mutual agreement."

"I’m intending to pursue other options outside of the public sector," Brown told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Brown was at the center of several controversial matters involving the sales department during the pass six months.

"This has been an issue, regarding his performance," said John Farahi, chief executive of the Atlantis Casino Resort and a former RSCVA board member. "Most properties were not too happy with how he was running the sales department."

Indiana goes 24

Round the clock operations begin this week at Caesars Indiana after gaining approval for the change from state regulators.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Caesars, Belterra and five other Indiana casinos will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week under the new law.

Lawmakers hope the change will produce an additional $10 million annually in casino taxes. The money will be used to attempt balancing the state’s ailing budget.

Ed Garruto, senior vice president of Caesars, said last week that the change brings the casino in line with others across the country. Seven other states allow nonstop gambling.

Caesars Indiana is located just down river from Louisville.

Taxes worry Carlino

Peter Carlino, chairman and CEO of Penn National Gaming, told the Biloxi Sun Herald that the mere discussion of a gaming tax increase was frightening.

"We’re struggling to hold our business margins in Mississippi, so if you increase taxes a few percentage points, it all comes off our bottom line," Carlino said in a question-answer session with the Mississippi daily newspaper.

"The impact would be multiplied because we have three sites in the state," he continued. "It would be a disaster, because there’s no growth in the market today."

Carlino, 56, has turned Penn National into a major regional casino company, with resorts stretching from Illinois to West Virginia.

Carlino indicated that both his businesses on the Gulf Coast have risen on a yearly basis.

Penn National is trying to introduce slot machines at Pennsylvania racetracks.

Around the USA

MAINE: Credit card giant MBNA, one of the state’s largest employers, is aligning itself with the anti-gambling political campaign to oppose casinos. NY: Judge Albert Rosenblatt, a member of the state’s highest court, granted a temporary stay on its ruling on the validity of a Mohawk Indian Casino. CAL: Reps for the Graton Rancheria tribe are actively looking at a dozen alternate locations for their proposed casino in lieu of continuing opposition to the Sears Point site.