Changes ahead for 'private' gaming

Apr 15, 2008 7:00 PM

Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener | The private salon regulations that had top Las Vegas resort bosses grumbling when the rules were adopted several years ago appear headed for an overhaul that will provide more flexibility.

The rules as they were initially drafted required six figures worth of cash or credit and minimum bets of at least $500.

These kinds of restrictions were not what industry strategists had in mind when they first approached lawmakers a half-dozen years ago for the enabling legislation that allowed regulators to draw up the first rules.

The biggest local resorts hoped to lure the well-heeled gamblers for whom privacy was an expected option. Private gambling was not previously allowed in Nevada, even though it was available as close to Vegas as some of the California Indian casinos.

The Nevada legislative process resulted in a structure festooned with restrictions that required minimum bets of all players in the private casino.

Steve Wynn protested that this was no way to run a casino catering to the wealthiest casino customers in the world. You don’t tell multi-millionaire players that they can’t bet a few hands of fifty or a hundred dollars if that is what they want to do.

Not that any casino has ever been reprimanded or otherwise punished by regulators for letting a multimillionaire bet a few low limit hands. Wynn must have guessed that the Control Board accepted the essence of his argument.

"I don’t think the Board is going to bother me," he confided at one point. And the Board did not.

MGM Mirage’s Terry Lanni said he would have liked to offer private gambling with no minimum bet restrictions. The fact is, he explained, that there are quality customers who want nothing more than the chance to be, well, uh … alone.

Whatever the new rules eventually dictate, the casinos that offer private salons are definitely headed toward being able to offer a little more "aloneness" without all the red tape.

WSOP, live on TV?

The World Series of Poker appears ready to go live, or at least as live as it can ever possibly be when you consider that millions of dollars may be riding on each turn of the cards and security is always a big need. The plans, as they appeared to exist several days ago, call for the $10,000 main event’s final table to be aired on some sort of tape delayed basis, perhaps within 24 hours of when it is played.

WSOP officials have talked the idea over with members of its advisory council, who appear to be solidly behind it.

But, of course, all this is unofficial until someone at the top declares that it is a go.

Details of what would be a very big deal – yes, this is a pun – appear to hinge on the outcome of on-going talks between Harrah’s and ESPN, the casino company’s television partner for the World Series. Harrah’s owns the World Series.

Harrah’s is reportedly seeking a commitment of strong promotion from the network, and then there is the issue of what kind of programming slot ESPN is able to offer.

Harrah’s drops R-J ads

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has lost its Harrah’s Entertainment advertising – that’s roughly a million dollars a year – and the paper is no longer available in any of the Las Vegas casinos’ gift shops.

A Harrah’s insider, who spoke with the promise of anonymity, said the company has not been happy about the "tone" of a series of stories that listed work at Harrah’s properties that was conducted over a number of years without the proper county permits.

The insider said some of the work involved projects implemented before Harrah’s owned the former Caesars Entertainment properties.

"Mistakes were made," my insider said, "and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out, but what the company found objectionable is the tone of some of the stories."

So long, cigarettes

Non-smoking casinos are the way the world is going. That’s the view of a senior gaming executive familiar with the attitudes that will shape the future of smoking policies in travel destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

"Better get used to it," he said, offering his views on the condition that he not be identified since the process of change can take a while and there are people with strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

"But I can assure you," he said, "that any of the big new places are going to be non-smoking."

He thinks this will be true of CityCenter, although officials there did not make themselves available in the last few days to comment.