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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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Let's say you're Columbia Sussex, owner of the Westin Casuarina and notorious for your pinch-penny ways. What do you do if a convention organizer can't pay up on its $50,000 tab? Why simply -- and sneakily -- bill it to the attendees, of course!
That's the rude surprise that dental trainee Don Dible got when he received his bill from the Westin: an extra $665 charged to his credit card -- five months after the fact. According to the AP's Kathleen Hennessey, who has seen the offending document, 'ColSux' hit Dible up for "pro-rated amount per attendee." A Houston dentist got socked for $1,027 ... presumably penalized the extra $362 because he had the temerity to be a speaker at the conference, not just an attendee.
House of shame
The Westin's invoices are written so that it can pass the liabilities of companies like Coaching Center of Austin onto third parties. Besides Dible, at least 20 other complainants are reported to have surfaced -- some of whom the Coaching Center says it has reimbursed.
"Columbia Sussex owns 13 casinos and 80 hotels in the United States and abroad, pulling in revenues of some $3 billion a year," writes Hennessey. Small wonder, with tactics like these, which came as quite a surprise to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority's Erika Pope.
Congrats to the AP for snagging this story, stealing a march on both the Las Vegas Sun and its sleepier crosstown competitor.
More Trop trouble. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission has to decide whether to place the Atlantic City Tropicana back in the hands of ColSux affiliate Adamar of New Jersey to shelter the asset from a Delaware lawsuit. Wilmington Trust Corp. is suing ColSux for $960 million upon which it alleges the Kentucky hotelier has defaulted.
Trop trustee Justice Gary Stein finds himself in the awkward position of having to advocate that the NJCCC undo his own conservancy lest a court-ordered bankruptcy "affect my ability to sell the asset," a process that hasn't exactly had potential buyers beating down the door so far. My guess is that the NJCCC will feel boxed in and have to go along, but it doesn't sound like NJCCC Chairwoman Linda Kassekert is any too happy with the situation -- or with the behavior of Tropicana Casino Resorts CEO/President/Secretary/Treasurer/Sole Director William J. Yung III.
News flash: I was wrong. If ColSux goes belly-up that's just too damn bad, says the NJCCC. Or words to that effect. Stein's proposed solution would left him only nominally in the driver's seat, with Yung regaining title to the A.C. Trop. The NJCCC also dealt a verbal smackdown to Stein, partly for exceeding his mandate -- not to mention his employment of a car service to ferry him to and from Hackensack.
Meet the new boss, quite different from the old boss. "In 25 years I never had a layoff, and I don't intend to start now." With those words, Robert Dingman (above) got off on the right foot as trustee of Casino Aztar. (Dingman says he might even -- Gasp! -- increase staffing. That sound you hear is Bill Yung reaching for his defibrillator.)
The Evansville riverboat is entering an odd interregnum in which it will be run by the State of Indiana on Columbia Sussex's dime (and I use "dime" advisedly) while the state vets would-owner Eldorado Resorts, whose interests include co-ownership of the Silver Legacy -- an exceptionally comfortable casino-hotel, the nicest in downtown Reno, when I was hosted there ... admittedly, back in the last century.
Having faced off with the Carano family during his Harrah's Entertainment years, Dingman gives them the thumbs up as "great operators ... our nemesis in Reno."
The latter ponied up $220 million* for the gaming vessel ($5 million less than expected) on the very day Columbia Sussex was likely to be stripped of its license. Yung's company had reneged on commitments to the city of Evansville, both in terms of employment levels and bringing in a new boat. It also ceased Aztar Corp.'s practice of supporting local charities and vendors.
Eldorado -- which evidently relishes challenging riverboat markets -- plunked down $169 million two years ago (plus an additional $9 million last month) for a Bossier City, La., boat and that would put Casino Aztar within its price range. Still, with credit markets being what they are, I'm awaiting disclosure of the terms of sale with bated breath.
"Our long nightmare is over," added Dingman. Although he's worked in some of Harrah's most far-flung markets, from Vicksburg to New Zealand, serving in the Vietnam War will probably turn out to be Dingman's best preparation for dealing with the scorched-earth tactics of Bill Yung. (As more than one Courier-Post reader points out, the new casino resort in French Lick has leapfrogged past Casino Aztar while Yung was busy subdividing pennies.) Apparently Yung's can't-fail business strategies included eradicating or severely diminishing promotional allowances.
No wonder Casino Aztar is 11th out of 11 Hoosier State casinos. (Only third-lowest in revenue, though.) In FY07, French Lick was breathing down Casino Aztar's neck, $111 million to $123.5 million.
This Should Be Interesting Dept. The Courier-Press adds that "Dingman has been granted broad powers to spend Columbia Sussex's money on operating and improving the casino," which apparently suffers from a shortage of dealers, among other things. But has he been granted broad Columbia Sussex money to spend? Yung is notoriously loath in that respect, so Dingman can probably look forward to having to play hardball with the corporate colossus of Fort Mitchell, Ky.
Bottom line: I've seen how the Caranos operate and I've seen how Bill Yung operates. Eldorado in/ColSux out is a happier ending to this story than we could have hoped for, say, two months ago.
* -- The price is sometimes reported as $245 million because of a conditional $25 million Eldorado will kick in if it hits certain (undisclosed) metrics. The two companies are essentially making a wager that Eldorado can do something comparable to what it did in Bossier City, where it grew revenue 18% over a two-year period, in a declining market.