Still snowed under with non-S&G commitments, but here's a brief dispatch. First, with apologies to Woody Allen ...
"The federal stimulus package is so bad"
"Yes, and such small portions."
That's the sum and substance of this diatribe, penned by the old biddies over at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The federal stimulus dollars which the R-J opposed (as did its man-crush, Gov. Jim Gibbons) aren't trickling down in sufficient numbers for the editorialists' liking.
Ergo, 13% unemployment and a housing market that's "years away" from recovery are things from which Uncle Sam is meant to rescue us. Yes, and never mind that the real culprit is the overreliance of Nevada on a service economy, plus insane overexuberance in the real estate sector -- two phenomena for which the R-J has never had a discouraging word.
Mistaking one owl for a winter, R-J Publisher Sherm Frederick goes into full doom-and-gloom mode. His can't-miss economic barometer? A half-full flight into Las Vegas. (From Austin. On a Tuesday.) I've been flying into and out of this city for nigh upon 12 years and many's the half-full flight I've taken into McCarran International Airport. It's a side effect of Las Vegas being so liberally serviced by the major airlines.
Also, Frederick's half-baked "analysis" reeks of that local entitlement mentality whereby Americans are obligated to spend their money here -- during a recession, no less. (Maybe more of them would do so if we didn't continue to shift our tax burden onto their shoulders.)
We've got to take our lumps with the rest of the country and, as I've pointed out several times before, Southern Nevada would be weathering the current doldrums much better had it not been for an insanely euphoric attitude in our business community, with its pie-in-the-sky economic models. Harrah's Entertainment claims that, in the course of its mega-optimistic LBO, it projected a worst-case scenario in which revenue fell 30% and Harrah's came through just fine.
I don't believe it. Either that or Gary Loveman needs to sack his number-crunchers and find some ones who use real math.
Trouble at Cannery. Who knew? Things seemed to be going pretty well for them. But President Tom Lettero has been demoted from chief operating officer to CFO. His vacated portfolio will be taken up by Xavier Walsh, from Crown Ltd. Is minority shareholder James Packer flexing some muscle? Or has Cannery Casino Resorts decided that what works for Crown in Australia might be worth trying in Nevada and Pennsylvania?
Harrah's attempt to play hardball with its dealer unions has caromed off the company's noggin. The American Federation of Teachers is pulling its convention business from Harrah's-owned properties until contract negotiations with the dealers at Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars A.C. You might say that Caesar's fine Roman nose has been cut off to spite his face,
A provocative question is posed by Dr. David G. Schwartz. If there are fewer slots and table games on Nevada's casino floors, does this bode an ongoing decrease in casino revenue? Prof. Schwartz is far better educated than am I in these matters ... yet it seems that the proposition boils down to More gaming positions = More revenue.
But how many casinos are running at 100% game usage even a small part of the time? Also, with penny slots yielding higher hold percentages than their nickel and quarter brethren, denominations are trumping sheer numbers. Lord knows, people are drawn to those penny machines as though to a spider web because the (perceived) value overrides the (documented) less-favorable pay tables. In any event, Dr. Schwartz's in-progress study promises to be one of the most interesting casino-related documents emerging this year.