Isle of Capri Casinos is coming up for air, literally extricating itself from underneath Ricoh Stadium in Coventry, U.K. As part of CEO James Perry's attempt to refocus a company that spread itself too thin under his predecessor, he's walking away from an ill-starred British venture. Rank Group not only assumes Isle's lease, it gets the casino itself for pocket change, by industry standards: $940,000.
Perry may also be preparing to unload Isle's Pompano Park racino in the disappointing Florida market. At least one analyst is now picking Isle, so recently stuck in the mud, as one of the better bets to emerge intact from the gaming group's crisis.
A house divided cannot flush. Staggering from miscalculation to mishap, the Tropicana Las Vegas has sustained another self-inflicted wound. But don't blame current steward Tropicana Entertainment, predecessor Columbia Sussex or even Aztar Corp. The non-kosher plumbing that got the Paradise Tower shut down dates back to the 1990s, when the Trop was under divided ownership (one of the many obstacles to its redevelopment). The scary part is that it took at least 10 years for the code violations to be discovered.
The real victims, of course, are the hotel guests who are getting bumped from their Paradise Tower rooms. Since it's far and away the nicest part of the Trop, by definition they'll be moving to less-desirable rooms, some of them in truly decrepit parts of the hotel. Given the condition of the Trop's physical plant when I made a "secret shopper" visit, today's news comes as less than a surprise. The resort's advancing years were bound to catch it out sooner rather than later.
Penn's fancy footwork. While not out-and-out denying an attention-getting New York Post story about a possible 'credit bid' play for The Mirage, executives of Penn National Gaming were at some considerable pains to imply that it was all smoke, no fire. CFO William Clifford put it thusly: "... there were quotes and things said that have been pulled all the back to the last year’s Gaming Conference ... I’m not quite sure that the Post article is a very good reflection of anything we’ve ever said at any point in time."
CEO Peter Carlino followed with, "Some of the most interesting quotes were made at a time when none of the stuff that you are all currently thinking about was out there so it’s unfortunate. It’s just a hodgepodge of things pulled together to make a story. We would have preferred not to have seen it that way. Look, common sense says if there’s an opportunity we’re going to follow it but it’s no more exciting than that; enough said." [Emphasis added]
A Bloomberg News report that Penn was pursuing Greektown Casino went unaddressed in yesterday's earnings call. To the extent that Carlino was willing to commit himself on Las Vegas, he said Penn wanted no more than a single property "if we can find one." The consensus of Penn execs was that Vegas would be a "viable" market for the company ... in five years. (The company's strategy is partially predicated on an exodus of Californians relocating to Vegas and jump-starting the local economy.)
Sadly, Atlantic City seems to have slipped off Penn's radar screen altogether. On a happier note, the company promises a new and "exciting" replacement for the Empress Joliet pavilion that was destroyed by fire -- which makes it sound like the previous Ye Olde Egypt theme is now history, so to speak.
Schreckliche Idee! At a time when institutions like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank control ever-larger chunks of the Strip, the Nevada Gaming Commission is seriously considering lowering the threshold of scrutiny even further. (Because if there are any two words that instill confidence nowadays, those words are "Wall Street.")
The man fronting this idea, veteran gaming attorney Frank Schreck, argues that his proposed rule change wouldn't result in casinos ceding managerial or operational control. However, that's already happened at the Las Vegas Hilton, where a Goldman-owned stalking horse holds a sizeable minority interest. What he's proposing would take a bad precedent and codify it.
By linguistic coincidence, schreck is the German word for "fright" and the root of schrecklich or "horrible." Which is what this idea is. But Nevada regulators are already overburdened and about to become more so, once the next budget is enacted. Given that grim future, Schreck's proposed lightening of their workload will be probably be embraced.