Posted At : October 13, 2009 10:46 AM | Posted By : D McKee
Related Categories: Illinois,Massachusetts,Penn National,Internet gambling,Ohio,Marketing,Horseracing,Fontainebleau,Tribal,Sheldon Adelson,Kansas,Racinos,Harrah's,Technology,Indiana,New York
You can't play poker for money on the Internet but you can now play the ponies in Illinois via the Web. This is yet another example of legally enshrined hypocrisy under UIGEA, the parting gift of "Slick Billy" Frist and Jim Leach to the American people. (Speaking of Dr. Frist, M.D., if we must, he just sat like a bump on a log when Bill Maher stupidly railed against the swine-flu vaccine last week. Thanks, doc.)
Setting Sun? The incoming chief of the Mohegan tribe is saying the right things about the imminent need for diversification. Specifics, however, are few on the ground. Mohegan Sun, meanwhile, finds itself between several rocks and hard places: potential competition from Massachusetts and Long Island, $1 billion in debt, falling revenues and the economic inability to finish planned improvements. Depending on how quickly Massachusetts gets its act together, Mohegan's moment in the sun could soon pass.
You've heard of "pocket pool," now the Review-Journal's intrepid Howard Stutz reaches deep into the demimonde of PocketCasino, the new, portable sports-betting technology in play at Venetian/Palazzo. No word yet on whether excessive play causes blindness or hair growth on one's palms.
(Seriously, as a longtime skeptic of Cantor Gaming's portable-gambling applications, I have to say it looks like the Cantor boys have come up aces this time. As for handheld substitutes for table games, the jury is still out on that, four years after their legalization.)
Pennies for F'bleau. What's Fontainebleau worth? Jack shit, according to Penn National Gaming (aka, 15 cents on the dollar). In return, Penn is willing to accept a 10% return on investment ... provided it can bring the project in a no more than $1.5 billion (not counting the billions already spent and written off).
This remains an iffy proposition, in part because it's predicated on increased profitability at Penn's patchwork assemblage of casino properties. Those have to be welded into a Harrah's Entertainment-like loyalty program that drives visitors to Las Vegas. This is a huge "if," as Penn currently has no casinos in major destination markets, unless you stretch that to include recently singed Empress Joliet. Bringing customers to Vegas or even Atlantic City is terra icongnita for Penn.
To put it bluntly, Penn was a third-tier operator -- mainly of racinos -- that "married up" by taking over Argosy Gaming, the classiest of the riverboat operators. However, the Vegas market is notoriously unforgiving of new-to-town operators and Penn will have a very steep learning curve. Also, Penn is not associated with upscale properties, so F'bleau will either have to be repriced downward to reflect the Penn customer base or may need to offer promotional allowances up the ying-yang (more likely both).
If that weren't sufficient cause for concern, Penn's oft-brandished $1.5 billion (the breakup fee from an ill-advised and abortive LBO) is covering multiple bets. Penn is the primary mover behind a pro-casino ballot initiative in Ohio -- partly to protect its Hollywood Lawrenceburg investment just across the border in Indiana. It also recently bought out Cordish Gaming in hopes of getting piggybacked onto the Kansas Speedway casino license, should the Sunflower State's lottery board approve.
At least Penn is working on ways to trim the completion price of F'bleau. Costs to date -- and projected ROI -- being what they are, it behooves Penn CEO Peter Carlino to get this rampaging beast under some semblance of control.