Posted At : October 8, 2009 01:07 PM | Posted By : D McKee
Related Categories: Harrah's,Station Casinos,Current,Tribal,Ohio,Atlantic City,Neil Bluhm,Taxes,Sheldon Adelson,Massachusetts,Baseball,Melco Crown Entertainment,Lawrence Ho,Pennsylvania,Texas,Regulation,Politics,M Resort,Illinois,Sports,Penn National,Horseracing,Oklahoma,Internet gambling,Fontainebleau,Slot routes,International,Donald Trump,Macau,Steve Wynn,Harry Reid
Only $14 million in cash (plus a $100 million equity infusion), according to The Donald. Bondholders say, we'll see your $115 million and raise you $100 million. The latter would recoup at least some -- but not very much -- of their $1.25 billion debt under their plan, while Das Trump would send them away virtually empty-handed. (Moral: When Donald Trump asks you for a loan, take a page from Nancy Reagan and Just Say No.)
The bondholders' assignment of a $75 million valuation to Trump Marina seems awfully optimistic for what is, in essence, a corpse that can't be sold. In essence, the real value proposition is resurgent Trump Taj Mahal, with the other two casinos scarcely better than throw-ins. The Marina is, if anything, an albatross around the company's neck. Still, given that CEO Mark Juliano is going to exceptional lengths to champion the Trumpster's bid, which is a big "screw you" to the debtholders, here's hoping Judge Judith H. Wizmur holds firm for a more responsible solution.
Ho: No! "I don't see major resorts opening for the next couple of years now," says Lawrence Ho. thereby raining pessimism on the expansion plans of Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment. The younger Ho also speculates upon the Chinese government's motivation for throttling, then somewhat relenting upon travel to Macao. Interesting tidbit: Marketwatch.com reports that "Venetian Sands" [sic] has cut its number of table games by 25%.
Nevada revenues in. And yeah, they suck. They're much less sucky than usual (-9%), showing an upward trend in baccarat plus two locals-oriented bright spots in the form of Aliante Station and M Resort. It's unclear, though, how much of the growth generated by the last two is new business vs. redistribution of dollars from elsewhere in the valley. The Sun's analysis is far more informative than that found in the R-J.
Wait 'til next year. That's the timeline for casinos in Massachusetts. Even though western Mass looks like slim pickings, lawmakers will probably have to put a casino there just to get the bill onto the floor.
Penn bid falls. Lenders to bankrupt Fontainebleau won a small victory or two, as the judge overseeing the case seems determined to keep lead developer Jeffrey Soffer as far from the disposition of F'bleau as possible. (Soffer is both a debtor and creditor on the project.)
F'bleau, for its part, revealed that Penn National Gaming's offer is now "substantially less" than $300 million, but would include money to replace the windows that are reportedly falling off the building. (One more reason not to build a Strip megaresort tower flush against the "pedestrian realm.")
Groundbreaking today for the long-awaited SugarHouse casino in Philadelphia, under the shadow of a stick-it-to-SugarHouse tax that's been proposed in the Lege. Table games, meanwhile, might be off the table in the face of a $200 million lawsuit. You see, non-racino casinos are allowed to have 5,000 slots (in return for a $50 million fee). Small "resort" casinos -- known as "Category 3" -- only have to $5 million and get 500 slots (accessible only to guests). That's proportional, obviously, and seems fair.
However ... lawmakers want to tilt the playing field by giving Category 3 casinos 30% as many slots as, say, Rivers Casino or SugarHouse, instead of 10% ... and open those games to the general public, not just guests. Of course, the state can't go to the one existing Category 3 casino and ask for another $10 million -- can it? Casino operators are also solidly behind the GOP position on table games: $10 million upfront plus a 12% tax. But, unless House Dems completely capitulate, the gaming bosses are unlikely to get what they want, at least where the tax rate is concerned.
Penn whiffs again. Although Penn Nat'l was supposed to be a bidder in the bankruptcy auction for the Lone Star Park racino, it evidently didn't get into the action and the track went to the Chickasaw Nation for $27 million. (A lot less than Harrah's Entertainment paid to get into Ohio.)
Which means that if/when gambling is legitimized in Texas, the Chickasaws will have a double advantage (parimutuel + tribal status), while Penn will be looking at yet another missed opportunity. Penn's corporate strategy is a baffling alternation of rashness and hyper-caution.
In other tribal news, much-criticized National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Phil Hogen is gone, thank God, and with him his new, more-restrictive Class II rules. Hogen was justly pilloried for attempting a rollback of hard-won gains in what games tribes could offer. His new rules reflected Bush administration paternalism toward tribes and while they're officially postponed for a year, I think it's safe to say they're dead.* No wonder Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) is smiling. Watch out for that doorknob, Mister (Ex-)Chairman.
(* It's probable the same thing would have happened under a President McCain, as either candidate would have brought a more enlightened attitude to D.C.-tribal relationships.)
Supporters of video gambling are starting to push back in Illinois, at least in rural, conservative McHenry County. So far it's been the urban areas where this expansion of gambling hasn't been gaining traction.
A repeal of UIGEA continues to gain ground in the House of Representatives, even if it got pulled off the floor in the Senate. (Thanks for nothing, Harry Reid.) The money quote, literally, is a reference to an amendment Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) which would would specify that "corporate taxes owed on regulated Internet gambling activities are collected, as they currently are from the land-based casino industry." [emphasis added]
If that means what it implies, it would remove the spectre of industry-wide federal gambling taxation from the discussion and leave taxation to the states. If not, then the nose of the federal casino-tax camel is still sticking through the legislative tent. And you know where that leads.
We've seen a nationwide gaming tax get shot down during the Clinton administration but there are desperate times, obviously. Republicans like Mike Huckabee and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) have been looking to sock it to casinos at the federal level for some years now, so I fear it could have bipartisan support, should such a debate come to pass.
It's playoff time. A tired, flat-footed Minnesota Twins squad looked positively dreaful last night, flailing at outside pitches from C.C. Sabathia (if you couldn't reach that slider in the first inning, your arms aren't going to be any longer in the seventh, son). Cliff Lee made short work of the Colorado Rockies (besides, Jim Tracy can't win in the postseason), the St. Louis Cardinals look set to continue their tradition of postseason underperformance and my Anaheim Angels are forever reduced to a quivering heap of Jello in playoff games against the Boston Red Sox. Why am I having visions of brooms?