Bally’s opens, Chicago yawns; MGM, tree murderers

Chicago‘s first casino opened to “dozens of people” Saturday. Only dozens? That’s not a good sign for Bally’s Corp. It’ll need to stir up a lot more excitement than that if it’s to make back its nut on $1.7 billion Bally’s Chicago. If Chicagoans couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed for the 8 a.m. debut of a casino conveniently located at Medinah Temple, what does that bode for the megaresort, three years hence? Then again, nobody ever went broke with customers like the gullible group of gamblers who exclaimed, “We’re seniors … We’re in there to get this money.” Still, the images of the early morning opening were distinctly underwhelming. We expected better, frankly.

There’s plenty of time for improvement. Bally’s rushed into the opening with “little fanfare” and no time for promotion. There was no date certain for the curtain-raising and, for now, Bally’s will have to rely upon word of mouth. Maybe when the permanent casino is licensed, Soo Kim‘s company can take a week afterward to get its promotional ducks in a row. By now, casino companies should be accustomed to dancing attendance upon the schedule of Illinois regulators. Bally’s is no stranger to the Land of Lincoln, so what’s its excuse?

“There was, however,” chronicled the Chicago Sun Times, “an early indication of the possible congestion issues posed by the house of chance in the heart of a busy tourist district. Carolyn Williams, the fourth person in line, said she had trouble finding a parking garage open that early, and was miffed to learn it wasn’t free.” That seems a bit naive of Ms. Williams but we did warn that this sort of issue was likely to be exacerbated by the presence of a casino in the area. The greater naiveté may be that of city fathers who think a casino, any casino, will be sufficiently bountiful to restore ” nearly insolvent police and firefighter pension funds.” They’re in for a rude awakening.

Casinos in Missouri grossed $156.5 million last month, a 3% dip from last year, as an overheated regional industry continues to cool somewhat. Gamblers tightened their purse strings by 2% and attended very slightly less. Hollywood St. Louis ($20 million) continued to gain ground on Ameristar St. Charles ($23 million), which sagged -12%. River City was flat at $20.5 million and Horseshoe St. Louis lost its winning streak, -6% to $13 million. To the west, Ameristar Kansas City led that market with $16 million (flat), while Bally’s Kansas City continued to gain market share, up 5.5% to $11 million. Harrah’s North Kansas City (pictured) slid 8% to $14 million and Argosy Riverside stumbled 7% to $14 million. Outstate, Isle of Capri Boonville grossed $7.5 million, ceding a percentage point. Century Casinos improved in both its markets, jumping 7.5% in Caruthersville ($4 million) and 10% in Cape Girardeau ($6 million). In sports betting … wait … Missouri don’t have no stinkin’ sports betting. Never had it. Never will.

Formula One racing continues to zoom roughshod over the citizens of Las Vegas, its supposed beneficiaries. One Sin City mom finds herself having to make a three-hour commute to work. “I have to be two hours early to work and be two hours late to get out. Even though we wanted this Formula One race, it’s difficult taking care of four kids and our life for work. All the people working [on] Las Vegas Boulevard coming into work, it is very difficult for us,” Fdil Ismail told the Clark County Commission. She needn’t have bothered. The commissioners are bought and paid for by F1, which ought consider changing its name to FU. It handwaved the parking problem for Las Vegas Strip-based employees but “couldn’t yet tell commissioners where those lots would be, or how workers would access the Strip.”

At least Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick hasn’t forgotten her constitutents. As she told Las Vegas Grand Prix brass, “There’s a lot riding on this, right? One, our brand because our brand means something, that’s why you’re here and we can’t have it go bad either. But two, our employees live here and they’re a part of the community and they can make or break you.” And the way things are going, it’s looking a lot like “break.” County and race officials are offering bleak comfort for the hoi polloi in the form of the quasi-mothballed Las Vegas Monorail, which will operate around the clock. (Will its usurious ticket prices be discounted?) That still means quite a hike for the rank and file. There’s even loose, last-minute talk of a temporary auto bridge at Flamingo Road and Koval Lane. No sweat, with 75 days to go.

“We have to not only allow our spectators movement around to the different activation zones, we got to make sure that every shift has the ability to understand how they can move in and out of this area,” remarked consultant Terry Miller, pushing workers under the race car and making sure it was clear who Priority Number One is (spectators). To that end, a beautiful, 25-year-old line of trees in front of Bellagio is being leveled to make way for Grand Prix grandstands. That’s Vegas for you, destroying permanent beauty for a quick monetary hit. As tourist Sharlene Labore told Howard Stutz,  “Greed kills. And it just killed a bunch of trees because, let’s face it, they’re making a lot of money from the race coming here.”

And if you think the Bellagio promenade looks fugly now, just wait ’til the grandstand goes up. Bleah! MGM Resorts International, which wielded the axe, claims that some of the trees will return. And if you believe that, boy, can we get you a deal on the Brooklyn Bridge. If you want to reproach the tree murderers, there’s an online petition whereby you can do so. Kudos to Scott Roeben of Vital Vegas for blowing the whistle on MGM’s anti-arboreal “horseshit” as he called it. He also reports, “The rates of rooms during the races are imploding, along with package prices.” He found a 69% (you read that right) markdown at Harrah’s Las Vegas. This could be a bigger collapse than New Year’s Eve 1999, when price-gouging and Y2K fears helped crush what should have been a financial bonanza.

Bellagio + trees. Sigh!

So much for Wall Street‘s untethered-to-reality contention that the Las Vegas Grand Prix would be even bigger than the the Super Bowl! Dry your panties, stock pickers. Nothing is bigger than the Super Bowl. Analyst-for-hire Jeremy Aguero was evasive when Las Vegas Advisor asked him about his Formula One projections and now we know why. As Roeben zings, “The Titanic didn’t pan out as planned, but at least it resulted in a popular movie, so every dark cloud has a silver lining.”

The stupidty doesn’t stop with tree homicide. Evidently, race organizers are afraid that the term “paddock” is so arcane (hell, every horse track in America has one) that people will think theirs is a cockamamie tribute to October 1 mass murderer—and MGM special guest—Stephen Paddock. Solution? Rename it something else. No bright ideas have emerged yet, so the field is open to your suggestions. We’ll forward them to F1. Promise.

Self-exclusion from Nevada casinos? We didn’t think there was any such thing when ace reporter Dana Gentry rang us up about it. Turns out, we were right. Gentry tells the story so we don’t have to. But it’s an outrage nonetheless. Brave to Caesars Entertainment, by the way, for going above and beyond what the Silver State requires.

To distract Gothamites from the laughable ineptitude of the New York Giants, let’s take a look at online sports betting activity in New York State, before people lost their shirts on last night’s face-plant by Big Blue. Last month, $1.1 billion was wagered, boiling down to $98.5 million in revenue, before taxes and promotions. Although DraftKings won the seesaw battle with FanDuel for market share of handle, it was FanDuel that had the last laugh, garnering $42 million in win to DraftKings’ $35 million. Caesars Sportsbook bested BetMGM, $10 million to $7 million, while BetRivers ($3 million) and Fanatics ($1 million) were also in the picture, unlike WynnBet or Resorts World or BallyBet, the latter scrambling to relaunch after switching over to a Kambi platform.

Jottings: The Las Vegas Raiders eked out a win yesterday over the lowly Denver Broncos. Cue predictable chest-thumping in the local dead tree of record … No hard feelings about that near-bankruptcy at CityCenter? That seems to be the case for Dubai darling Jim MurrenUrban One is out, Richmond Grand Casino & Resort is in as the moniker for the controversial Virginia project. It’s further evidence of the ascendancy of Churchill Downs, new backer of the casino … MGM Resorts International‘s planned megaresort in Osaka continues to proceed at a sub-glacial pace. The opening has been pushed back yet again, this time to late 2030. It was originally supposed to debut in 2025 … New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), despite personal ties to the gaming industry, is wading back into talks with the Seneca Nation over a new compact. Uh-oh.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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