‘Fight’ club; New Horseshoe powers Louisiana

Having experienced buyer’s remorse on DFS site Monkey Knife Fight, and now trying to re-sell it, Bally’s Corp. finds itself with a ton of Monkey Knife Fight-branded merchandise that it must unload. After all, if it finds a pigeon, er, purchaser for the DFS brand, all rights will revert to said pigeon, leaving Bally’s with a bunch of junk it can’t move. Hence the scene above in the Bally’s Atlantic City gift shop. You can practically hear the sales pitch: “Prices like these? I must be crazy! Sale ends Sunday (maybe)!” Seriously, the acquisition of Monkey Knife Fight was symptomatic of Bally’s swing-at-everything business strategy. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then again, Bally’s was late to the DFS party and the purchase always seemed to us like an afterthought. Now the company is hurting in the digital sphere, having expanded too much too soon, and Monkey Knife Fight is being flung overboard to trim the ship. Good luck finding takers. Maybe Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim can drop by Bally’sAtlantic City (the casino that quality forgot) and pick up sportswear that reads, “I bought Monkey Knife Fight and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Casino revenues in Louisiana were a bit off last month, -1.5%. And that’s a good thing, if only because they’d been trending much worse of late. But inside the numbers, we find a healthy gross of $212 million … albeit lifted considerably by the opening of Horseshoe Lake Charles, without which revenues would have been $201 million, a 6.5% decline. One extra weekend day was also helpful. Foot traffic was up 5% (credit the new casino’s novelty effect) but customers were holding their wallets tighter, with spend-per-visitor down 6.5%. If there’s any consolation to that, Deutsche Bank was expecting a bad December, down 8%. A very tight hold (14.5%) was good for sports betting operators, who realized $37 million on $254 million of handle.

Lake Charles alone engendered $86 million, with the market leader being L’Auberge du Lac, up 2% to $31.5 million, staving off Golden Nugget‘s $30 million challenge (-3.5%). Delta Downs slipped 4% to $14 million while, as implied above, Horseshoe came on like gangbusters with $10.5 million. It speaks well of L’Auberge that it was the only area casino not to lose business to Caesars Entertainment in December. By contrast, everyone in the New Orleans market except Harrah’s New Orleans ($23 million, +4%) got shellacked, with lightest blow falling on Fair Grounds racino ($3.5 million, -5%). Treasure Chest, in transition, tumbled 22% to $7 million and Boomtown New Orleans plummeted 23% to $10 million. In the sticks, Amelia Belle sank 27.5% to $2.5 million while Evangeline Downs slid 11% to $6 million.

Everybody in Baton Rouge had a rough month, even market leader L’Auberge Baton Rouge, down 8% to $16.5 million. Belle of Baton Rouge scraped up $1 million, despite a 15% declivity and Hollywood Baton Rouge (shown) fell 12% to $4.5 million. Only Bally’s Shreveport was revenue-positive in its market, up a point to $10 million. The new normal at Sam’s Town is $3.5 million, flat with last year, while everyone else lost ground. Boomtown Bossier slid 10.5% to $4 million and Horseshoe Bossier City ceded 7% to $14 million. Hard-luck Louisiana Downs plunged 27% to $3 million and market-leading Margaritaville ($18 million) dropped 9%, rounding out a month that was good for Caesars and Bally’s but not too many other folks.

Online sports betting is targeted for a March inception in Massachusetts, as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues to hand out temporary licenses. The six latest recipients are Betway, Betr, BallyBet, favorite son DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet. The approval of Betr was not without dissent, namely from Commissioner Eileen O’Brien, who had issues with the face (or fist) of the company, boxer Jake Paul. In addition to his own pugilistic duties, Paul promotes other boxing events for Betr. The company has volunteered (as though it had a choice in the matter) not to take wagers on Paul’s own bouts. However, the MGC may also seek a similar ban on those that he simply touts. However, it liked the company’s plan to cross-promote the Massachusetts Lottery on its platform.

Betway got a nudge in the rump, with regard to its in-progress takeover. Commissioners want assurances that it will launch within a certain time frame rather than simply idle in the garage, taking up a valuable license. Speaking of value, Deutsche Bank pegged 2027 sports betting revenue at a probable $409 million while Truist Securities was more aggressive, forecasting $639 million. We think regulators would be wise to be guided by the lower estimate.

Casinos haven’t even come (unless you count racinos) to New York City yet but that’s not good enough for state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D). He’s already pushing hard to score an own-goal by legalizing both i-gaming and online poker. His Assembly colleague, Gary Pretlow (D), is also for Internet poker but is taking a more incremental, game-by-game approach. “Listen, if the governor’s administration is serious about revenue and the fact we can stop the cycling of money to other states, then we have to talk about i-gaming,” Addabbo fumed. “New Yorkers are doing it. They’re just doing it illegally or they’re going to another state.” He’s right that Internet could outgross New York State‘s nation-leading sports betting industry and, if he gets what he wants, we support his call for the new tax revenues to be dedicated to problem-gambling treatment. One can never fund that excessively, especially as it’s one of the first things on the chopping block when state budgets get cut.

Speaking of budget cuts, Addabbo wants to ease up on the Empire State’s OSB windfall. He’s talking up the idea of tax cuts (substantial ones) in return for an escalation in the number of operators permitted in New York, as many as 16. If a few more are permitted, Addabbo would cut their taxes to 35% and if he gets the whole enchilada, 25%. That’s mighty George of him but will Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) share his enthusiasm for putting one of the state’s fattest cash cows on a crash diet?

Soft target

Yesterday we covered the case of the Las Vegas casino bandit but erred when we said that Las Vegas Metro was covering the butts of casinos that had been hit. So far we now know that the masked man struck (in chronological order) Gold Coast, Green Valley Ranch, Silverton and Rampart Casino. Some of these are the low-hanging fruit of the Sin City casino industry. By contrast, Las Vegas Strip casinos have been recently two-for-two in stickup-man arrests. Zubaid Al Jarmi was nabbed for a Resorts World Las Vegas heist and James Booth for trying to clean out Caesars Palace, a particularly brazen move.

That says something about the security-and-surveillance priorities of Strip casinos versus off-Strip ones. However, there’s a general invitation-to-rob mentality that UNLV‘s Prof. Mehmet Erdem described to the Las Vegas Review-Journal thusly: “There is a very intentional effort to de-escalate. So it’s common sense to minimize anything that’s going to possibly escalate the situation.” Like trying to apprehend a 6’3″ man in a ski mask.

Add Caesars Sportsbook to the dishonor roll of OSB providers who have run afoul of Ohio regulations. Overseers of Buckeye State sports betting “found ads that did not include conspicuous messaging for promoting responsible gambling practices, nor did they include an approved telephone number for a problem gambling hotline.” This is a sensitive subject for Ohio regulators, who have already put BetMGM and DraftKings in the penalty box, showing neither fear nor favor. The Roman Empire blamed the screwup on a third-party vendor but commendably paid up. The regulators were also full of praise for Caesars’ swift compliance. They have our sympathy. It can’t easy riding herd on Web traffic, 13 brick-and-mortar books and 700-plus sports betting kiosks. Perhaps they could advise their colleagues in Canada, where the public is already weary of OSB advertising. We feel their pain.

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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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