Massachusetts leaps; Holiday season in A.C.; Apollo’s new toy

Defying a larger trend, Massachusetts closed out 2022 with strength, its casino revenues up 8% to $103 million. The big dog, Encore Boston Harbor, leapt 10% to a boffo $68.5 million, beating Wall Street expectations. MGM Springfield‘s gain was more modest, 1% that pushed it to $22.5 million for the month. Plainridge Park jumped 11.5% and grossed $12 million, continuing to manifest a recovery against the inroads made by nearby Encore.

Investors Observer has joined those looking askance at Bally’s Corp.’s fundamentals. The Web site says Bally’s needs a macroeconomic turnaround to help it and there are “troublesome details” with the company. (We’ll say!) Once a darling of Wall Street, BALY is now languishing around $20/share. The periodical questions whether regional casinos will perform well in a time of “elevated inflation” and notes that while low-debt companies stand the best chance of a turnaround, “Bally’s isn’t in that group.” It observes balefully that a recent, megabuck sale-and-leaseback deal will largely be going to retire debt, raising the question of how badly Bally’s is leveraged. (Spoiler alert: Pretty badly.) With a meager $164 million cash on hand, Bally’s needs all the help it can get.

It’s hardly a vote of confidence in the Bermuda casino scene when Century Casinos decides to reverse field on a resort project. Century, which likes low-risk ventures, has gotten cold feet on Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. A big part of the problem is that Bermuda has a casino regulator—but no regulations as yet. Having exhausted eight years’ worth of patience, Century CEO Peter Hoetzinger has had enough. “If Bermuda and the BGC want a casino, which would reportedly bring as many as 100 jobs to the country, they’re going to have to quit delaying the process. Legislators and regulators need to come together and take the plan seriously, and not live in a ‘there’s always tomorrow’ frame of mind,” he groused, not unreasonably. (We appreciate his nod to the Douglas Sirk canon.)

Other pillow-talk candidates for Bermuda casino-dom include James Packer. But as exquisitely understates, “Given his history and exploits, that option is likely no longer on the table.” Considering the puny nature of the Hamilton Princess casino proposal (200 slots and 15 table games), it’s not like Century is missing out on big bucks. The loser here is Bermuda, which could have had a quality operator in Hoetzinger, not Century.

Nobody talks more casino common sense than Dennis Conrad and he’s in rare form this month, outlining his top (or would that be bottom?) 10 pet peeves at Ye Olde Casino. For instance, having a charge put on your credit card before you’ve purchased anything. The hotel industry as a whole could profit morally by Conrad’s advice on this point. Other gripes include executives hogging the best parking spots for themselves, and false economies such as merging the casino cage and the player’s club booth. (We needn’t elaborate on the obvious problem.) Back when he founded Raving Consulting, Conrad had a simple formula: “Find out what your customers want. Give it to them.” Sound advice then … and now.

Jottings: Need a riverboat casino, stat? $16 million gets you the erstwhile Casino Aztar ship, from Evansville, Indiana, the oldest in the state (and long since put out to pasture, aka New Orleans). Then again, casino riverboats are so very yesteryear, thank heaven, that it’s a big stretch that anyone buys the former ColSux and El Diablo vessel for that purpose … We could all stand to eat more salads—this author in particular. Salad and Go is going to put that proposition to the test when it invades the Las Vegas market. Will it be the second coming of Chick-Fil-A? Probably not but it’s a salubrious development … Casinos in an anti-gambling nation? It could happen in Thailand, where legalized gambling is the parliamentary topic of the month. The government’s goals include a somewhat unrealistic mandate that resort developers outspend what they did in ultra-pricey SingaporeMacao‘s junket business has fallen and can’t get up. There are now 85% fewer junketeers than before the pandemic … Hold the phone on that Cherokee Nation casino in Arkansas. The long-suffering project has been nixed by a judge, who says the casino was awarded unconstitutionally … Congratulations to Kirk Hendrick, named by Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) to head the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Hendrick is an attorney well-versed in gaming-law issues.

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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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