New F-blue CEO; Illinois mostly upbeat, Missouri not

Who in the world is Brett Mufson? Well, he’s the new president and CEO of Fontainebleau Las Vegas. Other than that, Jeffrey Soffer‘s company ain’t tellin’ much. We are informed that “Mufson’s instrumental leadership helped steer the company’s re-acquisition of the property along with the reinvigoration of Soffer’s original strategic vision for Fontainebleau’s brand and Fontainebleau Las Vegas.” Yes, but how does that qualify Mufson to steer the Las Vegas Strip‘s most expensive megaresort, particularly in such a cutthroat market? That question is begged.

Fortunately, Mufson will have a well-qualified set of subordinates to help him navigate the Sin City waters. They include COO Colleen Birch, a 13-year veteran of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and former Cosmo human resources guru Daniel Espino as “chief people officer.” Fontainebleau Development paper-pusher Stephen Singer comes over as CFO, his second stint with F-blue. Continuing its boa-constrictor stranglehold on Strip real estate, Vici Properties has kicked in $350 million in the form of a “loan” that we strongly suspect is secured by the underlying acreage. “We believe the addition of the property will contribute to the increased vitality of the north end of the Las Vegas Strip,” Vici CFO David Kieske (who doesn’t answer media e-mails) enthused. Look for F-blue to trade Vici the dirt under the resort in return for loan forgiveness.

Vici was on the map again yesterday, announcing its purchase of the real estate of four Alberta casinos operated by Pure Canadian Gaming Corp. The deal cost Vici $201 million. It gives Vici footholds in Edmonton, Calgary, Yellowhead and that gambling hotbed, Lethbridge (450 slots, 24 table games). Pure Canadian will rent the casinos from Vici for $22 million a year. The company is now Vici’s sixth casino-operating vassal, joining the likes of MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Hard Rock International, the Eastern Band of Cherokee and colossus Jack Entertainment.

The Canadian foray is, by those standards, small potatoes. The biggest Pure property is 72,000-square-foot Pure Edmonton, with its 875 slots and 45 tables. Pure Canadian doesn’t even own its slots, which are the province of the Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission, which takes a 70% rake of the winnings. Pure Canadian has to make its nut largely on the strength of table play and amenities—but that’s not Vici’s worry.

Harrah’s Metropolis

Illinois casinos ticked up 4% last month, achieving $114.5 million in revenue. A 6% increase in visitation offset a 1.5% drop in consumer spending per visit. The vast preponderance of largesse was hauled in at Rivers Des Plaines, jumping 10% to $47 million. The Bally’s Corp. people are taking on a real juggernaut here with their Chicago megaresort and our money is on Churchill Downs to prevail ultimately. But we digress. Healthy growth was also seen at Bally’s Quad Cities, vaulting 16% to $5 million. Also on the upswing is Hard Rock Rockford, leaping 15% to $5 million. Also revenue-positive were Par-A-Dice (+1.5%, $5 million), Harrah’s Metropolis (+6%, $5 million) and DraftKings Casino Queen (+7.5%, $6 million).

Losers were Argosy Belle (-10.5%, $2 million), Hollywood Joliet (-1.5%, $7 million), Harrah’s Joliet (in third place with $10.5 million, -5%), Hollywood Aurora ($8 million, -8%) and Grand Victoria (-1%, second with $13 million). Given the emaciated tranche garnered by the two Penn Entertainment properties in the northern tier, is spending hundreds of millions to build two new casinos throwing good money after bad?

Casino revenues in Missouri dipped 3.5% to $158 million, as visitation dropped comparably, although spend-per-visitor was flat with December 2021. Despite an 8% declivity, Ameristar St. Charles easily led the Show-Me State with $25 million. Penn’s Hollywood St. Louis was flat at $20 million and its River City dropped 5% to $21 million. That left Horseshoe St. Louis with $13 million but a 4% bump in revenue, as the rebranding continues to accrete business. Across the state, Ameristar Kansas City (shown) held steady at $17 million, while Bally’s Kansas City grew 4.5% to $11 million. Harrah’s North Kansas City was flat at $15 million and Argosy Riverside tumbled 9.5% to $13 million. To the south, Isle of Capri Boonville was firm at $7.5 million, Century Cape Girardeau slid 13% to $5.5 million and construction-disrupted Century Caruthersville fell 20% to $3 million.

Beloved gridiron icon Rob Gronkowski will attempt a field goal as part of a FanDuel commercial during the Super Bowl. Our thoughts? Never bet against Gronk. As for as a FanDuel promo stunt happening on hallowed NFL turf, well, the league has made its bed with sports betting and now Roger Goodell must lie in it.

Jottings: Gambling in Macao is off to a strong start this year, with $261 million lost by players in the first eight days of the month. Industry analysts hope this bodes well for Chinese New Year business … Big Gaming is “adequately” prepared for any economic downturn this year, says Fitch Ratings. It likes the manufacturers and most operators, save for Bally’s Corp. and Macao-facing Las Vegas Sands … Will the Duke of Sussex be Las Vegas‘ new celebrity pitchman? Evidently not. In his memoir, Spare, Prince Harry recalls his naked Wynncore escapade as so shameful it was difficult “to draw a clean breath” … Exacta Systems, newly acquired by Churchill Downs, has inked a pact with Wyoming Downs. It will be the provider of third-party ‘historical horse racing’ machines to all 14 of Wyoming Downs’ OTB parlors … It’s Wynncore over Accor, as Wynn Resorts has lured chef Christopher Lee from the hotel chain to be its culinary vice president. Lee’s new remit will be to oversee 32 restaurants and bars, plus banquet and catering portfolios … Boutique property Seminole Casino Brighton is now underway in Florida. When completed, the property will offer 623 slots, 18 table games and 100 hotel rooms. The casino is the ultimate outgrowth of a tiny, eight-employee bingo hall that shared space with a hardware store and beauty parlor, back in the Jimmy Carter administration (1979) … In case you missed it, three allied North Dakota tribes bought 13 acres of Las Vegas Strip acreage for a dirt-cheap $93 million. Why so little? It’s the site of the Mandalay Bay Massacre. (Is this like building on an Indian burial ground?) MGM Resorts International still plans to erect a memorial to the victims of gun violence on its remaining two acres of the site.

Quote of the Day: “[R]egulatory bodies, like the people who comprise them, have a marked life cycle. In youth they are vigorous, aggressive, evangelistic, and even intolerant. Later they mellow, and in old age—after a matter of ten or fifteen years—they become, with some exceptions, either an arm of the industry they are regulating or senile.”—John Kenneth Galbraith

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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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