Wynn: Make mine Manhattan; Votes for sale; Mega-Jottings

There will be at least one serious push for a casino in the heart of New York City, now that Wynn Resorts has thrown in with Related Cos. on “an exposed and sunken rail yard” that some see as a gaming gold mine. The project would be near and dear to Gov. Kathy Hochul‘s heart, so Hochul + Wynn = momentum. “Wynn New York,” or whatever it would be called, would anchor a $25 billion, 28-acre mixed-use development, giving the project much needed sex appeal. On the plus side is proximity to the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Less thrilling is the fact that the casino would have to be built on a mega-platform over some train tracks. (Nothing says “the glamour of gaming” like the subterranean rumble of trains.)

Conventional wisdom says there will be only one Manhattan casino, at maximum. But SL Green, Vornado Realty Trust and Thor Equities are all sniffing around as well, albeit without gaming partners as yet. And it would be a spectacular diss to relegate Resorts World New York or MGM Empire City to VLT-only status (which they currently hold) after the enormous capex commitments they’ve made to the Five Boroughs. But New York State gaming policy is rarely logical and only occasionally more sensible. Speaking of sniffing around, both Credit Suisse analyst Ben Chaiken and Deutsche Bank guru Carlo Santarelli looked into Wynn Resorts, and really liked what they found—especially Chaiken. The bottom line is that the market is no longer pricing any value into Macao or WynnBet, so the stock has nowhere to go but up. Things could hardly get worse in China, for one, so we’re absolutely on board with Chaiken’s and Santarelli’s reasoning.

Illegitmate slot routes want to elbow into Pennsylvania‘s gaming industry—and some Keystone State legislators are lining up to sell their votes. Pace-O-Matic shipped “a select group” of lawmakers to Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. What a rodeo halfway across the country has to do with slot routes is beyond our guessing but the likes of House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R) surely must have enjoyed it. Pace-O-Matic doesn’t even play for the home team: It’s headquartered in Georgia, a state that loathes casinos but loves slot makers. The real winners are the fungible solons, who “are benefitting handsomely, as there are no limits on the campaign cash flowing from the gambling industry interests, and no limits on gifts they can take from them or their lobbyists.” At least Benninghoff and one of his GOP colleagues had the decency to reimburse Pace-O-Matic for their junket, while one paid out of her own pocket. (No Democrats or independents were invited.)

Pace-O-Matic’s excuse for the shameless largesse read as follows: “We invited Pennsylvania lawmakers from the House and Senate gaming committees and leadership to the event for the opportunity to meet with Wyoming legislators to learn how they regulated the skill game industry and how the system now successfully works in the state.” Yup, we’re sure there was a lot of ‘fact-finding’ going down at the rodeo. Yee-ha and what’s the hold percentage? State Rep. Sue Helm (R) had an even feebler excuse, saying, “it wasn’t a lavish trip. They weren’t paying for first-class airfare.” Which supposedly makes it hunky-dory. Cynics would shrug this off by saying there are already 50,000 black-market slots in Pennsylvania, so why not regulate and tax them? And why not make a quick buck in the process? But because a thing exists does not make it right. Several GOP lawmakers have returned contributions from the Pace-O-Matics of this world. We wish more in the Lege had their rectitude.

This hasn’t been a good month for washed-up Nevada politicians. First Clark County Administrator Robert Telles was arrested for the revenge killing of beloved reporter Jeff German. Now it may have taken 50 years, but justice is being served for Nancy Anderson, a 19-year old who was stabbed 60-plus times in her Waikiki apartment in 1972. The trail of blood eventually led to former state deputy attorney general Tudor Chirila, who supposedly had “a history of sordid affairs” as well as an apparent DNA match to the crime scene. Like Telles, Chirila tried to commit suicide when the law showed up on his doorstep. This is not Chirila’s first brush with the law. He turned government witness in order to escape prosecution for his role in an elaborate Mustang Ranch scam that sent Joe Conforte into hiding. A fine character, obviously.

Jottings: There was a lot of happy talk from Macao casino operators about the concession-retender process, filled with forced optimism. Meanwhile, gaming analysts were more skeptical, with Sanford C. Bernstein boffin Vitaly Umansky saying, “It is probably unrealistic [to make Macao a global tourist magnet] in the longer term as well, unless the Macau infrastructure or economy is somehow completely transformed, which is not a two- or three-year process.” Hotel capacity (38,000 rooms) and the quality of Macanese casino dealers (limited) were other sticking points raised … Truist Securities analyst Barry Jonas toured a half-dozen California tribal casinos and was wowed with their quality, which he likened to high-end regional properties. The catholicity, newness and frequent refreshment of the slot floors also impressed him …

North Las Vegas‘ longtime Lucky Club is no more. Starting next week it is Ojos Locos Sports Cantina y Casino at Hotel Jefe. The Latino-market positioning is the work of Fifth Street Gaming, whose CEO, Seth Schorr said “I think that Latino community is one that is deserving of an experience that is designed specifically for them in every way.” The revamp will hopefully be complete in January … If you can wait until 2024, Belle of Baton Rouge will become a land-based casino. Owner CQ Holdings will invest $35 million into the transformation … If you want to play slots like the Chairman of the Board, head to Agua Caliente Palm Springs, which has unveiled a Frank Sinatra-themed machine. The Sinatra Landmark 7000 Wheel is an Agua Caliente exclusive for the time beingStar Entertainment has promised to atone for its sins against good corporate governance. “Examples of actions we’ve taken to date include introducing stronger controls, enhancing our regulatory compliance functions and training, adding new members to our Board [and] voluntarily appointing an Independent Monitor to oversee our progress,” said Star Chairman Ben Heap … Sports betting ad spend is expected to hit $1.8 billion this year and $3 billion by 2024. By far the biggest wallet is that of DraftKings, which is getting surprisingly little bang for its buck … Being tribally owned, Palms Casino Resort can’t brag on how well it may or may not being doing financially. Instead, General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey must smother the Las Vegas Review-Journal in generalities, save that live music is back in Kaos, which is surprising in a good way.

Quote of the Day: “The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love.”—film director Spike Jonze.

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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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