Even though I’m having a phenomenally busy week, I can still post a link to my latest piece for Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. It’s about the reaction at the M Resort to Penn National’s recent debt acquisition:
On a recent Saturday afternoon, there was no sign that any change was imminent on the M’s casino floor. Gamblers were playing more than half of the resort’s 1,900 or so slot machines—good business for an average weekend—and the tables were doing a similar business, with an energetic crowd circled around a $5 craps table, and the blackjack and pai gow poker tables similarly jumping.
via Reshuffling at M Resort not hurting business | Vegas Seven.
It was a fun story to research. I got to spend some time hanging out at the M’s casino, and got to talk to Anthony Marnell. Reading between the lines of what he said and what he didn’t say, I might guess that we’ll hear some bigger news about his future soon, but this is all just speculation on my part.
This week in the Las Vegas Business Press, I take a deeper look at the recent employment study I did over at UNLV:
By the same token, examining the numbers isn’t just a dry exercise in statistics. It helps us understand what’s going on when people gain and lose jobs in the casino industry. And it can give everyone in the state an insight into what to expect in the near future from the state’s highest-profile employer. As of last year, about 177,000 Nevadans worked in hotel-casinos, dealing cards, making beds, serving drinks and doing countless other jobs. That’s an impressive total — just less than 7 percent of the state’s total population. But in the long view, it’s not that large a number.
via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Expect high productivity, fewer workers in casinos.
I’m continuing to work on the study, with in-depth looks at the Las Vegas Strip, Boulder Strip, and Washoe County. It definitely helps but our current economic situation into perspective.
Another Thursday, another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week, I tackle casino debt with the help of Eugene Christiansen:
It’s no secret that casino companies are more debt-encumbered now than they’ve ever been. In 1990, the average big Las Vegas Strip casino (those earning more than $72 million a year in gaming revenue), had $7.8 million in long-term debt attached to it. By 1999, that number had soared to $171.5 million. And as of 2009, the total stood at $860 million. That’s a lot of borrowing.
And yet casinos continue to borrow money—last month MGM Resorts International sold nearly $500 million in bonds that it plans to use to pay loans that are coming due in 2011. And Boyd Gaming is preparing a similarly sized bond offering for much the same purpose.
Gambling on debt | Vegas Seven
It’s almost hard to wrap your head around how much debt casinos have these days. This is definitely a concern for the financial health of the industry, and therefore the state, in the future.
I’ll probably be writing more about casino debt in the coming months, though it will likely be in a more academic channel.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal I look at how technology is changing the convention biz in Vegas:
Getting conventions to come back isn’t going to be easy, though both the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority and several casinos are reporting more robust bookings next year. The challenge will be keeping these guests happy in Las Vegas, and increasingly, technology is helping to do that.
via Vegas convention biz heads for cutting edge | Vegas Seven.
This is definitely a topic I’d like to return to. I think that getting feedback from customers on the ground level would be a great way to determine how casinos can use the right technical applications to get a competitive advantage over other convention destinations.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I look at the innovation of bilingual blackjack tables at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm:
Richey has found that it’s a market loyal to casinos that offer good values for food and entertainment, something for which the Primm casinos are well suited. It helps that catering to the area’s Spanish speakers is a natural complement to the company’s bus program, which ferries dozens of busloads of California gamblers to Primm on peak days.The easiest way to roll out the welcome mat, Herbst has learned, is to speak the language of your customers. The company debuted a Nevada first: bilingual blackjack tables.
via Bilingual is in the cards in Primm | Vegas Seven.
Judging from the amount of play I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other casinos doing this pretty soon.
My latest Green Felt Journal is up in Vegas Seven. This week I talk about a brand new attraction at Circus Circus that’s a little spooky:
About this time every year, theme parks around the country get a monthlong reprieve from the off-season as they re-theme themselves for Halloween. No one wants to float down a lazy river in October, but being chased by zombies through a maze is another story. Locally, Circus Circus is making the most of scare season with two attractions that promise to terrify patrons.
via Welcome to the 13th Floor | Vegas Seven.
This was a fun story to research–I talked a little bit about my experience on the most recent Vegas Gang podcast.
It’s a quick, fun tour, and might be a neat side-trip if you’re coming to town for Vegas Podcast-a-palooza.
In my latest Las Vegas Business Press column, I dissect the August 2010 Nevada gaming numbers:
And if your casino doesn't offer baccarat or high-end play, you might be out of luck. With only 22 out of the 329 casinos with nonrestricted licenses in the state 6.7 percent offering the game, only a few are sharing in the baccarat bounty.
via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Bounce in baccarat doesn’t signal recovery.
I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a caller who wouldn’t identify herself but still had a very good question: could the rise in gaming revenues be tied to the extension of unemployment benefits?
My first thought was, “I really hope not,” and the nature of the revenues suggests that’s not the case, unless the unemployed are betting big on baccarat. But other revenues are up slightly, and my caller shared an admittedly anecdotal but no less valid example: her neighbor, thanks to the extension, received six weeks worth of checks at once, paid her rent, and gambled much of the rest of it away.
If you multiply that by a few thousand (a big if), you could have a definite bump in gaming revenues, albeit one at taxpayer expense.
You might be able to figure out if this was so by looking at gaming revenues on a day-by-day basis. A big jump in the days after the unemployment checks mail would tend to support the theory. On the other hand, if people from other states are taking their money and vacationing in Vegas, it would be hard to correlate.
Thursday once again brings a new Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I talk about an event that I’m privileged to be a part of, Vegas Podcast-a-palooza:
The event is called Vegas Podcast-a-palooza, and it brings together three prominent Las Vegas podcasts: the Vegas Gang, a roundtable discussion among several Vegas aficionados (including this author) with a business and design focus; The Strip Podcast, Steve Friess and Miles Smith’s interview/discussion show; and Five Hundy by Midnight, Tim and Michele Dressen’s view of Las Vegas from a visitor’s perspective (the two have had a love affair with the city since their marriage here in 1997). Each show broadcasts live, from Las Vegas, in front of an audience.
via Podcast-a-palooza comes to the Flamingo | Vegas Seven.
I strongly encourage you to come down to Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza on October 30, at 4 PM, at the Flamingo GO pool (plug finished). It should be a lot of fun. You can get the tickets and all the info you need–including stuff on the 3X Total Rewards multiplier–right here.
It’s another Thursday, which means another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This one is about a remarkable woman who works at the El Cortez, Liz Butler:
If you want a lesson in Las Vegas history, you don’t have to go much farther than Liz Butler, who’s still serving drinks at the El Cortez. With an accent and attitude that betrays her East Coast roots, she’s been a fixture at the El Cortez for nearly four decades, and she doesn’t show any sign of leaving.
via Four decades at the El Cortez | Vegas Seven.
This was my favorite story to write in the past few months. I really liked talking with Liz, and I hope that I could communicate some of her personality through the story. She’s really interesting, and has that total New Yorker attitude, in a good way.
This month in Casino Connection, I take a look back at one of Atlantic City’s most honest public officials, and its first noteworthy historian, Alfred Heston:
Atlantic City has seen generations of public officials and interested citizens, but few residents have left a legacy as monumental as Alfred Miller Heston, a newspaper publisher, historian and city official.
via Making History: Atlantic City’s Alfred Heston | Casino Connection Atlantic City.
This was a fun one to write. Heston was a truly unique Atlantic City character, and his name lives on in the Heston Collection at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.