Ending an era in the LVBP

This week, I wrote my final column for the Las Vegas Business Press. Here’s how it starts:

Its been an interesting seven years.

When I started writing a biweekly column for the Las Vegas Business Press in 2005, Las Vegas and the casino industry were in much different places. Models of Project CityCenter had just been unveiled; the first concrete pour on the foundations for what would become Aria were still in the future. Monthly revenue numbers, land prices and new condo projects on the Strip were increasing with a sense of inevitability. The bubble would never burst.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : As I bid adieu, things looking up for Vegas.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing for the Business Press. I’ve taken on some other projects that weren’t leaving me the time I wanted to produce quality work.

Of course, there’s no shortage of places to find my writing these days–just check Two Way Hard Three and Vegas Seven.

Las Vegas mantra in the LVBP

For this week’s Las Vegas Business Press column, I talk about the importance of renovation to Las Vegas today:

When The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opened its doors in December 2010, there was some regret: This was, we were assured, the last casino opening on the Strip for some time. In a town that had gotten used to one or more new resorts opening each year over the previous two decades with a few pauses, that was bad news. These days, renovation, not new construction, is the name of the game. That says a great deal about how the Strip will continue to remain competitive in the near future.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Las Vegas mantra: If you cant build new, renew.

It’s a sign of the times, to be sure, that hotel renovations get the attention once reserved for casino openings. They are less dramatic, but I’d say they are no less important.

Pool season reflects LV’s ability to evolve in the LVBP

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I muse a bit about what the start of pool season really means in Las Vegas:

The weathers warming up, which in postrecession Las Vegas means one thing: pool season is here. Once, that would have meant little more than seasonal employees dusting off the lounge chairs and balancing the waters ph. Now, it entails celebrity disc jockeys, cabana reservations, and the sound of cash registers jingling. And that says a great deal about Vegas greatest asset — its ability to evolve.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Pool season reflects LVs ability to evolve.

It really is amazing how much casinos have changed, yet how much they stay the same.

Reasonable Online Expectations in the Las Vegas Business Press

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I’ve got a piece about how we should be reasonable about our expectations for online gaming:

Online or “interactive” gaming is coming to Nevada, likely in weeks, not months.Theres a great deal of uncertainty over what the advent of online poker will mean to Nevada. And, throughout the country, lawmakers are mulling the possibility of online lotteries, poker, and even sports betting. Some are hoping for instant, dramatic changes. But a glance back at gamblings history shows that change, even when it has been profound, usually happens in incremental steps, not bold, sudden strokes.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Online gaming likely to grow slowly, prosper.

I know that expectations are running pretty high, and I’ve heard all kinds of projections about what online gaming will do. But I think that if you look at the past, most gaming innovations take some time to build up critical mass.

In other words, this won’t be balancing the budget in the next biennium.

Outside perspectives & casinos in the LVBP

Here’s my latest LVBP column:

In my capacity as director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I recently helped to host a group of visiting MBA students from London’s Cass Business School here in Las Vegas. While in town, they heard presentations from strategic development, operations, and marketing executives from several casino operators, and participated in lively question-and-answer sessions with each. Their acceptance in the executive offices of Las Vegas highlights the critical role that outside input can play in the continuing viability of Nevada’s gaming industry.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Outside perspectives can help spark innovation.

I think this is a question that you can debate forever: of what value are non-gaming insights to the gaming business? It’s got some major implications for the development of the industry.

Looking beyond baccarat in the Las Vegas Business Press

I’ve got a new column in the Las Vegas Business Press today, about the possibly diminishing impact of baccarat:

With the recent release by the Gaming Control Board of the December 2011 Gaming Revenue Report, we can understand what happened to Nevadas gaming industry in 2011, and where the state is headed in 2012.Overall, it wasnt a bad year for the state: Total gaming revenue increased by nearly 3 percent. That hardly matches the boom years of the 1990s, but its the second straight year of revenue gains. As has been the case in recent years, the Strip powered most of the gain, with an overall increase of more than five percent. With visitation rising to near-record levels, this signals that the recession in Las Vegas tourism is over.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Looking beyond baccarat will serve Nevada best.

The 2011 numbers had some interesting paradoxes, and I think that the fluctuating nature of baccarat in the state’s gaming mix is certainly one of them.

Casino debt levels’ adverse effects in LVBP

My commentary piece on casino debt came out in the Las Vegas Business Press yesterday:

Like households, all businesses take on debt as a part of their usual operations. Without borrowing money, it is difficult, if not impossible, to grow. Casinos are no different; for decades, theyve been borrowing money to build, expand and renovate. Over the past four years, however, casino debt levels have risen to unprecedented heights, something that may have an impact on the financial performance of Nevadas casino industry in the future.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Casino debt levels could adversely affect future.

I think this is a topic that hasn’t gotten enough attention. It’s certainly got the potential to upset the applecart.

I’m aware that many analysts and experts don’t see problems with casinos having taken on this debt. But I’m also aware that many experts didn’t see any problems with casinos overleveraging themselves to take themselves private or investing on the continued growth of the condo market in Las Vegas. If more people with doubts had spoken up then, it’s possible that things would be different today.

And if you’re interested in what people who rate debt for a living think, Moody’s believes that debt might be a problem for certain Nevada gaming operators, too.

Words of Caution in the LVBP

I’ve got a new column in this week’s Las Vegas Business Press:

Nor is this kind of chicanery limited to poker. MF Global was, until last November, a large global financial derivatives dealer, making its money on its traders abilities to correctly speculate on the upward and downward movement of prices for bonds, commodities, and currencies. Risky, yes, but, as with Full Tilt, these guys were supposed to know what they were doing.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : In poker and business, be careful whom you trust.

Even though online poker’s had some issues, it’s nothing compared to the messes we’ve seen in financial services industries.

2011 Wrap-Up in the LVBP

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I look back at 2011, trying to see what the big lessons are:

Closing the book on 2011 in the Las Vegas casino scene, one word comes to mind: paradox. There wasnt a clear trend leading us either into a more prosperous future or into the muck of even worse economic malaise. Instead, we got a little bit of everything, which means that the last page of this story hasnt been written yet.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : In 11, lots of noise, little certainty for casinos.

This is probably the last look back at 2011 I’ll do–from here on out, it’s looking ahead–at least until next December/January.

Prohibition lessons for Net gaming in the LVBP

In an opinion piece vindicated by last Thursday’s adoption of online poker rules for Nevada and the DoJ ruling that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, I argue in the Las Vegas Business Press that politics won’t trump pragmatism when it comes to online gambling.

The opposition of Adelson, who has solid political connections, particularly within the Republican party, would seem to render that possibility moot.Or does it?

Politics is only part of the online gambling equation, and, despite current appearances, not necessarily the most important part. A comparison with Prohibition, which banned alcohol in the 1920s, is instructive.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Prohibition may offer lessons for Net gaming.

I wrote this well before last Thursday…a week before, to be precise. That’s when the echo chamber was reverberating with news that Adelson was morally opposed to online poker. The “consensus” was that online poker was dead in the water.

But, as we saw, the politicians haven’t had the last word on this–at least, Congress hasn’t.

I’ve been saying for years now that the best way to handle online gaming is to let states regulate it. As with horse racing, states can decide on their own if they want to legalize online poker, then figure out how to split the revenues among themselves. And it looks like that’s where we’re headed.