We’re no longer number one! in the LVBP

I’ve got a new piece in the Las Vegas Business Press about how Las Vegas is going to have to adjust to no longer being number one in gaming:

In June, Macau casinos took in about $2.6 billion in revenues, an increase of more than 50 percent from the previous year. This achievement highlights the dominant place that Macau has taken in the gaming world, and is another reminder that Las Vegas isn’t what it used to be … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Slip in gambling rankings not bad thing for Vegas.

It’s been a while since Macau knocked Las Vegas out of that number one spot, but I really think it has just begun to sink in. Hopefully now we can start moving forward, to whatever the future holds.

Smoking ban rollback thoughts in LVBP

After talking about the street “performers” on the Strip, I figured I should discuss something totally noncontroversial in this week’s Las Vegas Business Press. So I settled on an article on the recent rollback of the gaming tavern smoking ban:

Back in November 2006, a majority of voters approved the Nevada Indoor Clean Air Act, which banned smoking in restaurants, child care facilities, stores and many other public places while exempting casino floors and bars that don’t serve hot food. Recently, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 571, which overturned key portions of that act and will allow smokers to light up again in taverns with food service.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Smoking ban’s rollback won’t save LV economy.

Since I don’t own a tavern and generally speaking don’t patronize them, I’m not too fired up about this issue. It does, however, shed some light on the byzantine legislative process here in Nevada.

If I were looking to start or move a business here, I might be concerned about how capricious a lot of these legislative changes seem. It appears that the majority of the tavern owners want to allow smoking, so I’m sure they’re happy they’ve got it, but I feel bad for any tavern owners who just invested a lot of money in renovating facilities so they could offer food and smoking at their bar. It seems like the regulatory requirements surrounding gaming are a constantly-moving target around here.

On one hand, I acknowledge that regulations will change to meet changing circumstances. On the other, if you really want to encourage investment, you’ve got to create some stability.

If the economy was still firing on all cylinders this wouldn’t be an issue, and frankly I don’t think it’s going to do much to move the needle in the end, either. There’s just way less money to go around in the local economy, smoking or not.

An open letter to the NRA in the LVBP

The more I’ve been thinking about the situation on the Strip, the more I’m convinced that those who have a major stake in the continued viability of the Strip as a walkable pedestrian thoroughfare really need a better response to the performers/panhandlers/salespeople who are crowding out the tourists. So I wrote an open letter to the Nevada Resort Association, the body that represents the state’s gaming and resort industry, in the latest Las Vegas Business Press:

As a rule I don’t write open letters; I’ll leave that to someone with an axe to grind, whether it’s because their neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking or mind control rays are seeping through their artfully constructed tin-foil hat. In the next few paragraphs I don’t want to raise a grievance, just encourage a robust discussion of an issue that’s important to the economic health of Nevada.

To put it bluntly, the situation on the Strip and downtown with costumed “performers” and other assorted smut peddlers, water, liquor and drug salesmen, and even three-card monte hustlers intimidating and preying on passers-by has gone from nuisance to menace. It’s getting difficult to walk very far–whether it’s on the sidewalk or on the pedestrian bridges that link major properties — without being hassled.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: Opinion : Street ‘performers’ should be checked, regulated.

What bugs me is that the NRA was able to lobby the Clark County Commission for a change in the law that basically criminalized Dotty’s, the slot parlor/tavern chain that 99% of visitors to Vegas will never set foot in, but it has been mum when it comes to the deteriorating condition of the pedestrian Strip, something that impacts a good number of the visitors that pay for hotel rooms and spend money in Las Vegas.

Why is it that the county is willing to fight a protracted legal battle to put Dotty’s out of business, but won’t investigate ways to limit the nuisance that licensed, unregulated “businesses” on the Strip present to our visitors? I’m not aware of any public safety issues associated with Dotty’s; no brawls over tchotkes between grandmas spilling out into the street, no grievances from patrons about the hard candy being substandard. But talking to Metro and to visitors to Vegas who walk the Strip, I’ve heard plenty of complaints and even what sound like legitimate concerns over public safety. What gives?

At the very least, Metro needs to be empowered to tackle those who are out-and-out breaking the law–particularly the 3-card monte hucksters and the liquor salesman. Setting up discrete areas where performers can ply their trade without impinging the ability of pedestrians to get from point A to point B is another idea that deserves, at least, serious consideration.

We really ignore the impact that street-level safety and comfort concerns have on future visitation at our own peril. Those who are entrusted with running the state’s resort industry should spend a few hours riding along with Metro–or just try walking from the MGM Grand to Caesars Palace one night–to get a better idea of what they’re up against.

Patriotic argument for legal ‘net poker in the LVBP

I found myself on a roll during the Focus Roundtable on online poker I participated in a while back, and decided to flesh out one of my ideas into a piece for the Las Vegas Business Press:

Surely it’s not just patriotism that tells me Americans would take more chips from their overseas counterparts than they lost. After all, we invented the game on the bayous of Louisiana, nursed it to maturity in small-town back rooms and wide-open saloons throughout the 19th century. America may not be the world’s leading manufacturer. We may not even be the world’s dominant economy for very long. But if there’s one thing we’re still good at, collectively, it is playing poker.

With so much concern over manufacturing and service jobs leaving America, wouldn’t turning loose the nation’s expert card players on the world be one way of restoring a positive balance of trade, so to speak?

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Legalize Net poker if not for logic, for patriotism.

I’d love to get some feedback from poker players about this–I don’t think I’m mistaken about the income-earning potential for American poker players. I’ll concede that there are a lot of very talented international players out there, but come on–if Americans aren’t confident in their ability to win at poker, we’ve really lost our swagger.

As you’ll see, it’s a half-joking addendum to many of the very sensible arguments for legal online poker that have, thus far, fallen on deaf ears.

Downtown as an example in the LVBP

A while ago I posted that report on Nevada gaming revenue trends from 1984 to 2010. I decided to write an extended opinion piece about one facet of that report for the Las Vegas Business Press (not the Las Vegas Journal-Business Review):

In general, the past quarter century has been good for Nevada gaming: revenues increased by 231 percent from 1984 to 2010, outpacing the inflation rate for the period (about 116 percent).

Downtown Las Vegas casinos, though, haven’t shared (collectively) in that bonanza. Since 1984, revenues have increased by only 10 percent, not even close to keeping up with inflation.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Downtown LV has lesson for gaming: adapt or ail.

I think what has happened to Downtown Las Vegas (and much of Northern Nevada) is what’s in the process of happening to Atlantic City. I had an nice email exchange with Wayne Parry of the AP about Atlantic City’s prospects that continues some of these thoughts–hopefully it will turn up in a piece he’s working on. I might post my thoughts here, too.

Nevada’s destiny and online poker

If you’re not completely sick of opinion pieces about online poker, here’s my two cents, from the Las Vegas Business Press:

The recent Black Friday indictments in which federal prosecutors charged three of the world’s biggest online poker providers with fraud and violating the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act have rocked the poker world. In addition to the immediate questions the indictments raise about where the now-former American players of Ultimate Bet, Poker Stars, and Full Tilt will play, they suggest that the time has come, at last, for Nevada to lay its cards on the table and get serious about online gambling.

Online gaming will come; Nevada should lead it

I’d be really interested in hearing what other people thing about this: to me, Nevada-based companies should really be taking a more vigorous public role in the discussion of online poker. It’s certainly an issue that every Nevadan should be interested in.

Baccarat and gaming win in the LVBP

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I look at what the continued reliance on baccarat means for Nevada:

Since the second quarter of 2010, the fortunes of the Las Vegas Strip — and, by proxy, of Nevada’s gaming industry — have been tied to baccarat. The game’s had a presence in Nevada since the 1950s, and has been a steady offering for top-tier casinos since the 1970s, but with slot play wilting and midlevel table play suffering, baccarat has risen to unprecedented heights. February’s results confirm what we’ve known since last summer: with baccarat as king, Nevada gaming is more of a game of chance than ever.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Volatile baccarat can’t reliably lift gaming win.

This isn’t really new–I just saw that I never published this. Still, it might be a fun read. Enjoy!

Gaming evolving to web/mobile in LVBP

I’ve got a new piece up in the Las Vegas Business Press about how the current debate over legalizing online gaming in Nevada is really informed by the past development of gaming in relation to technology. But I don’t think it’s as boring as it sounds:

With the current debate over Assembly Bill 258, which would legalize online poker in Nevada, we’ve been hearing a great deal about how online is the future for gambling. But getting involved with online gambling really isn’t such a dramatic departure from the past. Gambling has always evolved. And, for the past 80 years, Nevada has evolved along with it.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Technology keeps pushing betting, now toward Web.

I really think it’s a question of when, not if Internet gaming is legalized. With our current economic and fiscal position, the phrase “there’s no time like the present” comes to mind.

Sahara signals Strip woes in LVBP

I’ve got a new column in the Las Vegas Business Press, in which I consider the meaning of the Sahara’s impending closure.

Even in flush times, running a Las Vegas casino was never a license to print money. Casinos have changed hands, declared bankruptcy and even closed their doors. But the recently announced closing of the Sahara, a fixture on the Strip since 1952, is a worrying sign for everyone. Should no one step in to buy the casino and keep it open, it’s a sure signal that the gaming industry faces more challenges ahead.

For much of the past, when casinos found themselves mired in red ink it was usually considered an opportunity, not a calamity. Those running the casino naturally were amazed that their surefire plans to become Las Vegas moguls were fizzling, but there were always others who could see some upside. An individual property might be taking on water, but faith in the broader market was airtight.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : No takers for Sahara means Strip is hitting its limit.

I spent some time at the Sahara on Monday, and I’ll be sad to see it go. It reminds me a lot of the casinos in Atlantic City in the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s a real contrast to the sleeker, bigger casinos that dominate the Strip. Then again, I also got nostalgic smelling the back of the house smell at the Fremont, which brought me back to my carefree days at the Taj.

Sandoval’s message to gaming in the Las Vegas Business Press

My latest column in the Las Vegas Business Press is now available. In it, I consider Governor Sandoval’s recent call for modernization in Nevada’s gaming regulations:

In his State of the State address, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval briefly noted the necessity of updating the state’s gaming regulations to reflect the new realities of 21st century gambling. It’s a good message to share and it highlights the work the industry and its regulators have done to keep moving forward.

Sandoval highlighted the need for “a flexible environment for the technological resources that are the underpinning of modern gaming devices,” suggesting that the recent forays into mobile gambling — courtesy of dedicated devices developed by Cantor Gaming and applications that run on smart phones, one of which recently gained board approval — will continue. With commerce and information-sharing migrating from brick-and-mortar to Internet to mobile, it makes sense that more people are going to want to gamble using these technologies.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : As gambling shifts, state must be ready to adjust.

The importance of modernization was really driven home last Friday, when I went to the opening of Cantor Gaming’s new sportsbook at the Tropicana. Cantor is moving aggressively into mobile sports gaming. In addition to their dedicated devices, which you can already get at the M, Venetian/Palazzo, Hard Rock, Tropicana, and Cosmopolitan, Cantor is developing apps that run on smart phones and tablets.