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April 3, 2007

Local attorney goes after valley auto dealers for fraudulent practices

The Business Press has reported that local attorney George West III is putting car dealerships on notice to disclose all the items that go into the price of a car or face a jury.

West's campaign to force franchised car dealers to adhere to state and federal disclosure laws has already netted him and his clients three settlements in the valley, two with local Courtesy dealerships and one with Integrity Chrysler. Another two lawsuits are pending, one against Vista Chevrolet and the other against Fletcher Jones Toyota.

West says what he's found among some dealerships in Southern Nevada is the practice of hiding fees in finance agreements, which by law are supposed to be itemized both for the bank doing the financing and for the custome,r and is both widespread and easy to conceal. The pending local lawsuits are class actions, or are seeking class-action status, which could mean huge losses for the dealerships if West can prove to a jury that hundreds, if not thousands, of unwitting customers are financing cars with hidden fees attached.

Dealerships make their money, not on actual car sales, but on the extras they get buyers to agree to: extended mechanical warranties, service agreements, GAP insurance, the spray that seals a car's undercarriage, paint sealant and Scotchgard fabric protector.

Car dealers know this, West says, and routinely add the price of after-market products to the vehicle's selling price, which can mean as much as $2,000 on the base price of a new car. Often that $2,000, which is listed as a "paint sealant" or a rust-prevention package, pays for nothing more than a $40 car-wash contract, according to documents West provided.

Business Press reports a conversation with an ex-dealership worker who says. "I used to do it. I ordered the stuff, too. It was car soap and spray-on wax."

Other businesses do it also. The next time you buy furniture and and ask and pay for Scotchgarding, you will find that drinks and spills pour right through your couch and that what you actually paid for is for some company to come and clean your couch once.

March 13, 2007

Another former Las Vegas strip club owner, Mike Galardi, going to the big house

Reported in several sources, including the Las Vegas Review Journal, according to his attorney, Robert Rose, former strip club entrepreneur Michael Galardi was apparently "shocked and stunned" Monday when U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks gave him a 30-month sentence even though Galardi spent four years cooperating with investigators and prosecutors.

Judge Hicks also imposed a $100,000 fine, the most allowed under the law, and ordered Galardi to pay Las Vegas and Clark County $200,000 each in restitution. Galardi also must start serving his sentence by June 22.

Judge Hicks said Galardi was the leader of a scheme to bribe Clark County commissioners for votes that benefited his multimillion-dollar strip club empire, stating, "This is one of the most reprehensible crimes of public corruption that has ever been prosecuted in the state of Nevada," None of it would have happened ... but for Mr. Galardi paying the money."

Once again a judge in Nevada has shown no understanding of the facts around him--none of this would have happened if the county commissioners hadn't been so eager to take the money. If one of them had simply gone to authorities at once about a proposed bribe, it would have been a little scandal, barely a blip on the Las Vegas corruption scene. And if this is one of the biggest crimes of corruption prosecuted in the state of Nevada, one can only wonder about the ones that got away.

Steve Miller reports Signorelli, of Crazy Horse Too, is violating City Council order

Steve Miller, in his article, writes how on January 17, the Las Vegas City Council extended the temporary liquor license of Crazy Horse Too operator Mike Signorelli for another 90 days. Signorelli, who claims to be a bonafide buyer for the club, is scheduled to face the Council again on April 18 to ask for a permanent license, or face closure.

Signorelli admitted that he's not paying Crazy Horse owner and convicted felon Rick Rizzolo rent, and that he may not be able to close the purported $45 million dollar purchase for several years. He blamed his lack of cash on the high cost of illegally paying off cab drivers to bring patrons to his business.

During the January Council hearing, Signorelli's attorney, Jay Brown, who is intimately connected with Mayor Oscar Goodman and Senator Harry Reid, admitted that the topless bar is paying cab drivers to deliver customers.

Councilman Steve Ross remarked that Signorelli is "running this business outside the law" based on his admission, while Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese emphasized that a liquor license is a privilege that must be exercised in the moral best interest of the community.

Councilman Steve Wolfson informed Signorelli that he would not tolerate any infractions of the law and ordered him to stop paying cabbies, and Signorelli and his attorney, Brown, agreed to abide by the order.

Business at the Crazy Horse immediately decreased, probably because cab drivers diverted customers to bars that paid them a bounty.

Miller reports that Signorelli is again paying for customers delivered to Crazy Horse Too, and his current pay off is $70.

But wait…here is an excerpt from an article, Cameras helping fight crime, taxi officials say,
from about 20 months ago.

A taxi driver is assaulted by a late night reveler while his companions look on from the back seat. A transient takes off in a cab left running outside a convenience store. Another man argues with a cabby over an unpaid fare and chokes the driver before fleeing. Yet another steals a taxi while the driver delivers dinner to his wife, then proceeds to rack up charges on the driver's credit cards.

All of these suspects were caught in the act in recent weeks by cameras mounted in taxis, according to the Nevada Taxicab Authority. Photos and video identifications led to the arrest of two of the suspects, while the remaining two fled to California. One was arrested on other charges, and the other still is wanted.

"The cameras are definitely working," said Rob Stewart, a spokesman with the Taxicab Authority. "It's all about case solvability."

Meanwhile, the Taxicab Authority, the taxi drivers' union and cab company owners continue to argue about proposed rules governing just how far companies can go to monitor what happens in taxis.

Really. Is that because while cameras are capturing crimes against cab drivers, those same camers might be capturing cabbies taking illegal payoffs for diverting customers to certain clubs? While the Las Vegas City Council orders Signorelli to stop paying, is it just more Las Vegas business as usual that others continue to do the same? I wonder just who has access to these videos and whether Metro's Intelligence division or corruption unit should consider viewing videos, either by polite request or subpoena. If cabbies are taking illegal payoffs, it is easy to see why the taxi drivers' union might be concerned. It appears the cameras might be working--just not only on the crimes they were intended to capture.

March 5, 2007

Former 'Rat Pack' Playground, the Sahara, Changes Owners

Reported in several new outlets, including International Herald Tribune, Golden Gaming Corp , owner of the Sahara Hotel and Casino, former hangout of the famous 1960s "Rat Pack" and the setting of the original "Ocean's Eleven" film, have agreed to sell the aging property to an investor group, including Los Angeles-based SBE Entertainment Group LLC and San Mateo, California-based Stockbridge Real Estate Funds.

The hotel was opened in 1952 by Milton Prell just outside of the City of Las Vegas, and was the sixth resort to open on the Strip.

In late 1954, the hotel hired jazz musician Louis Prima to be their late night lounge act, one of the earliest ones on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with his then wife Keely Smith and sax player Sam Butera, they created one of the hottest latenight attractions on the Strip.

In 1961, the hotel was purchased by Del Webb, who added a 24-story tower in 1963.

The resort was the site of the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for many years, mostly in the 1970s, and for a brief time in the 1990s.

Bill Bennett bought the property in 1995 and owned the hotel until his death on December 22, 2002. The property had since been owned by the Bill Bennett Family Trust.

February 27, 2007

Palazzo Venetian Construction Photos

photo by FlipChip/
citycenter photo
The Palazzo project is close to topping out

A couple of current photos of the Palazzo project at the Venetian. The central tower core is almost topped out at 55 stories and the front facade is taking shape. The lower floors of the building have received the exterior finish.

photo by FlipChip/
citycenter photo

Palazzo's strip side facade is rapidly taking shape

February 14, 2007

$8 Billion Citycenter Las Vegas Construction Photos

photo by FlipChip/
citycenter photo
Work continues around the clock on the cutting edge Las Vegas project that's guaranteed to move the bar up for Vegas resorts, way up.

Wandering around the south end of the Las Vegas strip checking out the Chinese New Year decorations I parked at the Bellagio Resort next to the Citycenter construction site. A rare event for me to be out when there is still some sunlight so I shot a couple of photos of the remarkable progress of the massive $8 billion project. Photos are current as of late Tuesday afternoon.

photo by FlipChip/
citycenter photo

Another view of the $8 billion work in progress Citycenter Las Vegas

Want to see more Flipchip photos from the Chinese New Year decorated Bellagio Resort then click here for the Las Vegas Vegas News Blog, plus there's more Flipchip Chinese New Year's photos the Venetian so click here for the Poker Prof's Blog.

February 12, 2007

Union and casinos will begin contract negotiations

The Culinary Union has already begun preparing for labor talks on contracts covering 50,000 maids, food-service workers and cocktail waitresses.

The look of the players in the negotiations has certainly changed since the last negotiations in 2002.

For the casinos there are only two major players; there were four in 2002. The former Park Place Entertainment changed its name to Caesars Entertainment, which was taken over by Harrah's Entertainment, who now looks to go private with the equity firms, Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management Group, while Mandalay Resort Group was purchased by MGM Mirage. Also, Tropicana and the Las Vegas Hilton have new owners.

On the union side the Culinary's parent organization, the hotel and restaurant-focused HERE, joined with the textile and laundry-focused UNITE.

Culinary members are concerned over the possibility of losing pensions or free health insurance, followed by the increasing cost of living.

See Hotel workers gearing up for tough contract talks.

Payday for Harrah's CEO Loveman

According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the chief executive of Harrah's Entertainment Inc., Gary Loveman, will receive about $94 million in stock options and other bonuses if the world's largest casino buyout deal is completed.
Loveman would collect on stock options worth $80.3 million, stock appreciation rights worth $8.8 million, and restricted shares worth $4.9 million, and he can receive an additional $18.9 million, if he voluntarily quits a year after the buyout is completed.

For more see Golden Parachute article.

February 8, 2007

HSBC Holdings downgraded due to loan loss in U.S.

HSBC Holdings Plc (NYSE: HBC) was downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JP Morgan, as the firm believes the loan loss from the U.S. mortgage business may be 20% worse than expected. They recommend investors to short HBC shares and use any rally to add short positions.

Six months ago I was receiving four applications a week for various credit cards but all applications were to be returned to one address--HSBC. Some day I will understand why companies are in such a rush to increase personal debt in this country to the point that billions of dollars are defaulted. My solution--every application was shredded and dumped.

Las Vegas Sands plans bid to build Manchester mega-casino?

The Casino Advisory Panel advising Britain's Dept. for Culture, Media and Sports recommended Manchester as the location for a new mega-casino. Krezner International seemed to have the best chance at building, but now Las Vegas Sands has announced they will enter the competition. The Sands is already the largest casino operation, coming out of 2006 with mega profits from its China gaming and the Venetian in Las Vegas, and they are also committed to another huge project on Hengqin Island near Macau.

Other potential bidders for the rights just might include Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. and MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGM).

For more see Rumors by Tom Barlow.

January 5, 2007

Harrah's Executives leaving Company

photo by FlipChip/
Fallout from the Harrah's buyout has begun.

Another top level executive takes his leave from Harrah's Entertainment. COO Tim Wilcott departs today bringing to three the number of top level managers to take a hike. Flipchip has taken a look at the Las Vegas news for this first week of 2007 and posted on the Poker Prof's Las Vegas & Poker Blog.

January 4, 2007

Gaming Executive Tim Maland Appointed Nevada Director of Tourism by Jim Gibbons

Tim Maland, most recently the President of the Reno Hilton is moving to the public sector as Nevada's Director of Tourism. With a background in accounting and over 30 years experience in the Nevada gaming industry, Maland has worked at the executive level in both Reno and Las Vegas. Mr. Maland beat out Larry Friedman and Skip Sayre, the other finalists for the position and replaces outgoing director Bruce Bommarito. Bommarito is now the vice president of international planning for the TIA (Travel Industry Association) where he is "already being accused of showing favoritism towards Nevada Interests". [IBLV & RGJ]

Tim Maland's campaign contributions show support for Nevada politicians on both sides of the isle along with a sizable contribution to the Caesars' PAC.

In short, I could hardly ask for a more qualified and successful individual for the position, and with Mr. Bommarito at the TIA, Nevada's Tourism Industry has a bright future indeed.

December 18, 2006

Harrah's Entertainment Sold

photo by FlipChip
Harrah's Entertainment owns most real estate on the Las Vegas Strip.

Harrah's Entertainment will be sold to Apollo Management Group, the New York-based buyout firm run by Leon Black, and Texas Pacific Group for an estimated deal of $90 per share according to rumors heard on the Las Vegas Strip. The Special Committee made up of Harrah's board members has been in closed door meetings and apparently decided to accept the buyout valued at close to $17 billion. The two private investor groups' will take the casino giant private thus allowing a greater degree of flexibility without the close scrutiny of a publicly traded company. Expect an official announcement from the company within the next few days.

A buyout by Apollo and Texas Pacific has the potential to deeply impact the Las Vegas casino industry and will almost certainly involve changes for the Harrah's Entertainment owned World Series of Poker brand.

December 10, 2006

Harrah's spent record $17.8 million on New Hampshire gamble and lost.

It was reported in the Boston Globe that Harrah's Entertainment spent $17.8 million to change the state constitution according to filings with the state Board of Elections, in a measure defeated by 63 percent of voters.

Save Our State apparently spent approximately $4 million to defeat the proposal, helped by nearly $1.1 million given by gaming entity UTGR Inc. DBA Lincoln Park LLC which filed its report with the board on December 5, 2006.

It was reported that Harrah's spent some of their money for pollsters; either the pollsters were incredibly inept or Harrah's incredibly spendthrifty in a vote that wasn't close enough to buy.

December 6, 2006

Nurses and the MGM-Mubadala Development Company deal

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid all took part in a 4.5 hour negotiation that ensures Nurses with the Service Employees International Union will return to work at Valley Health facilities which is part of Universal Health Services of Pennsylvania. [From the RJ]

MGM will be developing luxury non-gaming hotels and resorts in Abu Dhabi, Las Vegas and the United Kingdom. This is a partnership agreement with United Arab Emirates company Mubadala Development. [From the MGM]

December 5, 2006

Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce seeks Vice President of Government Affairs

From the LVCC:

Reporting to the President & CEO, the Vice President of Government Affairs develops and oversees the implementation of the Chamber's government affairs programs. The Vice President promotes the Chamber's policy positions and issues relevant to the business community at the local, state and federal levels. Coordinates the Government Affairs Committee-the volunteer committee charged with overseeing the Chamber's political program. Establishes the government affairs budget including political action committee fundraising development. Engages in extensive internal (Chamber board, staff and membership) and external (elected officials/public/media) written and verbal communications. Supervises the Chamber's on-site survey research facility used for both internal and external (revenue-generating) purposes. As a member of the President's Executive Team, actively supports other Chamber executives and initiatives and participates in Chamber events and functions.

According to InBusiness this is a job that will require...

Someone practiced in the art of rhetorical gymnastics, whether it be explaining to thousands of small-business members why a gross receipts tax that exempted them was bad or explaining to them why a payroll tax that directly affects them is good...

Of course the Las Vegas Chamber is another of these "Visor's Up*" organizations that seems to take credit for things they have nothing to do with (eg the marijuana initiative Question 7 Failing) and completely overlook the major issues where they proved completely toothless and ineffective (eg Question 5, the Smoking Ban Passing).

Sounds like LVCC needs more then just a new VP of Govt. Affairs to me.

*By "Visor's Up" I refer to any entity that is completely biased towards itself to the extent it no longer is in touch with the reality. Think of a lawn with only a tiny patch of green, now put on a hat and bend it until you only see the speck of green, this might fool some, other will say take off the damn hat and face reality!

December 4, 2006

MGM City Center Model on Display at the Bellagio

Project CityCenter Model at the Bellagio.
Another View - note the Monte Carlo on the far right for a sense of scale.

Plaque notes that it might not actually look anything like this.

December 2, 2006

One deal dead;another offer for Harrah's Entertainment?

A group led by Penn National and hedge fund D.E. Shaw is considering making a cash and stock offer for Harrah's Entertainment, first reported by CNBC on Tuesday.

Lehman Brothers and Wachovia Corp. are set to provide financing for the Penn-Shaw deal.

Penn National's bid comes after a failed bid by private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group.


November 29, 2006

Will Boyd Gaming Sell Out?

112906-03.jpgA report in Business Week Online is saying Boyd Gaming may be in position to receive the next big buy-out offer. According to Lawrence Haverty of Gabelli Global Multimedia Trust, Boyd Gaming may be the target of Carl Icahn, owner of the Stratosphere and the two Arizona Charlie's casinos. Haverty belives the major appeal Boyd Gaming has for Icahn is the real estate holdings in Las Vegas.

Icahn already owns a major piece of the Boulder Strip with Arizona Charlie's so adding the Boyd acreage would make him the big dog of the Boulder Strip. The Boyd's Echelon Place acreage on the Las Vegas Strip could finally provide Icahn the presence to be a major Vegas player. Of course this is all based on Lawrence Haverty's thoughts about the short term future of Las Vegas. FYI, he's the guy that forecast the coming offers for Harrah's, Aztar, and Tribune months before they became public.

November 24, 2006

Business Week snapshot of Boyd Gaming

From BusinessWeek online:

Boyd Gaming (BYD ) may be the next target in the buyout wave sweeping Las Vegas. On Oct. 25, Harrah's (HET ) Entertainment, featured in this column on May 29, got a $15 billion bid from Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management. Earlier, casino owner Aztar (AZR ) was bought out after a four-way bidding war. "This time, it is Boyd, which owns and operates casinos in Nevada and four other states, that may be taken private," says Lawrence Haverty of Gabelli Global Multimedia Trust (GGT ). He identified Harrah's, Aztar, and media giant Tribune (TRB ) months before they became targets. Like them, Boyd owns valuable assets that are way underpriced, says Haverty, who puts its "private-market value" at 70 a share. The stock is now at 42.11, and Chairman William Boyd owns a 30% stake. Boyd's big attraction is its real estate in Vegas, Haverty says. It also owns 50% of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City with MGM Mirage (MGM ). Major operators such as Steve Wynn or deal-hungry private equity groups could go after Boyd, says Haverty. But he says the most "fascinating player" who may make a bid is Carl Icahn, who already owns the Stratosphere and "is still trying to get a major foothold in Vegas." Icahn knows the value of land in Vegas, he adds. Lawrence Klatzkin of Jefferies (JEF ), who rates Boyd a "buy," notes that it is down 35% since its peak in April, but its "long-term potential hasn't changed." One big project is the $4 billion Echelon Place casino at the north end of the Strip, scheduled to open in early 2010. Boyd declined comment on any speculation.

Wynn under investigation by Union and Dec 8 Deadline for Question 5

First, it looks like the Unions are raising the ante in the Wynn dealer dispute which started when Wynn decided to include floor supervisors in the dealer tip distribution, costing dealers thousands a year in expected income. An investigation is under way by the National Labor Relations Board into a complaint filed by Cynthia Fields. Fields' complaint included the strong accusation that "[Wynn Resorts] threatened employees with termination and reduction in pay because of their protected activities and support for the Teamsters Union Local 995." Strong language, but nothing but words at the moment. [lvbusiness]

Also a picket is planned for today, Friday the 24th, between 2pm and 5pm by the International Union of Gaming Employees. [WynnDealers]

In other news, Question 5 Smoking Ban - Dec 8th is the compliance deadline for bar, tavern and saloon owners.

Now that the Smoking Ban is becoming law and tavern owners are being forced to choose between food and smoking, most seem to be crying foul and throwing out the food rather then the smokers. [lvbusiness]

November 22, 2006

Las Vegas investment banking boutique eyes Cuban opportunities

From the Carribean News Net:

Hugo Cancio, President and CEO of Fuego Entertainment, Inc., a public media and entertainment company, has announced that he will establish an exploratory group called the US-Cuban Investment Committee to assist the reconstruction of his native country, Cuba, and in the process, to play a key-role in its transformation to a free economy.

"While American companies and investors are currently prohibited from investing directly in Cuba, we hope to be ready to act once those sanctions are lifted. Once the US embargo is lifted, the media and telecommunications sectors are industries that we would like to lead in the rebuilding of Cuba's infrastructure," stated Felix Danciu, President and Founder of Olive Capital, LLC, an investment banking boutique based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and member of the Board of Directors of Fuego Entertainment, Inc. "We want to make sure we are not only a think-tank, but that we are able to one day pursue potential investment opportunities in Cuba."

Hotel company passes final state hurdle to acquire Tropicana and more.

Casino and hotel operator Columbia Sussex announced today it has won the final state approval it needs before closing its $2.8 billion takeover of Phoenix-based casino chain Aztar Corp.

The prime properties that Columbia Sussex gains are the Tropicana Casino & Resorts in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J. The company plans to radically expand the Tropicana in Las Vegas from a 1,900-room hotel to 7,000 or more rooms.

Columbia Sussex currently owns four casinos in Nevada and also owns 80 hotels with more than 26,000 rooms.

November 15, 2006

MGM Project CityCenter - $7B Mega Resort Recent Photos and News

Concept Art From:
Concept art of two of the 21st century towers at the City Center Mega Resort

The most ambitious megaresort project Las Vegas has ever seen. MGM's City Center sits on 66 acres of prime Las Vegas Strip real estate. The complex will be almost 17 million square feet with over 7,000 hotel rooms and suites with every square foot designed by world renowned architects including HKS, Foster and KPF.

According to a recent InBusiness article the project will employ over 7,000 workers around the clock during it's peak construction period.

Photos By: FlipChip /
MGM Project CityCenter already has over 700 workers on site.

The first phase of the three phase is expected to open in 2009 with the rest opening in 2010.

Photos By: FlipChip /
The site sits in-between the Bellagio and New York New York across the strip from Planet Hollywood (frm. the Aladdin).

November 6, 2006

New Products to Debut in Las Vegas at Global Gaming Expo

Each year, hundreds of new products make their debut at Global Gaming Expo G2E and some 70 companies already have reported they will present more than 150 new products at G2E 2006.

Overall, G2E 2006 will feature over 750 companies with more than 320,000 square feet of exhibit space on the trade show floor. G2E 2006 will take place November 14-16 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

October 27, 2006

Boyd Gaming Loses

From Las Vegas Sun:

Casino operator Boyd Gaming Corp. said Thursday it posted a third-quarter loss due to competition in the market for Las Vegas residents and a charge on the sale of its South Coast Hotel and Casino.

The company also blamed a three-day shutdown of casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., in July and higher marketing costs when the casinos reopened.

Las Vegas-based Boyd lost $12.9 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with a profit of $32.9 million, or 36 cents per share, in the third quarter a year ago.

Ford post its biggest losses ever, the housing market is in a dive, and gaming companies start to lose money...? Read my Print--There is no strong economy!

But Harrah's third-quarter profit rose 5 percent (see, helped by strong performances at its Las Vegas properties. So I guess everything IS ok after all. Just a few problems in health care, education, social security, job creation, trade deficits, fences on the border....

October 21, 2006

Financial wheels coming off Las Vegas monorail?

Default is a looming danger for the Las Vegas Monorail after low fares failed to draw enough riders and a fare hike chased off too many passengers, according to a bleak financial analysis released Tuesday.

The assessment by Fitch Ratings, a New York-based credit rating firm, also dropped the monorail's bond rating further into "junk" status, possibly imperiling plans to extend the $650 million line to McCarran International Airport and around the Strip.

For more see The Las Vegas News.

Don't get me started--more than the monorail can do.

October 19, 2006

Casino Giant, Harrah's, Still Devouring While Pondering Bids.

While still embroiled in an embittered brouhaha in Rhode Island over its plans to build and operate a casino with the Narragansett tribe (Raucous debate over casino), and still considering bids from Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management, Harrah's Entertainment (HET.N), the world's biggest casino operator, extended the offer deadline for London Clubs International (LCI.L) a second time, as it seeks to purchase the company for $530 million.

Is there anyone left for Harrah's to invite to dinner?

October 17, 2006

Advice to Harrah's Stockholders
Beware of a Leon Black Buy Out Offer

photo by FlipChip
Harrah's owns the largest chunk of the Las Vegas Strip.

The primary concern expressed by mainstream media is that of an undervalued buyout bid, even with the increased offer offer $15.5 Billion(US). However, even if a price is agreed upon, Harrah's stockholders should beware of any deal involving Leon D. Black, founder of Apollo Management. Apollo is one of the primary players behind the recent Harrah's buyout offer. Mr. Black has a histoy of questionable conduct and it even appears to run in the family.

Continue reading "Advice to Harrah's Stockholders
Beware of a Leon Black Buy Out Offer" »

October 16, 2006

Casino properties and companies selling like Monopoly pieces.

While Harrah's has its own buyout offer to consider, Columbia Sussex Corp.will meet with employees of Tropicana Casino and Resort to discuss plans for the casino under its new ownership, including possible job cuts.

Aztar Corp. shareholders will vote Tuesday whether to approve the $2.75 billion merger that will give Columbia ownership of Tropicana and four other Aztar casinos in Nevada, Indiana and Missouri.

For more go to Press of Atlantic City.

October 13, 2006

Are we really at the bottom?

Review Journal Editorial

Democrats love to tell voters that Nevada is at the "bottom of every list ranking all 50 states."

In fact, though, they exhibit selective amnesia -- Nevada is not the cellar-dweller Democrats have made it out to be. A study released Wednesday by the Tax Foundation says Nevada has the fourth-best business tax climate in the country. By comparison, Nevada neighbors Arizona and California ranked 28th and 45th, respectively.

Plaudits for Nevada industry go on and on. In May, Inc. magazine named Las Vegas the nation's hottest "boom town" for entrepreneurs. In February, the Milken Institute put Las Vegas among its 20 Best Performing Cities, rating its economic performance and ability to create and sustain jobs in the top tier of 379 metropolitan areas surveyed. Entrepreneur magazine recently ranked Las Vegas the nation's fourth-best big city for new business.

Wow! I guess it doesn’t matter that Nevada ranks at the bottom of the list for education as long as businesses keep springing up. What this editorial doesn’t address is, while applauding the number of new businesses forming, is how many businesses fail after a year or two. And some areas where Las Vegas does top the “list” now is in violent crimes and car theft, identity theft and prescription drug use. (And while alcohol and prescription drug use is rampant, there is an initiative to legalize marijuana use in Nevada. I guess if you give the public cheaper dope and movies on demand, they won't notice the stink of corruption and the theft of their future.) I personally would rather be at the bottom of those lists.
The editorial also fails to mention that from 2001 to 2005 home prices rose about 30 percent a year while wages only rose 26 percent for the whole five years. (And I bet if you take out the wage raises of the top one percent in Vegas, including casino owners, developers, and the like, that 26 percent would fall.) With 7,000 new residents coming here a month, businesses don’t have to use higher wages to attract workers. The truth is that quality of life, strength of the infrastructure, and the future of our children are at the bottom of the list; paving the Las Vegas valley is at the top of the list.

October 5, 2006

Is Las Vegas Growing Too Fast?

From In Business Las Vegas: "We want to make sure what we are doing to mitigate growth is keeping up and not getting out of balance and affecting the quality of life like transportation, air quality and economy," said county Manager Virginia Valentine. "We don't want it to go so far in one direction that it is out of balance and not recoverable." [read the full article]


The Las Vegas Valley [from Google Maps]

Too, Too Late! The resources to examine the problems this valley has faced and will face have been available for years. Many eastern and midwest cities have experienced massive growth at times which threatened infrastructure and Las Vegas could have learned from their successes and mistakes. Plus, the university has been here for decades, but have officials made use of those resources? By the time a think tank is formed and ready to "think," the valley will be completely paved over and most remedies "tanked."

October 3, 2006

Harrah's Completes Purchases

From the Casino City Times: A subsidiary of Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. today announced it entered into a definitive agreement with a subsidiary of Boyd Gaming Corp. acquiring the Barbary Coast. Harrah's now holds or will acquire 350 acres from the Paris south to Harrah's and west to the Rio.

And at the same time...
Harrah's Gets Buyout Offer
Pittsburgh Business Times - 4:52 PM EDT Monday

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., one of three bidders for a Pittsburgh slots license, said it is reviewing a $15.1 billion takeover offer from Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group.

September 13, 2006

Las Vegas Makes The Top Ten

photo by FlipChip/
The famous Las Vegas Strip.

Las Vegas Makes The Top Ten

A national study released its findings this past July and listed Las Vegas in the top ten amon metropolitan areas for what Intersections Inc. characterizes as iJacking, the emotionally devastating crime that drains your accounts, hurts your reputation and leaves you financially paralyzed when thieves assume your identity or use your Social Security number to commit fraud crimes."

Continue reading "Las Vegas Makes The Top Ten" »

August 28, 2006

Sherriff wants surveillance cameras along Las Vegas Strip

Photo by Reuters
A Friesian cow named Paula caught on camera
wandering into and out of a German bank.

Surveillance camera networks installed in London continually help identify terrorists and other wrongdoing, but currently there's no similar network in place in Las Vegas.

Outgoing Clark County Sheriff Bill Young wants that to change, and he's in the process of soliciting casinos along Las Vegas Boulevard to finance the project.

Young wants Big Brother all along the Strip, from Russell Road up to Sahara Avenue, and he wants cameras installed on the casinos' private property, all fed into a central network.

A consultant estimates the cost at $3 million for 120 cameras, excluding operational costs.

August 25, 2006

Vegas license bureau to cease overnight marriages

If you feel like a quick trip to Las Vegas to elope, you'll have to do it during the daytime.

As of Aug. 30, the Marriage License Bureau will no longer service marriage licenses from midnight to 8 a.m.

This is more a cost-saving move for taxpayers, who are expected to save $200,000 per year from the closing. Last year, Las Vegas issued 122,259 licenses but only 4 percent came from the midnight hour.

You can still marry in the middle of the night, you'll just have to wait until daylight to pick up your license.

We recommend installing slot machines in the chapel to fund the graveyard shift.

August 24, 2006

Wynn Las Vegas to make dealers share tips

When Steve Wynn makes a change, people listen and people follow.

So when it's something as controversial as sharing dealer tips, many dealers are upset at a possible upcoming trend that may spread to other casinos.

At his Wynn Las Vegas casino, table dealers will soon have to share their tips with pit bosses and floor managers.

Wynn released a memo earlier this week comparing dealers with waitstaff, saying it's a team effort and everyone will now share as of Sept. 1. Sharing will reduce a dealer's payday by 10 to 20 percent.

Want to complain? Competition is so great for dealer positions, that dealers disagreeing with Wynn's new policy are allegedly being suspended or fired.

With daily dealer tokes reaching upwards of $500/day and therefore earning more than their managers, this could be Wynn's way at solving the pay disparity. When supervisors could be making more money dealing, there wasn't much demand for managing.

Wynn dealers are tipped more than any other casino, Vegas or otherwise.

August 15, 2006

MGM Mirage to add new condo to Mandalay Bay

Sales on MGM Mirage's trio of 38-story Signature at MGM Grand condo towers are booming, enough that MGM Mirage has decided it needs more, more, more.

Already 1,650 units are planned for their Project CityCenter, and now MGM Mirage is seeking approval for two more towers at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip, adding 2,500 condo units.

But that old MGM Grand theme park where Signature sits was only so big, so where else to put more towers?

A new 520-foot tower of 1,344 units are in development as part of Mandalay Bay and situated steps from Luxor, to begin construction next year.

That would mean residents of the tower would look down upon the Luxor pyramid, which itself stands at 350 feet. Let's hope the rooms come with heavy-duty blinds or sunglasses to shield from the Luxor sky beam (which even the Space Shuttle astronauts can see). We'll bet dimes to doughnuts that no other room will boast free tanning from that beam.

We're still not used to saying or typing the uninspired name of THEHotel (Mandalay Bay's high-end casino-hotel tower), but now Mandalay's stuck with the THE brand and is expected to call the new tower of condo-hotels The Place.

Or maybe THEPlace.

Time to go eat THEBuffet.

August 14, 2006

Why did Boyd Gaming sell South Coast back to Michael Gaughan?

Just a casual drive-by past the South Coast, and you wonder how a big box casino like that could have cost $583 million.

From points east in Henderson, the glowing light still beckons like a lighthouse highlighting a Bellagio or a Mandalay Bay with a Southern California architectural twist.

The closer you approach, the more of a facade it appears, until you realize just how many corners were cut on its wrapping. Aesthetically pleasing, this casino is not.

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July 18, 2006

Las Vegas Rumor Roundup: Harrah's buys Barbary Coast?

You've found the Sin City scuttlebutt. Here you'll see unofficial, off-the-record reports, obtained from fairly reliable insider information.

In other words: overheard in Harrah's Diamond Lounges.

Pssst... Contrary to R.C. Clark's report yesterday about Harrah's not yet gobbling up Barbary Coast, it does seem that that is indeed the rumor and that it was sold last week.

And if that's the case, Boyd Gaming, currently developing Echelon Place, must be very happy cash campers indeed. They knew what kind of gold mine Barbary Coast was to the Harrah's empire, and they weren't going to give it up without a fight. Not even with Strip land fetching $20 million per acre.

But not having BC as part of Harrah's Monopoly board would be a thorn in their side, forcing them to build around it.

Last month, Harrah's purchased a Koval Lane apartment complex direclty behind their main casino. That space adds 20 acres to their current 160.

If the rumor is true, this means Harrah's can finally rest easy and announce plans for what they intend to do with that entire East Strip stretch, all now owned by the H man.

Any over/unders on when a West (MGM Mirage) vs. East Strip (Harrah's) civil war will take place?

Got a rumor to pass on? Your secret is not safe, but your identity is. Email