In On: Gaming
Benston - Our Partner at the Las Vegas Sun
VEGAS, Nevada -- Harrah's Entertainment isn't saying much
about its plans to redevelop its center Strip properties. Details
are expected this fall.
In the meantime,
Strip watchers have some free advice.
Don't mess with Caesars Palace, arguably the world's best-known
casino. It makes sense for Harrah's to tear down its time-warped,
low-rent Imperial Palace, but elegantly middle-aged Caesars
still is the opulent flagship and will stand up admirably to
a new wave of ultrahip Strip developments.
to the mazelike property could be improved and its old-fashioned
Strip frontage better exploited, Caesars doesn't need a makeover
a la MGM Mirage's $7 billion Project CityCenter.
is probably going to have its best year in the last 10 years,"
said Andrew Zarnett, a bond analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities.
"Every day they wake up and think, 'How can we make this
property better.' And the incremental cost of making it better
is a lot more profitable than building a new resort from scratch.'
has tumbled through various owners and has grown topsy-turvy
but it "will always have a place in Las Vegas at the mid
to high end" as long as the company continues to pump money
into the property, Zarnett said. "People just love that
of advice: Don't mess too much with cash cows Harrah's or Flamingo,
either. Yes, they could use some cosmetic surgery but, based
on the legions of slot players who flock to the hotels, the
two properties are still alluring and there's no need to go
under the knife - ahem, wrecking ball - to seduce young hipsters.
base "is Middle America," Zarnett said. "It isn't
the elite top 20 percent or the bottom 20 percent. They have
a wide base in the middle."
Compton, a Las Vegas casino consultant, gives Harrah's a bit
more credit than that. "Harrah's is very comfortable catering
to the upper-middle class," he said. "They're not
after whales, but they are moving up. They're good at upgrading
their properties. They're not ones to buy a property and let
developments up and down the Strip, it's time for Harrah's to
look into the mirror and prepare for its next close-up.
you think the argument about whether poker is a legitimate sport
has played itself out, the tedious debate has resurfaced. A
Washington man is waging an uphill battle with Nevada regulators
to legalize pari-mutuel betting on poker and, for that matter,
turned downright silly at the board's July meeting.
Louis Czoka, representing Washington lawyer Harry Platis, struggled
to explain before the board why poker is different from, say,
chess, backgammon and bridge. Poker, he explained, is more similar
to target shooting and curling because it involves controlled
body movements. And still, poker is not a far cry from traditional
sports, either, because it requires stamina.
not just playing your cards, you're playing your opponent,"
though any poker pro knows an amateur with lucky cards is tough
to beat, just as the odds of winning have gotten a lot longer
as tournaments attract the masses.
didn't win any points with former Las Vegas FBI boss and state
Gaming Control Board member Bobby Siller, who said he didn't
see many similarities between shooting guns and playing poker.
Board Chairman Dennis Neilander acknowledged that the sports
betting regulation is vague and should be tightened up. If read
broadly, casinos could offer betting lines on just about anything,
so wrong with that? Where there's a hobby, there's a fan and
a bet to be made, which means more tax money, right?
was in a local establishment, and they had these hermit crabs
on a table," Neilander said, implying that betting was
in process. "They put helmets on them or something like
Mark Clayton suggested that his biggest fear would be watching
grown men bet on dominoes, video-game tournaments and even Candyland
do you draw the line, Mr. Czoka?" Clayton said.
not between Candyland and the hermit crabs.
is new again on the Strip, where developers are trying to snap
up the last remaining parcels for luxury development.
At a recent
Gaming Control Board meeting, the general manager of the Barbary
Coast half-jokingly referred to the 200-room property as a "boutique"
It may not
look anything like the tony Mondrian in Los Angeles or the swank
Delano in Miami Beach, Fla. But the property - which sits on
the busy intersection at Flamingo Road and the Strip - is nevertheless
sitting on a redevelopment gold mine.
Coast opened in 1979 and looks its age, with a cavelike interior
and plenty of worn carpet.
doesn't matter to Harrah's Entertainment, which is vying to
purchase the old dame as part of a master-planned redevelopment
of its center Strip properties next door.
decides it doesn't need the Barbary Coast to complete its project,
Boyd Gaming Corp. can maintain the property's status as one
of the Strip's smallest - uh, make that boutique - hotels.