industry: Three-ring circus of a weekend
by Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Gaming Wire
VEGAS, Nev. - Last
weekend's triple whammy on the Strip -- the National Basketball
Association's All-Star Game, Chinese New Year and Presidents Day
Weekend -- brought large crowds but may not have translated into
the overflowing casino cash boxes that operators had expected.
Several gaming analysts, speaking on the condition
of anonymity, said the audience associated with the NBA All-Star
Game overwhelmed some of the Strip's largest casinos, displacing
the deep-pocketed gamblers associated with Chinese New Year.
The overlap of the three events, along with a layover
by attendees from the Men's Apparel Guild in California show that
brought more than 100,000 delegates to town last week, may have
been a little much for the casinos to handle.
Wall Street research analysts said that spending
for hotel rooms and nightclubs, restaurants and other amenities
run by the casinos could calculate into a banner weekend. The Las
Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said late Tuesday that nongaming
spending was an estimated $90.6 million.
The casinos themselves were also crowded, but with
nongamblers, analysts said.
"Apparently, a lot of the high-end folks came
in and left quickly," said one analyst. "The atmosphere
wasn't to their liking. We may see some disappointing numbers."
Publicly traded casino companies will report results
from last weekend as part of their first-quarter earnings during
April and May. Nevada gaming regulators won't release February's
official statewide and Las Vegas casino revenue results until April.
Last February, Strip casinos reported $551.1 million
in gaming revenues. The biggest month ever on the Strip for gaming
revenues was $642.4 million in November. Gaming Control Board senior
research analyst Frank Streshley said resort operators were optimistic
before last weekend that the Strip results in February could shatter
"We know the hold percentage (what casinos
keep vs. the amount gambled) will play a big part in the overall
numbers," Streshley said. "Last year, Chinese New Year
fell into both January and February, but this year, it's all in
Until the results become public, the question for
some is whether it was good to have the NBA All-Star Game at the
same time as the start of Chinese New Year.
"In a perfect world, we would have preferred
two of the events to happen on another weekend," MGM Mirage
spokesman Alan Feldman said. "I think the availability of rooms
was much harder to come by coupled with the three-day weekend."
Harrah's Entertainment spokeswoman Debbie Munch
said Caesars Palace had a busy weekend because of the casino's long-standing
tie-in with Chinese New Year. But the resort also hosted several
All-Star-related activities. TNT's "Inside the NBA" broadcast
for three straight evenings on a stage above the hotel's famous
fountains, attracting large crowds of NBA fans.
"We had a huge mix of visitors at the property,"
At the off-Strip Palms, which is known for its trendy
nightclubs and customers that are gossip columnists' fodder, the
expected large crowds arrived because of the All-Star Game. Palms
President George Maloof said in an interview last week that Chinese
New Year historically had never been a large driver of business
at the casino.
As the host hotel for the NBA, however, the Palms
housed the 24 All-Star Game participants and league personnel in
600 of the hotel's 707 rooms.
The Palms' nightclubs and themed luxury suites hosted
over-size special events and parties throughout the weekend while
nongambling fans lined the casino hoping to catch a glimpse of Kobe
Bryant, LeBron James and their All-Star teammates.
"It was exactly what we expected," Palms
spokesman Larry Fink said. "Our restaurants were busy, the
clubs were extremely busy and from what I saw, the casino was very
busy. Everything seemed to play out exactly how we thought it would.
We had people looking to take pictures and get autographs."
Feldman said 75,000 extra visitors jammed Mandalay
Bay over five days to attend the NBA All-Star Jam Session in the
casino event's center. Feldman said many of those crowds flocked
to the casino's restaurants and retail areas.
It's unclear, however, if there was a payoff at
the tables or slot machines.
"There wasn't a huge noticeable increase in
casino activity because this was a huge social function," Feldman
said of NBA All-Star fans. "They wanted to be out and about."
Feldman said the pure Chinese New Year customer
that has been flocking to Las Vegas since the casinos started promoting
the event, was able to find available hotel rooms. The ancillary
business associated with the Chinese New Year crowd may have been
chased away because of a lack of rooms.
Review-Journal writer Arnold M. Knightly contributed
to this report.