CASINO

Hard times at casinos everywhere but Macau, Singapore and… Beirut?

TAGs: Atlantic City, Beirut, Las Vegas, Sahara Hotel, tribal gaming

hard-times-casinos-beirutAfter enduring 30 straight months of falling revenue, Atlantic City casinos came within a hair’s breadth of black ink in February. The New Jersey Control Commission reported that revenue at AC’s 11 casinos was $258m, a mere 1.4% off the previous February’s $261.6m. Mind you, AC was hit by three major snowstorms last February, meaning far fewer patrons made it through the casino doors, so the revenue hurdle was a little lower. However, when you haven’t had a winning month since Sept. 2008, you develop a different perception of what constitutes victory. Table games were off 13% to $74.1m, but slot winnings were up 4% to $183.9m. (In neighboring Pennsylvania, February’s slots take was up 18% to $197.9m.) Of AC’s casinos, the revamped Resorts Casino Hotel was the star performer, boosting its revenue 17%. This allowed Resorts to break its personal losing streak (first revenue increase since Sept. 2009) and post its first double-digit increase since July 2007. Victory!

The mood is not so jubilant at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The landmark gaming facility, which was featured in the original Ocean’s 11 movie, is closing its doors after almost 60 years on the Strip. Speaking for the owners, SBE Entertainment Group CEO Sam Nazarian said that keeping the joint going was “no longer economically viable.” While Nazarian and his partners plan to “assess a variety of options for the property, including a complete renovation and repositioning,” people like Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin think Nazarian is in for a rude awakening. With numerous half-full, half-finished or mothballed developments dotting the horizon, not to mention a state with the worst economy in the nation, where will Nazarian find people willing to invest multi-millions in Las Vegas? As Ruffin told the Associated Press, “I hope we live that long … I’d like to see it happen, but I don’t think it’s anything imminent.”

We never thought we’d live long enough to see it, but revenue at Indian casinos in the US fell nationwide for the first time ever in 2009. Economist Alan Meister’s Indian Gaming Industry Report claims that Indian casinos generated revenues of $26.4b in 2009, off 1% from 2008. (Caveat: Meister couldn’t gather information from all 450 casinos run by 200 tribes in 28 states, so some of his data is based on estimation.) Revenue was down 5% in California, but at $6.9b, tthe Golden State still accounted for the single biggest slice (26%) of the total revenue.

Man… Are Macau and Singapore truly the only cities where casinos are actually booming? Oh, right… We forgot about Beirut. Lebanon’s only sanctioned gaming facility, Casino du Liban — where the motto is ‘It’s a Hezbol-lot of fun’ — recorded a 69% boost in profits in 2010. No actual sums were made public, perhaps because the joint is 48% owned by government-owned Intra Investment Bank, so maybe the precise numbers are state secrets or something. However, casino chairman Hamid Kraydeh did report that his rockin’ casbah was doing extremely well compared to gambling joints in other countries. Anyone who doubts his word should re-read the first three paragraphs of this article.

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