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Caesars Entertainment narrows Q2 loss, pins hopes on federal poker legislation

TAGs: Caesars Entertainment, chris christie, Gary Loveman, Las Vegas, New Jersey Online Gambling, Ray Lesniak

caesars-hopes-federal-pokerCaesars Entertainment narrowed its losses in Q2 2011, based largely on the faint signs of economic recovery being displayed along the Las Vegas Strip. Caesars lost $155.5m in Q2, which sounds terrible, until you remember that they lost $274m in Q2 2010. Strip revenues grew 10.3% to $786.4m, far outpacing overall revenue growth of 0.4% to $2.23b. Vegas visitors were up 0.2%, compared to a 4.1% drop in Atlantic City and a 15% fall at the company’s other casino hubs. Atlantic City revenues also fell 2.2%, but CEO Gary Loveman chose to focus on the positive, saying (we’re paraphrasing here) that AC was no longer in free fall, but merely sliding down a very steep cliff face.

In a post-results conference call with analysts, Loveman was asked about the chances of Congress passing an online poker bill. In Loveman’s view (and he’s not just saying this because his company spent over $800k last quarter lobbying for it), such a scenario is “inevitable. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when and to which piece of legislation it will be attached.” Loveman’s use of the word ‘attached’ suggests he’s is in line with recent speculation that some brave Senator (we’re looking at you, Jay Rockefeller) will staple a poker bill onto must-pass financial legislation that emerges from the so-called ‘super committee’ being assembled to deal with the US budget woes.

But speculatin’ ain’t gettin’. Appearing on KFNS St. Louis’ The Final Table radio show on Tuesday, writer Chris Krafcik (@CKrafcik) claimed that Washington lobbyists have privately told him not to expect movement on any federal legislation this year, and maybe not in 2012, neither. In their view, federally regulated online poker “remains a multi-year proposition.”

Krafcik also let it slip that New Jersey plans to reintroduce its intrastate online gambling legislation in January. That legislation, championed by State Sen. Ray Lesniak, overwhelmingly passed both state houses earlier this year, only to die once it reached Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. Christie allegedly wielded his veto pen at the request of Caesars and Boyd Gaming, who wanted a distraction-free shot at the federal bulls-eye. But Christie is now considered to be in a much weaker position politically, and would need a damn good reason to defy the collective will of the Garden State’s elected officials a second time on the same issue.

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