This Month in Gaming
In the gaming industry we tend to focus on Macau, where most of the growth is occurring. But Las Vegas is evolving as well and looking for ways to attract new revenues. There are also new markets opening up as states search for new revenue sources. Here are a few of the meaningful developments in the industry over the past month that may have slipped through the cracks.
Las Vegas inches forward, Atlantic City inches backward
The recovery of gaming in Las Vegas is moving almost as slowly as the U.S. economic recovery in recent months. In July, gaming wins increased just 1.6%, down dramatically from a 7.1% 12-month growth rate.
This affects MGM Resorts (NYS: MGM) in particular, which has the most casinos in Las Vegas, because the company's large debt load will require revenue growth to be paid down. The company's Macau casino isn't enough to keep it afloat long-term.
Across the country in Atlantic City, gaming revenue fell 0.6% in September, continuing a long slide. Operators such as Boyd Gaming (NYS: BYD) and Penn National (NAS: PENN) have been hit hard by falling gaming win, and a fast recovery seems unlikely at this point.
Las Vegas party scene reinvented, again
Every few years, Las Vegas has to reinvent itself, as the old shtick gets, well, old. When I first started going to Las Vegas, ultra lounges were the newest fad. They were partially replaced by pool parties, and now casinos are trying to refresh the party scene again.
When the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas opened, the Marquee Nightclub became the newest hotspot on the Strip, and the Paris Hotel was trying to keep up with Chateau Las Vegas. Now Bellagio, an MGM Resorts property, is trying to keep up by closing the Caramel Bar and Lounge and replacing it with Lily Bar and Lounge. Light Group, a company known for some of the hottest party spots, operates both.
Clubs are profitable for Las Vegas resorts, but they also attract a crowd that spends far less time, and therefore money, at the tables. The Cosmopolitan's financial losses indicate this. MGM is also trying to appeal to the non-gaming demographic by introducing the "M Life" loyalty program, using social media such as Twitter and Facebook. CEO Jim Murren has even predicted future collaborations with console-game companies such as Sony and Electronic Arts (NAS: ERTS) .
Faster than a speeding bullet
Plans are still on the table for a $6 billion federal government-backed high-speed train from Las Vegas to Southern California. This is part of $34 billion in federal money available to build rail projects, but two other high-speed train projects have already been canceled, so don't hold your breath for this one yet.
Southern California is a major market for Las Vegas, and a high-speed rail would probably be a small boost for the Strip. With overall traffic down in Vegas, though, I have to wonder just how successful this would be.
Full Tilt Poker finds a buyer
Just a few weeks after Full Tilt Poker was accused of being a Ponzi scheme, the company has supposedly found a buyer. Groupe Bernard Tapie has agreed to buy the company if a series of conditions are met, including "an agreeable resolution" to the Department of Justice's complaints.
The path Full Tilt has taken is beginning to make my head spin. Bernard Tapie has spent time in prison for fixing a soccer match, along with being prosecuted for tax fraud. On the bright side, Tapie has a history of turning around companies, including Adidas. Just count me skeptical of this deal right now.
Other news around the world
MGM Resorts, Melco Crown (NAS: MPEL) , and Wynn Resorts (NAS: WYNN) are all in the planning stages of new resorts in Macau, but so far, details have been sparse. MGM CEO Jim Murren hinted at an announcement soon, just as Steve Wynn has done with his resort. The longer these developments wait, the longer until they start contributing to earnings for these companies.
The Genting Group, which owns one of two casino resorts in Singapore, is trying to get a gaming license in Miami to build a $3 billion resort there. A recent court ruling in Florida cleared at least one hurdle that allows the legislature and governor to enact gaming reform. Las Vegas Sands (NYS: LVS) is also interested in a development in Miami, so we could see another bidding battle as we did in Singapore.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumhas no position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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