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Deconstructing Sheldon Adelson’s Argument against Online Gaming

In yesterday’s Las Vegas Sun, Oskar Garcia wrote an article about the legalization of online  poker.  The article centers around Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson and his opposition to online gambling.  As the article states, Adelson has said he opposes the legalization of any online gaming, including poker.  But what is supposedly his reasoning for opposing online gaming?  He’s worried that under-age kids would be able to play, as the internet hasn’t proven to be able to be age restrictive.

I understand his point.  After all, the internet has done a poor job of limiting age-appropriate content to adults, including pornography and alcohol websites.  There’s no reason to think that online poker companies would somehow be able to do any better at confirming a player’s age.  That being said, I have to believe that Adelson’s opposition to online gaming has to go deeper than that.

Online gambling is a slippery slope, and legalizing poker can be viewed as the gateway.  Poker is the first step because the player isn’t playing against the house.  He’s playing against another player.  But it’s easy to make the connection that once people are comfortable wagering money online, they would quickly be comfortable enough to play online games with a house edge, basically creating an online casino.

I have to believe this is more likely why Adelson doesn’t want online gaming.  If people can gamble every time they turn on their computers, there’s a concern that it would impact the casinos.  I challenge this argument as gambling in a casino is an experience.  And while there is a thrill of winning, it’s also about social interaction.  I don’t think gambling by yourself in front of a monitor would create the same feeling, and I think people would still want to go to casinos to play.

But if I owned a casino, I would probably be nervous about online gaming too.  Las Vegas Sands as a company is doing well, but more on the strength of their Asian gaming than on Las Vegas.  With that being the trend, it’s understandable that any casino executive would be nervous about losing that business.  This is why MGM and Caesars are jumping on the Online Gambling bandwagon and support letting established casinos offer online poker.  It’ll be interesting to see if Sands will do the same, even after hearing Adelson’s moral argument.

(ED: Venetian and Palazzo were the first casinos to have had mobile gaming units in Las Vegas. There’s definitely more to this than worry about children gambling. If that was the case, he would have had the units removed from the Venetian premises when gaming was legalized in hotel rooms. I have to think he’s just trying to stall the legalization so LVS can catch up to the competition and not just lease Cantor Gaming’s technology, which may be the smart move in the long run.)

Photo: Las Vegas Sun

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John Unwin From Cosmopolitan on CNBC

John Unwin from the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was on CNBC today and offered nothing new.  In fact, the most interesting thing to me were the lack of people walking around the casino.  I know the interview was at 9am, but there are so many better options for a location.  Compare this to Jim Murren from MGM Resorts interview on CNBC yesterday at the Bellagio conservatory and the Cosmo looks kind of sad.  I’ll post that video later or tomorrow.

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Undercover Boss goes to Las Vegas

Last night the CBS show “Undercover Boss” took a trip to MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  I’ve never seen the show before, but it seems as if it’s about the bosses trying to blend with their employees to see what’s good and bad about the operation of the business.  Here’s how CBS described Scott Sibella (President & COO of MGM Grand) stint on the show:

Scott Sibella, President and COO of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, goes undercover within the walls of the second-largest hotel in the world and faces a group of rowdy gamblers who are quick to point out his shortcomings as a dealer.

I watch a lot of bad TV and this was pretty high on the list of what’s bad about TV.  Not only did nobody look fooled the entire show looked fake and this ended up looking like an hour long commercial for MGM Grand, which also came with additional plugs throughout the week.  All of that in exchange for Sibella gifting a few employees with some gifts that the company can use as tax write offs.

I’m not sure what the dollar value on all of this is, but it has to be very high.  That should prove to be nice for MGM Resorts Internationals quarterly earnings report, but what effect will it have on bookings at MGM Grand and their actual business?  I’m curious to learn this.

I can’t embed the show, so if you’d like to watch it head over to CBS.com.  Also, I’ll never watch this show again.

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Veer Towers Open at CityCenter

The Veer Towers at CityCenter opened this week.  The towers are the kind of cool, crooked looking condo buildings at CityCenter.  About 100 of the 600 units have been sold and closed with just 6 having moved in.  The Las Vegas Sun looks at overall condo sales at CityCenter.

With no casino and no gambling, I don’t see myself reading and sharing much about Veer Towers.  Keep up with the towers at their website.

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MGM Doesn’t Get It

I was just going to link to a good article on resort fees that the Las Vegas Sun had last week, but I got to a quote by MGM’s Gordon Absher that misses the point on resort fees.

Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Mirage, which began introducing bundled resort fees two years ago, says the fees have spread at MGM hotels because “our guests see it as a convenience to have a single charge added to their overall bill” rather than a series of charges for things customers might not have expected needing, such as Internet access.

Show me one customer of MGM properties that would like to pay for services they don’t plan on using.  I’m sure Absher is just spinning company policy, but he sounds out of touch with his customers.

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MGM Mirage Tries To Change Name

MGM Mirage is looking to change their name to MGM Resorts International.

“The company’s board of directors believes it is advisable and in the best interests of the company to change the name of the company from ‘MGM MIRAGE’ to ‘MGM Resorts International’ in connection with the company’s ongoing branding and marketing strategy,” the company said in the filing.

Reading between the lines this would allow for MGM to sell Mirage and not have to worry about their corporate name.  This move may not be something that is going to happen right away, but the door was just opened a little.

Vegas Tripping notes that the new name’s acronym is MRI.  I don’t like MRI’s.  Just saying.

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MGM Looking To Improve Players Club

MGM has decided to hire two companies to help in improving their comp club, Players Club.

The move may improve MGM Mirage’s competitive position against industry leader Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which is known for mining its own databases with scientific formulas to produced personalized offers to customers through its Total Rewards Program, which launched in 2000 and now has some 40 million members.

MGM’s Players Club is an improvement of the non-system that they used to have.  I like the direction Players Club is going and found the website easy to navigate and find offers.  Their offers seems to be in line with the amount I play at MGM casinos.  Not great, but something.

Harrah’s Total Rewards get’s a lot of praise in the media, but I don’t think there’s many customers that understand how it works.  I don’t completely understand how Total Rewards works, but I’ve changed how I gamble to get better comps.  I play much more video poker and slots than I used to because that gets recorded more accurately than playing at the tables.

MGM’s Players Club seems to be on the right path with a simple web design and easy to find offers.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this improves their marketing.

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Thoughts on CityCenter

CityCenter are the huge hunks of steel in the middle of the Las Vegas strip and owned by MGM-Mirage that has been under construction for the past few years.  There are multiple buildings as part of the city and there were multiple grand openings for these properties.  The final building to open was Aria, the casino and hotel, which opened while I was in Vegas.

I waited for everything to have their grand openings before exploring CityCenter.  I walked over from the Bellagio where I had a wonderful cigar and Grey Goose and soda at the Petrossian Lounge.  I was treated to some Christmas songs on piano while enjoying a Sunday night.  This is one of my favorite spots at Bellagio.

I hate crowds and I didn’t need to worry about that when I headed over to CityCenter.  After walking through the construction I finally landed in Crystals mall.  This is a beautiful building, but the lack of opened stores was kind of depressing.  If it wasn’t brand new it would have felt like a mall on its last legs and about to close.

I hope this isn’t an omen for Crystals.  It could just be the bad economy.  Right now, I don’t think the market needs more high end shopping.  Of course, this wasn’t the case when CityCenter was being planned.  Similarly, The Shoppes at Palazzo had a similar feeling but at least there are restaurants to bring people in.

From Crystals I headed into Aria.  One of the cool things about both Crystals and Aria was the modern style and clean lines with interesting shapes and certainly not boring.  Modern style only remains modern for so long and it will be interesting to see how Aria develops in the future.  From the monorail station I felt as if I was looking at a building from the movie Tron.  Below is a sweet water wall outside the main entrance.

The interior of the casino was very dark and the ceilings felt low, even though they weren’t.  My iPhone couldn’t grab any interesting pictures due to the darkness.  This is in contrast to how bright everything was on the outside.

Everything inside the casino was new.  All new versions of my favorite slot machines – including a version of Top Dollar which I’ve never seen before that paid me $200.  All of the slot machines were very bright and showed well in the dark setting.

There was one odd finding at Aria.  There was a lack of ticket cashing machines.  I walked around for a few minutes before I could find one.  I only saw one in the entire casino.  I’m sure there were more, but there was poor signage throughout CityCenter and this was just another example.

There were not many people playing table games.  If I recall correctly all blackjack games under $25 use a Continuous Shuffle Machine (CMS).  I don’t like CMS, but it’s better than 6/5.

After my tour I searched around and around for the monorail to go back to Bellagio.  Since signage was poor it took a few minutes, but I found my way.  The monorail let me off in an area of Bellagio that I’ve never seen.  If I didn’t know what I was looking for there was no way I’d ever wander from Bellagio to CityCenter.

Overall, I have mixed first impressions on CityCenter.  Everything looked very cool and very clean with some innovation that we’ll see in future casinos.  I like the modern feel to everything, but that feeling was subdued by how cold and empty Crystals and Aria felt.  I have the feeling that would have been even deeper if I’d gone into the other buildings.

CityCenter is still so new that I have to reserve judgement.  After all, I hated Wynn after one trip and my December trip changed my mind.  I’m curious to see how the property develops this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing the difference when I visit later this year.

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Bellagio and Mirage Not Likely to be Sold

There has been rumor for a while that that either, or both, Bellagio and Mirage would be put on the market to help MGM Mirage amidst their finanacial concerns.  Yesterday, that was put to bed and both casinos will likely not be sold.

MGM Mirage today unleashed a series of financial initiatives aimed at bolstering its balance sheet — and signaled its Bellagio and Mirage hotel-casinos won’t be sold anytime soon…Take on new debt in the form of $1.5 billion in senior secured notes — bonds secured by the Bellagio and Mirage assets, meaning they couldn’t be sold unless other security is designated to back up the bonds.

While this saves both of those casinos, it moves some of the other Las Vegas properties up the ladder to be sold.  Mandalay Bay (a favoritecasino of mine) seems to be on top of the chopping block now.  Initially I thought that MGM Mirage would look to divest assets outside of Las Vegas if they needed to raise funds and they still might end up doing that.  I’m not sure the price to buy on the Vegas strip is right. 

If you were buying a business would you rather be a big fish in a small sea or one of the many in the most popular desitnation?  I would prefer to be the big fish and move from there.

Copyright © 2017 Marc Meltzer & EDGe Vegas