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p12 Stateside:p12 Stateside 01/09/2009 11:19 Page 12
STATESIDE
Stateside
Sharon Harris puts politicians in their place…
S
ince I last “chatted” with you two months holiday weekend helped. Still, July’s $383 million
ago, so much has happened it feels like casino win fell 12.7 percent from July 2008.
two years. Despite a bad summer for most Local business merchants report that despite
American gaming, operators must focus strong visitor traffic, there is less consumer spending,
on new strategies. and what spending there is has been more targeted.
For starters, casino revenues in Nevada and New Operators must create new business models, and “go
Jersey, the two largest American gaming jurisdictions, with the flow” to maximize profitability.
declined by double-digits this summer. Nevada’s June For years, American casino operators have invested
figures – $818 million, a 13.8 percent decline over billions in non-gaming amenities. Las Vegas is
June 2008 – sank to five-year lows. The effect is a bursting with dining, retail and entertainment
record 13.1 percent July unemployment rate in Vegas. venues. When the Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos
Nevada also ranked second in home foreclosures. rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, most were
As the economy has soured, the Obama constructed as full-service luxury resorts. It has
Administration’s anti-gaming stimulus spending is succeeded in bringing them back.
being blamed by some Nevada tourism and business So where’s the money this year? In alternative
leaders. They also blame its early negative comments options like buffets, which are packed this summer.
about using gaming jurisdictions for tax-deductible Operators everywhere should now be endlessly
meetings and conventions. Steve Wynn recently promoting the less expensive eateries like in Las
blasted the White House and Congress, accusing them Vegas, where canny casinos are offering all-day buffet
of legislating as if the job creators are the bad guys. passes for one price. Customers may lack funds for
For example, the $787 billion Stimulus Package gaming and another activity, but they have money for
Steve Wynn
earmarked little financial assistance to small gaming or another activity.
businesses, whatever the industry. However,
recently blasted
After enjoying the beach during the day, customers
government projects like roadways that involve union are helping Atlantic City evolving weeknights. Imitating
the White House
work and big business – like the heavily unionized the West Coast, the burgeoning weeknight club scene
and Congress,
auto industry – have cashed sizable government is attracting thousands to dance floors and lounges in
checks. Operator vs union animosity continues; I’ll several casino properties. Some spending is going to
accusing them of
detail that situation in my next column. the bar instead of casino, but attracting customers is
legislating as if
For months, friends of mine with small businesses the goal. If customers patronize a property for whatever
have been unable to get bank loans in their fields. reason, chances are they’ll use the casino.
the job creators
The same scenario has repeated itself for small Operators, are you paying attention? Gaming is no
are the bad guys
gaming suppliers everywhere. longer unique, and is proliferating across America as
Angry operators have pressured Democratic Senate the du jour budget fixer. You should develop your own
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. As a bandage, unique areas. The lucky operators can take advantage
he finally introduced legislation barring federal of favorable business climates.
agencies from eliminating tourist destinations as Unlike Nevada and Atlantic City, Pennsylvania’s
possible meeting venues. huge tax rate – over 50 percent – almost certainly
Demonstrating stunningly mediocre leadership, limits future casino expansion. For example, following
Reid had to be persuaded to protect his constituents’ a splashy May opening, Pennsylvania’s Sands
livelihoods and Nevada’s basic industry. It is little Bethlehem revenues dropped for several weeks. The
surprise he has such low approval ratings… the guy property has four restaurants and a beautiful casino,
has forgotten his roots. Will Nevada voters reward him but the business climate curtailed their original plans.
with reelection in 2010? Other states’ gaming operations – like Illinois –
Sadly, Nevada’s other senator, Republican John suffer the same limited financial fate with exorbitant
Ensign, is now also ineffective. He recently admitted to taxes. However, Las Vegas and Atlantic City promise
an affair with a staffer’s wife, and an alleged $96,000 consistent futures when they maximize their
payoff for silence. Who suffers from this abuse of advantages, including low tax tables, favorable
public trust? The people of Nevada pay the price. operating environments and a corporate/civic
Across the country, Atlantic City has not fared commitment to succeed.
much better. A rainy June kept people from Atlantic What they don’t need is politicians making their
City. However, July’s good weather and a long July 4th jobs tougher. Washington, are you listening?
12 SEPTEMBER 2009
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