Inside Gaming Column: Strip Land Parcels Are Truly Green Acres

18 October 2004

Talk about real estate inflation. Merrill Lynch recently put out a report showing there are only about 425 acres of excess land left on the Strip ready for development. And what's it worth these days? Up to $8.5 billion and change, reports Merrill Lynch, one of the world's leading financial services firms. Who's the biggest winner? Steve Wynn, whom Merrill Lynch lists as having 157 prime acres ready to go.

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But Merrill Lynch left out some key properties. One is the now-closed Wet 'n Wild. Rumors are rife Archon Corp. Chairman Paul Lowden, whose company owns the land, is close to a joint venture deal with a major developer to build a $650 million hotel-casino. Plans call for a 3,200-room hotel casino in the form of a giant ship and an observation wheel like the 450-foot-high London's Eye observation wheel on the Thames River. Talks with bankers suggest interested partners are willing to value the land at up to $10 million an acre.

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Jack's back. Jack Binion, who hosted the first World Series of Poker at the Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas in 1970, has agreed to host the World Series of Poker Tournament Circuit. Binion said his new gig is purely honorary, a residual from selling Horseshoe Gaming Holdings Corp. to Harrah's Entertainment. But look for bigger things from Binion. He said a lot of investors and operators have expressed interest in new developments or joint venture partnerships, but that he has not yet agreed to anything definitively. More to come.

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Low expectations are the name of the game in politics, but maybe not the gaming industry. Despite all the talk about the potential for gaming in the United Kingdom once Parliament liberalizes its gaming laws, Wall Street is projecting sales of only 20,000 to 30,000 slot machines if Las Vegas-style gaming is OK'd. That is down from earlier estimates of 60,000 potential sales and only one-third to one-half the projections for Pennsylvania, where 61,000 slots at tracks have been authorized.

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Not everybody at Caesars Entertainment is all that enthusiastic about its recently announced plans to develop a massive hotel-casino near London's National Stadium at Wembley. Speaking at the Global Gaming Expo, Caesars Entertainment Vice President of Risk Management Lance Ewing outlined threats to his company's holdings, including natural disasters, terrorists and ... inebriated English soccer fans? Ewing is uneasy about the Wembley move, given the Brits' celebrated passions for pints. "Imagine 85,000 drunken English soccer fans coming into our casino after their team lost ..." said Ewing, whose laundry list of insurance risks also included Celine Dion falling on stage and hurricane-related damages along the Gulf Coast.

The Inside Gaming column is compiled by Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith. You can reach him by phone at (702) 477-3893, fax (702) 387-5243 or e-mail at rsmith@reviewjournal.com.


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