Inside gaming: What would Sam Boyd think?

25 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Boyd Gaming Corp. Chairman Bill Boyd was asked what his father would think about the company today.

Last week, Boyd Gaming broke ground on the $4.8 billion Echelon project on the Strip at the site of the imploded Stardust.

Sam Boyd, who died in 1993, founded the Boyd Group with his son in 1974 after spending 33 years working in the gaming industry. He purchased small percentage ownerships in the Sahara and Mint in the 1960s before the Boyd family bought the small Eldorado Casino in Henderson.

Today, Boyd Gaming operates 17 casinos in Nevada, Atlantic City, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Florida; it had revenues of $2.19 billion in 2006 and has a market capitalization of $4.4 billion. Echelon, with five hotels and 5,000 hotel rooms, is the company's largest-ever project.

"His mouth would be open, and he would be speechless," Boyd said. "And my dad was never speechless. I think anybody from my dad's era could not fathom what has happened to Las Vegas today. It's beyond anyone's expectations, and it still seems to be maturing and growing."

A budget crisis in Pennsylvania could shut down the state's fledgling casino industry.

State lawmakers and Gov. Ed Rendell are at an impasse that could force some 26,000 state employees to take unpaid leave by July 7. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports 16 of those state employees are tasked with monitoring the daily activity of the state's 9,000 slot machines.

The budget-induced government shutdown could force casinos, by law, to cease operations. Two weeks ago, Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts opened a temporary racino at a racetrack 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

The move would be similar to events a year ago in Atlantic City, when the city's casinos were shut down for three days when a New Jersey budget stalemate kept state regulators off the job.

"Shutting down the racinos sets an unfortunate precedent, which could potentially discourage investment in Pennsylvania," Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Bill Lerner said.

For the first time since 2004, a woman won a World Series of Poker event that was not specifically set up for ladies-only play.

Katja Thater, from Hamburg, Germany, won $132,653 and topped a field of 341 players Tuesday to win the Razz World Championship, the 29th of 55 scheduled events at the Rio.

Thater's victory is the first for a woman in an open World Series tournament event since Annie Duke won an Omaha High-Low event on May 9, 2004.

The Inside Gaming column is compiled by Review-Journal gaming and tourism writers Howard Stutz, Benjamin Spillman and Arnold M. Knightly.


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