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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Jeff Simpson shares Michael Gaughan with the happy cowboys at South Point

18 December 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- South Point owner Michael Gaughan is a straight shooter. He doesn't waste a lot of words, and what he says, he means.

I had lunch with Gaughan at the South Point Cafe while the National Finals Rodeo was in town, and it was apparent how many people genuinely like him.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association was headquartered at Gaughan's hotel, and five or more big-hatted guys came up to our table at different times during our lunch, wanting to say hello, renew their acquaintance and thank Gaughan for his hospitality.

Gaughan knew everyone, and clearly enjoyed the interaction.

Gaughan says he has no interest in building or buying additional hotels, and wants to focus on developing the South Point to its full potential.

He doesn't miss the more corporate environment he was part of while he ran his former Coast Casinos group for Boyd Gaming Corp. While he likes and respects Bill Boyd, he wasn't happy with the corporate decision-making process.

"We had meetings to schedule meetings," he told me.

Gaughan said he wasn't sad about leaving four casinos he had built into the Coast Casinos chain in the custody of Boyd Gaming as part of the deal that saw him acquire the South Coast and rename it South Point.

But he said he did regret that he had left so many good friends and talented people behind at the Barbary Coast, Gold Coast, Orleans and Suncoast.

"I couldn't take everyone with me," he said. But he said he had been disappointed to learn that Boyd Gaming had shuffled some of Gaughan's folks out of their jobs, reassigning or demoting them.

Gaughan said that had he known Boyd Gaming did not want to keep people in the jobs they had excelled at, he would have taken more folks with him.

• • •

As I write my column Harrah's Entertainment has yet to announce how it plans to deal with the competing offers to buy the company, the world's biggest and Nevada's second-biggest casino operator, by revenue.

As I've written before, I view the move of private capital into the casino resort business as a confirmation of the industry and the quality of its cash flow.

Presuming a change in ownership or significant additional corporate debt to reward shareholders, the question I'll ask about the decision Harrah's makes is: Will the new owners or new structure result in better development?

• • •

Kudos to Bellagio Director of Poker Operations Doug Dalton and Bellagio tournament boss Jack McClelland for drawing 583 poker players willing to shell out $15,000 to compete in the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship, a World Poker Tour event now under way at the Strip resort.

Despite the recent federal law that prompted several Internet poker sites to stop taking action from U.S. players, the Bellagio event attracted 28 more players than played in last year's event.

"And that's without 200 or more players from the Internet," McClelland told me.