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Shaking Off Storm, Alliance Holds Private Peek at Games30 November 2005
By Howard Stutz
Gulf Coast casino operators sustained a double-whammy from Hurricane Katrina. Not only did they lose most of their gaming equipment in the Aug. 29 storm, they missed the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas two weeks later.
This week, however, the operators got their own version of the gaming expo.
On Monday, Alliance Gaming Corp. ferried 22 casino executives by chartered jet from 12 hurricane-affected properties in Mississippi and Louisiana to Las Vegas. The Las Vegas-based slot manufacturer treated guests to a night at Wynn Las Vegas and dinner at the hotel-casino's Daniel Boulud Brasserie restaurant. On Tuesday, before returning to Gulfport, Miss., the casino executives were given a tour of the under-construction South Coast.
In between, they were presented with a small-scale G2E inside a Wynn Las Vegas ballroom. The gaming expo held in September provided manufacturers the chance to display their newest products and operators ample time for networking and other activities.
The casino managers, seeking to replace some 17,000 slot machines lost in the hurricane, previewed slot machine and gaming system products scheduled for distribution next year by Alliance Gaming subsidiary Bally Gaming and Systems.
During an afternoon-long presentation and demonstration of Bally Gaming's newest games, slot machine platforms, a table game management system, and a peek at futuristic central-server-based gaming products, Gulf Coast casino executives were told there would be special pricing discounts, similar or better to the reduced prices given to buyers during G2E.
For Bally Gaming, the session was a goodwill gesture to the casino leaders, many of whom hadn't been out of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast since August.
"Obviously, this is a market that is going to rebuild and we would like to expand our market share," Bally Gaming Senior Vice President Mickey Roemer said. "We also wanted to show the casino operators that we are not going to gouge them or take advantage of the situation. We want to be partners in their recovery."
Roemer said the event was held at Wynn because Bally Gaming has 20 percent of the casino's slot floor there.
Three Biloxi, Miss., casinos, the Imperial Palace, Isle of Capri and Palace, are planning to reopen by the end of December. Other casino operators said they may be able to reopen at different times in 2006.
That timing should work well for Bally Gaming, when the company expects that many of the products displayed during G2E will be approved by gaming regulators around the country.
"It's nice to see what's new since we have to replace everything," said Frank Kersh, slot operations director for the Hard Rock in Biloxi.
The casino had scheduled its grand opening for the Thursday after the hurricane. All 1,500 slot machines, and the entire floating casino, were destroyed. Kersh said insurance companies are still determining what damages will be covered but he said the casino would be rebuilt.
"Our slot machines were all brand-new," Kersh said. "Even the furniture still had on the plastic coverings. Everything in the casino was a total loss."
Steve Hendricks, vice president of operations from the Copa Casino in Gulfport, said Katrina damaged the privately held casino beyond repair. The property has since been demolished and ownership is still determining in what form the property would be rebuilt.
The demonstration of the Bally Gaming products gave him an idea of what slot machines will be popular next year. The miniexpo's timing was opportune, he said.
"It was a total loss," Hendricks said of the casino's 1,300 slot machines. "This was the time of year you were always rethinking your casino floor, so this has been good to see what concepts will be out there next year."
Bally Gaming has already made one sale in the rebuilding Mississippi market, providing 146 new games to the Imperial Palace.
The Imperial Palace is adding 500 games to the casino's slot floor, which will grow to 1,900 machines.
Alliance Gaming also operates a casino in Mississippi, the Rainbow in Vicksburg, which is four hours north of the Gulf Coast.
Curt Follmer, the casino's general manager, said business has been up almost 15 percent at the Rainbow since the hurricane, a trend he expects to continue even after the three Biloxi casinos reopen.
"The demand is greater than what will be available," Follmer said. "It'll change a bit, but increased customer volume won't go away."
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Shaking Off Storm, Alliance Holds Private Peek at Games is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.