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Inside gaming column: Board seeking air-tariff controls

3 March 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas Sands Corp. is proceeding with plans to retrofit two former passenger airliners to serve as modified flying casinos, on which high-end customers can pass the time gambling while being shuttled between Asia and the company's Strip casinos.

However, before a hand of baccarat can be dealt at 35,000 feet, the Nevada Gaming Control Board wants the company to implement strong internal control and appropriate auditing policies.

Gaming regulators want to know what money is wagered over international waters -- and not subject to Nevada's 6.75 percent tax rate -- and how much is wagered at the company's Venetian and Palazzo hotel-casinos on the Strip.

"We want to ensure that the gaming that occurs on the aircraft is segregated from the gaming activities in Nevada," Control Board member Mark Clayton said.

Las Vegas Sands told gaming regulators of its plans in January and submitted paperwork to conduct foreign gaming aboard the two L-1011 airliners the company purchased last year.

Harrah's Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman gave investors a peek at the company's proposed $500 million arena during an earnings conference call last week.

Loveman said the 20,000-seat arena, planned to be built behind Bally's and Paris Las Vegas, will have three features to distinguish it from urban arenas around the country: It will be "visually captivating" to lure people from the Strip, events will be booked that will cater to tourists, and the interiors of the arena's luxury boxes will be customized by the casino companies owning them.

"I'm sure Steve Wynn's box will be keeping very much with his brand, Sheldon (Adelson) likewise and ours, and Boyd (Gaming Corp.), and so on," Loveman said.

The privately funded arena is being developed by Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, which will also manage it. AEG will also control naming rights for the arena.

The plans for the arena still need approval of Clark County officials. In August, when the arena was announced, the partnership targeted a June groundbreaking.

Casino giant MGM Mirage was listed 29th and was the only gaming corporation on The Wall Street Journal's honor roll of companies. They were ranked on five-year average compound total returns through the end of 2007.

Kentucky's plans to add casinos is inching forward, but Wachovia Capital Markets gaming analyst Brian McGill said history doesn't bode well for the legislation's passage.

"In the past, bills for gaming expansion in Kentucky have struggled largely because pro-racetrack and nonracetrack interests haven't been able to agree on an expansion plan," McGill said.

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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Inside gaming column: Board seeking air-tariff controls is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.