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Howard Stutz

Gazing ahead at gaming in 2010

4 January 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Gaming news in 2009 wasn't boring. It also wasn't positive.

Other than the opening of the $8.5 billion CityCenter -- which remains an ongoing story in 2010 -- the industry struggled with the economy, diminished revenues and bankruptcies.

So what does 2010 hold?

Certain stories that unfolded last year will continue to play out over the next 12 months.

It will be several quarters before we have a grasp on how the 4,004-room Aria inside the MGM Mirage-owned CityCenter impacts the Strip and the company's other casinos.

One measure of CityCenter's progress, however, will be MGM Mirage's success in closing condominium sales starting in this month.

We may get a handle on the future of the bankrupt Fontainebleau this month.

The 3,889-room unfinished project will be auctioned off in a Miami courtroom in three weeks. Corporate raider Carl Icahn has the low bid of $156.5 million on the once-$3 billion Strip development.

Penn National Gaming looms in the picture, but it's unclear whether the company, which made an offer for the Fontainebleau in November, will stay in the bidding.

Penn first began eyeballing Strip opportunities in 2008. This year will be no different.

In March the future endeavors of former Las Vegas Sands Corp. President Bill Weidner might become clearer. His one-year noncompete clause expires in the first week. Management opportunities and other executive shake-ups could surface. Weidner will be a hot name on the rumor circuit.

Station Casinos is due to file a reorganization plan with the federal bankruptcy court in Reno in late March. The company wants to retain its 18 casinos despite carrying some $6.8 billion in debt. Lurking is a $2.45 billion offer by Boyd Gaming Corp. to acquire its rival.

New casino openings in Las Vegas are nonexistent, unless you count the foreclosed Cosmopolitan. Deutsche Bank is completing the building, applied for a gaming license, but may or may not open the project this year.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. will open the $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore in April.

Pinnacle Entertainment, a Las Vegas-based regional casino operator, will make headlines.

Former Chief Executive Officer Dan Lee was forced out in November. The day-to-day operations are being run by interim-CEO John Giovenco while a permanent CEO is sought.

Some Wall Street observers floated Weidner's name for the job. One analyst, however, believes the company should be sold to Penn.

Pinnacle moved up the opening of a St. Louis casino to March but scaled back a Louisiana development.

The company's future will be closely watched.

Gazing ahead at gaming in 2010 is republished from