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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Station Cuts off Union's Shareholder Maneuver

6 June 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Station Casinos' longtime nemesis isn't gloating over the money it's making on the company's stock. At Station's shareholder meeting last month, the Culinary Union - which owns 262 shares of the nonunion company - introduced a proposal giving outside shareholders more decision-making control over Station.

As with other proxy initiatives the union has pitched in recent years, shareholders voted it down. Of the company's more than 60 million shares, the vote - indicating a split in the wider investment community on the issue of anti-takeover measures - came down to a handful of percentage points.

The initiative, which Station called "a thinly disguised pressure tactic to promote its own union organizing agenda," would have let stockholders decide whether to keep a provision giving the company's board more control in negotiating a company takeover.

Because the board still has the discretion to adopt the change, it's debatable whether the plan would make the company more vulnerable to hostile takeovers and manipulation by short-term investors, as Station asserts.

The fastest-growing casino company in town has been a source of greater angst for the Culinary, which is continuing its organizing effort at the company by distributing fliers at Station properties touting the Culinary Health Fund as the "best health plan in Nevada."

Culinary officials call the initiative progressive corporate governance unrelated to organizing efforts. The board can now more easily deflect potential offers at a time of intensified interest in gaming companies, the union asserts.

"As the largest union in the hospitality industry we are very important stakeholders in the industry," Culinary spokesman Ken Liu said.

For Station, the union has been about as important as a fly on an elephant. A hugely annoying fly, at that.

• • •

The bigger buzz at Station's shareholder meeting?

That would be food.

A shareholder who owns stock in several casino companies compared their spreads over the last few weeks. He told the audience at the gathering that the company's anteroom buffet was better than anything else he had seen in town.

"You don't insult your shareholders," the man said, dismissing the "coffee and cookies" served to Wynn Las Vegas shareholders.

Never mind that Wynn's stock was up more than 50 percent to Station's less than 10 percent over the past year.

• • •

Costa Rica-based Web casino, the site that put odds on everything from Tom Cruise's relationship with Katie Holmes to the indictment of Enron executive Ken Lay, is giving gamblers a shot at $1,000 worth of free gasoline for offering the best "solution" to the country's oil addiction.

Surging gasoline prices haven't stopped the more than half of visitors who travel here by car or bus from forgoing a Las Vegas vacation, tourism bosses say. After all, has long odds on whether gasoline prices will hit $4 to $5.

There's plenty of alarm about fuel prices and supply among the couch potato crowd online, who have so far suggested draconian measures to curb our gasoline cravings.

One suggestion: Boosting the price to $5 to $6 per gallon with added taxes that would go to schools and teacher salaries. Clearly these folks aren't from 'round here.

Let's hope those wagerers will use some of that free fuel to drive to Vegas.

Station Cuts off Union's Shareholder Maneuver is republished from