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Inside gaming column: Filmgoers may prefer placing bets themselves

27 November 2006

Major media film critics concur the Achilles heel of the new James Bond movie 'Casino Royale' is the casino gambling segment. Why? Moviegoers say table games are just boring to watch. Nevertheless, marketing gurus say the film and its tone will be big winners for Las Vegas, especially as it draws new, affluent young patrons into playing the tables. It should also reinforce the riverboat crowd interest in pounding on the doors of Strip casinos.

Why is Hard Rock franchise founder Peter Morton getting out of the casino business? He told the Los Angeles Times he "never got a thrill" out of beating people in the gaming business. "I had addiction in my family, and gambling is just another form of addiction. So when we had a great day, we were making money off people with addiction issues, which never thrilled me." And of course, real estate prices in Las Vegas are white hot, so he's in a position to sell, Morton said. For now, for the first time in his life, Morton describes himself as "between jobs."

During closed-door investment sessions at the American Gaming Association's recent Global Gaming Expo, banking superstars were more cautious in their assessments of the industry than in public sessions. They are concerned not about rising gasoline prices but about bigger threats, including the threat of Asia's current economic bubble exploding, dunking cold water on growth prospects throughout the region; the possibility of instability in the Chinese economy should it have to float its currency; the Japanese government's inability to reform its economy to remain competitive; and prospects for hostilities on the Korean peninsula.

Big casino operators focused on local customers won more kudos from some of the bankers at the closed-door Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank discussions. The risks of international instability pose little threat to Boyd Gaming Corp., Station Casinos or their smaller competitors, the bankers said. Those companies face less risk, but they also have more modest growth opportunities, they said.

It looks as if Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson may finally be crying uncle to labor unions. Adelson is known in Las Vegas as the most organized-labor-averse casino operator. But Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho is giving in to union demands that stem from widespread worker complaints that the gambling boom in Macau is not trickling down to the workers. Wages, benefits and rights are all on the table and Adelson has no choice but to play.

Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith can be reached by e-mail at rsmith@reviewjournal. com or by phone at 477-3893.

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