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Inside Gaming: Few Chips in Play at Venetian Poker Room

15 May 2006

The Venetian's new poker room, which opened April 2, is off to a very slow start, industry sources say. Despite having the third-largest poker room -- after Caesars Palace and the Bellagio -- and arguably the spashliest, The Venetian has had only the ninth-largest share of the poker market since it opened, analysts say. The Bellagio, for example, has had better than a 20 percent share of the poker market since April 2, while The Venetian has had only about 4 percent market share, with only one-fifth of its seats in use on average. Venetian sources say a series of television promotions should be enough to take the level of business where it should be going.

Industry insiders in California tell us not to expect an expansion in gaming just because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is running up a white flag. Schwarzenegger ran for governor accusing tribal casinos of raking in millions without paying taxes -- which is their constitutional prerogative. Then he demanded massive payments in return for new gaming compacts. With little to gain and much to lose, the tribes waited him out. Now, Schwarzenegger is trying to chill opposition to his re-election with overtures that could lead to casino expansions. That has analysts abuzz, although tribal elders see little The Terminator can offer that they have not already rejected.

Las Vegas is not alone in the condo craze and problems that come with it. For one, work has started in San Diego's Gaslamp District on Hard Rock International's first condo project. Little studios start at $400,000, furnished, much like Las Vegas. Pretty soon, the whole Southwest could start looking like Central Park South, all driven by the baby boom generation. What rich boomers want in one place they want everywhere.

Despite a bevy of rumors, nothing is happening with the 15-acre surface parking lot MGM Mirage owns south of Reno Avenue on the east side of the Strip. No design or development plans are in the works and no offers have been received from prospective buyers. With 350 undeveloped acres on the Strip, the plot is not a focus of the second-largest gaming company in the world, but all the interest in the Tropicana suggests it will not stay undeveloped for long.

Reports that a new hotel in the United Arab Emirates will overtake the MGM Grand in size may be accurate, but it won't long be the largest hotel in the world. That distinction will belong to The Venetian when it completes its Palazzo expansion at the corner of the Strip and Sands Avenue. When complete, The Venetian will be the world's biggest hotel with 7,500 rooms.

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

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