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Rod Smith

Inside Gaming Column: More Riders on Monorail Stoke Hopes for Casinos

2 October 2006

Ridership is up and increasing on the Las Vegas Monorail during peak periods, 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, anecdotal evidence suggests. That's a critical contribution to managing the traffic woes of the resort corridor and relieving guest anxieties, hotel-casino operators say. It's also crucial to landing more business since one of the biggest complaints conventioneers coming here have is the time spent every morning getting to the exhibit space where they will do business and time spent in the evening getting away from the exhibit space to get ready for the night's executive and VIP meetings. "The longest lines are at the doors," one gaming executive said. But conventioneers are here to sell, not party, and time in transit snarls is a terrible opportunity lost for millions of them.

An elderly Chinese gentleman on his first trip to Las Vegas since the opening of Wynn Macau said the event bowled over Chinese nationals. However, he said middle-class Chinese will take a decade or more to catch on to the appeal it creates for Las Vegas. Still, wealthier Chinese who tend to be high rollers are really frothing at the bit to gamble Las Vegas-style, and can be expected to come in increasing numbers just as fast as current currency controls are relaxed further, he said. One final note: He also said Wynn has what in China may be a permanent leg up over competitors Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Mirage, which won't open full-scale hotel-casinos until next year.

A CNBC poll recently showed 90 percent of Americans surveyed would like online gaming legalized and regulated, not banned. Emboldened by the grass-roots support, banking lobbyists on Capitol Hill, the elite of the capitalist world, are moving to kill plans once and for all that would force banks to block online transactions. Bankers say it's too much work. They'd have to review more than $40 billion checks a year to comply. Better to spend the resources going after money laundering, organized crime and terrorists, banking executives say.

"The Phantom of the Opera" at The Venetian is getting unusually unmixed reviews in national media. The Chicago Sun-Times recently wrote that Gaston Leroux, author of the 19th century novel "Le Fantome de L'opéra," would be stunned if he was alive. "The musical has returned to its roots, albeit minus 25 minutes, and it is a much better production for having done so," the Sun-Times reports. "The result is hands down the best version of 'Phantom of the Opera,' a show that has grossed more than $3 billion worldwide." The result, we hear, is the biggest boost in casino business from a show since Céline Dion opened at Caesars Palace.