Dr. Deathwatch Returns : Nick's Picks 2007

Las Vegas Casino Death Watch's Nick Christenson Gives His Annual Post Mortem for the Las Vegas Casino Industry

Posted by Chuckmonster

VT: Boyd Gaming traded Barbary Coast to Harrah's in exchange for the Westward, Ho! site and two Oscar Gamble rookie cards. Did they get stiffed?

NC: Oscar Gamble rookie cards!? I thought it was Oscar Goodman bobbleheads! Oh, man! Excuse me, I gotta make some calls.

Baseball cards aside, it looks like a fair trade to me. The Barbary Coast site is less than 5 acres. Harrah's purchased the Westward Ho site for $365 million. That makes the Barbary Coast site worth about $85 million per acre. Hard for me to think that anyone who got paid that much money for any plot of land got ripped off.

Plus, the Westward Ho site is 24 acres immediately adjacent to the planned Echelon place, including frontage on both the Strip and Industrial. I'm sure Boyd can make good use of this. This deal decreases Boyd's revenue a little in the short term, but I think it's a very good move for both companies long term.

VT: Speaking of Harrah's - nobody saw this takeover coming... except maybe Gary Loveman (Harrah's CEO). What does this mean to Harrah's rumored plans for a major mid-strip redevelopment of Flamingo, IP, Harrah's, Barbary Coast and all the land they've acquired behind them?

NC: The buyout that is taking Harrah's private will have some interesting ramifications. The two big questions regarding the direction of the company are: (1) How will this affect Harrah's ability to raise capital, and (2) How eager will this new company be to spend money on new projects. Note, though, that we were supposed to hear about Harrah's grand new vision for the east Strip before the end of the year. That has been put on hold. It seems the big brass at Harrah's has been distracted by other matters.

I actually don't think it will take us too long to get a good read on the new management. After the takeover is complete, does Harrah's look to spend money on improvements or does it move to cut costs? This will give us a good idea as to what their plans are on the macro scale.

Another question, though, is whether the new Harrah's will put up some of their non-core assets for sale? Will any Las Vegas assets be included in this? The property that most fits the bill here is the Rio. Harrah's selling the Rio in the next year wouldn't surprise me at all.



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