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: Some rumors have been circulating that the Las Vegas Hilton is either for sale, or going to be demolished. They just refurbished the place... why would Colony Capital sell or destroy?

NC: I've been asking myself the same question, as I have heard the same rumors and I don't understand them. I presume the answer is, "because they think they can make more money with something else," but that doesn't do much to answer your underlying question. I like the Hilton, though, and based around the convention business I think that they can put some money away for at least the next few years.

What I think I'd do if I were Colony is have 90% of the rooms, 75% of the restaurants, and 25% of the gaming aimed squarely at conventioners. Then I'd have 25% of the restaurants and 75% of the gaming and aim that at the locals market. Sorta like the Palms, except aimed at Conventioners/Locals rather than Celebrities-and-Celebrity-Wannabes/Locals. I think that could work nicely for a while, and I don't see how it requires demolition.

VT: Pinnacle gaming was eyeballing The Sahara after it became apparent that their bid for the Tropicana wasn't going to win. Is the Sahara for sale?

NC: Yes, it's for sale. The question is whether anyone is willing to meet its price. Everyone who lost out on this year's game of "Strip Property Musical Chairs" has been talking to the Sahara. They've set a huge price and basically said, "First one who will meet this price gets it." Nobody has, yet. Somebody might in '07.

VT: The Riviera sits on a lot of acreage in a soon-to-be-hot-again neighborhood on the Strip. Why hasn't anyone bought this, and who has been looking at it?

NC: Twice this year the Riviera was on the verge of being sold only to have the deal fall apart. Outsiders don't seem to be as interested in this place as they are in the Sahara. This might be because the total acreage is smaller (and oddly shaped), but there might be other reasons that aren't clear.

VT: Moving downtown, the Golden Nugget has been in varying states of reconstruction for the last 16 months. What do you make of Landry's efforts to redefine the Golden Nugget for the next 20 years?

NC: Hard to think about the next 20 years, but they've already made serious improvements to the place, or at least serious changes, some of which are definitely improvements. They seem serious about expanding across the street to what used to be the Pioneer. Steve Wynn wanted to do this but the city wouldn't let him. I bet Mayor Goodman will be happy to let it happen. The Nugget is still the Jewel of Downtown. That's faint praise, but as long as their case money isn't sitting in the cage, they should do fine.

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