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Gambling News by Gambling Headquarters

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Inside Gaming Column: $30 Million an Acre Called Too Much for Tropicana

 

Wall Street analysts examining the Columbia Sussex Corp. deal to buy Aztar Corp. tell us the $54 a share price amounts to an astronomical record $30 million an acre for the 34-acre Tropicana site at the south edge of the Strip. They reached the estimate by looking at how much the Tropicana in Atlantic City and Aztar's Midwest properties contribute to its financial performance. Quietly, they say Pinnacle Entertainment was smart to bow out. They say that combining Aztar with Columbia Sussex makes operational sense. But the strain on finances and human resources for Columbia Sussex to develop its first megaresort may prove overwhelming. More to come.

Nevada has more Starbucks stores per resident than any other state, something overlooked in recent reports about the Seattle-based chain. Industry analysts told us the reasons were a combination of three factors: wise investments since Starbucks owns most of its stores and land in Las Vegas has been leading the nation in appreciation, savvy marketing and a caffeine-craze driven by Las Vegas' 24-hour economy where many casino workers never sleep, or so it seems.

A lot of readers took exception to remarks by MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni, reported here, that it's unfair to discriminate against immigrant workers who have helped build our economy and companies such as MGM Mirage, and it's impractical to talk about shipping illegal immigrants back home. Experts, however, say at reasonable rates and given government escort policies, it could take a century to send them all back. Plus, three-quarters of the touted 12 million figure are simply undocumented because of U.S. government foul-ups or the intimidation it has encouraged. Lanni seems to have a point.

Wall Street analysts are touting sales in MGM Mirage's three-tower Signature development as a barometer of land values on the Strip. The sales price per square foot for the hotel-condos has climbed to a death-defying $1,057 per square foot, the cost of construction is actually coming in lower than expected, sales are going great guns and profits are surging. Extrapolate from that and it's not hard to imagine land at $25 million an acre, realistic or not.

What does this tell you about your investments? By Thanksgiving, mutual funds will be required to file the same anti-money laundering reports with the U.S. Treasury Department as casino operators. Treasury officials say the new requirements are part of a campaign to nab drug dealers, terrorists and other criminals who launder money. It sounds as if Al Capone's got our money.

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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