Like Sands through the hourglass ...

Written by Bill Toland on .

Ready? Set? Gamble!:

"Some were there to help a charity. Others wanted to see what all the fuss was about. But most people at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem on Monday were there to be the first people to gamble in Bethlehem. Invited guests from across the region flocked to south Bethlehem for the first of two test runs designed to get the $743 million casino ready for its official opening at 9 a.m. Friday. People who arrived about 1 p.m. Monday and expected to wait for the doors to open at 2 instead found themselves ushered directly to the casino floor. There they wasted no time in making Bethlehem the state's newest gambling town."

Via Morning Call of Allentown... And here's the scene from this A.M.: "Pennsylvania's newest casino is open for business. The $743 million Sands Casino Resort opened about 20 minutes earlier than its scheduled 9 a.m. opening Friday. Several hundred people poured onto the gaming floor. Some had been waiting in line since before dawn. [Sands] debuts with 3,000 slot machines and four restaurants. It is the eighth casino to open in Pennsylvania since the state legalized slots gambling in 2004."

... the Sands company really needs this property to perform:

"Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson doesn't look back - even after a year when he lost $22 billion of his net worth, one of the biggest falloffs of 2008, according to Forbes magazine. Instead, Adelson is looking ahead to his latest venture: a $743 million casino that will open next Friday in Bethlehem, Pa., about an hour's drive from Philadelphia. 'The project is important for us,' Adelson said in a rare interview. 'We don't want to fail in any project. We do our best to succeed.' His company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., can only go up. Shares fell more than 95 percent last year."

... across Pennsylvania, the video poker "industry" (such as it is) fears a state takeover.

... can the Rivers Casino on the NorSide / North Shore draw young people? Or will it be the retiree crowd feeding the slots?

The CEO of Pittsburgh's casino is probably one of the youngest in the country and he wants 20, 30, and 40-somethings to make the Rivers Casino their destination, too. [Greg Carlin] is a 42-year-old Chicago millionaire, a 1988 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and the quiet, unassuming CEO of the new Rivers Casino. [He] wants Pittsburgh's casino to be more than just a slots casino -- he's encouraging non-gamblers to visit, especially younger people.

"A lot of our food and beverage venues and bars are located along the river," Carlin adds. "We've got outdoor patio areas at our buffet, at our steakhouse. We've got great views from our drum bar - three-story atrium looking out at the river and the city of Pittsburgh." And Carlin says the sports bar will boast something nobody else has.

"We're probably going to have the biggest TV screen in the city. We're looking at about 150 inches of -- it's multi-screen -- a really neat piece of equipment. Our audio visual budget just for that venue is about $600,000."


Dispatches from the border

Sports betting is now legal in Delaware:

"Delaware became the first state east of the Mississippi River to legalize sports betting in a move designed to cut the state’s budget deficit. Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill approving the change today in a ceremony at the oldest of Delaware’s three horse tracks. By September those so-called racinos will add sports wagering to their 8,200 slot machines and horse-betting operations that have been legal in Delaware since 1995. 'There is tremendous interest in the sports lottery throughout our region and nationally,' Markell, a Democrat, said."

So does that mean we'll be getting Dover odds in addition to Vegas odds?

... The opening of the Sands casino in Bethlehem is good news for Pennsylvania, but (more) bad news for New Jersey:

"As Pennsylvania's gambling market expands, analysts say Atlantic City's casinos haven't hit bottom yet. Figures released yesterday underscored their point: Last month's revenue at Atlantic City's 11 casinos plunged 14.2 percent from April last year. Meanwhile, April revenue at Pennsylvania's seven slots parlors rose 13.8 percent - to $150.7 million - from the year before. The April decrease in Atlantic City - to $313.6 million - was an improvement from the revenue declines of 19.4 percent in March and 19.2 percent in February. But it's what's in store later this month that has casino operators here anxious."

... which means construction is slowing it Atlantic City as well: "Some big projects have stalled. Just a couple of years ago, city officials were boasting about plans for three major casinos, totaling $10 billion in investment, by MGM Mirage, Pinnacle Entertainment and Revel. Only Revel continues to go forward," reports the New York Times.

... A dispatch from the border (Kentucky) of one of our border states (Ohio):

"The heads of Kentucky's six leading tracks and the largest thoroughbred horsemen's association painted a dire picture Wednesday afternoon of what will happen if the Kentucky legislature does not soon act to bring slot machines to the commonwealth's racetracks. The press conference was held in the Churchill Downs paddock on the first canceled Wednesday of the spring meet - a point made by several speakers. Churchill Downs earlier this month received permission from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to drop from a five- to four-day race week because of a shortage of horses, which tracks are blaming in large part to competition for tracks in the region with slots-enriched purses. The tracks and horsemen are supporting House Speaker Greg Stumbo's bill to bring slots to the racetracks."

Odds and ends

Americans are gambling less, but Pennsylvanians are gambling more ... U.S. casino stocks are having a boring week ... More on Atlantic City's brutal first quarter '09 ... Kansas is still trying to build two casinos ... A Nebraska investor says Harrah's plied him with too many drinks, which was part of the reason he lost tens of millions of dollars while gambling ... Arizona is again contemplating racetrack casinos as a solution to the state's money problems: "The state could reap nearly $1 billion next year if it allowed casino-style gambling at Arizona's racetracks. Rep. Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, is shopping the idea as a way to win enough votes in the Legislature to balance the state budget without a tax hike. The idea of creating so-called racinos has long been sought by Arizona's racing industry. Voters rejected it in a 2002 ballot measure."

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