Boom, Bust and BA-BOOM - Nick's Picks 2006
Dr. Death Watch Returns For Las Vegas' Annual Physical
Its hard to believe that a year has passed since we last spoke with Nick Christenson, keeper of the Las Vegas Casino Death Watch... and what a year it has been. Megamergers completed, dazzling plans unveiled, casinos closed, opened or changed hands and the Las Vegas gaming industry experienced tremendous growth and record profits.
With all this hubub about town, who better to give us the rundown than Nick Christenson - Dr. Death Watch. So kids, strap yourselves in for round two of our annual Future of Vegas seance as we track the strategy, hidden tumors and offer prognosis' for the many joints we know and love in Vegas. You may want to check out last year's chit-chat just to get up to speed, and learn more about Nick - THE FIRST LAS VEGAS BLOGGER - before blogging and podcasting even existed (possibly before HTML was invented too.)
Bow down folks... Dr. Death Watch is in the house, and he's brought his autopsy table...
VT: Hey Nick, thanks for taking the time again this year to take a look back on 2005 and a glance into the Future Vegas 2006 and beyond.
Nick Christenson: My pleasure to be back talking to VegasTripping. 2006 will be an exciting year in Las Vegas.
VT: Lots of HUGE goings on in the Las Vegas casino industry over the last 12 months including the Harrah's/Caesars and the MGM/Mirage/Mandalay megamergers, the opening of Wynn Las Vegas, the condo explosion, ownership changes at many Downtown casinos and numerous other projects, closures and announcements. Where to begin?? Let's talk Harrah's.
With Harrah's acquisition of Caesars Palace, Paris, Bally's, Bourbon Street, Harrah's now has a virtual lock on center Strip - from Aladdin/Planet Hollywood to Venetian with the exception of Barbary Coast and Flamingo Road. What does the future hold for this massive chuck of prime parcel?
NPC: Well, some of it needs some redevelopment Real Soon Now, some, well, Paris Las Vegas anyway, can wait. My guess is that the major construction will start with the Imperial Palace and either Harrah's or the Flamingo sometime in 2007 or 2008 and then work its way south, but we'll see. I'm guessing they'll come up with an overriding plan for this huge tract and implement it in stages, but once again, I wasn't consulted. When will they learn?
VT: Can Harrah's put a masterplan into play without holding Barbary Coast?
NPC: Yes, they can, but it won't be as pretty. They have enough land going east on Flamingo wind their way around it.
This last year, I found two developments about the Barbary Coast situation amusing. First, Boyd Gaming, owners of the Barbary Coast, floated some ideas for redeveloping the BC site. The plot is pretty small, especially by today's standards, so the plan sounded awfully vertical and more than a little, well, silly. Still, with the South Coast opening and expansion, the Borgata Expansion, and now the big Echelon project on the Stardust site, who thinks they're champing at the bit to redo the Barbaric Coast? Did their announcement sound a little like an attempt to pump up the value of that land?
Second, in a Las Vegas Sun article in September, Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell said the company hasn't had any discussions about a possible sale. No discussions? Does anyone really believe that nobody at Boyd has talked to Harrah's about this? It's never come up?
VT: Any chance we'll see Casino Royale added to Harrah's murders row?
NPC: There's always a chance, and it's a natural fit. I don't think it will happen soon, though. The big reason it wouldn't is that at some point even the Nevada Gaming Control has to say "enough is enough" and put a stop to the relentless concentration of Las Vegas Strip property into a small number of hands. As you rightly point out, I think Harrah's would rather have the Barbary Coast site, so I'm guessing they'll try for that parcel first. They may try to acquire the Casino Royale at some point, but probably not soon, and it would end up being only a consolation prize.