No One Walking by the Door and Dropping In to Visit


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A view of the Riviera on the Las Vegas Strip on Dec. 26, 2007.

Gaming bankruptcies have been in the news a lot in recent years, probably the most famous is Station Casinos.  Next month the majority of the assets of the now-privately held Station are set to be auctioned, the new scaled-down Station Casino company will retain the core assets; the casinos they want to keep and the ones their detractors say are the only ones worth keeping.  It has often been a bitter battle between chief rival Boyd Casinos and Stations, with local unions weighing in against Stations.

Trump Casinos is coming out of bankruptcy for the third time in its history, the debt-holders got tentative licensing approval today and told regulators that they were in negotiations to sell the Marina.  Trump gets to keep 10 percent of the company and the company gets to keep his name on the buildings.  It has long been rumored that the world largest casino company, Harrah’s was ripe for bankrupcty after it went private at the peak of its market evaluation, but the latest rumor has the company going public again by the end of the year and it is always on the short list of companies vying for a license in new jurisdictions; the doesn’t prove it isn’t a candidate for bankruptcy, but there isn’t any evidence at the moment that it is either.

New on the bankruptcy list is the Riviera on the Strip in Las Vegas – the company also has a property in Black Hawk, Colorado.  In its filings Riviera blamed several things for its problems; first, of course, the economy and increased competition in Las Vegas, but it also blamed the loss of other casinos in the immediate area that used to create lots of walking-in traffic and contributing to the demise of the walk-around Strip customer was the constant construction that interupted and any attempt by people walking to get to the Riviera.

The loss of walking traffic on the Strip is probably a real story that deserves more attention.  Each new generation of Strip casino seems to put the building farther back from the Strip and to isolate itself one from the others and the Strip.  It isn’t simple to walk the Strip and look at and walk through all of the casinos the way it once was – and even where you can get from one casino to the next walking, it is a long and often difficult walk; that leaves any casino that used walking traffic as part of its business model in a more precarious position than other newer casinos that don’t use use the traffic as a primary market.  It is one of the evolutionary changes in Vegas that may over time make a bigger difference in the casinos than any theme, use of technology or new chef or entertainer has made. The Riviera is the first major casino to identify it as a cause for demise. Although, the company says it will emerge from bankruptcy stronger, healthier and fitter to fit the good fight than it has ever been.

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