Industry waffles on Sisolak; Illinois ekes upward

Cynicism, thy name is Big Gaming. Whereas its chips were all in with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) the last time around, now it has a dampened finger held upwards, testing which way the wind is blowing. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has done some digging through public records, and found some surprising Sisolak backers and opponents in the C-suites. Numero uno is Venelazzo, which has flung $250,000 into the Sisolak coffers. It’s followed by Caesars Entertainment, which has chipped in another 90 grand. True believers in Sisolak’s opponent, former Clark County sheriff Joe Lombardo (R) mostly represent smaller fry, like Golden Entertainment ($90,000), perhaps to punish Sisolak for his financially costly (but necessary) 78-day shutdown of Nevada’s signature industry, in an effort to squelch Covid-19. Then you have the cynics, foremost among whom is Boyd Gaming, sending $40K to Sisolak but $30K to Lombardo, enabling it to claim it’s on the winning side regardless of what happens in November. Phil Ruffin, the El Cortez, Ellis Island and Longhorn Casino are comparable bet-hedgers.

“If Lombardo hadn’t been the sheriff, I don’t know if any other opponent would have done as well with getting money from the casino industry,” claims political operative Billy Vassiliadis but we dunno: The uncertain tenor of the election would appear to have a lot to do with the gaming industry’s tap dance. Sisolak, it must be noted, has some surprisingly conservative backers in his camp. In addition to Las Vegas Sands, these include Station Casinos ($80K) and comparative cheapskate Wynn Resorts ($15K spread over two years). In retaliation against his former employer, Florida man Steve Wynn sent 20 grand to Lombardo. Resorts World Las Vegas, which Sisolak heralded as a major accomplishment for Las Vegas‘ economy, is repaying the guv by giving $10,000 to Lombardo. Et tu, Genting Group?

The Herbst and Marnell families each donated $10K to Sisolak—but $50,000 to Lombardo. Given the imbalance, why even feign bipartisanship? The long-silent Ensign cabal donated another $20,000 to Lombardo, whose fans also include Dr. Miriam Adelson ($10K). Lombardo even got over $5.5 million from motel magnate Bob Bigelow but seems to have blown through it already. The ex-lawman is going to need his fan club to dig deep in the stretch drive. He’s only got a little over a million bucks on hand, Sisolak 11 times that amount—and the Culinary Union has yet to wade into the fight. No prizes for guessing who it will back.

Any improvement in Illinois casino numbers is cause for celebration, and they were up 2% last month (even allowing for newbie Hard Rock Rockford) at a time when they could be expected to be flat or modestly down. With exception of Hollywood Joliet, flat at $8 million, it was feast or fame. Feast: Rebranded Bally’s Quad Cities, vaulting 22.5% to $5 million. We still think Bally’s Corp. overpaid for the property but it’s definitely making a go of it. Famine: Harrah’s Joliet, diving 18.5% to $12 million. Also hard-hit was Argosy Alton, tumbling 17.5% to $3 million. The big dog, Rivers Casino Des Plaines, gained 5% to $50 million (out of a statewide gross of $123 million). Other climbers were Harrah’s Metropolis ($6 million, +14%) and Hard Rock with $5 million. Relative losers were Par-A-Dice ($5 million, -12%), Hollywood Aurora ($9 million, -9%), DraftKings Casino Queen ($6.5 million, -9%) and Grand Victoria (pictured, $13 million, -6%). With the exception of Metropolis, it was largely a case of them that has gets, a familiar scenario in Illinois.

New York State sports betting whipped up $801 million in handle last month—but a mere $73 million of revenue, chicken feed even before the state takes its 51% cut. Lord only knows how much of the winnings went back out in the form of promotions. Nobody’s talking. FanDuel‘s $39 million in revenue led all comers, followed by DraftKings‘ $16 million. DKNG was blowing sunshine up Wall Street‘s ass last week but its consistent tendency to finish a distant second to FanDuel, regardless of market, evidently went unaddressed. (Profitability remains 15-18 months away.) Caesars Sportsbook has faded back toward the back but was still a contender with $9 million. Also-rans numbered PointsBet ($2 million) and BetRivers ($1 million). Among those fighting for crumbs, BallyBet managed in three weeks to outgross Resorts World, which had a full month to post less money. Good for Bally, maybe not so auspicious for Genting. It, Bally and WynnBet grossed slightly over a million bucks between all three.

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