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Indy Gaming: Despite losses, Mohegan Gaming not walking away from Vegas casino

The off-Strip casino saw a 42 percent revenue decline; operators blamed a lower hold on table game wagers.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz

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This is the last Indy Gaming for 2023. The newsletter will return on Jan. 3, 2024. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. - Howard Stutz

A top executive from Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which manages the casino inside Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, said the company is not leaving the market after a gaming analyst questioned if the casino was adding anything positive to the company’s bottom line.

The business arm of Connecticut’s Mohegan Indian Tribe said last week its net revenue for the fiscal year that ended in September was $1.67 billion, the highest figure in the company’s history.

But the record haul wasn’t because of the Mohegan Las Vegas casino, which is operated as part of Virgin Hotels. The 60,000-square-foot gaming space saw a 42 percent revenue decline in the three months that ended Sept. 30.

Mohegan Gaming did not provide a 12-month revenue total for the casino that it has operated since March 2021 through a management agreement.

The $3.8 million from Mohegan Las Vegas was just a fraction of Mohegan Gaming’s $444.3 million collected this quarter from its network of casinos, including the flagship Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Mohegan Pennsylvania and Resorts Atlantic City. Mohegan Sun accounted for more than half of the company’s quarterly revenue.

One analyst during a quarterly conference call last week questioned the company’s operations in Las Vegas, even suggesting the tribe jettison its contract with JC Hospitality, which owns the Virgin property.

Chief Operating Officer Jody Madigan told investors that walking away from the agreement was not an option.

“We still believe in the property and we want to be in Las Vegas,” Madigan said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure the property is as successful as we think it can be.”

Mohegan became the first tribal gaming entity to operate a casino in Las Vegas when it partnered with JC Hospitality during an 18-month, $200 million remodel of the 1,500-room Virgin Hotels, the former Hard Rock Las Vegas.

Mohegan oversees the off-Strip casino and sportsbook, which is operated by Betfred Sports.

“It is a little bit of a challenge but we are working closely with JC Hospitality and focused on trying to make that property a primary asset within the Mohegan portfolio,” Madigan said.

The company said the total loss from operations for Mohegan Las Vegas was almost $4.7 million in the quarter.

Mohegan executives said table game players had a successful quarter, not only playing against the Las Vegas casino but other casinos in the company. Cash flow loss in Las Vegas was $3.1 million, which Mohegan executives said would have been $1.8 million on the positive side if table game hold on wagers were “normalized.” 

Company officials did not provide details of what constitutes a “normal” table game hold. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, casinos on the Strip held an average of 13.7 percent of all table game wagers over the last 10 years with the highest being 14.3 percent in 2022.

Mohegan Gaming is privately owned by the tribe but reports earnings quarterly because of its publicly owned debt, which was almost $3.3 billion at the end of the quarter. 

Meanwhile, the company expects to see improved gaming revenue in the first quarter of Mohegan’s fiscal year as the period will reflect visitation brought by the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix in November. 

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is less than 1 mile east on Harmon Avenue from the Las Vegas Grand Prix headquarters, the $500 million building that served as the centerpiece for the three-day race with high-priced grandstand seating, luxury suites, start-finish line and the pit row garages.

Signage along Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek, Colo., for McGill’s and Century Casino on August 16, 2022. (Howard Stutz/The Nevada Independent)

Vegas-centric partnership acquiring two Colorado casinos

Cripple Creek, Colorado, is becoming Little Nevada.

A company that includes three former and current Las Vegas gaming executives announced plans last week to acquire two casinos in the historic mining town located an hour west of Colorado Springs.

Rocky Mountain Gaming was formed to purchase Johnny Nolon's Casino and the Colorado Grande Casino, which are located along the town’s main road. The deal is pending approval from the Colorado Division of Gaming.

Combined, the two properties have 400 gaming machines and seven hotel rooms. They also offer several food and beverage outlets including Maggie's Restaurant inside the Colorado Grande. 

The partnership includes gaming executive Michael Gaughan III, the son of South Point casino owner Michael Gaughan, and David Ross, who was an executive with the elder Gaughan’s Coast Casinos in Las Vegas before the company was sold to Boyd Gaming. Ross was also a top official with Affinity Gaming and is on the board for the JW Marriott-Rampart Casino near Summerlin.

Gaughan and Ross were joined in the partnership by Joseph Canfora, a former executive for Station Casinos. Canfora was the owner of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek, which he sold last year to Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta for $43 million. 

Fertitta, who owns six Golden Nugget casinos, including three in Nevada, converted the property into Golden Nugget Cripple Creek.

With the coming late December opening of the $250 million, 300-room Chamonix Casino Resort by Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts, along with Colorado-based Century Casinos’ operations in the market (Century acquired the Nugget Hotel Casino in Sparks earlier this year), Cripple Creek is taking on a Nevada flair.

“Those two operators (Full House and Golden Nugget), at either end of the town, will help attract new visitors to Cripple Creek, and we think there's an opportunity for our properties to offer a true locals experience,” Ross said in a statement.

Johnny Nolon's Casino, one of Cripple Creek's original gaming halls, and Colorado Grande are in the center of the town's historic gaming district along East Bennett Avenue. Full House also operates Bronco Billy’s Casino, which expanded over time by acquiring several adjacent storefront locations.

“Johnny Nolon's and Colorado Grande presented the opportunity to maintain the old Cripple Creek casino feel that the locals had grown accustomed to,” Canfora said.

Golden Nugget is the largest casino-hotel in Cripple Creek with 528 slot machines and 12 table games, and 100 hotel rooms. Chamonix will take over that designation when it opens with 300 hotel rooms, an expanded gaming area, restaurants and convention space that can accommodate concerts and other entertainment.

Jette Nygaard-Andersen, CEO at Entain, during a keynote interview with CNBC’s Contessa Brewer at G2E in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

 Entain CEO steps down; company is MGM’s partner in BetMGM 

Jette Nygaard-Andersen, CEO of United Kingdom-based Entain Plc., resigned last week amid reports that shareholders were unhappy with her leadership. Entain is MGM Resorts International’s 50-50 joint venture partner in BetMGM, its sports betting platform.

According to Reuters, the company didn’t specify the reasons for her resignation.

BetMGM is one of the top four sports betting operators in the U.S. Entain also owns European sports betting provider Ladbrokes.

Nygaard-Anderson was licensed in February by Nevada gaming regulators to serve as a member of BetMGM’s governing board. That same month, MGM abandoned its efforts to acquire Entain and take 100 percent control of BetMGM. 

“I've just passed my two years as CEO and being one of few women leading a large global company; I am aware of my role as a member, as well as a role model,” Nygaard-Anderson told the Nevada Gaming Control Board during the hearing.

She spoke this year during a CEO keynote session at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

Entain named Stella David, a non-executive board member, as the interim CEO.

Boyd Gaming Executive Vice President of Operations Steve Thompson speaks at the Fremont Hotel & Casino during a grand opening for a new food court and a FanDuel Sportsbook on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

News, notes and quotes

Boyd elevates Steve Thompson to a new corporate position

Boyd Gaming promoted Steve Thompson to a new role as the company’s chief administrative officer. Boyd operates 28 casinos in 10 states and manages a tribal casino in Northern California. 

The long-time company executive oversaw the company’s Nevada operations, which included three downtown Las Vegas casinos and a half-dozen locals properties. Steve Schutte will succeed Thompson in overseeing the company’s Nevada properties.


Chow named CFO of Light & Wonder

Oliver Chow, who has been acting chief financial officer of gaming equipment provider Light & Wonder since August, was elevated to the permanent role by CEO Matt Wilson.

The move follows the same path as Wilson, who was interim CEO for several months before taking on the role permanently more than a year ago.

Chow has been with the Las Vegas-based company for more than a year as the head of corporate finance. He previously spent five years in corporate finance roles for rival gaming equipment provider Aristocrat Technologies.


Gaming analyst Todd Jordan dies

Todd Jordan, 54, a longtime gaming industry analyst, died last week, according to a statement from Hedgeye Risk Management, where he headed the firm’s gaming, lodging and leisure research sector for almost 16 years.

Jordan worked for other investment firms, including Jefferies and Buckingham Research. He also spent a year on the board of Shuffle Master.


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