Gaming execs worried about boom - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Gaming industry executives are getting nervous that Las Vegas may be enjoying too much of a good thing. They say there is so much planned construction that building trade unions are demanding 30 percent to 40 percent wage premiums. Not only could that freeze the incipient boom for the gaming industry and condominium projects, but it could tie up badly needed public works projects such as those at McCarran International Airport. That worries gaming operators, who are scared that there wont be enough people flying into Las Vegas to keep all the hotels full, meaning theyre likely to hit a glass ceiling for visitor arrivals.

Media sources in Washington, D.C., say President Bush may be about to say uncle to anti-gaming forces. The old gaming foe has had a hands-off approach ever since his allies started getting campaign contributions from tribal operators. However, the sleight-of-hand tricks GOP activists Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist have pulled, funneling contributions from the Choctaw Indians who run casinos in Mississippi to religious gaming foes in Alabama, has stirred up such a controversy that the White House is expected to freeze action on tribal casinos.

The latest MRC Group Research Institute survey of visitor attitudes shows most people come to Las Vegas to get away for a vacation or for pleasure. A quarter were strongly motivated by getting cheap air fares, 40 percent by cheap deals on hotel rooms and 20 percent by casino giveaways. Nearly half plan to try some sightseeing while theyre here, but fewer than 20 percent are coming to gamble, about the same as the number who are coming for dining experiences, to see a show or to ride a roller coaster.

Also on the polling front, surveys are showing that while only 1 percent of visitors say theyve stayed at the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas, 68 percent say theyve stopped by or plan to. Now that the Strip resort is open, however, only 12 percent of visitors say its tops on the Strip, compared with 20 percent in January. Still, almost two-thirds of the respondents ranked it near the top, and 30 percent consider themselves likely to stay there, largely unchanged from January.

Meanwhile, Wynn Las Vegas has been offering its cheapest rates to date. Its Web site has been selling resort rooms at a special rate through July: $179. Pretty good deal if you want to look out over the roof of the casino to construction at The Venetian. Still analysts are betting Wynn Las Vegas will come in with an average room rate of $245 over the tough summer months.

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