Fear death by decreased revenue

First off, a mammoth hurrah to the AP’s Wayne Parry. An Eliot reference in the first line of a story about gaming revenue? Classic. Sure, anything in April is a bit obvious for Eliot, but I’ll take what I can get. If you don’t like poetry, you can skip ahead a bit for some juicy prognosticating on the revenue numbers. Read the original from the AP:

April was the cruelest month — so far — for the city’s 11 casinos this year, with the amount won from gamblers declining by nearly 10 percent.

The casinos reported taking in $396.8 million in April, a 9.9 percent decrease from April 2006.

Slots revenue was $284.4 million, down 12.3 percent, while table games revenues were $112.4 million, a decrease of 3.1 percent from a year ago.

For the first four months of the year, Atlantic City casinos won $1.6 billion, down 4.1 percent from the same period last year.

It was just the latest indication of the hurt that new slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York are putting on Atlantic City’s gambling houses.

Several observers fear that 2007 could be the first losing year ever for New Jersey’s casinos, the first of which opened in 1978.

Win, or casino revenue, is the amount of money won from gamblers. It is not profit.

Losers were led by the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, where revenues fell 19.7 percent; the Tropicana Casino and Resort, which fell 13.4 percent, and Trump Marina Hotel Casino, which fell 13.2 percent.

On the plus side, Caesars Atlantic City saw its winnings increase by 15.3 percent in April; and Harrah’s Atlantic City was up 1.9 percent.

A.C. casino revenues down sharply

My headline is also ripping off Eliot:

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.

If I was going to use any line from The Waste Land as an epigraph for a book or article about gamling, I might use this one:

O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

I know it’s a different wheel they’re talking about, but that’s somehow very appropriate for writing about a casino, where external appearances and the ever-current present have such a premium.

OK, now that I’ve gotten my poetry fix, I’ll talk about the revenue numbers. It’s not good news for Atlantic City. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that with the new competition from PA and NY the AC casinos need to be about more than slots. Over the past two decades, Las Vegas has thrived by being about more than gambling, letting the former “casino capital” grow dramatically even as gambling itself became more common. With no Cirque shows, no celebrity chef eateries, no nightclubs, no ultra-luxe rooms, and no retail, would 40 million people still be coming to Las Vegas? Would 10 million? Just to play slots? I don’t think so.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Maybe five to seven years from now, with Borgata built out, Harrah’s expansion finished, the Hilton expansion done, the Pinnacle and Revel projects finished, MGM Mirage building on their land, and someone pouring significant capital into the current Trump properties we’ll be able to say that the city’s in a new boom period. But it will take a lot of money and a lot of public relations to re-educate the public about what will be the New New New Atlantic City (I’m figuring the city was already “new” in 1978 and 2003).

One last word on poetry: if you’ve forgotten the original first bit of The Waste Land and don’t want to click through, here it is:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

If I referenced Eliot in a Barry Manilow review, did you really think that I’d pass up this opportunity to talk about his work?

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