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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

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Casino City’s Friday Five: Las Vegas Strip shakeup edition

13 May 2022

By Dan Ippolito
After a trip to Las Vegas, I am back to break down what took place this week in the gambling world. While in Sin City, rumors were rumbling about that there will be a property sold by Caesars Entertainment. Before we take a closer look at that, we have some other top stories to cover. Commercial gaming in the U.S. has had an amazing start to 2022, Illinois sportsbooks enjoyed a massive March, a Wisconsin casino unveils big renovation plans and, of course, we had the wild upset in the Kentucky Derby last weekend.

5. US commercial gaming off to fastest start ever
Nationwide commercial gaming revenue totaled $14.31 billion in Q1 2022, according to the American Gaming Association’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker. This sets a new Q1 record and nearly matches the all-time quarterly record, which was just set in Q4 2021 ($14.35 billion).

The strong start to the year was punctuated by March’s revenue performance of $5.31 billion. The month marked the highest-grossing revenue month in industry history.

“Consumers continue to seek out gaming’s entertainment options in record numbers,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “Q1’s strong results build on the industry’s record year in 2021 despite continued headwinds from supply chain constraints, labor shortages, and the impact of soaring inflation.”

4. Illinois sportsbooks bring in nearly $1 billion in March
Wagering at Illinois sportsbooks surged to nearly $1 billion in March, setting a fresh state handle record. Sportsbooks also produced record revenue, buoyed by NCAA Tournament betting and the removal of in-person registration requirements.

March was the first month of betting following the permanent removal of in-person registration rules for online betting, which went into effect on 5 March. Now, bettors no longer need to register at a retail sportsbook, which was inconvenient enough to dissuade a significant number of would-be bettors and hold the market back.

Sportsbooks took in $971.3 million in wagers in March, a record and up 53.3% from $633.6 million in March 2021. Fueled by $278.4 million in betting on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, March’s handle shattered the previous record of $867.5 million in bets in January and was also up 43.0% from $679.4 million in February.

3. Potawatomi Hotel and Casino announces $100 million renovation
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino announced a $100 million renovation project that will revolutionize the casino’s third floor and usher in the next era of entertainment to Milwaukee.

There will be more than 1,800 slot machine stations, including a new bar with 28 bar-top “slot seats” (a first for Potawatomi) and an array of 4K televisions.

Rock & Brews, the restaurant brainchild of legendary musicians Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from the group KISS, will open its newest location at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino located just off the skywalk.

The property will also open three new “quick service” food and beverage stations where guests can grab a bite or have food delivered to their gaming station. A new gift/convenience shop will also provide an array of amenities.

Construction on the renovation project is scheduled for completion by the spring of 2023.

2. Kentucky Derby sets all-time wagering records
Churchill Downs Incorporated announced that a crowd of 147,294 Derby fans at Churchill Downs Racetrack witnessed the second-biggest long shot ever to win the Kentucky Derby as Rich Strike claimed an unexpected victory at the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby Reserve at 80-1 odds.

The company also announced that wagering from all-sources was the highest all-time on the Kentucky Derby race, the Kentucky Derby Day program and Kentucky Derby Week, totaling $273.8 million, a 17% increase over 2021 and up 9% from the previous record in 2019 of $250.9 million. Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby race totaled $179.0 million, up 15% over 2021 and up 8% from the previous record of $166.5 million set in 2019. This year’s wagering record includes $8.3 million of handle wagered in Japan.

Rich Strike, owned by Richard Dawson’s RED TR-Racing and bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm rallied to win by 3/4 of a length. Trained by Eric Reed and ridden by Sonny Leon, Rich Strike covered the mile and a quarter in 2:02.61 over a fast track and produced an upset second only to Donerail’s triumph at 91-1 in 1913.

What if a horse that was 80-1 in the Kentucky Derby went on to win the Triple Crown? Well all we can do is imagine what would happen because Rich Strike’s owner and trainer announced that the horse will not be running in the Preakness Stakes so there is no hope for a Triple Crown winner.

1. This Week in Gambling: Caesars selling Flamingo Las Vegas?
Gambling news this week finds Caesars hemorrhaging cash and looking to sell a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. While most suspected Planet Hollywood Las Vegas would be the property sold, new information indicates that Flamingo Las Vegas is the one on the market.

Having just celebrated their 75th Anniversary in November of last year, rumors that the Flamingo Las Vegas will be sold by Caesars for over $1 billion are now swirling.

Selling a 75 year old casino for over $1 billion has proven to be challenging. There are higher operational and maintenance costs associated with a property that old, and few seem interested in the added headaches.

Another concern from potential suitors is that the casino could lose a major part of its business if cut off from the Caesars Rewards program. Still, Flamingo Las Vegas is prime Strip real estate and has well over 3,400 rooms.

Caesars isn’t the only big player on the Strip with its name in headlines this week. Just yesterday, MGM Resorts saw its offer to purchase the operations of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas be approved by gaming regulators.
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