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Inside Gaming Column: Immigrant Protest Has Little Effect on Strip

23 May 2006

The Day without Immigrants may or may not have been a political success, but it certainly didn't dent Strip casino operators. MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni says more workers showed up at his 11 properties here than on a normal Monday. That's not to say MGM Mirage would want to live without its immigrant workers. And Lanni says reform is essential. It's unfair to discriminate against one group of workers who have helped build our economy and companies such as MGM Mirage, and it's impractical to ship illegal immigrants back home, he says.

The next wave of mergers and acquisitions may be in Great Britain rather than the United States. Industry insiders say British casino operators are going to have to survive an invasion of international gaming companies. British analysts expect the government, which has authorized a single, Las Vegas-style supercasino so far, to open up the market. They say takeovers by bigger British companies are likeliest, but they also say to watch Las Vegas operators, who've shown reluctance to join any merger frenzy of late.

Respected art-market journalist Georgina Adams recently reported that Las Vegas resort developer Steve Wynn was one of the underbidders for Pablo Picasso's "Dora Maar au Chat" (1941). The masterpiece sold for a record $95.2 million at Sotheby's New York Impressionist and modern art auction early this month to an unidentified buyer. Other underbidders included mass-marketing guru Leslie Wexner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Wynn already owns Picasso's masterpiece "Le Reve."

Believe it or not, Congress has earmarked $700 million to relocate a Mississippi railroad line, clearing space for casino development. The existing line was repaired for $300 million following Hurricane Katrina. Isle of Capri Casino in Biloxi has been a prime backer of the line relocation, which is part of the Iraq/Katrina Emergency Appropriations Bill. But the Christian Science Monitor calls the boondoggle a plan to create "a Las Vegas South."

More on Barstow. Rumors that the compacts for the Big Lagoon and Los Coyotes tribes are "dead," it seems, are vastly exaggerated. Instead, every measure of compact imaginable is being tossed about the California Legislature in Sacramento. A Chemehuevi casino plan is on the June ballot. What is clear, however, is that the compact debate has turned into a partisan Ping-Pong match with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing urban casinos. Even to some state legislators, the arguments over casinos seem to be weak foundations for deciding economic development.

Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith can be reached by phone at 477-3893 or by e-mail at rsmith@reviewjournal.com.

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