VEGAS: Mega-casinos in Florida and Peter Alson

The St. Petersburg Times reported today that Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Casinos, two of the largest casino operators in the world, pitched a proposal for exclusive gaming rights for five casinos in a 75-mile radius in the Miami area.  They would pay a $50 million application fee in this process. All of this has been put on bills to be passed through the State House and Senate, and will have the support of Senate President Mike Haridopolis.

With Caesars Entertainment (formerly known sat Harrah’s) and MGM Resorts International (formerly known as MGM-Mirage) in massive debt and temporarily cash-poor, Wynn and Sands are looking to put South FL on lockdown while they can and for as long as they can.  The pari-mutuals are out of luck, and they’ll be the big losers at the end of the day.  Dog and horse racing is a dying market, and in most cases the facilities are poorly run in this state.  The Seminoles aren’t out of luck, but they will have to compete with the casino giants or sell their properties to them if they want to survive.  They should fell lucky they had an exclusive contract while they did, but I’m sure they will feel cheated.

Wynn Corporation is owned by gaming mogul Steve Wynn, and they are making a killing in Macau, China right now with their Wynn and Encore properties there (opened in 2006 and 2010, respectively).  Steve Wynn is the master of building the best megacasinos; he resurrected the Golden Nugget, and when he opened the Mirage (1989), Bellagio (1998) and Wynn (2005)–and added on with Encore in 2008–they were the nicest and best properties on the strip.

Sands Corporation has been in Vegas forever.  The Sands used to be one of the top strip hotels until it got old and was demolished.  In its place, they opened The Venetian in 1999.  They later, of course, added on to the property by building the connecting Palazzo property.  Sands recently opened properties int Macau and near Philadelphia, PA, and both are doing very well.  The Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas is also one of their premier properties.

If Wynn and Sands build (if allowed) five world-class mega-resorts in South Florida, it will do nothing but help the economy.  Between the projects, off the top of my head, they will produce between 12,000-20,000 permanent jobs and up to triple that in three to four-year construction jobs.

I expect Boyd Gaming and others to come in with pitches.  As for Caesars and MGM, they may be cash-poor but they have plenty of power.  Look for them (at least Caesars) to saddle up with the pari-mutuels and fight Sands and Wynn’s quest for exclusive gaming rights.

It is officially game-on for gaming in south florida.  The state needs to develop a gaming commission (like, yesterday) to have any kind of shot of controlling what could be some crazy situations down the road.


Coffee with writer/poker player Peter Alson

New York City is truly the city of opportunity, and in my recent visit there, I  was lucky to have coffee with Peter Alson.  Since reading his book Take Me To the River: A Wayward and Perilous Journey to the World Series of Poker in 2006, Alson has been one of my de facto mentors.  His writing not only inspired me to play more (and better) poker, but also to write again after a 14-year layoff.

For those who aren’t familiar with Alson’s work, he’s commanded top-dollar as a freelance writer for high-profile magazines like Esquire and Playboy, penned two outstanding gambling-themed memoirs, co-written an autobiography and co-wrote a biography.

He’s also a professional-grade poker player who has cashed in a handful of WSOP events and registered five-digit scores at each a Foxwoods WPT Event and Borgata Winter Open event.  Alson was one of the regular players at the famed Mayfair Club, where he played in underground poker games with poker legends like Dan Harrington, Erik Seidel, Howard Lederer, Steve Zolotow, Mickey Appleman.

Alson and I talked about life, poker, writing and fatherhood for almost two hours over crepes and coffee.  Listening to his input on the publishing industry was eye-opening to me, as someone who is looking to write a poker memoir.

The advent of e-publishing has changed the way agents do business, and the way revocation of shelf space for poker-related books at national chains have hurt the sales of both Take Me to the River and One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stu Ungar, a biography he co-authored with Nolan Dalla.

Alson’s literary pedigree is just short of spectacular; he is the nephew of the iconic Norman Mailer and is a Harvard graduate. That said, you can only imagine my surprise when he told me his next book could basically make or break him as an author in the eyes of agents and publishers.  I sat there dumbfounded, just taking it all in.  I finally managed to say,  “If things are this way for you, Peter, what the hell am I going to do?”

We shared a laugh, and he said to me, “Mike, I’m not trying to discourage you here, buddy.  Fact is, the industry is in worse shape than it has ever been in during my lifetime (Alson is in his mid-50’s).  Right now, publishing is a very ‘what have you done for me lately?’ kind of environment.”

I have no doubt Alson’s next book–whether it be novel, memoir, or biography–will be fantastic.  He writes to share his passion, rather than to establish himself as a brand.  Like his two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning uncle, Alson lets his writing speak for itself and lets the chips fall where they may.

We wrapped up lunch and eventually went out separate ways–but our conversation stayed with me through the rest of the weekend.  My new friend Peter Alson had just given me a ton of invaluable career advice and hooked me up with the $2.25 subway ride back to my hotel–life was good.

The rest of the trip was just details.

Click here ( for more information about Peter Alson and his books.

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