Loosening the restrictions, the Stardust and Casino Chicago By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports March 13, 2021 at 5:15 am A year after the coronavirus forced the closing of all the casinos in the country, recovery and return to normal may be beginning. The governors of Maryland, Nevada and New Jersey have eased the restrictions in their states. For a year, Las Vegas has been without two of its major drivers, entertainment, and conventions. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak is very aware of the impact and is doing his best to return to normal by easing the restrictions. Most recently, he adjusted the distance between entertainers and the audience. Each step on the road back to normal is being applauded. “This is amazing news,” said Angela Stabile, co-founder of Stabile Productions, Inc., which has been operating three different shows at Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino and Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. “It was an extreme guideline to begin with. This is another step in the right direction.” Sisolak is promising to make Nevada safe. “Mark my words: Nevada will be the safest place to have a convention or to come and visit. It will be safe for the tourists; it will be safe for the hotel operators and for employees and their families. It will be safe for the visitors for the residents. It’s going to be safer for everybody, because we’re going to continue to have our numbers improve. We’re going to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can. And we’ll continue to open our economy back up,” he said in an interview Friday with the Associated Press, exactly one year after the state reported its first coronavirus case. Well, we have marked his words and look forward to seeing the results of his promises in increased gaming revenue from the Strip. Maryland and New Jersey are letting more people in the room. The casino operators in those states are as eager to return to normal as the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Both states have made similar changes, but the impact on gaming revenues is not yet obvious. In Maryland, Nevada and New Jersey, masks and social distancing are still required. It may be a long time before we are walking the streets, shopping and going to a casino without a mask or social distancing. In other news, sports betting in some form is a leading story every week. Among the moving parts in the narrative are legalization, mobile betting, corporate partnerships, and branding. Over 20 states have legalized sports betting, with more in the process. Mobile betting generates most of the revenue in states where it is legal. Some states legalized sports betting before giving any serious thought to legalizing mobile betting. Often those states are revisiting the issue, given that the numbers from mobile betting are huge and very seductive. But partnerships and branding are also important, attracting a great deal of media attention. Wynn, MGM, Rush Street Gaming, Bally’s, Golden Nugget and Churchill Downs have created their own sports brands and are aggressively pursuing partnerships. The sports betting marketplace is getting to be very crowded. Two brands, FanDuel and DraftKings, have a major market share in every jurisdiction in which they operate. To compete and attract the eyes of would-be online/mobile gamblers, a company needs a recognizable brand. Golden Nugget, Bally’s and Wynn are well-known names, as will be Caesars when it hits full stride in sports betting. The pre-acquisition Caesars was a little behind, but under the new Eldorado-Caesars, the company will try to close that gap. Branding is extremely important in gaining market share. Toward that end, this week, Boyd gaming, in partnership with FanDuel, reintroducing a legendary, but long dormant, sports betting brand, Stardust. In sports betting, the Stardust, with its early line, used to be the premier name. “While the resort has been gone for more than a decade, the Stardust brand is still as well-known and popular as ever,” said Keith Smith, president and CEO of Boyd Gaming, owner of the Stardust brand. “We are excited to work with our partners at FanDuel to launch our first real-money online casinos and are confident this legendary brand will give us a significant advantage in connecting with players looking for a distinctive online gaming experience.” Before the Stardust was closed and imploded 14 years ago on March 13, 2007, the Stardust set the tone for all sports books in Nevada. In those days, only Nevada had sports betting and Las Vegas was the capital of sports gambling. Every Monday morning, all the books in the state waited for the Stardust to post its line. The Stardust was a risktaker and serviced all the “wise guys” — knowledgeable and well-funded gamblers. They often placed wagers for their patrons in New York City, Chicago and Detroit. They stood in line Monday morning waiting to see the line, find a weakness and plunk down piles of money. No other book had to take a big risk, since the Stardust did it for them. If you had to pick a brand name that would be universally recognized among high-rolling sports gamblers, you could not find a better one than Stardust. Of course, that was a long time ago. The Stardust is gone and most of its storied history and reputation forgotten. But Boyd’s modern Stardust does not have to stand alone; it has FanDuel as a partner and FanDuel is a very well-known brand. Finally this week, Chicago reappeared on the gaming scene. The city is expected to issue a Request for Proposal next week for a casino in the Windy City. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has advocated for the casino since she took office, but for all of 2020, she was kind of distracted by strikes, viruses and Chicago politics. Now it seems she is ready and eager to get the process started. “Chicago is ready to become the home of a major casino-resort, which will enhance our thriving entertainment and cultural scene,” she said. “We want to make sure that we put out an RFP that’s going to be attractive to some of the top gaming ventures in the world, so for us, the sky’s the limit,” she added. “I don’t want to name names, but obviously there are some that we would be very excited if they applied.” Beginning with Mayor Richard Daley, the last three mayors have coveted a casino in the city. Lightfoot wants to do it on her watch.