FANTINI’S FINANCE: Tis the Season for Optimism

Everyone knows that there’s no telling how the future will pan out, but why be a Grinch or Scrooge during this jolly time? Let’s start the new year brimming with optimism!

FANTINI’S FINANCE: Tis the Season for Optimism

Okay. We’re in the holiday season and the stock market is doing what it’s supposed to do during this celebratory time—go up.

It doesn’t matter whether the stocks are big or small, industrial or consumer, staple or discretionary. They’re going up. In a couple of weeks the holidays will be gone, cheer will be followed by grumping over icy windshields, and we’ll see if the New Year brings a bullish January effect or a bearish one.

With that said, here’s a couple loose thoughts:

• The Cripple Creek, Colorado, casino industry is about to change, and maybe in a big way.

Full House Resorts is opening Chamonix on the day after Christmas. It will be the first resort quality and scale casino hotel in the historic mining town near Colorado Springs, the fast-growing metropolitan area of three-quarters of a million people.

The bet on Chamonix is that it can make Cripple Creek a smaller version of Black Hawk, the other mining town that continues to develop as it capitalizes on the fast-growing Denver metro to the north.

In Full House’s little world, much attention has been focused on Waukegan where the company’s Temporary casino has gotten off to a slow start. That is understandable given the potential in Chicagoland.

But at $250 million, Chamonix is a sizable, and more affordable, wager than the $450 million permanent American Place will be.

The bet here is that Chamonix will be a hit. Meanwhile, Full House has gotten the court approval to seek an extension from Illinois regulators on building the permanent American Place in Waukegan as a lawsuit by the Potawatomi Indians plays out. The tribe contends the city of Waukegan did not play fair in not recommending it for the license, an allegation that is limited to city officials and doesn’t extend to other license applicants, like Full House.

In a way, the suit is a blessing for Full House as it defers the expense of development while Chamonix starts flowing cash and the Temporary in Waukegan ramps up.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that legendary casino developer and operator Michael Gaughan and fellow industry veterans David Ross and Joe Conforto have bought two small casinos in Cripple Creek.

It’s doubtful their motivation is to own small joints in a small town a thousand miles from their Las Vegas homes. More likely, it is an option on the future of Cripple Creek if Chamonix proves the concept.

We’ll soon find out.

• It looks like a super Super Bowl.

The early word for a while has been that the Super Bowl in February will be one of the biggest events ever in Las Vegas.

Now, we’re starting to get some numbers to fill out the picture.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Caesars, for one, is reporting historically high hotel room rates ranging for three-day stays from $1,663 at Harrah’s to $3,089 at Cromwell.

This follows reports by other operators of historically strong demand for the period.

Combined with other data on advanced bookings at special events and the much-publicized opening of Fontainebleau, it looks like 2024 may be a bang-up year on the Strip and throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

Again, the cold realities of January could bring dampening enthusiasm, but for now, a little New Year’s optimism is keeping with the holiday spirit.

Articles by Author: Frank Fantini

Frank Fantini is principal at Fantini Advisors, investors and consultants with a focus on gaming.