Casino results should show recovery
By Paul
In the wake of September 11, Vegas was widely expected to take a sizeable hit, with regular patrons staying away and hotel rooms lying empty. But first quarter reports from the major players in the Casino industry, due out in the next couple of weeks, are expected to show a recovery, with earnings looking likely to beat estimates. The Las Vegas Sun reports that, while industry insiders do not expect growth, the consensus is one of cautious optimism: “I think business was well better than what anyone would have imagined three or four months ago. I think this is going to be a good quarter,' said Dennis Forst, gaming analyst with McDonald Investments.

Earnings estimates were slashed after September 11 by casino operators, which seems to have been overly-pessimistic: People cut their numbers for 2002 quite a lot after Sept. 11,' said Jason Ader, gaming analyst with Bear Stearns. 'Expectations have been set very low.'

Nevada’s gaming win had fallen by 10% or more for three straight months post-September 11, and in January, that figure fell by 15%. On the Vegas strip, the win was down 24% - the worst one-month decline in 19 years. And visitor numbers were down 5% down year-on-year in January.

It seems the saving grace for the casino industry was a combination of the Super Bowl and the Chinese New Year. That was the 'Hey, we're back' weekend,' said Andrew Zarnett, gaming analyst with Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown. 'Ever since then, things have been relatively strong.'

Zarnett says that the high-rollers are beginning to come back: “I believe the mix (of visitors) is now pretty similar to that we saw prior to Sept. 11,” he said.

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