Monday, January 28, 2008
Cindy Adams is one of the grande dames of New York gossipland. She's also, so it seems, a total idiot.
Monday's New York Post column proves this. She inexplicably waded into a long blather about Vegas and Macau, behaving as though she alone has unearthed and is breaking this little trend. And the list of errors in her screed are so freaking bizarre that it's a wonder anyone would ever publish her work ever again.
To wit...let's take it apart, shall we? She's in red.
China - which practically owns our paper, our finance, our debt, our businesses, our manufacturing - also owns all our money. Where's this planet's biggest gaming (the new politically correct word) operation? Macao. A 20-minute helicopter ride from Hong Kong or a slightly longer hydrofoil schlep through the South China Sea, this former Portuguese colony was a rathole 20 years ago with a junky casino owned by a man named Stanley Ho. I met him. I was there. I know.
First off, I am sooooo tired of people thinking they're clever mocking the use of the word "gaming" as a euphenism for gambling as if (a) they believe the gamers think they're fooling anyone and (b) it's something new. The word "gaming" has been in use to refer to playing games of chance for more than a century, according to one of UNLV prof Dave Schwartz' books. And, also, it's odd that she's refer to Ho as owning "a" junky casino. He actually owned several. But, hey, she knows. She was there. Mmmhmm. That's nitpicking, though, and you'll love the next bits.
Fast-forward. It's now 28 multimillion-buck five-star hotels like the Phoenician, Wynn's Macao, with all the bells and whistles - butlers, famous chef restaurants, shops such as Chanel, Dior, Vuitton. Five new properties in 14 months.
Unless I'm insane -- and the MacauTripping.Com folks can correct me -- there are absolutely NOT 28 five-star hotels on Macau. I mean, I don't think anyone's actually RATED any of them, but even if we were being overly exuberant and optimistic, TWENTY EIGHT??? Frankly, I'd be surprised if there were even 28 hotels. Also, I thought as I read this, who owns the Phoenician? Maybe it's something I'd not noticed before? We get back to that. Hang tight.
By 2010, visitors will number 35 million per year. Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Malayans, Indians, Indonesians, Thais, Singaporeans, Cambodians, Laotians, 1.4 billion people within 31/2 hours flying time, and it's a gambling culture. Baccarat, not craps, the main game. They are very focussed. Unlike America, Asia has no gambling stigma. Not so much skill as karma, luck and personal superstitions. They bet millions. Last year's revenues - in US bucks - $10.5 bil.
OK. So she's bouncing off the recent reports of 2007's Macau revenues. Fine. But wait, there's more!
They don't do Vegas. Reason? Airplanes don't allow smoking. To import these "whales," or high rollers, on the docket now is a charter that lets them smoke - and gamble - all the way over. Jurisdiction over the skies is being worked out via video camera that starts at takeoff, so all bets, losses and wins are tallied over recorded airspace.
OK. Now we wander into dumbass fiction insanity. The Asian whales don't "do" Vegas? I sure hope someone told MGM, LVS, Wynn and Harrahs, seeing how they're preparing right now for Chinese New Year, the second-biggest gaming weekend of the year and prime time for Asian whales to descend on the city. (See my New York Times piece on this from last February.)
Think about this logically: The only reason why Asian whales would avoid Vegas on account of non-smoking flights would be if they were flying commercial airlines, and why would millionaire bettors do that? They either take their own private jets or the fly the DOZENS of private planes (usually not charter as the resort companies own these vessels) that the big Vegas guys send over.
As for gaming in the skies, you honestly believe that any company with a Nevada gaming license would risk participating in unsanction gaming as she describes? It's an interesting idea and I imagine someone somewhere is trying to figure out how to make it work, but since nothing's ever come before the Nevada Gaming Control Board, it sounds like a 007 fantasy to me.
And let it be known, whoever steers these high rollers gets a piece of the action. And let it be known, if a favored player loses big, like millions big, there's a giveback. Nobody's saying how much. Take a shot at 5 percent.
This one I dunno. Do publicly traded companies really make shady side deals with customers of this type? I'm dubious.
Steve Wynn is learning to speak Chinese.
Yeah, he mentioned this in my Newsweek piece way back when and tried some words out at a shareholder event, I think, but my impression from chatting with him more recently is that he's dabbling more than "learning."
The Phoenician's Sheldon Adelson is building additional hotels.
SCREECH!!!!!!!!! This is where Cindy flies off the rails. The "Phoenician" turns out to be ... the "Venetian." AND NOBODY FACTCHECKED HER. Or, for that matter, had even a nominal awareness of Vegas. The Venetian is not some little joint, it's one of the most successful and famous Vegas resorts in our history. Adelson built a steroid-sized Venetian Macao, which opened last summer. And this woman, who "knows" because she's "been there," goofs it up because she evidently MISHEARD it. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!
Whew. OK. I'm better now. Moving on.
MGM is putting up condos. So, these Chinese, who were previously poor Communists, where they getting all this bread? Either they must have really large piggy banks, or some of these piggies know something about the drug culture.
Yes, women pengyou. (That's Mandarin for "my friend.") She just essentially called the entire emerging middle class of China -- a burgeoning group that represents one of the most significant creations of new wealth in modern history -- a drug racket. She just glossed over the fact that the Chinese economy has been rapidly privatizing and expanding at 8-12 percent a year since the late 1980s, that the industrial sector has exploded, that our "outsourcing" has been Asia's "insourcing." No, forget the sophisticated geopolitical and geofinancial explanations for China's growth and diversification. In Cindy Adams' &^**(#-up world, they're all just DRUG LORDS. Oh, and Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson and the gang are flying these creeps around the world on private planes because, you know, what's the difference between drug lords and casino kingpins?
These guys who run the operation let no green grow under their feet. They're now organizing portable slots. Take them with you to the can, to bed, to the pool, to who cares. Gamble online.
Sigh. In Vegas, there is expected to be some portable gaming devices, but not in Macau. And it's been slow going moving this along, seeing how I wrote nearly two years ago for Wired that Cantor Gaming was about to start a trial run at the Venetian Las Vegas (or is it Phoenician, Cin?) and it still hasn't happened. The Venetian folks seem indifferent to whether it ever actually does, the MGM Mirage folks have said they don't think it's a necessary amenity. And the Nevada gaming law requires all gambling on whatever devices are to come take place in PUBLIC places. Which eliminates the can or the bed.
And you're worrying about your mortgage?
With morons like you, Cindy Adams, covering gaming matters like this? You kidding me? I'll never go broke.