“BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER” December, 2014 Edition
“BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER”
December, 2014 Edition
The Big Casino
In that I’ve been on the newspaper and magazine casino beat since gaming was legalized in Atlantic City on May 26, 1978, it seems fitting and proper to comment on the brouhaha surrounding the granting of a second casino license within the city limits. While I’m all in favor of free enterprise and have nothing against the newly-named “winner”—Live! Hotel & Casino–the truth is that a second casino in the city just makes no business sense. No sense at all. We know what’s happening in Atlantic City. We know that revenues, particularly from slots, are leveling off in casinos in Pennsylvania. And we know that the planned casinos in Newark, Maryland and elsewhere will siphon off revenue from existing casinos. A second casino in Philadelphia would only hurt business for those that already exist. Not only is that greedy and selfish, but it makes no business sense. None at all. Numbers don’t lie and here they are: Overall, October gaming revenues from slot machines were up a paltry 1.1 percent over last year’s figures. Though Parx and Valley Forge casinos takes increased—Valley Forge up 15 percent and Parx up 4.8 percent—SugarHouse and Harrah’s both showed declines. Revenue from table games was only up one percent over last year. This, in the industry, is called “leveling off.” Live! is hoping that those who frequent events at South Philadelphia’s sports complex will gamble before or after the game. Good luck with that. Developer Bart Blatstein, who had grandiose plans for a $700 hotel and casino in Center City, summed up the situation nicely. “It’s shocking that they would choose another crappy slots-in-a box project,” Blatstein told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
There may be non-casino life for Atlantic City’s recently-shuttered Showboat Hotel and Casino, and the new, possible tenant is a highly unlikely one: The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, now headquartered in neighboring Galloway Township. There’s not a lot of info available on this just yet, other than the fact that Stockton is seeking to buy the property, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment Corporation. Though the college reportedly has been in talks with A.C. politicos and execs from Caesars for months, right now, Stockton is in the “letter of intent” stage and bound by a confidentiality agreement. Think of the possibilities here: On their lunch hours, underclassmen could munch on salt water taffy and/or hit the slots on whatever casinos are still open on the Boardwalk.
Brookfield Asset Management, the firm that had an agreement of sale to buy the shuttered Revel, has—not surprisingly—backed out of the deal. Seems the fine print read that Brookfield would have to pay additional fixed costs to the outfit running the utility company next door. Sources say that investor/developer Glenn Straub, the runner-up in the bankruptcy bidding war for Revel, may still be interested. Like the projected plans for Showboat, Straub’s intent was to make the venue an educational venue of some kind.
Though it appears that Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal hotel and casino is just too far gone financially to be saved, the decision to close it or keep it open is still up in the air. It is very possible, however, that what was once the largest and most lavish hotel/casinos in town will close on or about December 12, making it the fifth casino to close this year. It opened in 1990 as the Trump Taj Mahal, and it was built for a cost of the then astronomical sum of $1 billion dollars. The performer on opening night? Michael Jackson. I played drums in the lounge of the Taj, which I think was called The Casbah, backing up the great Sonny Averona from 1991 until his untimely death the following year. What a swinging joint that was. Along with the lounge at Resorts International, the Casbah was the place to be after hours. Everyone from Tom Jones to Harold Jones (the latter being Natalie Cole’s drummer at the time), came in after their shows to hang, to sit in and to throwback a few. Fond memories indeed. The lesson to be learned from all this? Have some foresight and know that the party—at some time—will end.
Here’s a shore tidbit that received little or no coverage in the Philadelphia press. The Clearwater, FL-based TJM Properties Inc .has agreed to purchase the Atlantic Club Hotel/Casino property. Atlantic Club, the smallest of the city’s hotel/casinos, shuttered on January 13. TJM has also agreed to buy an adjacent property for an additional $715,000. This outfit also owns the former Claridge Hotel and Casino, which it plans to turn into a “luxury boutique hotel” by this summer. As for the Atlantic Club, once the jewel of Atlantic City gaming venues as The Golden Nugget and Bally’s Grand, TJM has no specific plans for it thus far, other than saying it will be “a non-gaming property.” Those in the know say that both facilities will be turned into condo/hotels.
No doubt that Atlantic City, New Jersey, is in dire straits. But there is a positive spin: The very fact that five shuttered venues on the Boardwalk are vacant almost forces the city to come up with non-gaming tenants, entertainment complexes, and retail centers, all sorely needed. It’s already happening. Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein bought the near dead Million Dollar Pier. As reported, Richard Stockton College is close to buying the Showboat and The A.C. Club will likely become a hotel. Renovations are almost completed at the venerable Claridge Hotel, once a casino. And you can bet that Glenn Straub will be back in the Revel picture. If all these things do happen, that means Atlantic City will be dealing with two closed properties, not five. There is hope.
Tears for Spears in Vegas?
Our Las Vegas sources tell us that Britney Spears’ Las Vegas show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino—“Piece of Me”—is not one of the bigger draws on the strip. The producers are said to be doing everything they can to paper the house and running special promotions like “Britney Spears Day.” Otherwise, it’s being claimed that the seemingly washed-up diva would be playing to half empty houses. And it just could be that Spears’ Vegas run is over for the time being. According to the Planet Hollywood ticketing site, there are no dates booked for Spears beyond November. But shed no tears for Spears. Those who track such things estimate her net worth at $220 million. So, who needs Vegas anyway?
Spears, who at one time was the highest paid woman in music, at least according to Forbes magazine, doesn’t even place on the 2014 list. Number one is Beyonce, who earned $115 million, followed by Pink, who made a measly $52 million. Last year’s number one earner, Madonna, didn’t make it to this year’s top ten list. Not to worry, though. Madonna’s net worth, says the New York Post, just recently hit $1 billion.
The Philadelphia Zoo’s beloved 6ABC ZooBalloon is not dead and will be back next spring. The popular attraction has had its share of troubles of late, including severe damages from a February snow storm, and a replacement balloon that was leased to the zoo only through the end of this year. The solution? The zoo bought a new balloon that will be installed, ready to soar, this spring.
The Odd Couple
Evidently, The King has not left the building. Entirely, anyway. It’s been reported that Kevin Spacey will star as Richard Nixon and Michael Shannon will portray Elvis Presley in an upcoming film tiled “Elvis & Nixon.” Yep. The film is based on the infamous and rather bizarre meeting of the President and The King that took place at The White House on December 21, 1970. The Pelvis, seemingly stoned out of his gourd, pledged to The Tricky One that he would do anything he could to set misguided youths on the right track, but in order to do so, he would need for a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Nixon said he’d take care of business on that issue. Then Presley hugged him. Wow. All we can say is, “Thank you very much.”
Barry’s Dead Duos
While there’s no denying that Barry Manilow is talented, his new CD, “Dream Duets,” has set the standard for a new low in the quest for showbiz tastelessness. “Duets” features the aging singer/songwriter in 11 duets with the dead, ranging from Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis, Jr. to Whitney Houston and Marilyn Monroe. Even Natalie Cole, who virtually invented the “duets with the dead” genre via her duo on “Unforgettable” with her late father, must be shocked at how far this has gone. See, the point is, Barry, that none of these people had any choice in the matter of singing with you, and some didn’t even know you. And you can bet there will be a video of this travesty as well. Interestingly, the one “dream duet” partner missing from this list is one, Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra. Even in death, Mr. S. had the good sense to stay away from this. Those in the Philadelphia area interested in such macabre morbidity can catch Mr. M’s dead duets show at the Wells Fargo Center on June 13
Van Fans Unite
Those tireless, veteran songwriters and promoters, Bobbie and Henry Shaffner, have advised that they are one step closer to having the United States Post Office issue a commemorative stamp honoring the late film star, Van Johnson. “Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra and James Stewart all have stamps,” the Shaffners say. Why not Van Johnson? Interested parties can sign the official petition for the stamp at vanjohnsonstamp.org.
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