- A commenter over at Not to the Swift asked John: Why are you obsessed with Frank Stronach? Well, Frank's a fascinating guy, whatever you think of him, so I could think of worse topics to consume oneself with. John responded by taking Stronach to task for the Gulfstream disaster, and deservingly so. Of course, I always prefer to look at the positive side of people. I'm even happy for Mitt Romney.
In case you missed it, there was a feature story on Frank in Sunday's Baltimore Sun. It's largely a rehash of familiar Frank Follies, but with some interesting detail and quotes. It's a long piece, so I'll leave it for you to read if interested; but a couple of points to mention.
Gulfstream is, of course, one of the main topics, and reporter Hanah Cho notes that the win per machine numbers there have gone up from $74 from July - September, to $183 in December. However, a closer look at the figures [pdf document] shows that Magna has executed its strategy to reduce the number of VLT's, replacing some with video poker. The number of machines has gone down from over 1,200 to 516 in December; so the net revenue has remained virtually flat, with just a slight increase at the end of the year.
The Broward County figures show that the racinos are not doing the kind of business as those in Pennsylvania. Pompano Park is doing the best at a steady $220 or so per each of the 1,500 machines.
I'm looking at these numbers, and it's really staggering if you think about it. In total at the four racinos in Broward - and if I'm reading this thing right - over $243 million was wagered in December alone. $222 million, over 90% was returned to bettors, leaving a net profit of over $20 million. The state gets half; not a bad deal, eh? Easy to see how states get hooked on this. More gambling is coming to the state....perhaps. Governor Crist's Indian tribe casino deal, which would net the state some $100 million a year, is being challenged in the courts, and Miami-Dade voters get another shot at approving slots on January 29. Hopefully, the damn NY franchise will be settled soon so we have time to enjoy that battle. It's already heating up.
Back to Frank, the Sun article also discusses the Horse Wizard machines.
It was Frank Stronach's pet project. To the founder of Magna Entertainment Corp., the Horse Wizard took the thinking out of betting, while offering the excitement and instant gratification of casino gambling to a new generation of patrons.This makes me feel silly, because I think they were a good idea too. Just not at racetracks I guess. Anyone who's going to Laurel in December is certainly not there to have the thinking taken out of the process. But the Horse Wizard machine is, after all, the same concept as the successful Instant Racing machines, with live races instead of old ones. Perhaps they would do better in bars or casinos.
But if Stronach expected others around him to embrace his enthusiasm, he didn't hear it. "I remember sitting there, and he had some test ones, and I tried them and said, 'This is really bad, Frank,'" recalled Gino Roncelli, a former Magna director.
"'Oh no, they're going to get used to this. This is going to be great,'" Roncelli remembered Stronach saying. "I said, 'Frank, this is a terrible loser.'"
And there's trouble for Frank at his Canadaville project in Louisiana. Magna is being sued by the local mayor, who claims that Magna has not fulfilled its contractual obligations. He claims that crime is up since the "strange people" came to town. [National Post] Presumably, he's not talking about Frank.