YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Stratosphere's Gambling Odds Will Get a Little Closer to Earth

Gaming: The troubled casino is hoping to bring in more customers by increasing payouts.

September 26, 1996|From Dow Jones News Service

In a last-ditch effort to stave off bankruptcy, Stratosphere Corp. is hoping to lure gamblers into its Las Vegas casino by offering them better odds.

Starting Monday, Stratosphere will increase the payout from its dollar slot machines, offer single-zero roulette and ease the rules governing blackjack--all part of a marketing campaign to scare up business at the loss-ridden $550-million casino project, the company said Wednesday.

"We liken it to factory outlet shopping," said Jaye Snyder, a spokeswoman for Grand Casinos Inc., which owns 42% of Stratosphere. "It's the same product at a better price."

Analysts, however, aren't convinced that changing the odds will do much to improve Stratosphere's revenue. They say most tourists don't care about, much less understand, the finer points of gambling.

"The average Joe going to Las Vegas has no idea of what the differences are," said Salomon Bros. analyst Bruce Turner, who called Stratosphere's strategy an "act of desperation."

Stratosphere, whose festive debut in April was marked by a giant fireworks display, was the first of a wave of new themed casinos scheduled to open over the next two years in Las Vegas.

An adjacent 1,149-foot-high tower, capped by wedding chapels and a roller coaster, was supposed to be Stratosphere's main draw.

The concept so far has been a giant flop. A respectable number of tourists did come to see the tower, but they gambled far less than expected. A second major phase of construction has been put on hold, and the company seems unlikely to make an interest payment due in November on $203 million of first mortgage notes, analysts say.

In a filing last month, Stratosphere warned that if additional financing or a debt restructuring can't be completed, "there will be serious doubt as to whether the company will be able to continue."

Los Angeles Times Articles