Caesars Entertainment's Latest Disaster Unfolding Before Our Eyes

The High Roller in Las Vegas is lowering prices, a sign that the new attraction is already underperforming expectations.

Jul 8, 2014 at 6:17PM

It seems to be one misstep after another for Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) and Caesars Acquisition Company (NASDAQ:CACQ), which can't seem to recover from massive losses and over $20 billion of debt. The most recent debacle may be the brand-new High Roller Ferris wheel at The Linq complex next to The Flamingo, which recently had to lower prices just to get people to ride the ride.

The High Roller is the centerpiece of a $550 million construction project called The Linq that's an entertainment street running parallel to the Las Vegas Strip between Flamingo and The Quad. The complex will include old favorites like O'Sheas as well as new experiments like a 78,000-square-foot bowling alley (because who doesn't want to bowl in Las Vegas) and music venue called Brooklyn Bowl.

Czr High Roller Linq Image Wikimedia

High Roller at The Linq is a big bet that may not pay off for Caesars Entertainment. Source: Nate Stiller via Wikimedia.

At the very least, the development was intended to spruce up an outdated area of The Strip north of The Flamingo Resort and south of the old Imperial Palace, which is now The Quad. If Caesars can divert traffic off The Strip in that area and get people to spend money on drinks, entertainment, or even gambling, it will be a success. But the big draw is supposed to be The High Roller, which is found at the end of The Linq's walkway, and it's already showing warning signs that aren't good for Caesars.  

High Roller is already flopping
When the 550-foot-high High Roller opened on March 31 of this year, there were high hopes for demand for the new attraction. Caesars set prices of $24.95 for a daytime ride and $34.95 at night for the 30-minute ride and even offered a VIP ticket with no line wait for $59.95.  

But demand has been slow and Caesars has lowered prices to $19.95 during the day and $24.95 at night. If you're so intrepid, you could even get a Groupon that gives you two VIP rides for $65. If we assume Groupon's normal 50% take, that's just $16.25 per VIP ride for Caesars, nearly 75% off the regular price.

Giving discounts in Las Vegas isn't the end of the world, but it's not a good sign for a ride that's barely three months old in what is supposed to be a high traffic area of The Strip. The other problem is that it's a high price to pay for views that many visitors already have access to in a town that's built to give away amazing entertainment shows like the fountains at Bellagio, Mirage's volcano, or Treasure Island's pirate ship. 

Las Vegas Strip Image

The Las Vegas Strip is full of attractions that are free to visitors. 

Giving people what they already have
I think the core problem is that The High Roller gives many people what they already get in Las Vegas. Megaresorts tower over The Strip and unless you're in a room with an off-strip view or a low floor, it's likely you already have a good view of The Strip. Combine that with the fact that you can see amazing views of much of The Strip from ground level, and you have a hard sell for a 30-minute trip in a confined space with up to 40 other people.

This is in contrast to similar Ferris wheels like London's Eye or the Singapore Flyer, which give unique views of the city that may be worth the price.

A flop Caesars can't afford
From an investment perspective, the problem is that Caesars Entertainment, Caesars Acquisition Company, and Caesars Growth Partners can't afford to make mistakes with new investments. The parent company is drowning under debt, and after pushing assets to new ventures like Caesars Growth Partners, the company is being sued by bondholders who say the asset sales are illegal.

CZR Net Income (TTM) Chart

CZR Net Income (TTM) data by YCharts.

If the underlying company were healthy, there would be no problem, but that's far from the case. The High Roller does nothing to solve that, and after lowering prices, Caesars may have another money-losing business on its hands. 

Make a safer bet for the future
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Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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