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April 29, 2011

U.S. Actions Could Trigger Efforts at Intrastate Online Poker, Wall Street Says

There is a new interpretation on the potential effects of the U.S. recent crackdown on online poker companies and the interpretation happens to be a little unconventional, if not downright intriguing. The best part is, the idea is coming from a big Wall Street ratings service company that typically delivers business outlook projections for a myriad of businesses in the country as well as cross the Atlantic. Moody’s Investors Service analysts believe that the government’s actions on Internet poker could provide the inspiration for states to once again floor the metal in their search for an approved and working intrastate policy on online poker. The effort to legalize online poker is not a new thing for many states to no avail but the government’s actions could finally provide the much needed catalyst to get things going in the right direction.

The report was released Wednesday and implied that now more than ever, the online poker industry has a chance to be taken seriously by state lawmakers although Moody’s believes that the first bet in a government-controlled online poker sector is still years down the road. Moody’s, best of all, underscored the idea that online poker will not cannibalize profits by land-based casinos but rather will prove to be a complementary service that can raise gambling business revenues all together instead of bringing it down.

The report was inspired by the events of April 15 when the U.S. Department of Justice took drastic steps to shutdown Absolute Poker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for allegedly engaging in fraud and money laundering. A total of 11 individuals were arrested and indicted by Federal prosecutors and are being held accountable for actions that are in violation of U.S. laws both on money laundering as well as the controversial 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. Peggy Holloway is the vice president of Moody’s who said the government’s actions have in turn muted the talks out of Congress that it was personally going to take the initiative in legalizing online poker in the United States. This could open doors for states to once again rev up their own internal efforts for a fully working online poker industry that could general millions of dollars in new profits for cast-strapped governments.

“We believe states may view this as an opportunity and step up their efforts to legalize intrastate online gambling, particularly Internet poker, on their own,” Holloway said. It won’t be the first time. Many states like Iowa, California, and Florida were already deep into discussions for a working online poker bill but talks have not progressed so far. In the case of New Jersey, the legislature actually managed to pass a vote on a bill that would have legalized online poker only to be rejected by Gov. Chris Christie for fear that it is not what the people of New Jersey wanted. Instead, he is deferring to a public vote on the matter to decide the future of online gaming in the state. There is certainly cause for action: the industry is estimated to generate $4-$6 billion in new earnings as well as an excellent opportunity to fan a grassroots campaign that could attract a new customer base composed of younger, more tech-savvy gamblers. Instead of being threatened by any action that seeks to legalize online gaming, casinos should be more supportive as they stand to benefit from such a policy.

Moody’s model called for big casino names like Caesars Entertainment Corp, operators of the well-known World Series of Poker, could get in on the action to manage the system. Caesars is already in partnership with the British gaming company 888 on some internet gaming sites in Europe, most notably England, France and Italy. Caesars Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman echoes the opinion in a piece he wrote for CNNmoney.com where he stressed the likelihood of legalization of online poker following the U.S. government’s actions. Loveman insisted that there would be no shying away from the want to have regulated online poker sites. Holloway however was more realistic in her projections saying it will definitely not be easy implementing an online gaming policy as it figures to face stern opposition on many fronts.

 

April 28, 2011

Atlantic City Race Course Gears Up for the Start of Live Racing

Signs are everywhere; the city is gearing up for something big and everyone would do well to ride with the spirit and join the fun. Of course, such was the case. The Atlantic City Race Course was about to host a six-day meet, one of the biggest events on the horse racing calendars in the state and it wasn’t about to let patrons down by not sprucing itself for the big day. Instead, there was more than enough sign that horse racing was alive and well in Atlantic City. There were signs on the roadway adjacent to Hamilton Mall proclaiming the return of live racing; workers inside the famed building quietly went about their ways to ensure that everything was set and ready for the week that was about to unfold.

In literal terms, this was a festival and things are about to get crazy. The cracks were being repaired, the floors were being swept and paddocks were being readied for the influx of racing horses. Nothing was left to chance and everything was set according to plan. The six-day meet signals the return of live racing to the Atlantic City Race Course (ACRC) and activities were expected to commence Thursday this week and will last up until Tuesday of the follow week. The center stage will be the 1-mil oval track draped in turf deco that will host all races starting with the first at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and all succeeding events 30 minutes after that for the next six days. The best part is, admission is free on all days and patrons can saunter in anytime they want for a regular dose of exciting horse racing.

“It feels like a big festival,” said Joseph Trama of Galloway Township who is a regular and goes to the track at least twice a week. His favorite is simulcasting. “It's so enjoyable. I come out with my wife and daughter these days because they like it so much. There is so much emotion here,” adds Trama. The live races signal the resumption of the racing season and is a time for friends and patrons to catch up on each other after the racing break from a few months back. The vibe is more like a party than a horse racing event with employees, patrons and everyone else running into each other to shake hands and say their hellos. Others take the time off to enjoy the downtime. It’s a cool, easy vibe all around.

This year, things are back on the mend. Featured on the schedule is Eldaafer, the winner of the Breeder’s Cup Marathon for 2010, winning by 1 ¾ lengths over equally fast horses. This time around, it has to overcome another strong field of 11 other horses and is scheduled for Saturday as the sixth race. “We're very exciting about this week,” ACRC president Maureen Bugdon said. “We've had to turn away horses in several races. It's just overflowing. We're thrilled.” ACRC is also known as a novice bettor friendly place with bars for mixed drinks and a “Meet the Handicapper” session with Bill Hudgins to explain the mechanics of the handicap and the bets. The session occurs daily at the paddock to acclimatize bettors to the ACRC culture and is designed to grow a continuous stream of gamblers to fill in the place of those who are retiring after years of betting exercises. “He's a specialist in turf racing,” Bugdon said of Hudgins. “It's going to be educating on how to read the form, how to handicap and what offers better payouts. We're excited for the guests to meet him.”

Overall, racing officials hope the sentiment carries over into sustaining the momentum for horse racing in the state. Patrons continue to laud the ACRC for a very well-staged event. Says Nina Modugno of the New Jersey Racing Commision, “This is the greatest race track in the world. The turf track here is just beautiful. It's exciting to watch this track come to life again.” The next six days will validate that claim; after then, things should be alright in the world of horse racing. Now if only the same can be said of the Meadowlands.

 

April 27, 2011

Penn National Breaks Ground on Columbus Casino

Despite not having a firmed up agreement with city officials as to how to pump water in the proposed casino facility as well as how to dispose and treat sewage from that same facility, Penn National Gaming Inc. is moving ahead with its plans to break ground on the proposed $400 million Columbus, Ohio casino. In fact, the company is still in a heated court battle with city officials after it filed a complaint earlier this month alleging the city government of pressuring the company to bend to its whims resulting to setbacks in construction and potential opening. Penn National President Tim Wilmott expressed optimism as he addressed the assembled crowd during the short ceremony. “I’ve never found it so difficult to spend $400 million, but we still believe in Central Ohio,” said Wilmott who only mentioned the current dilemma facing Penn National Gaming in passing. As expected, city officials were not present to attend the program.

Wilmott’s remarks were the abbreviated form of a debacle that has lasted for months and centers around the efforts of Penn National Gaming to put up the Hollywood Casino Columbus project in the area only to be met with “harsh and oppressive” response by Columbus city officials. Penn has already done considerable work in getting the proposal to where it currently is, courting Ohio voters to approve a total of four Ohio casinos – Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Columbus – during a vote in November 2009. The hiccup with the city government began when Penn National proposed to move the original location of the casino from the Arena District to the old Delphi Automotive Plant on the west side of the city closer to Franklin Township. The city responded to those actions by not approving Penn’s request for water supply and sewage treatment from the plant, insisting that Penn should honor its initial word of annexing the property into the city.

Another complication to the already convoluted story is the Columbus Dispatch’s petition to refuse a zoning certificate for the casino property until Penn has ironed out its differences with the local government. A subsidiary of the Dispatch Printing Co., the Columbus Dispatch has always been a Penn nemesis since the casino was still first proposed. “We are perplexed and trying to figure out their motive,” said Wilmott in reference to the Dispatch’s actions. He adds that the likely conjecture is one of direct opposition to the idea of having a casino in Columbus by the high honchos at the company despite the fact that citizens have already voted to approve the construction of such a facility. The approval was re-validated by the many that attended the groundbreaking ceremony as everyone extolled the ability of such a big project to provide jobs for locals looking to get back into the workforce after the gripping effects of the last recession.

For Chris Haydocy, for example, his auto dealership which sits right beside the casino site will benefit from the influx of new people coming into the area. Haydocy says this is one of the reasons why community leaders went out of their way to try to bring the casino to the west side nearer to local businesses. Haydocy cites a recent label on the area as the “emptiest neighborhood in 2009” after high residential and commercial vacancies pushed a lot of the businesses and people away from where the casino will soon rise. All in all, a total of 3,500 jobs is expected to be created for the construction phase while another 2,000 will benefit from permanent employment once the facility opens in the second half of 2012 following an 18-month construction plan. Penn insists that more than 90 percent of the 2,000 permanent jobs will go to residents in the area who are still reeling from the last recession.

The expected tax revenue amounting to $63 in annual payments would also go a long way into helping public school districts continue running despite a tight state budget. “Not only is it a company of integrity,” said Lewis Smoot, CEO of the Smoot Construction Co based in Columbus,“but it has a real commitment to diversity and inclusion. This will be a lot of jobs at a time when we need to bring our economy back.”

 

April 26, 2011

Atlantic City Struggles over Implementation and Enforcement of Smoking Bans

Gambling operators here have long argued the correlation between smoking and gambling and have resisted the smoking bans imposed on public venues such as the gammling floor. Cleverly enough, operators like those at Trump casino, have found a way to be more creative with the ban. A quick look at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort showed that smoking was banned on the space itself where tables and slot machines are currently located but are allowed in the area immediately around and surrounding these – including the seats, of course.

When questioned about the policy by an enterprising Atlantic City reporter, the Trump casinos went back to their old floor layout which had larger areas where smoking is banned, a more realistic picture than the one it painted for itself a couple of days prior. Such is the dilemma of casino operators who are trying to juggle the effects of a gripping recession with the wants of an anti-smoking city council. In Atlantic City, the city has not imposed a “partial” smoking limitation for casinos and that has been the case for 4 years now. Unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on how you view it – enforcing rules have not been as old nor as clear as the law that bans that smoking in certain areas.

The Trump chain of casinos is not alone in its implementation of a strategy designed to straddle the laws put forth by the city. A quick review of city records and even simple observation of the gaming floor in the city’s 11 casinos will support the opinion that there is virtually no ban as there are no enforcement rules to back the language of the law. Journalists routinely conducting random tours of the facilities report “smoking violatins” at the Hilton, Bally’s and Borgata to nobody’s detriment or complaint. “It’s a nightmare for the Health Department,” said Ron Cash, the Health Department’s director. “We’re not surprised by the minimal number of violations,” referring to the lone smoking ordinance violation issued against a casino operator since the law was first imposed. “The reality is we don’t have enough inspectors. We don’t have the staffing or the resources.”

According to the exact statement of the prohibition, smoking is prohibited on “on all employee-staffed portions of the casino floor; however, casino licensee operators are permitted to construct non-staffed, separately exhausted, enclosed smoking lounges on no more than 25 percent of the gaming floor.” Indeed, the incentive to thwart the ban is great given the pressing competition coming from neighboring states like Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maine. Just last month, Pennsylvania has exceeded Atlantic City totals in terms of slot revenues and the state is poised to continue its strong run with the awarding of its second gaming license to Nemacolin for more slot machines in the area. Here, smoking is allowed in half of the gaming space much like the policies in effect in Nevada and Mississippi.

New Jersey looks at the example of Illinois and Colorado as potential evidence of the impacts of smoking bans on gaming businesses. In those two states, when a smoking ban was put into effect in 2008, revenues fell by double digit percentages raising alarm bells that continue to scare investors 3 years later. The casino operators meanwhile are looking at city regulators to cut them some slack but so the effect wouldn’t be as crippling. Argues Dennis Gomes, a casino executive, “There are a lot of things that we are trying to fix here. That was one of the things that was brought up,” he said. “The smoking sections really aren’t as clearly defined as they could be.”

There is certainly still a long way to go for both city officials and casino operators in their bid for a more agreeable arrangement on the smoking ban. Interestingly enough, a New England survey found that casino patrons there prefer non-smoking floors over smoking ones. It’s a definite thinking puzzle for the many that are convinced of the closed correlation between smoking and gaming. As for casino operators, another audit is changing their tune. For how long, that’s a question that falls on city regulators to answer.

 

April 25, 2011

Iowa Senate Approves Gambling Bill

Iowa Senate approved a gambling bill this Wednesday in Des Moine—an action that could possibly lead to a debate on the legalization of Internet poker. It received a 38-12 vote and will now proceed to the Iowa House of Representatives. The bill’s lobbyists are optimistic about gaining approval. Last Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee omitted the bill’s controversial section which was meant to legalize online casino poker within the state. Internet poker was supposed to be legalized through a regulated hub operator which would provide connections to licensed casinos. Instead, the senators used language directing the state commission to study the current situation and scope of illegal online poker currently being presented to Iowa residents. After this, a report would be made with recommendations on how to regulate Internet poker, if it does become considered for legalization again. The report’s delivery date is on December 1. Legislators have also approved an amendment requiring the Iowa Department of Public Health to submit a study on the social effects of Internet gambling on October 1.

Only last week, three Internet poker sites were shut down for illegal operations, indicating that any debate regarding this topic would be a heated public one. Estimates by Internet poker supporters have said that around 150,000 Iowa residents participate in unregulated Internet poker from unregulated offshore websites. Presently, gambling online unregulated in the US. According to federal law, however, this can be legalized as long as all wagers are done intrastate. The bill was supposed to legalize a creation of an Iowa Internet poker network. The bill was also to include a structure for its regulation, implementation and taxation. In its place is a fact-finding directive for the Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission in order for it to help find the proper structure to regulate Internet poker for the future. Theoretically, the state regulation system would have a hub operator which would have contracts with casinos licensed by the state. The casinos would then run the online poker sites.

A state regulator has also mentioned that legalizing Internet poker in licensed casinos would also allow Native American casinos to offer more Internet gambling to Iowa residents. Just this Tuesday, Jack Ketterer, the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission administrator, was told by senators to include research on the possible effects that Internet poker legalization would have on the three Native American-owned casinos in Iowa. These casinos currently operate without any regulation by the state. Since federal law allows Native Americans to offer any kind of gambling, as long as it’s allowed by the laws of the state where their operations are, Ketterer believes that the Native American gambling operators in Iowa would soon start offering Internet poker if it does get legalized. Definitely, Keterrer states, Native Americans cannot be disallowed from offering any gambling that they would like to have.

Senators have also changed the legislation in order to get rid of a requirement where casinos need to conduct a referendum per county every eight years to let voters decide whether or not they want to keep them. It then proposes that counties where casino gambling has already been approved twice, no longer need to meet the requirement. A referendum can instead be petitioned by the voters eight years after the second approval. This has made Senator Jerry Behn, R-Boone’s proposal to keep the referendums unsuccessful. The senator is well-known to dislike gambling, believing that it taxes people who can least afford it. According to him the amendment removes necessary checks and balances by the voters.

The bill’s floor manager, Senator Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo disagrees. He reports that referendums have been approved with a large majority from the voters. Danielson also believes that the amendment could financially benefit casinos which have a hard time borrowing money with low interest rates because of the existing referendum requirement.

Another amendment has also been done to solve an ongoing dispute between the Altoona Racetrack and Casino, and Iowa’s horse breeders. The bill omitted an amendment to end Iowa’s greyhound racing tracks. Danielson also resisted Governor Terry Branstad’s proposal to increase state tax on casinos to 36 percent which aimed to cut corporate income tax by 50%.

 

April 24, 2011

A Look Back on Poker Black Friday

April 15 was Poker “Black Friday” when the federal government indicted three major Internet poker sites and seized their domain names for violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006. Facing indictments are 11 defendants who are founders and owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker and co-owner of Sun First Bank in Saint George, Utah who allegedly allowed processing of illegal gambling transactions. The UIGEA in 2006 states: “prohibition of any payment instrument for unlawful internet gambling”, it covers offshore Internet gambling sites that are operating in the US. Congressman Spencer Bachus (AL-6), who co-authored the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which passed in 2006, issued the several statements concerning the indictments. According to him, under the present rules set by the UIGEA, those indicted should suffer the full brunt of the law. Bachus included in his statements the viability of the law especially in today’s environment. A lot, however, do not share the same sentiments with the congressman.

Americans have divided views on the issue, despite the UIGEA’s firm stand on online casino gambling as illegal, some say otherwise. One of them is Eli Lehrer, a senior fellow and Vice President of Heartland Institute. According to Lehrer “These companies operated legal, above-board poker facilities and they’re being shut down for money-laundering even though they did nothing of the sort”. Barney Frank, US House Representative and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, commented "What an incredible waste of resources,". Frank issued a bill in 2010 to legalize poker at the federal level but was stopped by Republicans who were against it. Frank expressed his deepest disappointment with the administration which, according to him, seemed to be more concerned about “protecting the public from the scourge of inside straights” rather than going after those responsible for the mortgage crisis and financial meltdowns the nation is experiencing. Frank added further that prioritizing this law, and thus pushing away the benefits the industry adds to the community specially during an economic slowdown, is a very wrong move for lawmakers to take. Frank continues by saying that lawmakers should set their priorities straight; they should be able to adapt to the worsening conditions of the economy in order to effectively address the bigger and more pressing problems.

The defendants are charged with counts of violation of the UIGEA, operation of illegal gambling business, conspiracy to violate the UIGEA and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Scott Tom and John Campos are facing a possible 35 years in prison while the rest of the defendants are facing 65 years imprisonment. Aside from a life imprisonment, the US federal government filed a civil suit against the defendants, charging penalties amounting to $3 billion. The US government also requires forfeitures of all rights and earnings from all businesses tied to the sites. News release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan states that gambling operators and their processors were finding ways to avoid being caught by setting up fake online sites as a façade for them to get bank accounts and processing services that would allow them to carry out the transactions from American players.

In 2009, banks and other financial institutions had shut down multiple fraudulent accounts used by the poker companies. The release further says that in an attempt to avoid the law and still pursue gambling, some of the defendants used a new strategy by persuading principals “of a few small, local banks facing financial difficulties to engage in such processing in return for multimillion-dollar investments in the banks”. John Tampos, the indicted co-owner of SunFirst Bank allegedly agreed to process gambling transactions in return for a $10 million investment from one of the defendants. However, the $10 million was not invested as cited by Salt Lake Tribune. In contrary, the indictment stated that one of the defendants and an associate invested $3.4 million to the bank in exchange for processing their gambling transactions.

There are approximately 76 bank accounts in the US and other countries that allegedly contain proceeds of the alleged illegal activity. The government has since obtained a court order to freeze the accounts.

 

April 23, 2011

Deutsche Bank Puts High Stakes on Vegas Casino

When developer Ian Bruce Eichner first took out a $760 million construction loan for a Vegas condominium-hotel from Deutsche Bank, the financial institution had no idea that it would be making its first foray in the casino industry with Eichner’s project. Yet funding problems hit Eichner as construction costs began to rise and the economy started to worsen, causing him to default on the loan causing the casino to face foreclosure in 2008. Deutsche Bank has tried to woo other established operators such as MGM in taking on the project. Yet these operators already had their hands full with other projects. Another reason for their lack of eagerness was the negative effects the economic downturn had on the Last Vegas gambling industry.Thus, Deutsche Bank became the unwilling inheritor of what is now the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino.

The Cosmopolitan is notorious for being the most expensive casino ever built in Las Vegas with an investment of around $4 billion. Indeed, Deutsche Bank went head on with the project, hiring Caesars Palace general manager, John Unwin, whose paycheck was reported to be almost $2 million. It was also said that the management team’s salaries were higher than the industry standard.Deutsche Bank also gave the project a low interest loan which led to the staggering $4 billion amount. The Frankfurt-based bank continued to pour money into the project, changing Eichner’s original plan of putting guitar-playing robots in the entrance hall. As a result, there is now a three-story glass chandelier in the hotel’s casino and a crystal bar.

Deutsche Bank isn’t the only financial institution that’s also a casino owner.Notable examples are Credit Suisse, which used to own a stake in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino; and Goldman Sachs, which acquired Stratosphere. Yet none of these banks has a stake higher than Deutsche Bank, whose casino investment could take decades to recoup. The Cosmopolitan finally opened in December 2010 to positive reviews. Visitors loved the premier hotel and its luxurious surroundings. The $300/night?the highest room rate in Vegas?gigantic luxury rooms with wrap-around terraces areoften fully booked along with the other room classes. The resort also has an impressive lineup of shops and restaurants, including the automated luxury store U*tique Shop and steak restaurant STK.These offshoots from the casino have been reported to be successful since they have reached, and even surpassed, their sales targets.

With its positive customer feedback, it seems like Deutsche Bank could be headed for financial success with this venture.Yet despite its high occupancy rates, the Cosmopolitan has not been profitable so far. Why? Demographics and a lack of a loyal gambling customer base. Deutsche Bank is relying on a young market, a very challenging group since most of these individuals prefer partying to gambling, and would rather spend their money on food and beverages rather than on games,the gambling industry’s biggest source of revenue. Also, most of these visitors do not have very high incomes. Thus, they are less disposed to spending thousands of dollars on cards and roulette. In fact, this group isn’t inclined to spending in general.

To increase their customers and profitability, Unwin has made an agreement with Marriott International. The deal allows the Cosmopolitan to accessthe hotel group’s customer database. Yet is this enough to improve the casino’s low cash flow? Truly, the Cosmopolitan has yet to find a strong gambling base. While casinos usually contribute to half the revenue of a Las Vegas property, the Cosmopolitan’s gambling revenue is less than that. Aside from this, Deutsche Bank is also facing problems with casino operating clients who are unhappy about the bank pirating their talent. This could spell trouble since Caesars Palace’s mother company, Caesars Entertainment is a significant Deutsche Bank customer. Definitely, these customers would be wary of investing money in a competitor.

Still, the Cosmopolitan management team remains optimistic, though sentiments are different in Europe. Back in Germany, Deutsche Bank’s management remains hesitant onowning a casino. They’ve kept a low profile in the Cosmopolitan and CEO Josef Ackermann was even absent from its opening party. The management has also recently disapproved the Cosmopolitan’s racy advertising campaign which they thought was unsuitable for a bank.

 

April 22, 2011

Nevada’s Quest for Legalized Online Poker

Nevada is perhaps one of the world’s forerunners in the casino industry. Well-known for its luxurious hotels and thousands of legal gambling sites, Nevada truly attracts tourists from all around the world, most especially gambling fanatics. Probably one of the most popular casino games ever discovered, poker remains one of the top enjoyed game worldwide. A proof of the massive effect poker has on the lives of the people can be shown on how the U.S. government reacts to it. Recently, an assemblyman in the State of Nevada has proposed to advance gambling, specifically online poker, to an entirely new level: legalized online poker gambling. Nevada Assembly Majority Whip William Horne has sponsored the Assembly Bill 258 (AB 258), a bill that calls for legalized online poker.

AB 258 was originally proposed as an international and interstate franchise of legal online casino poker gambling. The bill permitted the State of Nevada to legalize and regulate online poker. In return, the State would be provided with tax revenues from the online game and its citizens will be given additional employment opportunities. However, the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee ignored the said proposal. Some of the original provisions of the AB 258 were clearly against federal law, most notably the international and interstate poker dealings. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 guidelines, albeit a little vague, for Americans not to join interstate and international gambling. Moreover, the bill did not gain the support of Nevada’s poker establishments, which viewed legalized online poker as a serious threat to their businesses.

Yet, the proponents of Assembly Bill 258 do not give up easily. After the rejection of the original bill, they released an amended version of AB 258. Noticeably, the new version deleted the provision on interstate and international online poker gambling, limiting it to just intrastate. As an intrastate online poker game, the AB 258 does not anymore violate the provisions stipulated in the UIGEA. Therefore, it is not contrary to the federal law anymore. Furthermore, the amended version cites the Nevada Gaming Commission to be the primemover of the regulations to be followed by the online poker players and sponsoring companies, and also clearly specifies that internet gambling will not pursue without the approval of the United States Congress or its Judiciary branch. The revisions made to the AB 258 proved to be the correct move for its proponents as the bill passed the Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee and got a unanimous vote for its approval. The AB 258 must now seek for approval both from the Assembly and the Senate before it will arrive at the desk of Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval for signing.

Governor Sandoval’s stand on the issue on legalized online poker remains to be unclear until he does not affix, or affixes, his signature on Assembly Bill 258. Although the Governor has explicitly said that he did not want Nevada to contradict federal law (most probably referring to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006), Horne confidently claims that the former has understood the importance of legalized and state-regulated online poker playing and will sign the bill. In addition, Governor Sandoval has expressed interest for the State of Nevada to take the lead in setting up the various rules and regulations that would help define legalized online poker, should the federal government allow it.

According to several reliable sources, the management of the world’s biggest online poker website, PokerStars, is lobbying the Assembly Bill 258. The hunch that the rumor is true grew stronger because the original AB 258 had provisions instructing the licensing commission of the legalized online poker game not to single out companies who have violated the UIGEA. Truly, online gaming and gambling have already come a long way. It seemed like yesterday when any form of gambling was ruled to be illegal, but now, even online gambling is on its way to be legalized. Indeed, the internet unlocks various possibilities, allowing access to what once was considered to be an impossible amount of players. With the recent approval of Washington D.C.’s legalized online gambling, Nevada’s Assembly Bill 258 might be actually closer to its goal.

 

April 21, 2011

Germany to Enforce Strict Regulations on Online Gambling

Germany has recently left online betting companies flabbergasted with its proposal to increase its imposed taxes come 2012. As one of the countries in Europe having the best economies, Germany remains steadfast with its decision to regulate on-the-site and online gambling. Despite the choice of other European nations to become friendly with the online gambling companies, Germany refuses to do the same.Way back in 2008, it can be remembered that Germany enforced the Interstate Treaty on Gambling, a law preventing Germans from engaging into any means of online gambling, from casino games, bingo and lotteries. Germany tried to hinder its citizens from accessing foreign online gambling sites and commissioned its banks to refuse any payment thought to be related to online gambling. The treaty, however, did not put a stop residents from accessing online casino. Offshore gambling sites became very popular, taking away from Germany millions of Euros despite its strict regulation against online gambling.

On January 1, 2012, the Interstate Treaty on Gambling will end. Thus, Germans and online gambling companies alike prayed for a more open-minded and gambling-friendly Germany. Partly, their wish was granted when Germany revealed it would acknowledge 7 sports betting companies upon the expiration of the said treaty. Moreover, online casino operators can operate legally in German soil provided they first acquire land-based licenses and surpass the strict requirements. Unfortunately, much to the dismay of foreign contractors, Germany increased the tax rate charged to these companies to a rate which seems very unreasonable for any company.

Germany’s proclamation regarding the increase in tax rate to an enormous 16.7% on sports betting turnover in 2012 caused a stir so badly that shares of stocks in online gambling companies with investments in Germany began trampling down, losing hundreds of millions of dollars in just 24 hours. The two companies which were most affected by the tax increase are: bwin.party digital entertainment PLC and Betfair Group PLC. Both of these companies are devoted to online gaming, such as poker, sports betting, casino games and betting exchanges, having Germans contribute to more than 20% of their total revenues.

Analysts have advised that two things be considered with regards to taxation: the percentage and the type of model used. Definitely, a tax turnover would be more expensive than that of a gross profit tax. Greece, Italy, Spain and U.K. earn from the gross profit tax while France gains 8% from the turnover tax. Unfortunately, Germany proposed to implement the 16.7% tax on turnover, making the rate twice as costly when compared to that of France. In response to this increase, companies have expressed their disappointment that the online gaming industry in Germany would not yield any significant revenue. Therefore, they will be forced to seek business in other areas which do not impose huge taxes.

Germany has always been known for its stern policies regarding gambling. The country has strict guidelines to be followed by those who want to operate in the country. Moreover, it is quite obvious that the nation prefers to monopolize the industry. This preference is evident through the Spielbanken Niedersachsen GmbH (SNG). This company might be the only one feasibly capable of compensating the tax on turnover payable to the government, as it is brave enough to express interest in putting up an online gambling site. During the meeting of the prime ministers of Germany concerning the increase in taxation for online gambling, the state of Schleswig-Holstein was the lone friend of foreign online gaming companies who wanted to invest in Germany. The state’s taxation proposal regarding online gaming can be likened to that of Greece and Spain, collecting only 20% tax on gross profits. In line with this decision, bwin party digital entertainment PLC has already said that if Germany refuses to lower its rates, it will apply for an online gambling license only in the said state.

The motive is clear and Germany has done it through enacting the Interstate Treaty on 2008 and discouraging online gambling companies through its high taxation rates to be imposed on 2012. As with any country, Germany naturally prioritizes its own benefits compared to offshore companies that have already stripped them of a significant amount of would-be gaming revenues.

 

April 20, 2011

DC First to Legalize Online Gambling

It has become shocking news for all Americans when the rumor concerning legalized online gambling in the District of Columbia (D.C.) area was found to be true. Despite efforts of well-known gambling destinations in the United States of America, such as New Jersey, Iowa and Nevada, their hard work were apparently not enough to earn them the title of the first state regulate online poker. D.C. is now the first and only area in the United States of America to claim such a title. The US’ constitution allows for the appointment of one lone district to become the Nation’s Capital, an area under the jurisdiction of the federal government only. Thus, the District of Columbia is not under the State of Washington, rather directly under the national government. It is most probably due to this fact that the bid for legalized online gaming in D.C. was easier when compared to that of other States, which had to get approvals from more politicians.

Unlike the other States who wanted to legalize online gambling through the creation of bills, D.C. only had a provision regarding legalized online gambling in the budget proposal it submitted to the U.S. Congress. Specifically, the bill cited on page 28 that the D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board would be vested with the authority to create “both games of skill and games of chance”, both of which could be accessible via the internet. The U.S. Congress had the chance to veto the bill for 30 days; however, due perhaps to other concern, the U.S. congressmen just let the bill pass smoothly. The 30-day waiting period ended last April 7, 2011. Thus, the passage of the bill meant legalized online casino gambling within the District of Columbia.

According to Michael Brown, a member of the D.C. council and the man behind the provision, the District of Columbia needed to have the legalized online gaming for revenue purposes. The District still has a $322 million budget gap for 2012; thus, its political leaders are finding ways to close in this deficit. The revenues to be raised from the online gambling are estimated to be at $13 million from 2012-2015, truly a big help in the budget gap. Moreover, Brown reasoned that there are hundreds of illegal gamblers in the area from which the government did not receive revenues. Legalizing online gambling would allow the government’s collection of fees and taxes from this people, and the opportunity to moderate these activities.

The legalized online gambling is not without limitations. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 hinders interstate and overseas internet gambling. However, the online gambling system in D.C. surpassed this hindrance by ensuring that only the people within the D.C. area can play in their online gambling sites. Therefore, the online gambling would not be interstate, rather it would be intrastate, a phenomenon not covered by the UIGEA. People not residing in D.C. but would want to avail of the online gambling eventually could just visit the District, proceed to one of the “hotspots”, and play.

The D.C. Lottery will be the primary agency to oversee the legalized online gambling system. Intralot, a Greek-based company and one of the providers of online games and softwares will be responsible for the nitty-gritty technology involved in the project. Should everything proceed smoothly and without interruptions, a free trial period is expected to begin early summer and later on, the paid online gambling will be enforced. In order to avail of the legalized online gambling, the player must first go to selected locations, also called “hotspots”, within the District. For starters, these areas will be the only ones wherein players may connect to the online system. The targeted initial “hotspots” are bars, taverns, and hotels. Come September 1, 2011, there may already be around 20-30 hotspots around D.C.

As the program becomes more popular, it will then expand, reaching every home in the District of Columbia so that players can access it via their personal computers at home, which will happen most probably before the year ends. After the internet connection is secured, players must complete their registration with a serial number unique to each player, along with age verification processes to ensure the player meets legal requirements. After these are completed, legal online gambling may begin.

 

April 19, 2011

Iowa Online Gambling Plan Takes One Step Forward but Still Foresees Delay

The much lauded effort by Iowa lawmakers to become the pioneering state with an approved and working version of an online poker bill just took a deep dive after concessions at the Senate Ways and Means Committee delayed the soonest timeline that the measure can be implemented. Still, optimistic lawmakers are just plain relieved that the Committee funneled the legislation out and will a few more amendments, should be able to bring the bill to a full House and Senate vote. The concessions involved a Senate directive for Senate File 458 to order the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to look deeper into the proposal with the end goal being a report that comprehensively covers concerns from additional gambling, underage gambling, security and control. “It does not legalize online poker play,” said Sen. Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo) who manages the bill’s progress through the Senate floor. “It just asks for a report.”

Arguments by current proponents and supporters of the bill claim that as many as 150,000 Iowans are already engaging in illegal online poker games resulting to a cash outflow that will not benefit the state in any way. Instead, the profits are going to offshore gaming companies that are in no way regulated or taxed by the U.S. government. Until recently, there has been no effort to control this proliferation of supposedly illegal gaming operations. However, in the last week, the FBI has started to make arrests regarding money laundering allegations for online poker company executives who “circumvent” the existing control mechanism to ferry money out of U.S. customers in overseas banks. Three of the biggest names in online Poker – Pokerstars, Full Title Poker, and Absolute Poker are all under investigation.

Says Dotzler regarding concerns about the online poker measure, “It is not going away. Every time you turn on ESPN, you can see the advertisement for Poker Stars, Full Tilt poker - wearing them on their hats, their shirts,” referring to the ubiquity and mainstream appeal of online gaming. Despite the initial delays, lobbyists are pleased with the recent developments that projected the image that the state does care about how online poker measures progress and whether they will churn out the benefits that they are designed to provide. However, with the end of the legislative session looming in the horizon, it might become a case of too little too late. “We're happy it's moving. Obviously, a work in progress. We have a long ways to go and not a long time to do it,” said Frank Chiodo, a former state representative who now works for Riverside Casino and Golf Resort, The Rasmussen Group and U.S. Digital Gaming as a lobbyist.

Frank, together with his father Ned and other lobbyists Kirk Uhler and Scott Newhard, are some of the most staunch supporters of gaming bills in Iowa and are instrumental in pushing the Iowa online casino gaming bill into where it is today. They all said the developments are welcome as they provide some semblance of hope that the measure still has a chance. “I think it's a good thing,” Frank Chiodo said. “I think it's something that needs to happen. All the information needs to be gathered. We need to look at what's happening in the state and find out how to address that. This is an activity that exists today, it's going to exist tomorrow.” Chiodo emphasized the harsh choice that befalls state governments pertaining to the question of regulation – it’s an all or nothing proposition that can result to the federal government supplanting the state as the ultimate controller of online gaming needs. If and when that happens, the state would lose out on potential revenue that it desperately needs to fund projects.

Chiodo believes the state is in a much better position to regulate the industry than the federal government because the problems on policing will all require a local action. Before the bill can fully progress, it has to answer lingering questions by lawmakers, even those who have already voted to let the bill through. Says Sen. Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines), “I want to make sure that consumer protection is a major part of this bill and I also want to ensure that we collect our fair share of taxes as it relates to what's being wagered.”

The bill still has ways to go but it is however, proceeding better than its counterparts in California and Florida, both of which are finding stronger resistance from lobby groups and lawmakers alike.

 

April 18, 2011

FBI Ramps Up Operations Against Online Poker Companies

Much has been said regarding the U.S. government’s stance on online gambling, but amid all these discussions is one sterling truth: the U.S. government has not done anything to enforce its much documented opposition of online gambling. That remained the case for many years since the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act approved in 2006; this week however, things are no longer the same. Perhaps as a sign that the U.S. is willing to move forward with its own regulated and controlled online gambling industry, the FBI took several actions to announce its crackdown on online gambling companies.

Said New York city prosecutors, they have issued restraining orders for more than 75 bank accounts in 14 jurisdictions all over the world in an effort to bust the flow of billions of dollars changing hands due to online gambling. The restraining orders specifically target online poker companies who have at one point or another operated inside the U.S. border without respecting U.S. laws.Overall, eleven names were submitted for legal charges including officials from three of the most recognized poker companies in the world – Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars. The civil charges were for violations of the 2006 law banning online poker in the United States and centered on money laundering issues as communicated by the Justice Department. All in all, a total of $3 billion is in contention for money laundering violations.

“Some of the defendants found banks willing to flout the law for a fee,” said Janice Fedarcyk who is the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Field Office. “The defendants bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.” The federal indictment outlined the ways through which companies sought to bypass or evade the law by employing “creative methods” to move money around. The UIGEA explicitly prohibited U.S. banks from taking part in financial transactions directed to pay online gambling activities.

As a result, poker companies will now have to deal with the full-brunt of the FBI actions. Says James Kilsby who is the editor for the business intelligence services for gambling Compliance, “This is a potentially game-changing moment for the online poker industry, as PokerStars and Full Tilt are, by quite some distance, the two largest operators not just in the U.S., but globally.” “Previous DOJ enforcement efforts have honed in on sports betting operators and payment companies,” said Kilsby. “Meanwhile, some of the poker operators themselves have claimed that U.S. gambling laws do not apply to poker. It seems clear from today's action that the Justice Department doesn't agree.”

According to the detailed charges in the indictment, company officials Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Title Poker, Isai Schenberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, and Brent Beckley and Scott Tom of Absolute Poker deliberately employed a scheme “to deceive United States banks and financial institutions into processing billions of dollars in payments for the poker companies, by, among other things, arranging for the money received from United States gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants and other non-gambling businesses.” The FBI listed flower shops, pet supply stores, retail chains and many others as phony websites designed to handle gambling payments so that they cannot be traced to poker companies. The scheme relied on credit card payments to siphon money from U.S. customers into overseas operators from territories with relaxed rules about online gaming corporations.

From the company officials, the payments pass through four individuals who divert the funds to each company as defined by the payment. These are Ira Rubin, Chad Elie, Ryan Lang, and Bradley Franzen two of which have already been detained for arraignment. As for company owners who are based in overseas locations like Antigua, Ireland and the Isle of Man, no arrests can be currently made.

It is unclear if the move is done as segue to building a local online gambling network in the U.S. to retain the financial profit within its borders so it can be taxed and regulated. The U.S. Congress has tried and failed on a number of occasions to legalize online poker only to meet resistance or hiccups in policy of enforcement laws.

 

April 17, 2011

Suffolk Deals with Caesars, Could Revive Massachusetts Gaming Debate

A new deal designed to infuse much needed capital on one of Massachusetts’ historic but embattled racetrack is signaling the return of fierce gaming debates in the state. Suffolk Downs recently released a statement declaring its new-found partnership with global leader and Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., a sign that the state continues to be a viable market for gaming expansion. However, the consequence of the new announcement could also bring back bad memories about previous deals that fell through due to the bipartisan and divisive nature of gambling debates in Massachusetts.

Within hours of the announcement by Sterling Suffolk Racecourses LLC and Caesars Entertainment Corp, the Joint Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee, a critical legislative committee that looks into expanded gambling bills, expressed its intention to hold hearings to determine the future – if not limit the progress – of expanded gambling measures in the state. Thus far, Massachusetts has seen 13 gambling bills designed to expand the reach of gaming in the state. Majority of this will most likely go through the legislative gauntlet that is the Joint Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee.

Rep. Joseph F. Wagner (D-Chicopee) who sits as co-chair on the committee expressed his regret at home the Caesars-Suffolk deal was a backdoor means to accelerate the legislative process on gaming measures after it has naturally progressed slowly following the collapse of a casino campaign in Beacon Hill in the middle of last year. “They may want to create a perception that they’ve got a strong hand,’’ he said. “I think that carries greater weight with the public than perhaps public-policy decision makers.’’ Suffolk Downs Chief Chip Tutle clarified that the deal was not a means to get the legislative gears moving contrary to the opinion of Rep. Wagner and many other anti-gambling advocates. Tutle implied that the legislative carries its own burden as to whether or not it’s time to ramp up the discussions in the House and Senate regarding the future of expanded gaming in Massachusetts, a state that has known to resist well the temptation to put its financial foibles on the back of casinos and racetracks.

Tutle also said that Suffolk Downs has always been approached by many gaming companies looking to partner with the racetrack to gain a presence in the state. Tutle even praised the excellent timing of the Caesars deal adding it has been given serious consideration by Suffolk executives ever since it was first brought to their attention late last year. “Predominantly, the decision was made based on our desire to have a best-in-class partner,’’ sad Tutle. He also added that it was not surprising for Caesars to find a niche in Massachusetts since it has always had personal ties to the area; Gary Loveman, Caesars Entertainment Chief Executive Officer is actually a Massachusetts resident and was the first to bring up the issue to Suffolk Downs.

The deal puts Suffolk Downs in prime position to realize its long dream of building a resort style casino in the state, but this is contingent on legislative action that would authorize the construction, operation and legalization of casino gaming in the area. Touting the very same benefits that neighboring states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even Maine and Delaware are now enjoying, Suffolk hopes to convince the state that new facilities would lead to job creation both from the construction and operation of the facility as well as generate enough income to help feed the state’s coffers that is currently suffering through a touch financial struggle given the nation’s greater problems. Overall, Caesars and Suffolk would like to be able to give back to communities who are expected to benefit from new earning sources as well as being able to sustain racing in Massachusetts – a storied tradition in the state that has come into great attack lately because of the financial burdens facing many racetracks.

Not by coincidence, Suffolk chose Caesars Entertainment due to its immense and recognized background as the world’s largest casino entertainment company. Caesars manages the Harrah, Horseshoe and Caesars brand names and has facilities in four continents. For now, Suffolk is not sure whether it can lay claim to being one of those brand names; the announcement of the deal has not be clear enough to suggest what role Caesars will play in current Suffolk operations.

 

April 16, 2011

MGM Resorts Founder Kerkorian To Step Down From Board

An old era in the gambling industry is about to close as billionaire and gambling mogul Kirk Kerkorian is scheduled to step down from the board of MGM Resorts International to become senior adviser and director emeritus in June. Kerkorian founded the MGM during the early days of Vegas glitz and grew it from a modest company into a worldwide phenomenon that now has branches outside of the continental U.S. Today, Kerkorian, at 93 years old, holds a 27 percent stake in MGM Resorts, easily the biggest among MGM’s many investors. The gambling kingpin controls his share via Tracinda Corp., and says his stake is ably and adequately represented on the board, despite his impending resignation, through Tracinda executives Jim Murren, Dan Taylor, and Anthony Mandekic. Murren is the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tracinda which is based in Las Vegas and specializes in the operation and management of gaming resorts.

“I’m the founder of it. I just didn’t care to keep going back to meetings,” said Kerkorian from his office in Beverly Hills, California. He adds that the board meetings, which are starting to be very lengthy, could take a toll on his health if he continues to be actively involved in managing the company. Instead, Kerkorian is looking for less stressful avenues to keep his time occupied. He’s a former pilot and boxer and while time and age have caused his eyesight and hearing to deteriorate, he still manages to get in a few exercises in order keep healthy. “I do stay busy,” he said. “I like new challenges.” In his heyday, Kerkorian was a savant in making deals to grow his assets. He was relentless in pursuing opportunities leading to a storied list of transactions from casino stakes to airlines, film studios and automobile companies. He’s had a hand in virtually every industry that helped shape America to what it currently is. And even today, he continues to work from his office overseeing and reviewing transactions from Tracinda’s offices in Las Vegas.

Kerkorian and Tracinda’s stakes in MGM were brought about by a number of new acquisitions and construction that made MGM Resorts International into the biggest casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip. A recent announcement also has the company poised to gain the controlling share in its Macau facility. Macau is currently the largest gambling market in the world posting $25.6 billion in total revenues in 2010, four times that of combined casino revenues in Las Vegas for the same period. The deal to gain 51% of shares at the MGM Macau requires former joint venture partner Pansy Ho to put up her shares via IPO and reducing Ms. Ho’s stake to 29% thereby resolving some of the issues surrounding the management and operation of MGM Macau.

Kerkoria says he prefers an advisory role as opposed to active involvement in daily operations. He will cede the control to Murren and will conduct “three to four times a week” conversations to provide more strategic viewpoints towards growth. “I think the world of management, and they’re coming out with some real good news” says Kerkorian pertaining to the Macau deal. Kerkorian also has praises for Murren whom he says “is doing a great job. He’s young, enthusiastic and has a lot of energy.”

Perhaps the biggest change for Kerkorian will be his inability to vote on board matters once he steps down in June. Still, what he leaves behind is something to be proud of given the tough world that is the gaming industry. “We’ve gone into and through and out of the recession, and he’s immensely proud of how we’ve navigated through that and he feels like this is the right time. He’s never backed down from any fight, and the right time would not have been in 2008 or 2009 or even 2010,” Murren said in an interview. Tracinda, according to company executives, periodically receives inquiries regarding its stake in the MGM and eyes potential transactions that will benefit it in the long run. “We love the MGM investment,” Tracinda’s Taylor said in an interview. “Jim and his team are doing a fantastic job, and we think there’s lots of opportunities still to come in this investment.”

 

April 15, 2011

Florida Senate Still Split on Resort Casino Bill

For one more day and one more legislative session, Florida will have to be content with coming close but not fully sealing the deal on a proposal that would bring resort type casinos to the Sunshine State. The latest attempt at a solution saw a deadlocked committee vote just as time was winding down. The already muddy future of the bill even became more uncertain as there is no obvious solution to matters that have locked committee members into their respective opinions. The committee in-charge is the Senate Committee on Finance and Tax who voted 3-3 on Senate Bill 2050. Such a vote would have normally quashed other measures but not this one that, a stroke of luck, will get forwarded into the next session because the committee’s vote happened after the 10:45 am adjournment meaning that the voting does not count.

The declaration was made by Subcommittee Chairwoman Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale). Under the House rules, a vote which comes after a session has been declared adjourned will not count as a legal verdict on a bill’s status. Apparently, the legislature doesn’t do unauthorized overtimes. With the announcement, bill supporters are left grasping for straws as to what can be done as the number of days left for the legislative season grow shorter. “If you can count on one hand, it’s dead,” remarked Bogdanoff, who sided with the committee’s two Democrats in approving the bill. Adds Nick Iarossi, chief lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands who has considerable interest in the project, “We need to go back and regroup and figure out if we can manage to get an extra ‘yes’ vote in order to move it out of the committee at this committee’s next hearing.”

Bogdanoff however, was quick to add that the Subcommittee might not meet again until the next session is opened. Bogdanoff added that it all depended on bill sponsor Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) if he would be willing to bring it up again and provided a new ally can be found of the three senators who chose to vote in the negative. Bogdanoff was doubtful that simply bringing the measure would not change the outcome and would rather quash the bill in its tracks. Braynon said he was willing to open it up again to Bogdanoff should the committee meet again but that there is more work to be done to gain the necessary support. “It needs work,” he said. “I’ll have to make sure that I have more support on her committee, probably, before we get to hear it again.”

Of the seven-member committee, Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales) was not present during the voting and Braynon hopes he can be convinced to side with the proponent when the next voting round comes along. Unfortunately, previous words by Sen. Alexander seemed to suggest he was not interested in supporting “expanded gambling measures” and that these were “certainly not on my radar.” Another committee member who remains a target is Sen. Thad Altman (R-Viera) but he also expressed a negative response for the measure. “It completely changes the whole face of Florida, creates us as a casino state, and there’s a lot of concern about expanding gambling,” Altman said. Altman suggests shifting the bill from the Finance and Tax Committee to the Regulated Industries Committee who has more experience handling gambling legislation. “I think it’s just going too fast,” Altman added.

Supporters also floated the name of Sen. Jim Norman (R-Tampa) as another potential target when lobbying for support, but the senator has also expressed wariness over expanding gambling in the state. Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) also delivered an impassioned speech against gambling that a revised strategy isn’t likely going to get enough supporters to muster an approval. Pro-gambling lobbyists cite the many perceived benefits of the bill such as reviving the state’s failing tourism industry by offering new alternatives to typical attractions. The addition of five resort casinos can also create as much as 100,000 in new jobs as well as prevent the flight of in-state dollars into neighboring states.

 

April 14, 2011

Atlantic City Posts 31st Consecutive Month of Decline, Hopes that Turnaround is Near

Brimming with confidence and optimistic that the long slump plaguing the gambling sector in the Easter seaboard is finally drawing to a close, officials from the New Jersey gambling commission declared that Atlantic City is posting a single digit decline for the second month in a row contrary to previous trends where the losses were significantly high. The 11 casinos in Atlantic City posted an overall earning of $280.5 million for March, down by 7 percent from the $300.8 million posted in the same month last year. Earnings were primarily buoyed by strong slot machine revenues, the New Jersey Division of Gaming reported the results Monday.

Month to month, the March results were only down by 1 percent from the earnings in February of this year. Compared to previous months when Atlantic City posted double-digit losses month for month, the trend is starting to show signs of faint recovery. The extended decline is attributed to a slower uptake of the struggling economy plus Pennsylvania’s determined push to become a major player in the region. The optimism was shared by one senior casino executive who said he was encouraged by the March numbers. He adds that the marketplace is slowly but surely showing strength as it continues to drive forward through the addition of new gaming ventures like casino proposals, gambling and entertainment complexes, sports and entertainment events, and the recovery of business meetings and conventions which is helping to fill hotels and restaurants with guests and tourists.

“I think we’re stabilizing somewhat in our gaming,” remarked Don Marrandino. Marrandino is the president of Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos owned by Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp.“Boardwalk Hall was busier than it has ever been,” Marrandino said. “We had the A-10 basketball tournament, wrestling, hockey and the buildup to the rodeo. There were three weekends that were booked. Our hotel occupancy was good, as well as our cash business in the hotels and restaurants.” Marrandino pointed to this list of activities as a sign that shows, sporting events and other festivities are starting to find their way back to Boardwalk Hill, Atlantic City main entertainment destination. The rodeo alone which was held last April 1-3 gathered some 18,000 spectators and gaming and tourist officials are hopeful that a return next year will continue to build the trend for Atlantic City’s tourism sector which is a heavy factor in determining the revenues posted by the gaming industry.

Marrandino stressed the importance of emphasizing non-gaming attractions as a means to attract more tourists into Atlantic City. The casinos alone, given the strength of the competition from neighboring states, will not be enough to sell Atlantic City as a destination. He adds the importance of the casino action being a supplement to an industry that the city can rally behind. The unified stance of the city and the state overall comes as Pennsylvania develops more muscle to compete with the once sole gaming attraction in the region. Pennsylvania now has 10 casinos and plans to add more should its residents agree to current proposals pending on the table. Numbers in Pennsylvania are also healthier compared to the Atlantic City report, posting a 7 percent increase in March to a record high $214.9 million for the state. Atlantic City’s slots on the other hand fell 5 percent to $196.3 million, yielding the torch to Pennsylvania for the very first time.

New Jersey maintains a healthy lead in the table games department posting $84.2 million in March despite a 10 percent drop from the previous month. Pennsylvania will report its March table games earning by next month; its February earnings totaled to $43.6 million. Spectrum Gaming vice president Harvey Perkins said that customers are finding it more convenient to gamble in their own states rather than making the drive to Atlantic City. Pennsylvania supplied Atlantic City with a significant pool of gaming patrons prior to the approval of legalized gaming in the state in 2006.

Despite the 31 consecutive months that Atlantic City has posted declining revenue, Harvey expressed optimism that it might finally be slowing down. “I look at this month as a decent month, although you’re never satisfied with being down,” he said. The tide may be finally turning for Atlantic City. We’ll know soon enough if it’s time for a rebound.

 

April 13, 2011

Canadian Provinces Show US How it's Done

After Washington, D.C. pulled off the news of the week by declaring it has passed a local measure that would bring online casino gaming to the Nation’s Capital, Canadian Provinces are looking to show beleaguered US states how it is done. To date, many US state legislatures have tried and failed to enact laws that would allow the intrastate gaming compliant with limitations imposed by federal laws. New Jersey, for one, managed to funnel an online poker bill out of the legislative gauntlet and into the table of Gov. Chris Christie, only to be vetoed on the grounds of unpopular mass support. The governor is instead insisting to have the measure pass a referendum that would allow voters to hold the fate in their hands.

Florida, California, Iowa, and even Hawaii are all in the thick of formulating their own online casino gambling bills and even Congress had a momentary stroke of inspiration based on Sen. Harry Reid’s proposal only to be knocked back by the impending threat of a government shutdown. Any U.S. state that would succeed in legislating such a measure would pioneer a new era of U.S. gaming that is sure to grow the measure by leaps and bounds but thus far, it’s proving unlikely that a state will be able to figure it out.

In Canada, things aren't looking as dismal. In fact, U.S. states can benefit from looking up North for inspiration as Canada points the way towards the goal. The unlikely poster-state is Saskatchewan, of all Canadian states. The province is currently deep in discussions for the creation of a unified online gaming framework not different from those in Ontario and British Columbia. It’s so simple, it can lead most lawmakers dumbfounded – “Create the laws and start taking advantage of a billion dollar industry.” There are many hiccups that have been preventing the U.S. from doing anything meaningful on the gaming front. For starters, Rep. John Campbell initiated a measure that seeks to regulate online poker throughout the nation only to be blocked by Conservatives in a vote that’s going to transcend party-line voting on gambling measures in Congress.

Odd as it is, Campbell is Republican, but instead will have to rely on rep. Frank Barney to mobilize the Democratic Party to see the bill through. That’s something that’s easier said than done given the Congress’ current priorities. At the state level, it’s more likely that a bill would be passed but not without intense scrutiny by persistent lobbyists and protesters who seek to serve their own agenda. In Canada, the work is done differently, not to mention, more simply. “Once one state jumps into the water, many others will likely follow,” says Gaming Analyst Steve Schwartz. “As has been the case in Canada, the first law change is always the toughest, then, after that, other states become comfortable with change.”

It is common knowledge that many citizens take to the security of their homes to play online games from European-based websites who are not profiting from a billion dollar global industry that remains unregulated in the U.S. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan has moved to resolve this issue of dollar flight – money spent by local residents at online gambling sites that are not regulated and taxed by the local government. Saskatchewan Corporation Minister Ken Cheveldayoff wants to keep things in perspective insisting that while some provinces are looking to close their own deals soon, Saskatchewan is only “studying the issue.”

“That means the province doesn't capture the revenue generated by online gaming in the province,” referring to the motivation behind the discussions but quickly adds, “We won't be a leader in this area but at the same time we'll have to look and see what's happening and be cognizant of it taking place in our province today. What troubles me is that the profits are leaving the province and can't be reinvested in the good activities that the gaming corporation does.” The news has many pro-gambling supporters excited. The more states, even those outside of the U.S. cave to the pressure of controlling revenues within their own borders, the more likely it is that lawmakers and constituents alike will decide on a viable solution to benefit from the gambling revenues in a near borderless industry. As to whether that happens sooner or later remains to be the big question.

 

April 12, 2011

Gambling Tax Reminders as IRS Deadline Looms

This might come as a surprise but if you won your March Madness pool, expect to be shelling some of those winnings for the IRS. Indeed, gaming winnings even of the pooling variety is taxable and the IRS is intent on collecting its share as the April 18 deadline for filing gaming winning taxes draws near. The IRS does not discriminate between big-league betting or small scale office bracket bets and one has to be careful in understanding the applicable laws in order to not evade tax payments and be charged later on. Here are a few important reminders when considering filing your gaming winnings in order to ensure that you’re reporting the right amount.

The IRS taxable income comes from the combined winnings for all gambling forms including sports bets – March Madness included, horse races, lottery tickets, casino games, and even large non-cash prizes like all-expense paid trips or even cars and house and lots. Even non-monetary “packages” as offered by casinos or hotels qualify as winnings and the value of the services availed for free should be included in the final calculation for total payouts.

There are likewise cutoffs for one-time big-time winnings that require declaration on your annual tax forms. For example, winning $600 on the state lottery or on the racetracks by betting on dog or horse races qualify for a declaration. The same can be said of wagers that have a payout 300 times of the original bet. Bingo and slot machine winnings in excess of $1,200 also qualify under this rule and so does keno winnings of $1,500 or greater. Reporting of these winnings should be accomplished using IRS Form W-2G which is specific to gambling declarations. Overall, Form 1040 governs all tax declarations for a taxpayer and must tally with W-2G in order to prevent unnecessary inquiries and spot audits.

A check-and-balance system under this method requires that the bettor also declares losses provided that the total amount is not greater than the amount of winnings to be declared. Says Mark Luscombe, the CCH Principal Federal Tax Analyst, it is necessary to be extremely detailed and provide transparent records of all transactions so one can successfully use tax laws to their advantage. “When reporting gambling wins and losses, you have to keep those numbers separate. You can't combine your win-loss totals and only report the difference – it really needs to be a clear record of everything you won and lost over the course of the year,” said Luscombe. The trick is to keep all the necessary documentation pertaining to gambling transactions in case you are demanded to present them whether through an audit or a formal setting. Keep all your receipts and printouts, even communication records on placed bets, as well as a personal tally of wins and losses so you know what’s coming in and going out. The diligent gambler will want to make sure that he keeps a personal track of how well he is doing so he knows when to stop and hold back.

In general, the CCH advices gamblers to keep the following records intact: Name and address of gambling establishment as well as the data of the activity, which games were played or where wagers were made, amount won or lost, credit card or debit card transaction receipts, ATM withdrawals, betting slips and ticket stubs. The state also claims its share of gambling tax winnings on top of the federal tax and this should not be forgotten. Always remember that the government is serious with its drive to collect taxes and given the tougher economy and the government spending on many fronts, it wouldn’t be surprising if the IRS tightens its belt and requires everyone to be diligent in their filing. Missed declarations can easily be audited, and even prosecuted if negligence is proven to have happened.

There is no excuse for not paying taxes and the argument of “I didn’t know this” does not apply with the IRS. Likewise, late or missed payments can only lead to penalties on top of the initial amount you owe to the government thereby unnecessary increasing your total. Always be wary of tax regulations and be sure you are one step ahead of the T-men in terms of declaration and record keeping.

 

April 11, 2011

Washington, D.C. First to Legalize Online Poker?

Leave it to D.C. to set the trend for online gaming; where multiple states have stumbled for a while in trying to enact legislation to authorize and regulate online poker, the Washington, D.C. city council quietly did their job to make the nation’s capital the first jurisdiction which legalizes online gaming. The announcement came out as a published article on the Wall Street Journal. “The city council approved a budget last year allowing the district’s lottery to operate a poker website accessible only inside district boundaries. City officials say the window for Congress to raise objections to the law was due to expire Thursday, allowing it to take effect.”

In the one year plus since the city council’s ruling, Washington, D.C. has not seen even one single operational machine but that could change fast real soon. With lawmakers busy in trying to agree on a working budget to prevent the first government shutdown since 1996, the challenge would probably not come. The city’s biggest question lies with the United States Justice Department and whether that agency will continue to sit on its hands as a poker site gets launched and legalized in the city. The department refused to issue a comment in response to the article. Said the article, , “The lottery hopes to have the poker system operating in a test run available in certain select spots, such as hotels, by the end of the yea. It could still be stymied, however, if the technology to keep out people from outside the district proves ineffective, or if Congress takes additional action.”

Other issues include perception by organizations and experts like the Poker Players Alliance through Executive Director John Pappas that the market in the District of Columbia is not large enough to sustain a viable and thriving online gaming enterprise. Pappas however said the move could help push federal and local state legislative bodies to quicken their stride in the effort to legalize internet poker. The fact that Capitol Hill is in Washington, D.C. makes it all the more urgent. A quick survey of the legislative landscape that has feverishly worked, and failed, on passing an online poker law include New Jersey, which was the first state legislature to pass a law only to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie and ordered to course the change through a statewide public voting. Said Christie, “If the Legislature believes that expanding online casino gambling outside of Atlantic City is in the best interests of the State of New Jersey, it should place the question on the ballot for the voters to decide.”

Other states in the middle of their own hurried frenzy over the issues are Iowa, Nevada, and California who are now looking to test pilot methods to ensure control and restriction for those that should be allowed to play. In Iowa, bill sponsor Jeff Danielson says he believes his online poker bill might be dragging its feet and is destined for a takedown in 2011. He says, “I just think people need a clearer picture of the evidence and I don’t think they’re ready in this session to legalize it. So we want to give them the best information possible as we go into next year.” In Nevada, the measure wasn’t given much attention until the final weeks prior to the annual spring break. The Nevada Assembly Committee held a hearing to discuss AB258 by Assemblyman William Horne which seeks to allow intrastate poker and has the rumored backing of PokerStars, the world’s biggest online poker site.

The Washington version hopes to capitalize on a budget provision that authorizes the city government to run a fantasy sports site. By current estimates, the earnings number is expected to be come in at $4.3 million per year. An accompanying poll by the Wall Street Journal determined that 45 percent of voters said “None at all” to the question, “Intrastate, interstate, none at all – What forms of gambling should be legal?” A 12 percent minority chose “intrastate” while the remaining 43 percent want an interstate solution to the proposal. Whether Washington, D.C. finally pulls it off or not still remains to be seen. States have failed for big and obvious reasons, but perhaps the smaller jurisdiction within the city should allow for a better approach to management of gaming operations.

 

April 10, 2011

Rock Ohio Caesars to Acquire Ritz-Carlton Cleveland

The expected impact of opening a new gaming facility in Cleveland is strong enough that developers are already looking to secure an existing hotel facility as a complement to their new downtown casino. That hotel is the Ritz-Carlton, currently owned by Forest City Enterprises and the group of Dan Gilbert who is owns the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Basketball Team and heads the development of Cleveland’s new attraction. The Ritz-Carlton has 206 rooms in total and is a short walk from the future gaming hall. The acquisition was confirmed by an announcement from Rock Ohio Caesars via a spokeswoman. It was not immediately clear however what the specific agreement was pertaining to an option or an actual purchase. The price of the buy nor the length of an option were not discussed in any way.

“We have an option,” said Jennifer Kulczycki, the spokeswoman for the joint venture between Gilbert's Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment Corp. “Clearly the proximity is good to the casino, but there's plenty of time to review it and understand whether it makes good business sense to add it to the project.” Rock Ohio Caesars is remodeling the old Higbee Building to make it look like the $350 million gaming hall that its developers envisioned it to be. Opening is projected for next year and will only be the first step in a grand plan that will see the whole complex expand into a 16-acre gambling destination for the Midwest. Gilbert, for all misfortunes befalling his Cleveland Cavaliers, has a strong support base in Cleveland after promising to not build a new hotel to complement the casino. His stance on that issue gained significant voting support when the referendum for the new casino rolled in. A new hotel was expected to dilute local businesses and was not perceived as a necessity for the city of Cleveland.

Buying the Ritz was a significantly more palatable option for all parties involved. It is also expected to boost the attraction of the new casino without violating Gilbert’s commitment to Cleveland locals. “They can control their inventory for the casino,” said David Sangree, president of the Hotel & Leisure Advisors consulting firm based out of Lakewood. “Casinos will frequently have these clubs where they will provide complimentary accommodations for their high rollers.” Adds those who have been in the hotel business in Cleveland long enough to project trends, the Ritz will not be enough to support the needs of gaming patrons and most likely requires additional partnerships with existing hotels to soundly cater to the market.

Assessment by the Cuyahoga County Advisor pegs the price of the Ritz at a little over $27 million, however there had already been a case in 2009 when a Forest City subsidiary has requested for that value to be reduced by as much as 60 percent following property tax considerations in 2009. The case is still under appeals and other organizations are arguing the merit of that request. Rock Ohio Caesars also has an option on the Ritz but has not commented on what it plans to do with that. “Cleveland is, from a hospitality perspective, coming out from the bottom of a cycle,” says Eric Belfrage, the vice president with CB Richard Ellis Hotels in Columbus. “The fact that the casino is a go, and with the medical mart and convention center, there are a couple of dynamics that are going to really revitalize the central business district there.”

Forest City is in the midst of liquidating some of its assets by selling of hotels and other real estate portfolio that includes shopping centers, apartments, offices and other mixed up projects. Its last transaction was the Charleston Marriot in Charleston, Virginia which was sold for $25.5 million and 2 months prior that also sold the Coutyard by Marriot – and a partner parking garage – at the Millender Center in Detroit. As of this writing, the remaining Forest City properties are the Ritz-Carlton in Cleveland and two Pittsburg hotels. “Nothing is signed yet, but if Mr. Gilbert acquires the property, the Ritz-Carlton is looking forward to working with him,” said Kelly Williams, the public relations coordinator for Ritz-Carlton.

 

April 9, 2011

Michigan’s Proposed Seven Casinos Face Tough Battles Ahead

Currently, only two casino proposals in Lansing, Michigan remain active. For now, the proposals are still in the initial changes but if everything goes according to plan, Lansing could be voting to choose one out of the two to complete six other new facilities across the state. The timetable pegs the critical referendum vote by 2012; in the parlance of casino planning, that’s not exactly a lenient deadline. The investors are developer Tony Gray and David Tomby who have once tried to build a casino at Cobo Hall four years ago. They dubbed that project the Xanadu Plan! It didn’t pan out as planned. Now Gray and Tomby are coming up with a much bolder marketing plan – Michigan is Yours! The idea is to restrict gambling spending within Michigan so that the state can benefit from its own private cash reserves. Thus far, musical artist Morris Day and radio host John Mason have pitched in to help raise more than 400,000 signatures in support of the campaign by October 1 of this year.

The idea was taken from Ted O’Dell and the Lansing Job Coalition’s previous initiative to raise signatures that would put the idea of an Indian-run casino on an August primary ballot. This time around, O’Dell is ditching the model used in the justification, lobbying and then construction of the Firekeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan. To get that project going the tribe had to acquire land first before going through the casino application and approval process. This time around, O’Dell wants a much simpler but more demanding process. A provision in the 2004 state constitution calls for a corporate gaming operation proposal to pass through two elections, one at the state level and another at the local level. Gray and Tomby, with O’Dell’s help want to go back to the Constitution for an exemption for C-My-Casino, Inc.

The plan is to build it in Romulus where out-of-state gamblers are common because of its proximity to the Detroit Metro Airport. However, there is also great potential in other locations such as Grand Rapids, Harbor, Benton, Saginaw, Detroit, Mount Clemens, and Lansing. There are big questions surrounding the Lansing proposal. First off, there was no indication given as to who will build the facility. This was not immediately available when C-My-Casino launched its first press conference; however, there was quick assurance that the developer would be carefully selected and that the Lansing City Council would be tabbed to sign-off on any activities pertaining to land use.

C-My-Casino needs 322,609 to get the necessary support to put the measure on the November 12 ballot. Given its serious approach to the proceedings this year, there is no reason for the group to not close the deal. The company has already employed the services of a professional signature-gathering firm and is confident it has the resources necessary to put those signatures on paper. The true challenge will happen next year when the real votes are going to be cast. Precedence isn’t on C-My-Casino’s side; in 2004, $9 million was spent by the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe from Mt. Pleasant and another $8.3 million by the MGM Grand simply to resist the authorization of slot machines into racetracks. The combined $19 million in spending, mostly on TV ads, enters the state’s record books as the most expensive ballot campaign. It was aptly named “Let Voters Decide.”

C-My-Casino could face potentially the same level of organized resistance. The Saginaw Chippewa tribe is rich enough to throw everything it has at preventing any potential competitor from snatching even the tiniest share of the market piece pie. Michigan is Yours! hopes that the allure of seven new facilities will be enough to attract enough external investors to fight off the Saginaw and MGM resistance. After that, the search for a prime location gets tougher. Detroit will most likely resist the added competition. Up north and the to West aren’t any better either. Lansing residents are not certain they want a casino and because the Firekeepers is only a short drive away, that could provide even more reason not to want one. And then, there are smaller players like Soaring Eagle in the north and an Indian-run casino out west at Gun Lake.

 

April 8, 2011

Texas Deep in More Expanded Gambling Debate

Texas senators are treading all old, familiar arguments and rallying support for a new set of gambling legislation in the lone star state. Whether the results are different this time still remains to be seen. Senators Jeff Wentworth and Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) spoke to hundreds of pro-gambling rallyists gathered in from of the State Capitol early this week enjoining them to continue lobbying for a new stance on gambling legislation that could help keep billions of dollars in gambling taxes that are currently going to the pockets of other states. “Texans spend $2.4 billion a year outside of Texas,” said Hinojosa alluding to the strength of gambling markets in neighboring states like Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico. Estimates currently identify Texans as one of the primary demographic that’s fueling the boom in other states partly because of the Texas Legislature’s inability to build a strong gambling foundation within its borders. “It's money that should stay in Texas. We need that money.”, Hinojosa adds.

Sen. Wentworth (R-San Antonio) promptly explained the severity of the Texas financial deficit. “For a few people who are not aware, Texas is facing a fiscal crisis.” The number currently stands at $27 billion for the next two years. There is little to zero support that can be expected from an also struggle federal government hence are left on their own to be creative with income generating projects. Hinojosa teamed up with Wentworth to submit Senate Bill 1118 which seeks to allow video lottery terminals in racetracks and also in Indian casinos. There are also other measures that seek to further expand gambling operations for taxation purposes, most notably the proposed creation of a Texas gaming commission to properly regulate gaming operations in the state.

Still, Texas remains to be a tough-out for gambling legislation and SB 1118 will most likely head down that path if gambling supporters cannot muster the necessary votes to get it through the legislature. The primary roadblock is the Senate State Affairs Committee headed Sen. by Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock). “It is a fundamental issue for a lot of members and it doesn't take a hearing to change those minds,” explained Duncan of the nine-member panel’s voting preferences. Duncan was quick to add that given the precedence, it’s unlikely that SB 1118 will have the support of majority of the committee members so the bill will not likely reach a full Senate vote. In the event that it does, there’s also a slim chance the Senate will vote to approval the bill.

“It is not the best use of the members’ time,” added Duncan referring to his role as chairman which is to funnel favored bills as swiftly through the legislative gauntlet as possible so they can be implemented while screening those that are not likely to gain any support from committee members. “If there is not enough support for a bill, why go through the motions knowing that it is headed for defeat.” The news is finding favor among gambling protesters like Rob Kohler. “The state of Texas has heard those arguments before,” he said. Kohler works as a consultant for the Christian Life Commission and has ties to the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Kohler, together with many other anti-gambling personalities and organizations, points to the failure of the Texas Lottery in delivering on its promise to finance education in the state. The lottery was approved in 1991 by then Governor Ann Richards and the results have not been as rosy as promised.

With every supporter and detractor comes somebody who sits on the fence carefully weighing the arguments. Says Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), video lottery terminals warrant some consideration. “We already have them at racetracks. There is also a desire to put it to the voters.” Another headache for pro-gambling supporters is the constitutional provision that requires all gambling legislation to go through a constitutional amendment via a statewide referendum. The amendments will have to be endorsed by the legislature before they can get to the people. At the state level, a legislative endorsement means the proposal has to get 2/3 of the available House and Senate votes. That translates to 100 out of 150 representatives and 21 of 31 senators to support the measure.

 

April 7, 2011

Caesars Windsor and CAW Comes Up With Tentative Agreement

Talks between Caesars Windsor and the CAW Local 444 union of casino workers reached a well received end Sunday as the company and union officials reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will govern future dealings between Caesars Windsor and its employees moving forward. The development comes after weeks of intense negotiations that began in early January. The tentative agreement came right on time as the previous CBA expired at midnight on Sunday. "In the past at the casino, we fought about issues. [Today] casino management are finally willing to work with us and resolve the issues instead of putting up roadblocks," said union president Rick Laporte shortly after the tentative agreement was declared to be in place.

Laporte quickly added that the details of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement cannot be made public until ratification meetings and a voting process is completed; only after that can the contract be formalized via a contract signing process in the presence of a lawyer. The meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, from 1pm to 5 pm, at the Caboto Club. The hold-up for the agreement pertained to work-related issues as well as managing workloads enough for workers to find a semblance of balance after work hours. There was no definitive remark from Laporte indicating that these concerns have been conclusively addressed, however he was keen to say that the union members will vote in the affirmative.

“We saw a lot of our senior members, who had started at the casino 15 years ago, not able to exercise their true seniority rights. Many were forced to go from a full-time job into a part-time position. Obviously, the prime time at the casino is the weekend and some of the workers were forced to lie in order to get the night off to go to a wedding,” said Laporte referring to the fact that some members have not had a weekend off since they started working for Caesars Windsor. The new agreement the casino workers are aiming for would put heavy emphasis on life balance. The history between the casino and union members is a long and convoluted one. There have been many strikes since the facility’s opening in 1995. In the last contract negotiations – the one that expired Sunday – workers gave their yes to a Collective Bargaining Agreement that allowed for zero raises in the first two years and a 30-cent raise for 2010.

More than 2,700 of Caesar Windsor’s 3,000 employees are governed by the agreements. “A happy worker is a productive worker and, at the end of the day, I think we are going to see some very positive change within the casino,” remarked Laporte. He was also quick to credit the support of new casino vice president for human resources Francis Hartman who represented Caesar Windsor during the negotiations. “She just has a different way in dealing with labor relations and I think that will go a long way,” remarked Laporte when asked about Hartman’s approach to the meetings. He adds that the improved relationship between the two parties is paving for smoother and better negotiations that the one in previous years. Hartman was not immediately available for comment.

Laporte hopes that the new agreement will immediately be ratified so a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be in place to govern continuous casino operations for the Caesars Windsor. Until then, there is no assurance that the work done for all the meetings will eventually pay off with a contract that every one can agree on. Laporte and 2,700 other members are keeping their fingers crossed. In a tough economy, that’s the only choice they have. The workers are putting their employment on the line as in the current environment, there really isn't much choice. The tentative agreement will remain only until a final decision could be ratified. Until then, the casino workers are hopeful that the tentative agreement will usher in a new and better era. While exact details regarding the tentative agreement have not been released, Laporte is confident that it will be able to produce the necessary number of votes in order to be ratified.

 

April 6, 2011

Owner Charged with Illegal Sweepstakes to Take State’s Offered Deal

The crackdown for Internet sweepstakes continues but things could be finally letting up for the better. Doreen Marceau, charged with a misdemeanor count for improperly advertising Internet sweepstakes she offered in her Internet Café, will accept the state’s offer to drop felony gambling charges in exchange for pleading no contest to the charge. She will be fined $1,000 and will be free to walk away from the whole thing, explained her attorney Adam Regar. The development follows an 18-month long case which started when Mayor Jon Mazziotti called the Palm Bay police to get the arrest and necessary paperwork for a court charge in motion. Shortly before the call, Mayor Mazziotti was known to have visited the Internet facility together with John Cofhlin who owns Palm Bay’s only adult video arcades during the time of the incident.

The turn of events was made available through public records including audiotapes from the Brevard Country State Attorney’s Office. The requesting party was the Florida Today. Mayor Mazziotti quickly negated any suggestion of wrongdoing or abuse. Det. Greg Guillette quickly came in to investigate whether the mayor was using his authority and power for his own benefit by intimidating the Marceaus. "He can't use his position to strong-arm business owners," Guillette told Doreen in a December 2009 phone call. Guillette also immediately informed the Marceaus that the FBI will be in contact to clarify the situation. In the same way, Guillete’s interest in the case remains a puzzle that has not been answered. There is currently no existing documentation to show how the investigation progressed or what motivated Guillette to jump into the forray shortly after the Doreen was ordered arrested. FBI agent Michael Leverock comments, "As you can appreciate, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of any possible ongoing investigation, particularly when it comes to public officials."

Pertaining to the actual case involving Doreen Marceau, the office of the State Attorney has already requested the services of a gaming expert to determine if the Marceau’s were indeed offering games of chance that are illegal under Florida law. The agent went undercover to ensure that there was no cover-up during the investigation. The recommendations of the agent lead to Guillette declaring the Marceau facilities to be seized then closed. Up to $1,500 in bank money was also frozen after a County judge in Brevard issued a search warrant for the property. Marceau quickly responded by saying she was operating a business that was legally recognized by authorities. She was also in compliance with other regulations such as zoning requirements, and even those that govern sweepstakes-style games played on computers.

Guillete argued that the illegality stemmed from the fact that she was giving away cash prizes and that the games were inter-state in nature. "I truly believe that you think it's legal," as revealed in the taped discussion between Guillette and Marceau. "I know you're a law-abiding citizen and a good person, that's why I'm not taking you to jail." Shortly after, the episode involving Mayor Mazziotti erupted. Doreen’s husband confessed to Guillette that he was confronted by Mazziotti, Cofhlin and a third man while on his way to opening the shop. He was told by Cofhlin to cease handing flyers in the Pirate’s Gold parking lot, one of the facilities that Cofhlin owns. Ater having been asked by Septimus Silas, Doreen’s husband, why he was there, Mazziotti answered, “I know it's gambling, it's illegal and something is going to be done.” Mazziotti denies knowing beforehand why Cofhlin took him to the shop.

The confusion arises from Florida’s 40-year old law on games and promotions that authorize businesses to offer games with a luck component for marketing reasons. Argues Kelly Mathis, the lawyer representing Marceau, "She was operating an Internet center, selling Internet access time and marketing that with a sweepstakes, much the same way Coke and McDonald's use them to market their product." Mathis already has a precedent in Allied Veterans, another client which 38 internet cafes around Florida. With Allied’s help, Palm Bay now has a new ordinance governing the operation of internet cafes. "I just want to run my little business, provide Internet and copy services. It's not gambling." Marceau adds The plea bargain will handle much of that story.

 

April 5, 2011

Casino Slots Payout Drop Below 90 Percent in Pennsylvania

In southwestern Pennsylvania, a drop in payouts have been documented in two specific casinos. The first one is the Rivers Casino on North Shore and the second is The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County. According to data from the Pennsylvania Gaming Board, slots payout for these two facilities have dropped below 90 percent in February making the machines more profitable for the owners but of higher risks to playing clients. At Meadows Racetrack, a precedent has been set in January 2011 when payouts dropped to 88.99 percent; for February, that number dropped even further to 89.93 percent. The percentages refer to how much gamers win for every dollar wagered, theoretically speaking of course. Gamblers are taking home 89.93 cents in February for every dollar they shell out.

At Rivers Casino, this is the first documented instance of payout numbers falling under the expected 90 percent threshold. February 2011 numbers were at 89.77 percent from a previous high of 91.84 percent in October 2009, three months after the facility first opened. Statewide, Rivers Casino payouts were second lowest to the Harrah’s Chester facility which posted an 89.44 percent rate for February 2011. The state average is 90.2 percent in January and 90.08 percent in February. As with the observed case for Rivers Casino, the payout at The Meadows has also been steadily decreasing from a high of 91.98 percent during the facility’s first month. Overall, six out of 10 casinos in Pennsylvania posted slot machine payouts lower than 90 percent for February, ranging from the 89.44 percent at Harrah Chester to 89.9 percent in other facilities

According to state law passed to protect consumers from unfair gaming practices by casino operators, slot machines should never go below an 85 percent payout rate. The statewide and national averages, however,are dictated by machine design that allows manufacturers to play with the odds for released machines. Still, the federal government has strict regulations for the fairness of these machines starting with the payout rate. In a statement released by officials from Rivers and The Meadows, the main culprit for the drop is the increase in live table games for both facilities beginning in July of last year. As a result, both casinos decided to cut back on the number of electronic table games to balance the playing odds and options for players. Under state law, electronic table games are considered to be slot machines but have inherently higher payout rates than standard offerings.

At Rivers, electronic table games saw a 10 unit reduction from 16 to 6 and the seats from 80 to 30. At the Meadows, electronic table games went from 12 units to 3 with corresponding reduction in seats from 60 to 15. Dave La Torre, spokesman for The Meadows, said that payout for electronic table games were as high as 99 percent in some cases. "It's a big reason," Mr. La Torre said. "When you take 45 of your highest payout machines off the floor due to inactivity, that certainly has an impact." Corey Plummer, Vice President for Gaming at Rivers was quick to add that there was no change in gaming behavior among patrons following the reduction payout percentages or the slashing of high paying electronic table games. Plummer added that gamblers who specialize on slots are actually not winning more or less than the usual average and there was no effort on the casino’s part to tweak the machines to deliver a lower payout.

Rivers posted increased revenues in February relative to the “average daily win” per slot. The range was from $251.38 to $308.27, certainly not within the normal posted numbers for slots at the casino. Russ Companion from Natrona Heights, counters by saying "I don't believe it." Russ plays slot machines at the casino twice a week. "I just think they got you sucked in and you're going to come down. You're addicted." Added another patron from West Mifflin, "What I know, I know. I know they're paying less and it's few and far between." The woman refused to be named but added "Absolutely, they're not paying out as much. The same thing down at The Meadows."

 

April 4, 2011

Casino Stumbles on Loan Payments

Just like any other gamble that can turn a profit or burn a hole through your pocket, the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians are finding out the hard way that a recession isn’t the best ally when growing a business. In 2008, the group opened a $530 million worth casino facility that would have yielded more money than the tribe could have ever wanted. Instead, it’s facing the ire of hounding investors led by casino operator Lakes Entertainment Inc. who are seeking to get their money back, with interest. The recession, prolonged as it is, has dampened projected growth of the Red Hawk Casino and fierce competition from Thunder Valley Casino Resort isn’t helping other. Now, the payment schedules on loans have backed up and are due for a fiasco. "The economy [of Northern California] continues to be one of the worst in the country, and the Red Hawk Casino continues to feel its effects," said Lakes' CEO Lyle Berman. As a result, the Minneapolis-based company has cut the value of Red Hawk loans on its books by $21 million.

Ken Adams, a gambling consultant based out of Reno, Nevada openly wonders why such an investment was permitted to grow despite the remoteness of the proposed location, off of Highway 50 between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. Compared to the accessibility of Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, it’s not surprising how Red Hawk could be at such a disadvantage. In addition, Thunder Valley Casino just put up a 300-room hotel with added gambling space that is sure to squeeze every last drop out of Red Hawk. Red Hawk does not have a hotel facility. As a result, the demographics of its customers are from within 30 miles of the facility, not exactly a promising geographic fact to peg a business to.

Aside from the fact that customers might still be on belt tightening measures, food and gas prices are also compromising the casino’s ability to earn. Said Adams, "When gas costs a third more than it used to and their (customers’) food costs a third more than it used to, they have less to spend." Tim Cope, the Chief Financial Officer for Lakes said that another $16 million in written off loans has been added to the $21 million and is primarily due to problems with intangible assets that have no means of being liquidated. The only loan the tribe is doing fine thus far are those raised from bonds used in the casino’s construction as well as procuring fixtures and equipment.

Cope, however, painted a rosier picture than what’s expected. He adds that the casino is more than certain to resume loan payments soon. Cope also revealed that the $28.1 million loss for Lakes in 2010 was primarily due to the write-off. Lakes, in total, reported a $1.07 per share loss versus a net profit of $2.4 million from the same period last year. Consider Red Hawk’s circumstances: it opened in December 2008 amid the uproar of a flailing economy. The expected $250 million yearly revenue for the El Dorado County facility was nowhere to be found, not even with more than 2,100 slots to boost its reputation.

A management overhaul soon happened with longtime Reno gambling executive Tracy Mimno assuming the general manager position. The Shingle Springs Band Miwok Indians now looks to Mimno for assurance as he tries to steer clear of more perilous positions given the slow recovery. The tribe has more than 500 members and is federally recognized with its ancestry traced to the Maidu, Miwok and Nisenan tribes in the Central Valley. Thus far, the tribe receives a $500,000 monthly fee from Lakes on top of a share in revenues. That income goes into funding health care, education, housing and social services programs for tribe constituents. The meager amount that is left is split between tribe members.

Further, the casino is also expected to cover social impacts for El Dorado County brought about by the casino’s construction. That was part of the agreement between Red Hawk and El Dorado which saw the tribe commit to $192 million in total payments over a 20 year period. That money was expected to finance highway projects, police services and other related needs by the community. The best news thus far: the casino remains current on all its community payments totaling $8.2 million last year.

 

April 3, 2011

Nevada Leads the Charge in the Online Poker Race

The history of states taking initiative over the federal government for issues that are of grave consequence to local communities is taking another shape in the form of the legalization of internet poker. Reminiscent of the issues and debates surrounding immigration law, medical marijuana use and many others, the state legislatures are now taking a direct stance at enacting laws that would make intrastate poker a reality. Leading the charge are California, Nevada, Iowa, Florida, and New Jersey which would have been the first state to have an online gambling law had Gov. Chris Christie not vetoed a measure passed by New Jersey’s full House and Senate.

But more to the issue; there are now many forms of legislation in various stages of construction, review, and deliberation that are looking to bring poker into the homes of many gambling patrons. Nevada is front and center with a bill by Assemblyman William Horne (D-Las Vegas) written as a means to provide more high-tech jobs for local residents as well as regulation and taxation to raise another $60 million to help fill Las Vegas’ fast dwindling state coffers. "I just don't think Nevada has to sit back and wait for the federal government to get it done," explained Horne. "I've got 13.6 percent unemployment. I don't have the luxury of waiting to see if the feds are going to get it done. We've seen how contentious things are in D.C."

The Federal government is also looking to change existing laws on the matter but the states are finding it hard to rely upon the vagaries of national politics and a largely partisan Congress who wouldn’t have second thoughts rebuffing a good measure for the purpose of political gain. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has asked Assemblyman Horne multiple times only to be rejected because of the uncertainties surrounding the federal bills on the matter. States who have taken the matter into their own hands include California which has two bills pending at the Senate and touts those bills to produce 1,100 jobs and up to $81 million in tax revenues; Florida which estimates up to $40 million in added revenues as purported in the bill by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), and the now defunct New Jersey bill which got the boot by Gov. Christie. Iowa is also deep into discussion for online poker while Hawaii is just starting to ramp up legislative processes to cash in on the action.

The U.S. Congress has passed multiple laws to limit the operation of online gambling sites. The most recent is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 which prohibited banks and financial institutions from dealing with online gambling companies. Even the act of allowing financial transactions to companies that can be used to pay for wagers online was considered illegal. Another law was the Interstate Wire Act which limits potential online poker laws to within the confines of a state. These laws, in combination, has reduced the online poker scene to nothing more than a tumble and heap of companies with different policies and unregulated operations.

Congress had a nationwide measure last December sponsored by Sen. Reid but it failed to advance past the Senate and was never endorsed to the House for validation. With the Republicans now the dominant party in the House, chances of a new legislation on the matter are dimmed even more although last week, a measure was introduced across party lines to allow online sites to obtain U.S. licenses and operate in the U.S.

In Nevada, the chances are better for the first domino to fall. Nevada has always been at the forefront of the gambling revolution and time and again, it has set precedence over what would eventually become gambling norms across the country. "Nevada matters because if Nevada regulators, which have the longest history of regulating gaming in the U.S., say it's something that can and should be regulated, it undercuts a lot of the arguments that Internet gaming can't be regulated," said Pappas. It remains to be seen, however, whether Horne’s bill will gain the necessary support from other groups. There is a long and colored history of Indian casinos opposing expanded gambling to tracks, and that can spill over to casinos themselves resisting the push for online games.

 

April 2, 2011

EU Seeks Harmonized Rules to Advance Online Gaming within Internal Market

The open-market policy for Europe is creating new challenges for the online gaming market, most notably the need to remove various and conflicting jurisprudence regarding rules of implementation. The continent is looking towards creating a definitive internal market policy that would apply to all member countries and make it easier for companies and operators to cross borders without switching gears. In the wake of the US' suddenly stronger push for regulated online gaming, the European Commission is finding it necessary to pull its act together, literally.

A number of issues are gaining wide attention in the debate creating the need to create a baseline for legislation to work from. As a response, the European Commission issued a Green Paper on March 24 which sought to poll stakeholders and industry experts on regulations so that a common ground can be found. The pool consisted of 51 questions and was entitled On-line Gambling in the Internal Market, referring to the one market initiative currently in effect for the continent.

Still, a lot of work remains to be done for the European Commission. First off, it needs to get the support of the online gaming associations who think much more caution is required in approaching the issue. The Commission touts an open, free, and unbiased approach to the consultation but significant concerns still loom; for example the Remote Gambling Association wants the commission to clarify whether existing infringement procedures against member states would be eliminated during the consultation process. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) on the other hand wants the process to move as swiftly as possible fearing that further fragmentation of the industry can only lead to more concerns and a weakening of customer support in general. “The internal market is arguably the greatest achievement of the EU”, says Sigrid Ligné, EGBA Secretary General. “Can the European Commission really ignore a sector that provides high-level e-commerce jobs, that provides innovation and technology?”

Contrary to the commission’s purported purpose of advancing the internal market strategy for the Union, many gambling players think the current policies are also furthering market fragmentation. EGBA agrees that a comprehensive and unified approach to the gambling phenomenon, including a set of legislation that can be implemented in all member states is the necessary tool to drive improvement. Ligné dubs it the need for harmonization and would require a combination of consumer protection and fraud prevention policies to strengthen the economic position of the industry across all segments of society.

The industry earnings report predicts that a rise in online gambling revenues in the coming years is expected to bring the total earnings number to €12.5 billion representing 13% of the whole gambling pie. To date, that number stands at €6 billion, around 7.5% of total industry earnings, and is attributable to the 15,000 gambling websites in Europe. The Commission ever argues that the total stakes involved are actually nine times higher than that number although these are only statistical estimates with no actual means for verification. A large chunk could be from countries who prohibit online gaming – Poland, Germany and others – who do not have concise earnings reporting but are more than expected to contribute their own share. Germany, for example is the Europe’s second biggest online gaming market despite the prohibition.

Ligné further said that national laws are often at odds with European laws creating confusion that only derails the system. For example, Belgium grants licenses to organizations and companies with a previous license which contradicts EU policies; the same can be said of France where the operations minimum is pegged at €8.7m, a number higher than the EU limit and is prohibitive for new players. “Often, people shy away from France because of this”, she says, while Germany, where there is reform of the market, the country “should get clear guidelines on how to carry out these reforms,” said Ligné.

Among the models considered for harmonization are the issuance of licenses within a set framework and a distinctly fragmented and nationalized marketplace. The second model gives rise to the infringement issues by member states which is becoming a focal point in the discussion. “The Green Paper should under no circumstances cause the Commission to freeze pending or avoid opening new infringement cases against national regulations that are in violation of the Treaty”, adds Ligné.

 

April 1, 2011

Federal Government Moves to Legalize Nationwide Online Gaming

With debate erupting in various states over the potential legalization of online gambling, the U.S. Congress is taking up the issue to see if a nationwide approach would gain more acceptance compared to the piecemeal solution that states are proposing. The new measure, introduced by Rep. John Campbell (R-California) together with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), and Rep Peter King (R-New York) is seeking to legalize and regulate online gambling. The bill is known as the Internet Gambling regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act which is drawing parallels to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) introduced last year.

The parallels extend beyond just the wording of the bill as it also seeks to create major amendments to the UIGEA in order to make it more suitable for current times. First off, the UIGEA prohibits the transfer to money by U.S. financial institutions to offshore gambling sites and to online payment services that are used by those websites. In response, most of non-U.S. online casino websites have opted to stop servicing the American market. With the new bill, regulation is the tone of the season, not prohibition. The bill seeks to create a framework with which internet gambling operations can continue without being detrimental or harmful to society as argued in the previous supporting statements for UIGEA. In this version, the law would provide safeguards to allow gambling sites to register with the U.S. Internet gaming regulators and get a license to operate in the U.S. market. The Department of Treasury is the agency tasked to issue the licenses.

Among the requirements in applying for a license are a substantial U.S. presence and employee demographic requirements with at least 50 percent of company employees to be a resident or a citizen of the United States. After being issued a license, companies are then required to comply with safeguards like the creation of systems to prevent money laundering, fraud, underage gambling, and safety nets against problem gambling. Companies are also prohibited from using online advertising schemes that target underage or problem gamblers, not allow the use of credit cards for online gaming, exempt sports betting from the list of covered games, implement loss limits to prevent runaway gaming losses, and exclude wagers who voluntarily submit themselves to an exclusion list.

The bill eyes both domestic and foreign operators in scope and reach. "Clearly, Americans want to gamble on the Internet, and policymakers need to provide both the freedom to do so, as well as ensure that appropriate consumer protections are in place," said Campbell referring to the several discussions at the state level for the legalization and regulation of online gaming. According to sponsors, the bill will serve as a measure to prevent Americans from being abused by unregulated gaming facilities. The bill will also provide extra federal revenues via licensing fees and other regulatory payments as defined by the Department of Treasury. Local lawmakers are wary of the federal solution since in most cases, a nationwide approach would most likely nullify the efforts at the state level. This early, analysts are projecting the decrease in the submission of similar proposals in legislative houses across the country that are yet to start their debates on online gaming and regulation.

Still, for the many that are yet to jump on the online gaming bandwagon, pioneer states like New Jersey, Iowa and California are already deep into discussions regarding the matter. In New Jersey, the first state to have passed an online gaming bill only to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, reactions are mixed pertaining to the passing of a federal legislation. Supporters are optimistic that what would have been will finally be made possible by the Federal government; anti-gambling protesters, relying on the strength of a local survey showing that many of New Jersey are against online gaming, do not want a federal action to nullify a local sentiment.

With New Jersey’s failure to pass the bill, Iowa, Florida, Nevada and California are hot on the heels of being the first state to do so. California’s version, in particular, calls for legalizing online gabling forms aside from internet poker. The new bill is expecting strong opposition from the House Financial Services Committee that is strongly opposed to the legalization and regulation of online casino gambling.

 

March 31, 2011

Court Shuts Down Vanderbilt Casino

In a show of good will and compliance to the law, the Bay Mills Indian Community (BMIC) is closing down the doors of its Vanderbilt casino following the decision of a federal court to shut down gaming operations. In an email sent by James Nye, spokesperson for the Little Traverse Bay of Odawa Indians who represents the group that openly opposed the opening of the Vanderbilt facility in November of last year, the court order was summarized as declaring a Preliminary Injunction which orders the company to cease gaming operations until an issue pertaining to the land on which the casino is built, is settled.

The Attorney General’s office through press secretary John Sellek was positive in its response saying the court decision only served to validate what the Attorney General’s position has been all along, that the casino operated without proper legal support. Said Sellek, “The Attorney General is pleased that the court approves that Bay Mills is operating illegally and this bodes well for our court case against the tribe.” So far, BMIC has not issued a statement in response to the court decision by Federal Judge Maloney. The conflict stems from Odawa’s filing of a court case to stop gaming operations at Vanderbilt Casino. The source of contention is the classification of the land on which the casino is located; casino officials through BMIC chairman Jeff Parker maintain that they are sitting on a land that qualifies under the Indian land classification while the Odawa tribe opposes this contention. The Attorney General’s office sides with the Odawa tribe on the issue.

Odawa tribal chairman Ken Harrington exclaimed that he and his tribe have been really pleased with the court's decision to issue a preliminary injunction on the construction of the casino. “This is a happy day for us.”, he said. The tribe also praised the swift action of Judge Maloney who immediately called a hearing to settle the issue after which the current ruling was issued. By initial estimates, the tribe expected the issue to be dragged up to two years or more as set by precedent from similar types of conflict. Adds Harrington, “We didn’t want it to stay open while it is still pending and so yes, we are pleased that the preliminary injunction was ordered.”

On the other hand, Vanderbilt is expecting to feel the impacts of closing the facility despite its short operation time. Village manager Elizabeth Haus says Vanderbilt has moved to add $10,000 in new expenses from expected profits for casino tax payments and the preliminary injunction will certainly take that money away. Haus expressed dismay while calling for another hearing to reorder the budget and implement it as the fiscal year opens on April 1. Other businesses are also disappointed at the ruling primarily due to the loss of benefits that the casino brought with it. “What (BMIC) is doing is right. I’m ready to fight with them,” said Jim Ormsbee, owner of the Elk Horn Grill, which is contract with the casino to serve specials twice a day. The meager $100 in additional earnings from casino services is keeping Ormsbee’s business afloat and a cancellation of permit to operate will certainly not help.

Pertaining to the growth of gambling which helped fuel the city’s rise, Phil Tobin, the assemblyman that authored the 1931 gambling bill said, “I was just plumb sick and tired of seeing gambling going on all over the state and the payoffs being made everywhere. Some of those tinhorn cops were collecting 50 bucks a month for allowing it. Also, the damn state was broke and we needed the money.” From there, gambling grew like a firestorm. Perhaps today's Vegas can use a few tips from it's own past. With tough times still around, another shot in the arm wouldn’t hurt to enliven the Vegas scenery again.

 

 

March 30, 2011

A Look-back at Las Vegas 80 Years Ago

The adage “history repeats itself” is ringing loud and clear in the desert. Eighty years ago, in March 1931, Las Vegas saw a failing economy shortly after the Great Depression, its two main industries were slow to post a rebound and government stimulus packages were doing little to boost economic performance. The similarities between March 1931 and March 2011 are so uncanny it’s hard not to pause and take notice. At least, that’s the bad part of the story. Now, the good part: could theactions that spurred growth post-1931 hold promise for 2011?

The one major card that legislators and government officials played during those gloomy days after the Great Depression was to transfer Las Vegas from a dusty train stop out in the desert to a bustling thriving metropolis which boasted gambling as a primary attraction. Gov. Fred Balzar, on March 19, 1931 signed the bill that legalized gambling as an industry and partnered it with liberal divorce laws that would, to this day, define Vegas culture. "That was quite a month in the history of Nevada," former state archivist Guy Rocha says. "Although it took some time to develop, modern Las Vegas arguably starts in March 1931," referring to the events of eight days after the awarding of the $49 million Boulder Dam project which was symbolic of the turnaround that Las Vegas would see in the coming years. After a long time lobbying for the project to be approved, the federal government finally saw it Las Vegas’ way.

The Boulder Dam project was the first domino to fall in what would follow as one of the most profitable series of projects that would eventually tame the Colorado River. Las Vegas would not be viewed the same way again. Out came the ordinary, in-came the latest trends. Nevada soon became the “bad boy state, the maverick state” according to Rocha and paved the way for the Las Vegas that is known today. The changes did not happen with sufficient resistance. Back in the day, the “pious” people of Las Vegas did what they could to prevent the institutionalization of gambling, says Las Vegas historian and University of Nevada professor Eugene Moehring. "I think more businesspeople would have moved here it had just been cleaned up," he says. That sentiment didn’t come without sufficient basis. The Magnesium plant in Henderson recorded the worse absentee tally of any defense factory in the years leading to World War II. The lure of the gambling vice was simply too hard to resist, says Moehring.

Eventually, all that hardwork paid off for Las Vegas. During World War II, Las Vegas became known more for the respite if offers than supplying the armaments needed to fight the war. Tourism and service industries made up the Vegas foundation. The dam was a constant draw to hundreds of thousands of tourists even before it started serving its intended purpose. Considering what Las Vegas had to go through in the 1920s to 1930s, the transformation was nothing short of impressive. Las Vegas had barely more than 5,000 residents and many considered it nothing more than a village out in the wild. The phone book contained less than 1,000 names; traffic light made its debut only in 1933. “The city was just so isolated that there didn't seem to be any possibility it would grow,” said John Cahlen in an old article from The Review Journal. He was the paper’s editor. “When I came down here first, I thought this was the least likely (town) to succeed of any in the United States.”

Pertaining to the growth of gambling which helped fuel the city’s rise, Phil Tobin, the assemblyman that authored the 1931 gambling bill said, “I was just plumb sick and tired of seeing gambling going on all over the state and the payoffs being made everywhere. Some of those tinhorn cops were collecting 50 bucks a month for allowing it. Also, the damn state was broke and we needed the money.” From there, gambling grew like a firestorm. Perhaps today's Vegas can use a few tips from it's own past. With tough times still around, another shot in the arm wouldn’t hurt to enliven the Vegas scenery again.

 

March 29, 2011

Side Bets--a New Window for Casinos to Attract Customers

Side bets are the new thing for casinos; at least new in the revenue-generating sense. Players have always had used side benefits to try to earn a quick buck without sitting on a table too long. On this night, a man is feverishly engaged in a game of blackjack with the house dealer. "Please have an Ace under there! Come on! Have an Ace under there!" pleads the player to the dealer. To his side, a man silently echoes for a dealer blackjack. The stakes are high on that table. Before the deal was made, the player and the man to his right made a side bet that their first two cards would total 20. The strategy was simple – they placed the same bets on almost all hands and rooted for each other to come out a winner.

In this case, the player has two Queens. A dealer blackjack would instantly result to the player’s $2.50 side bet winning $2,500. Blackjack is leading this revolution that casinos themselves pioneered – a betting system for table games that is as simple as a slot machine jackpot. It’s a one-two punch that is truly hard to resist for the enterprising gambler. Explained Sean Sullivan from The Meadows Casino, the growth of progressive jackpot games is the next step to reinvigorate table gaming. Corey Plummer of Rivers Casino agrees with the statement. "You'd probably see more technology coming to tables in the form of progressives first, where you add progressives to the games that are capable of taking them, like Three Card Poker," remarked Plummer. Then where you have, say, three different types of games that have progressives, the next technology would be to link those progressives together."

For example, Shuffle Masters has a progressive jackpot scheme for Three Card Poker, Let It Ride and many other games where players can make voluntary and optional $1 bets on a lighted circle in order to qualify for a jackpot. Another company, DEQ Systems, uses a table game payoff scheme that randomly selects a lucky player or lucky card to which the jackpot is awarded. Sullivan is reminded of the birth, growth and development of the slot machines when looking at what’s happening to progressive jackpots on table games. "What moved slots into the 21st century is the bonus screens and additional energy and activity and enjoyment at a game," he said. "It used to be that you just pulled a handle and three cherries showed up. Now, they go into these secondary bonus screens that go into all kinds of fun secondary games."

DEQ Systems and Shuffle Master are at the leading edge of the innovation curve. DEQ has a system called G3 which incorporates a video betting terminal regardless of the table game type. The jackpots are called community prizes and are awarded to randomly chosen cards or players. Shuffle Master on the other hand has side betting provisions that would still allow players with a 20 card total and beaten by a dealer’s 21 to still win. To players, it’s that “no lose” scenario that’s making for attractive gambling opportunities. Already, DEQ and Shuffle Master have incorporated these jackpots into games like Bad Beat Blackjack and Hit and Run Progressive. The jackpots accumulate over a matter of days to weeks and culminate in a big payout when the dealer takes up to 7 cards to get a 21.

The system is starting to become a fixture in many states. Pennsylvania authorizes progressive jackpots on Three Card Poker and Let It Ride. Further additions would need the review and approval of the Gaming Control Board. In the end, it still boils down to a game of chance. Players love side bets if nothing more than it provides an opportunity to cash in big time. Still, the odds remain in firm favor of the house and only the potential bonuses make players forget about the true dynamics at work. For the Lucky Ladies side bet, for example – the same game played by that player with a man on his right – puts the house edge at 9 percent which is comparable to the odds for slot machines in Pennsylvania. For 6 to 8 deck games, the house edge climbs to 17 percent which means your $100 earns $83 on the average.

 

March 28, 2011

Online Gaming Bill Stalls in Iowa

Iowa legislators are facing a tough choice on a bill that seeks to legalize online gaming in the state. Currently, that bill is very much alive but there’s no strong consensus as to when, if ever, it will come out of the committees for a full House vote. And then after that, a referendum on Iowan voters awaits the final fate of the controversial bill. “I’m not naïve. Gaming bills usually fail,” remarked Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Waterloo), the author of the bill, referring to stalling tactics employed by anti-gambling enthusiasts which has left the measure stranded in the Senate Ways and Means subcommittee.

Danielson however was adamant his track record of pushing complex legislation forward will favor him in this scenario. The first step in a task that borders of salvage work will happen this week if Danielson can convince committee members to prioritize the measure during hearings. Under Senate File 458, Iowans can register into a state-monitored player’s account, put money on special deposit accounts, and pay with fellow Iowans on a virtual poker table. Gaming supporters, this early, lauded the proposal for the tax benefits it’s sure to bring. By some estimates, Iowa could rake in up to $35 million in annual tax revenues. That money, today, is flowing in offshore illegal gaming venues that the state has done nothing to curb. Already, 150,000 Iowans take to the internet to gamble in these sites without fear of “being cheated on” or “persecuted by the law.”

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act approved in 2006 by Congress is responsible for making sure online gaming does not grow in unsanctioned form. It explicitly prohibits banks and credit card companies, including institutions of similar nature – to aid or process unsanctioned internet gaming operations. Danielson and fellow legislators could also be facing a potential backlash from many Iowans who do not see the full benefits of online gaming. In February, the state’s top paper the Des Moines Register conducted a poll to see social perception regarding internet gaming.

A stirring 73 percent do not like the idea of state-regulated online games; 23 percent are in the affirmative, a paltry 4 percent remain undecided on the issue. Some have expressed concerns on the social effects of allowing online casino gambling in the state. More, however, were more concerned of the quality of a small satewide online poker platform, preferring a country-wide legislation. Travis Steffen, 23, a veteran online poker player who has wrote a book on the subject entitled “Beating the Game,” said “I would still probably play on the other sites against people from all over the states, from Europe, from Asia, from South America.” Travis’ extensive experience in the industry gives him insight into the potential dynamics of a legislative action that would allow online poker. He works as a coach for high-stakes poker players from all over the world.

The appeal of online gaming is varied as it is complex. There are so much more considerations to think of when selecting a provider and it’s not automatic that a player would pick a state-sanctioned site over an established foreign one. John Pappas, the executive director for Poker Players Alliance, said “If you only have one provider offering those services, you’re probably not going to get the best experience. I think that’d be a step backward.” Pappas is referring to the nature of competition which is driving innovations in the online industry. With so many providers competing for patrons, multiple offers have come up that ultimate benefit the players. There are now promotional bonuses, excellent gaming selections, even themed facilities. It’s inconceivable that players would simply favor state-owned online casinos because it is “state-owned.”

Legislators argue that state-sanctioned gaming will allow the state to make the activity safer, not to mention benefit from the tax money it is going to generate. “At least you know your money’s safe. It’s controlled. It’s regulated. It’s a fair game,” said general manager Dan Franz of the Riverside Casino, the only in-state casino that favors online gaming. Iowa remains a largely divided state on the issue. Whether Iowans find it in themselves to give this issue rest still remains to be seen; but it has to do so with the knowledge that what happens here could create a precedent for the whole country to follow. For now, those grand dreams remain.

 

March 27, 2011

Kansas Gambling Legislation Tied-Up in Messy Bow

Multiple casino projects are all tangled in one big mass of convoluted legal issues where legislators scramble to iron out the best possible solution to bring another casino to southeast Kansas. Front and center in the hotly contested issue is Rep. Bob Grant’s (D-Cherokee) bill which seeks to lower the required investment to put up a state-owned casino in southeast Kansas. The bill is designed to encourage new investors and developers to step in and take ownership of the project. Rep. Grant is co-authoring the measure with Rep. Doug Gatewood (D-Columbus) and the bill has not gotten any favorable response from the Federal and State Affairs Committee where it is currently filed supposedly for review.

Rep. Grant is now requesting the committee to withdraw the bill but he is meeting opposition from GOP leaders who prefer to have Attorney General Derek Schmidt file a court case which challenges a prior state approval for a casino in Mulvane, south of Wichita. Rep. Grant is caught in the crossfire because Steve Brunk, the chair of the Federal and State Affairs Committee is opposing any amendments to that same 2007 measure Grant is proposing to be changed. Brunk would want to have the Mulvane project resolved before new proposals on altering that law will be accommodated. “Nobody's trying to stop gambling, but we do want to make sure that if we own and operate this thing, we do it with utmost integrity.” Brunk said.

The Mulvane project was reviewed and approved by the state Racing and Gaming Commission but current claims argue that the proposal was in direct violation of zoning laws. The project developers and two top officials are also facing a misdemeanor campaign finance suit in Iowa adding to the piling questions regarding the way in which the project is being run. Rep. Grant is flustered at the way the Wichita issues are holding up his plans for job creation in the Cherokee area through the construction of a state-owned casino. Residents have already voted on a referendum allowing for a casino in the area. “We've got the right to do it, but to get it done here, we've got to make some adjustments,” Grant said. “Now, we're sitting here fighting and scrambling to get what our people down here voted for.”

According to the 2007 law, one casino each is allowed in the state’s southeast corner, at the metropolitan area of Kansas City, at Dodge City and the south of Wichita. The state enters into contract with developers to build and operate and regulation falls on the lap of the Racing and Gaming Commission. The Kansas Lottery owns the rights. The Mulvane project is just the latest in an already burgeoning gambling market for Kansas. Dodge City opened its first casino 2009 and the Kansas City metropolitan area casino is now under construction near the regular NASCAR venue in Kansas City. The south of Wichita project is to be operated by Peninsula gaming and current investments for on-going construction is already reported at $55 million.

What remains to be the vacant slot in the 2007 legislation plan is the southeast Kansas area which is currently not seeing any suitors. Grant, Gatewood and other legislators believe the minimum investment of $225 million is too hard of a pill to swallow and that dropping that number to $100 million would make the project more attractive for would be developers and contractors. The GOP doesn’t buy the talk one bit. They argue that proponents themselves insisted on a no-change policy when the bill was under deliberation. Changing the rules of the game now would be a self-serving act for legislators who are not seeing their plan develop as proposed. The GOP favors a court action by the state Attorney General to question the merits by which the Racing and Gaming Commission awarded the contract to Peninsula Gaming. The criminal case in Iowa is fueling questions regarding Peninsula’s integrity as a casino operator.

House debates on the request by Grant will be done Tuesday. Grant’s bill is House Bill No. 2002 while the Wichita-Mulvane casino action is House Resolution No. 6015.

 

March 26, 2011

New Delaware Casinos Rejected but Bill’s Sponsor Says He Won’t Quit

The idea of new casinos in Delaware will have to wait, yet again, more likely for another year. Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf’s bill to expand gambling in the state by bringing more casinos suffered another defeat for the third straight year. A House committee voting on the merits of additional casinos narrowly favored the “Nay” but Schwartzkopf thinks the bill is anything but dead. Currently, Delaware has three racetrack casinos. Rep. Schwartzkopf’s measure would have brought that number to five. Instead the number will stay as is, if Schwartzkopf and political ally Gov. Jack Markell can’t maneuver the measure and bring it to a full House vote prior to the session’s conclusion in June 30.

The deliberation on the bill was done by the House Gaming and Parimutuels Committee in a two and a half hour session, Wednesday, that saw both sides fiercely contest that boon and bane of the measure. The affirmative’s main argument hinged on the new facilities being a matter of necessity for the state of Delaware. Given the rise of gambling establishments in nearby Pennsylvania and Maryland and the steady migration of patrons across the border to the new casinos, it’s not a longshot to assume that the local gambling market in the state is not yet saturated. In fact, it is even necessary to bring the games closer to the patrons so they will not have reason to go out-of-state for their regular gaming fix.

The negative’s argument was simply that the market is saturated and it no longer has room to grow. As lawmakers on the negative bench put it, “Three is enough!” The committee’s session was concluded by a 6-5 vote against expansion. Delaware’s existing casinos have played a vital role in funding state programs. In the last few years, state revenues from gambling businesses has not gone under $200 million per year. In terms of percent contribution, gambling is the fourth most profitable item on the state treasury’s arsenal. Schwartzkopf used this to argue that new casinos are essential in spurring new growth in the state by bringing in more jobs and hundreds and millions of dollars in revenues. Schwartzkopf also didn’t mince words in saying that the need is there to grow the state’s gambling facilities if it plans to remain competitive with neighboring states and thus draw more tourists in.

“All I'm trying to do is put people to work,” said Schwartzkopf. “Jobs take them off of unemployment, take them off of Medicaid. Every person who goes back to work puts money back into the economy. Stores benefit, gas station, benefit, eateries benefit, and people can buy houses again.” But gambling owners also argued that adding new establishments can cause significant damage to their businesses. Executives from Delaware Park, Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs were all in agreement as to the risks posed by new casinos and believed they were not in a position to accept any more competition. Argues Ed Sutor, the president of Dover Down, the state’s slot revenues have already fallen by $102 million from $636 million to $534 million in the last five years. Take out away the operating costs and state profit shares and the casinos are operating on “meager” profit.

Sutor also pointed to the 11 percent decrease in casino revenues from within the region despite the increase of the number of facilities in various areas from Pennsylvania to Maryland, Atlantic City to Charleston. Sutor was also adamant in rejecting Schwartzkopf’s claim that the addition of new casinos, according to a state-sponsored report, would cause casino revenues to “jump dramatically.” In 2013, for example, that same report projected a 41% in revenues to $753.8 million simply by approving the licenses of two facilities in Sussex and New Castle counties. TMG Consulting, the Louisiana-based firm that authored that report cited that while two new casinos – one in the north and one in the south – would have “severe negative impacts” to the existing facilities in the state, the draw on new customers will be more than sufficient to cover the loss.

Schwartzkopf maintains his position and is planning on invoking a seldom-used House maneuver to circumvent the committee vote and bring the measure to a full House. He said he would seek to suspend the rules of the House so that the bill can be brought to the floor even without the committee’s blessing. Authorization for that move requires the signature of 21 lawmakers, 50% of the House population.

 

March 25, 2011

EU Works on Harmonized Gambling Rules

Now that the European Union is touting an open-market system that claims to be “friendlier”, they might as well go all in and iron out the rules for all critical industries within the system, like the gambling industry. This was the opinion of Secretary-General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) Sigrid Ligné ahead of an EU-wide public consultation which will seek to determine areas for improvement in the European Union. Ligné said that a “harmonized set of rules” is required to integrate the fast-growing gambling industry into the EU economic model. “Online gambling is a cross-border market. Consumption is cross-border as well. Clearly there's a strong need for harmonized rules,” said Ligné. “We think there is good momentum for the EU to assume strong leadership in this area.” EGBA represents worldwide known firms such as bwin, Party Gaming, Betclic and Unibet.

Ligné added that the issue has been constantly brought up by several discusions; it would be very unwise to turn a blind eye to the issues. However, she also admitted that there is more work to be done before the EU can proudly declare an integrated thriving market for the gambling industry. Michel Barnier, the EU Internal Market Commissioner, will launch the public consultation program on March 24. The Green Paper says the consultation hopes to address “all relevant public policy challenges and possible internal market issues resulting from the rapid development of both licit and unlawful online casino gambling offers directed at citizens located in the EU.” The current EU model for gambling regulation is based on a decentralized system of rules enforced and regulated by each member government. The framework varies for every country where gaming is legal and issues tend to occur for a business that is cross-border in nature. The disparity in regulation itself is starting to become a source of competitive advantage for some and disadvantage for others.

Ligné comments, “Obviously today we're facing regulatory approaches that are very different from one member state to another.” The stirring conclusion after a quick scan of the industry shows that EU countries are “developing different requirements to achieve the same objectives.” The goal for a unified EU framework, according to Ligné, is “to move from a prohibitive or monopolistic approach to the market to a regulated approach.” She added that the EU will need to play an active role in these measures in order to better achieve the goals set. Ligné also added that some of the restrictions that are currently imposed, should be changed. While the restrictions are all well and good, Ligné believes that these should not be aimed for protectionist goals. She stressed that what the Union needs is to adopt a change that would promote healthy competition for the region's individual economies.

According to Khalid Alu from the European Sports Security Association who regularly monitors betting trends in Europe and is responsible for raising the flags on illegal bets, “Top of my list is really ensuring a competitive landscape, because this is what will give European bookmakers the edge over their international rivals.” Ligné went on to explain the challenges facing EU. Among these are the barriers imposed by the individual member states that have effectively prevented the region's economic potential. She added that what is needed is a more comprehensive enforcement of the internal market in order to allow these member states to grow. If Ligné is to have the final say, she would like to have a self-regulatory approach to the business. She emphasizes the need for promote "self-regulatory efforts by industry to go beyond and develop best practice" so it will "ensure that customers can benefit from these innovations without necessarily waiting to be included in regulations that can sometime take more time to develop and to adopt."

Ligné is looking forward to the final outcome of the effort. Indeed, with such a huge market, these measures are attracting several players in the industry, many of which have several interests on the outcome of these discussions. Before then however, it's a long and arduous process that would take at least a couple of years.

 

March 24, 2011

Pennsylvania Gaming Outlook Brighter Than Ever

While increased competition is oftentimes good in the conduct of business, well ironed monopolies sometimes function just as well. This was the message delivered by the executive direction for the City Planning Commission when referring to the City’s relationship with its lone casino, SugarHouse. In the course of the discussion, Alan Greenberger made sure he stayed clear of rumors that Foxwoods casino plans to apply for a license reinstatement to build a second facility there.

“Our experience with SugarHouse has been terrific,” he added. “Issues are worked out in a professional manner.” Greenberger also praised SugarHouse for following the steps to creating a successful and thriving casino “in an urban environment.” He lauded the casino’s management for establishing a good working relationship with the local neighborhood and highlighted SugarHouse’s adeptness at promptly raising issues to top consultants for immediate mitigation. Among the issues that have been discussed and mitigated so far pertain to increased traffic, job creation for the local workforce, and investments in the community.

Greenberger delivered the opening keynote in the second day of the annual Pennsylvania Gaming Congress at the Loews Hotel on Market Street. The convention normally takes about various issues that are impacting the gambling industry. Southeastern Pennsylvania alone hosts 10 gambling halls – a Parx facility in Bensalem, Chester Casino and Racetrack in Delaware Country which is owned and operated by the Harrah brand of Caesars Entertainment, and SugarHouse. On the second day of the congress, general managers from SugarHouse and Chester will sit on a panel to discuss the importance of the region in the overall state of the gambling industry in the United States. The panel is appropriately named “The Beast of the East.”

Proof that the gambling industry is healthy in Philadelphia, which is hosting the Congress for the first time, is the on-going development of a casino at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia. The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the project proponents earlier this month paving the way for construction to begin. The proponents are led by real estate magnate Ira Lubert. A more ambiguous issue concerning Philadelphia’s gambling future is the status of its second gaming license originally issued to Foxwoods. The Pennsylvania Gaming Board revoked Foxwoods’ license earlier in the year due to repeated delays in securing adequate financing to push forward the planned development of a casino in South Philadelphia. Foxwoods has already appealed the decision but it is likely that the case would remain in court for a few months, if not years.

“There are a whole set of other issues with Foxwoods,” Greenberger said Tuesday, in a very light and quick segue before focusing his speech on SugarHouse's impact. The Valley Forge case, for comparison, took two years before a final resolution was arrived at. Philadelphia, on top of the Foxwoods on-going claim, is also looking to issue a second license for another casino. There are multiple proposals on the table including facilities in Gettysburg, Mechanicsburg, the Poconos and southwestern Philadelphia. Deliberations are underway and a decision is expected within the month. The profitability of the Philadelphia market is fueling the interest from other investors. Last year alone, Philadelphia’s 10 gambling halls posted cumulative revenues of $2.5 billion. Of that amount, $1.3 billion, or 55 percent, when to the state’s coffers.

The engine behind that earnings number is the 26,700 slot machines and 842 gaming tables which include poker and blackjack. Echoing the benefits that the gambling industry has done for the state, Greenberger believes that “inevitably, every state will have some form of gambling.” Utah and Hawaii are the only remaining U.S. states that do not allow gambling of any form. As part of the convention’s slated activities, Wall Street big wigs took the stage and gave their own opinion regarding the state’s earnings projections and other expectations related to the industry. Deutsche Bank representative Andrew Zarnett said it is very likely that by 2012, Pennsylvania would have topped Atlantic City in terms of gaming revenue.

With all the buzz going on, a word of warning from analysts was presented during the morning session: new facilities should be given adequate time to develop before new licenses are issued. One of the greatest threats to industry growth is market saturation. Pennsylvania has to go out of its way if it is to prevent such a scenario from wreaking havoc on such a promising venture.

 

March 23, 2011

Atlantic City Saw Fewer Visitors in 2010

Two years after the recession, people are still wary of the effects of unemployment and are still opting to play it safe rather roll the dice. The collective unease translated to a 6.2 percent decrease in the number of visitors going to Atlantic City for 2010. “Only” 26.6 million people made the trek to the gambling haven of the east compared to 28.35 million in 2009. Another interesting twist to Atlantic City’s road to recovery is laid bare in a survey conducted to assess the demographic of the visitors coming to America’s second largest gambling market: the spending per visitor only fell by half that amount – a little over 3 percent – suggesting that it’s those who bet lower are the ones no longer coming to the casinos. It’s some sort of “separating the men from the boys” tale that has Atlantic City casinos “glad” they haven’t paid much attention to the demographic that’s no longer working the slots and patrolling the tables.

Still, casino operators at Atlantic City are feeling uneasy over the latest numbers. This marks the fifth straight year that gambling revenues are reported to be in decline. A likely culprit: increased competition from neighboring states providing perfect complement to a laggard economy. Atlantic City’s deliberate makeover from gambling haven to high-end resort destination isn’t paying off as planned. There hasn’t been a significant rise in the number of can-do customers who are open to checking in for a few days, catching the sights and sounds, watching the shows, going shopping and gambling on the side. A new survey is showing positive numbers with regard to this strategy but it so far has not offset the general exodus of low-end visitor count. The survey conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group reported that the casino’s “win-per-visitor was nearly $134” last year, down 3.6% from 2009 and lower versus 2008 numbers by 8%.

“It's clear that the low-end visitor is more likely to migrate to other places,” remarked Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum. “But it also shows that you have the ability to hold on to your high-end visitor if you have something to offer them. You want to replace the convenience gambler with a higher-end customer. We aren't replacing them yet; we're just holding on to the higher-end right now. You'd like to have both happen simultaneously.” Bob Copeland and Aulis Laine, friend-retirees from Canada illustrate the point rather well. They’re the type of patrons that Atlantic City has catered to but are now at the state where they might no longer be able to continue. Copeland and Laine booked a five-day-four-nights tour bus package from Ontario to Atlantic City for $950. They were rewarded with a $180 cashback program that they eventually used to gamble at the casinos. On estimating, both will shell out another $200 for the games before they leave Atlantic City.

Copeland comments, “I'm a little fish, not a big-time player. I just come here to have fun and visit.” Adds Laine, “You play penny slots and you win 100, that's one dollar.” He said he’s taking a cheap approach to playing in the casinos. The trend isn’t going unnoticed by Atlantic City’s big players. Bob Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts echo the sentiments in his three Atlantic City casinos. “The gamblers that are being loyal to Atlantic City are playing more,” he said. “We're getting more out of fewer players. The business we're losing is the convenience gambler; they're just staying home. But the core gamblers are sticking with us.” Of the 26.6 million that made their way to Atlantic City, 22.9 million of them made the trip by car. Bus passengers like Laine and Copeland fell by 13% to 3.8 million.

New casinos in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Connecticut are also nabbing customers from Atlantic City. The trend also points to a difference in profits depending on the geographic location. The marina district casinos – Borgata, Harrah and Trump Marina Hotel Casino were most profitable with wins-per-visitor of $142, down by only 1% versus 2009. Rounding up the list were Route 40 cluster casinos including the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort and the Tropicana Casino and Resort posted $119 wins-per-customer number. Just like most other businesses, location seems to be equally important in the gambling industry.

 

March 22, 2011

Packer Shying Away from New Investments in US Markets

The U.S. has lost a valuable gambling investor, at least for the next few years. That is if recent comments by Crown Executive Chairman James Packer are to be taken at face value. Shortly before the global financial crisis erupted, Packer and his company invested $3 billion which turned out to be a very bad move in an already flailing company. The lesson is telling Packer to stay out of the U.S. markets in the meantime. The Australian reports that Packer’s Crown still owns a 24.5 percent stake in the Cannery Casino group. The Cannery operates three casinos in Las Vegas and the Meadows Racetrack in Pennsylvania.

Crown has tried to write off the $3 billion investment but its efforts were only able to reduce the total value to $1.75 billion after reworking the terms of the deal with Cannery in March 2009. The deal was supposedly for a full buyout that thankfully, for Packer, did not went down as intended – a lucky twist in the draw. “I have had a bad experience in the US, so I am not rushing to go back,” said Packer. “Crown is not a company looking to issue fresh equity and we are already spending more than our profits on our capital expenditure program. That means there is a limit to what you can do.” Crown also entered into agreements with other U.S. establishments’ Harrah Entertainment and Stations Casino group. Both deals also ended up being written down. A fourth piece of the pie was a 1 percent stake in the Canada-based Gateway Casinos and Entertainment which also suffered the same fate as the other deals.

Crown’s biggest setback was the planned $5.5 billion Crown Las Vegas Casino and hotel complex which was subsequently abandoned following the events of 2008. Crown eventually shut down its Las Vegas corporate offices and dissolved its alliance with private equity investment firm York Capital Management and Texas property developed Chris Milam over the Crown Las Vegas project. “We as a company got a shock, like a lot of companies did, during the GFC (global financial crisis). I was lucky enough not to get diluted through that process. In fact, I have a higher percentage of the company now than I did before the GFC,” Mr Packer said. Mr. Packer is eyeing further development in Macau, currently the largest gambling market in the whole world. Mr. Packer was less cordial with discussions turned to his investments with Ten, Consolidated Media, as well as his decision to step down from the Ten board.

In Macau, Packer holds a 43 percent stake in Crown, the owner and operator of the Crown Casino in Macau as well as other facilities in Melbourne and the Burswood Casino in Perth. Packer spent an estimated $200 million to increase his investment interests in these businesses. “I was happy to increase my shareholding at that time,” he said of the $200 million investment. Regarding his future plan to invest more by buying more shares, he said “I'm not sure.” A potential future plan for Mr. Packer is the privatization of the Crown, a long time rumour which he doesn’t confirm nor deny. The rumours have been consistent and continuous raising the possibility that Packer is generating the buzz himself in order to build excitement.

In 2008, reports indicated that Mr. Packer was working with his advisers to firm up a full privatization bid but the Crown shares dropped to $4.5 following the global financial crises. Since then, Crown shares have bounced back to $8. For now, Mr. Packer is simply saying he can’t afford the move. On the bright side, Crown received last month the approval from regulators in Nevada and Pennsylvania for additional investments in the Cannery group. The numbers, according to financial books, is valued at $60 million. Currently, the Cannery group is in the midst of a mixed basket recording earnings while continuing to report a tailspin in revenues. Mr. Packer reiterated Crown’s commitment to seeing the investment through. “We have written it down and having recently received all requisite regulatory approvals. We will now work with that company going forward,” he said.

 

March 21, 2011

Profit Sharing Scheme for Proposed Casino Revisited

The potential increase in traffic flow which can pressure counties and towns to spend more on roads is proving to be a pretty tall proposition for Paris, Mechanic Falls, and Poland; this comes after Black Bear Entertainment’s casino proposal is expected to stretch the town’s budget prioritization measures on what is already deemed a harsh year for community spending. The concerns were aired on a Friday morning meeting between local police and town officials as the casino proposal in Oxford is soon to break ground. The towns are hoping they will get a share of the revenue pie even if it’s only a little compared to what Oxford is getting as a host community.

In the middle of last year, Black Bear Entertainment rolled out plans that would bring a new casino facility to Oxford. The project was expected to cost $164 million and was going to take five years before full completion. The facility will sit on a 100-acre land south of Oxford in a place called Pigeon Hill. The profit sharing scheme in which Paris, Mechanic Falls and Poland want to be a part of calls for 16 percent of net revenues plus 46 percent of slots income to be distributed to various entities most notably the Department of Education, which will get a 25 percent share, 2 percent to the town of Oxford, and 1 percent to Oxford county. John Hawley, the town manager of Mechanic Falls, remarked “The increased toll on fire departments, police departments and ambulance services will begin on day one of the casino’s operation” this despite the fact that growth and “positive valuation” are expected to provide benefit for neighboring towns.

The revenue share for Oxford county will help taxpayers greatly as tax relief is expected to be a primary benefit of the new profit source. Mechanic Falls and Poland, however, which belong to Androscoggin County will not be able to benefit from that revenue even if they will bear the full brunt of traffic increase on Route 26 which passes straight through both towns. Paris Police Chief David Verrier added that any increase in the demand for social services like the police department would be beyond tolerable. “With the budgets as they are, we're at bare bones.” A classic example is already happening at the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency where agent Zane Loper was hired on a temporary basis to aid the Paris Police Force in “fighting a growing pill addiction in the area.” Agent Loper’s hiring was only because the effort is funded by a private grant. When the grant expires in November of this year, Agent Loper would be asked to leave the department because it can ill-afford to hire an agent on a full-time basis. The same can be said for the handling of increased traffic stops and police calls that are more than expected to roll through the area once the casino swings into full operation.

The meeting Friday was a last-ditched effort by local officials to influence the profit sharing agreement to include neighboring communities that will also bear the burden of increased social services demands. Black Bear Entertainment responded via spokesperson Peter Martin by saying that while Black Bear is willing to cooperate and iron out the issues, it should cause local communities to “get aggressive with us before we even open.” Martin adds that he is willing to participate in such a task force. There’s still time to firm up the agreements and iron out the concerns though;the casino won’t be open until at least a year from now. The landscape could likely change in the intervening time as planned referenda might likely put similar facilities in Lewiston, Biddeford and Calais. A competing facility in those locations would put a dent on Black Bear’s earnings at Oxford.

Martin bluntly laid out the concern by saying discussions on Black Bear’s “social responsibility” could be enhanced “if the referendums were to fail.” The initial birth pains for the casino are currently dampening their credibility to negotiate with local authorities over profit sharing arrangements because the actual numbers could significantly vary from estimates if the landscape also changes. Sen. Dave Hastings proposed a workable solution by altering the referendum language to “change who receives money from casino revenues” and this in turn could push others to do the same.

 

March 20, 2011

PPA Not Sold Out on Iowa Intra State Online Poker

Following the announcement that the state legislature is mulling an online poker proposal that would allow poker to be played online for real money within the state, the Poker Players Alliance has expressed their hesitance on the matter. According to John Pappas, executive director of the group, online poker which is limited within the confines of the state's territory would not be conducive to the growth of the industry. According to him, the proposal's setup would not be able to provide players with enough entertaining games due to the limited scope. The Poker Players Alliance maintains that they would much rather see Congress enact a law that would allow country-wide online poker. "We would be very concerned about proposals that would limit play just to Iowa residents," Pappas added.

The Poker Players Alliance has been closely monitoring the developments of the online poker proposal in Iowa. However, some sources believe that Iowa is on the right track with their efforts to implement online poker. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School who has written a book on Internet gaming law believes that lawmakers in Iowa are simply being realistic. According to Rose, the most optimistic forecast for a country-wide online gambling bill to be passed would be on 2014. Rose added that because of the sensitive politics that revolve around the issue, lawmakers will find themselves at an impasse almost always. Rose, co-editor-in-chief of Gaming Law Review and Economics, also said that states as they are, would not be able to wait for a country-wide legislation."The states aren't waiting. New Jersey had a bill that passed both houses. California is really seriously looking, and so is Florida and some other states as well." he added.

The proposal is currently being discussed in the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee, but could be submitted to the full Senate for a vote within a couple of days. The proposal allows playing for real money on online pokers games. Players in the state would be able to deposit cash within the authorized casinos. The services are not available to anyone outside the state. The proposal also adheres to current laws on age restriction in gambling—persons below 21 years old are not accorded access to the sites. The bills sponsor, Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said that he is currently tweaking some of the bills provisions in order to make it more marketable to current lawmakers. Danielson expressed his concerns that some of the lawmakers may never vote for the bill's passing. On the issue brought forward by the Poker Players Alliance regarding the restricted player base, Danielson said: "I will be supportive of a federal law that creates some uniform standards, but I am not going to hold my breath until that happens," he said.

Rose, however, is sketchy on the matter. He has expressed concerns regarding the scope of the proposed online casino poker bill in Iowa. "Players want to be able to have the game they want when they want it. So if you go on at 3 o'clock in the morning and you want to be able to play $5 or $10 Omaha, you need a certain mass of players to do that," Rose said. Terry Rich, chief executive of the Iowa Lottery, has pushed for the proposal's enactment. According to Rich, the current system calls for online experiences of popular games. Rich added that the future lies heavily on the internet. "This is the topic that everyone believes is the next venture to protect because there is so much going overseas”, he added.

Mark Vander Linden, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health's gambling treatment program finds no concerns regarding gambling problems brought about by the proposal. Linden said that of all the people that have sought treatment for some form of gambling problem, less than 2 percent report the problem to come from internet gambling. With all these discussions, however, the final say remains solely in the hands of state legislators and of course, the Governor, who would be able to either veto or pass the bill once it passes through the Senate and the House of Representatives.

 

March 19, 2011

Illinois Senate President to Repeal Video Gaming Law

A controversial law passed by the Illinois Senate in 2009 authorizing the use of video gambling machines in bars and restaurants within the state is at risk after Senate President John Cullerton proposed a bill to amend it last Wednesday. When the law was passed in 2009, it gained the approval of the House and Senate by arguing that it would provide a much needed boost to state revenues. At that time, the Governor released a $31 billion capital program, $534 million of which would come from public video gaming annually. The current proposal, if passed by the House and Senate and approved by current governor Quinn, would represent a dramatic shift in public policy by the administration. The proposal comes in light of the massive attempts of seveal states to expand their gambling capabilities to deal with dwindling budgets.

Since the law’s approval in 2009, Chicago led a statewide coalition made up of 80 other local governments to resist the implementation of the measure in each of the opposing areas. This move raised the question on the program’s financial viability – if not everybody would do it, then the revenue numbers were just inflated. A second blow to the law occurred in late January when a state appeals court ruled that the law currently allowing public video gambling as well as taxation and fee hikes that were in turn used to pay for additional gambling construction programs was unconstitutional. “It’s obviously a very controversial plan. It has yet to generate a single dollar for the capital program. Right now, the Senate president is gauging whether there is sufficient support to repeal it,” said Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon.

In the wake of the multiple blows to the law pushed forth by Republicans in 2009, there are some who think that the Senate President’s move is driven by political motivations more than anything else. To date, Cullerton has not been able to amass enough support to drive his measure forward. His effort to rebuild a revenue stream for the capital program hit a dead-end at the Capitol last Wednesday. Cullerton substitute revenue plan consisted of raising the state’s excise tax on tobacco purchases. The current 98-cent-per-pack tax would go up by $1, and the Senate passed it 9-6 on a party line vote. “We don’t need to do this now,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) who delayed an expected floor vote on the cigarette tax hike when she realized that voting would occur along party lines and the Democrats were outnumbers in the Senate. “We will not miss the construction season. Bonds have been issued. We are in good shape with this.”

The vote came as a surprise after Cullerton initial said he was willing to wait for the cigarette hike tax to progress before acting on the repeal of the video gambling law. The cigarette tax hike law hit the wall in January. “We’re certainly surprised to see this,” said Zack Stamp, a lobbyist for the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association who expressed considerable frustration at Cullerton’s attack of their industry. “People have been out there working on the assumption this would be the law. They’ve invested millions of dollars, hiring people. People have been anticipating this coming online, and this will cause a great deal of problems if it’s repealed.” After Wednesday’s developments, it’s getting more likely that Cullerton will move the repeal law out of the Senate and push it along party lines for a House vote to make it formal. If the plan comes to fruition, all the efforts on preparing video gambling as a state revenue source will be for naught.

Since 2009 when the measure was approved, the Illinois Gaming Board has enlisted 50 investigators to vet out 116 license applicants who seek to operate the state’s video gambling network. Initial estimates put the timetable for the first batch of working machines by late summer or early fall—but not if Cullerton can stop it. Lawmakers, onlookers and interested parties are collectively waiting to see the outcome of this recent issue. As of now, only time will tell of the outcome if this proposal.

 

March 18, 2011

Big Players Oppose Nevada Bill to Legalize Online Poker

For the first time in a long while, legislators and casino companies are not seeing eye-to-eye on gambling-related legislation. Some Nevada lawmakers are looking into extending the state’s gambling dominance from just “The Strip” in Las Vegas to the World Wide Web, but it is running into a wall early on. The state wants to legalize, regulate and tax online Poker operations but the biggest names in Vegas stand on the opposite end of the bench arguing against it. Legislators fear the heavy pull of big casino companies will doom the planned measures to an early untimely death. The proposal revolves around the creation of rules to regulate Internet Poker as well as companies that make the equipment to make the venture possible. Also covered are software companies who specialize in the creation of online gaming offers.

The measure also seeks to limit the powers of the Nevada Gaming Commission from “denying a license” for currently popular poker sites on the grounds that they have been operating offshore away from the tight grip of a federal law in 2006 that banned online gambling. Alex Feldman, spokesperson for the MGM Resorts International clarifies, “I think everyone's objective should be to get the proper bill passed, and to do so federally. The business model ought to be following sound public policy, and (the state of Nevada) is actually a pretty good model of getting a business model way far ahead of anyone's policy.” It doesn’t take a lot to understand why MGM’s say in the matter is extremely important to legislators, lobbyists and citizens alike. Counting billionaire Kirk Kerkorian among its major investors, MGM Resorts International is currently Nevada’s biggest employer.

With that in mind, Feldman added that the measure introduced by Assemblyman William Horne is a bit off-base. Horne (D-Las Vegas) argues that “Online poker has been growing like gangbusters. It will provide a new source of revenue that we aren't able to enjoy right now.” Horne hopes to resolve this by fostering partnerships with major offshore online casino operators as well as current major players in the Nevada gambling market. “If the state is serious about raising revenue for this endeavor, then it needs to be able to obtain the participation of the leading operators,” said Jeff Ifrah, a Washington D.C.-based attorney who represents the Interactive Gaming Council – a Canada-based trade union for online casinos - in litigation. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are among the council’s bigger and more established members.

Ifrah added, “But casino companies that oppose it would rather have exclusive competition than give players what they want. As it happens, those leading operators are offshore.” MGM quickly clarified that there are no existing or planned deals between online casino operators and MGM. Online operators however, adds Feldman, have approached the MGM to establish a partnership that would marry MGM’s brand with their [the online casino] knowledge and mastery of the line market. The American Gaming Association, a trade group that represents almost every major casino operator in the United States, refused to give an official word on the matter. Another facet to the story lies in Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s interest to develop a nationwide system for online gambling rather than rely on a state-by-state approach to legalization. Caesars has vocally expressed its interest in running the network, should it be authorized by the federal government.

“This is not a bill that we support," said Jan Jones, Caesars' Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Relations. Jones added, “That's been our position in every state, and it's our position in Nevada as well. Internet, by its nature, is an interstate activity, and the rules should be crafted appropriately.” Natural efforts have not fared well either. Senator Harry Reid’s proposal for a federal level online gambling regulation hit the curb last December. Other states have been ahead of Nevada in terms of developing a working proposal. New Jersey had just such a bill which went through the Senate and House with the necessary, only to get vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. Discussions are also hot in Iowa, California and Florida.

 

March 17, 2011

CDI Optimistic of Gambling Future in the U.S.

Churchill Downs, Inc. officials are looking forward to the legalization of online gambling so plans for the expansion beyond pari-mutuel wagering can begin. Company officials expressed their optimism in a conference call, March 15, which also discussed the earnings for CDI for 2010. CDI Chief Executive Office Bob Evans said, “If Internet gambling gets legalized at the state or federal level, we would intend to play in these businesses. And we expect to play competitively whenever that may happen. We’ll be there when it occurs.” Evans also added that the company, based out of Kentucky, is “very much wired into the political and business wide” of Internet gambling which for now is only legally limited to advance wagering on horse races.

The discussions come at a time when at least four states have entertained the idea of legalized online gambling. A bill which would have made New Jersey the first U.S. state with legal online gambling was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie less than two weeks ago. California, Iowa and Florida are all working on some version of a bill that would allow states to legalize, regulate and tax online gambling ventures. The federal government has also floated the idea of a nationwide online gambling system although given existing limitations imposed by federal laws, this could take some time. CDI meanwhile, has tens of millions of dollars invested in the development of an online gambling platform which for now works for betting on horses. In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone, the system attracted a total of $167.1 million in pari-mutuel bets.

While CDI encountered a slight decline in 2010 figures, it remains optimistic that new breakthroughs in gambling legislation can just as easily restore the business into its previous highs, if not break the records altogether. The country, in general, saw declining numbers in pari-mutuel handles, an evidence that points to the decline as not being a local phenomenon in Kentucky. Evans added that he’s “not comfortable using handle numbers in this business” due to its sheer unpredictability in serving as a barometer for state-wide betting tendencies. He would rather look at maximizing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) which is a better indication of a company’s fluidity than just regular earning numbers.“There’s no single source to get ADW handle numbers,” he said. “It’s not 100% accurate.”

The decline seen in 2010 is spilling over into 2011. As of February, wagering numbers for United States horse racing are down by 7.66%. In the same conference all, Bill Mudd, CDI Chief Financial Officer stressed, “We are doing well given the handle decline in the industry, but I’m not happy with the growth rate—or shrinkage rate—for the first two months of 2011.” Another source of headache for CDI officials on top of the decline in handles is a content dispute over ADW that can potential lead to its license revocation in California. The California Racing Board told CDI that they only had until March 18 to find a resolution to the issue. It follows that if CDI loses its license, their online platform would be unable to continue doing business in the state.

CDI Vice President for Communications Julie Koenig Loignon was quick to add that a resolution was already in the works. “Our team is working diligently to resolve remaining issues with respect to obtaining the rights to California content,” she said. “We hope to have this process completed prior to March 18.” Overall, CDI is proud of its accomplishment so far. Evans added that the CDI branch in Kentucky has had a good year fueled by the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.The company’s racetrack holdings are doing well in terms of revenue, programs, growth, and it’s looking forward to hosting the Breeder’s Cup World Championships. The rest of CDI’s properties remain flat.

CDI, together with other companies, is waiting for a final verdict concerning tens of millions of dollars currently stored in an escrow account in Illinois. The money is paid by casinos that were ordered to pay a racing percentage per revenue and the release would be divided between racetrack operators. Arlington alone stands to get $40.5 million, $16.5 million of which will go straight to CDI and the remaining $24 million subdivided into increase horse racing pursues and track re-development. It’s going to be a while before we see any of that money,” Mudd said.

 

March 16, 2011

Measures Eye Gambling Expansion in Montana

Montana is seeing its share of proposals to further expand gambling activities in the state. This comes in the face of similar measures pushed for in several areas all around the US. A few bills are currently in the House pending action from the legislature as proponents push for more gambling options here. Still, the general mood here is quieter than in year’s past. According to Montana Gaming Advisory Council member Mark T. Kennedy, “Gambling is a unique problem, because it does not give you any physical signs, like a substance abuse problem.” Kennedy is referring to the perceived social ills of gambling that are causing many to have a double take on new gambling bills.

Kennedy sits as the lone “at large” member in the eight-person council. He is a former Billings City Council member and also a tavern owner. He is likewise the president of the Montana Council of Problem Gambling making him a prime resource person in the effort to strike balance between gambling and the social concerns that may be interposed by opposing groups. His seat in the council, which reviews most of the bills regarding gambling before it is forwarded to the House or Senate, gives him inside access into potential pre-emptive actions that are undetaken against proposals before these get forwarded for a vote in the House itself. He is one of a team working to reach out to folks who have compulsive gambling disorders as well as fund their rehabilitation if deemed necessary and urgent.

Among the bills in Helena is Senate Bill 361 which Kennedy says would allow Montana “to carry a video line gaming machine” that is not that different from a slot machine. The Senate passed the bill with an overwhelming 11-0 vote last week. Opponents point to the machines’ similarities with slots as a potential argument to quash the proposal. Kennedy sees it as a totally irrelevant matter to the greater issues at hand. The machines have less to do with bringing in a new game and are more attuned to being at par with gambling technologies across the country. For this reason alone, he believes that implementing several measures that would expand the area's machine gambling capabilities would be fully justified. “We're getting to a place in Montana where we have machines that have been out there for 20 years,” said Kennedy. “And it's like an old Volvo. It runs well, but you can't get parts for it anymore.”

Another Bill is House Bill 423 which seeks to legalize live card blackjack in Montana. It is this proposal, however, that Kennedy is showing disagreement with. He argues that it “would be too much of a political fight, because it would expand gambling; a move not in favor by many legislators or the gaming industry.” The proposal is clearly driven by the need for more revenues for the state, says Kennedy. “Right now it's in a tough way, that gambling, or game industry in the state of Montana is in a tough way, but it's part of an economic cycle.” Existing legislation prohibits 10 live games and expansion is not a priority. Adds Kenendy, “It's Purely being presented as a revenue enhancer-- it's a game everybody understands-- it's a pretty simple game to understand. But, I just don't think - the industry isn't interested in it right now.”

The National Conference for Problem Gambling Councils will be held early next year and Billings is bidding to be a host. That figures to be an interesting time for a state that truly needs a gambling overhaul. In the meantime, Kennedy says the fight must go on. The Council on which he sits is a privately funded organization. The gambling expansion talks in the area have recently gained steam in light of the aggressive stances adopted by several neighboring states in implementing gambling expansion measures. One side of the argument argues that if the State would not adapt to the changing environment, they could lose out on some of the potential revenues spent on gambling because these would now be funneled to neighboring states. Those against gambling expansions, however, argue that the state does not need any drastic changes in its gambling industry. It is clear though, that only time will tell whether or not these arguments have merit.

 

March 15, 2011

Penn National Sues City of Columbus

As a response to repeated pressure from the Columbus City government headed by City Mayor Michael Coleman, Penn National Gaming Corp via its wholly-owned subsidiary CD Gaming Ventures filed a lawsuit against the city government of Columbus specifically Mayor Coleman, his chief of staff Michael Reese, current and former members of Columbus City Council, and the members of the Franklin County Commission. The lawsuit was filed at the Columbus U.S. District Court. The row is over the development of a casino at Franklin County which the city charges should be annexed to Columbus City. The city is using leverage via licensing and permit issuance on the casino’s request to get water and sewer services from Columbus and requests by CD Ventures has largely fallen on deaf ears. This, despite the fact that Ohio voters have twice approved constitutional amendments that would allow the construction of a casino facility in Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland.

The planned casinos in Toledo and Cleveland are moving forward smoothly while the Cincinnati facility licensed to Caesars Entertainment, Inc. via the Horseshoe Brand is slated to open in mid-2012. Meanwhile, CD Gaming and Penn National are yet to get definitive support from Columbus over a 113-acre facility in Franklin Township which used to be an automotive plant owned and managed by Delphi. Penn Gaming is based in Pennsylvania and operates multiple casinos in Illinois, Colorado, Indiana and Missouri. The casino development in Toledo is also managed by Penn National. sAccording to the lawsuit, the City repeatedly thwarted the company’s efforts to proceed with the development. Eric Schippers, Senior Vice President and Spokesperson for Penn National Gaming said that they had to resort to this course of action because the city gave them no other choice. He further added that the voters have decided that a casino should be opened in the area, so it would only be natural for them to take drastic measures.

The lawsuit likewise detailed the multiple ill actions that the city did to pressure the company to bend to its desires. These actions included suspending the water and sewer service to the property, interference in the company’s application to the Ohio EPA for drilling of an on-site well, meddling in the construction of road work improvements, and even working against the county interests at Franklin Township to gain permission from the state to grant approval and enforcement responsibilities on its own building department that would allow inspection and issuance of building permits. Following voter approval in November 2009, the city requested Penn National to annex the casino to the city for “business reasons” not the least of which is the taxation gains on gambling earnings. Schippers added that despite voter's approval, the company had to look for other locations to put up their casino project. He continued to say that this would work for the significant detriment of the area where the casino was supposed to be constructed in.

Penn is already heavily invested in the currently identified area to pull out and choose a new location or prioritize annexing itself to Columbus. On top of the $40 million Penn has spent via another subsidiary to improve the area surrounding the Arena District, it has also spent another $24 million to purchase the old Delphi property and to prepare it for environmental assessment. Should the project push through, the city is expected to earn $25 million in annual taxes including a $9.5 million host city fee. Mayor Coleman’s response was short. He said, his support of Penn National's efforts to construct and operate a casino on the city's West Side has not waned, but also added that he was firm in asking the company to keep its promise "to the city and the citizens to annex into the City of Columbus.”

Attorney Rick Pfeiffer who will be handling the case in behalf of the city declined to give his comments until after he has read the lawsuit. Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien said he has reviewed the lawsuit and a copy has already been forwarded to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. He said there will be a discussion with the commissioners next week. With the lawsuit, more delays are expected to hold back the construction of the casino. Looks like Columbus will have to wait longer than Cincinnati and Toledo.

 

March 14, 2011

Two Senate Bills Make California Likely First State with Legal Online Poker

If legislators will have their way, every single electronic device that can be used to access the internet could become a mini casino in the making. Under a hotly contested legislation that could lead to California becoming the first U.S. state to allow online gambling, there is increasing likelihood that the proliferation of smart phones, laptops and personal computers could further open the online gambling market to just about anybody ins the state. There are currently two bills in the California Senate that seeks to do just that. Both are expected to generate extra revenue for the state, and more than just that, potentially set a precedent for every other U.S. state to follow suit.

Current federal law prohibits online gambling that spills outside of a state’s borders. Within the boundaries of a state however, the federal law does not give any objections. What's more, foreign companies operating online casino sites are already rampant in the U.S. Although these are considered technically unregulated, there is very little effort to enforce the laws, hence an ever growing number of Americans have been taking to the internet for gambling. The state hopes to tap into this increasing market by regulating its own online casino gambling system. Those who especially reside in the state, will be heavily targeted should a new system come in place. It is also likely that once California passes its own online casino regulation bill, it will ban the use of out-of-state internet sites within the states borders and given the tax implications at stake, there’s a high chance any ban would be strictly enforced.

There are also discussions on the exact scope of the proposal with some lobby groups asking for the state to allow foreign firms to avail of a state license and compete with Indian tribes, card clubs, horse race tracks and established gambling companies who want a piece of the California pie. Senate Bill No. 40, the first of those bills and sponsored by the California Online Poker Association (COPA) in cooperation with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Commerce Casino and 28 other Indian tribes plus 13 other card clubs are all behind the proposed legislation. "I think if we blink at this moment, we'll lose a golden opportunity," said state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, the author of SB 40. "Internet poker is an area that's growing, and for us to ignore it, to say we're not going to address or regulate it, that's really ignoring the facts."

At the other end of the argument are anti-gambling groups who contend that online gambling will only serve to allow problem gamblers unbridled access to gambling. However, those who support the bills have pointed out that with firm regulations in place, support for those who exhibit some form of problem gambling will increase as well. Sen Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) was quick to refresh everyone about what’s happening in reality. “It’s obvious many Californians want to play online poker. Some already do.” The senator added that it would be much better for the state to embrace reality. Regulating the industry would serve to benefit not only the state, but also its constituents who are engaged in online poker, regulated or not.

Sen. Wright has a modified version of the bill, Senate Bill No. 45, which aside from in-state companies, would also give chance to companies in Nevada or from other countries, to obtain provide licenses to operate the California online poker network. The bill also contains provisions that could make other games available in the future. There are also concerns regarding specifics such as taxation rates, the number of licenses to be made available, the limit on restrictions and regulations, and even guidelines to ensure that software use only result to fair games, plus the ever-pressing need to make sure the games are off-limits to minors and out-of-state residents. "I'm optimistic, but it's a tough go," Wright said of this year's SB 45. His version of the same bill got jammed last year. "I took it up knowing that I was probably getting in the middle of an ugly fight," Correa said of his competing bill, SB 40.

 

March 13, 2011

Utah Cracks down on “Illegal” Internet Gambling

Together with Hawaii, Utah remains to be the only state in the U.S. that does not allow any form of gambling. And if recent events are to be taken as basis, Utah does not have any plans of changing that stance any time soon. Three Utah cities collectively acted to boot out City Cyber Cafés, an internet store-chain that’s been accused of, among other things, playing as host to online gambling activities. Backed by city police, raids were conducted to make sure stores remain compliant to state policies.

On Wednesday, one such raid targeted a store at West Valley City, 2290 S. Redwood Road. An initial “undercover agent,” minutes before the raid, discovered that the store offered games alluding to blackjack and poker that perfectly mirrored the offerings in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and even those from Indian casinos across the country. The store was also known to offer phone cards, Internet service and sweepstakes to their customers. The same offers were found in another store owned by a different owner, Digital Connection, along 4660 S. 4000 West which is also in West City Valley.

The debate however runs deeper than just mere operation. The stores contend that they are merely offering games with a chance at winning cash or prizes, not necessarily illegal in many states including Utah. Prosecutors press the issue that computer-generated games, regardless of how they are packaged, as long as they encourage some form of betting in order to win cash or prizes, is naturally a violation of the state’s laws against gambling. The raid netted 67 people, most of them patrons who were caught in the bust. 18 of those in the store were held for reasons other than just being there, such as outstanding warrants for other offenses. The store’s manager was also nabbed on suspicion of several felonies.

The West Valley City police were quick to add that some of those arrested or detained could face charges related to gambling activities. Said West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell, over 80 computer stations were seized from City Cyber Café and Digital Connection, not to mention five servers and other electronic gadgets. “Illegal gambling in West Valley City will not be tolerated,” said West Valley City police shortly after the raid. City Cyber Café’s attorney responded saying, “They came like a thief in the night.” Jerome Mooney, based in Salt Lake City, also said that there was no initial warning despite the fact that his clients were fully cooperative with the city police.

But what is the violation really? Business owners were left to ponder that question as the police rolled forward. “It was our opinion the Cyber Café had violated the law,” said Atty. Gary Crane of Layton City, another location for City Cyber Café, but was closed since April of last year after persistent questioning by Atty. Crane. Mooney responded by saying the Internet Cafes only offered phone card services that paved the way for computer-generated sweepstake, which are not illegal in any way, at least under Utah law. The Layton branch’s closure was due more to it underperforming rather than the investigation by Atty. Crane.

The Layton facility were stacked with up to 20 computer terminals and a sign that said “sweepstakes” for up to $3,000 in prizes. The way it works is that the café sells phone cards to clients who then use them to access a terminal. That access affords with it a chance to play sweepstakes games. Winning the sweepstakes can lead to more points for more playing credits, or cash should the client chose to cash-in. Crane responded by citing a Utah law passed last year that prohibits “fringe gambling,” defined as “any gambling, lottery, or video-gaming device … given, conducted, or offered for use or sale by a business in exchange for anything of value; or given away incident to the purchase of other goods or services.”

With all the argumentation going back and forth, it’s up to the prosecutors and the courts to lay the matter to rest. It also remains unclear whether or not Utah would pass legislation allowing gambling in their territory, in light of the currently prevailing trend in the countty.

 

March 12, 2011

Point Richmond City Council to Vote on Casino Proposal

A resolution pending before the Richmond City Council over the final environment impact assessment submitted for the Point Molate casino project amounting to $1 billion is expected to be finally approved on Tuesday. The new facility will grace Richmond’s waterfront providing a perfect placid venue for would be gamblers and vacationers alike. After the City Council stamps its approval on the report, it moves ahead for state and federal reviews before it can finally be approved for implementation. The council will base its decision following a public hearing which sought to clarify issues as answered in the EIR and pertaining to other social matters such as traffic, jobs, and the Bay Trail.

The earliest construction operations can start is in about a year’s time said Michael Derry, head of the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, the proponents of the project which also include a hotel and a shopping center to complement the casino. There will also be a convention center, a ferry terminal, retail shops, parks and housing. The facility will be conveniently located on the bay shore northern front off of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. But this would only happen if all reviewing agencies approve the plan on time. A rejection by the City Council would ground the project to a halt and depending on the recommendations, could further push the project beyond its current timelines. "For us, this is the culmination of almost 60 years of waiting to have a reservation," said Derry. "It means health care, education, employment. It means having a homeland."

The reference of 60 years dates back to the 1960s when the tribe did not have a land. Negotiations with Richmond City in 2004 led to an agreement for the tribe to purchase the former Navy Fuel Depot for $50 million. The City Council’s most likely argument for a rejection, if it comes to that, is its wishes for the Environmental Impact Report to contain clearer provisions regarding job creation among other things. "I want jobs," said Richmond City Councilman Corky Boozé. "We're an economically suppressed community. If the jobs are not there, I'm going to have a hard time with this." Of the 17,000 jobs the project is expected to generate, Boozé wants half of that allocated to Richmond residents. Some have aired some issues over the Bay Trail component of the proposal. "Without bicycle and pedestrian access to Point Molate, the pollution from traffic will be unacceptable," said Bruce Beyaert, chair of Trails for Richmond Access Committee. "The Bay Trail is the best way to provide that access."

Given the casino’s proposed location, a 1.4-mile stretch along the Point Molate shoreline with no connection across Interstate 50 towards neighboring counties Point Richmind, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville and beyond, the Bay Trail is expected to deliver that need to make it more convenient for would-be customers. A $1.2-mile connection costing some $20.7 million would provide easy access to bicycle riders and the activists are lobbying for the tribe to shoulder the cost. The current setup requires bicycle riders to take I-50 if they wish to go to Point Molate. The Interstate is not a safe place for vehicles amid the speedy traffic. Beyaert said that a cyclist has already been killed and another paralyzed while plying the I-50 on a bike. A further concern is on the traffic that the casino will cause relative to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. "That bridge is going to look like the Bay Bridge at 5 p.m. Friday if we don't do something," Boozé said. "And it's not fair to dump all that traffic into Point Richmond."

A resolution to these issues can certainly help the tribe gain fast approval of its proposal so construction can move as planned, remarks Derry. "The city has a contract with us and has already accepted our money. The city has to act responsible. But we think in the end this is a project that can benefit everyone.", he added. The voting comes only months after a referendum shot down Measure U on November 2, voters collectively rejected an advisory measure that would have supported casino expansion in the area. The Council is known to have anti-casino majority tendencies.

 

March 11, 2011

Vancouver remains split on proposed mega casino

Proponents of the next mega casino to sit beside the B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver will not reduce their proposed number of slot machines and gaming tables in order to sell the idea to Vancouver citizens. Instead, Paragon Gaming Inc is sticking to the original plan and hoping that its enough to lead citizens into a nod. During Monday night’s public hearing, Paragon president Scott Menke responded to questions by city Councilor David Cadman regarding the proposed size of the casino, which is approved, easily becomes the largest gaming establishment in Western Canada. “The numbers that we have come up with are not just pulling numbers out of the air,” explained Menke. He continued saying that the original proposal is designed to “meet the demand for gaming in city, particularly for potential gamblers the casino will attract from B.C. Place,” referring to the 150 gaming tables and 1,500 slot machines that Paragon is planning to build into its new mega project. In comparison, Edgewater Casino at the Plaza of Nations which is also operated by Paragon Gaming has only 75 game tables and 520 slot machines.

The $500 million project will call for the relocation of Edgewater Casino in the land immediately west of the stadium. It will also include two hotels and restaurants. The project also intends to connect directly to one of the gates at the stadium, which would allow sport spectators or concert goers to freely walk in and out of the facility as they please. During the first night of the public hearing, 300 people patiently sat in to listen to the discussions. There were also dozens of Edgewater workers identifiable in their yellow T-shirts printed with “Save Our Jobs” slogans on the front. An opposing group who goes by the name Vancouver, not Vegas! Coalition was also at hand to display “No casino” banners and listen to the proceedings. As expected, a few emotional outbursts were heard in between speeches. In particular, David Podmore of the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, landlord of the proposed site, was interrupted during his presentation when jeers from the crowd met his comments that being a critic was much easier than being a proponent Podmore said, “I’ve always tried to conduct myself in a civil manner and I hope people will as well during this debate.”

Edgewater’s contract expires in 2013. Without an approved relocation site that’s up and running by that time, employees could lose their jobs. Thane Boulter, an employee from Edgewater, said in front of the council, “My wife also works for Edgewater, so if this proposal does not go through, of course it’s a double bam to our family income.” He added that he has two young daughters. “This will have a huge impact on their future, as well.” Among the groups that support the proposal are the B.C. Government Employees’ Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers and Harry VanBeest of the International Brotherhood of electrical Workers. VanBeest argued that the new construction is needed in order to give jobs to the many electricians who have been out of work since the construction bubble burst shortly before the 2010 Winter Games. “They’re all over this project,” VanBeest said, adding that he has been in constant communication with union members who support the casino project, one of which was forced to work in Saskatchewan due to the limited number of opportunities within Vancouver.

The council’s approval could mean 5,000 new construction jobs and up to 1,900 permanent jobs after the casino’s completion. Paragon also dangled a $17 million annual profit sharing scheme to the city as an additional item to sweeten the pot. This could be welcome development for a city which has seen gaming grants plummet from $156 million in 2008-2009 to $12 million in 2009-2010, marking an almost 30% reduction that is affecting non-profit organization, charities and art organizations all across Vancouver. Still, Amir Ali Alibhai, representing the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture says the alliance will continue to oppose the relocation and expansion of Edgewater. “We want a city that is well planned, economically and environmentally sustainable, compassionate, socially cohesive and expresses its identity through its built and natural environment,” said Alibhai. “The largest destination casino in Western Canada plonked in our downtown core is not part of that vision.” The debates are expected to continue.

 

March 10, 2011

New Jersey Online Gambling Bill Not Quite Dead Yet

Earlier last week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie slammed the brakes on a controversial legislation that would have allowed New Jersey to become the first state with a regulated online gambling industry. After Gov. Christie called a halt to the proceedings by vetoing the bill that easily passed through the House, gambling supporters are left to wonder what’s up ahead for the measure. But not everyone is exactly in a downer. “Of course it's a setback but it does allow us to go back and fix the things that were problematic,” remarks Melanie Brenner, director of the U.S. Online Gaming Association, a newly born advocate for the legalization of online wagering. “…such as the stipulation that players be New Jersey residents rather than any one geographically located within the state of New Jersey.”

Indeed, what Ms. Brenner is alluding to are the same things legislators are talking about as a subsequent measure. A most likely course of action is to introduce amendments that would be in accordance with what the governor wants. There is also the option of putting the bill up for referendum bypassing the governor’s table altogether, something that the governor himself suggested in his veto message of the bill. Added Brenner, “The constitutionality issue is much more problematic and we are looking closely to see if there is any possible way to draft a bill that would allow for changes to the Constitution,” referring to the federal law that limits online gambling, if ever it is allowed, within the borders of the state and only accessible to citizens of that state. The same issues are being discussed in Iowa where a similar bill is also up for the governor’s approval within the next few weeks.

Indeed, what Ms. Brenner is alluding to are the same things legislators are talking about as a subsequent measure. A most likely course of action is to introduce amendments that would be in accordance with what the governor wants. There is also the option of putting the bill up for referendum bypassing the governor’s table altogether, something that the governor himself suggested in his veto message of the bill. Added Brenner, “The constitutionality issue is much more problematic and we are looking closely to see if there is any possible way to draft a bill that would allow for changes to the Constitution,” referring to the federal law that limits online gambling, if ever it is allowed, within the borders of the state and only accessible to citizens of that state. The same issues are being discussed in Iowa where a similar bill is also up for the governor’s approval within the next few weeks.

A further boost to the case of gambling advocates is the fact that Gov. Christie’s veto message indicated that his opposition of the bill is conditional, meaning that there were only “parts” of the bill that he did not agree to, not necessarily the whole spirit behind the legislation. Re-working the bill could breathe new life into an issue that has consumed New Jersey since late last year. An explicit concern from the governor’s veto message talked about the possibility of gambling occurring in bars and cafes in New Jersey, something that was never discussed in detail in the bill. Other independent observers are more optimistic in a vote carrying the bill rather than the House plugging enough holes to convince the governor to affix his signature. “If you look back at the state and its dealings with gambling,” said Joseph Weinert, senior vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group, a Philadelphia-based gaming research and professional services company, “every expansion in the state has required a voter referendum. For example, allowing Sunday horse racing went to a vote. And the issue of Internet gambling is infinitely more significant than that.”

Adds Weinert, “I saw in one Fairleigh Dickson poll that voters opposed it,” he said, “but that’s before anyone has started to make a case for or against it. When you have a full campaign and people pay closer attention, there can be swings in opinion,” citing examples of the likelihood that voter opinion can tip in favor of the bill when it all gets said and done. A recent survey in New Jersey indicated that a majority of the voting public, 67% of pooled respondents, are against online gambling. The same concern also fueled Gov. Christie’s veto decision preferring instead to have the people decide on such a sensitive issue. “The expansion of gambling in New Jersey has been slow and cautious,” says the governor’s veto message referring to public concerns about the “potential ills” of betting.

Brenner likewise does not appear optimistic that a referendum can carry the bill through. “If the bottom line is that this legislation must go to the ballot,” says Brenner, “my instincts tell me that this is not the year.” The opinion stems from the fact that this is a non-presidential election year which has a tendency to favor Republicans over Democrats who normally does not show as much support in the voting precincts. Until the next course of action is determined, it’s a wait-and-see game. And if continues to be like that for the next few weeks, then Iowa, Florida or California could beat New Jersey to the punch of becoming the first U.S. state to allow legalized online gambling.

 

March 9, 2011

La Center to Change Its Stance; May Support Indian Casino Proposal

A softer stance from the La Center City Council is looking to advance tribe-city council relations in La Center City. The city council is mulling a potential decision to repeal a previous resolution that opposes the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s casino project. Instead, a new resolution – Resolution No. 11-340 – would supersede the original (and soon to be repealed) resolution that the council passed in May 2007. Adopting the new resolution will come down to a vote at its 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. Initial review of the resolution indicates a reversal of the city council’s former stance on the casino project. According to exact wording from the resolution, “The City hereby determines to actively engage the Cowlitz Tribe in government-to-government relations and work to integrate the Tribe’s development into the City of La Center, its urban services systems and the larger north Clark County community.”

The history between the two organizations goes back to December of 2009 when the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribe’s application for 152 acres of tribe land to be taken into trust. The tribe is proposing to build a large casino-hotel complex just a short way off of the Interstate 5 junction Other community oppositions came form Clark County, the city of Vancouver, local property owners, and operators of the four La Center cardrooms , including Citizens Against Reservation Shopping who collectively filed an appeal in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. last month. Since the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ ruling however, the La Center City Council has been mum about its stance.

Until now. “The current city council understands that, while the tribal development’s impacts could be negative, they could also be beneficial if effectively integrated into La Center’s plan for economic diversity, including the city’s sanitary sewer and transportation systems,” added the resolution. La Center is actively annexing land from city limits west to the I-5 interchange. The resolution detailed the city’s efforts in expending “significant resources” to expand its growth boundary as well as in providing services up to the junction area.

La Center stand’s to benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship with the tribe. While the city’s primary source of revenue – taxes from the four non-tribal card rooms within the city – will be directly under threat with the construction of an Indian casino just off the Interstate, it can benefit from the new revenue source if it manages to completely annex the land surrounding the junction thereby ensuring that casino taxes will go straight to the city’s coffers. The resolution clarifies this by saying “The city revenue source could be jeopardized should the city ignore the economic opportunities presented by tribal and nontribal gaming interests at the I-5 junction.” Instead, the resolution specifies that the city wants the Cowlitz casino development project to be connected to the city’s sewer system. Of course, all the associated costs with such a move are expected to come with the proposal.

The city also expressed interest in making sure that all potential impact out of the development will be fully arrested or planned for and facilities and services that will take a hit are to be funded in order to serve the needs of both tribal and nontribal developments at the junction. To this end, city council members explicitly requested for the city to draft a new resolution that will replace the old one, said City Finance Director Suzanne Levis. There were concurrent negotiations that fueled the change in city opinion. City councilmen Al Luiz and Greg Thornton together with La Center mayor Jim Irish met Cowlitz officials on February 14 to hammer an agreement on the sewer treatment plan. The effort to improve tribe-to-city relations began in June when the city council offered to work with the tribes to open communication lines that would allow both organizations to come into mutually-beneficial arrangements.

The old resolution – Resolution No. 07-279 — mentions 10 primary concerns of the city regarding the casino proposal including the draft final environmental impact statement which is required for all building constructions across the United States. The biggest argument for city council members pertains to socioeconomic, traffic and other impacts. On top of this, the city also requested that the tribe or federal government take action or develop a plan to mitigate the impacts and this, the city mentioned, was a prerequisite prior to the city lending its support to the project.

 

March 8, 2011

NH Defers Voting on Gambling Bills to Next Year

Legislators here are hoping for a breakthrough in the long struggle to expand gambling ventures to feed the state’s coffers but the fight might have to wait until next year. State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a perennial sponsor of gambling legislation in the New Hampshire legislature is taking a pause after the Senate president requested to take his latest proposal out of the priority list. "There's got to be an appetite. I think the perception is the House doesn't want to raise money," he said Friday. D’Allesandro further comments that he has not surveyed the Senate landscape on voting preferences but he most likely doesn’t have enough votes to push the bill through. “I will support having the Senate hold onto [my] bill until next year,” adds the Senator. He, however, was quick to point out that it’s not over until it’s over. "Where there is life, there is hope," he said. He isn’t completing dismissing the possibility of negotiations over spending cuts and revenues which will give him plenty of reason to put forward his bill as a potential solution to the state’s economic ills.

The bill seeks to legalize video slot machines in New Hampshire. If approved, it is expected to authorize up to 10,000 video slot machines at four locations within the state. There will also be table games such as poker, roulette and craps. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on the bill by Monday but discussions don’t necessarily mean voting so Sen. D’Allesandro is choosing to be prudent instead of being overly aggressive. Older versions of the proposal allowed slot machines at racetracks, what other states call “racinos.” The current proposal from D’Allesandro does not identify specific sites but the horse race track on the Massachusetts border is looking like a willing candidate. Says Rich Killion, spokesman for Millennium Gaming Inc., a Las Vegas company is committed ot building a facility at Rockingham Park race track in Salem if lawmakers approve it but likewise adds that it is not currently clear if the Legislature is primed to move ahead on gambling expansion this year.

The politics aren’t as conducive for taxation as a means to improve state finances. The republicans currently control the State Senate and are keen on cutting spending with raising taxes. Two years ago, a more favorable scenario existed when D’Allesandro was Senate Finance Chairman and the Democrats dominated the Senate allowing for gambling to be included as a source of revenue for the state. House Speaker William O'Brien said he opposes expanding gambling, and adds that even if he supported the bill, he feels that the House would still not pass the bill to legalize video slots. The N.H. House has historically killed gambling measures and this year has already set a precedent by rejecting one bill. O'Brien also said a vote on the bill was deliberately deferred so gambling will not drive the budget debate as was the case years before.

Democratic Gov. John Lynch aired the same sentiments regarding expanding gambling as a states source of revenue. The potential for proliferation of gambling as a social vice including questions about the state's ability to regulate it under existing laws concerns the Senator, said his deputy chief of staff, Pamela Walsh. But D’Allesandro fully believes in the financial benefits of casinos, not to mention the permanent jobs it will create in the servicing and staffing of casino operations on top of gambling taxes that are sure to come should the gambling facilities earn as expected. The region is already deep into planning stages for expanded gambling measures and if Maine or Massachusetts went ahead with their plans, New Hampshire could be left behind without any working plan to compete with neighboring states.

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, chairman of Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, said he prefers to see the bills dropped this year instead of waiting for next year after the budget has been decided then spending time fighting over it. “The Republican effort now is to cut the size of government, and gambling proceeds could be used to maintain its size or grow it,” he said. “Next year, there will be a debate about gambling we are much more worried about,” he added. To that end, Sen. D’Allesandro remains upbeat as he has always been. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m always hopeful,” he said.

 

March 7, 2011

Casino Developer Files Building Permit Despite On-going Issues with Host County

In a move that spells confidence, the developer of a still contested gambling venture in Franklin County has filed an application for a building permit with the state despite negotiations with Columbus City officials still far from finding a suitable resolution. "They're scheduled to break ground this spring. It's very important they remain on schedule to get this casino open by the second half of next year," said Bob Tenenbaum, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming.

In a related issue that is reminiscent of the current negotiations with Columbus officials, The Dispatch Printing Company, the parent company of The Dispatch is in an on-going legal squabble with the Central Ohio Gaming Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Penn, over making public some parts of the project’s structural permit application with the state. The Dispatch believes that it is in the best interest of citizens to be aware of the construction specifications for the new casino while the developer believes that security reasons prohibit the release of such documents unless specifically required by law.

According to an official statement from Central Ohio Gaming Ventures, the application contained “trade secrets involving security that are exempt from disclosure under the state’s public-records law.” Said a Franklin County judge, followed by “The state cannot take action on that part of the application until a hearing is held on whether the pages must be released to the public.”. The hearing is set for March 29 in front of Common Pleas Judge David W. Fais. The building permit application contains details on a 30,000 square foot Hollywood Casino and a 2,123-slot packing garage. The architect of the project completed the submission of all structural-permit requirements with the Ohio Department of Commerce on February 22. A revised plan was submitted just this Monday following concerns expressed by the state agency over some aspects of the initial proposal.

Other details of the plan include staffing plans, up to 2,000 heads manning 3,000 slot machines, 70 gambling tables, and a 30-table poker room. The plan also calls for a two-surface parking structure with 1,307 slots for customers and 907-additional slots for employees. A large RV park is also in the plans. In order to not delay current project timelines as defined, the developer went straight to the state to file the building permits even as the new Building Department in Franklin County is still only able to perform administrative duties and currently devoid of enforcement powers. The Ohio Board of Building Standards, on the other hand, can approve the paperwork granting enforcement powers to Franklin County but it was pushed down the agenda list up until April 8.

Meanwhile, the haggle between Franklin County and Penn National centers over Penn’s initial proposal to annex the former Delphi auto-parts to the city, which has resisted on the grounds of tax breaks and other concessions. Tenenbaum says, “The developer didn't file the application in order to pressure the city. It's not so much that but keeping the project on schedule." The legal rumble between The Dispatch and the Central Ohio Gaming Venture was over the former filing a public-records request with the state for the casino’s initial structural application plan. This was in accordance with the state’s public records law which allows individuals and organization to request for document copies in the interest of transparency.

According to Steven W. Tigges, the representing attorney for The Dispatch, “The Dispatch has been a leader in expressing the view of the Columbus business community on the casino issue and is committed to ensuring that the casino is developed in compliance with the law." The request was driven by concerns that were raised recently when the casino developer began exploring drilling wells for water sources and shipping its raw sewage to a treatment plant in Marysville instead of the expected move to annex the property into Columbus and connect the facility to the city's water and sewer service. The city has chosen to remain silent over the matter. Mayor Michael Coleman says he is aware of the case and the permit application but intends on seeing it play out, according to Dan Williamson, Mayor Coleman’s spokesman. “Ultimately, they need water and sewer to operate a casino here.”

The representing attorney for Central Ohio Gaming Venture could not be immediately reached for comment. Much like the mayor’s office, everyone might also have to wait and see.

 

March 6, 2011

Governor Christie Rejects Online Gambling Bill

The first domino will just have to wait; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday vetoed the bill which seeks to legalize online gambling in the state. New Jersey was just one of four states in the l US with pending legislation that would allow some form of regulated online gambling. The other states are Florida, California, and Iowa. It was widely believed that had Gov. Christie approved the bill, this would have set a precedent for other states to follow suit. Currently, online gambling is not legal in any of the US states but the pressure to generate more in-state revenues to fill public coffers and found public projects remains a critical motivation for state legislators and officials to look into expanded gambling as a means for increased state earnings.

The measure, however, isn’t fully dead, or at least that’s the message that Gov. Christie would like to espouse following his explanation of the veto. “In my view, the creation of a legal fiction deeming all wagers to have ‘originated’ in Atlantic City cannot overcome the clear and unambiguous language of the State Constitution,” he said in the veto. Instead Christie suggested having to get the necessary approval and support through a state-wide referendum. While this does not erase some of the “significant concerns” that Christie had with the legislation, particularly the perceived issues regarding satisfying constitutional requirements, it would place the burden on voters to decide their own fate on something that will impact them directly. “The expansion of gambling in New Jersey has been slow and cautious,” he added, referring to public concerns about the “potential ills” of betting backed by a recent poll that showed 67% of New Jersey citizens were opposed to Internet gambling. These concerns led the governor to worry about the manner in which the bill would expand gambling “in a manner that is contrary to the public’s sentiment” to gambling.

“If the Legislature believes that expanding gambling outside of Atlantic City is in the best interests of the State of New Jersey, it should place the question on the ballot for the voters to decide,” adds Christie. Gambling was made legal in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1976, two years after statewide gambling was rejected in a referendum. Online gambling, on the other hand, was made illegal in the US in 2006 following a Congress action imposing a ban on gambling transactions that would involve players from outside the state’s own borders. A common theme across the legislation currently pending in Iowa, Florida and California including the vetoed New Jersey bill was to limit operations within the state’s borders satisfying the provision of the federal law. There was likewise no mention of federal concerns in Gov. Christie’s veto message.

The language of the governors clearly had merits which has lawmakers scrambling for amendments. The bill did not contain any provision that would address online gambling from becoming a trend in Internet cafes, even bars and nigh clubs. Another sore point was the utilization of the revenues from online gambling operations; the current version of the bill proposed that revenues be used to prop up the state’s stumbling horse-racing industry. The good news for game lobbyists is that given the governor’s message, lawmakers are confident they can introduce the necessary amendments to convince the governor to affix his signature to the bill. Says state Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-Atlantic City), “We need to be in the forefront simply because it’s going to be the wave of the future. If it went nationally and internationally, we could make a lot.” “I know we’re going to be able to get it done,” adds state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Union County Democrat.

The same sentiment is echoed by Joe Brennan, the executive director of IMEGA. “This is a setback in that it slows it down. But all indications we have is the governor wants this, but it’s that he wants it done right.”, he said. The proposed bill likewise faces a powerful foe in Caesars Entertainment, Inc., the world-renowned casino operations company with four casinos in Atlantic City alone. Caesars has been clamoring against a per-state approach to online gambling and instead wants a nationwide network backed by the federal government.

 

March 5, 2011

Rep. Winslow: Las Vegas Statute Could Already Have Legalized Slot Machines in Massachusetts

The bid to expand gambling ventures in Massachusetts just got a boost forward as state Rep. Daniel Winslow, R-Norfolk, said Wednesday he is under the impression that slot machines are already legal contrary to current belief by many in the state. Massachusetts, years prior, passed the Las Vegas statute which, according to Rep. Winslow, “provides an exception to the ban on gambling for non-profit agencies that hold charitable bazaars” including poker, roulette wheels, craps and other forms of gambling.” The state representative then proceeded to say he will request Attorney General Martha Coakley to verify this position, as per the interpretation of the law. Other representatives who supported the move included Rep. Angelo D’Emelia, R-Bridgewater and Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading who collectively will file an “order” or provision in House asking for the chamber to write to Coakley to clarify the law.

The three republicans likewise expressed excitement saying their order could lay the groundwork for slot machines at racetracks, which has been a constant source of debate in the Statehouse for years. Just last year, a bill was proposed calling for the approval of both slot machines and casinos and it passed both House and Senate reviews prior to being vetoed by Gov. Deval Patrick. Should Attorney General Coakley concur with the position put forward by Rep. Winslow and rules that slot machines are indeed legal for “charity Las Vegas nights,” “it changes everything on Beacon Hill,” said Winslow. “If she says, ‘Yes,’ the debate goes from whether slot machines should be legal to whether we should regulate slot machines that are already legal,” he added.

Winslow, a former district court judge and attorney, further added that he has done his part in extensively researching and studying the Las Vegas statute and its implications vis-à-vis current laws and he believes his interpretation is right but in the end it still falls to the Attorney General to give a definitive ruling on the issue. “I am 100 percent confident, but I am not the attorney general,” he said. On the other side of the fence sits Gov. Deval Patrick who has repeatedly stated his position against slot machines instead favoring the creation of resort casinos with hotels and entertainment venues married with gambling facilities because they would result to job creation. Slot machines will only require minimal servicing by a qualified technician, not exactly the sort of venture that can lead to more jobs for the constituents of Massachusetts.

Patrick adds that slot machines can only dilute the market for casinos so if the move is to eventually have a regulated casino in the state, it is illogical to “kill” the market beforehand by flooding it with slot machines. Winslow responds by saying, “If slot machines are allowed, it would only be natural to locate them at racetracks, which already have gambling in the form of betting on horses. The development would be a winner all the way around,” he said, “because tracks would get a share of the revenue, the state lottery would get 5 percent of the proceeds and charities and nonprofit agencies would enjoy a funding boom.”

The legislature remains divided on the subject. Brad Jones, the House minority leader, expressed his optimism that the answer to the question initially raised by Rep. Winslow would finally lead to a resolution that everyone can rally around. "I believe that this is an important question that needs to be answered," he said. "Upon clarification, this could potentially be the framework for, and thus, facilitate debate about expanded gaming in Massachusetts.” Winslow further added. Known representatives who support the expansion of gambling to include slot machines in racetracks are Rep. Winslow, Rep. Jones, Sen. D’Emelia, Rep. Robert Deleo the current House Speaker. Those who openly oppose expanded gambling include Rep. Vincent Pedone (D-Worcester) and Rep. Caril Sciortino (D-Medford) with the backing of Gov. Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray.

House leaders could not be immediately reached for comment. There are plenty more talking points to discuss in the upcoming legislative sessions and it’s a safe bet the issue is far from being closed.

 

March 4, 2011

Firekeepers to Put Up a New Hotel Facility to Complement Existing Casino

The true measure of a casino’s viability, and whether there is demand in a specific area, is to look in on a weekday morning, far removed from the vibrant weekend nights when every hour is happy hour; think Tuesday at 9:40AM in a city that speaks less of casinos and more of cereals. Such is the vibe at Firekeeper’s Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan off of I-94 and east of Kellogg, Michigan. If there is any place that speaks less of casinos and more of the rural life, this should be it. But things are different here; the casino business is alive, and demand for a casino hotel remains sky high. Consider: a thin, unshaven middle-aged man walks into the casino lobby, momentarily stares at the mixed bag of patrons and casino staff that endlessly roam the expanse of the Firekeepers Casino. He looks on, for a moment displaying the faced of someone who does not know why he is there or what it is he wants to do. Then, slowly he stirs and makes way into a slot machine. He settles down comfortably, reaches for his pocket, and begins his religious, deliberate but almost gentle attack on the lever in-front of him as he intently looks at the figures that scroll across the monitor.

He is just one of more than 200 others who on a given week day patiently work their way across more than 2,600 slot machines in a facility that is not even 18-month old. “The buses haven’t come yet,” said Jeff LaFrance, marketing manager for the Firekeepers Casino, explaining that the crowd was actually pretty modest at the time. Now, the demand has spilled over to the need for a hotel to complement the sprawling Firekeepers that was opened in August 2009 and boasts a construction budget of $300 million. The leaders of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band, operators and owners of the Firekeepers, announce the planned construction of a 242-room, resort-style hotel. Constructions plans are pegged for the sprint and the 292,000 square-foot facility is expected to be up and running by the summer of 2012. “The casino guests were always anticipating that there was going to be a hotel,” says Homer A. Mandoka, tribal council chairman of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band. “We received a lot of comments wanting us to take this step. We did a lot of market analysis and based on that, that supports the resort-style hotel.”

According to Mandoka, the new development will generate another 400 jobs to serve casino operation needs in addition to the 1,500 that is currently servicing the facility in Emmit Township. Additional construction jobs are also expected to come out as a result of the proposal benefiting the local construction industry. From the initially released plans, the hotel will include a multi-purpose area to seat up to 2,000 patrons which can be used for conventions and related functions. The Firekeepers will also expand the size of its currently popular bingo area growing it to 10,000 square feet in order to serve 500 bingo players at any given time. Clark construction of Lansing, Michigan is expected to manage the construction of the new hotel with Kentwood-based Skillman Corp acting as the owner’s representative. Consulting on hotel specifics will be provided by Full House Resorts, Inc., a Las Vegas-based company that is also currently managing the Firekeepers Casino. To complete the team, architectural services will be provided by Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects which is based in St. Louis and is owned and operated by Native Americans with extensive experience on casino projects, 120 in total and counting, for 66 Native American tribes.

Revenue sharing will likewise be a focal point of the project as Mandoka explains, “Our goal is to keep spending locally and give to our community partners.” To date, the community has already received around $150 million in revenue sharing out of the existing facility. The casino pays $6.6 million per month to surrounding community since August 5, 2009 and another $13.6 million to the state over that same time span. “The big thing is tribal gaming money is kept in Michigan,” Mandoka said. “It’s not outsourced to another region in the country. They (casino patrons) can enjoy the same entertainment and value by staying in Michigan.” So far, the government has been appreciative of the Firekeepers impact to the community. “Employment is a wonderful thing,” said Susan Baldwin, mayor of Battle Creek.

 

March 3, 2011

City Submits Bid to Re-Zone Area for Future Casino Operations

Understanding the potential sources of revenue for a city can be tricky; investing on those areas which will yield more income in the future is an even testier proposition, which is why Columbus, Ohio’s move to proceed with development of a section of W. Broad Street that will soon house a planned casino is already half a step in the right direction. The strategy is to properly zone the area to encourage businesses around the proposed casino. Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s administration forward the proposed zoning scheme to the City Council early last month and a vote is expected by Monday to decide if the proposal will be brought to life as part of a serious of moves to make Broad Street more attractive to investors.

The proposed zoning scheme calls for a neighborhood-business district motif, along the lines of N. High Street in Clintonville instead of the traditional business model on Morse Road in the Northland area. It also calls for old buildings to undergo a facelift, and for new ones to be built closer to the street, fully equipped with screened parking lots and meet existing limitations on signages. "We want to recruit and encourage new business along that corridor, but we want it to have a look and an appeal that fits with the neighborhood," says Chuck Patterson, chairman of the Hilltop Area Commission, a group that supports the re-zoning scheme. “This is kind of a pre-emptive strike for what is hopefully to come.”, he added. Signs pointing to the council supporting the proposal from Mayor Coleman’s office are prevailing. "The Broad Street overlays will help drive economic development in a highly populated area of Columbus that has been identified as having the resources to sustain strong retail growth in the years to come," Councilman Zachary M. Klein, who leads the council's Development Committee, said in a statement.

Still, the whole project is still far from being smooth-sailing. The Coleman administration and casino developer Penn National gaming have yet to decide on a settlement that will determine the best way the casino property can be annexed to the city as promised by Penn. Currently, the Delphi auto-parts plant which will give way to the new casino is tied to Franklin Township instead of Columbus. The city administration, at the very least, is not giving any grounds for Penn to renege on its promise to annex the casino, once fully completed, to Columbus although the city government insists the proposal shouldn’t be interpreted that way. Dan Williamson, spokesman for the Mayor’s office says, “the mayor pledged city help for development near the casino and this is one more step toward fulfilling that promise. It’s the right thing to do, regardless.” Franklin County is also working on a similar re-zoning scheme and a vote is expected to come from the county commissioners before the end of the month.

In other city affairs news, Mayor Coleman and the city council together expressed opposition to a legislation that seeks to limit the collective bargaining rights for public unions. The mayor signed a City resolution in front of a packed city council meeting official declaring Columbus’ opposition to Senate Bill No. 5. It was a collective decision, both by Mayor Coleman and the City council headed by City Council president Andrew J. Ginther. Their opposition draws strength from previous negotiations between the city unions and the government which creates opportunities for health care and pension without burdening the city too much. The most recent CBA is expected to save the city $115 million through 2019.

The city council also laid the groundwork for more city improvement projects when it approved the first proposal for street work that seeks to resurface 141 streets and 60 miles of alleys from old Columbus. The initial phase is expected to cost $30 million. Shelly and Sands, Inc. got the winning bid by proposing to resurface 34 streets before the end of July at a meager cost of $4.9 million allowing the city to move ahead with other phases of the project with plenty of cash to spare. With inspection costs, the total project expense goes up to $5.4 million. "It would be far more expensive to let these streets decay to the point where we had to spend millions to replace them entirely," said Councilwoman Eileen Y. Paley, who leads the council's Public Service and Transportation Committee.

 

March 2, 2011

Deadline for New Jersey Online Gambling Bill Looms

The news that everyone in New Jersey has been waiting for quite a while now is about to be finally made public, and many are awaiting the news with mixed feelings. This Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie is expected to give his stand on the controversial online gambling bill that seeks to make it legal, regulated, and taxed by the state government. It’s been a while since Gov. Christie has had to deal with the flak from all sides regarding the bill; it can finally and decidedly end this week – although it is expected that whatever the decision is, there will be lasting impacts that will create ripples across the nation.

Many other states have similar proposals in various stages of construction and deliberation. If New Jersey finalizes the law, as is widely expected, the rest of the country is expected to follow suit creating a nationwide scramble to put up systems and regulation that can help police and monitor what is expected to be a troublesome medium of gambling. "As soon as the first state takes the step to regulate online gambling, it will sweep across the nation much like what happened with the land-based casinos in the past decade," said Gaming Analyst Steve Schwartz. "Nobody wants to the be the first to sign a controversial bill, but once the seal is broken, there likely will be widespread acceptance of online gambling by lawmakers in the US.”

The dilemma is two-fold and both sides are vexing. Driven by the economic crisis and a lack of financial assistance from the federal government, states are looking for creative ways to generate income to sustain state-wide initiatives. Gambling has been mentioned as a constant source of potential earning, if properly regulated. “If” remains to be a very big question. The nature of online gambling makes it very hard to regulate. Without the proper measures in place, people can be sucked into bad gambling habits creating a runaway trend that nobody wants to even imagine happening. Still, the motivation for regulated online gambling remains great.

Already, Christie is feeling the pressure from within his own party to try and stymie the bill, or at least not become the first state to sign it into law. If that is the case, California might be the first to do it. There are currently two bills pending in the California legislature that seeks to build, operate, and regulate full-scale online casinos. New Jersey has already been delayed in making a decision. Christie was supposed to make a decision last week but the meeting schedule for lawmakers afforded extra breathing room. The expectation is for matters to be finally decided this week after which it will be all-systems-go.

Lobbyists however, are not yet willing to concede the point. There have been plenty of action in both New Jersey and California to try and sway public opinion; thus far, there is no evidence to suggest that it will work. Aside from New Jersey and California, Iowa and Florida are also eyeing proposed bills to legalize online gambling. The thinking goes that since it’s already operating in the country, unregulated, with a significant number of Americans taking parts, it would be a prudent move to regulate the industry in order to capitalize on what is already existing. New Jersey is crossing its fingers while America watches in anticipation. The first domino could fall this week.

Gov. Christie will have several options when the fateful day comes, he could either veto the bill, send it back to the legislature for amendments, or sign it into law. State lawmakers, who have already voted in favor of the bill maintain that if the Governor vetoes the bill, they will do everything in their capacity to pass it again with a veto-proof vote. However, they have expressed quite a few problems in gathering the required votes to pass the bill without requiring the Governor's approval. Whatever the case may be, state lawmakers who pushed for the bill hope that the Governor would sign the bill into law because this would save them a significant amount of time, which, according to them, would be better spent on more pressing issues.

 

March 1, 2011

Mixed Reactions for Public-Sector Union Cuts by GOP Governors

Governor Scott Walker addressed the public-employee unions recently and asked them to give up their collective bargaining rights as well as reduce their pension and health-care plans in a bid to pad budgets. However, this might be a bad thing for retirees and people who would need long-term health benefits. "Maybe there is a little bit of jealousy here, but public workers have what I don't have," Wernick, a political independent, said "It's nice to have these things, but if there is no money you can't afford them." Walker and other Republican governors share the same view about challenging public-sector unions. These governors have maintained their images as working to champion the cause of the middle class, but has somehow, with these recent measures, served to challenge the very class they themselves have been claiming to protect.

Voters will ultimately decide on whether or not they see the GOP governors as friends or foes of their rights. Already, thousands of protesters marched on the state Capitol last Sunday, brought about by their outrage on Walker’s initiatives. Annapolis and Richmond also became the hub for thousands of supporters who were in favor of Walker’s proposals, while smaller demonstrations were held across the country in statehouses. Survey-interviews were conducted on families who have decided to stay away from the demonstrations seem to agree with the GOP governors initiatives. Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana were among the places where the surveys were conducted, however, although most of the families agreed to somehow reduce their pension plans, they are of two minds on deciding about taking away their collective-bargaining rights. This shows how volatile these proposals are. Doug Austin, who is in his 60s, said he is not sure on how to decide on the matter. Somehow, as the events unfold, it makes things all the more difficult for him. "It seems like government workers should have to pay for more of their benefits," he said. Austin is more inclined to take the extra sacrifice in order to have better health benefits, as he relates the situation of his wife who has muscular dystrophy. He says that he’s paying quite the money for his wife’s drugs. He thinks that it is time for public employees to shoulder at least half of the expenses for health-care benefits. However, he is unsure on whether or not Walker is doing the right thing in his demands, regarding collective-bargaining rights. "Maybe he is going a little bit overboard," Austin said.

The Republican governors have adopted these policies in order to remedy part of the huge budget deficits experienced by most states. However, opponents argue that there are countless other ways and means proposed to counter the effects of the last recession. The Republicans maintain, however, that the government is spending too much on fat retirement benefits of public-union members, and something needs to be done about it. By doing this, the Republicans risks losing the support of union members, which could prove disastrous. Should the Republicans proceed with their agenda, they will have trouble appealing for the support of the middle class people, especially for presidential elections.

Voters who are non-union members were affected by the protests. Walker has been trying to convince his fellow Wisconsinians and the American public that his efforts are to stabilize the economy. He also maintains that there are no hidden agendas from the Republicans' side. Most of those opposed to the initiative, however, view Walker's efforts as questionable at best. "It feels like Walker is trying to go too far too fast," said Mike Baker, a married father of one, who lives in Brooklyn, a town adjacent to Oregon. "He is trying to do too much." His wife, Sara, added: "The big issue here is people losing their rights to collective bargaining. That's not good." "We're lucky to have a job. Public workers are lucky to have a job," said Brooklyn resident Trisha Ciochon, a legal assistant and a mother of two, as she enjoyed breakfast with her husband. "Collective bargaining is a tough thing to give up. I think the governor is really pushing it." The issues continue to generate heat as protestors and supporters rouse voters who have otherwise been unaffected by the initiative.

 

February 28, 2011

Pinnacle Considering Alliance with Las Vegas Casino

A model that has specifically worked well in the airline industry might just find a corresponding application in the gambling industry. Alliance and partnerships, which is driving the airline industry to establish cross-linkages across multiple operators in multiple territories is finding a likely niche in the gambling industry as well. This comes, after Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., owner and operator of seven casinos in the United States, and primarily dominant in the southern states from Louisiana, to Missouri, Nevada and Indiana, is mulling a strategic alliance with a still unnamed Las Vegas casino company in order to extend its reaches to the particularly profitable gambling capital of the world.

The alliance, if it does indeed come to fruition, will become the centerpiece of Pinnacle’s plan to overhaul loyalty programs for customers who have stayed true to their Pinnacle affiliations. The purpose of the alliance is to increase Pinnacle’s presence in the Strip where it currently doesn’t have any casino; likewise, a negotiated partnership will mean reciprocal rewards for Las Vegas frequenters in the event they find themselves anywhere near the areas where Pinnacle has a strong presence.

“We believe that that’s an idea that has merit to it,” remarks Anthony Sanfilippo, Chief Executive Office of Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., during an earnings conference call. “When you think about having alliances, that is something that we’ve spent some time with. That idea is an idea worth pursuing.”

The idea isn’t particular novel to the gambling industry. Caesars Entertainment Corp, the world’s largest and most prestigious casino company, owners of the well-recognized Caesars brand of casinos, has set the precedence by capitalizing on its regional US properties – the Harrah and Horseshoe brands – to pull gamblers into its mega-facilities at the Strip. Packaged as a Total Rewards program for loyal patrons, the idea can be hard to resist for an enterprising gambler who’s looking to cash in at under the lights in Vegas.

But in the same way, alliances are particularly tricky because the one thing the gambling industry does not want is a cannibalization of revenues either by existing casinos or by competitors themselves. Much like being on the card table, money is at stake and nobody is normally willing to cede a hand. The only reason Caesars is so successful at doing it is because it is in an enviable position where it owns multiple brands marketed for specific demographics hence avoiding cannibalization. The Harrah brand is marketed for the average Joe, preferring to load up on more slots and keeping the tables to a quiet minimum; the Horseshoe brand caters to the middle-class gambler who can afford to lose some but not too much and does this by putting the card tables as the centerpiece without sacrificing the slots in any way. The Caesars brand is reserved for the high rollers who are never afraid to roll the dice.

The revenues continue to come in because the parts of the system perfectly complement each other. Other companies are keen on doing the same. MGM Resorts International is currently “negotiating with regional casino companies together with the American Indian operators” to sell its 10 Strip properties to a wider audience, this according to Jim Murren, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MGM Resorts, in a January interview. As with Pinnacle, the potential allies were not immediately named. Still, there are companies who are choosing to stand pat. Wynn Resorts Ltd. has only two casinos in the US and both are located at the Strip – the Wynn and Encore casinos. Las Vegas Sands, Corp. owns the Venetian and the Palazzo resorts at the Strip and relies on one other establishment in Pennsylvania to draw regional customers to Las Vegas.

For the quarter, Pinnacle reported losses of up to $10.1 million down from $ 242 million from the same quarter a year ago. Total sales rose by 18% to $274 million. Within hours of the earnings conference call and the announcement by Pinnacle, shares fell 60 cents to $12.89, corresponding to a tumble of 4.5%. The Pinnacle shares trade at the New York Stock Exchange. It’s betting that the new alliance will drive the recovery faster and hopefully recoup all its losses. The dice has been rolled; Pinnacle’s fingers are crossed.

 

February 27, 2011

Tribes Weigh-In on Online Poker Gambling

Following initiatives to legalize online casino gambling in other states, Iowa serving as a prime example, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association released last Friday the results for voting on two Senate bills that seek to open online poker to the gambling public and in turn make it a money making venture for the state in general and the organization in particular. The CNIGA voted 9-4 in favor of Senate Bill No. 40, proposed by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, which seeks to legalize online poker and putting control and regulation on the hands of California casino ventures or tribes.

Senate Bill No. 45, the competing legislation by Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, on the other hand, proposes to legalize all forms of online gambling and endowing multiple hubs with the ability to operate, regulate and earn from the venture. The initially tally shows how many tribes and social groups are still not fully comfortable to the idea of online gambling, or least loosening regulations in favor of earning potential and attracting more people to gamble outside of the typical casino environment. Even as the majority voted to support Bill No. 40, seven tribes chose to abstain from the voting process, perhaps until further analysis is completed on the most logical stance that will yield more money for the state without pushing people to gamble more.

Some tribes however, chose to take a different view. Controversies in the interpretation of the no-vote stance by the seven tribes who were present but chose to not give support for or against remained a key talking point even after conclusion of the legislative agenda for the day. Susan Jensen, spokeswoman for the CNIGA, alluded to one tribe raising concern and claiming that abstention should have been interpreted as a “no vote” by default. “We follow Roberts Rules of Order, so a vote to abstain counted only as a vote not-to-vote,” added Jensen. If the tribe’s was to be honored, the bill would not have passed during the voting process.

The promise of amendments was clearly a positive case for the proponent as the tribes. According to Jensen, most were swayed to vote “yes” when talks of new amendments were mentioned. Specifics on each of the tribes were not released; Some tribes were open to admitting their stance but the majority remained mum on the subject. The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians were confirmed by CNIGA to oppose the bill. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs have a neutral stance, hence the “no vote.” The tribe is not a member of CNIGA. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ lawyer George Forman could not be reached for comments after the Friday proceedings.

Daniel Tucker, chairman of CNIGA, was elated to learn the initial results adding that “the vote to support SB 40, legislation that would be mutually beneficial to the state and California's federally recognized tribes, came after following the issue for several years.” “Tribes need to control their own destiny,” he further quipped. But the process isn’t over as most other suggest. Tucker admitted that questions and concerns still dominate social circles in both gaming and non-gaming tribes. Tribal lobbyist David Quitana, representing the California Tribal Business Alliance responded by saying “the move doesn’t move the momentum needle at all. There’s a reason tribes abstained from the vote.”

The support, he said, largely came from tribes that signed onto the California Online Poker Association, a staunched supporter of the push for online gaming. “The COPA was the primary reason for Senate Bill No. 40.”Quitana further remarked, “This was a fait accompli.” Perspectives obviously matter depending on which group is looking at the situation. Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for Poker Voters of America, regarded CNIGA’s support as a welcome development to bring the dream of legalized online poker into reality. “The more critical mass that gets behind legislation, the quicker we can get this done,” he said.

 

February 26, 2011

Iowa Seeks to Legalize Online Poker

As states continue to explore new forms of generating revenue in the face of decreased federal support, more and more forms of legalized gambling will come out to fill in the need. Just this week, legislators in Iowa forwarded a bill to the state legislature requesting to avail of the stipulations in current federal law that allows states to legalize and regulate online gambling but limited within the state’s boundaries. The bill also seeks to put an end to the long-running dispute between hoarse breeders and race operators as to how race revenues are split. A third goal is to let casinos off the hook on referendum votes giving them more control over their fate. This early, the bill is already starting to gain steam. “It would be "a win-win" for Iowans who gamble and for those who don't, with a mix of gambling policy that has merit,” said state Sen. Jeff Danielson of Waterloo, chairman of the Senate committee that will closely examine the bill.

The centerpiece of the bill seeks for the state to legalize online poker and make it available as a gambling option for Iowans 21 years old and above. State-regulations, according to the bill, will have the power to monitor all forms of transaction. Bettors will have to setup online accounts, define for themselves maximum bets and log their length of play so the state can analyze data from various locations for future potential improvements in the system. The state will also required passwords for identify protection, both for the bettors sake, and to ensure that no unqualified gambler ever gets online. "What is driving this is the recognition that you have an existing activity that's already taking place in an unregulated environment, and the revenue is all flowing overseas," said Kirk Uhler, vice president of government affairs for U.S. Digital Gaming, the Californian company seeks to operate she state's online poker operations should it be formally legalized. “In Iowa alone, an estimated 150,000 residents discretely go online to play poker and current yearly projections put the tax opportunities lost at between $30 to $35 million,” Uhler said.

In the US, internet gambling is currently unregulated, although some states are starting to make a move in that direction. Among the regulative measures that the bill seeks to incorporate into an approved system, on top of password protection, is to have a means for people to register where their identities can first be validated for the necessary requisites. The bill initially sites registration in person at a state-regulated casino as the preferred method for controlling who gets to become eligible for playing but registering via phone or electronic means without having to appear in person are also on the table. While the early version of the bill is getting support, it is not completely free from criticisms. Just last year, a similar version of the bill imploded when one lawmaker argued that children and teenagers could potential log-in to gamble if ever they gain access to their parent’s password to which there was no solid reply.

Many state lawmakers and officials are also mum on the subject. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has not issued his position yet and so does House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha. “We haven’t had any discussion on that. I haven’t gotten a sense from members where any of that’s at yet. If we have to talk about safeguards, it gives me a pause,” remarks Paulsen. Iowa casinos have likewise expressed interest and support although full control will solely rest on the hands of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The tax implications for casino also prove to be a delicate concern. “The casinos would certainly oppose any amendment to the bill to increase the gaming tax,” remarks Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa gaming Association that represents all state-regulated establishments within Iowa.

Another thrust of the bill seeks to remove the current policy of referendum votes every eight years that allows citizens to decide whether a casino should be allowed to continuing operating or not. “All existing casinos have gotten “yes” votes at least twice – with an average of 78% approval in the fall of 2010 and 74% in 2002,” argues Ehrecke. The bill calls for yearly renewal of licenses to operate but this will come from the Racing and Gaming Commission alone. Ehrecke said this will still allow citizens to voice out their concerns.

 

February 25, 2011

Gambling Regulation Reforms Proposed in Northern Ireland

Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, said that consultation reforms have been given to the public for review regarding Northern Ireland’s gambling law. Statistics show a significant number of people gambling in the area. The Minister is hoping to strengthen the locals' awareness on the effects of gambling. Attwood also questions some gambling regulations that he deems too lax. The Minister is openly suggesting having the law reformed in order to strengthen gambling regulations, and at the same time, take some of the pressures off of the restrictions on industry development. A point in consideration is the opening of bookmaking offices on a Sunday, which Atwood believes to be a good factor in the reforms. It is also the desire of the Ministry to enforce new measures to cut down some of the effects that gambling has caused over the years.

The call for reforms will impose a mandate to the gaming industry so that they may fund research, education and treatment of problem gamblers. The Ministry is also going to outline a code of conduct for gambling operators in order to keep them mindful of their responsibilities to the public in general. Northern Ireland placed regulatory and enforcement initiatives on the courts, district councils, and the police. However, with the proposed reforms, these tasks would be handled by the Department for Social Development. ''My priority will be the public interest; striking a balance between developing gambling as a leisure pursuit and minimising its harmful effects. These have been the standards I have adopted and am adopting in regulating other industries including the drinks industry and the shops trade," Minister Attwood said.

Attwood added that the current system will not be able to operate effectively. He said that with it in place, several adverse effects cannot be avoided. ''The current regulatory system is fragmented. Close supervision of the industry is needed to keep crime out of gambling, protect the vulnerable and promote fairness. I welcome views on creating a single licensing body with new powers to impose penalties on gambling operators for breaches of licensing conditions.” Attwood added. He maintains that the laws should be amended because, after all, the people depend on them for protection. However, Attwood expressed that since it would be the public that would be affected by any reforms, people should have a say on the whole proceedings. ''There are decisions to be made in this area of complex public policy and I wish to ensure that everyone in the community has the chance to comment.'' He said. International aid is expected in seeing the reforms completed. Government subsidized institutions for treatment on problem gamblers will also be established as part of the reforms. However, the reforms must be made into law first before any of these plans could be acted upon. Experts believe that lawmakers may be able to come to a decision soon enough.

Of the 1.8 million residents in Northern Ireland, it is believed that around 36,000 people are suffering from gambling problems—this translates to 5% of the entire population. Undertaking in reforms such as this could potentially turn the tide and help these people get back on track in their individual lives. Not only are the reforms morally appreciable, it also, at the same time, promotes the expansion of gambling operations in Northern Ireland, bringing in progress to the region. Hitting two birds with one stone is the appropriate saying for what the Minister had proposed, and he will hit harder than anyone ever had, because even now, experts agree that at least 25% of the region's problem gamblers will be treated.

The reforms will be a landmark proposal in the area since Northern Ireland hasn't really seen any reforms of this kind implemented before. With most countries in the world adopting gambling expansions, it is a step forward for Northern Ireland to implement effective regulations so that consequent gambling expansions would be able to take place easily. The reforms would also serve as the beginning of the area's gambling expansion since it includes loosening of a couple of restrictions to the industry. Experts predict that Northern Ireland will be having a bustling gambling industry in the near future.

 

February 24, 2011

NJ Online Gambling Bill at its Peak

According to a New York Post article, Governor Chris Christie is allegedly preparing to have the online gambling proposal for New Jersey rejected. However, those who are ‘in the know’ are not confirming any truth to the issue, in fact Joe Brenan Jr., who is the President of iMEGA is rather reluctant to even think that the news is noteworthy. Meanwhile those who have direct involvement with the bill are expecting the Governor to sign the bill anytime soon. The Governor is believed to be having difficulties in making a straight decision to sign the bill, mainly because of strong opposition from Caesars Entertainment Corp. The situation does not favor Caesar’s benefit in more ways than it does. Caesars Entertainment Corp shares and holdings include assets such as Caesar’s Casino, Bally’s hotel casino, and Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Aside from the already mentioned hotel-casinos, Caesar’s also owns nearly 40 casinos within the US territory and the Casino Winsor in Ontario, Canada as well. Although they will significantly benefit them in New Jersey, the fact that other states will now seriously consider to following in Jersey’s footsteps will create a hostile business environment for Caesars Entertainment Corp in the near future. Caesar’s wants a share of online and offline gambling, but with the inter-state online gambling rolling on its way, it might cause a ripple effect that will hurt their business.

William J. Pascrell III ESQ, of the Princeton Public Affairs Group released a public statement that he has no doubts that Caesar’s was deeply engaged in pursuing a federal bill for online gambling legislation, however, their efforts have not been rewarded. The overturning of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act remains an elusive goal. Two bills from Congressman Barney Frank (MA) have been circulating in the legislature for quite a time, but never saw the light of day. The threat now looms for the proposed online gambling bill because of a Republican-dominated legislature. With that, it is certainly a guaranty that any bills on gambling will be opposed by a very strong Republican presence in the legislature.

Rumors are also spreading that Governor Christie is reluctant to sign the bill into law and would prefer to veto it, because he has been aiming for the presidency by 2012. It would be natural for him to not make any drastic steps in order to preserve his record. However, surprisingly enough, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed the online gambling bill with an almost unanimous vote, with unexpected support from even the most unlikely of supporters—the Republicans. If the bill has had overwhelming support from the legislature, vetoing it would mean that he has turned his back on what New Jersey wants. Analysts say that Christie would even serve to cement support from new sources once he signs the bill into law

If the governor fails to veto the bill before the week, the bill becomes law. This is a long standing rule in government that ensures that bills will not be swept under the rug. As of the moment, the governor has the choice between vetoing or signing the bill. If he abstains from the choice, the bill automatically becomes law. The constitution also provides the Governor an additional or alternative option regarding the bill, he can waive the bill, although not entirely, but ask for conditions on the bill before he agrees to sign it. This further stretches the limit imposed. The governor would now be able to add to the bill any changes that he deems necessary.

The Governor may see himself torn between Caesars Entertainment Corp and his constituents, but vetoing the bill and going against the will of his people will destroy his career more than submitting to Caesar’s pressures. As of now, any predictions on what the government will do are mere speculations. No one can really say for certain what the governor plans. Lawmakers, however, have expressed their anxiety over the issue as many bills, all over the country, have been overwhelmingly passed by different state legislatures before, only to have met an untimely death in the hands of the state's respective governors. They have maintained that at this rate, the situation can go either way.

 

February 23, 2011

Florida Considers Expanding Casinos

Las Vegas gaming companies have been aiming to take their trade to the Sunshine state of Florida for a long time now. They have been more eager recently now that there seems to be promising signs of recovery from the economic recession. Statistically, Florida would have the same environment with Nevada with regard to casinos and other forms of entertainment. Las Vegas casino operators believe that this would be key in their operation in the state. After Florida Governor Rick Scott was elected last November, his first non-political agenda was to have a meeting with Sheldon Adelson who is CEO of Las Vegas Sands. Many people believe that even though the meeting was off-politics, it definitely has something to do with Las Vegas entertainment being introduced in Florida. The Governor, however, is hard pressed in denying that any of the speculated issues were discussed in their meeting.

A Hearing on gambling expansion is expected to be held by the Business Consumer Affairs Subcommittee within this week. Already, Senate officials are brewing drafts for legislation to make Florida a forefront of casino resorts, and should a vote favor the proposals, it would make drastic changes in the socio-economic environment of the Sunshine state. Businessmen have expressed their open agreement to this change. There are, however, a few who opposed the idea. The loudest voice of opposition to this plan does not come from the people, nor even the business sector; it comes from the Republican political party in the US. When the Seminole Indians convinced the former Governor Charlie Crist in forming a compact to launch their gambling operations in their territory, conservative Republican lawmakers like Marco Rubio were among the few who headed an opposition to render the compact null and void. However, a common ground was established and lawmakers eventually allowed the Seminoles to expand their gambling operations.

Currently, lawmakers are in a tug-of-war, pulling as hard as they could from both sides of the issue. Some legislators do not appreciate the idea of having any form of gambling in their state whatsoever. On the other hand, some are welcoming it with open arms. For instance, Congressman Scott Plakon is dead serious in wanting the sweepstakes cafes eliminated, basically the sweepstakes are played in internet cafes, thus the name stuck ‘sweepstakes cafes’. The internet cafes becomes a bridge or facilitator between senior citizens (who are avid fans of this online gambling game)who buy internet time to play online sweepstakes with prizes given out to the winners.

Developers are looking at South Beach, Florida as the most ideal place to start the chain of casino resorts. Supposed Las Vegas gaming and entertainment tycoons are allowed to operate in Florida, but so far Miami-Dade officials are not so happy or even at least hospitable towards casino resorts in their jurisdiction. This might give the opportunity to Fort Lauderdale and other counties in Florida to host these massive income-generating casino resorts. Ideally the introduction of casino resorts in Florida would speed up economic recovery after the recession. Tax revenues that will be generated from these casino resorts would amount in the hundreds of millions annually. Jobs and business opportunities surrounding these sites are of paramount interests to most people. Tourism will also increase significantly in the Sunshine state if the casino plan pushes through.

Conservative parties, however, are less than impressed with this news and are still adamant in opposing such a proposal. They would always argue that problem gambling will surface somewhere among their constituents and the consequences would not be worth the benefits. Still, in the end the people of Florida will have to decide as one, on whether or not they will welcome such a change in their cities, counties, and rural areas or discard it entirely.

The important thing is that lawmakers and the people could come to a decision that is essentially beneficial to the people, the state, and the country in general. A referendum is considered by most lawmakers to be the best course of action to take. So even if gambling expansion would be opposed by some lawmakers, if accepted by majority of the voters, it would mean that the measure would push through.

 

February 23, 2011

State Bets on Casinos

The true measure of a strong, dynamic, and thriving economy is when both the business sector and government work together to better each other's interest. This was highlighted earlier this month when New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority, believing in the power of businesses to revitalize local economies, decided to approve a $261 million Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant for Revel Casino, one of the most successful gambling establishments in the Atlantic City area. Initially, this move was met with disapproval from a few who believe the state does not gain anything by allocating state resources to refresh a gambling institution. A previous editorial entitled “N.J. making bad bet on Revel casino” locally released in the New Jersey and Atlantic City area criticized the move as a waste of valuable government resources that could otherwise be spent to provide services to ailing neighborhoods across New Jersey.

Today, business leaders from Atlantic City banded together to release a clarificatory retort to said editorial. The letter sought to outline why the state’s actions were perfectly in-line with public interests and how, in the long-run, the granting of an Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant to Revel casino will only serve to better the Atlantic City economy and its constituents. Among the basic contentions of the letter was clarifying the term “grant” which is misleading citizens to believe that the state will pay for Revel’s redevelopment. “Under this tax incentive program, which is part of the New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act of 2009, the state pays out nothing up front. Rather, it provides Revel with a return of a portion of the sales and other taxes it generates over a 20-year period. It is money the state would never see unless the Revel project is completed and operational. And that prospect is made far more likely by using this economic development incentive. The state is projected to receive more than $3 billion in new taxes from Revel over that same 20-year period. The ERG represents less than 8 percent of that figure. And that $3 billion doesn’t even include property taxes or taxes from suppliers,” the letter argued.

Another fine point discussed by the letter is on the creation of jobs. From the construction activities alone, an estimated 2,100 jobs will be made available to the citizens of New Jersey and Atlantic City. On top of this, a newly renovated Revel will open its doors to 5,500 job vacancies once it starts to fill its staffing needs prior to making the casino fully operational. The total estimated 10,000 jobs which will be created as an offshoot of the economic “grant” is expected to bring some much needed economic boost in New Jersey which is still reeling from the effects of the economic crisis in 2008. The letter further alluded to Borgata, a thriving casino establishment that is responsible for helping Atlantic City realize its true potential as a world-class tourist destination and transforming Atlantic City into “one of the premier dining, retail, and entertainment meccas in the East Coast.” Revel’s renovation is expected to create the same impact allowing Atlantic City and New Jersey to continue its recovery the economic ills that have plagued it over the last 2 years.

The letter further stressed the aesthetic and administrative impacts that the city will enjoy from Revel’s revival. “Other ongoing initiatives will complement the highly anticipated arrival of Revel, including a renewed focus on enhancing the city’s cleanliness and safety, transportation and infrastructure improvements, increased work force housing, continued expansion of air service in and out of Atlantic City International Airport, boardwalk enhancements, and the soon-to-be-completed Phase 3 of Atlantic City Outlets/The Walk.” The letter signs off by highlighting the critical relationship between business and the government and how it needs to complement each other for the benefit of its citizens. “The Economic Redevelopment and Growth tax reimbursement applied to the Revel project is not just in the best interests of Revel, but also those of the entire region and the state of New Jersey. It will help Revel secure funding, enable them to further invest in the revitalization of Atlantic City, create substantial tax revenues for the state and, most importantly, create jobs and grow the economy,” it said.

The whole of New Jersey will be anxiously looking forward to the start of re-building and renovation efforts for the Revel. Only time will tell if the infusion of capital will indeed serve its intended function.

At least for another day, public-and-private partnerships proved that it can work together for the good of the common man.

 

February 21, 2011

NC Drops Bid for Legalized Video Gambling

All bets are now off. At least for the next 12 months, North Carolina won’t be getting a portion of its state budget from video gambling centers. This news comes after NC Gov. Beverly Perdue dropped the hammer on proposals to legalize video gambling in order to generate more money to fill the states dwindling coffers and fund critical projects. "I didn't want the next six months, quite frankly, when so much is at stake for North Carolina and our future [is] wrapped around jobs and education and kids, to be distracted by this philosophical and moral debate over gambling and over video poker and the lottery," the governor said. It most certainly was not an easy hurdle for Gov. Perdue. Since late June of last year, proposals to study video gambling as a viable budget source for the state have been gaining steam. Projections for this year’s budget were tight at best, and the Federal Government, with all the bailouts and extra spending for the controversial Health Care Bill, was certainly in no position to dole out extra servings for most states, leaving the local governments to fend for themselves.

North Carolina, which has already embraced state-run lotteries, attention turned to video poker as a way out of the financial dilemma. It was certainly a moral conundrum for Gov. Purdue who flipped back and forth on the issue until the very last minute. A big part of the reversal in opinion was due to Perdue opting to keep most of a temporary sales tax increase in the books generating an extra $800 million which can be used by the state to protect teachers and teacher assistants from looming job cuts. Compared to the $500 million potential earnings by video gambling centers, the sales tax increase provided a more palatable way to fund state programs minus the potential debates and backlash from a largely conservative Republican electorate. The decision was met with rousing approval from House and Senate leaders who, within hours of the budget announcement, indicated that they won’t be rushing to include video poker into their drafts of the state budget.

For the meantime, opponents of the gambling measure in North Carolina can breathe a sigh of relief. Gambling supporters are still eager to push for video gambling legalization but until the next cycle of state-budget reviews happen, the state will have very little motivation to pay attention to revised proposals. The video screens won’t be humming for quite a while in North Carolina. Shortly after releasing her budget plan to the public, Perdue set out to have everyone in the state buy into her plan for the current fiscal year. The governor talked to key media outlets in a bid to bring everyone on the same page. Among the publications that the governor met with are The News and Observer in Raleigh, Charlotte Business Journal, The Charlotte Observer, Greenville Daily Reflector, Greensboro News and Record and the High Point Enterprise. Columnists, publishers and editorial writers alike got Perdue’s attention as she sought public support on the workability of her budget plan for the year.

Meanwhile, in other matters, House Speaker John Boehner finally ruled to hold monthly moments of silence in honor of fallen troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The initiative was raised by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and was not immediately acted upon by the House Speaker until this week. Rep. Jones had raised the same request when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was presiding over House sessions and it was promptly acted upon. During the transfer in Speakership duties, however, Boehner was less automatic in his response. Weeks went by until Boehner heeded Jones’ call for a tribute to the troops but it was not without drama. In the intervening time between Jones’ initial request and Boehner’s inaction, the Huffington Post reported Jones as saying he would put forward a House resolution on the issue if he didn’t get action. “While any member can offer a moment of silence, it was only appropriate that the highest-ranking member initiate the action,” this according to Jones. Jones does not think the delay was because of a disagreement in politics. (Boehner supports the war while Jones has called for an end to military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.)

 

February 20, 2011

State Level Online Gambling Campaigns Intensify

The past months have seen an increase in the online gambling talks circulating around the country. While some states are vehemently against online gambling, others have seriously considered allowing and regulating the industry. Experts agree that there probably won't be any laws in the national level allowing online gambling; any legislation allowing online gambling will most probably come in the form of state-level legislation. Melanie Brenner, political consultant and director of Poker Voters of America, a staunch supporter of online gambling, believes that the key to the regulation of the industry lies on the states. “Change on the federal level would be very, very difficult. What we are concentrating on is spreading the word on the state level and pointing out the benefits of a safe/secure online wagering community.” she added.

With states suffering budget deficits in the tens of billions, it is not a wonder that some of these will adopt several legislation that will help alleviate the problem—legislation regulating online gambling included. While online gambling may not be able to singlehandedly solve any state's budget deficit problems, it will nonetheless be able to help whittle away the worst of its effects. In California for example, which is currently suffering a $25 billion deficit, the estimated $150 million annual revenues generated if online gambling were to be regulated would be able to cover for a lot of cuts in the funding of several state services. Supporters also believe that if one state, California for example, would pass legislation allowing online gambling, this would cause a domino effect, thereby making the whole process of legalizing online gambling in other states that much faster. They believe that states would not want to be left behind in the progress since this would mean that they would be losing their potential market to states that have already innovated.

While California may be seen as one of the states on the brink of allowing online gambling, the debates still rages on for state lawmakers. Issues even boil between supporters of the measure, arising from different opinions on how online gambling should be regulated. Florida state officials, other hand, agree that their constituents have been engaged in online gambling, usually playing online versions of poker, blackjack and roulette. Officials also agree that it would be prudent to regulate online gambling since at the rate the state is going, the state government might as well tap into the money spent on online gambling to pad the state's dwindling budget. Joseph Abruzzo, one of the members of the Florida legislature said that “There are hundreds of thousands of players in Florida in unregulated and unprotected offshore sites. Why not legalize, regulate and bring in revenue from something that's already occurring?". However, supporters of the gambling measure in Florida are worried that any bill regulating online gambling might be vetoed by state Governor, Rick Scott. The Governor is a Republican; GOP members are notoriously against any gambling legislation, much less in the online platform.

Melanie Brenner, who has taken the initiative to approach the online gambling measure in the state level has spent less time in the nation's capital, and more on the states that has shown promising signs of progress in terms of online gambling issues. “When you think about it,” she says, “it’s in no small way a generational issue. The House of Representatives and the Senate are made up of older people who have spent their lives in politics. The state legislatures are composed of much younger people who are more computer savvy, and also more open to change.” Brenner believes that the best way to bring people, lawmakers specially, to her cause, is to educate them. “It’s an educational process,” she says. Once people understand the gains that online gambling brings to the state, and once people would learn that the rumors regarding the lack of security for this platform are just downright untrue, Brenner believes that it would be easier for them to embrace the ideal of allowing online gambling. Of course, Brenner expects a lot of opposition along the way, saying that there will always be people against the measure. Brenner maintains, however, that it will not slow her campaign down.

 

February 19, 2011

Casino Mileage Threatens Oxford Casino Project

The Maine Gambling Control Board has not yet decided whether a rule on a 100-mile minimum distance between two casinos should be construed in road miles or a straight line. The main issue on the debate is that if the rule were to be interpreted as having a straight between casinos, then an Oxford County Casino Project would not be able to push through since it would fall short of the minimum distance required. However, if the previous interpretation is to be used, where road miles are used in the measurement, then the casino would be outside the 100-mile minimum requirement, thereby ensuring that its operations push through.

Members of the board, however, agreed that if the Oxford County project would not be able to push through if they compute the miles using the straight line method, they would interpret the rules using road miles. Even with the consensus, members of the board have not had any definitive answered regarding the rule. Matthew Dye, one of the members of the Maine Gambling Control Board, said that the discussions are pointless because the operator has not even submitted an application for a casino license yet. The operator, Black Bear Entertainment, has expressed their their interest in a location will or will not meet the 100-mile minimum requirement depending on how this rule would be interpreted.

While some expressed that there really is not problem on what method to use in measuring the miles between casinos, the issue has blown out of proportion largely because of the Scarborough Downs' calls for implementing the straight line method. Scarborough Downs is a harness racetrack and has had plans of moving to Biddeford, near the proposed area where the Black Bear casino will be built on. The operators of the racino argued that having a Black Bear casino in the area would seriously ruin the racinos' market by introducing tough competition. With that, Scarborough Downs is aiming to push the board into adopting the straight mile method which would necessarily block Black Bear Entertainment from constructing in the area.

To this end, Scarborough Downs' lawyer, Ed MacColl, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, outlining the reasons why the board should use the straight line method in computing the miles between casinos. “It is clear to us that Black Bear has proposed a project and location that are inconsistent with the existing Oxford casino law,” MacColl wrote in the letter. Daniel Walker, lawyer for Black Bear Entertainment countered by saying that no other place in Oxford County that is a hundred miles away from Hollywood Slots in a straight line, that would also meet the referendum's other requirements. The referendum required the casino to be “no more than 30 miles from a Level I or Level II trauma center, 15 miles from the main office of a county sheriff, 25 miles from the main office of a state police field troop, 30 miles from an interchange of the interstate highway system, 10 miles from a fire station, 10 miles from a facility at which harness racing was conducted in 2009 and a half-mile from a state highway” The referendum was very clear that for the mentioned requirements, road miles would be used in measuring the distance. The referendum, however, did not specify what method to use in the measurement of the distance between casinos, making Scarborough Downs believe that if the referendum intended the distance to be measured by road miles, it would have expressly stated so.

MacColl countered Walker's argument by saying that there are a lot of locations in the county that would meet all the requirements of the referendum, including a 100-mile straight line distance from Hollywood Slots. As of the moment, however, no decision could be had from the board. Both Scarborough Downs and Black Bear Entertainment are waiting eagerly for the board's decision, which could make or break either of their ventures. Black Bear Entertainment estimate their spending just for the application process to be at around $500,000. The casino operator license is pegged to be only at $225,000 but the company has included in their estimate other fees and expenses.

 

February 18, 2011

Video Line Gambling gets Wolf Creek Senator Attention

Plans for legalizing “video line games” was introduced last Tuesday at Helena, Montana. The game is very similar to video slot machines played in most casinos. There is a slight difference in comparison to the traditional video slot machines though; video line games have multiple rows and columns. The Gaming Industry Association of Montana, Montana Coin Machine Operators Association and the Montana Tavern Association lobbied for support from Sen. Rick Ripley to propose a draft on legalizing electronic gambling. The senator, in turn, authored Bill 361 and forwarded it to the Senate which should be part of the agenda for Friday’s session with the Senate Business and Labor Committee l presiding over the agenda. "I just think that it updates the industry," Ripley said. "I don't think it expands the gaming at all. It's a chance for more revenue.“The current electronic gambling machines now allow people to choose between playing electronic poker or keno. My bill would just add a third choice.”, he added.

Senator Ripley echoed the voice of the video gambling industry officials and differentiates video line games from video slot machine games. He said that video line games are stand alone games and are currently gaining popularity in most states. Slot machines have reels of symbols and “arms” that gamers use to pull to spin all those reels in order to line up symbols. Video line machines do not possess these features and are a bit more complex than slot machines. The Bill will, by default, deny access to distributors, operators, and manufacturers in order to prevent these from "referencing games not authorized under this title in advertising, promoting or inducing play of a video gambling machine." "They are afraid some people will advertise them as slots," Ripley said. Supporters and lobbyists of the bill are optimistic that the proposed legislation will attract new customers and reel back in the fun that has long since pulled out of the casino atmosphere

. "I think it's something new," Ripley said. "I think it will help get some new clients."

According to Neil Peterson, executive director the Gaming Industry Association , a $15 million figure in state tax revenues has been estimated to have been lost since the recession started. This has clearly showed how affected the state of Montana is in the last recession. "And it doesn't look like it's improving," he said. "We need something to bring back customers." That something, would be video line gambling. Supporters of the bill are very optimistic that these games will turn the situation around. The operation of video line games differs from any other game introduced before because the chances of winning are very small. The series of numbers in 4 or 5 different rows will only change once the player puts in money, so if the bet will be set for a quarter, then it’s one chance per quarter bet. However, there is another way of winning in this game aside from the “one chance per quarter” scenario. Since there are 5 rows and 5 columns, that means you have 5 chances of winning if the same symbols appear in all 5 columns or rows horizontally and diagonally.

This game is played with pure luck and chance, skills are out of the question when you play video line gambling, just like electronic keno. The computer determines the player’s chances of winning, depending on the outcome of the random numbers being jumbled. It’s a $2 : $800 dollar minimum-maximum bet & win ratio when you play this game. The total amount of bets, however, should not exceed more than $2, even though the player can bet more than one line and column per bet. The payout for winnings on this game is a good 80-92% of the input money dropped in the machine, which most players consider to be pretty good. The spokesperson for the Montana Coin Operators Association, Ronda Wiggers is outspoken about the need for a new gaming line that will reignite the players' enthusiasm. She also maintains the importance of having other options in gambling, than just the usual. "You can only watch the same movie so many times," Wiggers said. . "We're trying to add some innovation and new entertainment to our businesses," she said.

 

February 17, 2011

Ohio Optimistic about Casinos

It has been decades since casinos proposals were rejected in Ohio. Now, thanks to the economic depression people are finally beginning to see how beneficial casinos can be for their local economy. With enough media exposure and lobbying from supporters, state lawmakers have finally given in to their calls. Buildings are currently being erected where the casinos will be housed in, the confirmed locations are Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati. Business and gambling analysts expresses their opinions on the matter and think that this may only be the beginning of a gaming renaissance in Ohio. The next five to ten years could prove to be the rise of casino gambling in Ohio. "Once the casino ball starts rolling, it is hard to stop," said Gaming Analyst Steve Schwartz. "What will soon happen is that other cities will get sick of losing revenue to those four casino cities, and they will start to explore expanding gambling in their areas as well."

Even now local business owners that would conflict with the casinos are complaining about the possibility that they may not be able to compete with the casinos. Once the gaming facilities and entertainment destinations will be open to the public, there’s surely going to be a saturation of the market—which is true only for businesses offering similar services to the proposed casino complexes. On the other hand, experts believe that other businesses that compliment the casino's market like hotels, restaurants and generally those aimed at visitors outside the area, will see an increase in the market as the casinos will cause a huge influx of non-local visitors.

Employment opportunities are also what Ohio residents are eagerly expecting from the casinos. Jobs numbering to over thousands will pull the local economy, which has been struggling since the recession, back on its tracks. Once the casinos will open, which is expected to be late next year, locals will be hired to fill vacant positions. The construction alone has already hired hundreds of locals and has been a huge help to locals who have lost employment due to worsening economic conditions during the previous years. There is no doubt that the local areas and the state will benefit from the tax revenues generated from these casinos—which is expected to be in the hundreds of millions. With the promise of progress on the way, more locals have thrown in their support to the casinos. Dayton, remains one of the cities that will not host casinos. The city is placed in a precarious situation because it is surrounded by cities that will host casinos in the future. Experts believe that the city and its local businesses will be put at a disadvantage as there will be an influx in the market coming from Dayton, going towards the casino hosting cities.

With casinos, there will no doubt be promotional events that will be held from time to time. These events will serve to attract visitors within and outside the state. Experts urged local businesses to adapt to the changes in order to take advantage of the increased market, saying that local business owners should take advantage of the opportunity presented by the casinos. The operation of casino complexes in Ohio will cause a positive domino effect over its economy. The casinos will be generating a significant amount of jobs for locals. This would, in turn, increase the purchasing power of locals, causing an increase in local businesses' sales. This of course does not take into consideration the huge amounts of money funneled into the state's coffers in the form of tax revenues. With an increase in the budget, the local government would be able to fund and run more effectively state services like education and health care.

Online casinos and online gambling is seen by many as the industries that would help the country bounce back from the recession. Currently, there are a couple of states, not to mention several different localities that are considering expanding their gambling capabilities. The massive gambling expansions undertaken by different localities can be seen as effects of an increase in competition. Analysts believe that this will cause a domino effect spanning the entire country by the end of the decade.

 

February 16, 2011

North Carolina Plans Expansion of Video Gambling Machines

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue is considering expanding legalized gambling in her state. Since the initiative taken by New Jersey last month, many federal states are at the very least, optimistic about adapting the same move. This due in most part to the huge economic impact that gambling, either online or offline will offer. The annual budget of North Carolina is expected to be around $3 billion short next year and based on the lottery commission estimates, video gambling machines could generate $576 million in revenues per year. Purdue is planning propose to make video poker machines legal in the state. “I’m looking at whether we can do it safely,” Perdue said in late 2010. “I do not want to become the gambling state of America. I don't want to be Las Vegas. But I am concerned, and I continue to be concerned, that video poker -- it's just been hard to kill."

Because majority of the population of the state is predominantly religious, the General Assembly have taken action against gambling by passing a proposed legislation that would ban video gambling machines. The ban includes video poker machines, sweepstakes machines, and other machines that border on video gambling. Fortunately for video gambling lovers, the previously submitted bills were challenged/ A definitive ruling on the matter, however, has not yet been reached. It is estimated that it might take a year or so for a decision to be passed.

There are speculations that federal-owned video gambling will prove to be a failure. Industry experts believe that the state should not get involved in the operations of these gambling machines. They added further it would serve the federal government better if they just stood on the sidelines and tap into the industry through tax revenues. “The fact of the matter is you're going to play Whack-A-Mole with this industry until you regulate it,” said the spokesman of the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, Brad Crone. Like many other states in America, North Carolina is considering this move in order to alleviate their stale economic conditions. Gov. Perdue expressed her commitment to see through that goal. Although there are still many among the constituents that disagree to any gambling in the state, some have already supported the Governor's move. As with th New Jersey, North Carolina’s efforts to legalize video gambling will probably take 1 or 2 years to be realized. Several debates will most likely delay the process. Opponents and supporters of the measure are expected to air their voices around the state.

Governor Perdue has been a known supporter of gambling, even since before she became governor of North Carolina. She has also quite the experience in dealing with such matters during her past positions in the government. Bback 2005, she cast a vote that broke the tie in favor of creating the state lottery in North Carolina, and that was when she was only serving as lieutenant-governor. Soon other states might follow the lead that Governor Beverly Perdue (NC) and Governor Chris Christie (NJ) has taken.

Due to the economic depression that hit the US, revenues coming in from different industries has been decreasing. The unemployment rate in almost all areas have also been dragged down along with the stale performance of the economy. Initiatives to boost economic performance have been planned and undertaken from both the local and national levels. Both are now actively seeking ways to combat the ill effects of the recession and pave the way for recovery. Gambling expansion is one of the key proposals geared towards the rehabilitation of the economy. A couple of states have already undertaken gambling expansions while New Jersey has even considered legalizing online gambling.

Governor Perdue is seen as Governor Christie's counterpart in North Carolina. Both are pushing for what could be called drastic measures in order to improve the economies of their respective states. While analysts believe progress for the measure may not come instantly, supporters believe that Perdue has taken the right steps. As of the moment, both groups for and against the measure will have a long time to wait before results are clear.

 

February 15, 2011

Glendale Casino on the Rocks

A controversial lawsuit filed by an attorney general against a local aboriginal American tribe was formally submitted recently, which could possibly put to stop a prospective casino project within a close proximity of the city of Glendale. The mentioned city lays in the Northwest regions of Downtown Phoenix in Maricopa County, which also houses the Tohono O’odham nation. The tribe is charged with yielding false promises in order to acquire the rights to build a casino. Such accusations were expressed by Attorney General Tom Horne who had requested on Monday to permanently block the tribe from gaining legal rights to the operation of gaming facilities in Glendale.

In the year 2002, a ballot measure to be decided upon by the voting public was conducted in order to sanction or prohibit to the Tohono O’odham nation from acquiring exclusive rights in the operation of casinos in the locale. Such a privilege was later awarded to the tribe, after the aboriginal American nation promised voters that prospective casinos would be limited to existing reservations only. A further guarantee that no gambling establishments would be erected in the Phoenix area was also proclaimed by the Tohono O’odham nation, which paved the way for voters to opt for the tribe’s plans. At present, Horne and his allies have decided to go through with the legal procedures they had started, and to provide evidence of the tribe’s duplicity in gaining access to casino rights. Horne also deemed that the sole reason for the tribe getting hold of such rights was due to their false promises, which the residents had based their votes on. Furthermore, Horne revealed that the Tohono O’odham nation had secretly contrived to acquire land at Glendale, engineering all the while an ultimate goal that would lead to it being a part of the reservation. With that parcel of land turning into a formal reservation, the construction of casinos would inevitably follow thereafter.

Added accusations to the Tohono nation stated by Horne is the purchase of the Glendale land under a fictitious corporate name, which misled officials, subsequently followed by the transfer of ownership from the decoy name to the tribe. The land was bought in the year 2003, but was only made known to the public two years ago when the official transfer of the title was executed. Consequently, the U.S. Department of Interior permitted the Tohono tribe to make 54 acres of the transferred parcel, a part of the reservation. Horne believes such means to get lawful rights to a gaming facility were duplicitous, thus, his pleas to revoke privileges awarded to the tribe. Horne is not the only individual to challenge the decision of the federal agency; Gila River Indian Community, a Native American reservation lying adjacent to the South side of the city of Phoenix within the metropolitan areas of Pinal and Maricopa Counties have also voiced their concerns. Without a casino in the Glendale areas by the Tohono nation, the Gila River Indian Community would be the only tribe operating a gambling facility within the West Valley area of the Maricopa County. Horne and the Gila River Indian Community are working side by side to convince the U.S. District Court to give preference to their requests.

A scheduled date for hearing arguments regarding the matter was set for Thursday by United States federal judge, David G. Campbell. The case was assigned, though, to U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake, whom Horne and his allies are hoping to persuade in reconsidering the sanctions provided to the Tohono O’odham nation, in light of the evidences at hand, starting from the false statements delivered in the 2002 elections. A factor that could affect the outcome of the lawsuit negatively, though, is the differing legal theories submitted by both Horne and the Gila River Indian Community, since both parties filed separate legal charges. Tohono Chairman, Ned Norris Jr., also issued a prepared statement that declared plans of opposing parties as having continued “to raise misleading and inaccurate arguments in a desperate attempt to protect their personal interests.” Apparently, the latter part of the speech was intended to strike the Gila River Indian Community, seeing as both tribes are direct competitors in the gambling market of Phoenix.

 

February 14, 2011

Major Online Gambling Legislation for Spain has Promising Outlook

The Spanish Council of Ministers has just recently approved a newly proposed legislation for online gambling. After years of planning for the said proposal, it has now crossed the darkness and saw the first light, even though it still has a long way to go. Some provinces in the country also implemented their own online gambling regulations and are currently finalizing the draft to deploy at regional levels. Spain is moving steadily with this endeavor and it looks like the European Union is supporting the move.

Casino games, poker, and sports betting will be among the activities that the proposed bill is targeting to regulate. It will give a definitive regulation per gambling institution which will also identify specific requirements that will make up applicant qualifications. “Comision del Juego” is the Spanish name that will be given to the regulating body once the proposed legislation gains approval, which should be soon. Lottery games seem to be exempted from the proposed bill though. However, there is yet no assurance as to whether or not it will have its own regulatory board or be sanctioned by the Comision del Juego. The Spanish gambling Commission (the same Comision del Juego), will be given the authority to issue licenses and maintain gambling operators’ compliance with the specific laws detailed in the draft. Approval or permissions granted for advertising, promotional and sponsorship activities, and multi-sponsorship events that are initiated by licensed operators will also be the main task of the body.

Estimated fines for violating any defined gambling law under the proposed legislation could range from €100,000 to €50,000,000. On the lighter side, however, online gambling regulations are moving steadily ahead with little hindrances from the government. Last January 2011 the Spanish Government expressed concerns about imposing tax reforms on sports betting. The sports betting industry, as expected, was not happy with this news. In fact, protests and plans to reject the proposal have lingering for a while. Furthermore, the proposed bill did not clarify which method of taxing will be used once the bill is passed into law. The Spanish government, however, confirmed that they will forward all tax revenues to each autonomous regions.

The Spanish Association of Internet Bettors (AEDAPI) has reported that online sports betting has increased 21% more in terms of bettors in 2009. As a consequence, the earnings of sports betting companies ballooned. Online poker also showed a 26% increase as compared to figures for 2009. In 2010, the online gambling industry is said to be worth €315 million, according to reports by the AEDAPI. Analysts believe this is the main reason why the Spanish government wants to regulate the activity—in order to tap into the industry's earnings through tax revenues. However, the First-Vice President of Spain confirmed that online gambling has not yet been subjected to tax as of the moment. If the proposed bill will continue showing signs of progress, the country will be able to cover much of its budget deficits.

The Spanish government maintains its commitment to let the proposed bill go all the way through the Parliament, the Senate, and then to the European Commission( EC). Despite present opposition, experts estimate that the proposal will be on the EC's table by mid-July this year. Unlike most countries, the European Union does not allow religion to interfere with nor influence the decision making process of the EC. The European Union, it seems, has become a very strong advocate for regional self sufficiency. Most laws enacted by different regions have been positively responded to, so lang as it adheres to the Union's principles. The European Union and its member states are known for their willingness to adopt online gambling within their system.

With the member states of the European Union leading the charge of legalizing and regulating online gambling, countries all around the world, even those against such activities, will be made to consider the possibilities and potential of adopting such an industry within their territories. Once more countries regulate online gambling, it would not be long before other regions who are adamantly against the pastime consider following suit.

 

February 13, 2011

Bills Loosen Gambling Regulations

Gambling is an undeniably stable industry. Many territories around the world have adopted some form of gambling—be it in lottery, casinos, or even online gambling. With the economic slowdown experienced around the world, gambling has been considered one of the industries that would lessen the adverse effects of the crisis. The economic situation has caused several countries to adopt some form of gambling expansion, from increasing the territory's gambling capabilities to even allowing the operation of casinos and online gambling that were once outlawed. Some areas, most notably a couple of states in the US have opted to ease gambling regulations in order to allow the industry some breathing space that would eventually redound to the benefit of the public in the form of revenues.

Lawmakers in Indiana have proposed a loosening of regulations in order to promote the growth of the industry while padding the state coffers in the process. The bills that were proposed would loosen regulations for charitable gambling institutions and small stakes facilities classified as class II gambling establishments. Over the years, a series of small scale gambling expansions have been made by the state, one of which is the legalization of gambling in bars. Those who supported this measure stated that gambling in bars are not aimed at increasing the bar's revenues directly; they are there in order to attract customers. This small scale gambling has been approved in 2008 and has since been in effect in different locales of the state.

The new bill proposed would allow bars to have a piece of the profit earned from bar drawings. These drawings, have been practiced by the bars during the previous years but they never received a cut of the revenues earned. Sen. Randy Head, who authored the bill said that “It creates a level playing field between private clubs and bars,” The bill, however, does not deviate from the original purpose of bar drawings and imposes a maximum bet that patrons can wager. The bill would also prohibit bars from giving away alcohol, tobacco and cash as prizes for these drawings. Owners of the bar have obviously supported the bill, saying that having a piece of the earnings from the drawings is a much needed boost from the stale economy. Some owners maintain that with a piece of the profit, bars will be able to host more drawings, thus attracting more customers. “It helps get a few more people in the door,” said Chere Heck, manager of the Shady Nook, 2834 Parnell Ave. in Fort Wayne. “It would be a great help to let us profit from the drawings.” , she added.

Another bill proposed, is one that would loosen regulations for gambling facilities for charitable purposes. The bill has been passed unanimously by the House and is scheduled for a vote on the Senate. “We understand the need for regulations, but we need to have these regulations to protect individuals and groups not to tie the hands of the non-profit charities raising the money,” said Rachel Tobin-Smith, executive director of SCAN Inc. in Fort Wayne. The bill seeks a lot of changes in the present regulation, but all would be aimed for the benefit of charitable gambling. Several charitable institutions have supported the bill and are optimistic that the Senate will vote on the bill affirmatively.

The bill was proposed because charitable institutions have aired their concerns to Sen. Dennis Kruse, a known opponent of gambling. Kuse, with an anti-gambling stance, heard the concerns of the charitable institutions and authored the bill himself. When asked about the sudden change of heart, Sen. Kuse said “But I was approached by a large group of non-profits in northeast Indiana, and I thought they had valid concerns,” he said. “They are experiencing some problems, and I felt this was a worthy thing to bring.”. Sen. Kuse, however, maintains his stance against gambling. He has stated that what he sought to achieve was helping out the non-profit organizations and consequently the beneficiaries of each. The bill, if passed into law, would help several gambling institutions for charitable purposes function more effectively, and more importantly, they would be able to further their charitable goals much easier.

 

February 12, 2011

Gun Lake Casino officially opens

Wayland, a civil township of Allegan County in the state of Michigan which is home to over 3,000 residents, is gearing up for the inauguration of its fresh, new project, Gun Lake Casino. Wayland Township is spanned within the wide areas of the city of Holland in the Western regions of the Lower Peninsula near the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, where local tourism officials are in anticipation of the possible outcomes that such a venture could bring to the community. More specifically, these officials are waiting for the effects, whether beneficial or disadvantageous, of Gun Lake Casino to the nearby local lakeshore-area businesses and tourism.

Gun Lake Casino is just off of U.S. 31 on 129th Avenue, two miles south of Wayland in Allegan County and is to open its doors to the general public on Friday, after having performed private preview events for the past couple of days. The Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan or most commonly known as the Gun Lake Tribe, which holds the tenure of said gaming facility, also held a topping out ceremony for this $157 million casino project that occupies 83,000 square feet of land, in the first few days of the month of February. However, Sally Laukitis, executive director of the Holland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is not completely sold out on the idea of the Gun Lake Casino being able to perform to its maximum level. She stated that this is due to the fact that the agency does not “get a lot of inquiring about the casino”. She further elucidated that this owes to the fact that, “Many don’t link casinos and Holland.”

The management team of Gun Lake Casino, though, is not skeptical as to the potential earning capacities and crowd attraction that the gambling facility is expected to generate, despite Laukitis and her agency’s lack of confidence in the project. Gun Lake officials have declared that their gambling establishment is considered to be a premier facility which is highly anticipated to draw thousands of players and bettors from all over West Michigan once its formal launching takes place. David Frankhouser, assistant general manager of Gun Lake Casino, made known to the public that, “Our (Gun Lake) mantra is: Something for everybody.” This idea is evident upon entering the facility with its countless rows of one-armed bandits that form a maze-like effect surrounding the entire perimeter of the premises, up to a concert hall that is reported to come about in the nearest future.

The casino’s outward appearance is quite similar to other establishments of such kind, partly owing to Frankhouser’s fervent efforts traveling to gambling sites all over Michigan to gain inspiration in choosing which elements and styles to incorporate within Gun Lake’s own gaming destination. Frankhouser was the person responsible for the outcome of the designs found in the casino floor, its layout and finer touches acquired from his travels and other market researches, which was estimated to have reached up to six months. Gun Lake Casino’s gaming floor is distinct from many others, seeing as it is situated ground-level with its color schemes bearing earth tone qualities. It also encompasses within its premises a food court similar to those found in shopping malls and an entertainment area called Stage 131, with a 40-seat lounge and a small stage built to host local acts. Carter Pavey, marketing director of Gun Lake Casino, stated that, “There are so many great bands in the area. While national acts may come once a concert hall is constructed as part of a second phase of planned expansion, right now, local bands ‘are all we need.”

Another design which Gun Lake officials are most proud of are the multi-layer touch screen devices that showcase around 80 of the 1,400 slot/video poker machines with 3D effects, permitting players to change betting games and denominations. There is also a Jumbo Jackpot floor-wide bonus system that awards a player that has a Passport Card in a machine when it hits, a $25 prize. Ergonomic seats with height adjustable features are present at every machine, allowing comfort and convenience to each and every player.

 

February 10, 2011

Gambling Expansion in Lincoln, R.I. All Set

The Twin River slots parlor in Lincoln, Rhode Island, which is the third highest source of tax revenues in the state, has just recovered out from bankruptcy protection late last year. The facility has acquired a reorganization plan that allowed the company to bring down to less than a half the $600 million debt it had incurred. Two major credit-rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, have recently reported that Twin River debts are today considered to have “solid” ratings; the first rated it as a “B2”, while the latter declared it as a “B-plus”. Due to the steady increase of slots parlors operational and earning capacities, Twin River has pitched last Tuesday, in a meeting with the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, their desire to expand.

From a video slots parlor, Twin River wishes to renovate the site into a full-scale casino, pushing for the addition of numerous table games to their facility. John Taylor, Chairman of Twin River’s new Board of Directors, was the man heading the proposal, and called on elected officials to have such matters put in the hands of the voting public. His principal message to the lawmakers was the words: “Don’t delay”. He also elucidated that by adding gaming tables such as blackjack, craps, and roulette, the gaming facility is ensured of a long-term, stable future, thereby, providing greater revenues for the state. Taylor further proclaimed that, “Acting now provides us with an opportunity to get a head start to our neighbors to the North, establishing relationships with new players today, with a product offering what they want, in a location that is preferable. If our customers are lured to Massachusetts by the excitement of full-blown destination casinos, we may never be able to get them back.”

A summary of a report containing new estimates of the economic benefits that additional table games could potentially fetch was also prepared and submitted for Twin River, by a gaming industry consultant, The Innovation Group. The file further put into detail the 653 direct and indirect jobs to come about, as well as the $28 million annual state tax revenues to be collected, the additional 65 table games are to be allowed. The total increase in economic activity would amount to $60 million a year, with the salaries to be expended to the proposed casino staff, employees, and vendors already taken into consideration. It was also made known through the report that the Twin River facility could accommodate up to 125 table games. Purely for breakdown purposes only, The Innovation Group estimated that revenue from table games could be taxed at a 12 percent rate. A 72.2 tax rate would be the sum accumulated by adding all taxes to be generated from varying sources of revenue, which is recognized as a very effective and successful. This figure can be reached by putting together 7 percent tax rate to slots vendors, 2.5 percent for “central systems support”, and 62.7 percent of the slots revenues to the state.

The media hounded Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee after the meeting with Twin River officials, inquiring about his views on the proposed expansions. The governor declared that, “I don’t go to the Twin River myself but having toured it, when you see the acres of machine in there, you think, what’s the difference between live tables and what’s here? So I don’t think it’s a significant change from what exists here.” Chafee also uttered that the supplementary revenues to be gained from such an expansion would be deemed as a huge asset to the state, which is currently experiencing, along with the rest of the country, severe budget deficits. He also affirms that Twin River is an essential company that generates a big portion of Rhode Island’s revenue.

George Caruolo, Chafee’s nominee to lead the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, coincidentally happened to be a lobbyist for Twin River as well. The Governor believes that Caruolo has no conflicting interests. Governor Chafee declared that there was no link between the slots parlor and elementary and secondary schools stating that without such a link, no conflict could arise from the two.

 

February 9, 2011

Republican-Dominated Legislature Prove Difficult for Online Gambling

Last November 2010 during the US mid-term elections, the Republicans were dominating with the support of the public behind them. This is going to be a problem for the online gambling industry, because the Republicans are known to be adamant in their stance against any proposal for the regulation of online gambling. This has caused the creation of a new body that will spearhead the cause of online casino gambling supporters— he US Online Gaming Association (USOGA). The iMEGA and the Poker Players Alliance seem to be more subtle and taken aback about the pressing issue, and instead want to take a different route in dealing with the matter.

The regulation and legalization of online gaming in the United States is the main objective of the group. Former executive director of the Poker Voters of America, Melanie Brenner, assumes the position as the group's leader. “The quest for a federal solution has failed and that the US market will have to be opened through the states. “Said Brenner, speaking on behalf of the USOGA board of trusties. Secured American Games, Sportingbet, and PKR were the three confirmed companies that have committed to provide technical and financial support to USOGA. While launching their first official meeting at ICE expo, Brenner said that she will reveal three or four more contributors as founding members next week. Brenner added that the urgency to unite is paramount, that is why they have agreed to set February 14, 2011 as the deadline for application on prospective companies. The companies who would be able to pitch in their support, financially, will have a slot at the executive committee table.

Malcolm Graham, PKR’s CEO said “the time was ripe for the industry to act and bringing everyone under one umbrella was the first step so that they could speak in a collective voice and deliver a consistent message.” He pointed out that several trade associations in Europe were moving in their own paces with no online gambling restrictions set to limit the industry's growth. Companies like Remote Gaming Association (RGA), and European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), and 20 more leading online gaming operators were present at the meeting in ICE expo. The American Institute for iGaming (AIIG) was also present in the meeting and they too spoke out about making changes in the US legislation and advocating for online gambling in America. Bill Pascrell, AIIG’s executive director was the lead lobbyist for Senator Raymond Lesniak’s successful online gambling bill of New Jersey. Pascrell indicated that “We are not just focusing on state level in the US; we are hoping to get federal legislation, but know there is a long way to go. We are focusing on the domino effect, New Jersey first, then other states."

With the Republican majority in Congress, support for any form of online gambling regulation in the federal level is bleak. Any proposal is sure to be met with a strong opposition. However, American online gambling operators are convinced that their claims are strong enough that they would eventually be heard by Congress—opposed to online gambling as they are. Supporters believe that the effective regulation of online gambling is a long and tiresome process. However, they have maintained their commitment to the cause saying that they will keep going at it until it will eventually see progress. With a handful of online gambling supporters rallying under one banner, they have made it a step closer to their objective. Analysts believe that should USOGA keep up with their efforts, they would see positive results within the year. If an effective legislation that would successfully regulate online gambling will be passed in the near future, then online gambling operators will have scored their biggest win yet.

The income generated per year by online gambling is in the millions of dollars, and that is just a conservative estimate. Analysts and members of the USOGA believe that enacting online gambling legislation will not only serve the purpose of the group, but would also be a huge source of income for the cash-strapped country. They argue further that if no legislation would be enacted within the next couple of years, the country will lose billions in would-be tax revenues.

 

February 9, 2011

Gambling on Video Games, The Next Big Thing

The realm of sports betting has evolved from pure and simple bookmaking, to online betting. Now, sports betting is set to evolve once again with the introduction of video game betting. As weird as it may sound, the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms that can be connected to the internet to play games online would also serve as gambling platforms. Electronic Arts, a major gaming software company has signed a partnership deal with Virgin Gaming to create the first online wagering platform. The video games to pioneer in this online gambling are Madden 11 and FIFA 11; however, other games will be included in the future, according to EA games. “This is the biggest deal that we’ve had,” William Levy, president of Virgin Gaming said. “We have the entry fee-based tournaments. We also have sponsored tournaments. Let’s say there was a $10 entry fee tournament, you could click ‘enter now,’ agree to the terms and conditions and then we deduct the $10 from your account and put it towards the pot.”

Video Game gambling got an unprecedented response from the online video gamers community, when EA and Virgin Gaming organized tournaments where players can meet and compete with each other. The video game formats available right now are only for the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3. According to Levy, video game tournaments are very much like poker tournaments. A buy-in fee is deducted from the user’s account and added to the pot, and then the overall champion wins the entire pot. Early February, Virgin Gaming and Maxim Magazine sponsored a Madden 11 tournament on PS3; a trip to Dallas and cash prize that reached more than $25,000 in total were also included. The winner of the tournament gets to attend Maxim Magazine’s party during Super Bowl week, which will be held in Dallas, Texas.

EA is hoping to launch a tournament combo called Madden NFL11 Red Zone within a few weeks from now. The idea is to give players more flexibility and freedom so that they can create their own tournaments, aside from the ones EA already sponsors occasionally. Servicing almost 170,000 users from 30 countries all over the world, Virgin Gaming is expected to double its market profits within the next few months. With the huge success from the first two games introduced, EA is considering to add more sports-oriented games in the online Virgin Gaming-sponsored tournaments. NBA2K11 and HALO also made it big in online tournaments and with Virgin Gaming backing up the deal, there’s no limit to what can be spun.

Market profits involve software products sold and active participation from gamers all over the world. But the figures speak for itself: Madden 11 sold more than 1.81 million copies since it was introduced to the public in August, 2010 and became an online hit the same month. According to EA’s count, more than 190 million games of Madden 11 have been played over the internet, while FIFA11 is dominating in sales and fan support. Since it hit stores in November of 2010, 2.6 million copies have already been sold and this summer, more than 775,000 gamers participated in the FIFA11 Interactive World Cup. “Competitive online gaming is an increasingly popular component of our industry and a great way for EA Sports and Virgin Gaming to help connect gamers around the world through the global language of sports,” said Peter Moore, President of EA Sports, in a statement. “Virgin Gaming demonstrates the system-wide integrity we desire, and this is a great opportunity for EA Sports fans to experience secure and impeccably managed online tournaments for some of our top titles.”

To ensure protection for the gamers, Virgin Gaming has taken the necessary steps to safeguard the use of gamers’ credit cards. Issues of hacking that would allow player's to cheat will also be top priority. Virgin Gaming restricts gamers to load up to $500 onto their account weekly to prevent credit card fraud, and they also made it as convenient as possible so that the gamers do not have to call customer service. “I am surprised that we are only now seeing the convergence of online gaming and online gambling given the popularity of both,” said Dr. Brett Conrad, the director of TechAddiction in Halifax,

 

February 8, 2011

Microgaming Brings Lord of the Rings to Slots

Big shot company Microgaming has recently taken a slice out of the success of the huge Lord of the Rings franchise and is preparing to bring it to life at online casinos. The Lord of the rings books generated a following; the movie, a phenomenon. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most popular movie titles of all time. The characters in the three movies have become legendary, and now they’ll get an honorary place in Microgaming powered slot machines. Microgaming has just collaborated with Warner Bros Studios to take the Lord of the Rings franchise to online video slot games. According to the collaborating companies, the game will feature cutting edge technology. Since it’s Microgaming’s software infrastructure, it’s guaranteed to be topnotch. "We're excited about creating state-of-the-art video slots from the best movie trilogy of the decade," said Roger Raatgever, CEO of Microgaming, "We look forward to bringing the Lord of the Rings into the online gaming sphere, where our expertise in game quality and speed to market will ensure success."

This wouldn’t be the first time Microgaming turned a major motion picture into a slot game. Hellboy, another title with several movies, has been launched in an online slot version recently. The Hellboy game venture is expected to be a success; Microgaming is hoping that the Lord of the Rings game will follow in Hellboy's footsteps. Images of Sir Ian Mckellen (Gandalf), Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Liv Tyler (Arwen), and Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck) are just among the few that are expected to be showcased on the slot machines. We may also hear famous lines from the film like Gandalf’s “you shall not pass!” When he battled the Balrog. Or Aragorn’s heroic war cry “for Frodo!” when they were faced with an army of orcs.

The best thing about movies and the success it caries with it is that the possibilities of the market is endless. Movie franchises most often branch out to other markets. However, there is no stronger ties between markets than those of movies, the music, and the game industries. Created as a follow-up to the movies are the games which mostly pick up where the movies left off. Sometimes, like most of the successful Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic franchise, games are made in the same wold as the movies but from a much different timeline. Music also comes into the picture as original soundtracks for the films or even the games themselves.

Fans will no doubt want to try out this new game and it may have the potential success equivalent to that of the already proven Hellboy. If these two movie franchises brought to the online gambling world were to prove successful in the long run, it is expected that more Hollywood franchises will be adopted for the online gambling platform. The idea, however, is not limited only to established films. Analysts believe that this crossover of platforms will be a future trend. Some believe that this will make a great advertising tool. Incoming movies would need only to have online casino game versions of their movies put up in casinos and before long, people would start showing interest for the movie itself.

Whether if it’s just the regular players trying out their luck over the internet playing virtual slot machines, or the hardcore fans that want to play and see their favorite character at the same time, the game is sure to appeal to players as much as the book and the film has appealed to audiences worldwide. Rumors of other movie blockbusters like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the Harry Potter series, and some of Marvel’s movies being adopted in the online gambling platform has recently circulated but have yet to be confirmed.

Total box office record sales show that The Lord of the Rings trilogy has generated over $3 Billion dollars in revenues. It has also won seventeen Academy Awards, and a record in the sheer number of nominations and actual wins by a single movie franchise. The movies had been nominated for thirty Academy Awards, subsequently winning more than half of that number.

 

February 5, 2011

Safety Measures Initiative for Online Gambling Submitted to Representative Issa

It’s called the “Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative” and is the lobbied proposal for legislation to Congressman Darrell Issa, the representative of the 49th congressional district of California. Before the proposal letter was submitted, Representative Issa aked business leaders what Washington can do to help taxpayers and entrepreneurs plan out a strategy for successive growth. Michael Waxman of the industry trade association pointed out that taxpayers and entrepreneurs won’t be able to carry out clever strategies aimed at growing their business, if certain laws prevent them to do so. Which is why he is asking for congress to amend the restrictions on online gaming and betting, in order to provide more security and safety for online investors.

The full details of the letter shows a push for change in regulating internet gambling, because billions of dollars are lost each year on side betting, plus Americans are often victimized by fraud and identity theft. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in this case proved to be ineffective in restricting online gambling. If the lobbying will succeed, it will provide consumer protections, create jobs in the U.S. and provide tax revenue. Safe and Secure is in favor of legalization for all forms of Internet gambling, including sports betting. "We need to continuously stay in front of Congress and make sure they are hearing from us and from supporters of online gambling regulation so that they don't lose sight of the opportunity to get this done," Waxman said.

Congressman Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is in favor of the proposal, but lobbyists have growing concerns regarding Congressman Spencer Bachus’ (Alabama) firm stance against gambling. Simultaneously, Waxman has doubts that Issa’s committee would be a good jump-off point for the entire measure. “He's in a great position to be a champion for the cause and we need to build interest," Waxman said, "Not just in the key committees but throughout Congress as we look for the critical mass needed for Internet gambling regulation to become a reality. I think his committee could certainly hold hearings and look into the issue to better understand why the UIGEA is so burdensome, but they aren't a committee in which the legislation will come out of. It's out of their jurisdiction." It does appear that more changes will be made in the state level rather than in the whole federal system this year; however, Waxman expressed no interests in getting involved on state level affairs and that includes his trade association as well. Waxman’s efforts are focused right now on the federal level.

However, Waxman still supports state level plans that are being considered and implemented. “Movement on the state level is a very positive sign, showing legislators in other stats and at the federal level that Internet gambling should be and can be effectively regulated,” Waxman said. “Each state that opens up their market offers more freedoms for online gamblers, more jobs that are going to be created and more economic development, which is definitely needed There is likely a possibility for online poker to spread state by state”. Waxman maintained that, like the lottery, online players can merge from different servers across the country and create a nationwide arena of challengers to get the jackpot prize. The Interactive Media and Entertainment Gaming Association laid out plans last week for the future of online gambling. The Wire Act may have to be amended if States begin to challenge the issue in court or Congress, which could ultimately end up being the day in court that many in the poker community want.

Waxman doesn’t think that the possibility of legislation on the federal level for online gaming over the next two years should be ruled out, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expressed great interest in letting the proposal evolve to its full form. The foothold that the Republicans have in Congress is viewed as an obstacle by Waxman and his trade association if they are to pursue this goal.

"All I will say is you should never count us out and never count out the ability of this issue to get on the agenda and get approved," Waxman said. "We continue to remain optimistic that we are on the radar and in play as Congress moves forward."

 

February 4, 2011

New Jersey Online Legislation Gains Mooomentum

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is currently considering the benefits of signing the legislation to regulate online gambling in his state. The constituents, particularly the online gamblers, are eagerly awaiting for the governor’s approval. If Christie indeed signs the bill, New Jersey will be the first ever state in America to regulate online gambling. The Senate and the House has both approved the bill without any hitches, but Christie is weighing whether or not he can handle the political pressure that comes along with signing such a groundbreaking bill. The governor is being pulled from both directions regarding the pending bill. With that in mind, there could be a lot of repercussions if the bill were to be placed in the meat grinder; outcomes often can be appealing or unsatisfactory when your constituents are split in two opposing factions.

"If Governor Christie signs the law, he would gain the support of millions of online gamblers across the US, and that would help him if he ever decided to run for a higher office," said Gaming Analyst Steve Schwartz. "On the other side, Christie could lose some key supporters within his own party if he signs the legislation, so he may take as much time as needed to figure out his next political move." The state, meanwhile, is reeling from the loss of millions of dollars in revenue from Atlantic City casinos that have been hit hard by the economy. It is estimated that about $400 million to $600 million dollars would be generated each year by casinos if they offered online gaming in the future in New Jersey alone. Furthermore, a huge deal of money would be added to the state budget from the income online gambling generates.

Lawmakers in other states are watching closely for the outcome of the New Jersey online gaming bill. The apparent necessity to act upon this bill is increasingly demanding even for New Jersey locals. If Christie decides to veto the bill, Florida would possibly be next in line to become the first state to regulate Internet gambling. New Orleans may have to adapt this law as well to cover for their dwindling annual economic yield per year. Countless other states might follow in this new direction in order to boost their respective local economies. Discussions are being held by Florida Legislators to allow pari-mutuel betting for online gambling. A quick Wikipedia search would show anyone that “Pari-mutuel is a betting system in which all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool; taxes and the "house-take" or "vig" are removed, and payoff odds are calculated by sharing the pool among all winning bets.” This seems very promising for online gamers, casinos, and the state alike, because everyone will benefit so much in a “big-takers” bet such as this.

Last year a survey was conducted about regulating online gambling and its impact in the US economy. The majority of experts agree that the passage by Congress of legislation to legalize Internet gambling would lead to explosive growth within the U.S. In the same survey, a clear majority of the experts agree that any state in the country would be able to pad their local budgets with the additional revenues they would get from online casino gambling if it were to be regulated. The significant amount of benefits that online gambling would bring to the current economy is fairly acceptable when balanced out with its costs, according to analysts. Tax increases and other tax reforms aimed at increasing budgets are notoriously opposed by a lot f people, hence lawmakers tend to stay clear from legislation that would require constituents to pay increased taxes. Which is why it is very important for lawmakers, and the executive branches of the government need to consider other options to boost the economy.

The discussion on the online gambling bill in New Jersey has reached a fever pitch as governor Christie has just signed a series of bills aimed to revitalize Atlantic City’s casino and tourism industries. People are clamoring for updates on the online gambling bill. Whether or not the bill is passed into law is now exclusively up to the governor; supporters and the opposition alike, have no other choice but to await the governor’s decision.

 

February 3, 2011

Italy's Online Gambling Market a Big Hit

With the current technological standards, almost every little thing is now made available online. We've so grown used to the internet that we don't stop in awe at how everyday life has been made easier by this technology. We read the news, we communicate with loved ones and friends, we work, we even purchase stuff online.. There simply is no end to the possibilities. One of the online activities enjoyed by people around the world is online gambling.

The activity has recently generated a whole lot of controversy since traditional gambling in brick and mortar casinos will always have people opposing it. Add to this the ease and convenience of access allowed by it's online counterpart and it becomes a popular focal point for countless debates worldwide. Those against online gambling will always point out the social costs of such an activity saying that it would be detrimental to any region that offers it and its residents. Supporters of online gambling however, maintain that any region that offers allows online gambling would be able to tap into a vast amount of resources. Furthermore, online gambling will always be accessible to anyone with an internet connection and states might as well allow the activity in order to regulate it rather than outlaw the same in the hopes of curbing its ill effects—and in the process, losing millions to unregulated online casinos.

The ongoing debate has split the world into two—areas that allow online gambling and those that ban it. The United States is notorious for limiting online gambling activities with their presently obscure Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Some parts of Canada, however, have recently allowed state-run online casinos. Some member states of the European Union have also opted to open up to foreign online gambling companies in accordance with European Union Laws. One of the first countries to do this is Italy. Since the country has first opening its doors to offshore online gambling companies, it has steadily posted increasing figures. Even during the economic recession that hit worldwide, Italy's online gambling industry has defied the odds and continually posted consistent increases. From 2009, the online gambling industry in Italy has posted €3.4 billion. This has increased significantly, take not in light of the recession, to €4.8 billion in 2010.

Despite being the very first countries to open up to offshore gambling companies, and with other neighboring states following suit, Italy's online gambling market is predicted to further increase for the succeeding years. This is due in most part to new legislation that would allow cash games and online casino gambling in the country. The staggering numbers posted as profits for the previous years was generated by online poker tournaments, other skill games and bingo—which are currently the only activities allowed online. With the new legislation allowing for cash and online casino games such as slots, blackjack, roulette and other favorites, it does not take an expert to predict the figures to balloon to mind-numbing proportions.

The legislation could not have come at a more opportune moment since bingo and skill game activities have showed signs of stabilizing. According Stefano Acciavatti of TrustPartners, “Even if game accounts and revenues for poker increased in 2010 with respect to 2009, during the last four to five months of last year there were clear signs of stabilization. Game sessions, tournaments and amount of money spent per each game were down in number and volume compared to the comparable period in 2009.”. Introducing new activities that would be made available online will reinvigorate Italy's online gambling market allowing growth even further.

Online gambling companies are lining up for the big announcement. Countless supporters of online gambling in their current localities have pointed out to the success of Italy's online gambling market as an example. According to them, Italy is the perfect example of a country that takes advantage of the current times. They argue that even though Italy opened up to online gambling years ago, there were little to no social impacts adversely affecting the locals. Supporters maintain that in the long run, the benefits of online gambling will outweigh its costs and it will only be a matter of time before countries realize this. Until then, the battle for the legalization of online gambling continues to be waged in countless different countries.

 

February 2, 2011

Internet Cafe Gambling Comes to Neptune Beach

The once quiet neighborhood surrounding Neptune Beach in Jacksonville, Florida is about to be shaken. Local authorities today particularly the City Council has just recently approved internet cafe gambling in the area. The gambling activities approved in Neptune Beach is going to be accessed only through two internet cafes. Immediate residents and local law enforcers were not too happy about the news, saying that the activity will disturb their quiet and peaceful neighborhood. Police chief David Sembach worries about the social costs that these facilities bring to the neighborhood—one of the focal points of those opposing the measure. For his part, Sembach is adamant in his protest against the approval of online gambling in internet cafes in Neptune Beach believing this would do more harm than good. Congressman Dick Brown, however, tried to appease the worries of his constituents and has promised to look into the matter. He also indicated that he would propose to tighten restrictions on the activity.

As with most debates regarding the expansion of gambling activities in a certain area, there will always be pros and cons, and groups readily taking either side. Daryl Grubbs who would be leasing space to the planned Neptune Internet Cafe is very happy with the news. He believes that gambling is only the catalyst of the ill effects happening to neighborhoods with a gambling facility in the area. He believes that online gambling in Nepthune Beach wouldn't be a problem because people in the area are not predisposed to violent behabior. He was quoted as saying "They were located in bad neighborhoods” giving emphasis on the criminal activities that have been linked to popular gambling venues like Las Vegas, Nevada, gambling spots in Paris, France, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 50 St. James, and Londonto name a few. He further added, "I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with Internet cafes,[But] they're more of a gathering place for seniors."

The traditional folks at Neptune Beach who cherished their serene history are outraged at the City Council’s decision. However, some residents have shown their support for the expansion. Some have attributed the move as a sign of progress. Neptune Beach is a quiet residential community and some residents want to keep it that way. According to those opposed to the idea, the community is not ready for such activities. The area boasts the largest park at the Beaches. Important to its traditions, Neptune Beach is proud that many of its homes have stayed in the same family for generations. This community-centered people have a long history of peace and quiet and according to some residents, having gambling facilities in the area will ruin the very essence of their neighborhood.

From a commercial perspective, progress is always welcome as this would also cause the local economy's growth. Consequently, with facilities like this operating in the neighborhood, local coffers will be padded with the extra revenues these would bring in for the locale. However, with protesters and supporters clamoring for different demands, it is difficult for officials to really appease the community in its entirety. Protests have been airing on radios and local news, but unfortunately the people of Neptune Beach will have to wait until February when the City Council will reconvene to discuss amendments to the internet café. One of the more vocal groups against the measure is the city's Community Development Board. Kerry Chin, vice chairman of the same board said, "There is a personal toll as well as a societal toll that must be taken into account. In this case, I believe that the community harm will far outweigh any community good that could come of it."

Officials have considered giving concessions to both groups with a planned special exemption zoning that would minimize the impact of online gambling in the internet cafes to the local community. With a lot of localities in the US aiming to expand their gambling capabilities to stave of the ill effects of the recession, small neighborhoods have almost certainly considered the idea. For Neptune Beach, residents, both for and against the move will have to wait and see how the entire thing unravels.

 

January 31, 2011

Programs Buffer Gambling Effects

Most states in America have adapted into their budgets the advantages of gaming revenues that have recently been augmented by gambling expansion legislation. That matter is much disputed but since much-needed revenue is hard to come by, the gambling industry has been one of the favorite safety nets taken advantage of by several areas. The issue almost always comes from this topic is the balance between its positive and negative effects.

Without the negative effects taken up as the oppositions right of action, gambling could prove to be the best solution to increasing a state’s fiscal condition. However, whenever gambling expansion is proposed, groups opposing the idea always bring forth the argument of social cost. However, states that offer expanded gambling, have also offered programs that would serve to alleviate the negative social effects that these facilities allegedly bring. Programs that help gambling addicts to get back up on their feet are today made available with no financial obligation. One example is that of Wisconsin Council on Problem Gaming which is a helpline based in the Green Bay area, that pathological gamblers could call when requiring support as the ill effects of gambling is felt.

Prevention is, most of the time, difficult since most of the individuals availing of the programs are already hopelessly addicted. However, the programs are not exclusively enjoyed by self-confessed addicts themselves; there are also a number of individuals who have been ordered by the court to seek help form such programs, after having gone to trial, due to numerous debts obtained from gambling activities. The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gaming has detailed in their annual report the figures of debts acquired from gambling. The figures have been steadily increasing over the past year. In 2009, the average individual's debt was $36,000 which escalated to $43,800 for regular American problem gamblers. As the debt statistics go higher, the numbers of calls seeking for help have decreased. The helpline in 2010 has received a total of 14,380 rings from personalities undergoing gambling troubles, which decreased slightly from 2009’s 14,604.

Rose Gruber, executive director of the Council on Problem Gaming, has said that the number of calls is an insignificant part of the complexity that gambling brings about. For her, the disturbing annual report that illustrated 21 individuals who have filed for bankruptcy and the 68 callers who have admitted to resorting to suicide is a much bigger dilemma. She uttered, “Suicide is always an ongoing concern for us.” Due to this factor, she reiterates the importance of “helpline call activity remaining brisk. Gambling is accepted everywhere in our society. It’s not going away.”

Cathleen Starck Wille, a nationally certified compulsive gambling therapist at Samaritan Counseling Center in Menasha, has announced that, “The number (of clients) keeps going up. The majority have already lost a lot of money and are in trouble with financial institutions or family members.”Despite the reports of helpline callers decreasing, Starck Wille believes that the number has been steadily rising for the past five years, with the majority being casino-related predicaments. She further states that this problem “goes across ages and goes across socio-economic groups and professions. We saw an increase this past year with the amount of spouses coming in because either their husband or wife were gambling compulsively and losing money. They come in because it’s affecting their relationship.”

Gambling counselors have noticed a pattern of problem gamblers seeking help only after piles and piles of debt have mounted to seriously affect spouses, family members, and co-workers, each with varying degrees. It is also believed that the average debt statistic is rather low because pathological gamblers calling for help are wary of sharing too many details regarding their personal losses. Starck Wille, who has been a counselor for compulsive gamblers since 1995, is one of those individuals who deem that such losses often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. A Fox Cities-based nationally certified gambling counselor, Tom Sebora, is another person who considers the figure of $43,800 as rather low. Based on his experiences in giving assistance to problem gamblers, the average debt figure reaches the high tens of thousands or six figure digits.

 

January 30, 2011

Herbst Gaming Gets Passing Grade

After emerging from bankruptcy just recently, Herbst Gaming, a family owned casino and slot route operator based in Nevada, has had a couple of their casino complexes renovated and modernized—in a sure sign of better years to come. That seems to be the case as a holding company performing financial research and analysis on commercial and government entities, Moody’s Investors Service, has declared Herbst Gaming LLC as having a sure and steady debt rating outlook. A speculative-grade B2 Corporate Family Rating and a B3 Probability of Default Rating had been the holding company’s assessment concerning the gaming enterprise’s current state of affairs, after having secured a bank loan payable until 2015 amounting to $350 million.

EBITDA, a profitability measure which translates to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, has been thoroughly reviewed for Herbst Gaming and has resulted to a ratio of about 5, making the company highly leveraged with debt. These statistics were announced by Moody’s by assessing Herbst Gaming’s third quarter pay packets; casino EBITDA totaled to $15.2 million, while slot route EBITDA posted $1.2 million, giving the company a sum of $16.4 million, which promises a potentially immense fiscal outlook for the year. Herbst Gaming has ownership rights of eight casino complexes in Southern Nevada, Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino and Primm Valley Resort & Casino being the most popular of late after having undergone extensive revamping, four gaming establishments in Northern Nevada, and three others in the Midwest.

After the Herbst family, the pioneer in Nevada gambling, bowed out in 2010 owing to its bankruptcy, a new company took over under the management team of Chief Executive Officer David Ross and Chief Operating Officer Ferenc Szony. A report made by Szony to the Gaming Commission states that all of Herbst's casinos were “cash flow positive” except one. Silver Point Capital ended up with fifteen percent of the family-owned company after having bought its debt; this is a legal procedure and is licensed under the gaming application. One of the founders of Silver Point, Edward Mule, stated that since the year 2007, their company had started buying debts of Herbst Gaming. Approximately 35 percent of Herbst’s property level EBITDA is generated from the slot routes and casinos operated in the Nevada regions. Sixty-five percent of the gaming company’s overall net revenue also comes from gambling establishment in this desert.

The holding company did acknowledge the downward economic trend that Las Vegas has been experiencing which seems to have had effect with Herbst Gaming’s ventures. “Nevada was hit extremely hard by the recent recession, continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. and will likely be one of the slowest gaming markets to recover.” Herbst Gaming is said to be in possession of an estimated $100 million which Moody’s believes to be “sufficient to help fund short-term working capital or modest capital expenditure needs.” Moody’s elucidated on the financial statistics of Herbst Gaming, stating, “Herbst’s B2 Corporate Family Rating considers the company’s significant exposure to Nevada gaming markets and its high leverage. This subjects the company to greater risks than a gaming company that operates in a more stable gaming market and is more geographically diverse. The ratings are supported by the solid performance of the company’s Midwest casino properties and the company’s good liquidity profile.”

Another company that ranks the credit-worthiness of borrowers is Standard and Poor’s, a division of McGraw-Hill that publishes financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds. The company has echoed the same ratings as those of Moody’s. Standard & Poor’s issued a credit rating of B to Herbst Gaming LLC, and a B+ for the term loan. S & P declares, “Our rating incorporates our expectation that both revenue and EBITDA will decline in the low-single-digit percentage area in 2011 versus 2010. This decrease is largely attributable to our anticipation of continued declines in the Nevada casinos and the route business given ongoing economic weakness in that region. We believe these declines will be largely offset by modest growth in the Midwest casinos and stability in Herbst’s other businesses.”

 

January 29, 2011

Texas Considers Gambling

Most of the fifty states in America have gone on the path of legalized gambling, more having had numerous gambling expansions already; yet Texas remains casino-free. This may in part be the reason as to why the state is currently encountering a budget deficit that is projected to amount to a staggering $27 billion. State officials are desperate in finding means and ways to resolve this troubling deficit. Some state officials believe that the best way to combat the effects of the deficit is to at long last, permit casinos and other gambling facilities to enter Texas.

Texas is located in the south western regions by the Gulf of Mexico and is the second largest state in both area and population in the U.S. The state is generally known for encompassing within its vast land areas a considerable number of conservative groups such as the Christian Life Commission and the public policy arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. These organizations are significantly influential when it comes to state policies and may principally have been the motivation, along with the voice of the citizens, on the barriers erected to keep any form of gambling away. During earlier times, Texas did try the operations of a state lottery to aid the funding of the education system. This was subsequently abolished, and any proposals regarding projects concerned with casino-style gambling or charity-style poker tournaments at certain resorts were immediately turned down. The Texas State Legislature which at present is dominated by Republicans has turned casino projects down one after the other.

Bill Eadington, Director at the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, stated that, “Texas has attempted legislation for expanded gaming in the past but they’ve always been knocked down because of internal political fights among potential benefactors.” A new leaf is slowly turns though, as the looming threat of a massive budget deficit is increasingly felt by state officials. Budget cutbacks from vital bodies of the government such as the education system, health care, and human services programs, have been necessary to balance the state’s current financial status. With these fiscal worries at hand, Texas may just be ready enough to allow casinos and gambling within their territory, bringing with it the much needed gaming revenues to plug the gaping holes in the state budget.

Casino gambling may become legalized in the state if the measure garners a two-thirds vote required by the Texas State Constitution. The number of votes necessitated for the approval of any gambling site within the Texas jurisdiction is a rather large figure, making passage all the more troublesome. Another critical factor that holds back the operations of gambling facilities in the area is the known fact that most casino developers and investors backed up the Democrats in the last electoral campaigns. Needless to say, the Republicans won over the majority of the legislative seats, making the two thirds vote requirement all the more impossible.

Despite numerous reports of the benefits casinos would bring to the state, the negative social impacts that such facilities may have on the area still remains a concern for the conservative legislature. Casino opponents continue to ask the government to find other ways of generating income without necessarily putting the residents at risk. Not raising property and sales taxes, or the avoidance of the institution of a state income tax due to the presence of legalized gambling, on the other hand, may very well convince conservative groups to allow the practice in the state.

Those opposing the construction of casinos in Texas have also raised the question of how gaming revenues could possibly assist the state in its existing financial crisis which is in the billions. According to data gathered by analysts, most states with legalized and expanded gambling operating in their territories, only accumulate hundreds of millions in gambling taxes. With the whopping amount that Texas is facing in budget deficits, some are questioning the competence of gambling facilities in covering up such an immense amount. Opponents of the gambling measure point out that areas that allow gambling continue to suffer budget deficits.

 

January 27, 2011

Indicted Casino Owner Requests Separate Trial

A corrupt scheme of grand proportions involving four senators and several lobbyists to buy and sell votes in the Legislature became one of Alabama’s most controversial stories the previous year. This allegation, which resulted to a court indictment, occurred during former Governor Riley’s raids of the state’s electronic bingo halls, which ultimately shut down all establishments of such orientation except three, operated by Poarch Creek Indians who aren’t under state control. As electronic bingo halls boarded nails on their windows one by one, casino owners set out to present their lobbyists to the Capitol in hopes of making their Vegas-style parlors a legal venture.

Unfortunately, federal authorities later asserted that such actions set to legalize electronic bingo machines were committed in an unlawful manner, principally by offering lawmakers millions of dollars as bribes. Subsequent to that, the Justice Department announced an indictment against the owners of two of Alabama’s largest casinos, County Crossing Casino and Victoryland Casino, four state senators, Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, James Preuitt of Talladega, Larry Means of Attalla, and Quinton Ross Jr. of Montgomery, and several lobbyists. Consequently, federal agents spread out all over the state for the arrest of ten individuals charged with conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud. All four senators had voted to legalize the electronic machines after it was forcibly shut down, which proved to be twice unsuccessful as both were turned down in the years 2008 and in 2009.

Lanny Breuer, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, described the corrupt plot as “astonishing in scope, a full scale campaign to bribe legislators and others.” Riley has branded the gambling bill which allowed the passage of bingo machines in the state as “the most corrupt piece of legislation ever considered by the Senate.” In light of the developments which occurred in 2009, namely the raiding and the consequential indictment, Jeff Emerson, the spokesman for Riley, said, “The actions by the Justice Department shows he (Riley) was right.” The business of electronic bingo games, a similar equipment to slot machines with its flashing lights and sound effects, are rather popular and ever-increasing in Alabama. Riley and his task force brought to a halt the operations of these machines which left casino owners, with their potentially high-profit earnings, scrambling about to reverse the former governor’s sanctions. As a result, this massive lawsuit involving a great deal of reputable names came to existence.

At present, Victory McGregor, owner of Victoryland Casino, has requested the presiding judge in his case, to allow him to have a separate trial. A monitoring bracelet which forces McGregor to stay within the boundaries of his specified jurisdiction was also contested, and a scheduled hearing regarding this matter is set on the 1st of February. The trial which involves nine other alleged offenders is set for the month of April. Joey Espy, the attorney of McGregor, filed court papers last Saturday to speed up the process in a trial that would permit his client to be distinct from his alleged co conspirators. He has made known the reasons for this request, one being his client’s willingness to be present on the 4th of April, the exact hearing date, while the rest of the indicted personalities are appealing for a delay. He also declared that the trial engaging a large number of individuals could prove to be rather complicated and knotty. Aside from those, he feared that his client would get judged exactly the same way as the others would be, disallowing personal aspects of his participation in the incident to be heard, which could lead to an unfair trial.

Espy also proclaimed McGregor’s innocence and that they are both looking forward to finally proving that claim. The trial which involves no less than state legislators and high profile personalities have attracted the eyes of the public. Currently, the media, concerned parties, supporters and opponents of the electronic bingo machines measure and the public in general are all waiting eagerly for the whole story to unfold. The defendants in this case could face up to five years in prison for conspiracy, ten years for bribery, and twenty years for honest services fraud, if convicted.

 

January 23, 2011

Gambling Expansion Talks in Hawaii Gains Momentum

The tropical paradise that is the 50th state of the United States, Hawaii, has constantly been persuaded by outside forces to expand its gambling industry. As of the moment, Hawaii is only one of two states, Utah being the other one, to hold out in terms of gambling expansions. But renewed hopes amongst gaming enthusiasts were awakened as Hawaii’s adamant stance against gambling expansion seems to loosen. Due to the persistence of casino developers and investors, Hawaii lawmakers may possibly adapt gambling expansion policies similar to that of other states. These projects are seen to generate much needed income and employment to the local economy.

Along with these factors, the stepping down of former Governor Linda Lingle, who was openly public in her strong disregard for any type of gambling expansion, from the gubernatorial seat, became a big part in taking Hawaii’s first strides to gambling progress. Lingle firmly rejected all requests for gambling expansions in her office during her reign over the state. With the arrival of a new state official, there have been talks of prospective casino resorts and lotteries, to be debated upon by lawmakers. House Finance Chairman, Marcus Oshiro, reportedly said, “This might be the right opportunity. We haven’t had a real discussion for several years, so I think we will have the discussion.” This may lead to the state's efforts to not just be a renowned vacation destination, but also one that boasts gambling attractions that would rival those from other states. However, before any of gambling expansions could take place, the Legislature requires extensive research on the effects of expanding gambling in the area—both negative and positive.

The fate of the casino industry may possibly lie in the hands of the state’s newly appointed Governor Neil Abercrombie. He was sworn in on the 6th day of December the previous year, on the grounds of the Iolani Palace. During his electoral campaigns, Abercrombie had announced his stand against casino gambling and a state lottery, which stems from his belief that such acts do not necessarily bring about positive outcomes to its participants. In the past though, he has voiced out opinions of support for lottery but have retracted such statements, sealing his position in believing that gambling is not an issue that needs exploration in the nearest future. Spokesperson for Governor Abervrombie, Donalyn Dela Cruz, has confirmed these reports, informing the public that the discussions regarding the current state budget does not include the expansion of the state's gambling indutry. In the spokesperson's position statement, such quotes could be read: “Neil is open to the possibility of joining existing multi-state lotteries if they would be willing to offer Hawaii specific prizes. However, Neil does not believe that gambling in any form needs to be explored right now.”

John Radcliffe, however, Hawaii’s top lobbyist and consultant to governors including Abercrombie, favors policies that would expand the gambling capabilities of the state and is hoping that Abercrombie reconsiders. “I don’t believe the governor has a moral objection to gambling”, he declared. “His objections to gaming have more to do with whether or not it’s good policy.” As America’s top tourist destination, Hawaii rakes in large amounts of revenue through irresistible allure of their beaches, yet the economic recession that started during the last quarter of the year 2007 did not leave the state unharmed. Lawmakers are now seriously considering the added revenue that casinos are certain to provide. Other states that have permitted gambling expansions in their areas, like adding tables and expanding state lotteries, are proving to be examples which Hawaii might deem suitable as role models. With an extra casino resort or two, supporters of the idea argue that the state's tourism will skyrocket.

The only thing that lawmakers seek to avoid when expanding the gambling industry of the state is for the locals to begin betting, especially those living in low income households. The expansion is aimed to attract tourists who have cash to spare, not locals. Developers expressed their willingness to invest a figure nearing $100 million once the rights to a casino is approved..

 

January 21, 2011

Caribbean Casino and Gaming Corp. to Open 3rd Gambling Attraction

A third gambling site in the vicinity of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic is in the midst of becoming a reality. The facility is to be developed by and added to Caribbean Casino and Gaming Corp.’s two existing casinos. The company has announced the grand opening of its up and coming project, which is just around the corner, and can be experienced by gaming enthusiasts in the not so distant future. The gambling facility is to host the first ever twenty four hour a day Slot Parlor, which will initially be composed of over a hundred slot machines. The chosen site conveniently permits room for expansions that could hold and accommodate additional slot machines totaling to more than two hundred.

The new gambling destination is named Puerto Plata Parlor, which is to be situated cleverly within a high traffic location directly before the city’s central bus terminal, allowing easy access for commuters and other guests visiting the new establishment. Commercial establishments also surround the casino site, such as pharmacies, a great number of restaurants and dining venues, a popular disco, gas station, and more importantly, an exchange bank. Owing to the existence of such essential facilities and the perfect proximity to the main hub of the city transit, the 24 hour slot parlor is expected to equal or surpass projected gaming revenues. Puerto Plata is one of the Northern provinces in the Dominican Republic and is one of the Caribbean’s most sought after vacation destinations, as a number of breathtaking beaches surround the city. It had started to increase its reputation in becoming a famous tourist attraction in the late 1990s as the beauty and magnificence of its beaches began to unfurl their magic on tourists. With the arrival of another anticipated casino destination, Puerto Plata may prove to be an unparalleled thriving vacation spot. Additionally, Puerto Plata’s International Airport is conveniently located within a twenty minute drive from most business-related spots.

The CEO of Caribbean Casino and Gaming Corp, or CGAQ, Steven Swank, informed the public his views regarding the opening of their third gambling location. “Each new establishment not only gets easier to launch, but increases our economies of scale further. As the market starts to reflect our assets and efforts, the stakes are going to rise for anyone not vested in our stock. We are excited about the good times coming for the investors who have shown the patience and perseverance the staff surrounding me has.” The Corporation is also set in garnering the reputation of becoming a leader in gaming and entertainment development which includes the areas of live betting, especially as it has come into partnership with Kenilworth Systems Corporation. The duo has proposed to execute such actions as positioned cameras from above gaming tables in one of CGAQ’s properties, the Sosua Bay Grand Casino. Through these innovative methods, not only can gambling patrons experience the thrill of participating in betting by visiting casinos, but can also wager their dollars and Dominican pesos within the walls and comforts of their own homes. The Corporation boasts of consistently having offered world class gaming and accommodations in the Caribbean, making Sosua Bay Resort the centrepiece and principal attraction in Puerto Plata, which is also the largest and most populated city in the Island.

The erection of Puerto Plata Parlor has given its casino developers and investors high hopes of reimbursing a great return on their investment. With multiple combinations of irresistible attractions such as the wonderful beaches, convenient location of vital commercial establishments, and the soon to come twenty four hour a day slot parlor in the Puerto Plata Parlor, an estimation of exciting possibilities and great potential earnings are projected. Steven Swank affirmed these projections in his statement, saying, “The high traffic businesses and transit authority that this location consists of will continue to brand the CGAQ name at a faster pace while being the only location within miles to provide gaming entertainment. If people can have fun buying a lottery ticket, our clients will have a great time taking a break from the world with us in the convenient area of Puerto Plata.”

Online Casino

 

January 20, 2011

Gambling in Alabama to be Decided by Voters

During the gubernatorial electoral campaigns in the state of Alabama, opposing forces with different standpoints regarding the matter of gambling have risen up directly from the four competing candidates. Then Governor Bob Riley, who was up for re-election, became busy with raiding gambling halls and keeping others alike from re-opening, while Indian casinos noticeably were left alone owing to its protection under federal regulations. Republican Bradley Byrnes, took a similar position to that of Riley's, while Democrat Ron Sparks, brought gaming issues to a whole new level by guaranteeing gambling expansions and revision of closed down casinos, if elected. The man who beat out his fellow candidates, Alabama incumbent Governor Robert Bentley, kept a firm stand of completely being against any form of gambling in the state.

Aside from other objectives raised in Bentley’s platform during periods of electoral campaign, his take on issues regarding gambling and gaming was stated personally from him as: “I view gambling as a detriment to society, and believe the legislature has failed in its responsibilities to address this issue. Because of this failure, I believe the people of Alabama need to decide at the ballot box on a YES or NO vote whether to allow gambling or abolish all forms of gambling. This vote should only occur if the referendum establishes a Gaming Commission with strict regulatory authority and taxes gaming at a minimum of 40% of profits. Banning all gambling provides the only option Alabama has to end Indian gambling in our state.” Bentley though is quite transparent in his admission that the proposed voting measures is not likely to happen during the first year of his term as governor, having been sworn in only last Monday in Montgomery.

Bentley has declared his firm plans in eliminating former Governor Riley’s gambling task force; he is quite adamant in his belief that the principal player in deciding the fate of gambling in Alabama, aside from the state’s registered voters, is the newly appointed Attorney General Luther Strange. Bentley announced that, “We are going to handle the situation the way I think it should be handled, and that’s through the attorney general’s office.” The Legislature’s annual session is to start on the 1st day of March, and Bentley’s proposal would have the opportunity to be debated upon, yet he has informed the public that he would not be passing such referenda for this first session. His reason being the excessive amount of pending cases yet to be inspected and discussed which are higher priorities requiring immediate resolution. A great deal in number of months is necessitated to give a final verdict to such cases, Riley’s conviction that electronic bingo machines should be considered as illegal slots, being one of them.

April 4, in turn, marks the date when trial is to take place in the Federal Courts concerning cases against two casino developers, four current legislators and four other former ones, and another four suspects allegedly having bought and sold votes on pro-gambling legislation. This controversial drafted bill failed to pass the Legislature in the years 2009 and 2010. The trial process itself would take quite a long time to complete, and if any are convicted, additional hours and days would be spent reviewing inevitable appeals.

As Bentley became governor, most of the gambling operations Riley and his task force shut down have been making noises with their desire to re-open their means of living. With Bentley being the new chief in town, casino executives have been given renewed hopes of continuing their forcibly closed gaming facilities. Bentley has been vocal with his disapproval of gambling but with the citizens gaining power with the proposed voting measures, nothing is certain at present. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Bentley uttered regarding gambling enthusiasts’ reported high hopes. “We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it.” The only certain thing is his support for the attorney general’s final decision when the time comes to rule over the matters of gambling in Alabama.

 

January 19, 2011

Ameristar Casino’s Charity Missions generate $1.3 Million

Located in the principal gambling state of the United States, Nevada, Ameristar Casinos, Inc. is one of Las Vegas’ foremost gaming and entertainment company, providing top quality dining, lodging and leisure delights. The company is also famous for developing premier properties that always boast state of the art casino facilities that cater to a huge clientele. Founded in 1954 in Jackpot, Nevada, by the company’s current Chairman of the Board’s father, Neilsen, Ameristar has been constantly presenting to gambling enthusiasts only the finest and most superior gaming experience, making it among the line of leaders in the market it operates in.

Ameristar Cares Workplace Giving Campaign is a project launched in 2004 by the company to aid local Ameristar communities which are in dire need of assistance in their day to day living. The charity campaign has, to this date, totaled to about $1.3 million. Ameristar officials have pledged this amount as a donation to be presented to select charity beneficiaries. National studies reveal a thirty-five percent mark which typical employee workplace charitable campaigns reach, across all states. Ameristar is one among companies of such orientation that continually achieve the usual percentage in excess, even arriving to fifty-eight percent. Ameristar team member participation at every Ameristar location exceeded archetypal statistics due to the large number of its personnel taking part in the activity..

Ray Neilsen, Ameristar’s Chairman of the Board, has proudly stated that, “Ameristar team members have a history of giving generously, and Ameristar is a company that truly cares about people. My Dad, Ameristar’s late founder, Chairman and CEO Craig H. Neilsen established a culture of giving at Ameristar. He believed in giving back to the communities in which we live and work both financially and through volunteerism.” The Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman of Ameristar since the year 2008, Gordon Kanofsky, is in the same boat as Neilsen as he affirmed that,” Participation in this year’s campaign is strong evidence of how enthusiastically our team members embrace this cultural value. The amount raised and the participation rates are direct reflections of the caring and generosity of our team members and their dedication to helping the communities in which we live and work.” Both American executives, Neilsen and Kanofsky, are co-trustees in the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, which has pledged a dollar for dollar to match contributions specifically intended for spinal injury rehabilitation centers.

Ameristar Casinos, Inc., in turn, is matching donations in a “twenty five cent on the dollar” operation to further add to the year’s workplace giving campaign. Pledges coming from individual team members have reached $881,500, which is anticipated to balloon up to $1,333,000 with the matching per cent and by the dollar crusade of casino officials. “I am very pleased to see this level of philanthropy demonstrated by our Ameristar Team Members,” Ray Neilsen announced in a conference regarding Ameristar’s national charity works. “The Foundation is proud to continue to match Ameristar Team Member contributions to local organizations that assist people living with spinal cord injuries. A major part of my father’s legacy is the Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injuries and to ultimately find a cure.” With the in-house workplace giving program, the opportunity to contribute to different local communities and community organizations needing assistance is provided to team members of Ameristar. The company owns a great number of casinos in varying locales, all performing charitable acts for communities. These casinos are the Ameristar Casino Hotel Vicksburg in Mississippi and Louisiana, Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk in the Denver metropolitan district, Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago in the Chicagoland area, Horseshu Hotel and Casino in Nevada, Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles in greater St. Louis, Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City, Ameristar Casino Hotel Council Bluffs in Nebraska and Iowa, and Cactus Pete’s Resort Casino.

The entire Ameristar casino establishments scattered all over the United States have been practicing these charitable acts specifically created to ease the burdens of individuals and organizations, people living with spinal cord injuries being its top priority. The $1.3 million amount amassed by Ameristar team members is guaranteed to go a long way in helping the communities.

 

January 18, 2011

New Jersey approves S490

The historic bill that will allow Atlantic City casinos to offer residents outside of New Jersey to wager on online versions of their games has finally passed. In a 35 yeas and 2 nays in the New Jersey Senate, and a 63-11-3 vote in the Assembly, the bill is now left in Gov. Chris Christie's hands. The governor can either veto or sign the bill. The bill is a desperate move by the legislators to save the once thriving gambling district. “Atlantic City needs the help in a big way, and the timing is perfect for that state, as some forward thinking and action will push New Jersey casinos to the front of the online convergence window,” Peter Karroll, the Chief Executive Director of online-gaming marketing firm IAM Corp., said to Philadelphia Inquirer. According to reports, Atlantic City has been suffering under gambling revenue drops of 9.6 percent in 2010. Casinos in the area either chose to sell, declare bankruptcy, shut down or restructure their debts. Meanwhile, Governor Christie has 45 days to decide on the bill. If he decides to sign it, he, and future governors of the state would be given the power as to pass policies in a newly designated tourism zone.

The bill is designed to benefit not just AC casinos, it also gives an opportunity for companies outside of the United States to get their share of the massive gambling market. The bill requires a land based casino in New Jersey to manage their online product. However, offshore companies can benefit from it as long as their services are associated with AC casinos. The only hurdle that the bill really has to go through was Harrrah's Entertainment who was in favor of passing a federal law which would be impossible given the number of Republicans in the House. “Harrah’s wanted a federal law passed and they failed. They tried to convince us that it would be passed in the summer and it wasn’t, they tried to convince us it would pass before the midterm elections and it wasn’t. And they tried to convince us it would pass in the lame duck session but Harry Reid failed. Harrah’s has been selfishly opposing our bill and Governor Christie sees through it.” says William J. Pascrell III, a partner in the Princeton Public Affairs Group (PPAG) who was a major part for having the bill passed.

Praises were given to both the Bill and the New Jersey legislative body for passing it. The Executive Director of the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, Michael Waxman, has issued a statement lauding this recent online gambling milestone. In the statement, Mr. Waxman said they applaud New Jersey for passing the bill that aims to control gambling activity in the Internet which creates jobs and at the same time creates a "common-sense framework for protecting consumers”. He also added that when the time comes that this bill becomes a law, the state would surely be in the forefront of implementing online gambling regulations in the United States. He also noted that it is encouraging that such efforts were undertaken by the state legislature. Waxman also added that, "This vote is a positive step by creating a licensed and regulated online gambling environment with appropriate consumer protections for New Jersey residents – a much better approach than the failed attempts led by the federal government to prohibit the activity. New Jersey will also be poised to capture new, much-needed revenue from the activity."

Supporters of the online gambling measure expressed that while the bill is surely appreciated, a federal measure would have been the best case scenario. Analysts claim that a federal law allowing for the regulation of online gambling would revolutionize the country's gambling industry. Nevertheless, proponents of the bill were elated and ecstatic about the bill's latest development. The proponents of the bill have rationalized the bills creation by saying that it is about time to keep up to speed with technological progress. With online gambling catching up with traditional brick and mortar casinos, it would only be natural to adapt. Analysts foresee several states to follow suit. The bill is touted to help not only New Jersey, but also its surrounding areas.

 

January 17, 2011

Peninsula Gaming Gets Go Signal for Mulvane Casino

In a 6-1 win, Peninsula Gaming has earned the go signal from the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, that is, after a rigid background check has been performed. The developer passed, but not without difficulty. Misdemeanor charges have been filed against two of Peninsula's top execs but the Commission says this is not a ground for them to automatically get disqualified. Both Chief Executive Officer Brent Stevens and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Swain refute all accusations that they have willfully avoided giving information as to giving campaign contribution to the failed reelection of Gov. Chet Culver. Allegations that these two, have used another person’s name in giving the contribution were also made. If proven guilty the two executives will serve a maximum sentence of one year behind bars and a manageable fine of $1,250.

But even if they will be convicted, the deal won't be automatically called off. The Gaming Commission has three automatic disqualifiers, but the coverage of each, which includes, reputation, association of the officers and habits are very broad. In an interview with Patrick Martin, interim Executive Director of the commission back in December, he said, “Racing and Gaming looks at essentially everything involved in a person to determine if they’re fit to be involved in gaming in Kansas,” The check would go through everyone that would be relevant to the workings of the casino including the officers, directors, managers and even business entities that would be eventually tied up to the project. The highly intrusive and unique investigation would look through financial histories, work histories, civil and criminal actions filed against and by them and even personal and business relationships. These concerns did not shake the Commission's belief that Penn Gaming can deliver their visions for Kansas Star.

The vote of confidence came after hearing testimonies from local businessman and trades people who support the casino construction. They say that the economic development is badly needed and the help it would provide to local residents as highly welcome. An assistant Business Manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Wichita testified and asked the Commission to make the project a reality, as 150 of the 610 members of his union are until now, unemployed. The lack of jobs, he added, are caused by the recession but can be easily fixed if the casino venture is to materialize. "The powers that be say we're in a recovery, but the truth of the fact is it's a jobless recovery," he pleaded. With an estimated 1,300 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs on the line, this opportunity, for the workers, is indeed a golden one. Artin Stevens, one of the executives who was charged, was present on the meeting, when asked about his case, he said he and his company will in no time, be cleared of the charges, he also added that his company, "believe that the system does ultimately allow for the truth to come out."

The casino proposals, set near Mulvane will be built in phases, phase one is to open on the early part of 2012. If everything goes as planned it will integrate the convention center, equestrian center and events center all rolled into one. Phase 1 of the project proposal will also be used for the accommodation of 1,310 video lottery machines, 50 seat snack bar, 32 gaming tables, and food and beverage kiosk, while the permanent casino would open in 2013. It would hold more slots and gaming tables, a steak house, a10 table poker room, a 150 room hotel and a couple of bars. Kansas Star is set to be completed in 2015, it would house a total of 2000 slots, a hotel with 300 rooms, a gift shop, an RV park, 50 gaming tables, and the convention/entertainment/events center.

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission has already awarded two similar projects in Mulvaane before, the first was Harrah's who backed out in 2008 and Lakes Entertainment, who withdrew earlier this year. The board decided to give it to Penn Gaming as its projections showed that their revenues would be maximized if the casino is to be in Mulvane. Another option for the Board was to approve a Wellington based casino, by Global Gaming. Global's 12 year completion plan was too long for the Board. “I’m glad to see that we’re finally moving forward and hope we get something built," says Dale Waller, owner of Laurie’s Kitchen in Mulvane.

 

January 15, 2011

Margaritaville Casino in Biloxi Gaining Ground

Jimmy Buffet, a native of Pascagoula Mississippi and a well known recording artist, has been in partnership with Harrah’s Entertainment, the world’s largest provider of branded casinos, since the year 2007 in the hopes of erecting a $700 million gambling venture to be located in Biloxi. All constructions for this gaming establishment, the unfinished Margaritaville Casino and Resort, was put to rest in 2008 as a number of difficulties plagued developers, and the supposed launching date for the year 2010 was never accomplished. John Payne, central division president of Caesar’s Entertainment, has confirmed the cessation of the multi-million dollar project. He has stated that, “We are disappointed that our project with Margaritaville will not proceed. We will continue to explore opportunities that will allow us to enhance our resorts. We remain committed to the Gulf Coast.”

As a replacement for this defunct gaming site, Jimmy Buffet once again teams up with a gambling mogul, Coast casino developer Tom Brosig, along with other investors to put up a more realistic version of the halted project. This more casual and affordable resort will include shops, restaurants, an outdoor dining area, an events center, and even a marina. The first draft of the proposal that was submitted to the review committee portrays the resort in various phases during its construction, beginning with the casino standing on a 21,000 square foot land area. Restaurants, pubs, and other dining pleasures are to be enclosed within a 14,700 square foot spot, while approximately 2,000 square feet of the premises is sectioned for two small retail spaces. An 18-slip marina is also part of the first phase that would launch the official fast tracking of this grand venture. The blueprint was presented by Mario Racelis with Cunningham Group of Biloxi, which was later reviewed by an engineer of Machado-Patano, Floyd Waltman. The final inspection was performed with the city officials. Casino details were painstakingly dissected point by point. Plans for further phases are yet unknown.

This has brought about new life to the Margaritaville Casino, and apart from this, a fresh new site for the establishment has brought lifeto the project. Its former location at the beach along U.S. highway 90 will no longer be the preferred location, as the project gets transferred to the Back Bay of Biloxi. Mike Cavanaugh, the attorney for the developer Tom Brosig, has announced that their team is in high hopes of breaking ground towards the goal of concluding the casino project. “We are anticipating it taking nine months to build out and that gets us right at the end of the year,” he said. Before the start of constructions, the casino will need the approval of the city of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gaming Commission, and Cavanaugh reiterated plans of acquiring such requirements by the 24th of February. Concerned parties believe that at the current rate of progress, ground breaking for the facility will begin as early as March. This timeline and vital deadline is guaranteed by the developers to be followed as accurately as possible. The entire project is a 68,000 foot square casino complex worth over $48 million.

The casino developers are forecasting the end of the year to be the target date for the gaming attraction to open. The all new three story Margaritaville will be operated by MVB Holdings and the property will be leased from Brosig and other families, namely the Sekuls and the Sims. Its exact location on the Back Bay of Biloxi is at the old East Harrison County Industrial Park on Fifth Street. Jimmy Buffet has made known to the public, as owner of the much awaited new Margaritaville Casino and Resort that he is ready and eager for the project to unleash its potential. The city of Biloxi will always remain memorable for Buffet as it is the place where the singer/songwriter was awarded his first ever paid gig. As to the final completion of the casino venture, the tentative plans regarding its speedy construction will be on the hands of the Gaming Commission, the city itself, and the developers who are working their best expedite the approval process.

 

January 14, 2011

Gambling Apps now available for Android

Gambling has never been made this easy before—no chips, no casino trips, no human dealers, just you and your phone. Technology has made almost every human need convenient, accessible and simply fuss-free. Recently, one of the software providers in the online gambling community, Microgaming Software Systems Ltd., has made its online casino games available on Android version 2.2 Froyo devices that runs Adobe Flash 10.1. According to the company, it is their commitment to the public that drives the company to always provide the betting public and the operators, with the best, groundbreaking and innovative products and services. The products can be downloaded directly from their site and can be used for playing for fun or for real money.

The Android Marketplace has previously denied their users the pleasure of smart phone wagering by prohibiting the casino games from being sold there. But now it seems that the restrictions have been lifted. Microgaming is also the first online gambling developer to offer real play casino games to Android phones and its users. According to Mike Hebden Head of Casino for Microgaming, “The interest around Android v2.2 is massive, the Froyo user interface and experience is comparable to that of the iPhone and the platform is rapidly growing in popularity with developers and consumers." Hebden also added that, “Android has more momentum than any other platform and is largely driving the increased sales of smart phones. A number of pad style devices will also soon be running Android v2.2.” Research done by Nielsen show that Androids can be credited with more than 40 percent sales of all smart phones bought within the last six months. Also, studies done by Gartner show that the Android platform will increase its market share by 14% and will most likely be the top mobile operating system by 2014.

Microgaming's mobile partner, Spin3 will also offer native apps to come out in the next few months. Spin3 games are also available for the same platform. Standard casino games such as blackjack, roulette, video poker and slots will be made available by this application. The company also offers Texas hold 'Em and other multi player poker games along with stud poker which allows gamblers to wager against each other in real time. Daniel Goss, Marketing Director of Betway said that together with Microgaming, they will be able to give the customers the most dynamic and entertaining casino games. "A successful mobile casino business needs to support Android, and we are delighted to be able to meet this demand.” he says.

But it seems that people from Microgaming are not the only ones to foresee the great potential of tapping into mobile gaming solutions. Recently, Leroys Apps for the Blackberry version has been approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission. Though the apps are to be used within the State of Nevada only, it is already seen as significant boost for the gambling industry. Board Chairman Mark Liparelli has already said that measures are being taken to ensure that the apps could be turned off once outside of the state territories. The NGC's approval is seen as a potential technological guide for other operators and developers who seeks to provide other states in the U.S mobile gambling services. The company has also moved into developing Android phone apps for the same purpose. The company also expects to be developing apps for the the IPad and IPhones.

The apps used in Nevada, uses a patented geographic location process and encrypted communications to ensure the secure wagering of bettors. Nevada has previously denied mobile gambling in Connection with the Wire Act of 1961. But since AmericanWagering, owner and developer of Leroys Apps has risen to the challenge, Nevada was comfortable enough to make an exception. Experts also believe that gambling applications used in mobile phones could change the way people see casinos. Analysts expect a surge in revenues earned once these apps begin to be operational. The apps are yet to gain ground but once this happens, experts agree that more companies will follow suit, causing the trend to intensify.

 

January 10, 2011

Atlantic City casinos Fined a total $115K for Violating Rules

Several of Atlantic City's eleven casinos have recently failed to comply with some of New Jersey’s gambling laws. The fine, when summed up, totals to a $115,000 payment. Topping the list of violations would be the failure of casino personnel to catch a cheating dealer and customer for more than a few months, allowing a robber to walk away from a casino due to a malfunctioning alarm system, incorrect details in tax forms, and underage drinking and gambling. The largest individual fine amounting to $40,000 was dispatched to the Tropicana Casino and Resort. After seven months of cheating performed by its own dealer and a regular patron, casino investigators only caught the criminals in their act on May 2009, when it had apparently already began during the months of November the previous year. Ranging from 20 to 30 occasions, this act of deception was being executed by the dealer by overpaying the patron he was in cahoots with, and when the accomplice lost, he then would not accept the due chips. The dealer admitted this fraudulent behavior when another patron noticed this malpractice and informed the Tropicana security shift manager, and was later apprehended and removed from the casino.

As to the fate of the dealer, it is still unknown whether he was sent to jail or even prosecuted as his identity remains anonymous. His records were later found to be misplaced in the state attorney general’s office, and Tropicana officials are staying silent about the issue and unavailable for comments. Another Atlantic City gaming establishment to be found guilty of violating gambling laws is the Trump Plaza Hotel Casino, which was fined $20,000 for underage betting. A 19 year old man was left unnoticed as he played slots, blackjack, roulette, and Spanish 21, when it is quite clear in New Jersey law that 21 is the legal age for gambling. Another Trump casino, the Taj Mahal Casino Resort, was made to pay another $20,000 fine for committing a similar act. In May 2010, a 20 year old woman this time, played slots and even consumed alcoholic beverages.

The Trump Marina follows in the footsteps of its sibling casinos, as it was forced to pay $10,000 as well, for permitting a five time slots winner who won $1,200 or more, to fill out the mandatory tax forms in the name of his friend, by simply producing the friend’s identification card. During this fiasco, casino security shortly located the winner, and made him redo the forms, sending the original tax forms to the trash bin. A $15,000 fine for violating yet another underage gambling law was given as penalty to The Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort. This incident happened in March 2010, when a 20 year old was left to his desires to play blackjack for 45 minutes. The list of casinos fined for unlawful acts grows long with Caesars Atlantic City, which allowed a robber to get away from its premises, carrying $8000 worth of cash, due to a malfunctioning alarm system. This crime happened in July 2009, which caused the casino to cough up $10,000 in penalty.

As a result of these mishaps, New Jersey lawmakers have proposed a bill removing casino inspectors as compulsory factors in a gambling facility. Their presence seemed to have no effect in keeping casinos free from punished acts, plus their exclusion would allow casino operators to save a whole lot, cost-wise. The state governor Chris Christie is in agreement with this bill, as it allows more breathing space, as compared to its prior strict regulations. He also states that numerous casinos situated in the City were fined, even with the inspectors roaming around each floor of every casino. “It didn’t stop that, did it?” he inquired the public before him. “As a formal federal prosecutor, I know that no matter how many laws you put on the books, people will still figure out a way to break the law. Our job is to make sure they’re punished.” He also believed that the penalties received by the casinos are further proof that the New Jersey legislators and the Casino Commission are doing their jobs competently.

 

January 7, 2011

US Online Casino Gambling Not Coming This Year—Experts

The Republican-dominated congress may not have online gambling on the top of their priority list prompting experts to believe that that online gambling may not be considered this year. Democrats have done all they could to allow the full legalization and regulation of this pastime, but alas, their efforts fell short. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to legalize online poker by inserting it into a must pass proposal during the last stretch of his term. But the bill has failed. Senator Reid, a Democrat, has led several initiatives during his term in congress. He was a co sponsor with Hillary Clinton on the "Prevention First Amendment" a program aimed to fund the prevention of abortion and easier access to contraception. The bill was opposed by Republicans and was eventually scrapped. Senator Reid is well loved by those with progressive beliefs concerning women and abortion. Senator Reid used to be a major opponent of not just online gambling, but all forms of gambling in general. In 2001, he was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame, for being the voice of Nevada and of the gaming industry in Washington. He also served as a Chairman for the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) recently reported that according to their source, e-poker, along with other forms of online gambling, may be a far possibility for now. After his failure to pass the attached online poker bill to the $1.1 trillion spending bill, online gamblers may feel despair. But according to a respected gambling site, online players must not feel that way, for even if the government won't regulate online gambling, it is still legal. The United States Federal Government has long ago adapted the UIGEA or the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Those in the know say the UIGEA does not prohibit online gambling. What it does do, is allow the government to seize the funds that are generated by illegal online gaming companies.

While the UIGEA, does not specify what forms of online gambling is illegal, the Federal Wire Act of 1961, however, states that, "Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned."

Online gambling sites operators and gamblers alike are hopeful that the Internet gambling prohibition will be lifted or at least be regulated, in most states in the United States. Currently,only Utah and Hawaii are prohibit gambling in any form. Reid's bills also suggest gambling sites be blocked only for residents of the states that prohibit it. Senator Reid however said he will try again this year to push for the measure. But Rep. Spencer Bachus R-AL may present a threat to Reid's efforts. Bachus, one of online gambling's strongest opponents, compare online poker players to heroin addicts. He was the person behind the law that bars the use of credit cards and financial instruments for online gambling transactions. The law was signed in late 2006 by then President George Bush.

"This is a huge priority for Spencer," says a GOP staff. John Pappas, Executive director of the Washington based Poker Players Alliance, says that internet gambling lobbyists are working with Reid's people to address the failed legislation. Pappas notes, "This is public policy that makes sense, Nobody, Republicans or Democrats, can believe the status quo is acceptable — playing overseas without protection and not realizing any of the revenue." Even if analysts and statistics point to huge revenues for the country if online poker and other online games will be legalized, Republican lawmakers continue to be adamant in their opposition to any legalization of online gambling. Today, offshore gambling is an estimated $6.2. Billion industry; estimates show this could rise up to $40 Billion over the next 10 years.

 

January 6, 2011

Atlantic City Expected to Recover in 2011

Following closely behind Las Vegas’ pace in terms of the casino and entertainment industries, is the exciting and fast paced destination, Atlantic City. It is the second largest gambling market, home to eleven grand casinos in its well-known boardwalk. For the past four years though, it has been undergoing difficulties, particularly in terms of its budget, due in part to the global recession which started in 2007. During the crisis’ heyday, the once magnificent and blinding lights of Atlantic City dimmed. Put to test were much of Atlantic City’s casino executives. Some gave up on the casinos, Morgan Stanley, being one of them. In April, after having spent $1.2 billion in total amount in the construction and starting preparations of Revel casino, he pulled out of the project, making the decision to take a substantial loss rather than to continue losing further.

Yet numerous others stood their ground, and today, the most visible sign of Atlantic City coming back to life for the year 2011, is the continuance of the erection of the half-finished Revel casino in the northern boardwalk. The said casino took a bad hit during the later part of 2007 when credit markets had dried up, accompanied by a series of bad luck. Three of its key executives died unexpectedly in a plane crash, funds became scarce and found no additional sources, and a strong negative public outburst broke through regarding a state tax worth as much as $350 million incurred over the past 20 years. Owing to these issues, the casino had to lay off 400 of its workers, and had to stop its construction except for the exterior components. The resumption of a working progress in the external structure, as well as the factors inside the operation of Revel, is a huge advancement towards the goal of resurrecting the splendor of Atlantic City.

After much stalling and struggling with varying degrees of obstacles breaking through its doors, Atlantic City has been projected to have at the least two new casinos put up on its vicinity, by the end of the year. The casinos’ surrounding locales and, of course, the boardwalk is to experience a much cleaner, secure, and fully functioning community as a new state-run tourism district is anticipated to be handling the area. Placing bets online is now also encouraged, and some time soon, the New Jersey voting public will have come to a decision on whether or not they desire for their state to provide legalized sports betting. The 11 already existing casinos will have a much wider array of options to take as talks have been in progress of lessening some of the strict regulations and oversights by the state. The running of some of these casinos, as well, would probably change hands as the enterprises come at a cheaper price tag. In turn, under the management of possible new ownerships, some of these casinos could appeal to a much larger crowd, with its freshest and latest developments.

Tropicana Casino and Resort, one of the largest hotels in New Jersey which boasts of 2,129 rooms in the vicinity of its 148,000 foot square property situated at the boardwalk, is a massive gaming facility, home to 3,000 slot machines, 135 table games, with countless dining and entertainment facilities. Its corporate top spot is held by Mark Giannantonio, who has stated that, “2011 is going to be a very important year in advancing the solutions that we need to keep Atlantic City competitive in the future. It is certainly a foundation year.” Only three casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey have earned the prestigious Five Star Diamond Award, which is awarded to exceptional establishments that deal with the areas of travel, cuisine, luxury products, and services; all of those three winning casinos belong to Trump Entertainment Resorts. Bob Griffin, the CEO of said company, has in mind that 2011 will be “a transitional year for Atlantic City.” “I’m not kidding myself about 2011; there’s a lot of heavy lifting to do,” he added. “But I’m very positive about the future three to five years after that because of the work we’re doing now.”

 

January 2, 2011

Online Gambling Taxes in Gibraltar Raised

Effective on the First day of 2011, Gibraltar will be collecting an additional 9% to the previously 1% online gambling tax. Gibraltar is a tax haven for online gambling companies considering it only imposes 1% on these companies’ annual revenues. It was considered the Macau or Las Vegas' Strip of the online community. The low gambling levy of this British territory made online gambling giants such as William Hill, Victor Chandler and Ladbrokes to name a few, to set up their base of operations in the area to avoid the high taxes imposed by Britain.

The huge profits and small tax rates are just add-ons to Gibraltar's perfect online gambling set up as it also has very relaxed laws. Along with internet gambling, shipping, financial services and tourism dominates its economy. Although locals are full British citizens, Gibraltar has a complete and democratic local government, through an elected parliament. Gibraltar also has a huge market as it is one of the most densely populated territories in the world. Although locals are widely known to be conservative, they are surprisingly open minded about the proliferation of online gambling companies in their localities; gambling in general s also a popular activity for tourists. The licensing and regulation of all online gambling houses is carried out by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. The online gambling industry provides a major income for the country. A major daily there has once reported that the government has earned a whopping 12.4 million pounds in taxes from online gambling alone—this was achieved even with the 1% tax and an amount cap that companies need not go over.

The increase in the tax rate was brought about by EU law and not by the initiative of the Gibraltar government. "To comply with EU law we must phase out the tax-exempt company system in 2010. However, in order to sustain our successful economic model we must retain a commitment to a very competitive corporate tax model." says Gibraltar's First Minister Peter Caruana. He adds that the hike is only imposed to conform to European Union's laws.

European Union law dictates that member countries should only tax an industry at a rate that is comparable to the rest of its member countries. EU has always viewed free-market competition unfavorably. Instead of something that could help lower prices for consumers by increasing profitability, free market competition is not the solution for EU to go. Gibraltar's neighbor Spain, which has been rocked by worsening economic performance, is in the process of starting its own online gambling industry. But proposed rates in Spain are still larger than the recent rates in Gibraltar, even with the increase. Spain also has a very high unemployment rate of 21% and a debt problem which presents a major headache for the government. Being lenient to profitable industries such as online gambling is expected to help resolve these issues.

The online casino industry in Gibraltar is a major source of employment for locals. Compared to its neighbor, Spain, Gibraltar has a very small unemployment rate, thanks to the numerous companies that set up their operations in the country for their friendly tax rates. The corporate tax regime enjoyed in 2010 by non-resident owned and controlled businesses has already been phased out; it is however replaced by a low tax regime which may companies find reasonable.

To outsiders the huge rise in tax may sound daunting, but online gambling companies still believe that Gibraltar offers the best choice, globally. “Nobody will leave, although we’ll all complain about the tax going up.” says Victor Chandler to the El País newspaper, Mr. Chandler chairs one of the oldest and most respected independent bookmakers in the UK. It is also one of the oldest in the business and does most of it sports betting, casino games and poker, online. The question in the mind of many online gamblers is, with the increase in taxes levied to them, will online gambling companies still offer good services. Experts believe, though, that the services offered by online gambling companies stationed in Gibraltar will remain the same. They expressed that the companies, although will suffer a decrease in revenues, will still earn enough to continue normal operations.

 

January 1, 2011

Cyprus online gambling ban delayed

Cyprus, which plans on implementing an online gambling ban, now blames Malta and the United Kingdom for the delay of the said ban. Cyprus alleges that the two countries were responsible for derailing their plans on purpose. The ban, according to the Cyprian government should be put in place to keep criminal behavior and domestic violence checked. Deputy Ionas Nicolau of the Democratic Rally Party, expressed his displeasure at the outcome of their proposal to the European Commission saying in the Cyprus Mail, “The interventions and comments by Malta and the United Kingdom were made purposely as online gaming is licensed in both countries and they receive huge amounts of money for those licenses." European Union (EU) laws provide that a country cannot prohibit other member countries from conducting business in their territories.

Nicolau, a prominent politician in Cyprus (officially the Republic of Cyprus) and the Chairman of the EU Legal Affairs Committee has said that when they filed the proposal, they were confident it will be approved in time for implementation this new year, instead it had to wait for another three months for the Union's decision. The EU declared that no decision or comments would be made available until March 14. The Cyprian Ministry of Finance has said that representatives from United Kingdom and Malta in EU had submitted their opinions with regards to Cyprus' intent. “From the observations, we see that we can regulate online betting and ban online gambling or casinos. The governing party must be careful because the EU will only allow any regulation or ban according to the EU treaty and EU law and not because of our government’s views on traditional casinos." Nicolau added. Cyprus moves to ban most forms of online gambling yet retain land based casinos. He reveals that the EU was mostly concerned on whether or not Cyprus is trying to ban online casinos because they consider online casinos substitutes to live casinos. The European Commission (EC) also asked for clarifications as to how gamblers would be able to pay for regulated online gambling, and why the numbers of gambling licensees are so limited and why it seems to look like some providers are favored over others.

Meanwhile the Cypriot President issued a manifesto saying electronic gambling should not be tolerated as it is a “a vice threatening the moral fabric of society.” The government seeks to abolish online poker, casinos and slots then regulate sports book betting. Cyprus is expected to lose millions on tax revenues as a result of this implementation. Cyprus will not be the first to try the implementation of what most online casino operators call short-sighted law; Portugal also moved to ban online gambling in the past and has succeeded. The European Commission has set limitations and certain circumstances where stopping a business is accepted, online gambling has been one of those circumstances. Analysts following the story believe that the Commission will reject Cyprus' appeal, which will force the country to re-appeal which normally takes years. Other countries who tried the same approach have preferred to go into agreements and opened their own online gambling markets for foreign investors and operators. The operators, though, must still apply for licenses from the respective countries they wish to operate in.

Henrik Witt, owner of Classic Poker, a respected gambling site based in Cyprus says, “If the ban passes it will be shady as the companies licensed in the EU will pull out from Cyprus and the companies that will take Cypriot players will hold Curacao, Costa Rica or Belize licensees.” The consequences of legal online gambling sites packing their bags, and exposing the Cypriot people to offshore online casinos does not daunt the government, as the Cyprian government is still optimistic about their appeal. Cyprus is the second country to use crime and violence as a reason to ban online gambling. Portugal, the first to use this defense has won the debates; Cyprus would have to be awarded the same ruling. Nicolau is sure that this is all nothing but a delay and said that the Commission was only concerned if Cyprus' objective was to eliminate the competition for the brick and mortar casinos.

 

December 31, 2010

Nepal Casinos in Dire Trouble

The kingdom of Kathmandu hosts a billion-dollar gambling industry in its area, created by a New Delhi chartered accountant; he started out alone and later on instituted this multi million venture. His empire consists of seven casinos, with nearly 7,000 employees. But he is currently in the midst of a crisis as government lawmakers threaten to pull the plug on his casinos, taking away their licenses unless the matter of a NRS 193 million in dues is to be cleared within a 30-day deadline. This directive was issued to Kishore Thapa, Secretary at the Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministry, last Tuesday by The Public Accounts Committee of Nepal’s interim parliament. The casino’s growing failure to pay the royalties it owes to the state was questioned and deliberated over with Thapa, concluding for the directive to be set in motion.

The Nepal Recreation Center or the NRC is the organization handling the monopoly of the casino industry during the 1990s, when Nepal was still considered as kingdom, with the royal family staking its claim on the gaming industry. During that said period, Richard Tuttle, an American, was responsible for the operations of the NRC, and brought along with him Rakesh Wadhwa, a chartered accountant and a Xaverian from Kolkata, to assist in the running of a five star hotel. The relationship between the two casino executives turned to a negative change, and dramatically ended by 2007, as Wadhwa overtook his mentor in the control over NRC, as well as the casino empire, which has progressed radically over the years.

Wadhwa, 53, also began operating casinos in Sri Lanka, and since the past month, as his control over the casino industry threatens to collapse, he has remained unavailable for comments. In the course of this unravelling and compensation fiascos, Wadhwa has been incommunicado, and is believed to have fled Nepal. His novel “The Dealmaker”, published by Rupa, was recently launched and, still, he was a no show. Another powerful player comes onto the stage in this saga of casino riches, in the powerful presence of Raj Bahadur Singh. He is the son-in-law of deposed king Gyanendra, who also had his hands full with the NRC. The former king removed one of the most renowned casinos in the world, the Casino Royale, from NRC, for failing to meet payments for its rent to the Yak and Yeti Hotel, whose premises it had leased. The Casino Royale, today, is under the management of Raj Bahadur Singh, who took over the post when the NRC lost their right to it due to non payment of rent.

The Shangri la is yet another hotel which sued the NRC soon thereafter, for failure to pay the agreed upon rent. This long legal battle was won by the hotel, and they are threatening to throw out the NRC from the Casino Shangri la and are planning to conduct the casino’s operations themselves. Casino Nepal, the oldest casino in the country, famous for being the location where Dev Anand shot scenes for “Hare Krishna Hare Ram”, is one of the four casinos that is left in the possession of Wadhwa. The other three, respectively, are the Casino Anna, the Casino Tara and the Casino Everest. Controversies never seem to escape Wadhwa casinos as Casino Tara is currently being threatened for eviction by the Hyatt Regency hotel. Reports have yet to make the reasons known.

These casinos are not only in trouble for non-payment of rents but also non-payment of royalties it owes to the Government. What Wadhwa has to say regarding this debacle, remains a mystery. Lawmakers believe Wadhwa will be issuing statements on the matter soon.

Finance Minister Surendra Pandey has been in constant debate since the previous week with Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Singh Bhandari, over the continued operations of the casinos currently owned by Wadhwa. Pandey demands the casinos to be shut down as it does not pay the required royalties to the government. This battle is between two major parties, the ruling communists and the opposition Maoists, and has recently become a political duel.

 

December 28, 2010

Texas Republicans May Reconsider New Gambling Laws

Texas may soon be legalizing other gambling related activities as deficits in budget have been hitting an all time high. The Lone Star State, the second largest state in the United States, has always had a very conservative view of gambling, but a report released in December of this year about how bad the budget crisis in Texas really is, may be too glaring to ignore. Lawmakers believe that legalizing gambling may be the next best move. The state’s Democrats have pushed laws that would legalize resort casinos, but conservative Republicans have blocked each and every one of these proposals. The Texas Gaming Association has been lobbying for new casinos for the state, but the efforts were all for naught. Estimates of up to $1 Billion will be added to the government's coffers if new gambling laws are passed. “Too many states have had success in cutting their budget deficits through expanded gambling. For Texas lawmakers to continue to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to gambling expansion would be foolish.” says a gaming analyst.

Republican lawmakers have always opposed any gambling expansion proposals but the 2011 budget shortage of more than $20 Million may just change the situation. The potential revenue gained from major casinos, online gambling, poker tournaments amongst others may just turn the 101 Republicans in the legislature around. "This ought to give some wind to our backs given the amount of money they'll have to find," says Chairman of Texas Gaming Association, Jack Pratt. Mr. Pratt says that some of the gambling revenue will go to funding the higher education system. Pratt and his allies along with gambling lobbyists have used this kind of strategy years ago. In 2007, lobbyists for gambling have proposed that if approved, gambling revenues, be set aside for 200,000 college scholarships. The plan was a dismal failure. But Pratt remains hopeful. Universities around the state are more likely to suffer from budget cuts next year.

But Republicans and conservative groups may need a little bit more persuasion. Rob Kohler, Consultant for The Christian Life Commission said, "We found no candidate running who said, 'If you elect me, we'll fund education through casinos." Christian Life Commission is the public policy arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. States all across America have been fighting back budget gaps due to recession by imposing more lenient gambling laws. Gaming Analyst, Steve Schwartz believes that it would be foolish for Texas to remain adamant in its stricter gambling laws while the rest of its neighbors expand their gambling capabilities. “Even in other states that have always opposed gambling such as Ohio, residents started to see the benefits of the casinos." Schwartz added.

If conservative lawmakers continue to turn their head the other way, Democrats may just have to have the voters decide on the matter in 2011. A bill is underway asking voters to amend current laws on gambling and allow casinos and such to make its way to Texas. Anti gambling activists and religious groups, which has always been a large factor in Texan politics, are expected to fight it out. "The folks in this state were hoodwinked with the lottery when they were told it was going to solve the education problems in this state and that hasn't worked," Mr.Kohler said. "This is just another funding gimmick."

Proposals from different gambling entities have been flooding; proposals for Video lottery terminals (VLT) at racetracks and legalizing poker gaming to name a few. "I would say in some ways I'm more optimistic than I have been in previous years. When you look at Texas' looming budget deficit, I think that keeps [the proposals] on the table longer than before." says Dan Michalski a Las Vegas based poker writer and blogger. But the expansion of gambling laws may require more work than just voting yes or no. It would require a constitutional amendment which means any new gambling bill to be passed needs a statewide vote and two thirds of the lawmakers’ votes.

Suzii Paynter of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission says that lawmakers need to evaluate if the state's problem could indeed be solved by gambling revenues. "We have an opportunity to make a decision as if this state were a family," she said.

 

December 27, 2010

Former Empress Casino Reopens With New Name, Impressive Amenities

Located 45 minutes southwest of Chicago, with more than 1,100 slot machines and table games is the Hollywood Casino Joliet. Formerly known as the Empress Casino, this 50,000 ft square social establishment is a Penn National Gaming facility which can be located conveniently by a short drive from Chicago, near I-80/I-55 interchange in Joliet, Illinois. On Wednesday, it launched its new name through a whopping $65 million investment of an impressive pavilion boasting numerous dining and entertainment choices that considerably upgrades the territory and broadly expands leisurely activities accessible to guests.

Present for the pavilion unveiling are Joliet Mayor Arthur Schultz and City Manager Tom Thanas, together with the Penn National Gaming officials, as they were greeted by the sight of four remarkable first class dining, entertainment and leisure venues. These were scheduled to open by early February of 2011, but were completed ahead of time which gave way to its premiere.

Jon Johnson, Hollywood Casino Joliet vice president said, “This is an incredibly satisfying day for everyone associated with our casino as we debut a new Hollywood feature in Chicagoland.” In June 2009, the casino opened with only a single restaurant buffet, and since Wednesday has transformed itself into a 30s inspired Hollywood theme. Replacing the prior Egyptian theme of the late Empress casino, which was destroyed in a March 2009 fire, is an abundance of classic style, sophistication and glamour reflecting 1930s art deco Hollywood. A sister property in Aurora shares the same Hollywood brand name as the Hollywood Casino Joliet; both are Penn National Gaming casinos.

Aside from the amenities the casino offers to the public, it has also provided 157 new job positions greatly needed for an economic stimulus to Will County. From the total 875 number of previous employees at the casino, the figure has significantly increased to a current 953.

As guests enter the new pavilion, they are welcomed by a stunning chandelier atop its splendid walkway, and by a 120 foot serpentine video wall designed to provide the patrons with endless video graphics, animations and vintage commercials. Red carpet treatment is delivered from the moment a guest steps out of their vehicles and into the grand property. Complimentary valet parking contributes to the aura of the imposing porte cochere within the casino’s art deco peripherals. A modern day version of the historic Chicago Theatre sign points the way to the dining venues within the vicinity. Johnson ecstatically states, “I think the Hollywood name says it all. In addition to action and fun on the casino floor, we can now offer our guests a more comfortable and sophisticated atmosphere in our pavilion where they can relax, be entertained and dine in style.”

On parade and on display in glass showcases are Hollywood’s finest memorabilia that contain gowns, dresses and tuxedos worn by unforgettable stars in their days of prominence. Previous guests of the Empress Casino may well recollect its temporary buffet in the casino grounds, before having it transformed to its magical beauty nowadays, and may be surprised with how far the Epic Buffet has come. It can hold up to 288 guests, leaving fine dining sense in its services, yet still served with the traditional buffet style.

Epic Buffet comprises of countless independent restaurants, one beside another, with a chef cooking in small batches or by request. The numerous collection of food choices are staggering, from Asian to European, Western and Mediterranean, from solid meals to snacks and desserts, and so much more. Daily offerings of beer, wines and other alcoholic beverages is available, with seafood buffets only on Friday nights, and buffets with themes and motifs on Saturdays.

Weekends will be nights for live music, and American craft beer program with a choice of over 65 beers, whether on tap or by bottle, which will surely liven things up. True to its glamorous name, casino floors get touched by Hollywood fever with celebrity impersonators performing Thursdays-Saturdays and on Sunday afternoons; while real celebrities get cast in a Celebrity Pit where they execute gaming activities such as blackjack and three card poker, for a period of time.

 

December 26, 2010

Schoroeder Wants Two Week Delay on Casino Voting

Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania and was rated by Forbes as second best city to raise a family. Harrisburg is a progressive and beautiful place ideal for a resort casino. But Republican Representative Curt Schoroeder, has sent a missive last Wednesday asking the gaming board to wait until the new appointees fully replace the outgoing ones whose terms are set to expire early next year. Raymond Angeli, an appointee of Democratic Senator and Floor Leader, Robert Mellow, D-22, Peckville will step down on January 2, after two years. But if Senator Jay Costa of D-43, Pittsburgh and Senator Mellow's successor chooses to do so, he can still nominate Angeli for the same position for another term. Gary Sojka's term, is also set to end but can be similarly reappointed by the new House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh. The two other members of the board whose terms also expire but cannot be reappointed are Kenneth Gabe and Jeffrey Coy.

The Gaming Control Board has set January 6 to cast a vote on who gets the last miniature casino-resort license in Pennsylvania. Rep. Schoroeder, R-155, Exton, is expected to take over the chairman's chair of the Gaming Oversight Committee. On his letter he says, "An award made 'on the way out the door' and left entirely to subsequent appointees to implement does not serve the public interest," and added that "Waiting an additional month or two until new members are appointed and educated on each applicants will ensure confidence that the board is making the best decision." The four-way race is between Fernwood Hotel and Resort from Bushkill whose plans, it was said would produce the greatest revenue, the most jobs and tax returns for the state, Penn National Gaming, who will go for a casino that would feature an "RV World" in Western Harrisburg, Mason-Dixon Resort and Casino in Gettysburg, whose plan includes 307 room hotel aside from the 600 slots and 50 game tables and a 20,000 square feet of event space, which can be used for concerts and other recreational activities and all kinds of resort facilities and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in South West of Pennsylvania.

But the contenders for the license are not without their own troubles. The Mason-Dixon Resort and Casino to be operated by Mason-Dixon LP, which is promoted by businessman David LeVan has caused an uproar when its proposed casino location is set to be on the current site of the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, which is just a mile south of Gettysburg National Military Park. “Licensing a casino so close to the battlefield would put a known economic engine at risk in favor of an unknown venture." says an insider from National Parks Conservation Association. The Gettysburg Battle Field was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg where more than 7000 men lost their lives and over 30,000 were wounded.

Bets are high on Nemacolin Resort to win the license though. Nemacolin is one of the 500 top hotels in the world and its golf courses are flocked by golf aficionados including Tiger Woods himself. It features five swimming pools, a chateau modeled after Ritz Paris, an adventure park, a paintball range, a zoo, 32,000 square foot spa, a bowling alley, four museums, a 140-acre sporting clay shooting range and other top of the line features designed to attract customers. According to Nemacolin’s own studies, it would draw more than $65 Milion dollars in 2013 while Gettysburg comes a far second at $51.7 Million, Penn Gaming's RV World at 44.7 Million and Fernwood at $ 42.3 Million only. "There aren't many resort-driven casinos out there, and people flock to them. "No other casino in Pennsylvania is set up like Nemacolin would be], and no other applicant will be. ... Eventually, 10 years from now, we will end up with a saturated casino market, and then it comes down to, what have you got?" says Nemacolin General Manager Chris Plummer. As another Nemacolin insider said, "Demographically, psycho graphically, income-wise, we're talking two totally different groups of people, if we don't get a casino license, we're still going to draw the people we draw."

 

December 25, 2010

Cantor Head takes big leap on mobile sports betting

Lee Amaitis, the Chief Executive Officer of Cantor Gaming, an affiliate of Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., is a self-proclaimed "tough guy", but that phrase may soon change into one word—visionary. His company is now investing in gambling's next big thing, sports betting on mobile devices. Bettors in any point of Las Vegas or on the whole State of Nevada for that matter may soon be able to place their bets using a mobile device. The company is still working on obtaining a license but if Cantor does get one, Amaitis will be one of the gambling world's ruling monarchs. Amaitis is very confident in his new venture saying that “There’s big money in this, especially now that we are moving onto the Strip,”

Cantor Gaming is the owner and operator of the revolutionary, eDeck or the “pocket casino". The device, much like the size of an iPhone, offers games you just normally see in casinos like roulette, baccarat, slots, blackjack, and poker. It even offers sports betting where anyone with an account at the casino can bet on football, tennis, horse races and other sporting events. Another major breakthrough for the device is the fact that bettors can now wager over the outcomes of select sporting events as it happens. This method is called “In Running”. A bettor, for example, can bet on whether a hitter on a baseball game hits the ball, makes for a homerun or misses. It even has some proprietary casino games such as, XtraOdds, Baccarat and Xtra Odds Blackjack. Casino operators owe Amaiti for these. For years, operators are always looking for more ways to make money but now, gamblers who make bets only once or twice a day can now bet every time they feel like it. No paper tickets, no lines, no queues, no hassles and revenues start pouring in.

Technically though, gamblers will still have to line up and fork cash to a cashier who then converts the money into electronic credits which are secured by a triple encrypted database. Amaiti has just made every odds maker’s dream, come true. The eDecks are currently used by major casinos in Vegas such as the Venetian, M Resort Spa Casino, and the Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino and is set to be offered soon at Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Tropicana Las Vegas. The inspiration for all this came from one of Amaiti's trip in Britain. The British has always been more receptive of betting and gambling as a whole, than the United States. Amaiti says he would be out seeing clients for business meetings and clients would always be making bets on their phones. “At that point I said, ‘We should be in the book-making business.’ ” he says.

Cantor Index was then started. It made a name for itself in spread betting on financial products and sports betting. Spread betting is one of the various types of wagering on an outcome of an event. Accuracy is the key to winning. "Spread" comes from the range of outcomes. It includes high level of risks with potentially bigger gains and of course, losses. “We’ve created an environment in which we’re trading sports, with markets, realities and probabilities of future events are changing constantly. It’s no different in sports; each game has millions of permutations and potential outcomes we can offer as odds.” says Amaitis.

But Lee Amaitis has not always been successful. His Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. was one of the casualties of the September 11 bombings. Their corporate headquarters was located in the 101 to 105 of the North Tower also known as the First Tower. Their offices was only 2-6 floors above the impact zone of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11. All of the 658 employees who showed up that day were killed. The company lost considerably more employees than any other office on that fateful day.

Cantor Gaming is known for its high risk ventures and Lee Amaitis does not regret anything. He was once heard saying "Win or lose, I stand by everything I do at this company." A current Cantor employee says, “I don’t see any difference between Las Vegas Boulevard and Wall Street, over time we can’t lose, but there will be games where we take a hit.”

 

December 24, 2010

Rendell Proves Casino Initiative Effective

The income generated from casinos undoubtedly rakes in large revenues which helps keep a state afloat. This was proven no other than Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell himself when he started licensing casinos five years ago. Then on the campaign trail, Gov. Rendell visualized that the establishment of casinos would rake in at least $1 billion a year. Unfortunately, many found it hard to believe and had little faith in Rendell’s vision. That is, until today, five years later.

Today, the dream of Gov. Rendell had already become a reality. The state of Pennsylvania showed much promise and proved to be a force to reckon with, as Gov. Rendell went on to claim, in an interview with the Tribune-Review, that "We were the only state to have its gaming revenues substantially increase last year." Gov. Rendell had, in effect, easily silenced all cynics as what he had visualized five years ago had now become a reality. He had made believers from those who had initially questioned his plan of action and platform of governance.

Gov. Rendell was not only proud, but surely had much to boast about, as the state of Pennsylvania generated more revenue from its casino operations over all other known gambling states such as Nevada, New Jersey and Atlantic City. Gov. Rendell’s vision of establishing casinos, coupled with the imposition of high tax rates, had managed to establish Pennsylvania as a key player in the gambling industry. Yes, the state of Nevada may be raking in more revenue than the state of Pennsylvania, but with the higher taxes imposed by the state of Pennsylvania on gambling machines, the tax revenues gained by it are far higher than that of the state of Nevada. While Nevada may still be on the top of the list, the astounding and noteworthy performance of Pennsylvania has surely captured the eye of the major players in the gambling industry.

On the other hand, not all are too happy, impressed, or even ready to applaud and shake the hand of Gov. Rendell for his actions and efforts. Critics went so far to say that not all is well in the proud state of Pennsylvania, as budgetary problems remain unresolved and the benefits arising from the establishment of these casinos do not outweigh the problems caused by it. One of the issues raised was the failure of Gov. Rendell to consider the human factor, as it basically appeals to a person’s desire to obtain more money. Rep. Paul Clymer, a Bucks County Republican, has said that “the whole gaming apparatus is geared to cleaning out the pockets of those who come in." Consequently he said that, any benefits derived from these casinos are easily negated by problems which it also creates. While the casinos may bring in the much-needed revenue, it also brought with it problems which, according to Gov. Rendell’s critics, the Governor failed to consider. Some critics even went on to say that the establishment of these casinos, even though they may generate vast amounts of revenue, is simply worth it.

Neighboring Spain is on its way to enact legislation that would effectively regulate online gambling in the country. Currently, Spain has no taxing scheme for online gambling and unless players declare their winnings—which is undoubtedly impossible—the country does not earn from the industry. An estimated 200,000 Spaniards bet €575m online in 2009. The US has also considered regulating this lucrative industry. With most of its territory registering gaping holes in their budgets, it would only be a matter of time before legislators band together to legalize and finally regulate online gambling.

However, Gov. Rendell, who will be vacating his office next month as newly-elected governor Tom Corbett from the Republican Party is set to be sworn in, was quick to answer his detractors and point out the value and importance derived from the establishment of these casinos. Gov. Rendell remained undisturbed and was quick to point out that for one, Pennsylvania’s very own hockey team, the Penguins, would not be around were it not for the revenue generated from these casinos. How was he able to do it? Gov. Rendell simply hatched his plan to prevent the Penguins from leaving. Apparently, Gov. Rendell entered into negotiations with Rivers Casino in order to raise the much-needed revenue to finance the Penguins. The plan later yielded positive results, as Gov. Rendell’s gamble paid off. His efforts were clearly rewarded when the Penguins found themselves winning later on the Stanley Cup. It cannot be denied that were it not for the plan of Gov. Rendell, the celebration of the Penguins’ victory could have been with a different state.

 

December 23, 2010

Online Gambling Dampens Unemployment in Gibraltar

Gibraltar is known to be a tax haven for most companies. With a uniform tax of 10% for all overseas companies operating in their territory, Gibraltar has attracted a significant number of offshore companies. A more tempting deal can be had for online gambling companies operating in Gibraltar as the territory only levies 1% from these companies, with a maximum of €500,000 a year. This has caused more than 20 online gambling firms to establish their base of operations in Gibraltar. Gibraltar is an offshore territory of the United Kingdom. Gibraltar lies south of Spain.

Although Gibraltar has levied virtually the minimum amount from online gambling it still earned €12.4million in online gambling taxes last year—a very significant amount considering this is only a hundredth of what the online gambling firms operating in their territory earn. The online gambling industry in Gibraltar is also responsible for 12% of the total workforce in the territory. This is a very significant contribution considering that the Spanish city north of the Gibraltar border suffers massive unemployment rates with 10,000 of its 65,000 inhabitants unemployed.

Recent issues with a certain EU law have caused Gibraltar to increase their tax rates on online gambling to 10%. This has caused a major clamor among the online gambling firms operating in the territory. Among these are online gambling giants Ladbrokes, William Hill and Bwin have established their operations in Gibraltar because of the friendly tax terms. Even with the increase to 10%, online gambling firms still claim that Gibraltar offers better terms compared to other counties. Officials of the online gambling firms said that this will cause a lot of grumbling from the firms but at the end of the day, Gibraltar still offers the best rates. "Nobody will leave, although we'll all complain about the tax going up," Victor Chandler, chairman of the gambling company Victor Chandler International said. Victor Chandler International is one of the very first online gambling companies to base their operations in Gibraltar and they maintain that it may very well be that way for a very long time.

Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's first minister, said that “To comply with EU law we must phase out the tax-exempt company in 2010.”However, in order to sustain our successful economic model we must retain a commitment to a very competitive corporate tax model."Hence, officials have agreed to have a uniform tax rate for all the offshore companies operating in their territory, online gambling included. Gibraltar cannot really afford to lose the online gambling firms, especially now. With a tax rate of 10%, tax revenue from these companies will sky rocket, propelling Gibraltar’s economy to new heights. The online casino industry has defied the trend during the recession and registered growth rates despite the dismal performance of their brick-and-mortar counterparts. One of the online gambling giants operating in Gibraltar has even registered a growth rate of 27% this year, compared to an almost double that figure in losses for some casinos in Las Vegas.

Neighboring Spain is on its way to enact legislation that would effectively regulate online gambling in the country. Currently, Spain has no taxing scheme for online gambling and unless players declare their winnings—which is undoubtedly impossible—the country does not earn from the industry. An estimated 200,000 Spaniards bet €575m online in 2009. The US has also considered regulating this lucrative industry. With most of its territory registering gaping holes in their budgets, it would only be a matter of time before legislators band together to legalize and finally regulate online gambling.

Opponents of online gambling have almost always put up the argument that the activity causes a number of social problems, an example of which would be problem gambling. Norbert Teufelberger, chief executive of bwin, argues that "effectively preventing gaming addiction can be achieved only by a licensing model in which the granting of licenses is linked to compliance with suitable standards of gambler protection". Indeed this is what most legislators who seek to legalize online gambling argue; that in order to better combat the ills of the activity, something that most people are already accessing despite its status, it would be more prudent to regulate. This would not only make it easier to prevent the alleged social ills, it would also serve to be a revenue well for the country.

 

December 21, 2010

NJ Online Gambling and Sports Betting not Happening Soon

With all the talks of New Jersey legalizing online gambling and sports betting, residents and gambling enthusiasts alike have been on their toes for updates on the issue. With efforts to revitalize Atlantic City’s economic situation, state lawmakers have considered legalizing online gambling and sports betting. The bills that would legalize both activities have generated tremendous support from both residents and lawmakers and is set to be discussed this coming legislative session which opens on January 2011. While opinion on the subject is generally divided into those supporting the idea and those against it, some analysts brought other issues to the table.

Recently, some analysts have expressed concerns that the bill will undergo a very tedious process in order to effectuate its goals. And even then, prejudice of opinion aside, legalizing sports betting and online gambling may not even be the answer to Atlantic City’s woes. First of all, critics argue that there is an existing federal ban on the two activities the state bill seeks to legalize. If the bill is passed by state legislators, it will then need to be forwarded to the federal level to be decided by officials concerned and finally signed by the President. This will repeal the federal laws that prohibit the operation of sports betting and online gambling casinos, in effect, not only allowing New Jersey to enjoy the activities, but also all the other states that allow gambling in their areas.

With virtually all the residents of individual states enjoying legalized and regulated sports betting and online gambling, New Jersey and any other particular state would lose the edge of being the only state offering such activities. The law of supply and demand states that when supply is abundant, demand is low—in this case, the revenues such activities would generate would be a lot less since people will now enjoy the said activities in their own home states. While indeed regulating these activities would have a beneficial effect to the local coffers in terms of taxable revenue, it would not be as huge as predicted.

Supporters remain adamant that legalizing sports betting and online gambling will open up a previously untapped industry. Those against the bills however have continually expressed social concerns like addiction. While these are cornerstones of each other’s stance on the issue, analysts have pointed out another problem: regulation. Sports betting isn’t so much a problem as online gambling as it is currently legal and regulated in the state of Nevada, the only state allowed to do so. The main crux of this argument lies mainly with the regulation of online gambling. The internet is invariable vast, if the bill is rushed towards becoming law, there would be serious issues on the regulation of this activity. Lawmakers have continually passed the duty of regulation to other bodies. However, no clear plans on the regulation of online gambling have been presented so far. Allowing a casino, in each and every resident’s home is easy, the hard part, as analysts claim, would be regulating it. Critics believe that at this point in time, if the bill is to be passed into law by January of 2011, and the state constitution is amended, there would be some real issues on the regulation of online gambling.

These Analysts have however maintained that they are not against the legalization and regulation of online gambling and sports betting. They only push for state regulators to further examine the effects of legalizing such a bill in such a manner that would leave users vulnerable to poorly planned regulation.

They maintain that the activities should not be passed hastily in order to combat the slow economic performance because it would only serve to exacerbate the situation.

Supporters, however, believe that the current technology would be enough to effectively regulate the activity and protect the users from whatever harm the activity opens them up to. Those opposed t the idea have rallied behind the idea of scrutinizing the effects the said bills would have on New Jersey. Whether the time is right to implement these measures, only time will tell; onlookers, analysts, the opposition and supporters eagerly wait for the highly anticipated outcome of the proposal this coming legislative session.

 

December 20, 2010

Long Battle Ahead for AC Hilton Casino Resort

The economic recession has hit hard all over the world. The casino industry has been one of the industries that have been significantly affected by the global economic slump. With people tightening their purse strings, casinos have reported major loses not only in revenue but also in visitorship. This trend has caused many gambling facilities to close up. Some have filed for bankruptcy while others simply sold their establishments to potential buyers for very low prices. Some casino however, opted to continue on with the struggle by securing loans that would serve to fuel operations. One such casino is the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort. Dubbed as Atlantic City’s smallest casino, the Hilton Casino Resort had been underperforming for several months now since the recession hit.

The U.S. Bank National Association has sought permission to put the Hilton Casino Resort into foreclosure. The U.S. Bank claimed that the casino failed to honor payments amounting to $39.3 million. A hearing on the U.S. Bank’s petition will be heard this week. Analysts believe that the process will not be easy and that it will take a significant amount of time and fort to see an end to the U.S. Banks actions. The lawyer representing the company that owns the Hilton Casino, Gilbert L. Brooks, said “There’s a lot of complexity to it, depending on what happens,”. Brooks claims that actions taken by the U.S. Bank are premature. He further claims that there are a lot of other options available to both parties.

The Hilton Casino Resort has conducted negotiations with the U.S. Bank in order for the latter to allow the restructuring of their debt. The negotiations, however, seem fruitless because the U.S. Bank has taken another course of action. Brooks said that the company that owns the Hilton Casino Resort will ask for more time from the court that will handle the U.S. Bank’s petition. Both sides have not commented on the issue of whether or not there is a possibility for a settlement between both sides.

The judge that will hear the U.S. Bank’s petition is Judge William C. Todd III. If Todd grants the U.S. Bank’s petition to foreclose the Hilton Resorts Casino, Brooks claims that it will take a very long time for the U.S Bank to ever take possession of the property—even if it goes that far. The company is prepared to undergo the long and tedious legal battle that follows after the declaration of foreclosure just to secure their property. The U.S. Bank has also expressed their resolve to take further legal action if the judge denies their petition. Either way, a lengthy legal battle will ensue between both parties.

Resorts International Holdings LLC bought Hilton Resorts Casino, along with several others, back in 2005. The casino has reported the highest loss among the casinos in Atlantic City. In 2010, the U.S Bank has put the casino in increasing pressure, even asking Todd to put the casino in receivership. This would put the Hilton under custodial responsibility of a receiver that would be appointed by the court. Judge Todd denied the petition because he claims that this would not solve the debt problems of the casino.

While analysts believe that there would not be an immediate decision on this issue, both parties will undergo a very lengthy and tedious legal battle—which would be detrimental to both. Brooks maintained that it would be better to renegotiate again for a settlement—which is what happened with its sister casino in Atlantic City. The U.S. Bank, however, though no statement has been had from their representatives, have shown to be ruling out the possibility of negotiating for a settlement. If the U.S. Bank continues to pursue its plans to take over the Hilton Resorts Casino, it would give the casino and its owners ample time to consider several options. While analysts see the U.S. Bank’s action as drastic, it would still not cause a drastic result since final decisions will be bogged down by trials. This would, as the company hopes, buy the Hilton Resorts Casino enough time to be able to get back on its feet.

 

December 19, 2010

West Virginia snubs Internet Betting

Other forms of gambling are fine, but lawmakers feel West Virginia is not ready for internet gambling—yet. Other areas in the country may give nods to this million dollar industry, but West Virginia is not keen on the idea. Gambling is a booming business everywhere, including the beautiful home of the Appalachian Mountain range and what was once just greyhound race tracks in the area is now home of luxurious casinos. The need to regulate internet gambling has sparked numerous debates state-wide. According to John Melton, Head Legal Counsel for the West Virginia commission, "You can make an argument that Internet is the next frontier [in gaming]."

Numerous attempts have been made in connection with the series of proposals for the regulation of online gambling nationwide. Senator Ron Wyden, Finance Committee member has even suggested legalizing online casino gambling tin order to raise revenue that would be funneled to health care services. His amendment in the Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act, which is still currently pending, aims to have Internet gambling revenues be put to good use, as analysts have forecasted the tax collections on internet gambling could fetch the government $62.7 billion in revenue by the next decade.

New Jersey lawmakers on the other hand are seriously thinking about legalizing online betting so state residents may bet on horse racing and play table games at the comfort and convenience of their homes. "More and more states are going to be exploring this issue," according Eric Schrippers, Penn National Gaming Vice President for Public Affairs. Penn National, with a total asset of $4.967 Billion as of 2007, located in Jefferson County, West Virginia, is said to be the home of the West Virginia Breeders' Classic, a thoroughbred horse racing with half a million dollar pot prize, which happens only once a year.

New Jersey is only one of the group of states that show interest in legalizing the act; New Jersey is joined by Florida, California, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut in this endeavor. Atlantic City legislators have spearheaded the move, proposing that casinos in the area be allowed to legalize and regulate various forms of online gambling services.

Still, Melton insisted that West Virginia will not be remaining in this position if everyone else legalizes online gambling. "If everybody else does it, we'd probably do it as well." Melton points out. Tough security measures would have to be put in place as this may present a problem of minors joining in on the fun. In addition to this, factors that could potentially affect the way a gambler places his bets may come out, such as, if the person has had too much to drink, he would be asked to leave the casino—in online gambling, this won’t happen.

All factors considered, a federal regulation is clearly needed before all this internet gambling ruckus becomes a reality. "I think there's going to be some legal action against it; I think we're going to be a passive observer of how this plays out in New Jersey before we look at other states." Schrippers said. Florida based Hart man & Tyner Incorporated a, the company responsible for Florida Racing Services Inc., in 1999, Vice President Dan Adkins says, that his company may invest in Internet gaming at casinos if West Virginia would legalize it.

While lawmakers are dealing with the idea of legalizing internet gaming, the general public is already enjoying it. According to an estimation by Mark Gibbs, who writes for the Network World, 8 Billion U.S dollars have been spent online last year. Based on the figures, it could be concluded that players have bet an average $500 that year. The numbers lead to the assumption that 16 million Americans are already enjoying online gambling, that is about one fourth of the American population. A poll conducted by News and World Report shows that more than three fourths of the poll respondents are in favor of the practice.

Despite the figures though, Adkins remains skeptical. "I don't think the technology is there, despite what people say, to make it safe. I'm not too sure it's a good idea." says Adkins. "I'm not too sure the country -- let alone West Virginia -- is ready for it yet."

 

December 18, 2010

AC Changes Well Underway

Atlantic City has once been one of the largest gambling markets in the world--but all that has changed. The past few years have been both harsh and unmerciful for the gambling industry of the city. Casino owners now have to pool $30 Million in an effort to resuscitate its almost dead economy. A band made up of the Borgatta Hotel Casino and Spa, the Tropicana, Harrah's Entertainment and Trump Entertainment Resorts is now dubbed as the Atlantic City Alliance. These hotels and casinos are famous destinations for gambling enthusiasts and while they may be competitors in the war for bringing in more customers, the pressing matter of saving the area is now bringing them together.

Republican Governor Chris Christie says that it could very well be the New Jersey’s Legislature's Christmas gift to Atlantic City if they reach an agreement on implementations designed to help the once glorious city. Governor Christie is in high hopes that the "gift" will materialize in only the Legislature would give it a couple of days more before enjoying their Christmas vacation. But Democrats seems to be taking their time stating that they won’t soon be coming back for a vote. The bills will allow Atlantic City to have a state run tourism district which subsidizes start up horse breeders and will allow Internet betting on casino games. "We could resolve all these issues by Monday and give Atlantic City a Christmas present of certainty as to how they're going to move forward. Put in just one more day of work." Christie said.

The Budget Committee has already moved the horse racing bills and three gaming bills and will work on the issue until January just to make sure everything. But Governor Christie is adamant in his stance to deal with these matters now. Christie has big plans for the tourism district, a couple of which are still waiting for approval. These plans all aim to reinvigorate the area’s market. Many enacting series of reforms are included in a report to a special commission which studies the relevancy of casinos and horse betting in New Jersey. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority would have almost all of the deciding power over the district. Final voting for both the houses would still have to happen before going in to Governor Christie's office.

Everything from family friendly tourism activities like amusement parks, to a business zone for private investments, to road and traffic projects in the casino zone, would be under its care. Analysts believe that the key to revitalize the local economy is to focus on tourism. To do this, officials should focus on tourist attractions like the boardwalk and the casinos.

While some consider revitalizing Atlantic City as a very risky move, others see it as a wise political move. The whole proposal is backed by the democrats. Senate President Stephen Sweeney a member of The South Jersey coalition is all thumbs up in support for the Governor Christie's plans.“I’m very happy the governor’s putting a plan out because Atlantic City is floundering, the tracks are struggling, there’s pressing issues around the state, this isn’t about a race — who can put his or her stamp of approval on a plan for gaming. It’s about what can we do collectively." he points out. Other factors also contribute to Atlantic City’s economic suffering. One of its neighbouring states, Pennsylvania has made the decision to legalize table gaming such as poker, roulette and more which resulted in a huge revenue boost for the said state, but a loss in potential customers for New Jersey.

Governor Christie and state lawmakers have held three gambling summits and have put their heads together to make Atlantic City better than ever. They have invited casino executives, developers, union leaders and vendors, to get everybody's side on the matter. Bills allowing internet betting on casinos have also made remarkable progress, a bill backed and funded by taxes from horse breeding and horse racing also advanced. The gambling industry is recently seen to have recovered from its slump since the start of the recession. The industry though, is far from safe. Legislators have to tread lightly in order to safely nudge the industry back on track—along with the rest of the local economy.

 

December 17, 2010

Jersey Readies to Become Another Vegas

After a long marathon of debates on the Senate and Assembly floors, lawmakers voted Monday to let the New Jersey electorate decide whether or not they want to be another Vegas. The bill needs 41 votes to get the legislature’s nod, however with a 54-17-4 vote, the Assembly decided to insert revisions on the ballots come November 2011. Jersey voters will exercise their right to vote next year, where they would express their agreement on the proposed amendments to the state’s constitution. The revision in the charter would include allowing betting at the state-owned casinos and four racetracks.

Wanting to retain their status as the top gaming state in the Northeast and stay ahead of Pennsylvania, this Democrat-sponsored proposition aims to boost the state’s revenues, increase job opportunities, and revive the dying horseracing industry. This after Atlantic City’s 11 casinos reported a revenue shortfall of 12.5% in November compared to that of 2009.

The bill’s principal author, Democrat Senator Raymond Lesniak felt relieved saying, “It doesn’t get any better than that. We want New Jersey to put itself in a winning position, to take advantage of the outcome when and if we win.” With the passage of his Senate version of the bill, NJ’s casinos are expected to generate as much as US$ 1 billion in gross receipts. The treasury projects a revenue of not less than US$ 120 million out of this bill. Tourism is seen to thrive in the Meadowlands, Cherry Hill, Monmouth County, and Atlantic City.

Aside from pushing for sports betting, Sen. Lesniak also advocates to regulate Internet gambling in New Jersey. If online gambling laws are changed, Atlantic City’s casinos will become its main beneficiary as tax revenues are expected to rise by millions of dollars each year. With online betting, gamblers can place their bets in a safe environment. The state would not only reap the benefits of an added revenue but also the benefits of reduced crime rate. New Jersey’s online betting hub foresees a market expansion by allowing people from other states to place bets on New Jersey races. This betting allows exchange wagering and pari-mutuel. This after Assemblyman Matt Milan, the sponsor of the bill’s Assembly version said, “We need to ensure Atlantic City stays on the cutting edge and has a competitive advantage against the new wave of gambling offerings in other states. We can’t rest idly while other states increase their offerings.”

Sources indicate that Sen. Lesniak’s online betting bill is undergoing re-examination by New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate’s Appropriation Committee. The re-examination was triggered by the last minute tax changes reducing the planned 5% racing tax five years after the bill becomes in place. It is expected that the bill goes to the full Assembly by January 6. Anytime a change in legislature involving taxes, the change has to go through the protocol of re-examination by the Appropriations Committee of the Assembly and the Senate. But at the way things are going, it is likely that the bill has a very minimal chance of being derailed at this particular point in the process.

Team Lesniak is not expecting any revision in the bill’s prospects. They are looking into an overwhelming approval by both houses. Hey hold on to the 54-17-4 vote they got for the bill. If majority of the NJ electorate approve the idea next fall, Sen. Lesniak and other proponents of the bill still have to bring the fight to the next level. In 1992, a US federal law banned sports betting except for a handful of states – Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. So in March of 2009, Sen Lesniak, Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), and two other groups representing the industry of horse racing in New Jersey, filed a class suit versus the US Justice Department. In their argument, they cited the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to be unconstitutional. PASPA allows four states to reap tax revenue from sports betting while discriminating other states, including New Jersey.

Sen. Lesniak’s group hopes to overturn the federal law and expects New Jersey to be a premier gaming destination in the East Coast. While the lawsuit is awaiting decision of the federal district court, Sen. Lesniak is optimistic that a favorable decision is likely coming next year. He asserts that the legislature’s nod should “send a message to the court and the Congress that the people of New Jersey want the same right to bet on sports enjoyed by Las Vegas.”

 

December 16, 2010

Casino Competition Heats Up

The proposed casinos in downtown Chicago and the one in the works for Cincinnati may very well be the siren's song for gamblers, calling them out of the State of Indiana. Ohio, Illinois and Indiana legislators are now putting on their thinking caps, devising ways to keep the gaming industry of the said states afloat. According to Professor Bill Eadington of The University of Nevada-Reno. Gaming, "It can certainly inflict a wound, and it would cut into Indiana's revenue performance, but the casinos would survive. " Senator Ron Alting (R-Lafayette ) is planning to seek legislation to give Indiana's casinos more ways to cut costs and increase gains, in the sessions to start this January 5. “It’s based on what’s happening in Illinois, and of course we can’t forget the big monster, which is the legalization and the additional casinos going into Ohio, these (gaming revenues) are big numbers that pay a lot of bills for the state of Indiana. ”he said.

Currently, most of Hoosier's customers have to travel outside the state just to gamble. Illinois, where the latest threat is from, sees this as an opportunity to share with the revenues mostly dominated by Indiana. Land based casinos in Chicago, a riverboat in Danville and two more in the suburbs of Chicago and one in location still to be announced, half a dozen more of horse tracks and hundreds of slot machines could easily rake up more than a billion more in revenues from taxes for the Prairie State.

The Spectrum Gaming Group studies show that by 2014 , a casino from Chicago could very well easily take away an estimated $72. 2 million in revenue from casinos in Northwest Indiana, which will result in a $24. 3 Million loss in taxes to Indiana. But that's not all, a casino in Cincinnati could take out a whopping $181 million from casinos dotting the Ohio River, which takes home $57. 4 million of tax. The people of Ohio have voted last 2009 in favor of the construction of casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinatti and Columbus. the move is seen as a major blow and is estimated to cause a $1. 8 Billion loss for the Hoosier State. Although construction is not yet set until 2012 for the first of the four, gamers will still have to flock to Illinois' Ohio River casinos to make that bet.

Senator Alting aims to propose more alternatives and useful tools to better equip the state casinos for the competition. "Though the riverboat casinos now remain permanently at the docks, they still have to have navigational systems and a captain and pass U. S. Coast Guard inspections. By eliminating some or all of those requirements, the casinos could each save about $1 million a year. "he said. Casinos with heavy population like South Easten Indiana could be much more inclined to expect patrons from Cincinatti and North. According to Ernie Yelton, the Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director, “It’s quite clear that there is a substantial stream of revenue to the state’s coffers, I don’t think anyone can quantify exactly what this impact would be, but there will be an impact. ”he said.

The losses are expected to increase when out of state racinos in Shellbyville and Anderson are included, which adds to the woes of Indiana lawmakers, who then will have to make changes aimed to give the casinos of the state a boost against these facilities. However, Senator Ron Alting maintains that he is not in favor of expanding gambling in the state. According to the Senator, what he would not allow "is anything that would expand Indiana gambling in order to counter the threat from other states. That means no new licenses for cities such as Fort Wayne, which has wanted to pursue one, and not allowing Gary to move a casino to a land-based site closer to the interstate. These are minor tweaks to state statute that will have good payoff for our casinos, ”

Mike Smith, Casino Association of Indiana President, is hoping that state laws would be changed in favor of the industry. He said, “Any time you talk about increased competition from surrounding states, you have to take a close look at what can be done. "

“If you look at the actions of the Illinois Legislature, they are very much in that same spirit, they are all pretty desperate. ” a gaming expert said.

 

December 15, 2010

Indiana Casinos Face New Competition

Gambling patrons, who used to gamble in Indiana, are opting for Ohio and Illinois nowadays. As a result, business of Hoosier casinos is now jeopardized and state lawmakers are trying to reshuffle their service to attract customers. It has been estimated that Indiana will lose about $154 million in casino tax revenue every year if necessary steps are not taken immediately. Bill Eadington, an analyst and economics professor at the University of Nevada-Reno said, “It can certainly inflict a wound, and it would cut into Indiana’s revenue performance”, “But the casinos would survive.”

On the other hand, a Senator Ron Alting of Indiana is going to introduce some new laws to provide the casinos some support to. “It’s based on what’s happening in Illinois, and of course we can’t forget the big monster, which is the legalization and the additional casinos going into Ohio,” Alting said. “These (gaming revenues) are big numbers that pay a lot of bills for the state of Indiana.” Indiana has always earned more revenue than Illinois but some new measures which have been taken by Illinois lawmakers recently, has affected even the casinos in Indiana.

Illinois legislators are planning to build 5 casinos to increase their capacity and earn even more revenues. This new plan can provide Illinois with an increase in revenue of up to $1 billion. But Ohio is giving Indiana a greater beat in the casino business than Illinois. Ohio approved the proposal of building new casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. These casinos will start opening on 2012. Casinos in Northwest Indiana are in a better position to beat rivals than Southeastern casinos as population density is greater in areas near Northwest Indiana.

A recent survey shows that Chicago casinos are able to take away an amount of $72.2 million revenue from Indiana. An even worse estimation is that Cincinnati can take away more than $180 million. That means a cut in the revenue of $ 57.4 million which will put more pressure on the lawmakers of Indiana. Ernie Yelton, the executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission said, “It’s quite clear that there is a substantial stream of revenue to the state’s coffers, I don’t think anyone can quantify exactly what this impact would be, but there will be an impact.”

State Senator Ron Alting believes that the state casinos' situation should be considered in the legislature. He adds that in order for the casinos to remain competitive, the lawmakers must enact legislation that would boost their performance. Alting maintains that this is precisely what the recent legislation on the state's riverboat casinos does. The legislation does away with several requirements for riverboat casinos like navigational systems and a captain in order to pass US Coast Guard inspections. The riverboat casinos, which remain docked, will be unnecessarily spending on equipment and staff designed for traveling. Ron Alting said that with the legislation in place, the riverboat casinos would be able to save around $1 million each year.

The same bill would also allow poker tournaments. Casinos that have hotels will be able to acquire special licenses to host such activities. The bill is allowing only casinos with hotels because lawmakers believe that existing state casinos are too small to host poker tournaments in. However, the Senator Ron Alting does not support the idea of expanding gambling in the state of Indiana to combat competition from other states. “These are minor tweaks to state statute that will have good payoff for our casinos,” Alting added. “It’s not going to reap unbelievable profits from it, but it’s a step in the right direction in being conservative in assisting them.”

Illinois jump started in the casino business years before Indiana did but the latter developed their casino business faster with more casinos established in their area. Indiana also outweighs the Illinois casino industry in terms of revenue. Analysts have found that people prefer to go the casinos which are near their homes. “In gaming, it’s not very much different from retail,” Buck said. “For example, if you want to go shopping to buy socks or underwear, you would probably go to a mall that is closest to your home. It’s very similar in gaming.”

 

December 15, 2010

Racetrack Owners' Limited Race Proposal Receives Flak

Regardless of the criticism faced from the state’s horsemen, a proposal will be submitted by the owners of Laurel park and Pimlico racecourse, Penn National Gaming and MI Developments, to the concerned governing body this coming week for a 77 -day racing schedule for the year 2011. Ownership of the tracks are divided almost equally between the partners, Penn National and MI gaming. Both have submitted previous proposals for fixed-date races on the two tracks. The latest proposal was rejected by the state gaming commission, the governing body for these issues, on November this year. This latest proposal will allow only 47 race days on both Laurel Park and Pimilco racecourse.

If this new proposal is to be sustained by the state gaming commission, there will be racing in the Pimlico on the third Saturday in the month of May next year. Laurel park would see racing action in the spring season and winters, Eric Schippers, Spokesperson for Penn National Gaming explained. The horsemen have, however, shown heavy opposition to the proposal. According to them, the government is more than able to support year-round races, not a limited number, for which the owners of the tracks are proposing. The horsemen have also expressed their disappointment at the owners of the racetracks regarding the negotiation process. “I can tell you that there is zero support for this plan from the horsemen. We agreed with Penn National and MI Developments not to negotiate in public, and they’ve gone public with it. We will continue our discussions with the governor’s office.” Alan Foreman, the legal counsel to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said.

Both partners have also disclosed plans to push for an amendment in the constitution that would allow for slot machines in five different locations . This expanded gambling bill will allow the partners to finally acquire a license to operate slot machines in their racetracks. Mi Developments previously applied for such a license in 2009 but was rejected since it did not follow the requirements set by the commission. The partners believe that it is important to expand the racetracks and integrate slot machines in its operations since it seems to be the trend in other areas. “We think that as you look at the neighboring racing jurisdictions, all of which have gaming at the tracks, it’s apparent that the long-term viability of racing requires slot machines,” Schippers said.

Both racetracks are expected to conduct 146 races this year—a very significant difference from the proposed 77 races. The racing commission will still decide on the matter on December 21 this year. Members of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association are hoping that the the racing commission would serve this proposal the same fate they served Penn National Gaming and Mi Developments' previous proposal of a 47-day race schedule. The partners, however, show no signs of stopping. Schippers disclosed that the partners will continue discussions for other plans that would ensure that the racetracks remain competitive. These plans already include the recent proposal, their plan to apply for a slots machine license for their racetracks, and a whole variety of “long-range plans that is going to ensure the viability of racing.”

Penn National Gaming and MI Developments have stated budget constraints as the main reason behind the 77-day race schedule proposal. According to them, they are losing millions by not limiting the race schedules this year and they would like to avoid the same occurrence for the next year. Those against the proposal, particularly members of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, have said that under the current constitution, the state is required to provide for as much as $100 million in subsidies to racetracks, wherever they may be located. The horsemen and their supporters claim that this is more than enough for the racetracks to conduct races all year round. The state subsidy will be used for purses, breeders awards, and capital expenditures, so the owners of the racetracks will have a much easier budget load, or so horsemen claim. The future of the racing industry all across the United States seems bleak. Owners are doing everything in their power to lessen budget deficits with little to no effect. The fate of the racing industry hangs in the balance and only time will tell which side it will eventually tip.

 

December 14, 2010

New Jersey makes profit when other states lose in gambling

New Jersey is moving towards legalizing online gambling. Meanwhile, Nevada Senate Majority leader Harry Reid struggles to legalize online poker in the federal level, before the current congress session ends. The senator, however, trails behind the online gambling effort in New Jersey as he desperately tries to find a bill to include the online poker measure. Many gambling bills have already been passed by the New Jersey state Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee which includes a bill that makes online gaming legal for the people living in the state.

The bill was given an overwhelming majority in the state Senate with 29 Senators voting in favor and only five voting against it. The bill is expected to go to Governor Chris Christie’s desk after it has been voted and consequently passed by the Assembly for which It will need the two thirds majority. The bill is not expected to change the status of online gambling in the rest of the United States. but a tax rate of 15 percent will be imposed however on online gambling revenue generated in the state of New Jersey. According to Lesniak, the bill would generate $250 million in annual gross revenues at best, for the State of New Jersey. The bill would also generate a lot of jobs, both directly in the operation of online gambling and indirectly in providing for the subsidiary services and products that the online gambling companies would need.

Nevada Governor-elect Brian Sandoval said that he is supporting the legalization of online poker in the federal level. He, however, expressed concerns that should the federal measure to legalize online poker would fail, that would be the end of the initiative, emphasizing on the fact that little to no measures have been taken to legalize online poker or any form of online gambling in the state level. Experts and analysts in the gaming industry believe that the ongoing bill in New Jersey will have a direct effect on the national debate over the legalization of online gambling. "If this passes it could be a tipping point for online gambling," said David G. Schwartz, director for gaming research in University of Nevada. “They’ve already showed that casino gambling could be regulated and successful outside of Nevada."

Despite heavy criticism from Caesars Entertainment Corp, formerly known as Harrah's Entertainment Inc, the bill is ramming through the Legislature with win after win. But the company has reiterated its support behind the federal government’s plan on legalizing onlike poker, which at the moment is stuck at congress. Boyd Gaming Co. spokesman David Strow said, "We are monitoring the progress of the legislation closely. However, it is premature for us to comment on potential plans before a final bill has been passed and signed into law,” as Vegas-based Boyd Gaming operates two resorts in New Jersey. Penn National gaming Inc spokesman told the reporters that the company would not comment on the topic as it was too early, but also said they would consider the move if the measure becomes a law. Penn National owns Freehold Raceway and recently brought the debt backed by the M Resort in Henderson for $250 million.

Another issue has also been raised by New Jersey lawmakers—the legalization of sports betting. "Sports gaming is a bit of a harder sell. Poker is probably a good place to start," Schwartz said. The sports betting issue will be put up for a vote on another referendum next year. Apart from sports lotteries in Oregon, Delaware and Montana, and licensed sports books in Nevada, the nationwide betting has been outlawed by the Congress in the form of Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act passed in 1992. Legalizing sports betting would generate a significant amount of taxable revenue for the state—something that, in light of the recent economic slump, would be an enormous help to the state economy.

Poker does not generate much revenue. In fact, total revenues garnered from poker would seem insignificant compared to other gaming revenues. This stems from the fact that poker is played against other players and not against the casinos, so players are essentially exchanging money. Legalizing online poker would tap into this activity because player winnings could now be tapped as a revenue source.

 

December 14, 2010

New Vegas Casino Faces Difficult Odds

The casino industry in Las Vegas, along with countless other cities across the US, has suffered greatly with the recent recession. Casino earnings and patronage are at an all-time low. With several casinos going bankrupt due to the hostile environment brought about by the economic slump, the city's unemployment rate plummeted, further worsening the situation. It is with this kind of environment that a new casino in Las Vegas has to face. The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is a luxurious resort casino that offers various amenities. The $3.9 billion project broke ground in 2005 and is set to open this December 15, 2010. The Cosmopolitan boasts of interiors that would stop guests in their tracks. Aside from the services offered by the Cosmopolitan, they also feature a huge three-story chandelier, thirteen world-class restaurants to choose from, and luxurious condominium rooms that offer a stellar view of the city.

With worsening economic conditions though, industry analysts are worried that the Cosmopolitan will not be able to lift its own weight. Experts agree that the Cosmopolitan has to do better than the top performing casino in the area, the Bellagio—which garnered a total of $122 million in revenue from the first nine months of this year. Bellagio is owned by industry giant, MGM. The same analysts said that this would not be an easy feat to accomplish because even established casinos in the area have fallen behind the Bellagio quite significantly. In terms of the revenue earned on the same 9-month period, casinos like the Venetian and the Palazzo had barely reached half of the figures for the Bellagio. Some casinos even registered very significant losses. CityCenter, for example, which has been operating for only a year has reported a loss amounting $1.2 billion. Now CityCenter, which is owned through a joint venture by MGM, is only estimated to be worth a third of the original price it took to establish the facility.

Bill Lerner, industry analyst said "If you take a look at everything that's opened in recent years, these properties have all struggled out of the gate. I'm not sure why this will be different.". Though tourism in Las Vegas has slightly improved since the start of the recession in 2008, it still isn't enough to make up for the current dismal revenue figures. However, Lerner believes that the Cosmopolitan is at a better position since it was funded by the Deutsche Bank which has much easier terms for their commercial loans.

Chief Executive Officer for the Cosmopolitan, John Unwin, believes that the company will be able to push through with the odds. Unwin believes that the economy is on its way to recovery—and so is the casino industry. He believes that the Cosmopolitan would be in deep trouble had it opened a year earlier. He said, "Once the consumers get confidence, I think once they see the numbers and see the growth, I think it'll pick up. I'm happy to be opening this year and not last year." The Deutsche Bank, which funded the facility, refused to comment on their plans for the facility. However, a spokesman commented that they are confident that the casino will be able to perform well. In fact, the bank is optimistic that shareholders will be pleased with their plans for the casino.

The Cosmopolitan's biggest edge over its vast competition is its rooms. The facility does not only offer luxurious hotel rooms, they also offer rooms that were designed to be condominiums. These rooms are complete with all the luxuries normally available to residential spaces like kitchens. The facility aims to target long term guests. The company believes that gambling will not anymore be the main attraction Vegas has. They believe that most of the patrons gamble less, therefore it would be in their best interest to offer a wider array of choices to their guests. If the company delivers in their other amenities, they might just be able to attract customers—better than most facilities that concentrate on gambling at least. These, however, are all just speculation. The Cosmopolitan will open in a few days and only time will tell whether this facility will be able to keep up with the trying times.

 

December 11, 2010

Online poker could affect casino gains

A conflict of opinion regarding the legalization of online poker is currently going on between casino owners and the government. The two sides are against and for, respectively, the legalization of online casinos. Casino executives are afraid that legalization of online poker will steal away their customers. The industry is already in a slump, legalization of the industry would only make it worse. Executives don’t want the added competition this could generate. Not only will it take some of their customers, it could lead to a total legalization of internet gambling which would damage casinos even more. What most of them really want to suppress is this latter part, allowing internet gambling could take a sizable chunk of their customers away from them.

Bill Hughes, marketing director of Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno said "It may be the future ... but it is hard to regulate and I don't think it is good for Nevada." Limited licenses for these online casinos will go out to those big lass Vegas companies, so they will be reaping the benefits of this law. Likewise Ryan Sheltra, general manager of the Bonanza Casino in Reno, thinks that this move could "open Pandora's box." This can only lead to online gambling being legalized. It is just the logical next step, "to think otherwise is ridiculous." It is unavoidable that gambling in the U.S. will shift to the internet as well. This makes it more accessible to more people. This is also one way of creating diversity and meeting the various demands that consumers have regarding gambling.

Sheltra thinks that much of the benefits of this new law will not redound to Nevada, "It's like a Gold Rush for the stockholders of the international corporate casinos based on the Las Vegas Strip, but the other 16 counties in Nevada will not get to cash in on any of it." Furthermore "It will hurt every brick-and-mortar casino in this state," and considering that the casinos revenues in Washoe County have been continuously declining the past month, it is just "an absolute bloodbath." Hughes also responded negatively to the statement made by Jonathan Halkyard, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Caesars Entertainment Corp, that there wouldn’t be much damage to local casinos. Halkyard said there was a time when online gambling was legal and both local and online gambling markets grew.

Hughes said "They said it would not affect us, that it would just grow the market, be more gamblers," he said. "Well, there might be more gamblers, but the market here doesn't seem to be benefiting from that at all." He was making a comparison to the current situation and the scenario before, regarding Indian casinos. It was initially believed that the Indian casinos wouldn’t hurt the existing ones and would just grow the market for gamblers. "We have gone from a destination that a decade ago produced $1 billion in revenue to a destination that now produces $700 million," said John Farahi, co-chairman and CEO of the Monarch Casino Resort Inc., which owns the Atlantis in Reno. He also stated that gambling in Reno has declined by a substantial amount since 2000.

Despite these objections some people like Halkyard still believe that online casinos are okay and congress should enact a law legalizing online gambling. "There already is a large illegal online poker business in the United States," Halkyard said. And as with any uncontrollable practice "We think legalizing online poker makes a lot of sense." It makes legal and financial sense because one, it can now be regulated and 2, it can now be taxed. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki also thinks that the proposal will get the support of states. He sees this "as a practical move forward, not an aggressive move." He likewise believes that most casinos will look at it this way. The conflict needs to be resolved but it seems that congress will allow the law so if casinos want to be able to remain competitive, they must produce new attractions that will help bring customers back into their casinos.

 

December 10, 2010

Online Gambling could become the solution to the fiscal deficit.

Michael A. Brown , a D.C. council member, thinks online gambling may be the key to raising revenues. Brown proposed that the city should legalize online poker and fantasy sports. The city has been losing local gamblers to Maryland and West Virginia and according to Brown "We have to be more competitive. Everyone around us is doing stuff that is attracting our residents outside the city." "We need every kind of revenue enhancement possible," he said. Gambling is a good way to raise revenues and is a common method of doing so in some areas of the United States. What makes It attractive is that there is no need to raise taxes and in some instances, like building casinos, it generates jobs as well.

Browns proposal for an online poker however will not have the latter benefit of generating jobs. This made it less acceptable to people like Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. Lynch said "It doesn't generate real jobs and livelihoods that make a difference in the community," and that “It preys on peoples' weaknesses." He also believes online gambling would provoke criticism from religious groups. Yet another possible roadblock to the proposal is the fact that there is a federal law that disallows credit card companies from paying gambling sites for the players. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles is uncertain about the city’s power to enact such a local legislation and what its impact would be to the mentioned federal law.

The proposal was never brought to the office of Nickles so he is uncertain about its legality. "There are some very serious questions,” he said and "I don't like that there's no legal opinion certifying it." Brown thinks that online poker could be what the city needs to reduce the deficit. Not only will it keep the local players within its own borders, but it will also allow them to generate new income from tourists. In Browns proposal tourists are eligible to play if they are staying in Washington’s hotels. Brown cited the decline in the local lottery’s income by 10 percent and the city’s chief financial officer who gave an analysis that mentioned online gambling would produce $13 million by the end of 2014, as strong points in the consideration of the plan.

Online gambling has become a new and interesting response to the diverse demands of gamblers worldwide. The market for online gambling is there and many websites who offer it abroad have been successful. Statistics provide that over 2000 sites who provide the service produce over $5billion in online revenue from players from the united states. And these websites are owned and run abroad. "Within any market, there will be a decent subset looking to game online or to play online poker," says Michael Paladino, a gaming analyst for Fitch Ratings service. But regarding the proposal which will limit the coverage to the local population, Paladino has this to say "is it enough to generate meaningful tax dollars? I don't know."

One thing going for Brown’s proposal is the fact that many other states have also come to realize the benefits of legalizing online gambling. In fact on the federal level, Harry M. Reid has introduced legislation to legalize online poker. This creates a picture of the direction the United States might be heading towards regarding this issue. Considering that opening of casinos has been a common way for most states to increase revenue and the slow growth of the local gambling industries in the U.S., legalization of online gambling would be a means to diversify and increase the industries market without too much investment.

Holly Wetzel, an AGA spokesperson likewise sees the monetary benefits that online gambling can provide. She said "The government is looking at this because, if millions of people are gambling online, we should properly regulate it, we should tax it, and we should keep the money in our borders." Whether Brown’s proposal will have that much impact considering its limited market remains to be seen. But it has become obvious that interest in similar methods of revenue generation is shared by other states. It is certainly new and innovative and could potentially be the answer to the United States recent economic slump, at least in the gaming industry.

 

December 9, 2010

Experts: New Casinos Might Not Be The Answer

A massive casino expansion seems to be the remedy that Illinois legislators have come up with to combat the serious budget problems that have been plaguing the state. The plan has already been approved by the state Senate. Those in favor of the expansion believe that a $1 Billion tax revenue can be generated if the plan is put into motion. Because of the financial problems of the state, a lot of legislators see the proposed expansion as a means to lessen the financial deficit. The plan will basically expand the state's gambling industry by three times its current capacity. It consists of constructing a land based Casino in Chicago, two riverboats casinos in the suburbs and two more in some rural parts of the state. In addition to these, existing casinos will be allowed to expand and 6 horse tracks will be allowed to add hundreds of slot machines.

Local residents are generally optimistic about the expansion since it would mean that most of them will not have to drive to the casinos outside the state. Opinions are at odds however regarding the soundness of the proposal. Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Believes that the state is merely eating up its own revenues. He is skeptical about the new casinos ability to generate new income. "The pie is finite," he said. "Gaming is subject to the same laws of economics as every other industry, and I think legislators have a hard time understanding that."

Another expert who had a similar opinion is Bill Thompson, a gambling expert at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. According to him "It doesn't help your economy unless you bring visitors in from over 100 miles away.” "You would need to attract overnight visitors who aren't already coming." Experts say it is unlikely that the casino plan will attract gamblers from other states because they can just gamble in their own casinos. According to a survey done by the American Gaming Association, people will generally go to the casino that is closest to them.

It would seem that the general sentiment of most experts is adverse to the casino plan. The expansion plan won’t really be able to entice gamblers from far away to come to Illinois so its main market would still be the residents whose money will enter the local economy anyway. It may be able to make locals remain within the state to gamble but will their number be substantial enough to make a difference? Furthermore, some people believe that the state of Illinois is already saturated with casinos. Existing casino profits are already dwindling and if the state makes more, it would only further decrease the existing casinos' revenues. Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, said "It just does not make good business sense to expand in a shrinking market." An analogy Swoik made to make his point clear was that it would be as if “Homes have lost 32 percent of their value and the number of people buying homes is at an historic low, so let's build more homes until we have three times the number we need."

According to the experts, congress seems to have jumped the gun in trying to remedy the drop in revenues. The state is expecting a deficit of $15 billion next year which is why congress is drumming up methods to generate more revenue. However the state proposal, according to experts, will cause an internal competition between the new casinos and those already in operation. Congress might be correct that a $1 billion tax revenue can be generated by the expansion but this money will have come from the revenues of neighboring casinos. A positive and a negative effect will just cancel each other out making the industry’s aggregate revenue remain the same. If the gambling industry’s revenue doesn’t go up or if it’s rise is not substantial enough, the state will have lost more money because of the expenses in building the new casinos.

Some legislators, like Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, disagree with the proposal and the members of the Illinois house have their own reservations as well. Only time will tell if the proposal will pass the scrutiny of the house.

 

December 8, 2010

Charlton’s Rep. Alicea Backs Casino Bill

This 2011, the Legislature plans to prioritize employment. State Representative Geraldo Alicea, D-Charlton, believes that in order to further such a move, the Legislature needs to address gambling expansion. With Governor Deval L. Patrick vetoing a bill that would allow slots at racetracks, though, gambling expansion seems unlikely—at least for those outside the demands of the Governor. The governor has since sent the bill back to be amended in accordance with his demands. Governor Patrick believes that since the main reason to expand gambling is to provide employment, allowing slots in racetracks is not the best option since it will generate enough jobs to address the problem. As a result, the casinos that come with the proposed bill were put on hold.

Still optimistic, the Mohegan Sun is hoping that their 600 million dollar resort casino will still be developed inside the 152-acre land athwart the Palmer exit of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Just this last week, the Mohegan Sun’s credit ratings fell down as Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s reduced their credit rating. Though many are opposing the bill, a number of people still support the Mohegan Sun Resort .According to Northampton’s Market Street Research Statistics, almost 65% the Palmer Resident of the Northeast Realty approves the casino resort of Mohegan Sun. Meanwhile, another company plans to develop a casino in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Paper City Development plans of building such a casino in Wyckoff Country club.

Charlton’s Vincent P. Iuliano Sr thinks that the best place for the development of a resort casino in Massachusetts is his 114 acres of land near Route 20 and the Massachusetts Turnpike, a little bit near the east of eastbound rest area. He also claimed that the Seminole Tribe of Florida have repeatedly expressed their interest in the location. In addition, Penn National Gaming also expressed interest in the same location, causing both parties to wait anxiously for the gambling expansion bill to be passed. “It’s understandable that no one wants to commit, not knowing what the next bill will look like. For my part, I wouldn’t be at all unhappy if the House dropped the three geographical zones,” he added.

Mr Alicea reportedly said that he will support the casino cause if the developers will pledge to offshoot any downsides to a casino on the area. Mr. Iuliano added that his properties are ready to go, with permits and is shovel-ready. He pointed out Penn Gaming as his hope. “There would be no question of Penn Gaming having to borrow the money to build the project. They have the money in the bank right now,” Wall Street Journal reported that the ratings given by Moody’s will cause the company to suffer a minor setback, they added,“The ratings outlook is negative reflecting the relatively short time frame in which Mohegan can address what Moody’s believes to be significant capital-structure issues.”

Massachusetts’ United to Stop Slots, on the other side, is having a statewide coalition against the gambling expansion. Their Senior Adviser, Kathleen Conley Norbut, quoted “These proposals are ‘something-for-nothing schemes’ that have been built on a combination of fiscally imprudent business practices and exploitation of gambling addicts with a bevy of gambling lobbyists complicit in the scams. The truth of the matter is these corporations are in dire financial shape and have no footing to be expanding into Massachusetts and exposing the taxpayers of the commonwealth to additional financial burden and risk,” Meanwhile, Mr. Iuliano believes that most of the local government authorities will show some sign of support.

State Senator Stephen M. Brewer of Barre said that he does not want the legislators to hurry the judgment this coming January. He believes that the decision should be done carefully. Mr. Brewer believes that while a casino bill will necessarily address the employment problem, it will also generate a lot of opposition, and the usual problems. According to State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, “Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, has been working on this for two years and from the start, his mantra has been, ‘If we’re going to do this, then we’ve got to do it right the first time. There are no do-overs,’ ”

 

August 8, 2010

Proposed Cascade Locks casino greenlighted

After decades of planning by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, plans of building a casino in Cascade Locks is going full throttle at last. This comes after the final environmental impact assessment on the planned casino was finally completed by the U.S. Department of the Interior late last week, generating public attention once again. Efforts of the department started as early as 2005, when the initial draft of the assessment was furnished, in which Cascade Locks was named as the site more favorable for casino operation over four other potential locations. Opposition came from then two candidates for the state of Oregon’s governorship, despite local tribes welcoming the plans as something to spur economic growth in the area.

The tribes, when talks of building a casino on their 175-acre land in Hood River started in 2000, had already favored the move, and in fact led the proposal. However plans started stalling when the neighboring community voiced opposition, making the tribes look into an unused industrial site owned by the Port of Cascade Locks. For their plans to push through, the tribes had to acquire the land first, which should first be placed in a federal trust. It took a number of years before the entire procedure started rolling, and the final environmental impact statement is the last step before a decision of the trust is to be made by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Prior to the department secretary’s determination, the environmental impact assessment will be undergoing a comment period for 30 days. Upon Salazar’s approval of the statement and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s signature, only then will the tribes go ahead with the project.

A lawyer for the tribes, Howard Arnett, at a press conference on Friday stated, “This isn’t a decision document, but it does set the stage for approval. It gives us scientific data to respond to the critics of the project.” It is Arnett’s belief that the U.S. Department of the Interior will not prolong the comment period anymore, but the process may be further delayed by any request to be filed by groups opposing the project. The main group challenging the project is the Friends of the Columbia Gorge which has plans to file a request, according to their conservation director Michael Lang. Lang, in a statement declares that the group does not agree with the Interior Department’s findings that the Cascade Locks area is the best location for the casino. The group is proposing another site on Oregon (Route) 26 close to the Warm Springs reservation. The group further claims that their opposition to the project stems from the casino’s projected size and its possible effects to the scenic and natural beauty of Cascade Locks.

The tribes’ proposal on the 25-acre plot of land that will be placed in a trust includes a 90,000-square-foot gaming casino, a hotel with 250 rooms, a cultural center and various facilities for entertainment. The tribes also plan on leasing a 35-acre site adjacent to the proposed casino site for parking. This land is also owned by the port. The general manager of the Port of Cascade Locks, Chuck Daughtry, has expressed full support for the project, citing economic benefits that the project will bring to the area. The tribes have repeatedly stated that the casino remains to be the only viable solution to their financial troubles. The 5,000 people that make up the tribes face a dark economic picture, including an unemployment rate of 60 percent. Charles Calica, the tribes’ secretary-treasurer and CEO claimed in a press conference that they are expecting a $9 million deficit in their $50 million budget for the year 2011. He further stated that the collapse of the natural resource services industry in the state has lent a huge blow to the tribes.
Another casino venture in Khaneeta, Orgon that the tribes are a part of gives them at most only $1.5 million in annual income. With this new casino venture realized, the tribes expect as much as $100 million per year in income, even after money for in-state college scholarships and other state programs have already been deducted and a seven-year debt servicing period would be over. The process is expected to expose its political colors now that the project is finally in its final stages, with Governor Kulongoski expressing support to the project. The two candidates poised to replace Kulongoski both have expressed opposition to the casino being built at the Cascade Locks site. Their opposition may also stem from contributions they have received from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde who also own a casino, the Spirit Mountain Casino in the area, and thus naturally oppose a competing casino.

 

June 4, 2010

Senate Bill’s 3 Casinos-But-No-Slots-At-Tracks Proposal Similar To Gov. Patrick’s

In April, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s bill calling for two resort casinos and 750 slot machines at the state’s four race tracks passed the House with a vote of 120-37. The bill advanced to the Senate but the upper chamber decided not to take up the bill saying it would introduce its own proposal for expanded gambling. This week, the Senate will present its bill at a caucus and the bill will get a public hearing on Tuesday. Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, who helped prepare the proposal, confirmed that a debate has not yet been scheduled for the bill. The bill will still undergo debates and amendments.

The Senate’s proposed legislation is very much like what Gov. Deval Patrick proposed in 2007: three casinos in three sites across the state and no slot machines at the race tracks. The glaring contrast between the House bill and the Senate’s proposal is hinting at an impending conflict between the two chambers. The Senate bill would also allocate one casino for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe that is proposing to put up a huge integrated casino complex in Fall River, a provision not contained in the House bill. Rosenberg said if it’s about jobs and revenue, then it should be casino resorts, not slots. He said resort-style casinos have hotels and retail stores, and from the construction up to the operation of the facility, a lot of jobs would be created, but with slots, few jobs are needed and slots can flood the market.

Deleo, a son of a track worker whose constituency includes two racetracks, has been pushing for years to put slots at race tracks in an effort to help the ailing business. His spokesman, Seth Gitell issued a short statement saying the House speaker remains committed to the House bill and to the race tracks. Gov. Patrick also released a statement through his spokeswoman, Kim Haberlin, saying that he has always stated in the past that in expanding gambling in the state, only a limited number of casino resorts spread out in different areas in the state can provide employment opportunities and a continuing growth in the economy. Like Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray prefers resort-style casinos to slots at the racetracks.

The Senate has not provided revenue and jobs estimate because they have not yet finished their research and analysis. Rosenberg said the Senate proposal has still many unresolved items that need clearing up, like the tax rate, the license fees and what particular programs, if ever, would be funded by the revenues. The House bill would ask casino investors to put in $500 million and racetrack owners would invest $75 million each. The upfront licensing fees are estimated to be $260 million. The state anticipates receiving between $300 million to $500 million in tax revenue per year from the 25 percent tax on casino gambling revenue and 40 percent tax on racetracks. The number of jobs projected to be generated is 18,000.

If the Senate legislation is passed, the conflicting House and the Senate proposals would be settled through a conference committee. Rosenberg said the two incompatible versions should be patched up before the legislative session ends on July 31. Kathleen Norbut, president of the group United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts said the group has hired MS&L, a public relations firm, to enhance the group’s public prominence and to give more exposure to its advocacy. She said former attorney general Scott Harshbarger and former governor Michael S. Dukakis, leading critics of expanded gambling, will represent the group and talk to interviewers.
Norbut said that in the gambling business, the winners are the casino operators and business investors, and the losers are the taxpayers who ultimately are the ones who pay for the destructive consequences of gambling. She urged lawmakers to do a cost analysis before passing any legislation on any form of expanded gambling.

 

May 5, 2010

Huge Turnout At Iowa Gambling License Hearing

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission conducted a public hearing in Johnston Tuesday that was so well-attended by people who wanted to express their opinions on whether or not the panel should grant license requests to four new casinos in Fort Dodge, Lyon County, Ottumwa and Tama County. Those who wanted to speak for or against the casinos were given three minutes each. There was no speaker for or against the proposed $120 million casino and golf resort project in Lyon County, which is to be located near the South Dakota border.

The proposed Tama County casino was opposed by the Meskwaki Indian tribe, represented by Tribal Council vice chairman John Papakee who said two casinos is too much for the county. The tribe runs a large casino-hotel complex six miles west of Tama and Papakee said the tribe is currently the county’s largest employer, with 85 percent of their employees coming from outside the tribe. “We are all Iowans and we want what is fair and what is fair to the citizens of this state,” he said. The Ottumwa casino license found opposition from casino officials representing Lakeside Casino in Osceola and Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington who said the Iowa gambling market cannot accommodate another casino in Ottumwa as the market is shrinking and Iowans are still feeling the effects of the economic crisis.

Those who were supportive of the Ottumwa casino project spoke saying it would help alleviate unemployment, provide stimulus for businesses and propel economic growth. The casino is also expected to draw gamblers from Missouri. They said that considering everything, the advantages of a new casino in Ottumwa would be a lot more than whatever detracting effect it may have on other casinos. The manager of the state-owned Honey Creek Resort said the resort would benefit from a new casino as it would give the guests a reason to extend their stay at the resort.

Speakers against a Fort Dodge casino said the Emmetsburg Wild Rose Casino would be severely affected by all four casinos, and especially by a Fort Dodge casino. It would cannibalize Emmetsburg’s gambling revenues, making it more difficult for the company to pay its debts. Other speakers said the state has enough casinos and should instead look at other opportunities for tax revenue aside from gambling. The public hearing is part of a process of considering the four casinos’ applications for licenses by the gaming commission, which will be finally decided on May 13.

 

May 1, 2010

Wynn’s First Quarter Net Profit Of $27 Million Pushed By Macau’s Growth

US-based casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd. reported on Thursday first-quarter earnings which were better-than-expected, and which yielded a profit against a loss last year, due to an increase in revenue in Macau and Las Vegas. Wynn announced that its net profit for the first quarter of 2010 was $27 million or 22 cents per share compared with a net loss of $33.8 million or 30 cents per share the same period in 2009.

The company’s quarterly revenue in Macau was $590.6 million, up 31.6 percent from $448.7 million last year, and in Las Vegas increased to 9.3 percent. This year’s first-quarter revenue for the company totalled $908.9 million, versus $740 million last year, or an increase of 23 percent, beating analysts’ estimate of $849.8 million. Sanford Bernstein analyst Janet Brashear said, "The Macau numbers were well above expectations, even given very bad win rates. Las Vegas looks like it's sort of hanging in there -- it wasn't as terrible as it could have been."

In Las Vegas, Wynn’s gambling revenue for the quarter went up 18.8 percent to $139.5 million, but non-gambling revenue dropped 1.4 percent to $225.2 million. A decline in hotel room revenue of 8.8 percent to $77.6 million was seen as room rates went down to $203 from last year’s first quarter average of $222. Thursday’s results did not cover the Encore, Wynn Macau’s newest facility, a boutique-hotel with 410 suites which was unveiled last week.

Wynn Resort Ltd. which now owns two casino-resorts in Macau and two in Las Vegas, said its total debt as of March 31 was $3.3 billion. The company also announced on Thursday that it approved a 25-cent-per-share dividend payable May 26, which was higher than the 20-cent-per-share dividend estimated by analysts. Wynn’s shares went up another 1.3 percent in after hours trading after gaining 5 percent in regular trading.

Brashear said investors are interested in knowing the company’s plans for its new project in Cotai Strip in Macau. "Investors want to see a new project and Cotai is the only thing really in the works," she said. Steve Wynn said the company plans to build a “destination resort” in Cotai and would not be realized until 2014, “if we are encouraged to do so.” Wynn confirmed comments he made last week about plans to relocate Wynn Resort’s head office to Macau. "We are gonna include new headquarters in the Cotai project and I intend to begin the process by switching my own schedule in the almost immediate future," Wynn said. "It is appropriate for us to spend more time and more focus on Macau."

 

April 20, 2010

NH House Says No To Gambling Legislation

The New Hampshire House of Representatives Wednesday voted 212-158 to reject a Senate bill that would legalize slot machines and table games at a golf course complex in Hudson and five other sites including two unspecified areas in the northern part of the state and three racetracks. The vote, in which 59 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans rejected the bill, took place after almost two hours of debate.

The wide vote margin could reduce the likelihood of the bill being taken up again in the House for the rest of the 2010 session. “I think this was their high-water mark. We fully expect this to be in some conference committee at the end of the session, but the House has taken an extremely clear position that they are against it,” said James Rubens, head of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling. But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, is not admitting defeat, saying he will re-examine the measure and see if more adjustments to the bill are necessary. “I don’t think you are ever done, for the simple reason that there are people who are unemployed,” D’Allesandro said. “Nothing is ever over until it’s over.”

Gov. John Lynch has said he would veto any gambling expansion bill partly because he is still waiting to review the report of a gaming commission due late next month and probably because of his proposal for an online sports betting that he had included in his plan to close the $220 million budget gap. Rich Killion, who is lobbying for Millennium Gaming which is interested in operating video slots at Rockingham Park in Salem, said Lynch’s statements caused the bill to lose its force and element. “There’s no question many Democrats decided, why go on record for this if the governor is not going to let it happen,” Killion said.

The measure passed by the Senate would have legalized 17,000 video slot machines and 900 table games at six sites in the state. Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua had wanted to propose decreasing the number of slots to 10,000 and the number of locations to five, but his proposal did not reach a vote. But some lawmakers said even with the number of slots reduced, New Hampshire would still be the fourth state in the country to have the largest number of slots after Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi.

Republican David Kidder said casinos could hurt the state’s wholesome image that has appealed to millions of tourists. He said, “The state of New Hampshire has spent millions to market the NH brand. The New Hampshire advantage is not financial; it is a lifestyle that is unique to us.” But Rep. Jane Clemmons said the fears of higher social costs when the lottery started more than 40 years ago were never experienced. “They were wrong then, they were wrong today, we have expanded gambling in our state. What does raise the crime rate is unemployment,” Clemons said.

 

April 20, 2010

Belgium Passes Gambling Law Affecting Its Online Gambling Industry

Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives passed a new gambling law last month that would alter the shape of the country’s online gambling industry. Gambling in Belgium is an ancient activity, and in fact can be traced back to several centuries. Some of Europe’s oldest records told of card games that were played in Belgium in the 1300s and there are manuscripts to prove that the country has had its lottery since the 1400s. As time passed, the country’s gambling law has been transformed and amended. Now, it is Belgium’s online gambling business that is the target of a recent gambling legislation, bringing about a significant change in the industry.

The new measure calls for new guidelines for licensing and registration that will be enforced at the end of this year, and will be in connection with all kinds of online and land-based games of chance in Belgium, but will not include the national lottery which is currently run by the state. The new legislation says that companies that are interested in offering their online gambling services within the country will now be required to get a license for land-based gambling before they can operate. They will also be required to base their servers inside the country. This means that a foreign company operating from another Member State and which wishes to offer the same services to Belgians must first be a holder of a land-based license.

The Belgian Gaming Commission will issue the policies and will take charge of the licensing and regulating of the gambling companies. A tight competition is expected since the new law also puts a limitation by Royal Decree on the number of gambling entities that will be granted licenses. But even with the new law, it is expected that Belgians will still continue to access online gambling sites based outside the country where online gambling is legal.

 

April 14, 2010

Casino New Brunswick Could Have Severe Impact On Halifax

A casino in Moncton scheduled to open in May could prove to be a daunting rival for the Halifax casino which is anticipating a decline in activities and collections because of competition. "The Moncton casino will present competition in that it will attract potential visitors from Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick who might otherwise visit Casino Nova Scotia," Robyn McIsaac, spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation said Sunday. The gaming corporation expects a drop in earnings for the Halifax casino as its patrons will be pulled towards the new gambling facility.

The Crown Corporation’s business plans were submitted last week along with the 2010-11 budget of the province, and forecast of earnings for the province’s gambling facilities in Sydney and Halifax is at $79 million for this fiscal year, as against $86 million estimated for 2009-10. In answer to the Moncton casino, the Halifax casino will strive to be more aggressive by giving prominence to its distinction as a first-class venue for gatherings and banquets, providing “high quality entertainment”, increasing its advertisements and promotions, and upgrading its quality and service by enhancing its trainings and seminars for employees.

The budget reports say, "These initiatives are particularly important, given that the Halifax casino will face additional competition in 2010-2011 from the Moncton casino, which is expected to result in a decrease in revenue and profits." McIsaac said there was a drop in the number of guests spending the night in Halifax in 2009-10, therefore the casino also did not have that many gamblers. The total number of visitors for this fiscal year is speculative.

But Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly is unfazed. He said, "I don’t think people come to Halifax for the casino. It’s one of the options for those who come here, but it is by no means the only reason why people come here.” Casino New Brunswick will have 500 slot machines and 22 table games on a gambling floor of 24,000 square feet. Table games will consist of blackjack, poker, baccarat, roulette and craps. The facility will also feature a 147-seat buffet restaurant, a 22-seat pub, a 66-seat lounge, and a stage for live entertainment. Next to the casino will be a multi-purpose center and a 126-room hotel.

The facility promises to“ offer our guests professionally conducted, exciting entertainment in a luxurious environment, as Casino New Brunswick is committed to being the best in the eyes of our customers when it comes to entertainment and atmosphere."

 

April 13, 2010

Tribe, Local Businessmen To Put Up Casino In Sioux Falls To Match Iowa’s Lyon County Casino

Local business leaders in Sioux Falls, South Dakota have teamed up with the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe to build a large resort casino within the area of Sioux Falls as their answer to a casino being proposed near the border in nearby Lyon County in Iowa. Economic studies have anticipated that if the Iowa resort is erected, it would siphon millions of South Dakota dollars each year, aggravating the state’s financial situation that is already facing a serious budget gap.

"I think if Lyon County didn't exist, it would be a harder thing for the public to accept, but right now, it does exist, and it is going forward," said David Sweet, the CEO of Hotel & Resort Management and one of the backers of the Sioux Falls casino. Backers of the plan say the Sioux Falls resort casino would check the expected flow of money to Iowa. The tribe is also open to a profit-sharing scheme with the state and the city, akin to the agreement with Deadwood casinos.

The plan for the $110 million South Dakota casino would include a complex with an 18-hole golf course, two restaurants and a 1,200-seat event center. The casino itself would have about 900 slot machines, 8 poker tables and 24 table games. However, possible complications are also awaiting the Sioux Falls proposal. It would create a major change in the gaming structure that has been established in the state for 20 years, such as the video lottery and the limited gambling in Deadwood and tribal casinos, and opposition from the video lottery industry and gambling critics are likely to arise. Already, the executive director of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, Chris Hupke has said that although he has not yet seen the proposal, but “if it’s something about expanded gambling, we’ve got a real concern.”

The plan would also need to acquire approval from the federal government and from the governor, and it comes at around the time when elections for new governor and mayor are coming up. Through the tribe, the proposal could get approval from the federal government without calling for a Constitutional Amendment. Federal law allows a tribe to build a casino outside their land but within a short distance of the reservation and place that land into trust. But federal approval rests on the governor of the state, and one expert says the governor is in a position to negotiate with the tribe. But the plan’s supporters say the ultimate benefit to the state and the locals would be worth all the hurdles.

 

April 12, 2010

Wynn Resorts Not Keen On Investing In Revel Casino

Gambling tycoon Steve Wynn’s sudden announcement last week to withdraw from a deal to build a casino in Philadelphia caused many to suspect that he preferred instead to invest in Revel. In a statement, Wynn said he was “fascinated” by the prospect of a casino in Pennsylvania, “but this particular project did not, in the end, present an opportunity that was appropriate for our company.”

Last week, the Wall Street financial services company Morgan Stanley which owns a majority stake in the curtailed Revel casino project with its initial investment of $1.2 billion, made known its intention to sell all its shares in the company in a regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, even if the move would entail “a substantial loss” of that investment.

Revel is now trying to find new investors that would inject new funds into the venture to smooth the progress of the stalled project. Atlantic City is leaning on Revel to help the city’s struggling market compete with expanded gambling in nearby places such as Delaware and Pennsylvania. But Wynn said Friday he is not interested in the Revel casino project or in any other venture in Atlantic City. Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne informed The Associated Press Friday the company has no plans of investing in any project in Atlantic City, including Revel. "We typically would not comment on rumors but given the amount of speculation, I can confirm that Wynn has no intention of investment or involvement in any project in Atlantic City," Dunne said.

Don Marrandino, eastern division president of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. said Wynn would have added some appeal to the city’s gambling scene. Harrah’s owns four casino in Atlantic City and Marrandino’s career in the industry gave him the chance to know Wynn. "He's got the bravado and the sexiness. It would be helpful to have a guy like that in the market." Shares of Wynn Resorts rose 68 cents to $86.91 in afternoon trading.

There was no comment as yet from the side of Revel Entertainment. Revel has said the casino will be completed but it is still in the process of conferring with China’ s Export-Import Bank for the additional funds needed to finish the project. The project was started in 2007, but ran into financial problems in 2009 when the economic recession started to manifest itself. Many workers were laid off and work on the project was stopped except for the exterior of the structure.

 

April 11, 2010

Proposed Wichita Casino Developers Need To Clear Matters Before Pursuing Plans

Developers of a proposed casino south of Wichita have asked the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board to postpone the board’s decision on the casino proposal until they have settled issues affecting their casino operations in the area. Owners of the $225 million Chisholm Creek project need to straighten matters concerning zoning and they want to know of the state legislators’ definite plans regarding changes in Kansas’ gambling laws that could have an impact on their profits. On the issue of zoning, Sumner County and the city of Mulvane fought legally over which area would have authority on the casino, and a recent ruling from the Kansas Court of Appeals granted jurisdiction to Mulvane.

As to the matter of competition, a plan by the Wyandotte Nation tribe to seek authorization from the federal government to build a casino in Park City, north of Wichita is a cause for concern for Chisholm Creek. What’s more, state legislators are mulling over the idea of returning the question to allow slot machines at Wichita Greyhound Park for a second vote in Sedgwick County, since the proposal was rejected by voters in 2007 which brought about the closure of the track. The casino developers have threatened to drop the project if legislators insist on passing the measure. The bill is now pending in the Senate, its fate to be ascertained when lawmakers resume session April 28.

Upon the request of Chisholm Creek, the board, with some hesitation, decided to extend the April 19th deadline for another 60 days to vote on the project, but Kansas law says only the governor has the authority to grant postponement. Gov. Mark Parkinson disapproved the board’s request for respite for the reason that the state badly needs money and Chisholm Creek’s $25 million upfront license fee is already included in the current budget. "The state of Kansas needs a clear understanding of its finances," Parkinson said in a statement. "It is in everybody's best interests to move forward with this proposal in a timely manner and to avoid further delays."

John Frieden, attorney for Chisholm Creek said state law limits the governor’s power to deny deadline extension."The action of the governor failed to follow the law and consequently has jeopardized state revenues this year and perhaps forever for a state-owned gaming operation in south-central Kansas," he said. Board Chairman Matt All said the board will decide on a vote before April 19. "We didn't really see a strong reason to delay it either, but we were trying to be as accommodating to the applicant as possible," he said. The proposal would allow Chisholm Creek, the state’s only aspirant for a casino license that stayed, to build a facility near Mulvane. The state lottery would own the rights to the new gambling and the gambling equipment, and the state would get 22 percent of the gambling revenues, aside from the $25 million license fee.

Janis Hellard of the county’s economic development office said the economy getting better could open opportunities for more gambling investment even if Chisholm Creek withdraws. "We're very optimistic about it," she said.

 

April 10, 2010

House Committee Approves Seminole Gambling Compact

The House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review voted 15-3 Thursday readily approving the gambling deal amid admonitions from conservative religious groups and protests from pari-mutuels. On Wednesday, the Seminole Tribal Council gave its undisputed approval to the gambling compact and Gov. Charlie Crist signed it. The compact is now awaiting action from the Senate, which is expected to vote on it Tuesday.

The Senate has employed the expertise of law professor Nelson I. Rose to review the compact, paying him $800 an hour. Sen. Mike Haridopolos said, “I think we need to take a very measured look at it over the weekend. Before we sign on the dotted line, I want to make sure what we think it is is truly what it is.''

Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, chairman of the committee and lead negotiator with the tribe said, “At the end of the day, what we did was take a statesmanlike approach to a controversy that was not of our creation.” He said the compact ``does not allow further expansion of gaming'' but that it also does not ask the tribe to stop the table games its casinos have been operating illegally since January 2008.

Under the agreement, the tribe would have exclusive right to offer blackjack, chemin de fer, and baccarat at the tribe’s five casinos in Broward, Tampa and Immokalee for five years. All seven casinos of the tribe would also be allowed to operate Vegas-style Class III slot machines for twenty years.

The tribe would have to pay the state of Florida not less than $1 billion in a span of five years, including a $435 million payment by the end of June representing collections from the 2007 gambling compact with the governor that would now become invalid. After the five-year period, the tribe would continue paying the state with an amount contingent on its games’ profits.

The measure also lowers the tax rate for pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward from 50 percent to 35 on condition that their tax revenues to the state remain steady. Hialeah Park would be allowed to continue quarter horse racing, after which it would shift to thoroughbred racing and set up poker rooms and slot machines.

Pari-mutuels outside Miami-Dade and Broward would be able to extend gaming hours and increase betting limits for the card rooms, and with a legislative nod, would be allowed to add 350 bingo-style machines and historic racing machines. The tribe would either stop or lower their payments if the state allows other casino games anywhere in the state.

Christian groups said the compact would ruin families by worsening cases of gambling addiction and increasing crime incidents and would cause pari-mutuels to demand for more games to cope with competition from the tribe.“Stop it if you can,'' said Bill Bunkley, of the Florida Baptist Convention.

A lobbyist for Tampa Bay Downs horse track, Ken Plante said the measure is “the biggest expansion of gambling in this state without a vote of the people'' and that it “will probably put pari-mutuels out of business in this state'' if the Legislature does not see to an adequate protection for the pari-mutuel industry. Legislators said the state needs the money and the deal will provide it.

 

April 9, 2010

Pari-mutuels Say New Gambling Compact Leaving Them Out

Jack Collins Jr., vice president and general manager of the Sarasota Kennel Club raised objections Wednesday over the new gambling deal’s lack of regard for the pari-mutuel industry. I don’t see anything good out of it for us,” said Collins. “We feel we’re getting shut out from a competitive edge.”Collins claims the new billion-dollar five-year gambling agreement made by state legislators and The Seminole Tribe of Florida last week would not provide any benefit for his business, and he fears for the eventual weakening of the state’s time-honored industry. “My feeling is, in five years, a lot of people in the pari-mutuel industry won’t be around,” he predicted.

Vera Filipelli, track director of media relations for Derby Lane sees things the same way and said the pari-mutuel industry was not taken into account when the negotiations for the gambling compact were being done. “There’s no consideration for any of the thousands of employees that work at these facilities — we’ll be unemployed. It’s written as if it’s something that will help us,” she said of the gambling agreement.

When the stipulations of the agreement was announced Tuesday, officials affirmed that part of the deal was specifically for the purpose of helping the kennel club and pari-mutuels all over the state cope with competition from the tribe’s casinos.

When the complaints reached Republican state Representative Bill Galvano of Bradenton, head of the negotiating panel, he, in support of the provisions, clarified the terms, giving further details about the agreement. “Overall, for all the pari-mutuels, this is a significant improvement from the status quo,” he said. “The Tribe is not going to operate any more games than it was before the agreement in the Tampa Bay area, so the situation the kennel was facing as far as games being operated by The Tribe before this compact has not changed.

What has changed is that The Tribe’s facility will be regulated at a higher standard with more state involvement, which helps the Sarasota Kennel Club be more competitive from a regulatory standpoint.” “The future for the Sarasota Kennel Club is now predictable in that the state has clear authority at the end of five years to discontinue the card games in Tampa — or before, if we so choose — or even to authorize games at other places,” Galvano explained.

But for Collins, those provisions were not enough, such as the one calling for a lower tax rate for horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. “Under the law, they’ll reduce their tax rate from 50 percent to 35 percent — they say to give them a fair shake at competing with the Indians, but the way we’re looking at it is: What are you giving Sarasota, St. Pete and Tampa, who also have to compete, and are getting no options to compete,” Collins questioned.The compact has still to be approved by the Legislature and the Seminole Tribal Council.

 

April 8, 2010

Kentucky Files Case to Get Back Bets Lost Online

The state of Kentucky, under Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, has filed a court case against gambling Web sites in an attempt to reclaim bets lost by Kentucky residents who gambled online. The legal action was filed in late March in Franklin Circuit Court versus Pocket Kings LTD., based in Ireland and operator of the well-known Full Tilt Poker Web site, and some unidentified operators of online gambling sites. It’s a move that has never been done before against the online gambling industry, and Kentucky is trying to use an old law that’s unknown to most people, but is still legally binding, to recover the money lost by Kentuckians.

Turning to the old law, the government believes Kentuckians can reclaim threefold the money they lost through online gambling. “I think it's very bizarre,” said Louisville attorney Jon Fleischaker, who represents online gambling Web sites. Justice Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said in a statement that although the law “had its origin many years ago, it still remains the valid law of the commonwealth.” A law expert, Nelson Rose, said the government of Kentucky attempts to use an old law that still exists in many states’ books. He said as far as he knows, no other state has made a stab at this kind of legal exercise and that he believes the case will be dismissed.

“There are a lot of problems using that statute,” he said. “These are extremely ancient laws that have almost never been used for 100 years or more. The times have completely changed.” The obscure Kentucky law states that in illegal gambling, the winners do not have the right to collect, and losers who pay can file a case to get back three times the amount of their loss. The law also states that if no case is filed by the loser within six months, “any other person may sue the winner.” Rose said that in this case, Kentucky gamblers are playing with other gamblers, and they win and lose bets made not with the site, but with the other players. But the Beshear administration will respond to that concern by saying the Web sites are winners because they get a fee for running the game.

Fleischaker said not one of the Web sites are based within the state, so it can be argued that the dealings didn’t really take place in Kentucky. He likened it to a situation in which the state sues a casino in Indiana to reclaim bets lost by a Kentuckian who gambled there. Fleischaker also brought up the part of the statute which mentions the phrase “any other person”, and wondered if it can refer to the state, instead of a spouse or child of a gambler.

This is the second lawsuit Kentucky has filed against online gambling sites. The first one filed in 2008 is seeking to seize 141 online gambling sites partly because they were taking away revenue from the state’s horseracing industry.

 

April 7, 2010

Online Gambling Advocates Say DeLeo’s Gambling Legislation Makes Online Poker Illegal

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo has introduced a bill allowing expanded gambling in the state and wants a vote on the proposal in two weeks, without holding a public hearing. Gov. Deval Patrick was said to oppose the absence of a public hearing, and was quoted as saying, “I know people have thought about these issues before, but it’s a very important decision for the Commonwealth. There are people who have strong feelings on all sides of it and we should do our work here out in the open. We should have a hearing and let people make their case.”

DeLeo responded by saying that the new 172-page bill is a rewritten version of a previous measure that was already presented in a public hearing in October, therefore, no public hearing is necessary now. Another major issue that raised concern from online gambling supporters and online poker players in Massachusetts is wording on page 123 of the bill that makes Internet gambling and online poker punishable as a crime. The text states, “Any person who knowingly transmits or receives a wager of any type by any telecommunication device, including telephone, cellular phone, internet, [or] local area network… or knowingly installs or maintains said device or equipment for the transmission or receipt of wagering information shall be punished.”

The clause deems violators to be “any person who, from within the Commonwealth, transmits a wager to, or receives a wager from, another person or gaming establishment within or outside of the purportedly backing Commonwealth” with the exception of law enforcement authorities who are monitoring online gambling. Those who break the rule could face a jail term of one to two years and be slapped a fine of up to $25,000. The bill would allow two casinos and slot machines at the state’s four racetracks. Each casino license would be charged a fee of $100 million and $15 million for each racetrack license, and revenue from gambling would be used to support community colleges, schools, tourism and the state’s emergency fund.

The state’s police force, tasked to control and supervise the activity, would also be intensified. The bill would require a 25 percent tax on casino revenue and 40 percent on slot machines at racetracks. Gov. Patrick has always been partial to casinos and opposed to slot machines at racetracks, arguing that slots do not create as many jobs as casinos because casinos have more facilities and services. DeLeo’s concern is that the tracks will shut down if they are not allowed slot machines.

On poker forums, some tried to guess reasons for the bill’s attempt to make online poker illegal in the same manner as in the state of Washington, and one participant surmised, “The brick and mortar casinos of Massachusetts want to cut down on competition with online gambling. That's why you see it as an add-on to casino bills: the same people who advocate for casinos are against online gambling.”

 

April 6, 2010

Morgan Stanley To Sell Majority Stake In Revel Entertainment

Morgan Stanley did not say why, but in its regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the financial services company said on Thursday it is bowing out of the Revel casino project in Atlantic City. The bank is a majority stakeholder in Revel Entertainment Group, LCC, developer of a 47-storey, 1,900-room beachfront hotel and casino on the boardwalk. The move is seen to cause the firm to suffer a major loss.

Before a downturn in the economy was experienced, Morgan Stanley was one of the largest real estate investors, but the bank’s property investments faced several hurdles when the recession befell the globe and Revel is Morgan Stanley’s last remaining large project.

The filing said the company will consider several alternatives to effect the sale which may mean a direct sale to a third party or through an auction. Information coming from reliable sources, however, revealed Morgan Stanley was already negotiating with possible buyers and the sale may take effect in the coming months. The Wall Street Bank’s decision to sell “would result in a substantial loss of that investment,” the bank stated in its regulatory filing. The firm was not clear on the specific amount of loss, but said it will be reported in its first quarter results released later this month. Analysts estimate the bank’s loss on its initial investment of $1.2 billion to be around $1 billion.

Morgan Stanley’s loss will probably be partly compensated by a $775 million gain resulting from the resolution of a lawsuit concerning the bank’s former credit card unit, Discover. Revel’s chairman and CEO Kevin DeSanctis said the casino hotel will be completed. "The key is to ultimately figure out who will end up with that equity piece, whether it's Revel, Revel with a partner or someone else," he said. "We'll continue everything we're doing, working on the financing. My total focus is on getting this project done."

The project which started in 2007 encountered a number of problems at the onset of the economic crisis when the company ran out of money in 2009. Many workers were laid off, and work was discontinued except on the exterior of the project. Morgan Stanley, which initially agreed to provide financing, was eventually compelled to buy a majority share. New funds are expected to facilitate the completion of the project, and sources say there are ongoing talks with other financiers, including a Chinese bank.

 

April 5, 2010

Gambling Ban In Hawaii Drives Residents To Gamble In Las Vegas

Hawaii is one state in the US that does not have legal gambling in any form whatsoever. Hawaii, with a population of 1.2 million, is composed of eight islands, and locals dub Las Vegas their ninth island. The absence of gambling in the state has not deterred residents from crossing an ocean to seek entertainment in their ninth island. With no slots and card games to amuse them, Hawaiians travel to Las Vegas, making roughly 150,000 trips a year or around 3,000 trips a week. Those who really enjoy gambling even take five or six trips each year. And some 80,000 people have decided to leave the islands and stay for good in Las Vegas, setting up residence in Sin City.

The total amount of gambling money spent by Hawaiians in Las Vegas casinos each year could probably reach $100 million, money that could have remained in Hawaii and benefited a state that’s currently struggling with a $1.2 billion budget shortfall and has no other option but to curb services. In view of this, many Hawaiians are of the opinion that gambling should be legalized in the state. Supporters of gambling maintain that the good the public derives from gambling is a lot more than its negative upshots. They say children should be better informed on gambling and older citizens should be provided more support with the added income the state would get from gambling revenue, to address the issue of morality.

But sentiments of gambling critics run deep, perhaps as an offshoot of the 19th century Christian missionaries’ strict adherence to doctrine. Surfing, in which one enjoys riding the waves, was once disapproved of because it was considered wrong to have too much pleasure. A well-organized anti-gambling group in Hawaii, the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling has two objectives, that is, to inform the public on legalized gambling’s negative consequences and to stop it from being established in the state. It has been suggested to build one casino that would be controlled and monitored by the state. It would create jobs and would retain some of the citizens’ gambling money. The island of Oahu is the one most often visited by tourists from China and Korea and a recent survey disclosed that foreigners would be more apt to come back if gambling and more night entertainment existed there.

An editorial in a newspaper recently wrote the following: "Polls during the 1990s showed that a majority of Hawaii residents understand the negative consequences and oppose its legalization. In 2001, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal to allow a single casino in Ko Olina was rejected by legislators. A bill two years ago to allow casino gambling to help pay for rapid transit was also cast aside. At some point, the advocates [of legal gambling] should tire of throwing the dice." For now, Hawaiians will continue to travel to Sin City to gamble, while others will prefer to stay and gamble illegally in the islands.

 

April 4, 2010

November’s Ballot Would Have Only Citizen-Initiated Oxford Casino Proposal

The House decided Friday to overturn its previous vote to consider putting other gambling proposals on November’s ballot side by side with the citizens’ initiative for a casino in Oxford County. The House voted 83-59 to put off for an unspecified period any deliberations on casino bill L.D. 1808. This move would mean that the citizens’ initiative for a casino resort in Oxford County backed by Black Bear Entertainment that wants to build the facility will be put alone on November’s ballot with no competing measure coming up against it.

The power lies in the Legislature whether to approve a citizen-initiated proposal as written, to reject it, or to suggest another proposal. If the Legislature rejects it, the bill is put on a statewide ballot. If an option is endorsed, the choice appears on the ballot as a competing measure alongside the first proposal. The latest development happened two days after the House turned down in a vote committee report that recommended rejecting the Oxford proposal, and came as a result of the proposition of Rep. Pamela Jabar Trinward, D-Waterville, co-chairman of the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee in charge of gambling.

Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield, who backed the competing measure that would have allowed Hollywood Slots in Bangor to expand to table games and authorized a casino in Calais to be operated by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, in addition to a casino in Oxford county, did not approve of the House’s most recent decision. He said the vote not to consider a competing measure was delaying debates on gambling. "The issue, for me, is whether this Legislature has the guts to take on this issue, or would rather punt," Fitts said during Friday’s debate.

Rep. James Martin, D-Orono also preferred considering a competing option. Martin did not pursue his earlier plan to conduct a study on gambling using Hollywood Slots with table games as an experiment. He said the gambling issue is as difficult to resolve as the issue of gay marriage, and urged his fellow lawmakers to give more time and effort in discussing the issue. Other Democrats like Rep. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, and Rep. Thom Watson, D-Bath were also in favor of another measure to compete with the citizens’ initiative so that expanded gambling may be made available through a bidding process under the supervision and control of the state.

 

April 3, 2010

DeLeo Speeds Up Progress Of Gambling Bill

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Thursday advanced gambling legislation with the timetable for debate set in two weeks without a public hearing. The bill proposes for the legalization of two casino resorts and 750 slot machines for each of the four racetracks in Massachusetts.

A five-man commission would decide the sites of the two casinos and receive applications from developers for the bidding process. The Mohegan Sun in Connecticut would bid for a casino license in Palmer.

Mohegan Sun’s Jeffrey E. Hartmann said, “We would like to win that resort license for Western Massachusetts." The company would build a 600-room hotel on a resort casino in Palmer that would sit on a 152-acre lot across from Exit 8 on the turnpike. Hartmann estimates the Palmer casino to give rise to 1,000 to 1,200 construction jobs and 2,500 to 3,000 permanent jobs and annual gaming revenue would go as high as $500 million.

DeLeo said roughly 3,500 jobs at each casino and 1,000 at each track would be generated, in line with the bill’s aim of creating or keeping “jobs, jobs and more jobs.”"What this bill is aimed at is the social cost of joblessness," he said. Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, co-chairman of the committee that oversees gambling bills said combined annual gross revenues from the two casinos and slots at the four tracks could reach $1.4 to $1.9 billion. A 25 percent tax on gambling revenues would be imposed on casinos and 40 percent on the tracks.

The president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, Kathleen C. Norbut again requested for a review of the proposal and said a public hearing should be held first before lawmakers act on the bill. “We're looking at proposals that have not been fully vetted." Republican Rep. Karyn E. Polito from Shrewsbury also criticized the absence of a public hearing and said slots licenses should be bid rather than granted to the tracks. "There should be no inside deals for any special groups."

DeLeo said a public hearing is not necessary because his bill is an edited version of another bill made public in a hearing last October. He said lawmakers will start discussion on his bill April 12. He said up-front license fees would be $100 million for each casino and $15 million for each racetrack, totaling $260 million. Two candidates for governor this year, Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, an independent and Charles D. Baker, a Republican support the casinos and tracks.

 

April 2, 2010

DeLeo To Present Gambling Proposal

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo will introduce new gambling legislation after his proposal obtained enough backing to effect a hearing. The move has been eagerly anticipated by Gov. Deval Patrick and other legislators who are keen on expanding gambling in the state. Gov. Patrick has been pushing for casino resorts in the state, but last year his plans were rejected by state lawmakers whose votes were influenced by Salvatore DiMasi who was the House Speaker at that time, and who was known to be firmly opposed to gambling. After DeLeo, who is a proponent of gambling expansion, assumed the House Speakership, support for expanded gambling has considerably increased.

Experts believe that the legislation has a sufficient amount of backing, including that of Senate President Therese Murray, to pass. DeLeo’s proposal would authorize two new casinos in Massachusetts and allow a “limited number of slots” at the state’s four racetracks, including two in his district, Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Greyhound Park. The location of the two resort casinos will be decided by a committee. The objective of the legislation is to bring in additional revenues to boost the state’s finances, and to provide aid for the struggling racetracks. Many, too, are anticipating that after the bill is approved, poker games would then be legalized.

Labor union members who look forward to the creation of more construction jobs in the midst of rising unemployment are also strongly supporting the bill. “This legislation will focus on bringing jobs to the commonwealth,” DeLeo’s spokesman said. Gambling proponents are of the opinion that Massachusetts has to consider major decisions on the issue of expansion of gambling if it wants to be at the forefront of the gambling industry in the Northeast region. Pennsylvania, Delaware and other Northeastern states are fast advancing with their laws on gambling expansion, possibly outshining New Jersey in the field of gaming.

After the bill is approved by both chambers, it will then go to the governor’s office for his signature. Although Gov. Patrick has been known to oppose the idea of slots at racetracks, showing more preference for resort casinos, he has not shown any indication that he will reject the bill. The introduction of the bill will come after a day of serious lobbying on Beacon Hill by both proponents and critics of gambling expansion.

 

April 1, 2010

Online Gambling Persists Despite Turkey’s Ban

In 2006, the Turkish government enforced a law forbidding its people to gamble online which entailed prohibiting Internet gambling operators to provide Turkish citizens access to their sites and enforcing a ban on dealings with online gambling sites through Turkish banks and credit card companies. The weekend edition of Turkey’s newspaper, the Sunday Zaman carried an article about the nation’s ban and how some European online firms have found ways to go on providing their services to Turkish citizens.

Gokhan Ahi, a Turkish legal expert was cited in the newspaper as saying that although there is an existing ban on Internet gambling, online gaming operators like Betsson have cleverly dodged filters and successfully carried on with their activities. The newspaper stated that the Turkish Information Technologies and Communications Board (BTK) attempted to stop access to Betsson’s site, but the firm managed the interference by constantly changing IP addresses which made it extremely difficult for the Board to pursue the site.

"At the time of writing, Betsson had added the digits 509 to the end of its URL. Ahi stated that this number would change constantly: 'When the BTK would block 310, they would default to 309, and if that was blocked, they would quickly change to another number. Ahi reiterated the difficulty for the Turkish authorities to block such sites due to the complexity of the Internet and stated that companies like Betsson would do whatever is necessary to make sure that their illegal and enormous revenues are not hindered by technological barriers. Even with the banking restrictions, Ahi noted that gamblers increasingly use one-time-use debit cards that can easily be used on these Web sites without much difficulty," the newspaper reported.

Swedish Analyst Martin Arnell was also cited in the newspaper as claiming that another online gambling company, the UK-based Sportingbet also provides online gambling services to Turkey. In 2008 two Turkish nationals working for Sportingbet in the UK entered Turkey and were held in custody by Turkish authorities. While Sortingbet’s business activities with Turkey have been cut back, Arnell said it is still functioning in the Turkish market. He said the company’s SuperBahis website still accepts online bets for football games. “They could be saying and reporting that they are leaving, but they are still there.”

The newspaper feature continued to report that Betsson continues to take chances by getting around filters and restrictions, because, according to Goldman Sachs, more than 26 percent of its revenues come from the Turkish market. Analyst Arnell said ceasing its Turkish operations which contribute a substantial share to Betsson’s overall market, could bring about a large reduction in the company’s profits and share prices.

Betsson maintains that there is nothing illegal in their activities because the company does not operate from Turkey, but is based in Malta. Betsson also contends that based on EU’s rules on free movement of goods and services within the Union, the company’s dealings with Turkish citizens are within the law, but Arnell says Turkey is not yet an EU member, thus Betsson could not use this to base its legal argument.

 

March 31, 2010

Study Observes A Rise In Out-Of-State Gambling Spending By Massachusetts Residents

A study made by UMass-Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis has disclosed that Massachusetts residents spent more gambling money at gambling facilities outside their state in 2009. According to the report released recently, the 5.8 percent rise in spending meant Massachusetts residents gave $230 million in tax revenue to the coffers of Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island as they gambled away $968 million at five different casinos. Since 1995, and every year since 2004 the Center has kept an eye on the gambling habits of Massachusetts residents, and the new analysis has additional data on the place of origin of casino customers, probable spending per state and the total tax revenue from gambling.

Clyde Barrow, director for the Center for Policy Analysis said, "While it's true that we do not have casinos in Massachusetts, we have lots of casino gambling by Massachusetts residents." Barrow said the results of this year’s study were more or less the same as the past years’, except for two changes. "The biggest shift that we saw was an increase in ratio of visitors going to Twin Rivers and Foxwoods from Massachusetts," said Barrow. And the other change is the increase in spending by Massachusetts residents.

The study said Massachusetts residents spent an estimated $237 million in 2009 at Twin Rivers, $28 million more than in 2008, or an increase of 12.8 percent. Barrow said Twin Rivers at Rhode Island became a favorite of Massachusetts gamblers when more visible advertisements flooded TV and waysides after the casino was fixed up in 2007. The study also saw that 48 percent of Twin Rivers’ regulars came from Massachusetts, which rose from 40 percent last year. At Newport Grand, 45 percent were Massachusetts residents, at Foxwoods, 36 percent, Mohegan sun 19 percent and Hollywood Slots in Maine 1 percent. There were slight increases in all casinos compared to 2009. This conclusion was reached by counting the license plates in the casinos’ parking areas for a five-day period in February, 2010.

From 1992 up to 2009, a total of $4.3 billion in gambling revenues have been put in by Massachusetts residents to New England. Barrow said the study’s findings are expected and not unusual because "any kind of consumer industry in New England is going to be driven by Massachusetts residents. There's more people in Massachusetts and more money in Massachusetts." Barrow said the Center is not taking an official stand on whether gambling should be adopted in Massachusetts. But if it is, Barrow said it would have a “dramatic and negative impact on facilities” which is reminiscent of what happened to Atlantic City when its slots revenue dropped 17 percent in 2007 when Pennsylvania opened its slots parlors and its residents started frequenting the local venues.

Barrow said Massachusetts lawmakers who have been following the Center’s yearly study will not find anything out of the ordinary in the results. "This isn't going to shift anyone one way or the other," he said.

 

March 30, 2010

Campbell Foresees Benefit From Planned Entertainment Complex

Downtown Vancouver will have a new entertainment center. This was announced by Premier Gordon Campbell when he disclosed plans for a new casino-hotel complex adjoining B.C. Place Stadium. The B.C. Place is lined up for renovation estimated to cost $565 million, including the installing of a new, marshmallow, $458-million retractable roof and Campbell said the new complex is part of the refurbishment plan.

Campbell said the complex is worth $450 million, and will include two hotels, five restaurants and a two-storey casino. The entire entertainment center will occupy an area of 680,000 square feet and will be situated on a one-hectare lot between the west side of B.C. place and the Cambie Bridge.

Campbell noted that once completed, the huge 24-hour casino and entertainment complex will transform the area into a new activity center, enhance tourism, and will give the economy a shot in the arm. "What we're doing is creating a whole new entertainment complex for British Columbia. And I think what it really does is it will revitalize this part of town. It won't just be a place that you drive around and drive through," he said. Campbell estimates the new jobs created by the complex would be in thousands. For the duration of the construction, approximately 3,200 direct and 2,220 indirect jobs would be needed, and once the destination complex opens, around 1,900 direct and 1,300 indirect workers would be employed.

The casino’s first year of operation is also expected to yield $130 million in gaming revenues for the government of British Columbia.Start of construction is set in the early part of 2011, and is expected to finish by the middle of 2013, but the city of Vancouver still has to grant a rezoning permit of the site.

Paragon Development of Las Vegas won the private-sector bid to build the project. The company and B.C. Pavilion Corp. (PavCo), which manages the B.C. Place, signed a 70-year lease contract which stipulates a $6- million-a-year (plus inflation) lease revenue for PavCo for the first 10 years, with the amount increasing thereafter.

Campbell said the lease revenue will help compensate for the cost of B.C. place’s new retractable roof. The Edgewater Casino, owned by Paragon and which is presently located at the Plaza of Nations will be moved to the new complex, but would need rezoning approval. A debate among False Creek residents is likely to ensue on the issue of rezoning, but Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said there a greater chance of the city approving it despite the expected resistance from residents. An official from River Rock Casino in Richmond said the casino is not worried about its market share and has reacted positively to the competition.

 

March 29, 2010

NH State Officials Disagree Over Gambling As A Way To Fill Budget Gap

New Hampshire is not the only state that worries about its budget gap. The recession has created a budget problem in every state, and each state has its own way of dealing with its shortfall. As reported in an industry newsletter, The Lottery Post, not less than 18 states that saw a decline of 5-14 percent in revenue from casinos, horse racing and lotteries, are turning to gambling expansion to ease budget worries. In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell suggested offering keno in restaurants, New York has allowed 4,500 video lottery terminals at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, and Massachusetts may approve a plan for resort casinos and slot machines at racetracks, to mention a few states that have considered expanded gambling.

New Hampshire is one of those states who look to expansion of gambling to plug a gap in the budget and create employment, but the idea has triggered a squabble among the state’s officials. Proponents of gambling who have long wanted to bring in new forms of gambling are expecting to accomplish something this year because of the state’s budget deficit and because the state has always been against income tax. State Democratic Senator Lou D’Allesandro introduced a bill that would allow video slot machines and table games at six locations.

The bill passed the Senate last week with a 14-10 vote, and would then move to the House to be voted on next month. The bill may face opposition in the House which has disapproved gambling measures in the past, but many expect the vote to be closer this year. Though the bill is anticipated to provide thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue, Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, said Thursday he would not support the Senate bill to expand gambling. “I will do what it takes to have it not become law,” Lynch told reporters in Portsmouth.

The governor said the Senate should have waited for the report from the commission that he created last year to study the matter before acting on the gambling bill, because, he said, it’s hard to eradicate gambling once it’s allowed. “Once it’s here, it’s here forever.” Critics of gambling said they were glad to hear Lynch’s statement, but in view of Lynch’s promise not to raise taxes, they were doubtful that the governor would veto a bill if the Senate and the House approved it. Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling said, “It’s a stronger statement than he’s made to date, but if the House passed it and made it part of the budget, he may have a different calculus.”

 

March 28, 2010

Gambling Operations In Trenton Busted

Federal law banning sports betting exists in New Jersey and all the other states, except Delaware, Nevada, Oregon and Montana, which had already laws on sports betting before the ban took effect in 1992. Currently, only Nevada offers sports wagering. Despite the prohibition, people still bet for the Super Bowl, the NCAA and other professional sports through covert sports betting operations. In Trenton City, Mercer County authorities mounted raids to break up illegal sports gambling organizations and announced yesterday arrests of two operations which were the objects of investigations police have been conducting for quite some time.

The first arrest was done on Feb 8, one day after the Super Bowl, at Q&M Deli at 130 South Cook Avenue. Detectives of the Special Investigations Unit of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, armed with a search warrant and together with the Sheriff’s Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) and with help from the FBI, confiscated $13,500 in cash, a computer, a printer used to print betting slips, and some stuff for drug packaging available for sale. Twenty-six year old Joel Jaquez, owner of the deli, was arrested and charged with maintenance of a gambling resort, promoting gambling, possession of gambling records and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to distribute. Also arrested was Keith Richmond, 34, of Levittown, Pa., from whom betting slips and $2,500 in cash were seized. He was charged with promoting gambling and possession of gambling records.

The second arrest happened recently on Mar. 19, during the NCAA college basketball tournament. The raiding team was composed of SIU detectives, officers from the Trenton Police Vice Unit and the Mercer County SERT. Police raided Rossy’s Supermarket at 111 Martin Luther King Boulevard in Trenton and with a search warrant, was able to seize and destroy a computer system used for sports betting, a laptop computer, three handguns, a 2003 Hummer H2, a flat screen TV, $5,000 in cash and drug packaging materials. Police nabbed three people believed to be patrons of the sports betting operation. They were Lowell Allen, 50, of Hamilton, Kenya Williams, 32, of Ewing, and Clarence Ford, 38 of Trenton. The owner of the store, 31-year old Martin Jaquez had the same last name as the first suspect. Martin was also arrested, and similarly charged with maintenance of a gambling resort, promoting gambling, possession of gambling records and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to distribute.

Casey DeBlasio, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said Martin Jaquez was not charged for the guns because they were legally licensed in his name, but the guns were taken by the police in relation to the alleged illegal gambling activity. Although similar items were found in both suspects’ stores and similar charges were filed against the two, in addition to the two suspects having the same last name, and both having come from the Dominican Republic, DeBlasio said investigators believe the two are not in any way related, and that there is no link between the two illegal businesses. The two illegal activities allegedly robbed bookies and bettors a total cash of more than $20,000.

 

March 27, 2010

Maryland Lawmakers Discuss Ways To Expand Legalized Gambling

When it comes to gambling, Maryland seems to progress more slowly than its neighboring states in the Northeast such as Pennsylvania and Delaware. Lawmakers began discussing recently a number of proposals on gambling expansion, specifically table games. In 2008, a constitutional amendment that allows up to 15,000 slot machines in five sites was approved by voters in Maryland. The measure, anticipated to produce revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars per year, encountered problems along the way due to the economic crisis. Of the five slots locations, only three have been granted licenses, and two facilities could open by early fall—one near Interstate 95 in Cecil County and a horse racing track near Ocean City.

Last Thursday, state senators debated amending legislation that would allow table games at one racetrack and subsequently at five other locations. That same day, members of the House of Delegates recommended a bill authorizing slots locations to offer table games, and another bill that would put slot machines at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport as well as veteran organizations across the state. These organizations’ funding depends a great deal on gambling and the machines would be a big help. "A lot of veterans are getting older, a lot of members aren't coming anymore so we're losing money," said Frederick Taylor, a Vietnam veteran from Largo.

Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s wants a proposal allowing card games at the ailing Rosecroft Raceway to be submitted to voters. Gov. Martin O’Malley said through his spokesman that he is not keen on expanding gambling in the state, but the legislation is being earnestly discussed by senators. "We stand to lose in June about 600 jobs if this bill is not passed," Muse said. Muse fears that expanding the measure to other sites may kill his legislation. Senate Republican leader Allan Kittleman, though, favors allowing voters to approve table games in other locations and said he suggests creating a commission to select five other sites in addition to Rosecroft.

Baltimore County Sen. Dolores Kelley said now may be the right time to discuss a referendum on table games, and during a Senate debate, she said, "It does concern us that all of the states that surround us -- if we're going to depend on this income -- are better situated now than we are. If our people want to be equal to or competitive with the surrounding states, it makes sense." Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said, "We need to get on the train as quickly as possible,” adding that the state is “way behind the bubble” on gambling as Maryland residents spend their gambling money in other states.

On the other hand, Stop Slots Maryland chairman Aaron Meisner, a slots foe, said his group cautioned Maryland voters that further expansion of gambling would surely happen after slots are approved. "All bets are off. You're going to have fully metastasized gambling in this state," Meisner said.

 

March 26, 2010

Governor’s Task Force Set On Fighting Illegal Gambling

In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Bob Riley said the attorney general’s attempts to abolish the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling will not stop the group from carrying on its work. On Monday, Alabama Attorney General Troy King announced that he was dismissing John Tyson as head of the governor’s task force. “He has had his chance with unrestrained authority and unlimited resources. He has failed,” King said.

Riley maintains that electronic bingo machines are basically slot machines, which are illegal in Alabama and said it’s not within King’s power to give orders to his task force. “I swore to uphold the laws of the State of Alabama, and I will continue to uphold the laws of the state,” Riley told reporters. He said the bingo machines do not abide by the criteria of what a game of bingo would require as ruled by the Supreme Court. “A player can turn his back to the machine, hit a button three times and complete a game in about 10 seconds. That’s not bingo, and that certainly does not satisfy the Supreme Court’s requirements,” Riley said.

King also ordered Tyson to surrender all evidence seized by the task force from the gambling halls during its raids in the past 14 months, but Riley said the evidence is under the custody of the Department of Public Safety and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and not in Tyson’s possession and neither does it belong to King. “If we turn the evidence over to the Attorney General, we might as well turn it over to the casino bosses,” Riley said. Riley said King wants the civil, not the criminal courts to judge the legality of the machines, despite the Supreme Court saying that it would not consider any case filed by the attorney general for declaratory judgments.

Riley said if the civil courts handled the issue, “that will destroy the criminal investigation and could endanger our undercover law enforcement officers, and we are not going to do that.” He said the civil court system, in contrast to the criminal court system, would allow criminals to go on with their illegal activities until the courts pronounce judgment. Riley said it’s unfair for the state to allow electronic bingo in three counties while stopping its operation in 64 others. He said the majority of the state’s district attorneys consider electronic bingo machines illegal under Alabama’s law.

Riley also accused King of hiding information from the Governor’s Office and the Department of Public Safety after King’s office got word from federal authorities in 2004 about illegal gambling activities in the state. “If the Attorney General had done his job then, we never would have had this explosion of slot machines that we now have to deal with,” Riley said.

 

March 25, 2010

Wynn Macau’s 2009 Small Profit Gain Due To Cost-Saving Scheme

Even as revenue dropped due to a number of factors such as the economic crisis, Beijing’s entry restrictions, and a spate of swine flu cases, Wynn Macau Ltd. said Wednesday its net profit rose slightly because of the company’s cost-cutting practices. Casino revenue was down 5% to HK$13.19 billion last year from HK$13.88 billion in 2008; total revenue declined 4.3% to HK$14.08 billion from HK$14.71 billion. Wynn Macau, controlled by billionaire casino operator Stephen Wynn said its net profit for 2009 was US$267 million or 2.07 billion HK $, an increase of 1.4% from 2.04 billion HK$ in 2008.

The company, which listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in October, said the industry’s situation in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are allowed, began to recover in the second half of 2009, and kept getting better up to this year. News reports say revenue in Macau climbed to almost 70% in January and February compared to same months last year. Wynn Macau will soon open the $4.7 billion HK$ extension of its Encore resort in April with more luxury suites, dining places, retail outlets and gambling space. The company is also planning to build a casino resort of up to 6.9 million square feet in the Cotai Strip, and is waiting for an approval from the Macau government on its application for the right to lease a 20.8-hectare location in the area.

But the plan is still subject to change depending largely on the policy of Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui who has been advised by the Chinese government to strictly regulate the phenomenal expansion of the city’s gambling industry because of China’s concern that a large number of Chinese from the mainland are squandering their money on gambling in Macau. In his first policy speech last week, Chui said he will closely examine casino projects and is forming a governing body to effectively manage the development of the city’s gambling industry, and may also take back land if casino developers have no proper building plans for sites reserved for them.

Beijing has also conveyed to Macau its desire to see the city expand its economy towards other businesses other than gambling. Aaron Fischer, head of Asian consumer and gambling research at CLSA, said: "We are very keen to hear more about the company's plans for Cotai, which we believe will become the center of gravity for Macau. They've got quite a big site on Cotai but we're not sure the market's ready for something that size targeting the very high end," he said. Citigroup recommends selling Wynn Macau’s stocks because of increased competition not only from Sands China Ltd. and Galaxy Entertainment Ltd., but also from Singapore which of late has gone into Asia’s gambling market. However, Nomura has a “buy” recommendation on the company, saying in its report that the Singapore issue is exaggerated and “in fact Wynn Macau not only has the second-highest mass market share in Macau by property, but it also has one of the most profitable mass gaming businesses.”

 

March 24, 2010

Bill To Allow 4 Small Casinos In Atlantic City

Atlantic City’s gambling industry, the second-largest in the country, has been battered by a double whammy – the economic recession and competition from neighboring states. To keep up with the changing times, a bill will be introduced Monday by former Mayor and now state Senator James Whelan that would authorize the construction of four new small casinos in a gambling hub of vast and glitzy casinos and huge luxurious hotels. The city allows a minimum of 500 rooms and some hotels have more than a thousand rooms.

The four smaller casinos eyed by the legislation would have at least 200 rooms and would be charged a lower entry fee. The discounted fee is expected to trigger a formidable opposition from the existing casinos, although proponents view the proposal as a way out of the crisis that’s greatly affecting the gambling city. "The world has changed, and Atlantic City has changed," Whelan said. "In 1978, Atlantic City desperately needed hotel rooms and nightclubs and the amenities that go along with a first-class hotel. Five hundred rooms made all the sense in the world. But where we are today, you can go to Philadelphia or Delaware or other jurisdictions where the entry fee to build is much lower, you can get in for tens of millions of dollars. In Atlantic City, 500 rooms cost you $800 million, minimum, and nobody's writing checks for $800 million or $1 billion nowadays."

The former CEO of the AtlantiCare hospital system, George Lynn said, "The more people that come to Atlantic City, the more that small businesses prosper; we've seen that again and again," he said. "These boutique casinos will help Atlantic City differentiate ourselves from our competition, which is something we absolutely have to do." Predictably, existing casinos are protesting. Mark Juliano of Trump Entertainment Resorts said, "I think it's a terrible idea. We all played by these rules for a long time. To change the rules now when we're really hurting is not fair and it's not right.”

Bob McDevitt, president of a labor organization of casino hotel employees said, “You're cheapening the billions and billions of dollars already invested in Atlantic City, and changing the definition of what gaming in New Jersey is. If you want to enter the nation's second-largest gaming market, you better be able to pony up the money to do a first-class facility. Otherwise, you have no business being here." Robert Boughner, president of the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa said state lawmakers should instead work hard at improving demand rather than adding supply. Large casinos currently operating in Atlantic City pay tax of a little over 9 percent. Under the proposal, the new smaller casinos would be charged a tax of more than 14 percent to offset their lower entry fee.

Incentives would be offered to encourage owners to add rooms to their boutique hotels. Those who put up hotels with 200 rooms would be allowed 20,000 square-feet of casino space. If, within five years, they increase to 500 rooms, they would be given 30,000 square feet of casino space and the city would pay them back the extra 5 percent they paid in taxes. But if the owners did not increase the number of rooms after five years, the money they paid the city would be used for the expansion of other casinos and for other infrastructure projects.

 

March 23, 2010

$3.5 Billion Class Action Against Ontario Lottery Denied By Court

A $3.5 billion court case filed in the Ontario Superior Court against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLGC) as a class action representing problem gamblers was not accepted by the court. The complainants in the class action involved more than 10,000 people who asked the court to allow the class suit to proceed. These people, who claimed to be problem gamblers who signed “self-exclusion” forms to avoid going into government-run casinos accused the lottery corporation of neglecting its responsibility and allowing people who have signed the forms entry to the casino and to gamble in the period between 1999 and 2005. In a resolution announced this week, the legal action was rejected by Superior Court Justice Maurice Cullity as a class action lawsuit.

The judge noted that “the tension between maximizing profits and promoting responsible gambling to the financial detriment of OLGC is acute.” The court’s decision was not made based on the facts of the claims and the status of the case against the lottery firm, but only to establish whether a class suit was the appropriate course of action to take. Judge Cullity wrote that the ruling he was asked to make was a “procedural motion”, adding that, “I am of the opinion that the attempt to define the common issues in a manner that would avoid an inquiry into the status of each class member as a ‘problem gambler’ has not been successful.” He said each problem gambler has to file a separate complaint because the way events happened in every gambler’s private life differs.

The court was told that a total cost of $49.5 million was used by the government of Ontario and the lottery corporation to fund research and services for rehabilitation and guidance under “responsible gambling initiatives”, and that the lottery firm has resolved nine individual court cases with problem gamblers, paying $167,000 per case on the average, with around four cases still unsettled. Government-run casinos and slot venues in Ontario yielded more than $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2008-09. Persons signing the self-exclusion forms are asked to submit their pictures for identification and are warned of the trespassing charges if they go inside a gambling place.

In 2005 a phrase has been added in the forms officially stating that the lottery corporation is not to be held responsible if a person goes on gambling at a government-run casino despite having signed a form. An official at the lottery corporation, Paul Pellizzari, said the forms do not intend to “police”, but are a form of a “self-help” system. He said, “Experts have told us that to be effective, any controls have to be by the individuals themselves. Our role is to get them help as quickly as possible.” The lottery’s director of policy and social responsibility also revealed that the agency is thinking of setting up equipment at its venues that could recognize faces. The attorney in charge of the class action, Jerome Morse said yesterday that he is going to appeal the court’s decision.

 

March 22, 2010

Oak Lawn Weighs Up Decision On Video Gambling

It will soon be a year from the time the Illinois Legislature passed the Illinois Video Gaming Act last July , and Oak Lawn must inevitably come to a decision whether to permit video gambling or opt out of the program. The measure is seen by lawmakers to help generate finances for the $31 billion capital bill that will be used to develop and repair infrastructure and upgrade schools that will give rise to employment. Oak Lawn village officials have started presenting the issue of legalized video gambling at public meetings, but are still far from making a definite conclusion.

There are several sides of the matter they have to consider, such as the social costs of gambling, the law enforcement issue and the possibility of the village failing to benefit from the capital funds if Oak Lawn opts out of the program. There is also the lure of the potential extra revenue for the village and the business establishments. New revenue for Oak Lawn could mean as much as $2,250 per machine and the business establishments could profit by an estimated $15,750 per machine. Up to five machines are allowed for every establishment. Village officials say the attitudes of the businesses and the residents will have a great deal of influence on their decision.

The village attorney, Michael Stillman said there is no deadline for opting out, and that the village could undo whatever choice it decides on. So far, 73 municipalities have chosen to ban video gambling. The League of Women Voters is against the idea of using video gambling to solve the state’s budget problems. “We’re not opposed to video gambling on a moral level — our opposition is based upon a good government position. The use of gaming revenue to fix a gap in the budget is not good government.” Trustee Alex Olejniczak from District 2 said, “We need to weigh all concerns. If this can help businesses in these tough times, we should consider it. Maybe there’s a way to bring it in under a controlled-type setting.”

Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan from District 5 said she finds it hard to decide between helping businesses in her district (“I still have a lot of questions about the financial repercussions of opting out.”) and saving Oak Lawn from the negative effects of gambling (“It’s a huge Catholic community”). Village manager Larry Deetjen is worried about the consequence on the village’s capital funding. He said the state sent a list of capital projects in Oak Lawn, some of which were approved by the board that could be unfavorably affected, should the village decide to ban video gambling. “We will continue to listen to businesses and residents. We still have some time to hear from all sides on the issue,” he said. Deetjen warned that although legislation saying communities that opted out would be excluded from capital funding has been delayed does not mean it won’t be passed.

 

March 21, 2010

Kentucky Supreme Court Rules On Internet Gambling Case

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that owners of Internet gambling sites must turn up in court if they don’t want the state to take control of the domain names and bar the people of Kentucky access to the sites. The owners of the Web sites have remained unidentified, as only Internet gambling associations like the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (IMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council had represented the gambling sites during the legal battle. In 2008, in an attempt to stop illegal Internet gambling, the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear filed a suit in a Franklin Circuit Court against the Web sites. The Circuit Judge ruled the state could seize 141 domain names of Internet gambling sites that the state claimed were illegally taking wagers from gamblers in Kentucky.

Lawyers of the Web sites appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals to prevent the state from taking control of the domain names. The Appeals Court granted their petition, which caused state officials to turn to the Kentucky Supreme Court. The state contended that the gambling associations who stood in for the owners of the sites were not in a legal position to represent them. The justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court, in a 6-0 ruling, said the gambling groups must release the names of the owners of the Web sites they represent. The ruling comes with the chance that even if only one of the domain owners presents himself to the court to confirm legal standing, the case could proceed. The court’s decision failed to tackle a significant but obscure issue, which is, if the state has the legal right to seize domain names operated by companies based outside the state.

The concerned groups say the state is going too far with its authority, but the state claims that the gambling sites are breaking state law by running gambling operations which are illegal in Kentucky. The governor says the untaxed gambling sites are hurting the state’s horse racing industry by unfairly competing with it. Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown said the decision “allows us to continue our efforts to curb illegal Internet gambling."

A lawyer for IMEGA said Thursday the owners of the Web sites will obey the Supreme Court’s ruling. "All of the parties are going to get together and determine how we are going to proceed and comply with this technical issue. I think it is a very, very temporary setback. It's a very unusual decision because it signals an interest in the merits of the case and gives us a road map on how to get back to the Supreme Court quickly.”

The state winning the case could have an impact on Internet freedoms around the world, said the Poker Players Alliance. "There are fundamental freedoms at stake in this case, not only the freedom of poker players in Kentucky and globally, but Internet freedom across the globe. The commonwealth's effort at such a bold, broad and, we believe, unlawful seizure sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who uses the Internet."

 

March 20, 2010

NH Senate Committee Endorses Expanded Gambling Bill To Avert Cuts

The Senate Finance Committee yesterday voted 4-2 for a bill authorizing the expansion of gambling in New Hampshire so as not to cut social services programs to any further extent to close a $140 million deficit in the state budget.Senate Bill 489 would expand and create gaming projects in six locations across the state. Up to 17,000 video slots machines would be allowed in three tracks and three new casinos.

The committee voted 7-0 to reject Senate Bill 519 which calls for a $7 million cut in the Health and Human Services budget. The HHS Department provides services to adults with developmental impairments, abused and neglected children, and to the Catastrophic Illness program that gives payments to those who suffer from six particular diseases including cancer. The House Finance Committee already recommended this week cutting the state budget by $47 million, which included a halt on services to brain-impaired adults that would put more than 200 cases on a waiting list this year. The House will vote on the proposed cuts next week.

HHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas said the cuts will bring down his department’s spending by $14 million. He told the Senate Finance Committee he will have to cut total spending by 8 percent this year and by 17 percent in the fiscal year starting July 1. He said the budget-cutting attempts "will shift the burden to families, communities and the people who need these services." Sen. Kathy Sgambati, D-Tilton said the cuts in Senate Bill 519 "were unacceptable to the committee. They're not options, and are essential to the health and safety of people receiving them." She cautioned that, "we're only at the beginning of the cuts. The next phase will be deeper and more painful."

The gambling bill would require the first $50 million from licensing fee proceeds to be used to fund the shortfall in the HHS budget. The bill would charge the Rockingham Park in Salem and a planned casino at Green Meadow Golf Club in Hudson a license fee of $50 million each and an additional $10 million for each facility if table games are offered. For the Dog tracks at Seabrook and Belmont, the license fee is set at $20 million each, plus the fee for the table games. The North Country casinos would be asked a license fee of $10 million each plus the table game fee. The Senate seems likely to approve the gambling bill, but its future is still uncertain in the House.

Gov. John Lynch is also still unconvinced on expanded gambling. The Gaming Study Commission the governor has created to look closer at the matter will submit its report in May, but the Legislature can vote on the gambling bill before that time.

 

March 19, 2010

Kentucky Instant Racing Bill To Be Revamped

The Kentucky legislation intended to aid the state’s horse industry which passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee last week and appeared to be advancing toward the full Senate was returned to the committee for major alterations. The bill sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer that would authorize Instant Racing at Kentucky racetracks was thought to sail through the Senate, with Republican Senate President David Williams even saying earlier it had bipartisan support. But the Senate obviously has had second thoughts over the measure. Thayer said a revised form being drafted would remove legislative authorization of Instant Racing, but would keep the provision requiring a 1.5 percent tax on gross revenue that would go to purses and funding for breed development.

The new version would leave approval of the legislation to the governor through an executive order or to the Kentucky Horse Racing Committee through new pari-mutuel regulations. Thayer said the bill had to undergo major changes when Senate President Williams had pointed out to him that there has to be some concession in order for the bill to progress. He said the Senate committee will take up the changes Wednesday, and if approved by the committee, the new version of the legislation would be heading to the full Senate later that day. "I believe Instant Racing is another form of pari-mutuel wagering," Thayer said. "Not everybody agrees with me. I've struck a compromise to try to keep the issue moving foward so that we can provide some sustainable and immediate relief for the horse industry."

Instant Racing is a game in which players bet on past horse races without the races being shown to them until wagering is completed. The players would be playing against each other, and not against the house. Thayer said Instant Racing has been doing well in Oaklawn Park in Arkansas where it was first started. Gov. Steve Beshear is a keen supporter of allowing video slot machines at race tracks and has put $780 million in anticipated revenue from slots in his budget proposal this year which was rejected by lawmakers. The governor said he likes the idea of Instant Racing, but he would want to see the bill’s final form before making any comment or decision. He said the horse industry that the state is well known for is in a critical situation, and the bill is recognition of that fact.

Race tracks in other states have started offering expanded gambling. Williams said if the bill passes the Senate, it would not mean the Senate is in favor of expanded gambling. "This will accomplish what the intent of the legislation was, and that is if it (Instant Racing) happens, to put 1.5 percent on it to take care of the purses," Williams said.

 

March 18, 2010

Alabama Supreme Court To Establish Fate Of Task Force After Hearing Arguments From Both Sides

The Alabama Supreme Court is hearing arguments filed by the head of the governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling, John Tyson and the attorneys representing Macon County officials and residents regarding the extent of Tyson’s legal authority. Tyson, who is Mobile County’s District Attorney as well, has been issued a temporary restraining order early this month by Macon County Circuit Judge Tom Young through a civil court case filed by Macon County officials restricting Tyson’s right to act only within Mobile County.

Right after the judge’s ruling, Alabama’s largest casino, VictoryLand in Macon County, reopened and resumed operation of its electronic bingo machines, minus its liquor license. VictoryLand, along with all of Alabama’s gambling halls except the Greenetrack casino in Eutaw had closed to avoid a raid by the task force. Greenetrack continued to operate because it surrendered its liquor license at an earlier time. Having a liquor license means an establishment may be inspected by authorities anytime without a search warrant.

In Gov. Bob Riley’s opinion, electronic bingo machines are slot machines, which are illegal in Alabama. The governor named Tyson commander of the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling which conducted raids on the gambling halls. Last week, Tyson appealed the Circuit Judge’s decision to the Alabama Supreme Court, arguing that a civil court ruling cannot be exercised to impede a criminal investigation into illegal gambling, as was declared by the Supreme Court in an earlier case involving electronic bingo. Macon County officials and residents, through their attorneys, submitted their arguments Monday, saying Tyson does not have the authority to appeal to the Supreme Court because only Alabama’s attorney general can speak for the state before the Alabama Supreme Court. "Our state laws make clear that John Tyson has no authority to represent the State of Alabama," said John Bolton, who represents Macon County.

In a different gambling case, the Alabama Supreme Court threw out a ruling by Circuit Judge Clark Hall in October 2008 which allowed electronic bingo machines in Etowah County. Hall’s ruling came after Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin asked for a declaratory judgment on the applications for permits of two companies, Coosa Entertainment Group and CBS Supply to run electronic bingo games in the county. The Supreme Court ruled that there was no proper court case since there were no two opposing sides. A challenge by the Etowah Baptist Association that opposed electronic bingo was denied by the circuit court.

Before that, Etowah County officials have been informed by the attorney general that electronic bingo machines were not allowed under state law. No casino opened in Etowah.

 

March 17, 2010

Decline In Gambling Revenue Drives States To Expand Gambling

Compared with the other sources of revenue of a state, such as sales and income taxes, gambling has by far fared well during the economic slump. Still, the recession has caused casino players to keep their gambling money under tight control, and an increasing number of gamblers are either visiting casinos less often or are spending a reduced amount of betting money. Thus, gambling being viewed as a more reliable profit generator, more and more states are aiming to expand gaming in their respective regions, rather than raise taxes. This year, to help boost sagging revenues, about 18 states are either enhancing lottery choices or adding table games if not thinking of opening more casinos.

Although states do not want their move to be construed as taking advantage of anyone especially at a time when people are struggling with financial woes, an issue that has been highlighted by gambling detractors, state lawmakers admitted that they are helpless without takings from gambling. "Absolutely, we're addicted to gambling dollars. The current budget couldn't be close to being balanced without that money," said Iowa Republican Rep. Kraig Paulsen who is against any expansion of gambling in his state. Iowa gets about $300 million annually from gambling. Doug Billingsley who runs a counseling center for people with gambling problems in Iowa said there is now a concentrated and overwhelming effort that "makes gambling more enticing, makes people more curious."

Unfortunately, because of the widening budget holes, many states have been compelled to cut funds for problem gamblers which state officials consider less pressing than the budget problem. Records from the American Gaming Association showed that the revenue of the almost 450 non-Indian casinos throughout the country fell from $34 billion to $30.7 billion since 2007. The state’s share of the revenue differs. Of the 18 states considering gambling expansion, Illinois experienced a 14.6 percent drop in gambling revenue and New Hampshire had a 9.7 decrease from 2008-2009. Each state has its own plan and approach to expand gaming. In Iowa, Gov. Chet Culver approved adding four more to the 17 existing casinos in order to create more jobs. In Maryland, around 10,000 slot machines are allowed to be set up in five sites. Pennsylvania has now allowed table games of poker, blackjack, roulette and craps at its slots-only casinos, and is expecting $140 million more in revenue in the fiscal year 2010-11.

New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack is now authorized to have 4,500 video lottery terminals, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut has suggested offering keno in restaurants. Dodge City in Kansas now has table games as well as slots and casinos in Missouri have improved the features of their slot machines. Florida’s lottery has joined Powerball and has installed ticket machines in grocery stores. A gambling expert said that governments justify gambling “as a voluntary tax because nobody has to gamble,” but an analysis showed that all the same, people are lured to it especially when there is a casino close by.

 

March 16, 2010

Delaware Legislature Mulls Adding New Casinos

A bill authored by House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach proposing to open a new casino in Millsboro has set off a stream of propositions from developers to put up casinos at Indian River Inlet, in Wilmington and in Delmar. James Karmel, associate professor of history at Harford community College in Bel Air, Md. said, "It's kind of like a gold rush in Delaware with gaming. The same thing happened in New Jersey 30 years ago. You're going to have lots of ideas coming to the surface, but the question is, are they going to be well thought out and well capitalized?"

For seventeen years, gambling in Delaware which consists of slot machines and sports betting has been confined to the three racetracks- Delaware Park, Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs. In January of this year, the Delaware Senate voted to legalize Atlantic City-style table games like poker, blackjack, craps and roulette at the racetrack slot parlors which will start this spring after the workers that were hired will have completed training. The main issue for lawmakers in the next few weeks is to see whether Delaware needs more casinos.

Schwartzkopf’s proposal is still being debated by the House members, and there is a possibility that the legislators would decide on allowing more than one new casino through a public selection process. However, the legislation could encounter opposition once it advances to the Senate, as there are more lawmakers in that chamber who believe that the opening of more casinos could bring harm to the three slot parlors. The fate of the bill will be known in the coming weeks, before the lawmakers go on a two-week Easter break. It will then move on to the Senate once it obtains the 21 votes required to pass it in the House. And if the Senate decides to approve the legislation, the debates will then shift to the question of where to put the casinos as several developers have already different proposals for the casinos’ sites.

Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere refuses to give her judgment on the bill until it gets to the Senate. "That's an issue that is too much in flux to comment from the Senate side until the House has passed something. I think something will come over to the Senate; I just don't know what form it's going to take."

 

March 15, 2010

Gambling Grants To Charities Slashed

The government of British Columbia is cutting its gambling grants to social service agencies and other non-profit community groups as part of the province’s extensive efforts to reduce spending because of a slump in the economy, coupled with a $1.7 billion budget deficit resulting from a drop in revenues. The grants are taken from the casino, gambling and lottery revenue of more than $1.1 billion a year. The Together Against Poverty Society is one of the organizations in Greater Victoria which was informed this week that the annual $65,000 gambling grant used to fund the Tenancy Advocacy Project will be stopped. The program which saw to more than a thousand people’s cases last year helps low-income renters by providing them information about their rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Act, assists renters in conferring with landlords, and speaks for renters in hearings to resolve arguments and disagreements.

In short, TAPS helps keep low-income renters in their homes, and the program’s supporters are worried that the cut in gambling grants will see a rise in the number of people with no homes, and will terribly affect the helpless. TAPS executive director Kelly Newhook said that because of the program, there are fewer homeless people, and now, she laments, low-income people who have legal problems have nowhere and no one to seek and appeal for help. "It seems this government is successfully silencing the most vulnerable in our communities." Newhook said most of the recent cuts are causing vital services for people with serious problems to be discontinued. "I really think government has dropped the ball," she said. "What angers me is that TAPS actually fits the government's criteria for these gambling grants perfectly. We are a human and social service agency, we support low-income and disabled British Columbians and we provide support to individuals and families at risk of losing their housing," said Joan McHardy, TAPS board president.

TAPS will try to get financial help from the Law Foundation funding used for other TAPS projects, so it can carry on with the program. Rev. Al Tysick, executive director of Our Place, and chairman of an umbrella group for Victoria’s social services agencies, the Downtown Service Providers, said, "For low-income people, many of whom have literacy and other challenges, this service is vital and often made the difference between being housed and being homeless. We will inevitably see more people requiring access to our already overburdened services," he said. The gambling grants for charities, arts groups and non-profits are being reduced by $36 million, which means the more than 6,000 organizations will have to apportion the slashed gambling grant of $120 million this year.

Renee Ahmadi of the Action Committee of People with Disabilities said people are also having a hard time contacting provincial government offices, and callers are oftentimes asked to wait for hours or the phone lines return to a dial tone. "People are panicking because they don't know how these changes are going to affect them and they can't talk to a human being," she said.

 

March 14, 2010

Kentucky Senate Tackles Electronic Gambling Bill

A bill that was approved by a Senate committee allowing racetracks in Kentucky to offer electronic gambling machines is expected to pass the Senate with bipartisan support on Tuesday. The bill aims to help the state’s financially-ailing horse racing industry raise millions of dollars for its purses by authorizing the eight existing race tracks to operate “Instant Racing” machines that allow players to bet on previously run horse races that are not shown to bettors until the wagering is done.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican Senator Damon Thayer, who is a former director of marketing for the Breeder’s Cup, said the legislation will not generate any new revenue for the state’s General Fund, but is intended purely to support the problem-ridden race tracks. Horse racing and the lottery are the only gambling allowed in Kentucky. Attorney General Jack Conway said, in his opinion there is no need for a constitutional amendment to allow the machines, as these devices offer “games of skill”, and therefore, do not violate any state law on gambling.

The slot-like electronic instant racing machines were first used at Oaklawn Park, a Thoroughbred track in Arkansas where a 1 percent tax in 2009 generated $1.9 million for the purses. Thayer’s legislation puts a 1.5 percent tax on all bets made by Kentucky residents on Kentucky races through advance-deposit wagering providers. The bill would also eliminate the current two-tier pari-mutuel tax of 1.5 and 3.5 percent based on a track’s level of ontrack handle, and all eight tracks would now pay the same pari-mutuel tax rate of 1.5 percent.

The bill provides that 81.5 percent of all the money wagered be given back to bettors in the form of winnings. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund or Kentucky Standardbred Development Fund will get 1.5 percent of the handle, and the remaining 17 percent would be kept by the racetracks. If the bill is approved in the Senate, it will then go to the House for passage. The executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, David Switzer said the state’s horse racing industry will “let the bill move forward” as a slot machine legislation is not possible this legislative session. "It's a step in the right direction, and right now we're having to take baby steps. We don't think any video-lottery terminal or slot-machine legislation is possible this year, so we have to take what we can get."

Sen. Thayer said, “I do think it will provide some help and a great deal of hope for the horse industry. We need to remain the horse capital of the world and I think this is a very good plan that will help us do that.”

 

March 13, 2010

Prince George’s County Anticipates Arrival Of Its First Casino

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s and Calvert counties is pushing for a Senate bill authorizing the establishment of a casino at the Rosecroft Raceway site in Prince George’s County. The Miller family built Rosecroft in the 1940s. If approved, Prince George’s County would be the first to offer casino games in the state, which are, at present, illegal in Maryland. On Thursday, Miller told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, "We're not talking about a casino, we're just talking about a card game. We should have moved forward on this six years ago. Everybody here knows that, and we didn't for the wrong reasons," he said.

In 2007 Maryland voters approved 15,000 slot machines at five locations, but thus far, only three sites have obtained licenses, and not one has opened. Due to strong resistance from county lawmakers, Prince George’s County is not one of the five slot locations. Findings in a study made by a leisure and hospitality consulting firm the Innovation Group showed the state would spend $51 million for the race track’s renovation project and $30 million for the construction of a casino. The study also said the first year of casino gambling would yield around $258 million in gross revenue.

House Speaker Michael Busch, though, said he wants to see the state’s slots program functioning first before embarking on any expansion of gambling. But, Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, who is the bill’s co-sponsor, said table games would protect 200 jobs and create 400 more at the ailing raceway. The Innovation Group said at least 1,500 workers will benefit from the casino. Muse is also concerned about the expansion of gambling in the surrounding states of Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. "Frankly I do not support slots, but people have spoken overwhelmingly in Prince George's County and -- to the extent of 62 percent -- have said gaming of some sort is how we choose to spend our entertainment dollars,” said Muse. “As all of our neighboring states begin to implement cards and table games, we shouldn't be behind the learning curve again. By waiting we are only putting more people out of work and falling further behind our neighboring states."

Republican Senator Donald F. Munson of Washington County recommended the establishment of more casinos in other areas of the state. “If we can do it in Prince George’s County, why not in the rest of the state,” he asked. Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson who is against gambling in the county said he will study the bill. The previous owner of Rosecroft Mark Vogel said he wants to repurchase the raceway. He said that in the 1980s when business at Rosecroft was at its peak, the raceway produced around $400,000 a night.

Rosecroft Raceway is 14 miles from the White House and about a mile from the North Harbor complex.

 

March 12, 2010

Belarus Develops Concept To Enhance Gambling Industry

The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko approved a new development plan Tuesday to improve the country’s gambling industry, which many analysts say is an effort to attract visitors and money from its neighbors as a way to solve its recession woes. “If approached wisely, the gambling industry can become an additional source of revenue for the national budget through taxes. The industry can create new jobs and attract tourists and investments to our country,” the president was quoted as saying. The move is also perfectly timed to take advantage of Russia’s gambling restrictions and Ukraine’s temporary ban on casinos. “We have every opportunity to gain a leading position in this sensitive sphere against a background of the changes in the Russian and Ukrainian legislation," Lukashenko said.

The new concept involves having a monitoring center that will closely oversee casinos and other gaming places all over the country. It will also decentralize the Belarusian gambling industry, and with the use of advanced technology, will ensure the security of the players and financial transparency of the gambling establishments. President Lukashenko said the corruption that is happening in the gambling business of Russia and Ukraine could be prevented by having a well-planned and properly regulated system. He said casinos in Russia and Ukraine have been taken over by different criminal groups because the governments have not been as watchful as necessary, and that is why the two countries were compelled to enforce tougher gambling rules.

"Everything will be fine here if those who are responsible for controlling this type of activity, civil servants, do not get mixed up in it thereby destroying and criminalizing it," Lukashenko said. In July 2009 Russia ordered all casinos shut down and allowed gambling activities only in four specially designated zones in the remote areas of Kaliningrad, Altai Territory in south Siberia, Primorye in the Far East and in southern Russia. The parliament of Ukraine issued a temporary ban on casinos in June 2009 after a fire destroyed a casino in Dnepropetrovsk, southeast of Kiev, injured 11 and killed nine people. The ban has remained until this time because no move has been undertaken to create a law defining the rules that would regulate the gambling industry in Ukraine.

Casino gambling is the main form of gambling in Belarus, which is largely concentrated in the capital city of Minsk. There are also lotteries, both national and local, but online gambling is prohibited in the country.

 

March 11, 2010

San Jose Council Approves Putting Gambling Expansion Measure On June Ballot

The City Council voted Tuesday 6-5 to include in the June ballot a measure that would expand gambling at the city’s two card clubs as well as higher taxes for the card rooms, that is expected to increase the cash-strapped city’s income by $3.6 million to $5.25 million. Two years ago, the same ballot proposal with a bit higher card room tax was rejected by the council. The measure would increase the city’s tax on the two card clubs, Bay 101 and Garden City Casino from 13 percent to 15 percent, and, as a conciliatory effort, would also authorize each of the two clubs to add 9 tables to their existing 40, or an expansion of nearly 25 percent. The $200 betting limit would also be removed along with the maximum number of 21 approved games.

Under the present situation where the city’s budget deficit has widened to as much as $116.2 million, city officials are worried that many government workers would be laid off and some public services would be cut back. There is also the nagging concern over the possibility of the card clubs transferring out of town due to the city’s restrictive regulations, thus jeopardizing the revenues they contribute to the city. The two card clubs, in order for them to remain in the city, have asked state lawmakers for a legislation that would revoke the regulations, making their businesses more competitive and profitable.

Last fall, city officials asked state lawmakers to delay the bills while they devise a course of action with the clubs. But City Manager Debra Figone said if the city’s efforts are not enough to gratify the clubs, the bills will have to be filed. "It has become clear Sacramento legislators are watching," Figone said. "It has become very clear that other cities are very eager to welcome the city's card rooms and related revenue." Councilwoman Rose Herrera added: "We all need to ask ourselves, if they did move, where would we come up with that revenue? I don't think we should take the opportunity away from the voters to make this important decision." Mayor Chuck Reed said that the anticipated additional revenues from the card club may not be a big amount, but it is "significant in this budget cycle." Reed mentioned the fact that the two card clubs’ annual revenue of $13 million is more than those generated by all the car dealerships in the city. "I'm very interested in maintaining those revenues. It's a lot of jobs if we were to lose those revenues," Reed said.

The five council members who voted against the proposal argued on the issue of crime and other negative social effects resulting from uncontrollable gambling. A survey has shown that 64 percent of those asked were in favor of the gambling measure. A twenty five-cent increase in the sales tax is also being considered by the city council for the November ballot.

 

March 10, 2010

North Shore Lawmakers Partial To Gambling Proposal

The plan of House Speaker Robert DeLeo to allow two casinos in Massachusetts and add slots at the race tracks is welcomed by North Shore representatives. Although the site of the casinos is still unspecified, some possible locations have been suggested, like Boston, the New Bedford area, and the town of Palmer in Springfield. State Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, who is chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, said the expansion of gambling would create jobs as well as provide revenue for Massachusetts. He also wishes to see some amount from the revenue put into the regional tourism councils to help in promoting Massachusetts tourist attractions. "It could be a good economic boost, especially in this recession that just isn't going away."

DeLeo’s bill will also propose to put aside some amount for the treatment of gambling addiction. "It's going to impact a certain percentage of people. We have to be aware of that upfront and address it upfront," Keenan said. Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers is also in favor of DeLeo’s idea, and said that how the state handles the financial transactions with the casino owners is crucial to the success of the plan. "How we make that arrangement will be the judge of whether we do a good job. We have to ensure that what comes back to the commonwealth in revenue is appropriate and we're not just making a few people wealthy."

Speliotis also said that gambling is now socially acceptable. "Go into any senior center and you know that the debate is over. The stigma is pretty much gone." But Gov. Deval Patrick is opposed to putting slots at racetracks, including Suffolk Downs which is located in DeLeo’s district. Patrick said only a few jobs can be created by slots and they could get in the way in the development of resort casinos. Keenan agreed that slots would take a shorter time to implement, and they generate revenues more quickly. Democratic Representative Joyce Spiliotis of Peabody is also endorsing slots and doubts the viability of the two casinos. "I just don't know if, in this economy, we can sustain two casinos at this point," she said.

Rep. Mary Grant, D-Beverly said she does not like the possible effects of gambling on people, like addiction, and the added responsibility it will impose on the police force in seeing to the safety of the public. Grant is also looking at the casinos’ possible effect on the state’s lottery, which is the towns’ major source of revenue, but said she is keeping an open mind. "We can't put ourselves in the position where less revenue is available for cities and towns. I don't love doing this for economic development, but I'm willing to consider the proposal depending on what it looks like," she said. Speliotis and Keenan suggest a casino at Suffolk Downs because it is near Boston and Logan Airport. But Spiliotis said she would not recommend it because of the heavy traffic it would create, making it difficult for North Shore residents going to and from the airport.

 

March 9, 2010

New Gambling Deal For Seminoles From Senate With A Challenge To Take It Or Leave It

Last May, Florida Senators finalized legislation allowing for a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, but was changed by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminoles, going beyond the parameters set by the legislators, causing the plan to be held up in the Legislature. Now the Florida Senate has offered the Seminole Tribe a new gambling deal which comes with a challenge for Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe to take the deal or leave it. Similar to last year’s proposal, the new Senate bill also stipulates that in exchange for at least $150 million a year, blackjack would be allowed at the tribe’s four of its seven casinos, which in last year’s version was changed by the governor and the tribe to include all seven casinos, in effect blocking the pari-mutuels from offering casino games for 20 years.

But a language has been added by the Senate on the new bill that would prohibit alterations to be made, stating, "the governor is not authorized to negotiate or execute a compact that has any provision that is inconsistent with, or differs from, the terms and standards for a compact as set forth in this" bill. "We sent them a piece of legislation and they arbitrarily made a bunch of changes," said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees gambling. "As far as I know, we write the legislation. This doesn't give them an open book to redo it." But the tribe’s lawyer, Barry Richard said Saturday the new Senate bill does not worry him, confident that it could change once the Seminoles arrive at an agreement with the legislators.

Representatives of the tribe have been negotiating with the members of the House, and Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton has admitted there is progress in the talks, and a deal is very likely to be reached. Also in the Senate bill are changes that would aid the pari-mutuels on their gaming activity, and help them compete with the Seminole tribe’s casinos, like lower tax on voter-authorized slot machines, and extended gaming hours and betting limits for poker rooms. These terms would be effective even without concurrence and consent from the Seminoles. The Senate will have a hearing on the legislation on Wednesday, but a vote will be done at a later date.

 

March 8, 2010

Raynham Dog Track Welcomes DeLeo’s Slots Proposal

When House Speaker DeLeo, D-Winthrop announced in a speech Thursday before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that he is going to file a bill late this month endorsing for two resort casinos and for the state’s four race tracks to be transformed into slot machine, the news was hailed by gambling proponents. In Raynham, state and local officials welcomed the idea of slots at Raynham Park, which ended its 70 years of live dog racing in December. Following a ban on dog racing, Massachusetts’ two greyhound tracks, as well as the two horse racing tracks are now only offering simulcast racing, and are in serious financial straits. “It’s an initial victory for us,” said Joseph Pacheco, a Raynham selectman, who is also a community liaison for Rep. David Flynn, D-Bridgewater. Flynn has filed a number of bills proposing for slots at Raynham Park.

The lottery, the state’s other form of gambling, whose revenues supply badly needed cash to towns and cities, is also feeling the pinch. Gov. Deval Patrick has also showed his backing for resort casinos, but a bill pushing for three destination-style casinos was rejected in 2008 under former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi. However, Patrick is against slot machines, and after DeLeo’s speech, the governor again put forth his reservations over slot parlors, saying, “I don’t think it creates jobs.” Patrick is more in favor of casinos that have non-gambling amenities like hotel, restaurants and entertainment that promote business activity.

Democratic State Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton supports the proposal for three resort casinos and slots at the four racetracks plus one at the Logan airport. He said the upshots which any big business establishment is always expected to have will be attended to. “Any time you have new growth and new jobs you have other issues that are a part of it,” he said. Casinofacts.com president Frank Dunphy says that if two resort casinos are allowed, he believes at least six Indian tribes will be also be interested to open casinos in the state. “It would be wide open.” He is also seeing the revival of the anti-casino struggle fired up by the proposed Middleboro casino.

The Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), whose concern is the traffic and environmental consequences, and not the moral and social outcomes of gambling, says it will examine the impacts of any significant development in the area. “Our position has been and will continue to be [that] regional representatives should have a seat at the table,” said its executive director Steven Smith. Kathleen Norbut, head of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts said, “It’s bad fiscal policy, it’s bad public policy. Only the developers and investors win.”

 

March 7, 2010

VictoryLand Sans Liquor License Reopens After A No-Raid Court Order

Victoryland, Alabama’s largest casino, with 6,400 electronic bingo machines, went back to business Friday, after it closed its entire facility Feb. 4 to avoid a raid by the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Governor Bob Riley deems the machines to be nothing more than slot machines, which are illegal in the state. Alabama’s more than 30 casinos have all shut down, except the Greenetrack casino in Eutaw. VictoryLand in Shorter Town in Macon County reopened after it surrendered its liquor license and following a court order from a judge that prevented any raid by the governor’s task force. A day prior to its reopening, the Macon County sheriff and district attorney watched a gambling engineering expert play a demonstration of the games and affirmed their legality.

VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor gave up the facility’s liquor license so as not to be raided by the task force without a search warrant, because state law authorizes law enforcement officers to check establishments with liquor licenses any time without a warrant. The Greenetrack in Eutaw, the only other gambling hall that has continued to operate has surrendered its liquor license early on. Three Indian-run casinos have remained open as the state has no jurisdiction over them. "You've got to have a search warrant or a court order to come out here legally now. Otherwise you are breaking the law," McGregor said.

John Tyson, Mobile County’s district attorney and head of the task force said the raiding team would visit the casino one of these days. "If they are not legal, you can count on us to enforce the law," Tyson warned. But Circuit Judge Tom Young of Alexander City who has authority over Macon County, issued a temporary restraining order restricting Tyson’s right to act only within Mobile County. Tyson said he will try to get it revoked because "it attempts to provide protection for all of the illegal casinos in Alabama. This order is a poster child for corruption," Tyson said. So far, only VictoryLand has reopened. The two other major casinos, White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County and Country Crossing in Dothan are still closed.

As a result of the casino’s reopening, more than a hundred employees were asked to report back to work. Hundreds more will have their jobs back when the other parts of the entertainment center resume operations later this month. The issue over electronic bingo has caused stress and anxiety in the neighborhoods of poor, black people where local authorities say the casinos have been a source of badly-needed jobs and revenues. As one resident said, "This is just about all Macon County has. Our governmental revenue is already inadequate. Without this facility, it would be much worse."

 

March 6, 2010

DeLeo’s Slots Proposal In Gambling Bill Could Be Casinos’ Stumbling Block

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo is filing a bill this month that would allow two destination casinos and a “limited number of slots” at the four racetracks in the state, including Suffolk Downs and Wonderland which are inhis district. But Gov. Deval Patrick has a contradictory opinion on the idea of slots. “Look, the concern is this: that we’ll get the slots and we won’t get the casinos,” Patrick said. “We need the jobs. The jobs come with casinos.” The differing attitudes of the two state officials on the slots issue may once again cause a setback for the casinos. In 2008, the governor presented his suggestion to authorize three resort casinos to augment the state’s finances, as well as provide jobs for the state’s rising rate of unemployment. The then House Speaker, Salvatore F. DiMasi, a known opponent of expanded gambling, was able to sway enough votes for the proposal to be rejected.

The results of a study the governor commissioned in 2007 bared that three casinos in Massachusetts would yield $450 million a year in state revenue, create 20,000 jobs and stimulate $2 billion in business activity. In the case of Connecticut, the state has been able to collect from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos which give the state 25 percent of slot revenues, $5.2 billion since the 1990s. Gov. Patrick has found an ally in Senate President Therese Murray, who said through her spokesman that she agrees that resort casinos are “the best gambling option to optimize revenues and create permanent jobs.”

Then again, an associate professor at Boston College who has done an analysis on gambling, the Rev. Richard McGowan said the racetracks will go out of business if they are not allowed to offer slots. He said casinos could take years to produce revenue, whereas slots revenue at tracks could turn out much faster and at a shorter time. “Clearly, jobs will be lost if the tracks are denied slot machines. The governor believes casinos would be more of an attraction for people to come to. But just how much economic development occurs with a casino is highly debatable. Jobs are created and lost and most economists think it’s a wash. The real issue is new revenue for the state,” McGowan reasoned.

Kathleen Norbut, president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts said, “The speaker is well-intentioned, but slots create crime, addiction, and drain money from the exact groups of people they are allegedly trying to help. Let’s look at economic development that is sustainable and does not prey on one group of people for the benefit of another and keeps money here rather than shifting wealth out of state to wealthy investors and developers.” She said the claims of economic progress of gambling advocates have been exaggerated.

 

March 5, 2010

State of Bingo Halls In Alabama Uncertain

For more than a month now, nearly all bingo hall operators in Alabama have shut down their facilities to prevent the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling from conducting raids on their establishments. The governor’s task force has maintained that the bingo machines are no different from slot machines which are illegal in the state. The only casino that is still operating is the Greenetrack in Eutaw. And, of course, the three electronic bingo casinos of the Poarch Creek Indians which are not controlled by the state have remained opened. The operators of the closed casinos are hopefully waiting for the approval of two bills which have not yet been dealt with in the Alabama Senate. One bill would authorize most of the gambling halls to resume operations without the threat of raids, and the other bill would have a constitutional amendment to be presented to voters that would allow, tax, and regulate casinos in 10 sites, one of them, VictoryLand in Shorter.

Democratic Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville, who sponsored the proposals, tried to get a full Senate debate on the proposed constitutional amendment bill Wednesday, but was not allowed by the 18-16 votes. Bedford opted to put off proceedings on the other bill. "This issue is over. The minority, the Republicans, have blocked the people's right to vote. They are not going to change," Bedford said. Most of those who voted against Bedford’s move for a debate were Republicans. Republican Gov. Bob Riley, however, believed the proposal was rejected because the senators have seen that the proposed constitutional amendment was a “corrupt bill” that would benefit only the casino operators. "It's about pure, unadulterated corruption and legalizing a no-bid casino monopoly for a few politically connected gambling bosses," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, who opposed the gambling bills said there is no more hope for the issue in this legislative session, but the Rev. Dan Ireland of the Alabama Citizen Action Program, who is also an opponent said, "It is not over by a long shot. There is so much money involved, they are not going to take it sitting down.” On the other hand, Ronnie Gilley, developer of the Country Crossing casino at Dothan and the other bingo proponents say the casinos have given jobs to the people of Alabama, and if allowed to reopen, will provide the state with the much-needed revenues. Gilley, ever optimistic, said, "My hope is we can get a simplified version and get it back in front of them."

Meanwhile, Macon County District Attorney E. Paul Jones said Wednesday he believes the bingo machines at VictoryLand are legal because of a ruling made by the Alabama Supreme Court that said a woman won only less than $2 from VictoryLand instead of the $42 million claimed by the woman. "In Alabama, no court can award a judgment based on illegal activity," he said. Jones plans to seek a court ruling clarifying the status of the machines.

 

March 4, 2010

San Jose Council Look To Gambling Expansion To Help Ease Budget Tension

The city of San Jose is in a grim financial situation. Its budget deficit, made worse by diminishing revenues and rising pension costs, has kept increasing. After nine years of deficits, the city’s budget is now facing a shortfall of $116.2 million. City Manager Debra Figone said pension costs of employees, particularly for firefighters and police officers have risen to $53 million, while business tax collections have dropped. "The news is not good," Figone informed the council. Curtailing of public service is likely to be implemented, like closing down some community centers and a few fire stations, branch libraries to close four days a week, and cutting down police personnel. Seven hundred full-time city workers are also in danger of losing their jobs, and the only way to prevent these drastic moves is to reduce the salaries of city employees. In October when the deficit was estimated at $96 million, Figone was forced to ask labor unions for 5 percent pay cuts.

Last month, when the gap widened to reach $100 million, Figone said the budget cuts for Police and Fire stations could stretch to 7.5 percent, and 35 percent for other departments. Mayor Chuck Reed told city workers they would have to make do with 10-15 percent pay cuts to avoid losing their jobs. The city has thought of one more way of improving the city’s revenue: expand gambling and raise the taxes on the city’s two card clubs. In a narrow 6-5 vote Tuesday, the city council voted to draft a measure for possible inclusion in a June 8 ballot that would allow the two card clubs a 2 percent increase in tax and authorize a 25 percent addition of playing tables and lowering games and betting restrictions. The council still has to approve the plan at its next assembly on March 9 for it to be presented to voters.

If voters pass the measure on June 8, the city’s annual revenues from the card clubs which is currently around $13 million would be up by $3.6 million to $5.25 million. Reed said the council can vote against the proposal next week, if it does not strongly support the card rooms, but doing so would cause the city to lose around $400,000 a month if the council decides to wait until November when another revenue-generating plan of increasing sales tax by 25 cents would be carried out that could yield $30 million. Two years ago, the same proposal was suggested by Reed, but was rejected by council members. Reed’s detractors criticized him for backing expanded gambling because when he ran for mayor, he disapproved of tribal casino gambling. But Reed reasoned the proposal is a necessary evil during a severe fiscal difficulty.

Notwithstanding the city’s budget woes, the card club proposal almost did not make it in the council. The five council members who voted against the measure were concerned about gambling’s detriments to society. Seeking voter approval for a measure would cost the city about $500,000.

 

March 3, 2010

Sands China Net Profit Climbs 22% In 2009

Sands China Ltd., the gambling company that’s 70 percent-owned by Las Vegas Sands said Tuesday its annual net profit for 2009 was up 22 percent, pushed by a strong increase in gambling revenue in Macau, the only place in China where gambling is allowed. According to a filing with Hong Kong’s stock exchange, Sands China, the biggest listed casino operator in Asia, said its net income rose to $213.8 million from$175.7 million in 2008, falling short of Reuter’s consensus estimate of $219.6 million and Bloomberg’s mean estimate of $225 million.The casino company said its net revenue was up 8.1 percent to $3.30 billion from $3.05 billion. Earnings per share climbed to 3.32 U.S. cents from 2.80 U.S. cents. The company said its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and rent (EBITDAR) grew 17.9 percent to $809 million.

The results were the first since the company’s $2.5 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong last November, after which shares in Sands China, Macau’s second largest casino company by revenue next to SJM Holdings Ltd., gained 2.5 percent in Hong Kong trading. Sands said it effectively applied its cost savings scheme, while concentrating on mass gaming, hotel and retail activities. “Our cost savings and efficiency programs remained an important component of our operating strategy throughout 2009. These initiatives will allow us to expand our adjusted EBITDAR margins in the future and will provide enhanced operating leverage in the months and years ahead,” billionaire Sheldon Adelson who is chairman of Sands said.

In a note to clients today, JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts Billy Ng, Steven Li and Joanne Cheung wrote, “We believe Macau gaming is a compelling secular China growth story. We prefer Sands as it has a differentiated strategy, focusing on the mass market, proven execution ability and the most aggressive expansion plans in Macau.” Analysts at JPMorgan Chase gave Sands China an “overweight” rating and estimated its share price at HK$13.50. After going up as much as 2.75 percent in Hong Kong, shares of Sands China dropped 2.4 percent to HK$10.64 at 3:22 p.m. The stock has gone up 12.5 percent this year relative to a 4.4 drop in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Joe Poon said Macau casino operators may see a modest increase in 2010 and, “Competition will continue to be intense. Revenues at existing casinos may decline while new resorts gain a hold in the market,” he said. Last year’s gambling revenue in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling center, increased 9.7 percent to a record $15 billion.

 

March 2, 2010

Florida Legislators To Begin Again Discussion On Gambling Compact

Lawmakers in Florida will once again take up the issue of a gambling compact with the Seminole tribe.The tribe, despite a 2008 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court invalidating the agreement between the state and the tribe that allowed table games at the tribe’s casino, continues to offer blackjack and other table games, and has maintained its $12 million monthly payment to the state. According to federal law, for the tribe to be able to run table games, it should have a gambling compact with the state. Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminoles reached another gambling agreement last year, but was not approved by a House committee because it did not follow the restrictions outlined by lawmakers. And now, after almost three years of not interfering in the state’s gambling affairs, the federal government, through its agency that controls tribal casinos, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) has said it will settle the table games dispute by making a decision to either stop or permit the casino games.

Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, chairman of the Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review said, “There is a heightened level of involvement and diligence occurring on the part of the federal government.” Recently, Florida’s seven pari-mutuels were allowed by the state Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering to offer electronic or virtual slot machine-like blackjack games. Dan Adkins, head of Mardi Gras, a pari-mutuel, hailed the decision, saying it “allowed the seven facilities to be what voters thought they were voting for.” Florida lawmakers have approved a measure lowering the tax rate on slot machines at pari-mutuels from 50 percent to 35 percent and allowed pari-mutuels to offer gaming hours that could compete with those at tribal casinos, but only to commence once a successful compact between the state and the Seminoles is accomplished. However, to assist pari-mutuels in their fight against the competing tribe, the lawmakers could possibly allow the proposal even without a compact.

Galvano is hoping that with the added competition and with the federal government making its presence felt, the tribe will be more willing to agree to a deal that will not hurt the state’s horse and dog racing industry. He wants the NIGC to close down the tribe’s table games and to ask for a higher incentive from the tribe when crafting a new compact. Gov. Crist who strongly backed the tribe during the past negotiations is positive the disagreement will be addressed within a short time. He believes that most likely there will be more aid demanded for the pari-mutuels in the following sessions of talks for a new compact. “I think we'll probably end up with some sort of hybrid. . . . The pari-mutuel industry is very strong and powerful in this state and in this Capitol,'' he said.

Meanwhile, as the showdown between the tribe and the pari-mutuels continue, other gambling proposals are being pushed in Florida, such as the legalization of in-state online poker, and the possibility of resort-style casinos being considered by gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands.

 

March 1, 2010

Legislators Looking At Legalizing Online Poker In Iowa

Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers are considering a legislation legalizing online gambling in Iowa. Although the bill is still being drafted, if it passes and becomes a law, online poker in the state could begin as early as next year, and Iowa would become the first state in the United States to allow legal online gambling within its borders. Since federal law does not allow some forms of gambling between states, gamblers playing online poker on a computer would have to use an Internet address in Iowa. Players would have to go to Iowa casinos to make a deposit of between $50 and $500 into a special account. And since federal law bans the use of credit cards and other bank transactions to place bets and collect winnings, players have to use cash or debit cards for their deposits. After that, players can go home and access their account from a computer and can then start playing poker online. They would have to go back to the casinos to replenish their deposits or to collect their winnings.

An instructor of management information systems at Iowa University said that there is now a technology that can block players from outside the state from using prepaid accounts and going against the state’s gambling law. Presently, there are around 50,000 Iowans who gamble online illegally, oftentimes using off-shore sites and lawmakers are saying why not regulate online gambling and make it legal, thereby protecting the thousands of online gamblers, at the same time bringing in additional revenue for the state. "Here's an opportunity for $11.5 million a year for an activity that's already going on in the state where Iowans have exposed themselves to significant risks," said State Representative Doug Struyk, R- Council Bluffs.

All the money spent by Iowan gamblers would be coursed through the casinos and stay within the state, and some cities may even get a share of revenues. But there are those who are against the proposal. Residents fear that legalizing online poker could worsen the cases of people who already have gambling-related problems. "I think there would have to definitely be a lot of regulation with something like that. It would definitely lend itself to addiction more easily than something like a riverboat casino," said one local. Another resident said, "I do know somebody who has developed an online gambling problem, doesn't need to leave the house to go to the casino. It's so easy to just click, click, click and then there's a problem." But the president of the Iowa Gaming Association, Wes Ehrecke said most Iowans are responsible gamblers, and regard gambling as a leisure activity. He said the average amount a person wagered at casinos is between $50 and $70.

 

February 28, 2010

Two Michigan Groups Collecting Signatures To Add Gambling Issues To November Ballot

Two groups in the state of Michigan are backing a major expansion of casinos and are pushing for the measures to be put on the ballot in November. On Friday, the two groups’ petitions were given approval by the Board of State Canvassers. Both measures call for an amendment to the state’s constitution and would need to collect 380,126 certified signatures. One group, called Michigan Is Yours, is proposing for a measure authorizing the state’s Gaming Control Board to allow seven more new casinos to be placed in Detroit, Romulus, Lansing, Benton Harbor, Muskegon, Flint and at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The group’s petition form specifies that a 19 percent wagering tax would be charged on the casinos’ adjusted gross receipts, and the distribution of the tax revenue would be as follows: 38 percent of the tax revenue would provide funding for the state’s Michigan Promise scholarship program, 20 percent would be used for the state’s Pure Michigan national tourism advertising campaign, 20 percent would go into to the state’s School Aid Fund to subsidize K-12 education, 20 percent would be for the local government units under which the casinos belong, and 2 percent would go to the counties where the casinos are situated.

The second group, Racing to Save Michigan, whose head, Daniel Adkins, is vice-president and COO of Hazel Park Harness Raceway, is pushing for licenses for eight new casinos, and five of those would be at horse racing tracks. Under this group’s petition form, a wagering tax of 30 percent would be imposed on the casinos’ adjusted gross receipts. Of the total tax revenue, the group proposes that 75 percent would go into a state fund to be used to support several objectives, such as, economic development, job creation and job training, public education, tax reduction, scholarship grants for Michigan students’ college education program, rehabilitation of compulsive gamblers, and programs supporting horse breeding and racing. The state would get 20 percent to be handed out to counties, depending on their populations, 3 percent would go straight to a county where a casino is located, and 2 percent would be for the local city, town or village.

The deadline for the submission of signatures is July 5, 2010. Although the state’s gambling industry is facing increased competition from the surrounding states, Michigan’s existing casinos have opposed the measures, as the expansion of casinos would be a threat to their businesses. However, the legislators are quite receptive to the idea because it would provide job opportunities in a state harshly hit by unemployment and millions of dollars for the state’s coffers.

 

February 27, 2010

Foxwoods Casino To Be Under Helm Of Wynn

Wynn Resorts has signed a letter of intent baring the terms and conditions for taking over the long-overdue Foxwoods Casino project on South Columbus Boulevard. The original investors, a local group known as the Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners, together with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, succeeded in getting a casino license in 2006, with the tribe originally agreeing to develop, finance and manage the facility. The project was stalled after the tribe encountered serious financial trouble last year. The chairman of Wynn Resorts, Stephen A. Wynn will take the helm as the managing general partner, controlling a majority stake in the project, with the local investors and the tribe still holding shares, albeit reduced. If approved by the Philadelphia Gaming Control Board, Wynn will assume the job of financing, building and running the Foxwoods project.

Wynn’s stepping in comes just as the state’s gaming regulators are imposing penalties on the local investors and could possibly cancel their license for repeatedly failing to submit financing and design requirements to the board. The investors have been trying to find a new partner who can provide not only funding but also expertise to the project. During a conference call with stock analysts, Wynn talked openly for the first time about his plans for the Foxwoods casino.

He said he had devoted the past several weeks devising plans and details for the project. It would “be the cutest casino you have ever seen,” he revealed. He said he would not build a hotel, as what he has in mind is not for a “destination resort,” but for a “straightforward casino,” and would not cost the company an “earthshaking number,” he said. He said it would be a one-level casino, with two or three floors of parking space on both sides, and that the structure “will not look like slots in a box.”. "I'm happy to say we're feeling very good about it. It will have all the bells and whistles of a good-looking casino." The facility will hold 3,000 slot machines, table games, a poker room, and a steak house. He said he is excited that the area is within the Italian and Vietnamese neighborhoods, so he is going to put in a Vietnamese and Italian restaurant for them. He said the neighborhood is "all full of my old friends - the Italians and Jews and every conceivable type of ethnic group that likes to play craps and gamble - and they're only 10 minutes away."

The 67-year old entrepreneur said his business connections in Philadelphia could be an advantage to his high-end properties like the Mirage, Bellagio, and Treasure Island in Las Vegas. The gambling mogul also said he is very much familiar with the region, since he operated the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City from 1980-87. "We dominated the Atlantic City market. We love the South Jersey market and we like Philadelphia." Wynn said he looks forward to be "out of the box as quickly as we can” if the state’s gaming board approves his plan.

 

February 26, 2010

Proposal To Relocate Riverboat Casinos Defeated In Indiana House

The 57-42 vote on Tuesday in the Indiana House against authorizing riverboat casinos to move inland was a major defeat for the proposal. It would have allowed those casinos in Lake County in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond to build on nearby tracts of land in order for the state’s gambling industry to be able to cope with the mounting competition from the surrounding states. Proponents of the issue have emphasized the importance of land-based casinos to maintain the almost $900 million in revenue that the facilities provide the state. Gambling ranks the third-biggest revenue generator in the state after sales and income taxes. Ohio would soon be having casinos in two years, and so could Kentucky’s horse tracks. Michigan’s two Indian casinos have opened and another one is being completed.

An impartial study by the Legislative Services Agency showed that 35 percent or $275 million could be lost by Indiana because of competition. “For two decades, we've enjoyed a relative monopoly in the region," said Rep. Matt Bell, R-Avilla. "It's important that our policy shift address the policies of a new generation, because the fact is this industry is a part of Indiana, and we have a responsibility to talk about the revenue streams that mean so much to our state." Bell was among the 6 Republicans and 36 Democrats who voted in favor of the bill. The idea was proposed by Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis to amend Senate Bill 405 which aims to eliminate navigational systems and crew requirements for riverboat casinos, thereby granting casino operators up to $2 million in savings per year. Crawford and Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary reasoned the amendment would bring the much-needed jobs and economic relief to Gary. "Gary is a distressed area for all practical purposes. Gary, Indiana, is in dire need of economic development and additional revenue," Brown stressed.

Two severely affected casinos are on Lake Michigan in Gary, which could have been allowed to merge and move as one facility to a much better site on 1-80/94. The defeat also meant the issue won’t be taken up again in this year’s legislative session. "I think it's pretty clear that won't happen this year. So be it,” said House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, who voted for the proposal and had expected more from the Republicans. The 15 Democrats and 42 Republicans who voted against the idea argued that it would only cause gaming expansion to broaden. "It's a march that won't be done until there are slot machines in the kindergarten rooms," said House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "The only item we've said no to so far are land-based casinos. When we're the third-most reliant state in the union on gaming revenues, the question is, how deep can we go? This one, for me, is too far."

Republican Mike Murphy of Indianapolis dubbed it a “game of incrementalism” wherein gambling would eventually rule over the day to day living of the citizens. "Pretty soon, we will have slot machines in the nursing homes," Murphy said, "and they'll wheel one up next to your bed and you'll be able to use your Medicaid match as your money."

 

February 25, 2010

Ontario Likely To Adopt Internet Gambling

The new chairman of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Paul Godfrey announced Friday upon assuming his post that Ontario will think about taking on Internet gambling because revenue is gradually disappearing from the province’s coffers. "When you see what's going on in British Columbia, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces . . . it's something I would explore. Money is going out of this province to other provinces as well as offshore sites," Godfrey said. A few weeks ago, Loto-Quebec declared it will start its online poker and sports betting in September and will work with the lotteries of Atlantic Canada and British Columbia in creating the Web site, anticipating to earn $50 million by 2012 and expecting to neutralize the large number of illegal Web sites that are already in operation.

Ontario gets about $1.9 billion from its lottery corporation each year. Premier Dalton McGuinty seconded the lottery corporation’s proposal when he told reporters Tuesday a state-run Internet gambling is being considered by the province of Ontario. "I would want to talk to the minister about that. I think we've got to make a call on that . . . It's not something we can avoid," he said. McGuinty, who has opposed the accessibility of liquor to protect children, said the matter of Internet gambling is not similar to the corner-store liquor sales issue because, according to him, “the difference is we can control whether or not there is corner store sales for beer or wine. Internet gambling is taking place. It's already there. The issue is what do we want to do in the face of that."

However, there are those who oppose the move. Provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath said, "We have problem gambling situations in this province that we're not dealing with. At this point I don't think there's any necessity to expand into Internet gambling." " Dr. Jeff Derevensky, co-founder of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High Risk Behaviors at McGill University said, “It's our governments that are the most addicted to gambling. They're addicted to the revenue. There is no great social consciousness. This is a money-making operation, that's quite clear."

 

February 24, 2010

Baccarat Helps Boost Nevada’s Revenue

The recession has seen many casino games, including the most popular, become less dynamic and profitable. It’s no longer slots and blackjack that bring the most pleasure, excitement and profit to a casino. Currently, it’s baccarat, a high-end game that has turned out to be actively and profitably successful. Baccarat wagering hit a record $1.3 billion in December, the highest in the history of Nevada. An elite crowd of high rollers are the game’s regular players. The game is offered by a few casinos on and close to the Strip. Being a high stakes game, not all facilities are offering the game, as most casinos’ bottom line cannot afford the millions of dollars that a baccarat player could win in a single hit.

Baccarat revenue is a big relief for the cash-strapped state. However, many casinos in Nevada, as well as those on the Strip, that do not offer the high roller game have continued to see a decline in gambling revenues. Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip that provide the game won $155.7 million from it in December beating revenue and wagering amounts recorded in December 2007 when the peak in tourism was at its final stage, even overtaking revenues of slots and blackjack whose revenues have fallen back to 2003-04 level. In 2009, only the months of November and December have seen a year-over-year rise in gaming revenue on the Strip. Overall gambling revenue would have declined 5-6 percent in those months if not for baccarat.

The boost in baccarat play is mostly credited to MGM Mirage’s $8.5 billion CityCenter, an expensive and sophisticated complex that opened in December with the spectacular Aria Casino and Resort as its central feature. Two weeks after its opening, Aria yielded gambling revenue of around $56 million, and of that, more than $42 million was from baccarat. And because Aria had 21 baccarat tables, it could be estimated that each table made $2 million in revenue in two weeks. Huge crowds gathered at CityCenter for this year’s Chinese New Year, composed mostly of wealthy Chinese and Asians, many of whom came to Las Vegas for the first time to see the renowned casino. As a result, credit lines and front money that assist high stakes gambling are also on the rise compared to last year.

Analysts believe that although it may seem that Aria is taking business away from other facilities on the Strip, it is also bringing in more high-end business to the city. “This speaks very well to continued (baccarat) demand at all properties, not just CityCenter,” said Grant Govertsen from Union Gaming Group. “There’s no doubt CityCenter is cannibalizing business. But perhaps they are cannibalizing business less than investors expected.”

 

February 23, 2010

Maryland Commission Endorses Changes To Slots Law

The Video Lottery Facility Location Commission is proposing to lawmakers extensive changes to be considered in the gambling law from a 2008 referendum that allowed slot machines at five locations across Maryland. The commission says these changes could bring about added revenue. The commission, whose seven members are appointed by the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker, is authorized to issue gambling licenses for slot machine sites, and can make recommendation to state legislators regarding likely changes.

On Feb 11, Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry wrote a letter to the leaders of the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley pushing for a number of changes in the gaming law, thus, “While the state was very fortunate to receive proposals from several financially viable companies for the licenses awarded to date, the general economic downturn has significantly impacted the financial condition of gaming companies. In light of the current economic situation of many gambling companies … the General Assembly may wish to review the statute prohibiting a business entity from holding more than one license. … These changes could provide additional flexibility for the receipt of proposals for the Baltimore City and Allegany County locations.”

Aside from asking legislators to consider allowing a gaming company in the state to own more than one casino license, the commission also suggested giving a new scope to “ownership” in one of the casinos, which would adjust the stake holding from the 10 percent share currently allowed by law to 5 percent. The commission said this would enable the state to do a full background check of the companies who want to bid for the operation of the casinos. The commission also requested for a change that would no longer entail the venture’s institutional investors to give specific facts on their finances when filing with the commission. The letter also raised the suggestions which were first presented by state delegates from Western Maryland during a prior meeting with the commission which asked the state to oblige the company filing for a casino license to buy the state-owned Rocky Gap Lodge located near the border of West Virginia. Another proposition is to allow a temporary venue for slots at the lodge pending completion of the casino.

Another proposal submitted by the delegates is for a change to lower the state’s share of revenue by half. The existing law says 67 percent of gross gaming revenues should go to the state. The commission, although not agreeing to this last proposal, endorsed all the other suggestions of the delegates, and wrote, “While the commission does not suggest a change in the operator share of the revenues at this time, a statutory change allowing VLT’s in the lodge temporarily until a permanent facility is constructed would provide an additional incentive to an applicant for a Rocky Gap license.” Of the five approved sites, only three have been issued licenses. There have been no bidders for the Rocky Gap site at Allegany County, and the developers bidding for the Baltimore City site failed to produce additional requirements.

 

February 22, 2010

Russian Authorities Crack Down On Illegal Gambling

A law in Russia was recently passed in July banning casinos and slot machines in the country’s towns and cities, and relocating them to four specially-designated districts in the isolated areas of the country. But the law has not achieved its desired result as gambling operators have almost immediately gone underground after the law was enforced. It took only a few months for gambling to resume its activities, illegally this time. This was disclosed by a high-ranking officer of the Russian police in an exclusive interview with a leading network. Col. Oleg Bolderov of the economic crimes department said after the implementation of the new law, illegal gambling has swiftly proliferated across the country, and law enforcement officers have done thousand of raids since then.

A video of one raid presented by the police to the network showed a fully occupied casino, its stunned staff and shocked gamblers caught committing the offense as police officers with high-powered firearms burst into the illegal gambling den. "We have closed down 70 casinos and 4,000 slot-machine arcades... and have brought 600 criminal cases against those trying to organize this," Bolderov said. But even with the rigorous action taken by the police, in remote cities, it’s as if no law has been passed, as gambling operators continue with their business that’s now illegal, and in major cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow, secret gambling places have mushroomed.

Some police officers are also allegedly taking hefty protection bribes from casino operators. Some agents of the law who are supposed to enforce rules, are purportedly pretending to look the other way as slot machine parlors in Moscow carry on openly, albeit a little more cautiously. "We were approached by a police official who told us that for $400,000 per month we could stay open," admitted an informant. Col. Bolderov himself acknowledges that it is a tough struggle for police authorities trying to eliminate not only illegal gambling, but also corruption. “One of the most probable explanations for the rise of illegal gambling is corruption. In our police department, we do our best to close down underground casinos and slot-machine halls and we have some success. But in parts of Russia, gambling remains rife. Why? Because of corruption," Balderov explained.

There are already demands to amend the law seeing that the only effects so far are the wild spread of illegal gambling and the crooked police officials getting the chance of becoming more corrupt. The gambling industry in Russia has developed to be now worth an estimated $6 billion (£3.9 billion, 4.4 billion euros) a year, after it was revived almost twenty years ago at the fall of the Soviet Union. To date, only one casino in one of the four assigned zones decided to open and had its launching this month. It is located in the southernmost part of the country, and two hour’s drive away from the nearest airport and city. The zones are so remote that no other company has risked investing quite a sum knowing that very few gamblers would dare travel quite a distance.

 

February 21, 2010

Guyana To Open Its First Casino

Guyana will open its US$2 million Princess Casino most likely before the end of this month. The casino is the first in the country and is seen to help promote the country’s tourism industry. To appease the religious communities who are strongly against the idea of a casino, the Operations Director of the establishment, Oguz Tayanc gave his word that the facility will be only for those who are registered as guests of the 150-room hotel. Locals who are not checked in at the hotel will not be allowed to gamble at the casino, as provided for by law.

Tayanc said the officials of the casino and hotel will closely abide by the regulations governing casino operations in the country, saying it would be “detrimental to do otherwise.” The Gambling Prevention (Amendment) Bill 2006 was passed by the National Assembly in January 2007 authorizing the establishment of casinos in the country. It was immediately met with disapproval by the very conservative church groups and rival political parties. The church groups vehemently insisted that there are negative consequences that come with casinos that would be harmful to society and the country, such as drugs, crimes, prostitution and money-laundering.

Still, lawmakers could not close their eyes to the financial gains that the casinos and tourism could provide the government. So, to settle the dispute with the religious communities, and also to protect the citizens of Guyana, the lawmakers introduced a provision, Section 30 of the Bill, which says "no person other than workers and guests of the hotels or resorts shall be admitted to the casinos." Violators of this provision will be swiftly sentenced to a term of not less than six months and not more than two years in prison and be made to pay a fine of not less than G$20 million. In January of last year, Princess Hotel was granted a premises license and an operator’s license by the local Gaming Authority. The former Buddy’s International Hotel which cost US$12 million and was built by local businessman Omprakash “Buddy Shivraj to coincide with the 2007 World Cup Cricket, was bought by the Turkish hotel group Princess in 2008 at US$15 million.

The casino will be just one phase of the entertainment package being planned by the Princess Hotel. The whole entertainment scene consists of a movie theatre, a bowling alley and a luxury bar and lounge. Since not more than 300,000 tourists visit Guyana annually, Tayanc admitted it would be a big challenge for the hotel to market the casino to attract more tourists. He said management has made arrangements with foreign and local tour operators and travel agencies to bring in tourists every week, especially those who are looking to gamble in casinos. The hotel is also thinking of offering package tours with stopovers in Suriname, Belize and Trinidad.

 

February 20, 2010

Gambling Expansion Bill Considered By House Committee

Iowa legislators are pushing for a plan that would expand gambling in the state, such as, sports betting and playing poker on the Internet. Rep. Brian Quirk, D-New Hampton, one of the seven members of a bipartisan gambling working group says that gambling already exists in the state, and he wants the state to be the first in the country to go into the Internet gambling business. “Look, either we’re a gambling state or we’re not, and with 17 casinos I’d say we’re a gambling state,” Quirk said.

The House State Government Committee may schedule a hearing next week to discuss a proposal on sports betting that was approved by the Senate Government Committee. The House committee may expand the sports betting wording to include legalized betting on collegiate sports, except Iowa colleges. But the idea could encounter hostility from House State Government Committee Chairwoman Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City who vowed to rid every gambling bill that comes to the committee of any sports betting provisions. Moreover, there is an existing federal ban on sports betting, and for it to be legalized, there should first be changes in the federal law.

Another aspect of the gambling plan is to allow Iowans to legally play poker on the Internet. It is said around 80,000 residents of Iowa are already playing online poker. Since the UIGEA prohibits online gambling transactions through financial institutions, Quirk and other lawmakers have thought of an idea to get around the ban by legalizing account-deposit wagering. According to the scheme, Iowans could open an account at a casino, with, say, a $50 limit, and would be given a password. They could then go home and play poker using their home computers provided there is money in their accounts. They would have to revisit the casino to replenish their accounts and to claim winnings.

The bill also seeks to take away a necessary precondition for localities that have casinos to renew a gambling license by means of a referendum every eight years. Quirk suggested a referendum to first authorize the establishment of a casino, and another referendum after eight years, then, no more subsequent referendums would be required. Other features of the expanded gambling bill are the holding of major poker tournaments in larger venues like the convention centers of existing casinos, and a ruling that would now give casinos a share from earnings made from out-of-state betting on races at Iowa’s dog and horse tracks.

Quirk said he knows there will be opposition from groups that are against gambling, but it is not the appropriate time to debate whether Iowa is a gambling state because gambling has been in the state for a long time. Rep. Jeff Kauffman, R-Wilton who is against gambling expansion said he does not see anti-gambling lawmakers change their stand on this issue, but with the problem on the budget shortfall, he thinks there may be a slight chance that some lawmakers would change their view on expanded gambling and reassess the issue.

 

February 19, 2010

Bookie Enters Guilty Plea To Illegal Gambling

A man from North Kansas City pleaded guilty to being a bookmaker in an illegal gambling operation in Kansas City, Missouri. In entering a guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays, Michael V. Badalucco, 26, waived his right to trial before a grand jury. As per information from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Beth Phillips, Badalucco confessed that he and others acted as bookmakers in a sports betting business where bettors wagered mainly on sports events and contests. Clients were given a toll-free telephone number and a Web site that transmitted from Missouri, through Arizona and then to a computer server company in Costa Rica. Badalucco admitted to sending out wagering information with intent.

The U.S. Attorney’s office related how Badalucco and his cohorts went about their business, thus: "Bookmakers in this illegal sports bookmaking business, including Badalucco, provided their bettors with a 1-800 toll-free telephone number, and a Website. Bettors would then provide their account number and password in order to be allowed to place a wager, access their wagering history and obtain other information. Both toll-free 1-800 numbers route to a company located in Costa Rica. Under this scheme, the Costa Rica company acted as a virtual wire room for the illegal sports bookmaking operation — taking wagers and keeping electronic records of bettors’ activities and results on a computer server located in Costa Rica. The local bookmakers, including Badalucco, would pay out or collect cash in person, usually from their bettors on a weekly basis."

The company in Costa Rica tracked bettors’ account balances, received the bets and followed the results, although it did not have an interest in the outcomes of the bets other than charging a fee for each account. Don Ledford, speaking for the U.S. Attorney’s Office remained mum when asked to comment on the case and the probe as a whole. Because of his plea agreement, Badalucco will not be asked by the prosecutors to testify in the hearing of others in cases related to illegal gambling operations, and will no longer face further charges. Before endorsing for the acceptance of the plea, the judge warned Badalucco that the court is not constrained by the plea agreement and could hand him the recommended jail sentence.

Badalucco’s sentencing hearing has not been set, but the man could get up to two years imprisonment without parole in a federal jail, plus a fine of $250,000.

 

February 18, 2010

New EU Commissioner Vows To Address Confusion Over Online Gambling

The confusion over online gambling within Member States of the European Union is triggered by conflicting rulings in legal arguments on online gambling. One ruling declaring that an independent government can restrict online gambling in some situations, while another ruling saying state restrictions cannot prevail over EU law has caused divisiveness inside the Union. The issue is now about to be cleared up after newly designated Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier stated shortly after his appointment that he will resolve the matter. He gave orders to the European Commission to release a Green Paper, a document whose purpose is to encourage debate and start a series of consultations on the issue through which a law or regulation can be established. “I want to launch a constructive dialogue with the Parliament and member states and concerned stakeholders,” Barnier said.

This development will be closely monitored by Malta, a member state which believes that existing EU law granting the principle of free movement of services and trading should govern online gambling. Malta is against the practice of other member states of controlling their markets to restrict competition from online operators based in other countries. International gambling companies, seeing the island’s business-friendly approach, have chosen to make the island their base for their online gaming business, and because of this, Malta’s remote gaming activity has rapidly grown over the years. Malta is now considered to have the second largest gaming industry in the EU, delivering millions of euros in annual revenues to the government and providing jobs to thousands of people.

"We will be on the lookout as we think remote gaming should follow free movement. Malta is all for more clarification of the rules but these should not be used to introduce restrictive practices," said somebody who has a thorough knowledge of Malta’s gaming activity. Some member states like France, Germany, Portugal and The Netherlands have, over the years, introduced restrictions to limit competition, so as to protect their monopoly on a gaming market that delivers huge profits. The Commission has already brought violation complaints against several member states charging them of breaching the existing EU code of free movement of services, but the suit has not moved forward.

Mr. Barnier, noting a recent European Court of Justice ruling recognizing Portugal’s right to limit competition, and free movement of online gaming establishments in other member states, remarked, “The verdict was never intended to produce a monopoly. According to the Commission’s legal services, the ruling did not give member states more freedom, but justified certain restrictions on strict criteria. The verdict was, among others, built on the historic and atypical nature of the Portuguese institution, which had a monopoly on the organization of gambling.”

 

February 17, 2010

Dodge City Casino On Course, First Few Weeks Steady

The first seven weeks of operations at the first casino in Kansas have been showing the likelihood of turning out well. The Boot Hill Casino and Resort, a state-owned casino in Dodge City is ambling along at a steady regularity, causing state gaming officials to be moderately hopeful. Around 100,847 people came to visit Boot Hill since its opening on Dec. 15 until Jan. 31. In those first 47 days, the casino collected $5.1 million, and $1.1 million of that went to the state. Thus, the casino is said to be on course to yield $39.7 million for the first year.

Boot Hill Casino and Resort is the only casino authorized by law to operate in the southwest area of Kansas. The rights to the gambling equipment belong to the state lottery, but the casino itself is operated by Boot Hill’s management company under an agreement with the lottery. "I think things are going well," said Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Kansas Lottery. "We're certainly on track," said Boot Hill general manager Mike Tamburelli. Van Petten said it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the partnership because of the state bureaucracy in Topeka that the casino’s quick business decisions sometimes need to go through, presenting some difficulty to the management, but both Van Petten and Tamburelli assured those kinks were small matters. And as proof, Van Petten cited one normal Saturday, the 6th of February, that earned $206,000, the highest so far. "I'm sure the casino might have been frustrated at points," he said. "But we've kept our toys in the crib, so to speak, and things are looking good."

Boot Hill’s not-so-large gambling floor is 20,000 square feet, taken up by 584 slot machines, 10 poker and blackjack tables, one craps table and one roulette wheel. Presently, 260 workers are employed by the casino and 20 more will soon be hired. The facility is expected to provide jobs for 600 people when the second phase with a 124-room hotel is finished in 2012. "I like this better because I prefer to play at a casino I know is regulated by a gaming commission," said one gambler. As strictly required by state law, Dodge City arranged a well-planned support organization. An addiction inpatient center in the city, called New Chance, has three counselors trained to handle gambling addiction. Counselors are also on duty at Area Mental Health, the community corrections program and at a boys’ home. Dodge City has also provided frequent seminars for school counselors and education workshops for people in the area, with speakers as well.

But to date, no one in the area has asked for help yet, according to Kevin Ford, a counselor at New Chance. "But I expect it to happen, it's just a matter of when," he said. "It's not doom and gloom, but we're going to have plenty of people coming in."

 

February 16, 2010

Bill Invalidating Governor’s Gambling Task Force Passed By Alabama Senate Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Wednesday a bill that would, in effect, prevent the governor’s task force on illegal gambling from staging raids on casinos. Notwithstanding resistance from the Alabama District Attorneys Association and from the Republican governor himself, the legislation passed the committee with seven Democrats voting in favor and three Republicans voting against it. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, now moves forward to the Senate where it could meet stronger opposition from the Republicans. Under the legislation, the governor would no longer have the authority to instigate any civil or criminal investigation or lawsuit. The bill would also render null and void all investigations and complaints that have already been filed by the governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling, and all civil and criminal court cases will now be under the charge and authority of the state attorney general.

State Attorney General Troy King is not with the governor’s task force, and he and Gov. Bob Riley have been in conflict for years over the legality of the electronic bingo machines. Singleton said the recent raids on Victoryland and Country Crossing bingo halls by the task force without the strength of search warrants is very disturbing. Greenetrack casino is inside Singleton’s district, and, along with three Indian-operated casinos, are the only bingo centers in Alabama that continue to operate.

Policy director for the governor, Bryan Taylor said the legislation "would basically end the criminal investigation of some very powerful and politically influential people in this state." Officials of the Alabama District Attorneys Association said the legislation would boost the powers of the attorney general, and would have an impact on other legal and official matters that entail the governor’s participation. "I recognize that the gaming is the elephant in the room," District Attorney Chris McCool of Carrollton said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jimmy Holley of Elba in southeast Alabama, said Wednesday the people of Alabama should be allowed to vote on the issue of electronic bingo through a constitutional amendment. The legislator, who was against such an idea last year, said, "The events of the past few weeks dictate and clearly point to the fact that a final resolution to electronic bingo's legality will require the people of Alabama to exercise their right to vote on the issue." Discussion on the amendment proposal could happen on Tuesday or Thursday where some Republican votes are needed for its success.

 

February 15, 2010

Mayor Favors Table Games

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake is backing the addition of table games such as poker, craps, blackjack and roulette to the state’s slots parlors. She said, at a gathering of the state’s lawmakers in Annapolis, Vegas-style table games in Maryland would make the casinos in the five cities competitive “not only in the state, but within the region.”State lawmakers and officials who want to see table games added to the just-started slot machine gambling program of the state are increasing in number. Last month, the Maryland slots commission endorsed the idea, and asked lawmakers to consider table games at the slots sites. The mayor said, in her view, there is “little difference” between slots and table games. She said she is also willing to hear from other people on the issue. "I'm not fighting internally about whether or not table games are a good or bad thing for the city," Rawlings-Blake said. "I think the revenue will help us be more competitive."

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon has the same opinion, saying the state should have authorized table games from the beginning. "People are not going to just want the slots," Dixon said. Baltimore is one of the five proposed cities allowed by voters in 2008 to have slots facilities. Baltimore would benefit financially because of the money that would be paid to the city by the gaming operator as rent, and which would be used to fund education or for property tax reduction. But the planned facility in the city has not even been started, and no license has been issued, due to the developer’s constant delays in securing financing and supplying the needed comprehensive plans for the structure.

Nearby states that have slot machine facilities like Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia are heading for gambling expansion with the bringing in of table games like poker and blackjack. Gambling experts say table games are generally good sources of high-paying jobs, but do not have an immediate bearing on a casino’s revenues. State Delegate Frank Turner, D-Howard County, has introduced a bill requiring a referendum in November for an amendment to the state constitution allowing table games in Maryland.

The Senate is weighing the possibilities of table games and is looking carefully at the outcome. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller also is in favor of expanded gambling. But House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who reluctantly yielded to put the gambling issue to voters in 2007 after years of opposing gambling in Maryland, said he wants to first see a full implementation of the state’s rather new gambling program before making any alterations. "We have not gotten a nickel out of a slot machine yet," Busch said. "Before we talk about expanding, we ought to have the opportunity to complete the licensing process." The slot machine gambling program is expected to produce revenue to help cap a $2 billion budget shortfall of the state this year, and hundreds of millions of revenue money for the following years.

 

February 14, 2010

Alabama Senate And Court To Act On Electronic Bingo Legality Issue

The Alabama Senate will start discussion Tuesday on a gambling legislation that would allow the resumption of operation of three casinos that were closed and authorize the opening of more gaming halls. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said he intends to prioritize the bill on electronic bingo on the Senate’s program of work Tuesday, and, in anticipation of an extensive deliberation, he said the Senate will allot three days next week, instead of the usual two. Supporters of gambling are endorsing a planned constitutional amendment that would permit the opening of 10 sites for electronic bingo with the machines regulated and taxed. "I think the voters want it taxed and they want it controlled, and I'm going to vote for that," Barron said. The proponents’ side needs the support of 21 senators out of the 35 in order for the measure to pass, and Barron is confident they will get the needed votes.

But the Republican challengers believe they can block the legislation because they detected something amiss when the pro-gambling senators were not too eager to begin consideration of the bill Thursday in spite of the Republicans egging them to do so. Some gambling proponents are hesitant to vote for the bill in its present form because some cities that want casinos have not been listed among the 10. Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, for one, said he could not vote for the bill because he wants a second casino in Greene County, but the legislation says the Greenetrack at Eutaw, will be the only one.

Meanwhile, Circuit Judge Robert Vance is asking for legal arguments on whether the formation of the governor’s gambling task force conforms to the law. Alabama’s three biggest casinos, Victoryland in Shorter , Country Crossing at Dothan, and White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County have shut down to avoid the raids. In March 2009, White Hall was raided by the governor’s task force. It stopped operating for a while, reopened and closed again last week. The judge on the case has also asked for written legal arguments from White Hall casino and the task force by Feb. 26 to see if he has authority to tackle other concerns relative to the raid.

Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and eight lawmakers whose districts are near or have casinos are strongly calling on the governor not to conduct any more raids because they frighten people especially those done at midnight, and more people have lost jobs because of the shutting down of casinos, thus increasing the chances of crime.

"These businesses are not provoking any violence. The governor is provoking the violence," Sen. Sanders said. Todd Stacy, the governor’s press secretary said, “They can hoot, holler and hyperventilate all they want, it doesn't change the fact that these casinos are breaking the law." He said the fact that the legislators are trying to pass legislation legalizing the activity confirms the legality of the task force.

Bobby Segall, attorney for White Hall, sees it as an occasion to clear legal matters that have not been taken up by any other court.

 

February 13, 2010

Gov. Beshear Pushes Gambling Proposal Once More To Legislators

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear sent a letter Thursday to representatives of the state House requesting them yet again to pass his budget proposal which assumes around $780 million in revenue from video lottery machines at racetracks in the next two years, and asked the House members’ help in persuading the Senate to pass Senate Bill 92. After Beshear crafted his first budget proposal, Sen. Ed Worley, D-Richmond, introduced Senate Bill 92, but was soon turned down by House and Senate leaders because it was dependent on revenue that was not yet tested.

Now, his urgent appeal seemed to be received with as little enthusiasm and support as his first budget proposal. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg said the governor’s letter was a “non-event” to him and that House leaders did not perceive any growing support for the governor’s plan from House Democrats. Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and some legislators said the appeal has no chance because it came near the end of the session. Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rick Rand, D-Bedford, said the governor and his allies should have pushed backing for his budget proposal soon after last June’s special session when it was passed by the House, but rejected by a Senate committee, and as soon as the current session started. He said it is now too late, since the House “has moved past” the idea.

In his letter, Beshear said that to close the state’s budget gap, “there are no magic bullets – only difficult choices.” He said his budget proposal does not count on the “hope and a prayer” of more subsidy from federal stimulus, but “on revenue that already exists and over which we can exercise total control if the legislature is willing to act.” Furthermore, he wrote, “ My inclusion of $780 million in gaming revenues does not contemplate or even require the House to approve VLTs before the Senate votes to do so. You can pass my proposed budget and together we can ask the Senate to pass Senate Bill 92 which would authorize VLTs.”

His letter also mentioned a poll conducted by SurveyUSA showing 59% of Kentucky residents preferred VLTs at racetracks, but also showing 85% wanted to vote on the issue through a constitutional amendment, which Beshear disapproves. He also wrote of his opposition to any suggestion on tax change to raise more revenue, because it would affect “our hardworking families and businesses.” Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, who has stated in the past that the General Assembly is not going to pass any gambling bill this session, when he heard of the letter said it was “bizarre,” and he had no thought on it and “evidently the governor didn’t think about it either.” But Sen. Worley, who remains a proponent of expanded gambling, after having read a copy of the letter said he agrees with the governor and thinks the Democrats in the Senate have not read the letter.

 

February 12, 2010

San Pasqual Tribe Sues State Of California For $115 Million

The San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, the tribe in San Diego County that owns the Valley View Casino in Valley Center took legal action against the state of California. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Indian tribe accuses the state of California and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of breaking its 1999 tribal contract, and for illegally interfering with its ability to provide slot machine play for its patrons. The tribe is seeking $115 million in damages that the tribe claimed were profits lost during the five-year legal battle over the governor’s refusal to let the California Gambling Control Commission issue licenses to all the slot machines which the tribe has a right to have under the 1999 contract it made with the state. For years the state withheld the licenses and used them as a controlling power to persuade the tribes to enter into new compacts that would take away autonomy from the tribal governments.

Last year, after a federal court decided in favor of the tribes, the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians were granted permission by the state to add more slot machines to its casino. The highest number of slot machines the casino is allowed to have under its contract with the state is 2,000, and last November the San Pasqual tribe added around 400 slot machines to its 1,600 on hand. The 1999 gambling contract between the state and the tribes stipulated for the creation of a fund to be provided to cities and counties affected by Indian casinos, thus, in withholding the slot machine licenses, tribal officials say, the governor in effect took away up to $30 million per year in funds for cash-strapped local governments, money that could have been very useful with the economy as it is.

"Fulfilling the language of the compact will not only benefit the entire Native American community, but in turn will aid the counties of California during this time when everyone could use assistance. We are just asking for what was established to be ours according to the language of the 1999 compact, but it benefits everyone. The governor instead chose to intentionally breach our contract to the detriment of San Pasqual as well as the people of the state of California," said Allen Lawson, chairman of the San Pasqual tribe. The lawsuit could lay on the line the proposal to legalize poker, as the tribes could very well decide to abandon the idea amid the ongoing legal battle.

State officials say they will fight the court case and refute any illegal behavior.

 

February 11, 2010

North Alabama Representatives Weighing Possibilities Of Gambling Proposals

As identical gambling bills were introduced in both the Senate and House, North Alabama legislators are saying this is an occasion for them to see to the issue that has been a cause of disagreement among the state’s authorities. Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, introduced companion bills in the Senate, one of which would provide protection to casinos that could otherwise shut down upon orders from Gov. Bob Riley until a Nov. 2 referendum. The other bill would call for a Nov. 2 statewide referendum where voters would choose whether to legalize gambling and the creation of a gaming commission that would govern gambling operations, including imposing a state tax on gambling businesses.

Two bills were also introduced in the House by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia. Similarly, one bill would allow the temporary operation of the electronic bingo halls that were authorized to operate in the state on December 2009 until a statewide vote on Nov. 2. The other bill would also allow a referendum on Nov. 2 to see if voters would want a taxed and regulated gambling in the state. Bedford’s bills were approved by a Senate committee Tuesday and Black’s bills also passed a House committee last week, and the bills will soon advance to the full Senate and the full House, but the Senate could be the first to vote on the bills. Black said he would make adjustments on his bill allowing the operation of electronic bingo to complement well with Bedford’s bill. Black said the bills do not plan to expand gambling to every county, as what Gov. Riley’s press release on Tuesday charged. "The bill calls for 10 locations," he said. "There was never a plan to expand to every county in the state. My intent was to limit and regulate gambling operations."

Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals, said he is not in favor of the bill on referendum because he does not want to see gambling throughout the state. But he said it’s a different story with counties who decided to have legalized gambling in their localities. "Those places voted for them. They have jobs there. Closing them will put hundreds of people out of work." Rep. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, who said she has not fully examined the bill, but she is for the referendum bill. She said she is still in doubt regarding the bingo facilities since the legal views on the issue are varied. "My constituents are overwhelming in saying 'let us vote. You've got some courts and the governor saying no, these are not legal. You've got other courts and the attorney general saying these are legal. Unless the Legislature does something, the issue will continue to escalate," she said.

Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay he is still assessing the bill on bingo centers, but he is backing the bill on referendum. "This is potentially a very explosive issue in Alabama," Morrow said. "Right now, the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government are divided on this. The laws already made on this issue must be vague. It is up to us to try and clarify it.

 

February 10, 2010

MGM Mirage Wants To Sell Stake In Borgata

MGM Mirage said in its regulatory filing Monday it is discussing with its lenders and New Jersey regulators its plan to place its 50% stake in Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City in a divestiture trust, hoping the move would settle its row with New Jersey regulators regarding its connection with a Chinese business partner in Macau. New Jersey regulators have, for years, expressed apprehension about the reputation of MGM Mirage’s business partner in Macau, Pansy Ho. Last year, MGM Mirage revealed that New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has given out a restricted information saying MGM Mirage should break business ties with Pansy Ho, calling her an “unsuitable” business partner.

Although MGM and New Jersey officials did not explain what made Ho “unsuitable”, the 2005 report from the DGE stated that "over the years there have been numerous public allegations suggesting that Stanley Ho, the father of MGM's joint venture partner Pansy Ho, has ties to Asian organized crime." Mr. Ho has challenged the allegations and has never been charged in court. MGM’s chairman and chief executive officer, Jim Murren said in the statement, "We disagree with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement's recommendation to the Casino Control Commission concerning our Macau partner, but believe pursuing a settlement with the DGE represents the best course of action for our company and its shareholders. We would like to put this matter behind us and move forward with the compelling growth opportunities we have in Macau."

A public hearing before the state’s Casino Control Commission could have given rise to questions in other states where MGM has businesses or spoil MGM’s plan to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. MGM was not part of the three foreign investors that were given concessions in 2002 when Macau opened its doors to outside companies, so it decided to team up with Pansy Ho in the MGM Macau Grand. Of the six licensed casino operators in Macau, MGM Grand has the smallest market share, nevertheless, the business collaboration believes there is great potential to grow. It is gearing up for a Hong Kong listing this year.

In choosing to divest its stake in Borgata and leave Atlantic City, MGM has shown that the center of interest of the world’s gambling business is now in Asia. Atlantic City’s gaming revenues have continued to decline, while Macau’s growth has been remarkable, and its gambling revenue has exceeded that of Las Vegas. Macau’s January 2010 gambling revenue is 23% higher than in December 2009 and 64% higher than January 2009. The market share of the joint venture MGM Grand Macau climbed to 9% from 6.6% in December.

MGM has offered its stake in Borgata to a number of casino companies and investors but has not closed a deal. Under its contract with MGM Mirage, Boyd Gaming, operator of Borgata, and owner of the other 50% stake, has the right to match any offer. A Boyd spokesman has not given any comment.

 

February 9, 2010

Gov. Rell Pushes Again For Keno

Governor M. Jodi Rell first talked about having Keno in Connecticut last June as a means of raising revenues to help fix the budget gap. Keno is similar to the lottery kind of gambling that’s mostly found in bars and convenience stores. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal then said such action could violate the state’s agreement with the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans whose casinos have Keno, if Keno is deemed to be a “commercial casino game” and not a lottery game. Blumenthal recommended for the General Assembly to amend the gaming compact that says only the two Indian tribes and no other person within Connecticut are given the right to operate a “commercial casino game.” The state-run Keno has not been clearly categorized by state law, and there is the danger of the state compromising the $400 million in slot machine revenues that the tribes pay the state annually, Blumenthal said.

Now, seven months after, Rell has resumed her proposal despite the Attorney General’s advice. The governor wants the game allowed in her budget proposal for 2011 to generate $20 million for that year and $60 million each year thereafter. Jeffrey Beckham, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office said Friday the government believes that Keno is a lottery-type game, and the Connecticut Lottery Corp. could lawfully offer Keno, and that there would be no violation of the agreement with the tribes. But the governor’s budget director Robert Genuario said that the General Assembly will still have a say on how they want to settle the budget deficit and that the governor is willing to think over any other proposal.

Paul Young, executive director of Connecticut’s Division of Special Revenue responsible for regulating gambling in the state, disagreeing with Blumenthal said, “We believe it’s a lottery game, and we believe that the tribes play it as a lottery game and it’s not listed in the compact as a table game, so therefore they are playing it under the lottery authorization.’’ Young also believes that the state lottery does not need any approval from lawmakers to start Keno. He said the lottery corporation may decide whether to authorize licensed establishments that already carry lottery to also offer Keno or to look for new sites which would have to be issued licenses. It would take quite a few months to begin activating Keno.

Blumenthal said Friday his legal view on Keno still stands. Tribal officials said they have yet ato see the governor’s proposal. Rell’s budget team took Keno sales revenue information from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York and made slight changes in proportion to Connecticut’s population to arrive at revenue estimates. As per data gathered, Keno in Massachusetts generated $3.8 billion in sales from 200-2008, $2.38 billion in sales from 2004-2008 in New York, and in Rhode Island $425.45 million in sales from 2004-2008.

 

February 8, 2010

Hawaiian Lawmakers Now Keener On Gambling Issue

Lawmakers in Hawaii are reviving the idea of legalizing gambling in the state, mainly because of the slump in the economy that resulted in a huge budget deficit and high unemployment rate. The plan is a relatively old idea in the Legislature, with gambling bills having been presented to the lawmaking body for decades. However, the bills that have been recently introduced have now taken on a more vibrant character, have grown in number and have diversified.

The Committee on Hawaiian Affairs last week approved House Bill 2759 that allowed casinos on Hawaiian Home Lands provided that 80% of revenues would be given to the Hawaiian Home Land communities, and the remaining 20% to the state’s general fund. Following a 40-9 vote by the full chamber, the bill now advances to the House Judiciary Committee. The joint committees of the House Judiciary and Consumer Protection also approved Thursday House Bill 2251 creating a gaming commission that would have the authority to issue a single 5-year gambling license to a casino in Honolulu. The bill also puts a wagering tax on casino games, besides restricting entry only to those over 21 years old. The bill at first stipulated that only visitors can be admitted into the casino, but was modified because prohibiting residents would seem unfair.

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill serves as “an alternative source of funding to help address Hawaii's approximately $1.4 billion deficit, and jump-start Hawaii's economic recovery.” He said that although he is aware of the harms that gambling brings to society, he was prompted to explore new avenues after seeing an increasing number of workers being laid off. He also wants to keep Hawaiians’ money in Hawaii. Dianne Kay, president of the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling said since 2002, "there hasn't been this kind of momentum. We're in trouble with all of them. I’m hoping the Senate won’t be so enthusiastic.” John Radcliffe, a lobbyist since 1976 who is in favor of legalized gambling has also observed a change, saying, "I think there's a lot more energy. One thing is certain- we can't go back to the old ways. You can't rebuild that safety net simply by increasing taxes," he noted.

An active debate between the proponents and critics of gambling came before the voting Thursday. Proponents said that illegal gambling exists in Hawaii even with a thorough clean up drive. Gambling foes underlined the problems that come with the appearance of gambling, like, increase in crime, addiction, homelessness and debt. They said that despite the enthusiasm in the Legislature, they believe many critics have not yet spoken up and that Gov. Linda Lingle might even veto whatever the lawmakers may pass. The other bills introduced called for a referendum to decide the fate of gambling; the creation of a state lottery or scratch-off games; and allow airports to install slot machines and video poker.

Hawaii and Utah are the only states that have not legalized gambling.

 

February 7, 2010

Bingo Halls Told To Shut Down Or Face Raids

The bingo halls in the western part of Jefferson County, Alabama were advised Friday to close their gaming centers if they do not want the governor’s Illegal Gambling Task Force to raid their facilities. That’s because the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday night that raids by the governor’s anti-gambling task force on VictoryLand could not be blocked by a judge. The following day, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Eugene Verin held a court hearing in Bessemer with attorneys and bingo hall officials in attendance and informed the assembly in the courtroom that he would abide by the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, and would not stop law enforcement agencies from investigating the bingo centers.

Thereupon, Jefferson County District Attorney for the Bessemer division, Arthur Green, gave the gaming operators until 6 p.m. Friday to close their facilities. He said the task force will confiscate their electronic bingo machines if the bingo halls do not close their doors at the given hour and day, and that there may be a raid done this weekend. Green said he asked John Tyson, head of the governor’s task force, that the bingo halls be allowed to take away the machines themselves, rather than the task force, to which Tyson agreed. "Meaning you padlock their businesses so the machines can't be used, then they can take them out as they can in some reasonable period of time," Green said.

Defending his course of action, Green said, "I'm not morally opposed to gambling. That is a decision someone else has to make, but I am and do have the duty to enforce the law and the law right now is these machines are illegal." Allies of bingo are asking the state legislators for a law legalizing electronic bingo gaming. Attorneys representing bingo charities said they think there is still hope for electronic bingo with the new guidelines laid down by the Alabama Supreme Court. But Fairfield’s city attorney Michael Trucks said it is the city which will truly suffer the consequence of the shutting down of the bingo halls. The effect on the city could mean millions of dollars in losses. "I think the city will have to go into really tough decisions as to their services, as to their personnel," said Trucks. "It's unfortunate but it's reality."

Arnitra Davis who has held a job for six months at the Anchor Club, a bingo charity in Bessemer said, "It's sad, it gave people jobs. As bad as the economy is now, we are going to have to find work somewhere else."

 

February 6, 2010

Loto-Quebec Ventures Into Online Gambling

Quebec’s lottery corporation, Loto-Quebec will soon enter the money-making online gambling market as it embarks on its first gambling service offering poker and sports betting starting in September. Loto-Quebec is currently working with the lotteries of British Columbia and Atlantic Canada to create the Web site. The three entities have signed a memorandum of agreement to use a common platform for online gaming that would include poker. According to Loto-Quebec President and CEO Alain Cousineau, the site of Loto-Quebec will first be presented to international experts on responsible gaming before being made available online.

Finance Minister Raymond Bachand said Wednesday that the cabinet has given its official endorsement to the plan so as to “cannibalize illegal gambling” sites that currently offer their services to Quebecers. “I believe this to be an efficient way of fighting the underground economy,” he said. Bachand said that hopefully this plan would be able to produce around $50 million more for the province in the next three years saying further that it would be even better if Loto-Quebec could obtain a bigger slice of the online market pie that’s estimated at $675 million.

In answer to the Parti Quebecois’ charges that the government has closed its eyes to the social ramifications of gambling, and giving priority to potential revenue, Cousineau said in a press release that over 2,000 online gambling sites that are “illegal, unregulated and often of doubtful integrity” are already open to Quebecers. He informed reporters that with the rapid growth of online gaming, Quebecers reportedly spend around $80 million a year playing online games. "This is a way for us to channel the gaming offering in a controlled circuit and environment whose integrity will be beyond reproach," he said, adding that the players will be required to confirm their age, guaranteeing that the players are adults, their weekly account replenishments are controlled, and players are allowed to “self-exclude at all times.”

Dr. Richard Lessard, Director of Montreal Public Health said, "By increasing the offer, we increase the number of players, and as we increase the number of players, the number of players with gambling problems will increase as well." But Cousineau referred to a public health study saying that the number of people with gambling problems did not increase between 1996 and 2002 which shows that the number of gambling addicts does not depend on the number of gambling providers.

 

February 5, 2010

Senate Panel Approves Sports Betting In Iowa

A bill backed by Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg that would legalize sports betting in Iowa was unanimously approved by a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, and would then move forward to the full Senate State Government Committee. The bill would allow people to bet on professional sports at the state’s casinos. But not all casino operators were quick to welcome the proposal. They are aware that a federal ban on sports betting exists and any move towards expansion of gambling faces a lot of challenges in the state Legislature and takes a long while before it becomes legal in the state.

In 1992 a federal law banned sports betting except in four states, Delaware, Oregon, Nevada and Montana. These states already had sports betting before the ban took place, and were exempted under a grandfather clause provision. All the other states would have to wait for a federal repeal on the ban before they can offer such gambling. "We've heard about sports betting since I was a pup," said the 80-year-old Senate President. "It's already legal in many foreign countries. I'm just saying why not Iowa?"

But opponents of expanded gambling say the state does not need any more gambling as there is too much of it in Iowa. "We've got ample gambling in this state," said Sen. James Seymour, R-Woodbine. "I'm opposed to expanded gambling." Other gambling proposals were also discussed in the session. Among them were the expansion of areas in casinos where gambling is allowed, and holding poker tournaments in those areas, and charging the casinos a fee of $25 million to remove referendums required every eight years to renew the casinos’ licenses. These proposals could bring in fresh revenue to the state without increasing taxes, revenue that’s badly needed considering that the budget shortfall is said to be roughly $400 million. Although lawmakers have not clearly calculated the money that sports betting could bring in, other states that are considering the issue have estimated revenue to reach $100 million.

Kibbie said illegal sports betting is already rampant in Iowa, depriving the state of much-needed tax collections. He said his bill is a means to create state revenue and a way to legalize a favorite pastime that’s being done covertly. When asked by reporters, Gov. Chet Culver said he has not taken a stand on the matter. The Democrats who have the majority seats in the House and Senate, and Gov. Chet Culver do not favor raising taxes.

 

February 4, 2010

Casino Developer Asks Kansas Lawmakers Not To Change Gambling Laws

Kansas Entertainment LLC, the company that plans to build a casino in Kansas City is opposing proposals that have been initiated in the House and Senate that would change the state’s gambling laws. The company, a joint venture of developers Penn National Gaming, Inc. and Kansas Speedway is saying their $386 million project could be at risk if the legislators authorized a change in the state’s gambling rules to the tracks advantage, allowing the tracks to reopen and compete with the casino for slots profits. The three dog and horse racing tracks in Kansas are allowed by state law to offer slots, but track operators have not set up the machines, and the tracks have stayed closed. The track owners find it impossible to profit from the machines, saying the state’s share of slots revenue is too high.

The proposal would lower the state and local governments’ share of slots revenue and revive the race tracks. From 27 percent, the state’s share would be reduced to 22 percent, thus increasing the tracks’ earnings and the money shared with breeders throughout the state. The developers are especially concerned over The Woodlands racetrack being very near the casino’s intended location. In a letter they wrote to Gov. Mark Parkinson and legislative leaders, the developers say northeast Kansas’ gambling activity would be altered if the laws were changed. "Anyone requesting to change the rules at this juncture should have done so when the law was written in the first place," the letter said.

Penn National spokewoman, Karen Bailey, said it was clearly agreed in the contract that the casino and tracks would give 27 percent of their revenue to the state. She also said that it is not true that the company is experiencing financial difficulty. "Changing the rules in the middle of the game is just not fair," she said. Bailey refused to comment if the company would withdraw if the rules are changed. She said the casino’s ground-breaking is prepared for spring as the contract’s final touches are completed in February. The local government does not favor the change because it could take away revenues that local governments get from gambling, said lobbyist Mike Taylor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. The law gives 1.5 percent of the revenue to the local government of the county where the casino is located and 1.5 percent to the nearest city. Therefore, the unified government gets 3 percent.

However, lawmakers argue that the state’s need for more revenue and economic growth would be enough motivation to discuss changing the law. Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, chairman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee said, with more profits, the tracks could create venues where dog and horse breeders in Kansas could compete and help sustain the state’s agricultural development. He said all of Kansas could gain from the change, so legislators should not put off debating the bill amid speculations that the company would pull out. Brungardt’s committee will conduct hearings on the bill on Feb. 9.

 

February 3, 2010

Bingo Machines At Country Crossing Casino Illegal, Says Gambling Official

Lt. Mike Reese of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and a member of Gov. Bob Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling said the electronic bingo machines found at the Country Crossing entertainment center in Dothan are not bingo as the casino purports them to be, since they can be played even with eyes closed. He said the games are illegal since they don’t satisfy the requirements for player interaction as described in the criteria set out by an Alabama Supreme Court ruling last year, like paying attention to the numbers being announced, marking the card, and the player announcing that he/she has a bingo. "In fact, once money is inserted, the game can be played blindfolded or with the eyes closed by simply pressing the button three times, and can be played without ever looking at the bingo card," Reese said in papers filed in federal court Monday.

Reese told U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in his affidavit that he is the undercover agent who got the search warrants for the successful raid at White Hall on March 19 and for the raid at Country Crossing on Jan. 6 that failed because it was stopped by a judge. The search warrant Reese obtained for the Jan. 6 raid has already lost its effect before it could even be used. Another raid was set up last Friday, but was cancelled because no search warrant could be obtained as the judge needed more information before authorizing the raid. The Governor’s Task Force is now asking the court to allow it to conduct a new raid on Country Crossing and the casino’s lawyers on the other hand are asking the court to block one.

Country Crosssing’s attorneys say the machines are legal and the entertainment complex is responsible for providing jobs to more than 1,000 residents in the area at a time when people are hard-pressed for jobs. The task force head John Tyson countered by asking court not to intervene as the constitution does not give any person the right to profit from illegal gambling. Since the attempted raid last Friday, the casino has shut down and will resume operation once the court decides to issue an order preventing a raid. Judge Thompson has hinted at a decision by Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the task force is also asking the Alabama Supreme Court to revoke the temporary restraining order it issued Friday as state troopers were all set to raid the VictoryLand casino in Shorter. At the same time, lawyers for the casino are asking the court to continue the temporary restraining order that prevented the raid.

 

February 2, 2010

States Now Selling Both Powerball and Mega Millions

After heads of state lotteries reached an agreement last October, several states have started selling Powerball and Mega Millions tickets for the first time Sunday, a move which could be seen as a possible joining together of the two lotteries into one national lottery. Cross-selling could also raise the top prize, and state and local governments who have gone short could be assured of additional revenue. "It's going to be great for players who are looking for a dollar and a dream," says Jodie Winnett, director of the Illinois Lottery. Illinois sold only Mega Millions before, plus its local lottery, and Winnet says the state anticipates a rise in the number of lottery players, higher jackpots and a 9 percent or $54 million increase in revenue from lottery.

Before Sunday, Powerball and Mega Millions were sold in different jurisdictions, and players could only buy one or the other, thus, players usually drove to neighboring states to bet on a chosen game or on the one with a higher jackpot. Of the12 states that previously sold only Mega Millions, 10 of them will start selling Powerball. And of the 31 other states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands that sold only Powerball tickets, 23 of those places will now sell Mega Millions. Towards the later part of this year, all 45 jurisdictions that have lotteries will be offering both games.

State lottery administrators are wishing for high ticket sales that would eventually bring about a merger of the two games. But opponents of the lottery say this new move is an endorsement of something that is addictive and is aggravating the situations of problem gamblers. The detractors claim that states that have expanded gambling with the promise of additional revenues as motivation have refused to recognize the problems that come with gambling. They say the victims of this recent move are those with low income who can hardly afford it. "It isn't James Bond with a blond on his arm buying these lottery tickets," says Tom Grey, field director of Stop Predatory Gambling. "It's someone that's standing in a convenience gas station buying 25 to 50 of the tickets. What we've got is government pushing an addictive product and continually increasing the odds."
The states that do not have lotteries are Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, Hawaii, Nevada and Wyoming.

 

February 1, 2010

Online Poker In California Pushed By Morongo Tribe

In August of last year, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, along with the Commerce Casino and the Bicycle Club started an association called the California Tribal Intrastate Internet Poker Consortium and asked the California legislature for an exclusive contract to offer online poker in the state. But the plan folded because the group members became worried upon sensing that the proposal was being hurried through the lawmaking process. However, the Morongo tribe, one of California’s biggest gaming tribes, has not ceased in its campaign and has kept the effort to bring the issue back. “We’re still reaching out to different tribes. We’re trying to take into account everyone’s issue,” said Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for the tribe.

The much-awaited hearing has finally been scheduled for February 9 when the Senate Governmental Organization Committee will tackle the matter on online poker. Several speakers have been invited to talk about quite a lot of related topics, like the risk of breaching compacts with tribal casinos, and the federal laws on gaming. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) that made Internet gambling illegal, seems to have an exception that would permit online gambling within a state and allowing the use of credit cards and bank transactions for online betting, provided that the player could be ascertained and confirmed to be living within the state.

What is on everyone’s minds and lips, however, is the potential revenue that online poker could bring to the state of California. Referring to a 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers study, a gaming attorney based in Sacramento, Martin Owens said, around 1.4 million Californians are now playing online poker using offshore websites. “You’ve got something like a billion dollars leaving the state every year that does nobody any good, except the offshore operators,” Owens said. “Internet gambling is here to stay. The only rational thing to do is organize it, license it, supervise it - and by all means, get the benefits.”

A group that is against the Morongo tribe’s proposal is the California Tribal Business Alliance, whose executive director, Allison Harvey has strongly maintained that the gaming compacts with the tribal casinos giving them exclusive deals would be violated, thus disregarding the foundation on which gaming laws in California are based. Harvey added that his could threaten the $1 million daily remittance the casino tribes pay the state as the income from gaming compacts. The Morongo tribe has rebuffed the assertion.

 

January 31, 2010

Raids On VictoryLand, Country Crossing Casinos Thwarted

Efforts to raid the VictoryLand facility at Shorter and Country Crossing casino at Dothan were foiled Friday after lawyers for the casinos rushed to prevent hundreds of Alabama police from confiscating thousands of electronic bingo machines and shutting down the casinos. The two facilities closed down before dawn, seeing that police authorities were starting to gather bringing vans that would transport the seized machines.

In the case of VictoryLand, an order from the judge was produced at 5:30 a.m. Friday, stopping the raid, and setting a hearing for the following Friday. The casino, with its 6,400 bingo machines intact, resumed business after the raiding team left. The casino’s attorney, Fred Gray said, legally, the police had no good reason to sequester property. "They had no warrant, they had no court order, and presented nothing to the owners of this facility." Gray added that the casino has been investigated by a federal grand jury and two county grand juries, but not one charge was filed against the operation. Macon County Sheriff David Warren did not buy the troopers’ claim that a disguised agent had seen the occurrence of illegal gambling inside the casino. "As far as I'm concerned they are legal machines," the sheriff said.

Over at Country Crossing, raiding troops assembled at the casino’s entryway could not produce a warrant or any authorization to show to the casino’s lawyers who angrily reasoned that no raid could be carried out without the police presenting any legal paper. "We've told them they are trespassing. We've told them to leave," said Country Crossing spokesman Jay Walker. Constitutional amendments have authorized bingo in the counties where the bingo centers are operating, but Gov. Bob Riley, strongly insists that only traditional paper bingo is allowed by those amendments, therefore the electronic bingo machines that look a lot like slot machines are illegal, since slot machines are illegal in Alabama. The governor has formed an antigambling task force with Mobile district Attorney John Tyson, Jr. as its head, and is charged with raiding the operations. Last year the White Hall casino in Lowndes County was raided, in which $500,000 in cash and 100 machines of the 900 were taken. The casino has since reopened with new machines, while the case is in court.

VictoryLand, which started as a dog track 25 years ago, is now a multimillion dollar complex after a 300-room posh hotel and other additions were opened in December costing $100 million in investment. About 2,000 workers are currently employed by the complex. The bingo center now has more bingo machines than any one casino in Nevada, New Jersey or Mississippi has slot machines, says the North American Gaming Almanac. Former state Sen. George Clay of Tuskegee said VictoryLand is Mason County’s largest company and the taxes it pays the county is very useful for the county’s needs.

Country Crossing, with 1,700 bingo machines has just opened on Dec 1 its first phase costing $87 million, with new additions this year setting total investment at over $200 million.

 

January 30, 2010

New Ohio Casino Anticipated To Bring Economic Progress To Poor Neighborhood

In Columbus, Ohio, where a new casino is being planned to rise, people living near the proposed site are looking forward to an improved economic situation resulting from the establishment of the casino. The neighborhood, called the emptiest in the U.S., is almost abandoned, with 70 percent of the houses unoccupied. It consists of an apartment complex that’s nearly deserted, a strip club and retail stores that have been neglected. Across the street from it, on the city’s west side, is property formerly used by auto parts maker Delphi, General Motors’ former parts division, and is the site on which Penn National Gaming Inc. wants to build its new casino.

The original plan passed by voters in a recent referendum was for Penn to build the casino downtown. The change in location still needs to be authorized by voters in another statewide vote in May, and if the measure will not pass, Penn will go on with its first plan and build downtown. The neighborhood’s residents, although some are not so eager about the plan of a nearby casino, say they would welcome any economic development the casino would bring. "Everyone says they're afraid to come to this end of town," said 82-year old Joan Troyer, a resident of the place for 42 years. Real estate agents said the city’s west side is starting to draw interest from investors. Chris Salomone, a worker in a real estate company said that after Penn made it known that it was thinking about building the casino on the west side area, six bidders immediately signified interest on a former car dealership in the locality that was for sale, whereas last year nobody paid any attention to it.

The property, all 9 acres of it, sold at auction for $660,000, very much below the appraised value of $2.1 million. Salomone said the casino would inspire optimism and most likely give new life to properties. "If I had money, I'd buy options on property around there, the closer the better," said Doug Walker, who analyzes the economics of casino gambling and is an associate professor of economics at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. "You're going to have all this traffic; it can't help but be good." But an economics professor at the University of Nevada-Reno said people should not be too eager. "My suspicion is the results are not going to be overly encouraging or discouraging," he said. According to him, there are studies that prove gamblers prefer driving a hundred miles to go to a distant casino than gambling at newly-opened facilities close by. The neighboring states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana and Michigan all have casinos that are in operation, and the Columbus casino would be one of four allowed in Ohio.

Eadington said the facility must be consistent with the area so that more opportunities for further development will emerge. The facility’s plan includes a steakhouse, sports bar, food court, buffet and maybe a hotel.

 

January 31, 2010

Gambling Thriving In North Carolina

The gaming business in North Carolina seems to succeed in developing its market share in the state, as could be observed with the industry’s latest trending. The North Carolina Education Lottery will soon go in with the Mega Millions multi-state lottery game. The casino on the Cherokee tribal land, visited by 2 million people a year, is expanding. And now comes gaming’s recent craze, the sweepstakes machines, which came into existence quickly after a state ban on video poker machines took effect in 2006.

As there is still no clear ruling on the legal direction of the sweepstakes machines, sweepstakes cafes continue to operate them and customers continue to play them. "It's like slot machines – bottom line – but I enjoy it," said a regular patron of a sweepstakes café. "There's nothing going on here that is deemed illegal," said one owner of a sweepstakes cafe, citing recent court rulings that he says protect his business. Owners of such businesses sell Internet time or cell phone minutes to players for an assortment of games. The tickets are decided in advance, just like the lottery.

The District Attorney of Wake County Colon Willoughby said legal disputes over the games that have reached his office are impossible to work out. “Law enforcement is not likely to spend resources investigating it if they know prosecutors can't go forward with the case," Willoughby said. He said with the availability of online poker and sports betting and the presence of the Cherokee casino and the state lottery in North Carolina, the people’s opinion of gambling has certainly changed and gotten better. Gambling-related crimes and arrests have also been noted to have declined abruptly throughout the state since the lottery started in early 2006. “I think enforcement has changed,” the District Attorney said.

Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, a conservative group that is against any form of gambling, said the state clearly plans to legalize gambling. "I do think they are skirting the law. I think North Carolina clearly intends to regulate gambling. I think, when the state went into the gambling business, it was sending a message. If the state has some concerns about it, tax it, regulate it. That's the key to everything,” He said. State legislators are likely to deliberate on what action to take regarding sweepstakes and other gambling activities when they assemble in May.

 

January 28, 2010

Senate Panel Removes Land-based Provision, Passes Gambling Measure

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed Tuesday an amended bill on Indiana’s riverboat casinos and moved it to the full Senate. The original provision of Senate Bill 405 was to allow the casinos to move inland within the counties that they are located and to pay a fee of $50 million. Navigational systems would not then be required. However, Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville was forced to suggest an amendment to the legislation because the casino industry had a difference of opinion on the issue. The amendment was the removal of the land-based provision out of the bill. Kenley himself did not vote for his own amendment, but it still passed 7-5.

“We got some pretty mixed signals and some pretty negative comments regarding efforts to deal with that particular issue,” Kenley told committee members. “I personally think we’re making a pretty big mistake not going forward with that, but I didn’t want to jeopardize other elements of the bill.” The committee passed the amended bill 10-2. The new measure would impose riverboat casinos to stay in the water, but they could do away with the navigational systems obliged by state law. The requirement to keep crews would also be eliminated, but that provision carries no significant weight because the casino boats are now permanently anchored ever since state law was changed in 2002.

As a consequence, the owners of the two casinos on Lake Michigan in Gary would no longer be able to push through with plans to merge into one land-based facility and relocate to a major interstate interchange. Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary said she was disappointed with the committee’s removal of the land-based provision, and that the Gary casino on the freeway would attract more customers and would provide the state more tax revenue. Rogers thinks the Casino Association of Indiana is responsible for the changes since the group had asked lawmakers to put off the issue until next year. “We are policymakers,” Rogers told her fellow committee members. “They are the investors. And we ought to make policy based on what we feel is best for Indiana.” She said casino owners should have insisted on the opportunity to move inland and expand, as the looming competition from Ohio’s planned casinos is “absolutely going to affect us. You have to strike while the iron is hot and strike while the stars are lined up. This window of opportunity might not be available next year.”

The bill also would legalize advanced deposit wagering, allowing betting on races through phone or the Internet without being at a track or off-track betting center. The horse track casinos, though, did not get the tax break they were asking for their ailing industry. The bill also provides for a decrease in the current $4 admissions tax paid by French Lick Resort Casino in Orange County for every customer’s entry to the gambling floor, in which part of the money would be used for repair expenses on two historic hotels within the resort. Resort representatives say resort owner Bill Cook has invested a great sum into the renovations so money is no longer needed.

 

January 27, 2010

Legislators Want Destination Resort-Casinos In Florida

A lawmaker from Fort Lauderdale is drafting a proposal called the Florida Gaming Equalization Act, which would allow completely developed casinos at five to seven destination resorts in the state of Florida. Republican Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff who was a keen crusader against gambling expansion in Florida in the past is doing a complete turnaround in pushing for full casinos. Two leading conservatives are backing her proposal: Rep. Alan Hays, a Republican from Umatilla and Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Republican from Miami. Bogdanoff who will run for the state Senate seat currently occupied by Senate President Jeff Atwater, fought with former Gov. Jeb Bush to ban slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in 2005 and was among those who facilitated a 50 percent tax on slots in 2006. She has also been fiercely against Gov. Crist’s compact with the Seminole tribe.

The Florida legislators have been in disagreement with the Seminole tribe and Crist about a deal that would give slots and blackjack exclusively at the tribe’s seven casinos in exchange for at least $150 million a year to be given to the state. The tribe’s casinos have kept on operating the slots and card games even without a legal compact. Bogdanoff said she is drafting the proposal because Florida is “losing the battle” to the Seminoles. She believes it best to disregard the compact and instead “create competition to an industry that is not going away.”

As for the pari-mutuels, Bogdanoff said legislators “have to keep throwing them lifelines” because the tax rate and some restrictions have “put a chokehold” on them. “How do we allow them to invent themselves?” she asked. Bogdanoff’s proposal would compete with the Seminole tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Tampa and Hollywood. Under the plan, local voters would first have to authorize the casinos in referendums. The state’s gaming commission would then issue licenses to an array of applicants, from Vegas-based operators to Florida’s pari-mutuels.

Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire investor and builder of huge convention centers and hotels said Friday that he is all set to invest in mega-convention centers and full casinos in Florida, and noted that a $3 billion resort casino could provide jobs to around 7,000 people. “We’re not interested in putting up slots parlors or a gambling den. We want destinations and integrated resorts. This is our specialty and we would have a very good interest in getting in – with the provision they don’t allow so many that the gambling market would be saturated,” said the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. “It’d have to be in South Florida,” Adelson said, but he would also be looking at Tampa Bay and Orlando locations that are very near an international airport. A House committee will schedule a hearing on the proposal in February, but some lawmakers and many pari-mutuel operators do not think that the idea will achieve progress this year.

 

January 26, 2010

Iowa Lawmakers Mull Package For Limited Gambling Expansion

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said Iowa legislators are deliberating a package of gambling measures that would produce up to $25 million in additional earnings for the government from the state’s gambling industry. The Democratic leader disclosed the information during a taping of this weekend’s program of “Iowa Press” which will be shown on Iowa Public Television. McCarthy says a major element of this package is for the state’s casinos to hold larger poker tournaments in bigger adjoining rooms.

Some casinos host poker tournaments and accommodate them only within the area where gambling is allowed, such as on the gambling floor beside the slot machines and card tables.
The measure under consideration would allow the poker tournaments to be held in bigger rooms or facilities within a casino where non-electronic gambling would be allowed. The state would thus earn more from gambling taxes collected from the casinos. “All these casinos have convention areas, ballrooms, places where they have boxing tournaments or whatever it is and we’d be looking at some sort of non-electronic form of gaming, so poker-type games…under the same existing rules and regulations we have right now in Iowa,” McCarthy says. “That would be a win-win because you’d have these gaming institutions make a little bit more money.”

McCarthy says the Harrah’s casino in Council Bluffs may gain the most from the proposal. “Harrah’s, for example, participates in the National Poker Championships that you watch on TV,” McCarthy says. “They’d be able to…draw from South Dakota and Nebraska and maybe have some fairly large tournaments there.” The package would also let the casinos pay a fee ending the condition of having their licenses approved by local voters in a referendum every eight years. Instead, a reverse referendum would be introduced wherein those who are against gambling could collect enough signatures to impose a referendum.

“This discussion has been around for a couple of years. What we would likely do is to say for casinos that have had two successful elections already over an eight year period — because they’re eight years apart, if you are stabilized in your community and it looks like they want you there — remove that referendum requirement this November and instead allow the voters a reverse-referendum possibility in the future,” McCarthy says. “If a community wants to get rid of gaming in their county, they’d be able to get some signatures and have a reverse referendum to remove that in future, so you’d still have the ability to have the voters have a say in the future.”

Another part of the package would provide additional revenue, though small, when the state’s horse and dog tracks are allowed to charge a fee from races that are simulcast outside the state. The idea of allowing video gambling machines in bars is not included in the package as it would provide competition to the casinos. McCarthy says the draft would be ready in two weeks’ time and the proposal would be tackled in February or early March.

 

January 25, 2010

Florida Supreme Court: Governor Has No Authority To Sign Gambling Deal

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Governor Charlie Crist has violated state law when he signed a gambling deal with the Seminole tribe and the slot machines and table games that the Seminoles are currently offering at their casinos are illegal. Gov. Crist reached a deal with the Seminoles that allowed the tribe’s casinos to operate slot machines and table games. Table games are illegal under state law. House Speaker Marco Rubio has filed the case challenging Crist’s authority to forge a deal on his own without approval from the Legislature. The ruling is a triumph for Rubio, but cancels the $50 million payment to the state that would largely be used to fund education, plus a share in the revenues.

The court ruled, “We hold that the Governor does not have the constitutional authority to bind the State to a gaming compact that clearly departs from the State’s public policy by legalizing types of gaming that are illegal everywhere else in the state. The Governor has no authority to change or amend state law. Such power falls exclusively to the Legislature.” Race track executive Izzy Havenick was very pleased with the court’s decision. Pari-mutuels can only offer poker, and no other table games, thus, they are worried that table games at the Immokalee casino would rid the tracks of profits and customers. “Today is a good day for Americans. They got to see the checks and balances of government work,” Havenick said.

He thinks that competition is now somewhat fair, although he noted that slots have not yet been allowed at his Bonita dog track. “All we’re saying is give us what they have. Tax us. Let us put money into the state coffers. Let us create more jobs.” But the slot machines and table games at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood have not stopped. And so with the slots at the Immokalee casino, as the casino has not yet started offering card games. The Hard Rock in Hollywood started blackjack June 22 and has no plans of closing the gaming tables. “We opened 71 tables and they were installed with the approval of Gov. Crist and the federal government,” said Gary Bitner, the tribe’s spokesman. “We had 40,000 people playing at those tables the opening week. They’re playing at the tables now.”

As for the Immokalee casino, Bitner said it’s too soon to say what the ruling’s effect would have on the casinos’ plans for blackjack and the building of another casino. “Right now, the slots are open there as well as six of the seven casinos in the state operated by the tribe,” he said. “From the tribe’s perspective, they’re studying the decision.” Bitner said the court has clearly stated that the decision is not final, as it has yet to rule on any motion for rehearing. “That process is likely to take a number of months. Depending on the final decision by the court, the tribe may seek review by the United States Supreme Court,” Bitner said.

 

January 24, 2010

Kansas Bills To Straighten Existing Law For Full Gambling Expansion

A law was passed in Kansas in 2007 which allowed a casino in each of four locations and slot machines at racetracks in Kansas City, Wichita and southeast Kansas. But backers of expanded gambling are saying that there are features in the law that they regard as unfavorable and detracting to the extensive expansion of gambling.The state’s need for financial security and the possibilities of bringing in new revenues have prompted legislators to introduce proposals intended to make changes in the old law. The adjustments could mean $40 million in new revenue for the state within a year.

Thus, two separate bills having the same intention were filed in the Senate and the House. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee introduced a bill Wednesday and the House Appropriations Committee followed suit the following day. The Senate committee has scheduled a hearing for next week. The two bills would amend the 2007 law, clearing impediments and making way for a full expansion of gambling. "It's long overdue," said Rep. Julie Menghini, a Democrat from Pittsburgh. "I'm excited about it. I think it's a great way to keep revenue in our state and, hopefully, bring revenue into our state."

Proponents of expanded gambling have suggested redrafting the law last year, but Republican legislators did not like the idea of going through another long debate. However, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton and Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence both say there may be a debate on gambling this year, although the more conservative House leaders may prove to be tough adversaries. In 2007, the flawed bill was forced through the Legislature by moderates and Democrats, disregarding admonitions from conservatives that is was defective, and stopping every attempt to modify it. "They got the deal they wanted, they can live with the deal they got," said House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.

Under the existing law, casino owners can build and operate casinos and tracks can offer slots subject to contracts with the Kansas lottery. However, the lottery has not gotten any applicant for the construction of a facility in either Crawford or Cherokee county, which, as mandated by law, would need to put in $225 million for the project and pay in advance a $25 million fee. The two bills would ask for only a $100 million investment and an $11 million fee.

The lottery and the owners of the dog and horse racing tracks are also in disagreement over the operators’ share of the net revenues from slots which the law has put at 40 percent, and which the track owners said would hardly give them any profit. The two bills would set their share at 58 percent. The two proposals would permit slots that were not allowed under existing law at Anthony Downs and Eureka Downs that have short summer seasons, and would also allow voters in Sedgwick County to vote again if 5,000 voters signed petitions. In August 2007, voters turned down slots at Wichita Greyhound Park.

 

January 23, 2010

Indiana Likely To Allow Riverboat Casinos To Move Inland Due To Looming Competition

Legislation is being considered in the Indiana Senate that would allow riverboat casinos on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan to move inland. The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday takes testimony on a gambling bill that would allow the casinos to relocate toward the interior of the city or county where they are located for a fee of $50 million and after which navigational systems would no longer be a requisite. A major intersection of interstates in the city could be a good location for one of two casinos on Lake Michigan in Gary, whose fee would be waived since the other license would be given back to the Indiana Gaming Commission. "All we're asking for is to move to a place where we can capture some traffic," said Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, was taken up for discussion because of the threat of new casinos and the possibility of expanded gambling in bordering states. "This bill will help the gaming industry remain healthy and protect revenues and jobs," said Sen. Alting.Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville said Indiana’s casinos should be offered some protection as they contribute a total of $1.1 billion in annual state and local taxes, besides providing work for 16,000 people. Supporters of the bill told the committee moving the casinos off river could prepare them for the coming competition and could make their business better.

Casinos in Indiana are facing competition on all fronts. In November, Ohio voters approved a casino in each of the cities of Toledo, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. The casino in Cincinnati could severely affect the three casinos in southeastern Indiana: Hollywood Casino, Grand Victoria Casino in Rising Sun and Belterra Casino near Vevay. A good percentage of their customers come from nearby Cincinnati. According to an analysis made by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan research arm, the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, the three casinos could lose $260 million in gambling revenues in the first year when the Ohio casinos are operational. That could mean a loss of $93 million in taxes for the state.

The analysis further said the Toledo casino 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis would take away gambling customers from Hoosier Park’s casino in Anderson and around $9 million from the state. Michigan, with its over 20 gambling facilities, is thinking of adding more tribal casinos. A new casino near Chicago is also on its planning stage, and Kentucky racetracks are likely to have either slot machines or casino-style gambling. Some casinos are against the bill, saying they could lose some patrons and profits to the riverboat casinos that move inland and attract more customers. The Casino Association of Indiana suggests putting of the issue until next year. The Senate committee plans to vote on the bill early next week.

 

January 22, 2010

Constitutional Amendment To Expand Gambling Passes Senate Committee, Goes To Full Senate

The Senate Committee on State and Local Government endorsed the proposal of Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, requiring any type of expanded gambling not currently legalized and in force in the state to go through a constitutional amendment. The proposed law, known as Senate Bill 2, was approved by the Senate committee on a party-line vote Wednesday, and according to Williams, the full Senate will vote on it Thursday. The 12-member Senate committee approved the proposal by a 7-5 vote. Seven Republicans voted for it, and 5 Democrats voted against it.

Democratic lawmakers are in favor of a legislation authorizing slot machines at race tracks as a way of extending aid to Kentucky’s ailing horse industry, and to bolster state revenue, and the proposed constitutional amendment of Williams is likely to weaken the Democratic proposals for expanded gambling. Williams is known to be the most prominent foe of expanded gambling in the legislature. Gov. Steve Beshear has made it known that the state badly needs the revenue considering the $1.4 billion budget gap. House Speaker Greg Stumbo also filed a measure in which a large part of the gambling revenue would be used to fund the repair of dilapidated schools.

Attorney General Jack Conway has ruled that even if a law exists in Kentucky that limits gambling in the state, the legislature could pass a bill allowing expanded gambling at the tracks. A bill needs only a majority vote in both houses of the legislature and the governor’s signature to become law, while a constitutional amendment must first be approved by a three-fifths majority each in the House and Senate, and afterward presented to voters for approval through a referendum.

Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond said Senate Bill 2 has a very slim chance of making it in the full Senate, as there are 21 Republican seats including one independent, and 23 votes are needed for the bill’s passing. Worley said although two Democrats have said they will not support Beshear’s and Stumbo’s stab at allowing expanded gambling at race tracks, he still did not expect a vote from any Democrat for the amendment. Williams said he didn’t know if the amendment could get enough votes to pass, but it has a chance. “I have to have two discerning Democrats. … We either have to change their mind or change the senators.” Williams said his amendment would “let the people decide what type of expanded might be allowed.”

 

January 21, 2010

Kane County’s Attempt To Revive Video Gambling Vote Faces Setback

The Legislative Committee of Kane County Tuesday talked about taking another vote on allowing establishments in unincorporated areas to install up to five video gambling devices. But the discussion came to a close without a proposal from any committee member for a motion to bring the vote back next month and declare the current ban invalid. In December, the county board voted to ban video gambling in unincorporated areas, with the decision to ban winning by a one-vote margin. The chairman of the Legislative Committee, Hollie Lindgren voted in favor of a ban. Now, though, she wants the Kane County board to act again to cancel the ban.

Lindgren said the shift in her position happened after she talked to people who tearfully told her that they are alarmed at the thought that the consequence of having no video gambling might mean no capital bill for their community, and therefore, no jobs for them. However, the other committee members told a completely contrary account. County board member Jennifer Laesch said people in Aurora have conveyed their opposition to video gambling, saying they do not want any more gambling in their area since they already have a casino.

Tom Van Cleave, another committee member who is firmly against video gambling, expressed his annoyance at a recently-held meeting with state lawmakers where, instead of an overall discussion on the capital bill, talks were more focused on video gambling. A spat ensued when Lindgren told the group that talk is going around in Springfield that projects and assistance under the capital bill will not be given to a community who has opted out of video gambling. To which committee member Sylvia Leonberger reacted, and asked, “So they’re holding us hostage?” Lindgren replied, "I'm not saying they are threatening us, I'm saying there's talk of it."

For county board member Bonnie Kunkel, now is not the right time to revisit the ban because the state has not provided any new information regarding regulations since the board’s vote on the ban. "Now is a bad time to switch horses," Kunkel said. "It seems like the only thing precipitating this is the perception that we may not get capital funds in the future. The reason many people voted against this is that now is not the time to make a decision. We don't have any more information about the regulations. To change now just makes us seem indecisive and accomplishes nothing. Leave it alone until we know that any change would be a change for the positive."

When the meeting adjourned, Lindgren said she will not quit and she is determined to make the board change its mind. "The bottom line is it's going to give us jobs. If the capital bill is one way of saving one home in Carpentersville and getting a man back to work or a wife back to work, I'm going to do it." But she needs the help of state lawmakers to allay the fears and doubts persisting in the minds of county board members.

 

January 20, 2010

NJ Internet Gambling Bill Gets Varied Responses

The new bill sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union that would authorize Atlantic City casinos to offer online gambling to residents of New Jersey is getting different reactions from concerned individuals. The bill has already aroused anger and resentment from the opponents of gambling whose aim, among others, is to fight addiction from compulsive gambling, and who say that the availability of Internet gambling only makes it easier for those who are inclined to be addicted.

Aside from that, there are those who questioned the focal points of the bill, particularly the one that seems to allow video lottery terminals for Internet gambling at the state’s horseracing tracks. The bill says the video lottery terminals may look like slot machines, thus possibly creating a casino-like gambling at the tracks. The chief executive officer of the three Trump Entertainment Resorts casinos, Mark Juliano said the video terminal machines at the tracks would be competing with the casinos in Atlantic City for gambling patrons if the tracks are allowed to get those slot-like devices as pointed out in the legislation, hence the city’s gaming industry is strongly opposed to the idea. "Anything that would include VLTs would not be something we would support or be interested in," Juliano said.

At present, the casinos are paying the state’s horseracing industry $90 million for a three year deal prohibiting video lottery machines at the tracks. With the new legislation, horseracing industry would get a portion of the 20 percent annual tax charged on Internet gambling’s gross revenue. The chairman of the law section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, Stephen D. Schrier, cited a detail in the legislation that says VLTs that look like slot machines could be allowed at racetracks, and wondered whether it would go against the state Constitution, which restricts casino gambling within Atlantic City. "If we're talking about slot machines or VLTs outside of Atlantic City, I would have trouble seeing how that would be legal under the New Jersey Constitution," he said.

For City Council President William Marsh, his main worry is the detriment the legislation may cause on Atlantic City as gamblers would see no need to visit the casinos if they can bet on poker, blackjack and other games on their computers. "If I gamble from home, why am I going to pay to travel and stay at a hotel and all that in Atlantic City?" Marsh asked. Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who said he would support the bill, also recognizes the likelihood of Internet gambling keeping away potential customers from Atlantic City’s casinos, but said the city has as much attractions as necessary to pull and entice tourists. Langford said, "There are other reasons why folk come to Atlantic City,” like dining in restaurants and watching live entertainment shows. “You can't do all that from the computer. We would have to weigh the good with the bad. I think the good outweighs the bad.

 

January 19, 2010

Bill Would Legalize Internet Gambling In New Jersey

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak, D-Union has sponsored a bill legalizing online gambling in Atlantic City. The bill is up for deliberation this week when lawmakers resume session. The move has put New Jersey along with California and other states which are seeking to offer betting games such as poker, on the Internet. “There are probably 500,000 online poker players in New Jersey alone. And we’re missing out on around $100 million in revenue,” said Sen. Lesniak.

Lesniak cited a recent federal court of appeals’ ruling that said online gambling must be restricted within the borders of a state, in effect limiting the wide authorization of online gambling, and in so doing, has provided an opportunity for New Jersey. “We would restrict the games to New Jersey residents. And I believe that would satisfy that ruling,” Lesniak said. Lesniak’s bill provides that the Web sites offering the online games would be run only by the licensed New Jersey casinos, which are all located in Atlantic City. Furthermore, the equipment for the operation of Internet gambling must be placed in a restricted area of a casino or in a safe and protected venue outside the property of the casino, but should be “within the territorial limits of Atlantic County.” The wording of the bill expressly would allow “New Jersey residents to place wagers on casino games via the Internet.”

Online gambling is illegal in the U.S., where the only form of gambling allowed by federal law is the one done in land-based facilities with a valid casino license issued by a state where gambling has been legalized. But steps have been initiated in the past months signifying a different outlook on the ban on Internet gaming. In 2009, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. have proposed a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax online gambling. The Joint Committee on Taxation reported in October 2009 that estimates on tax and licensing revenues from regulating Internet gambling would amount to almost $42 billion in 10 years. And information has it that over $100 billion each year is spent on gambling by unregulated players in the U.S.

New information issued by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission showed that the state’s 2009 gambling revenue declined 13.2 percent from 2008. Lesniak’s bill would charge Internet betting a yearly tax of 20 percent on gross revenue, 12 percent higher than what Atlantic City’s casinos are charged. New revenues from higher tax charges could prop up the state’s finances.

The bill would form a Division of Internet Wagering to be governed by the state Casino Control commission.

 

January 18, 2010

Senate President Miller Proposes Putting Slots In Prince George’s County

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, a Democrat who represents the counties of Calvert and Prince George’s wants to bring slots to Prince George’s County, and he wants it accomplished this year at the problem-stricken Rosecroft Raceway, to help revive the track, or at either of the two other locations: the National Harbor or an equestrian center in Upper Marlboro. Miller said Thursday that he wants lawmakers to consider his idea and see if it is sensible and worthwhile. He said he is still consulting Prince George’s officials and Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Democrat whose district includes the area where Rosecroft Raceway is located, and whose support Miller needs. Gov. Martin O’Malley and county leaders, however, did not show an excited interest in Miller’s proposal.

Miller’s proposal could stir up another debate, something that lawmakers have qualms about doing after having gone through a long and difficult debate on slot machines in a 2007 special session, in which lawmakers approved a plan to present to Maryland voters. The constitutional amendment was consequently approved by voters in 2008, legalizing up to 15,000 slot machines for each facility in Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties, the state-owned property at Rocky Gap Sate Park in Western Maryland and the city of Baltimore. O,Malley, after being asked of Miller’s idea, said, "This is the first I've heard of it," adding he is “not looking to go backward” this legislative session to talk about issues that have already been discussed and settled.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he is not aware of any support prevailing among the representatives of Prince George’s, and added that if the Senate passed Miller’s proposal, he would be doubtful of its chance in the House. He said during the 2007 session, "no one from Prince George's County stepped up to the plate. In fact, that county was adamantly opposed at the time." Muse, for his part, said he is “open to looking at all possible options” to help Rosecroft Raceway. He also said he would rather the tracks have high stakes card games, as he, as a minister keeps a “social opposition” to slots, a suggestion that Miller said he could give his backing to.

State leaders have put a chance on the slots legislation, hoping to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, but a year after license applications were submitted, only three licenses were awarded, and none were issued in Baltimore and Western Maryland. Donald C. Fry, chairman of the state slots commission said the commission will meet next week to finalize its suggestions and endorsements to lawmakers, but putting slots in other counties is not one of their recommendations.

 

January 17, 2010

Lawmakers Reject Seminole Deal

The gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe proved to be unacceptable to lawmakers, as the House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review unanimously voted to block its passing Thursday. The new version of the agreement was a replacement for a deal that Gov. Charlie Crist first negotiated with the tribe in 2007, and was nullified by the Supreme Court in 2008 on the grounds that any financial deal with the tribe has to be approved first by the Legislature.

The new deal was crafted by lawmakers last year to serve as a guide for Crist as he negotiated anew with the tribe. The agreement would have led to a projected $6.8 billion for the state in 20 years, but the governor deviated from the details outlined for him by the lawmakers. The major change that Crist made was allowing card games like black jack at the tribe’s seven casinos, while the lawmakers originally wanted to authorize those games only at four casinos. “We came up with what we thought was best for the state of Florida,” said Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. “And ultimately it was unacceptable, so we got back the same compact we started out with. So why would we go back to that when we fixed it?”

Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who is the committee’s chairman said he remains hopeful that some kind of deal will be reached at some point, but also warned that negotiations will be difficult given that the tribe has continued to offer card games in their casinos which are illegal under state law.

Crist and the Seminoles have also expressed optimism that a more acceptable agreement can still be achieved. “We obviously have a long way to go before the end of session, so there is plenty of time for the Florida Legislature to approve a plan that would direct billions of dollars to Florida schools for years to come. We all agree that Florida’s students and teachers must be a top priority, and that the education of our future workforce is essential to Florida’s economic future,“ Crist’s statement said. “While the leaders of the Seminole Tribe are disappointed with today’s vote, they are optimistic that with the continued strong support of Gov. Crist, a resolution of the compact issue will ultimately be achieved,” the tribe said in a statement.

The committee, however, approved some gambling changes intended to assist the state’s pari-mutuel facilities. The measure, which would be effective July 1, 2010, would allow the pari-mutuels to offer no limit poker and extend card room activity from 12 hours per day to 18 hours daily Monday to Friday, and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday. It also provides for the gradual decrease in the annual slot machine license fee from $3 million to $2 million.

One lawmaker said the provisions will help the pari-mutuel industry deal with competition from Seminole casinos. “The tribe is doing what it wants to do anyway, and we’re not doing anything as a state to stop them,” Rep. Gibson said.

 

January 16, 2010

Alabama’s Electronic Bingo Games May Be Legalized

Casinos in Alabama have no table games and slot machines. What they have are electronic bingo machines that work and look a lot like slot machines, but a player’s win or loss is decided by fast games of bingo, which is legal in parts of Alabama. For several years state leaders have argued over whether these electronic bingo machines are legal under state law which outlaws slot machines. Gov. Bob Riley remains adamant in his fight against illegal gambling and has continued to view electronic bingo machines as slot machines. Indian casinos, however, are offering the bingo machines at their facilities, insisting that these games are legal since they are governed by federal law rather than state law.

Alabama legislators have proposed a bill Tuesday, sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, which would legalize these machines. The proposal recommends that all games that are legal at Indian casinos would also be legal at non-Indian facilities already existing. This would mean that gambling facilities like Victoryland in Macon and Country Crossing at Dothan could continue operating the electronic bingo machines. Officials of Country Crossing asked a court last week to stop a raid that was about to be carried out by the Governor’s antigambling task force. The legislation is seen as an attempt to prevent the task force from conducting more raids to cease activity of electronic bingo machines.

A public hearing on the bill is planned for Jan. 20 by the House Tourism and Travel Committee. Rep. Black said the aim of the legislation is to keep a level playing field for all gaming operations, and not giving special treatment to any business. "When people go into a facility run by an Alabama operator and when they go into an Indian facility, there's no difference, it's all gambling. This needs to be done to keep it fair," Black said. Jeff Emerson, the Governor’s communicating director said, since the Alabama Constitution says those games are illegal, that would make the bill unconstitutional because no act passed by the Legislature can take priority over the constitution.

House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn said he believes the bill will not be supported by most Republicans in the Legislature. He thinks that the proposal is likely to bring about a monopoly for the existing facilities. And like Emerson, he said, "If the constitution says slot machines are illegal, that supersedes any statute." Doug Rainer, speaking for Country Crossing, said, "Right now we are supporting movements that would eliminate Bob Riley's attacks on legal businesses such as ours.” Black said he is also thinking of bringing back a constitutional amendment that would allow and tax electronic bingo machines at specified areas and form a gaming regulating commission.

 

January 15, 2010

Illinois Gaming Board Says “Gray-Machine” Operators Will Be Banned From Legal Video Gambling Business

By law, the Illinois Gaming Board is the state’s policy-making body tasked to form rules to regulate video gambling, including licensing machine suppliers and operators. Video gambling was legalized by the General Assembly last summer to help fund a multi-billion dollar statewide construction and jobs program. The board on Wednesday decided on rules to prohibit people who have been involved in the operation of illegal video gambling machines in the past from having a chance to participate in the approved system when it starts operation late this year. Under a rule approved by the board, anyone found guilty of crimes connected to gambling will be barred from manufacturing, operating or installing the legalized video gambling machines in any establishment he owns or runs.

The gambling devices, popularly known as “gray machines” because of the gray area or unclear and unspecified situation they are in, are intended to be played for entertainment purposes only at taverns and other establishments, but are often used for illegal gambling where money is actually paid. The gaming board has also set Dec. 16, 2009 as the cut-off date for the granting of permits for the legalized video gambling machines, and those people who have been believed by board investigators to have “facilitated, enabled or participated in the use of” the illegal gambling machines after the said date will be automatically not allowed to operate legally, no matter whether they are charged with the illegal activity or not.

However, cases of those who have been found to have operated gray machines before the said date will not be judged as a whole, but each case will be considered separately to be able to establish the suitability and qualification of each operator to participate in the recently-legalized industry. The state now licenses around 21,000 amusement-only gaming machines, at $30 each machine. The unlicensed machines are estimated to run to over 40,000. It has also been confirmed that both licensed and unlicensed machines are used illegally.

The new machines are estimated to generate tax revenue of close to $300 million a year, but variation of that figure hinges on the strictness in enforcing the licensing policy and the number of towns and counties opting out of video gambling. Some state lawmakers have questioned the board’s delay in implementing the video gambling, and consequently putting off construction programs throughout the entire state. Lawmakers were expecting video gambling could be launched this summer, but the gaming board said it will begin rolling out the machines in December this year.

 

January 14, 2010

PartyGaming Signs Five-Year Exclusive Deal With Danske Spil

Online gaming company PartyGaming, the sixth-largest gaming operator in Europe, announced Monday an exclusive five-year agreement with Danske Spil, Denmark’s sole provider of online gambling in the country. Under the deal, PartyGaming will provide online poker and online casino games to Danske Spil to be made available to Danes through its existing Internet gambling website. Danske Spil, a company founded in 1948 and which is 80 percent controlled by the Danish government, has held a monopoly over the country’s gambling operations for years, offering sports betting, bingo, keno, gambling on machines and the country’s national lottery. It is one of Europe’s largest betting and gaming organizations, with a reported turnover of nearly DKr 11 bn ($2.1 billion) in 2008. Its registered online members currently add up to 500,000.

However, the Danish government is likely to partially liberalize its online gaming market as a new draft legislation has been announced in 2009 that is expected to become law in 2011, that would regulate the industry, allowing the entry of foreign competitors. If implemented, poker and casino games will be those that will be available to rival operators. Largely encouraged by the tax revenues, several European countries have also taken steps to legalize online gambling. Italy opened its market to online tournament poker last year, and Germany is exploring the possibility of a legislation on online gambling. In France, lawmakers are set to start hearings this month on modifying and improving the guidelines and licensing of online gaming.

An analyst at Numis, Wyn Ellis said, “We should expect a number of other deals like this. As these European markets liberalize, incumbents and operators within these countries are likely to be well placed to win the licenses. So the strategy for companies like PartyGaming is to target various local partners and provide business-to-business services to them." PartyGaming chief executive Jim Ryan expressed his delight at the contract with Danske Spil, and called it a “landmark” deal. He remarked, "The agreement validates our strategy to become a leading provider of B2B services to both corporates and governments around the world. We look forward to building a significant and profitable enterprise as soon as the newly regulated Danish online market opens.”

The partnership’s financial terms and other details are still being resolved and will be finalized in the coming weeks. Considering Danske Spil’s large member base, the website would definitely be in an extremely advantageous situation when the Danish government adopts the new liberalization law allowing competition from foreign operators.

 

January 13, 2010

Cash-Strapped Estonia Turns To Online Gaming

Estonia, one of the countries in Europe severely affected by the global economic recession is finding itself in a deep financial mess. After seeing its economy decline by 36 percent, the government has become aware of the pressing need to find new sources of income, and so has decided to legalize online gambling to be able to raise new revenue from taxes imposed on online gambling operators. Estonia was supposed to join the European Union’s single currency, but after its economy was ravaged by the recession, it was no longer able to meet the strict requirements needed for Eurozone admission.

With the adoption of online gaming, Estonia has gone along the path taken by other European countries like The Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Belgium and Sweden, whose governments have one and the same intention, that is, to raise money from taxation to help fund public finances. The Estonian government is optimistic that the earnings from issuance of licenses and from the 5 percent tax charged on gross revenue will bring about the expected financial recovery that will eventually put its economy on track.

The new Gambling Act is designed to be implemented in two phases. The first phase, which was fully functional at the start of the new year, allowed gamblers to play online using only the locally-licensed and Estonia-based gaming sites, such as the one granted to, and set up by the Olympic Casino group, and developed by Playtech, one of the industry’s most famous software companies. Mr. Mor Weizer, Executive Manager of Playtech, has said of the business collaboration, thus, “We are truly glad of this opportunity to start our partnership with Olympic as the leading casino entertainment provider in Central and Eastern Europe. The second phase will be activated in 2011, wherein access to Estonia’s entire online gambling market will be allowed to foreign operators.

Estonia’s regulatory body will make use of the one year gap between the two phases to carefully formulate clear and specific rules and to polish up some items for the operation of a safe, legitimate and profitable international online gambling business. At this point in time, a number of foreign online gaming investors are setting their sights on the Estonian market, since they regard it as having a great potential for high profit, and also as a good entryway into the Baltic market. However, gamblers and poker players in Estonia are concerned over the information that the online gambling market will be restricted only to local companies for a year since it would mean limited online movement and a low potential for profit. Estonia’s decision to legalize online gaming including online poker was spurred by the very successful poker tournament that was held in the country last year, and sponsored by PokerStars.

 

January 12, 2010

Horse Race Betting In Georgia Pushed By Lobbyists

Lobbying groups in Georgia are full of activity these days as Georgia lawmakers are heading back to work for the legislative session that resumes this week. The lobbyists are promoting horse-race betting in Georgia, believing that the racing facilities can raise millions of dollars badly needed by the state to cover the budget deficit. According to lobbyist Arthur Anderson, the $2 billion drop in state tax revenue will be highlighted in the gambling issue debate, and Georgia lawmakers may well take a cue from Indiana which raised a lot in revenue after it legalized horse race betting in 2007.

Anderson, who is with the Georgia-South Carolina Horse Racing Committee based in Augusta, spoke to supporters in a meeting Sunday, saying, "We see it as a win-win-win. The money trickles down all the way to the little guy and up to the big guy, and the taxes just come in." Anderson is also running a campaign that advocates the proposal to use taxes from racetracks for funding public education. "Educators think it's wonderful," said Lisa Amey, who acts in behalf of a number of people who have invested money to put up $20 million to build a track and training facility in southern Atlanta which will be named Georgia Downs. Amey said the project would need contractors and would give rise to around 600 other jobs. Anderson said tracks can also be put up by the state in places like August, Savannah, and Valdosta or Hawkinsville.

And since many of the legislators are inexperienced on the gambling issue, the lobbyists are faced with the task of educating the lawmakers, and explaining to them the many aspects and details of pari-mutuel gaming and off-site betting. In November, half a day was spent by experts in a hearing, giving details and clarifying matters on the business of race track gambling to lawmakers. Maria Strollo Zack, an expert lobbyist hired by Profit Georgia LLC, an association of horse breeders, said she expects the introduction to be made soon after the General Assembly convenes from its recess. She added that Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, who led the November hearing will likely handle the introduction.

Other lobbyists who want another type of gambling, are pushing to legalize the construction of a casino in Underground Atlanta, but Anderson says he thinks horse racing has a bigger chance of making it. "We think that our position is going to be the most palatable to the people," he said.

Whichever type of gambling the legislature may approve would still have need of a constitutional amendment.

 

January 11, 2010

West Va. Casinos Facing Impending Competition From Neighboring States

Once table games are brought in to Pennsylvania casinos most likely this summer, and Ohio allows casino gambling in November, West Virginia casinos could “get hammered” from both sides, as one expert puts it, since the facilities in West Virginia, where table games were legalized in 2007, attract clients from these bordering states. Industry experts say a large number of gamblers prefer playing, at least on a regular basis, at a nearby casino rather than driving to a far location.

The expanded gambling in Pennsylvania will have an impact on the two West Virginia casinos nearest the Pennsylvania boundary, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and Mountaineer in Chester, causing these casinos to lose their dominance. "I think it will be significant," said Paul Girvan, of the Innovation Group, an industry consultant. The Innovation Group, in projections it made for casino operators in Pennsylvania, has estimated that the table games will produce revenue of $864.5 million by 2012. Over half of that amount, or $502.8 million will be from Pennsylvania residents who presently gamble in West Virginia and Atlantic City.

Harvey Perkins, senior vice president of another industry consultant, Spectrum Group also perceives the Pennsylvania decision as a cause for concern for West Virginia casinos. He advises them to strengthen promotions, modernize facilities, and offer new amenities, to be able to compete and lessen the blow.

Similarly, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Ed Bowman believes West Virginia casinos will take a beating from the coming competition, and says the casinos will have to present the best they can offer to keep their hold on out-of-state customers. He said 90- 95 percent of the license plates at the two West Virginia casinos are from Pennsylvania or Ohio, and the state has already recorded some drop in slots revenue from competition in Pennsylvania. The Senator has been urging the Legislature for a tax cut on table games, from the present 35% to same as Pennsylvania’s 16%, to help the casinos cope. But casino operators do not appear fazed with the experts’ predictions, believing that the impact will not be that severe. Bob Griffin of MTR Gaming which owns Mountaineer said he sees some table game revenue loss to Pennsylvania, but not much. "The majority of customers come from Ohio. They will continue to come to Mountaineer. A small percentage (of customers) from Pennsylvania go to West Virginia. We will lose some of them but not all of them," he said.

Wheeling officials also think the same. Mike Maestle, vice president of gaming operations said it was too early to conclude what the full effect would be, but believes most of his customers would remain. “We believe we have a first-class product to offer and we can compete. We believe our players love what we have to offer and will continue to visit us. We are in a very competitive market. All operators, all casinos, are going to be putting their best games forward and thriving to gain market share and protect market share," he said

 

January 10, 2010

Gronstal Says Gambling Machines In Taverns Not Likely

Senate Democratic Leader Michael Gronstal of Council Bluffs says the idea of allowing Iowa bars and taverns to install gambling machines is highly unlikely to be approved by the state Legislature. The Senate majority leader said the proposal to expand gambling for the purpose of generating more tax revenue has very little appeal to the legislature and gave the plan a very minimal chance of passing.

In 2006, the Iowa lawmaking body voted to ban the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines that resembled slot machines and were set up in bars and taverns as well as grocery stores and convenient stores, resulting in several court cases. "A couple of years later we're going to go reverse that and go back?" asked Gronstal. "I think that's unlikely." He added that most of the lawmakers who voted to ban the machines a couple of years ago are still incumbent. “I think people will remember that in the Legislature and say, ‘Let’s not go back there,’ “Gronstal said.

Supporters of the gambling machines have suggested restricting the machines in “adults-only” bars and taverns, especially since some bar owners have raised objections to the smoking ban, claiming it had negative effects on business, and the expanded gambling could make up for the establishment’s loss as it would attract new customers. But Gronstal thinks many legislators do not like the idea. "Instead of 6,000 locations in Iowa, maybe you're down to 4,000 locations, it's not that limited," Gronstal said.

Gronstal discussed this issue and some other topics that may be taken up during the 2010 legislative session, during a taping of this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television, where he is the guest. The Iowa House and Senate will start sessions on Monday and will possibly focus the discussions on cutting state expenditures to reduce the budget deficit that could reach $1 billion. Some say cutting state spending could mean increases in property taxes that fund local governments and schools.

But Gronstal said the legislators are backing the use of cash reserves rather than increasing property taxes, and they are creating a measure with that legal provision. "We're dipping into our cash reserves in a fairly significant way," said Gronstal. "We think it's appropriate for school districts and local governments to do that as well, as opposed to raising property taxes."

Gronstal also disclosed that there are talks of changing the tax credit system, but the movie credit may be maintained. On Friday, a group of state agency directors proposed fixing Iowa’s system of tax credits, like putting $185 million as the maximum amount for business credits and removing a tax credit for movie makers.

 

January 9, 2010

Oaklawn Park Opens New Electronic Gambling Parlor

When the Oaklawn track begins its live thoroughbred racing season next week, bettors will be treated to an extra entertainment with the addition of its new gambling area. The place has the ambiance of a casino, and gamblers can play poker, craps, blackjack and slot-like machines. But the games are all electronic, so are the “cards” and the “dice”, technically describing the entertainment as “electronic games of skill”, thereby making it possible for Oaklawn to circumvent a state law that bans casinos in Arkansas.

The expanded gambling at the 106-year old track started soon after Arkansas launched its state lottery. “We're not the only game in town anymore," Oaklawn spokesman Terry Wallace said. "Arkansas is in the lottery business; we're not the only people who offer the opportunity to gamble." The electronic gambling parlor with its 850 machines is a momentous move for the state’s largest tourist attraction, which Wallace estimated a million people will visit this year. The expanded gambling also served as the state’s long delayed solution to competitions in neighboring states which severely reduced Oaklawn’s revenue, such as the casino in Tunica, Miss., which opened 20 years ago.

The parlor is having a soft opening to make some adjustments and to iron out possible glitches before the start of the live racing season on Jan. 15. Thursday afternoon, a number of people tried their hand on the different machines, from the new penny games that look like slot machines to the electronic blackjack tables with a $25 minimum bet. Standing next to the latest games of skill machines are the Instant Racing machines which allow players to bet on randomly selected past horse races. These machines are currently offered only in Arkansas. Oaklawn also has a buffet, a poker room and a race book for high-stakes horseracing.

Oaklawn and Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis failed to obtain approval from a statewide voter referendum in 1996 which would have authorized them to operate casinos. But in 2006, through another referendum, both tracks were granted permission for “electronic games of skill” after a bill was passed in the Legislature in 2005. Southland at once applied the measure and expanded, while Oaklawn waited for a ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court to clear a dispute, after which, the track had to plan the construction so as not to disrupt its live racing season. Oaklawn’s gambling area is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It is open longer than its simulcast racing hours. "There is enough tourism traffic in our town, people are always looking for things to do," said Wallace. On Tuesday, Oaklawn be closed for three days to prepare for the live season.

 

January 8, 2010

Alabama Judge Blocks Antigambling Task Force Raid on New Casino

Country Crossing Casino near Dothan officially opened on December 1, 2009. The $87 million entertainment complex has restaurants, an inn and a concert venue, and 1,700 electronic bingo machines. Since gambling is illegal in Alabama, the casino does not offer table games or slot machines. But Gov. Bob Riley says the casino is operating illegally because the bingo machines apparently do not have the features for legal bingo that have been recently summarized by the Alabama Supreme Court in another case relating to the White Hall Casino near Montgomery.

Through the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling , about 40 Alabama state troopers were deployed in areas near the casino in the hours before dawn Wednesday in preparation for a 4 a.m. raid approved by the governor, and supported with a search warrant from a district judge in Dothan. But local officials who support the casino rushed to the casino’s protection, and were able to obtain an order halting the raid. The order was hurriedly brought to the state police at 1:30 a.m. by Houston County Commissioner Mark Culver himself before police officers could carry out the raid and confiscate the bingo machines.

Culver condemned the governor’s task force for trying to shut down the casino’s operation and putting at risk the 1,300 jobs the facility had generated in a community besieged by the effects of an economic recession. "We are going to do everything we can to protect the jobs of the people of Houston County," Culver said. The task force asked the Alabama Supreme Court to allow the raid before the warrant expires on Sunday, but Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin ruled that seizing the machines would hinder the gambling revenue required to pay the bonds used for the construction of the $87 million complex. The judge declined to lift the order until the hearing on Jan. 20.

The Houston County Commission worked a way to issue up to $70 million in bonds for the construction of the casino in 2008, which are supposed to be paid off with revenue from the bingo machines. The county and casino operators argue that the bingo machines are legal. A gambling expert said that investors in Alabama casinos know that even with the state’s uncertain laws, it is not that easy to close casinos that have amenities like restaurants and hotels that create plenty of jobs in the midst of a recession. Alabama’s Attorney General, Troy King, has disagreed with the way the governor perceives the law and questions the governor’s planned raid, saying it raised “increasing concerns.”

The governor, who thinks that the machines are illegal slot machines, considers the judge’s ruling a setback to his campaign against illegal gambling in the state. The governor did not give a comment, but his press secretary said, "The obstruction of law enforcement that took place in Houston County this morning should be a wake-up call to the people of this state about the power of organized gambling and casino bosses."

 

January 7, 2010

Casino Operators’ Shares Trade High

Shares of gambling corporations like Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd., and MGM Mirage that have properties in the city of Macau have continued to climb Tuesday as investors’ optimism have not waned after seeing the latest revenue figures for Macau that showed an increase of 48 percent in December. According to Robert LaFleur of Susquehanna Financial Group in a client note, the improvement in Macau’s gaming revenue was likely to happen because 2008 had been a tough year due to Beijing’s visa restrictions plus the global economic recession towards the end of the year. Macau is the only place in China where gambling is allowed.

The steady increase in Macau’s gaming revenue beginning last summer has worked to the advantage of the US-based gambling operators as they continue to wrestle the effects of a tough economy at home. U.S. gambling revenue results have remained disappointing as domestic gamblers are keeping a tight rein on their spending, foregoing vacation trips and opting to play at local casinos, and gambling less often, owing to the recession. Macau is believed to be the casino operators’ best factor since the US market is still expected to be tough due to the poor economy and to concerns over new supplies coming online.

Shares of Wynn Resorts gained $3.73, or 5.8 percent, to $67.69. The stock has traded between $14.50 and $74.90 for the past year. Shares of MGM Mirage gained 62 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $10.35 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $1.81 to $16.89. Macau-based Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. also rose 55 cents, or 15.4 percent, to $4.14.

The possibility of lawmakers passing a gaming bill in Pennsylvania in the next two days also helped give a lift to the stocks Tuesday. The bill would allow table games in the state’s casinos that currently offer only slot machines. The client note by LaFleur says the expanded gambling’s tax rate would be at 14 percent, and would go down to 12 percent next year. Penn National Gaming and Las Vegas Sands would be the ones to gain by the passage of the bill. Shares of Penn National Gaming gained 24 cents to $27.99, and those of Las Vegas Sands gained $1.31, or 7.9 percent, to $17.93. "Las Vegas Sands' Bethlehem property is about an hour closer than Atlantic City to the North New Jersey/New York City area, so the addition of table games could draw additional visitation from this area," LaFleur wrote.

 

January 6, 2010

Kane County Board May Overturn Video Gambling Ban After Meeting With State Lawmakers

Kane County Board members may have realized that perhaps they made an impulsive decision when they recently voted to ban video gambling in their county, and are worried over the adverse consequences that may result from the ban. The state lawmakers passed the Video Gaming Act to support individual communities in these hard times brought about by the economic recession. The ban won by only one vote. At this point, board members wish to sit down with a group of local state lawmakers and have arranged a Friday meeting to ask them questions about video gambling. The Legislative Committee of the county board met Monday to confer on the plan of action for Friday’s meeting, and have agreed to discuss with state lawmakers the concerns of the county and what the county expects its lawmakers to accomplish this year. After the meeting, the county board will vote again in February to possibly reverse the ban.

Committee Chairman Hollie Lindgren who voted for a ban, said the objective of the meeting is for lawmakers to answer all questions of board members who voted to ban video gambling, to shed light on vague areas, and to put to to rest some uncertainties, as the board members get ready to convene next month to reconsider the ban. "My concerns were that everything wasn't in place," Lindgren, who also has some questions, said. "When the riverboat went in in Elgin, everything was set in place. We knew Kane County was going to get a certain percentage. I'm not hearing that with this. I'm thinking all this money might head somewhere else. That's the only reason I voted against it." After the ban, Lindgren said, she was met with a barrage of phone calls and emails from pro-video gambling folks, particularly from members of the local labor union who see some job opportunities with the introduction of video gambling. "I realized this is actually going to affect people who need to get back to work, who are trying to save their homes," Lindgren said. "If this is what's going to give these people their jobs, then we need to do it."

But some board members still oppose video gambling, like Tom Van Cleave and Drew Frasz. Van Cleave said one other choice to help balance the budget that he would support is to raise income tax. But he said the state lawmakers are scared to even mention the idea for fear of being dismissed from office. For his part, Frasz said his reason for opposing video gambling is based on moral issues, and added that the state lawmakers’ burden of funding the state’s capital bill should not be unloaded on the county board.

 

January 5, 2010

Lawmakers May Take Up Seminole Casino Issue in March

When the Seminole Casino Immokalee reopened in February, it was to unveil the casino’s dramatic transformation from an ordinary bingo hall to an elegant and sophisticated gambling facility. The $22 million expansion cost had made it possible for the operators to increase the gaming center to twice its size, and to raise the number of its slots from 750 to almost 1,100. More profitable and modern Class III slot machines slowly took the place of Class II slots. The casino now has luxury cars for giveaways, and aside from slots, offers popular table games like blackjack. According to a spokesman, the Seminole Casino Immokalee has hired 600 more jobs for its February reopening, and because some positions are dependent on the economy, the casino now employs 771 workers.

More expansions are being planned, tribe officials say, but those developments are subject to an agreement between the tribe and the state, the fate of which rests on the hands of legislators. The expansion plans include a center for events, a hotel, and a golf course on the tribe’s Immokalee land. The construction and other related works on these future projects are presumed to create thousands of jobs. But the $3 billion exclusive gambling deal sits frozen in the Legislature because lawmakers continue to be unconvinced of the idea.

Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta whose area of responsibility involves Immokalee, and State Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples are in favor of a compact. Gov. Charlie Crist, who conferred and bargained with the tribe officials on the proposal, has also been goading lawmakers to resume discussions on the issue, but up to now, the Legislature hasn’t made any move towards that direction. Hudson thinks that the Lawmakers need time to sort things out. “Right now both the Senate president and the Speaker believe we can come up with a solution if we just have a little more time,” he said. “So time is of the essence here.” Hudson believes the issue will be taken up by the Legislature when it opens its regular session in March.

Seminole Tribe Councilman Max Osceola, speaking for the tribe, said, “It’s not just the compact, but of course the economy. We’re waiting for a lot of things. The compact is one element, the economy is another element.” Some lawmakers have indicated that expanded gambling at the racetracks would be a better idea than a compact with the Seminoles. The pari-mutuel operators are of the same opinion. They are against the compact and have been reminding lawmakers to keep their industry into account when the Legislature tackles the Seminole issue. “We employ thousands of Floridians,” said one track executive. “We pay taxes. Indirectly, when you count...all the ancillary businesses that go along with that, it really is a big industry to force out of the state of Florida.”

 

January 4, 2010

Kentucky Slots Bill Seems Likely To Be Stalled Again

The election of Jimmy Higdon, a Republican and a slots opponent, to a state Senate seat in a special voting, spelled doom for the bill on expanded gambling badly needed and anticipated by the $4 billion horse industry of the state of Kentucky. The Senate seat was vacated by Republican Dan Kelly, also a slots foe, who was appointed circuit judge by pro-slots Gov. Steve Beshear, an effort to put a Democrat in the Senate, thus narrowing the Republicans’ leadership. Rather, the result strengthened the Republican margin 21-17 with one independent that supports the Republicans. As a consequence, the likelihood of passing a bill that would allow slots at the states racetracks seems nil.

As the House and Senate sessions resume, the horse industry leaders are not proposing any specific plan, either. It seems the only proposal with a slim chance of being approved, Senate leaders say, is a constitutional amendment put through local referendums, such as the one previously filed by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. The amendment would allow expansion of gambling at the state’s seven racetracks, but would require approval by Kentucky voters in November. The proposal would give 25 percent of net slots revenue to purses, breeders’ incentives, and marketing for horse racing. Another 25 percent would go to the slots operators and 50 percent to the state for state projects and capital bond payments.

Horse breeder and former Gov. Brereton Jones, who is also chairman of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) which supports slots, said Thayer’s amendment proposal would not provide immediate relief for the racetrack industry, which needs urgent assistance. Jones said the industry, however, is keeping its options open. “We are willing to meet with anyone at any time. We want to get something as soon as possible and we just have to explore what the possibilities are as we go step-by-step.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg said he doesn’t believe Thayer’s proposal will merit a hearing in the House. Stumbo is for expanded gambling, but is against a constitutional amendment. He is also opposing the idea of the Governor aiming to legalize slots in his budget proposal by recommending earnings from slots to be used in his budget. This is the only other option to allow expanded gambling at tracks, but the proposal would, without a doubt, be highly contested even in a House widely held by Democrats. “We would not look favorably upon it because of the precedent it would set,” Stumbo stated. He said revenue estimates from the Consensus Forecasting Group should be used as the basis for any proposal otherwise, he would oppose it.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville has always been against expanded gambling, but said if they had to approve any proposal, Thayer’s amendment would be it. But Sen. Ed Worley, D-Richmond said his group won’t endorse the amendment.

 

January 3, 2010

South Carolina Attorney General Challenges Favorable Ruling on Poker

In 2006 a group of players were charged with illegal gambling under South Carolina’s outdated gambling laws that say “any games with cards or dice” are considered unlawful. The men were playing a poker game, Texas Hold’em, with $0.10/$0.20, in a home in Mount Pleasant on April 12, 2006, when local police officers broke into the house and arrested the players on the grounds that they were playing in a “house used as a place of gambling.” Twenty of the accused pleaded guilty of the gambling charges, but five of the men decided to fight it out in court. The five defendants, with the advice and assistance of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), argued that poker is a game of skill, not chance, and so did not have the status of illegal gambling, and therefore not covered by South Carolina law.

The case was heard in a trial court in February in which World Poker Tour (WPT) host Mike Sexton was asked to perform the poker games played on the roving tournament series to establish the skill element of poker. Dr. Robert Hannum of the University of Denver was also asked to testify, wherein he used statistical analysis to prove that the skill of a player, not luck, largely determined the outcome of a poker game. The trial court judge was convinced, but still, he strictly interpreted the vague SC law, thus, the five were found guilty.

The case was appealed and filed before Judge Markely Dennis, which resulted in the judge’s favorable ruling in October. Judge Dennis also complained about the extensive character of the state’s gambling law which could be read to imply that any game played with dice or cards is gambling, and deemed unlawful. The judge mentioned in particular the games of Bunco, Go Fish and Solitaire and said, “Simply put, the law, as written, has the potential to make criminals of virtually every man, woman, and child in the state of South Carolina.”

But Attorney General Henry McMaster has opposed the October ruling, and filed an appeal with the state’s Supreme Court, skipping the Court of Appeals. His filing is 57 pages long. McMaster thinks that poker should still be outlawed in the state, whether it is a game of skill or not. “In the General Assembly’s view, the ills resulting from games played for money do not depend upon the particular game or the nature in which it was played.” According to a newspaper report, McMaster is a Republican candidate for Governor.
The legislature is likely to discuss a bill allowing social card games in the state next year. Meanwhile, more cases are expected to be filed regarding the poker issue, although no date has been set as to when the case will be heard by the state Supreme Court.

 

January 2, 2010

Vegas’ CityCenter Touted as Strip’s Financial Savior

CityCenter, the latest resort complex in Las Vegas to be unveiled, situated on 67 acres, is a maze of impressive hotels and residential units, excellent dining areas, exciting spas, and incredible shopping centers. Its phased opening in December in a city whose main industry was once believed to be recession-proof but was nevertheless devastated by the economic slump, was looked upon with mixed opinions by Nevadans. Some saw it as a symbol of the Strip’s road to economic recovery, while some say it is just another indicator of its many troubles.

The newest to open is Aria, the breathtaking hotel-casino that is the centerpiece of the complex. The hotel with its 4,004 rooms designed by Cesar Pelli has a Maya Lin sculpture above the front desk and a 270-foot long water wall and dancing fountain outside called Lumia. On its opening night, lobsters were served, Dom Perignon flowed, and shots were chilled in an ice sculpture. But on the same day, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas released its economic prediction, saying that despite CityCenter’s unveiling, Southern Nevada will continue to be faced with a low tourist spending and considerable job losses for most of 2010.

Analysts are saying that if CityCenter will be a success, it will at first be to the detriment of other hotels, some of which have already closed due to low demand. Revenues at existing facilities could plunge to as low as 6.9 percent in 2010. However, Brent Pirosch, the company’s director of gaming consulting services said, "I think a lot of people are rooting for CityCenter to do well, "because the better it does at bringing in visitors, the less it takes from other properties." The $8.5 billion CityCenter might be the last tourist attraction to open in the Strip for some time. Officials at MGM Mirage, the force behind CityCenter say that the modern artwork and the glass-covered architecture would lure tourists who wouldn’t even have thought of going to Sin City.

Nevada is urgently hoping for an economic savior. The most recent data available showed that gambling revenue in October dropped to its lowest point since 2003. And since gaming and sales taxes, the state’s bread and butter, are down, Gov. Jim Gibbons has again asked state agencies to cut their budgets. "Lots of people want CityCenter to be an economic miracle," said Mary Riddel, interim director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "We've been so dependent for so long on massive openings and massive spending. We've hit a wall." "If CityCenter doesn't change anything, Las Vegas is really in trouble," said William Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.

 

December 31, 2009

Patrick, DeLeo Disagree On Expanded Gambling At Racetracks

For years, racetrack owners in Massachusetts have been pressing their case for permission to set up slot machines at their establishments. And now that the state legislature will resume discussion on the issue of expanded gambling next year, the disagreement of Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo over the subject will again be brought to light. DeLeo is in the middle of formulating a bill that would allow the four racetracks in the state to install slot machines, a proposal that Patrick does not support. Although both Democratic leaders are backing the introduction of casino gambling into the state, the two are at loggerheads on the matter of slot machines being allowed at tracks.

In his letter to DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray earlier this month, Patrick said, “Slot parlors, ‘racinos’, or any other form of convenience gambling is not something I can support.’’ And in his last interview for the year, Patrick told reporters, “I’m not trying to be a jerk here, it’s just there is harm that is associated with gambling that has to be dealt with, and that’s the reason to go about this with extreme care. And that’s why I think the setting for this and the limited number of new settings matters.’’

In contrast, DeLeo sees slot machines at racetracks as “an important part of expanded gaming.” He says that slot machines can be installed easily and without delay, and he thinks that there would be a “natural progression” from slot machines to casinos. “I’d look at the slots as a more immediate form of revenue for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,’’ DeLeo said last week. “By the time we finish with resort casinos, it could be two, three, four, five years maybe for the whole process.’’ For her part, Murray said her inclination is for resort-style casinos, like the governor’s, but she is willing to consider other suggestions. She says she is “not hot on” slots at racetracks, a stand she has kept.

Patrick has proposed a “fresh, independent, and transparent analysis of the benefits and costs of expanded gaming’’ in his letter to DeLeo and Murray, but DeLeo turned down the suggestion, and argued, “Because gaming has been extensively studied in recent years, I’m not sure a lengthy study in place of a bill is what we need right now. “Given our current economic situation, I think our focus ought to be on bringing jobs to the Commonwealth and not on more delay.’’ The racetrack owners have threatened to close their businesses if expanded gambling at their facilities is not approved. “If you put casinos and don’t authorize slots at racetracks, these tracks, including mine, are gone,’’ said one owner.

According to the American Gaming Association, the 12 states that had slots installed at racetracks in 2008 were able to give state and local governments $2.6 billion in tax revenue.

 

December 30, 2009

Kentucky Leaders Debate Over Financial Mess

Attention has been drawn yet again to expanded gaming as Kentucky’s political leaders argue over the state’s budget dilemma and how to find solutions to the problem. Gov. Steve Beshear and Senate Pres. David Williams (R-Burkesville) do not see eye to eye when it comes to the issue of the state’s financial expectations and the ways to ease the budget gap.

Gov. Steve Beshear declared that the state is in a far worse financial situation than it seems. He further revealed that the budget deficit will reach more than $1.5 billion in two year’s time. "The bottom line is we face a challenge much greater than many have anticipated," said Beshear. He says putting slots at racetracks is still one option to help alleviate the budget shortfall.

But Senate Pres. Williams says he believes the lawmakers will not decide positively on the plan. He accused Beshear of using the extreme budget figures to try to frighten lawmakers to force them to cooperate and pass a legislation allowing expanded gambling at Kentucky’s racetracks. The bill on slots died during last summer’s special legislative session. "He's wasted two years of his administration trying for force through gambling, slot machines. He's been a one issue governor up to this juncture," said Williams.

But the governor, who will submit his budget to lawmakers in January, said retirement contribution and increases in health insurance cost for retirees, teachers and state workers could enlarge the deficit some more. "If folks really want to help the horse industry and to give us money to help solve this budget problem, then they ought to vote for the VLT legislation," said Beshear.

State Senator Tim Shaughnessy (D-Louiaville) says the money generated from expanded gambling would help the budget problem, but it would not be enough. "I really see that as a strategic initiative specifically as an investment strategy for the racing industry," said Shaughnessy. He suggests that the state should also look for other ways in trying to settle the racing matter. "We need to do two things. One, we need a tax structure that works in this century and we don't have that. The other thing we need to be more efficient within state government. We need to be better stewards of the resources that we have," Shaughnessy said.

 

December 29, 2009

Northwest Suburban Towns Not Keen On Video Gambling

The video gaming law that was signed in July has not been met with enthusiasm by the residents of the suburban towns in the Northwest, where most of the towns have not taken an official stand on the issue. Although some towns like Buffalo Grove, Hanover Park, Rosemont and Mount Prospect have imposed local bans on video gambling, most areas like Des Plaines, Wheeling, Streamwood, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village still have not tackled the matter.

Earnings from the new measure are allotted to subsidize one third of the $31 billion public works projects of the state of Illinois. The law, which grants municipalities the right to opt out does not make it obligatory for communities that want video gambling to approve it, but those that decide to ban it have to take the necessary action.
The lack of rules and guidelines in implementing the gambling act has been cited as the main reason why many town leaders have dilly dallied in confronting the issue. "We have some business people who definitely want it and said it would really help in these tough economic times," said Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod. "But the state regulations might be a year away. I don't see the point in dealing with it before then."

Hoffman Estates is likely to allow video gambling, as well as Des Plaines, where a new casino is slated to open in2012. Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said he is personally inclined to video gaming, but as far as his town’s residents are concerned, he has not gathered anything from them. "There just isn't a groundswell of residents speaking out one way or the other," Moylan said. "I think the money will open the door for construction projects which will lead to jobs in our community. Des Plaines has a high unemployment rate right now and we need those jobs."

Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said his town and its neighbors have not yet taken a position on video gambling, each town waiting for the other to make the first move. Larson added that his town board may take up the issue of video gambling next month, but his constituents have not shown any interest or made any demand. Only a few business establishments acted in response to a poll conducted by the village on 90 businesses last August.

A business establishment with the legal number of five machines could earn profits of $38,000 to $74,000 a year, after deducting taxes and sharing profits with the authorized distributor. The city or village gets an estimated $6,300 to $12,300 from each establishment, or 5 percent of a gambler’s losses. The state gets 25 percent and the establishment shares the remaining equally with the distributor. In total, gamblers’ losses are estimated anywhere from $127,750 to $246,375 in each establishment each year.

 

December 28, 2009

Alabama Casinos Now Offer Luxury Hotels and Celebrity Entertainment

Casinos in Alabama have added grand and well-appointed hotels, fashionable restaurants and celebrity entertainment to their business centers. This will give tourists traversing the state towards the row of casinos in Mississippi’s Gulf Coast a reason to stop at Alabama’s casinos’ chic restaurants and a place to stay in their luxurious hotels. "We are not a pass-through corridor anymore," developer Ronnie Gilley said. Alabama’s newest enticements promise to draw customers because they are situated along the main high way and they could be tough competitors to the Gulf Coast casinos in Mississippi.

The Victoryland complex in Shorter, about 20 miles east of Montgomery on Interstate 85, opened the 300-room deluxe Oasis hotel last Dec. 9 and owner Milton McGregor said a 1,500-seat entertainment center and convention complex will open in the new year. McGregor said he added the hotel so customers of Victoryland who usually play for several hours can have a place to stay. "In order to be where we needed to be and wanted to be, we had to become a destination point," McGregor said. Thus far, it has been successful, with customers coming from out of state comprising 40 percent of its weekend patrons.

He plans to add two more hotels to the complex. Victoryland casino opened in 2005 and it has grown since then, presently accommodating 6,400 electronic bingo machines. The new hotel and the other additions have cost McGregor $100 million in investment. In the southeastern part of the state, Country Crossing’s first phase costing $87 million opened on Dec 1, and more attractions are to open in the new year, increasing the total investment to more than $200 million. The developer is planning to open two hotels, a water park, a family entertainment center and a bowling alley along the beach on U.S. 231 next year. "We expect in the next five years we will become a destination and the beach will become a day trip," he said.

In January, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians opened the Wind Creek complex at Atmore, costing $245 million. The casino has electronic bingo machines and the 17-story plush hotel has 236 rooms, four restaurants, an amphitheater and a cooking studio. The complex is located on Interstate 65, a major road used by tourists in going to Mississippi’s beaches and seaside casinos. The casinos in Alabama have no slot machines and table games. What they have are electronic bingo machines which are a lot like slot machines, in look and in feel.

 

December 27, 2009

No Gambling Ban Yet For Sweepstakes Machines

Sweepstakes parlors in North Carolina have continued to operate, turning up in places where video poker machines once stood, despite a ruling by the Court of Appeals that upheld the state’s ban on video poker machines throughout the state, except in a casino in the Cherokee Indian reservation. There has been no ban imposed on the sweepstakes machines, and as of this time, the games are legal and cash winnings are being paid to players by the business operators that are offering the video sweepstakes. A superior Court judge in High Point has prevented law enforcers from probing into the machines to establish if these devices are unlawful and if they have violated the state’s ban on video poker machines.

Operators of the sweepstakes machines say the activity is not gambling because the customers buy a prepaid phone card or Internet time, from which they get a chance to win cash. And instead of scratching off the ticket, the players sit in front of a computer displaying cards in a poker game or a likeness of a slot machine. "This is your modern-day bingo," said Chase Brooks, who owns a Raleigh sweepstakes room. "Why not allow your citizens to choose what they want? ... If it's not a drug, let them choose how they want to entertain themselves."

But House and Senate leaders say they will closely monitor the sweepstakes parlors and will track the development of any complaints or charges against them. "They are circumventing the law," said state Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare. "As we decide how much North Carolina can stomach, you find yourself more leaning toward the elimination ... of these sorts of games." "I think the intent of the legislature was very clear when we passed the last two bills regarding video poker," State Rep. Melanie Wade Goodwin, D-Richmond said, "and I feel sure that we would not have any significant resistance to passing further legislation."

Sheriff Rick Davis of Henderson County who thoroughly backs the ban on video poker said, "My message to everyone in Henderson County is that we will continue to enforce the law across the board. Anyone found in possession of these illegal devices will be subject to arrest and wholehearted prosecution by this office." However, a consultant for the North Carolina trade association, Brad Cone, said that the burgeoning of sweepstakes parlors while a ban on video poker exists is proof that video poker should be legalized, regulated and taxed by the legislators.

 

December 26, 2009

Palos Park Village Council to Vote on Video Gambling Issue in January

The number of communities opting out of video gambling in Illinois is steadily increasing. Unincorporated Cook County has banned the video poker machines, so have Palos Heights and Orland Park. In Palos Park, the Village Council has decided to set the issue of video gambling on the agenda for their first meeting in January. The vote on whether to ban video gambling in the village has been deferred by the council for two months. The Village Council advised residents and anti-gambling campaigners in early October that the matter will be taken up on the first meeting in November, but there was no discussion that happened. It was at the council’s Dec. 14 meeting when resident Marjory Gilbert pushed for the video gambling’s ban that the council members said they would vote on the issue at its first meeting on Jan 11.

In trying to find a way out of the budget shortfall, the Village Council has adopted several measures in the past two months to improve the revenue, like conducting a referendum in February asking to raise the rate on property tax. “There are other ways to make money; we just have to find it. That’s what we’re trying to do,” said village Commissioner James Pavlatos. Commissioners Mary O’Connor and Pavlatos are strongly against video gambling, and they are definitely voting for a ban in the January meeting.“It’s not a good scenario for us. We’re a bedroom community and should stay that way,” Pavlatos said.

Pavlatos wants the village to declare an official ban to avoid an authoritative order that is likely to be applied by the state stopping municipalities from banning the machines. In passing the measure legalizing video gambling machines in restaurants with liquor licenses, the law also granted communities the right to impose local bans.

Mayor John Mahoney said the highest projected revenue from the video machines would be $30,000 annually. He said the council has been talking about making severe cuts in the budget because of insufficient funds. He said he has not yet decided on what his vote might be because he wants to first know the state’s plan of action and how it will affect the village. “I believe if it would have a negative impact of any kind on the character of the village, I wouldn’t be supporting video gaming,”  Mahoney said.

Anti-gambling activist and Palos Heights resident Beth Paschall is urging pastors of churches in Palos Park to sign a petition banning the machines, a campaign which she also made in Palos Heights and Orland Park before those towns prohibited the machines. Gambling critics have cited several reasons in opposing video gambling, such as, the gaming’s unreliability of providing stable revenue to fund state projects, its negative impact on lower income families and the possible significant costs to the village, among others.

 

December 25, 2009

Lawmakers’ Conflict on Pa. Casino Bill Believed to be Settled

House Democratic leaders and Senate leaders have been in disagreement over a period of time about a measure to expand casino gambling in Pennsylvania, thus delaying the passage of a bill which would assure additional revenue badly needed by the state. Gov. Ed Rendell has notified the Legislature that if the bill is not passed by Jan. 8, he will have to lay off more state government employees starting Jan. 11.

Last October, Rendell and the legislative leaders reached an agreement on a state budget that would be supplemented by an additional $250 million from new revenue resulting from a bill that would allow table games in Pennsylvania casinos that offer only slots machines and utilizing existing revenues from slot machines. The bill plays a key role in resolving a multi-billion deficit in the state coffers due to the economic downturn. The Legislature must pass the bill in order for it to become a law, but the measure got stuck in the conflict over the last available casino license.

Both chambers are currently on recess, and will resume on Jan. 5, but it appears that the legislative leaders are trying to settle the conflict before then. The leaders spoke by telephone Tuesday and Wednesday, and according to two people who were privy to the telephone conversations, the leaders settled on a provision of the bill that would allow new contenders for the last casino license that is still left, a decision which could possibly lead to another license in 2017. "I think the attempt on our side was to get the process moving," said House Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman Dante Santoni, D-Berks. "We have to get this bill passed by the time we get back into session so employees don't get laid off.”

A license for a resort casino would give the owner permit to operate up to 500 slot machines, 5,000 for larger casinos. Presently, there are two applicants for the license, namely the operators of Reading Crowne Plaza Hotel in Wyomissing and the owners of Fernwood Hotel & Resort in the Pocono Mountains. The bill, if passed, would not only add table games, but would also allow an additional 100 slot machines for the resort casino and would ease restrictions on potential players. Consequently, other casino operators have conveyed their desire to apply for the remaining license, including the owner of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

December 24, 2009

Appeals Court Decides in Favor of North Carolina Video Poker Ban

A video poker company, McCracken and Amick of Fayetteville has brought charges in court against the state of North Carolina accusing the state of being unjust in banning the video poker machines all over the state in 2006, but allowing them at Harrah’s Casino on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. When Superior Court Judge Howard Manning took the side of the amusement company and rendered the ban null and void in his Feb. 19 ruling, the video poker company took the case to the court of appeals, which then upheld the ban in favor of the state.

The leader of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Principal Chief Michell Hicks said he was happy with the court’s ruling. “We thought it was always the right decision,” Hicks said. “I am hoping this will give us the opportunity to look at other things.” The Attorney General’s Office, in arguing for the state, said that the Federal Indian Gaming Act of 1988 granted states the right to allow gambling on tribal lands. McCracken and Amick, through their attorneys, argued that the law “does not give the state carte blanche to legalize an activity within the walls of the Cherokee Casino while making that same activity a criminal offense everywhere else.”

A group backing the gambling industry, the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, said the decision of the appeals court, though not completely unexpected by them, was a disappointment. The group cited the new tax revenue of $500 million that could be generated by allowing the video gambling machines statewide, saying that the group will urge lawmakers to legalize video gaming. “Let's face it, video gaming is here in North Carolina,” the group said. “People are playing every day in internet cafes across the state.

Lawmakers, however, have welcomed the court’s decision. Senate President Marc Basnight said, “This is great news. We worked for so long to try to rid our state of this awful industry. I am very pleased that the Court of Appeals decision will uphold the ban passed by the General Assembly.” Despite the ban, new video sweepstakes machines are turning up in places which were once used for poker machines, like in standalone parlors and in gas station corners. But a judge has ruled in a different case that the machines are not considered gambling because winning is determined in advance.

McCracken and Amick representatives could not be contacted for comment, and the industry group has not issued a reply on whether the case would be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

 

December 23, 2009

Macau Told To Rely Less on Gambling

Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke in a formal event commemorating the 10th anniversary of Macau’s handover to China after 442 years as a Portuguese colony and in his message he declared that the gambling Mecca will soon undergo a reform process in order that the economy of the city does not have to rely heavily on gambling. The Chinese president wants Macau to expand its economy, thereby having other money-making sources of revenue aside from gambling. He asked the city officials to improve the educational system and raise the standards of living and to “utilize fully the series of measures that the central government has already adopted to support Macau.”

The city’s casinos have been notoriously known to have allegedly offered protection to illegal earnings made by corrupt officials. And three years ago, the US government charged a bank in Macau of money laundering for the benefit of the leaders of North Korea involved in the production of nuclear arms. These issues have become a source of humiliation to Chinese officials who believe that it is but fitting to keep the gambling industry under a tight rein. The Chinese president said that the city has a role in “strengthening and improving the management of the gambling sector.”

Elections were held in July to elect a new leader for the city and the Chinese president officiated at the formal turnover of authority. The former leader of Macau, Edmund Ho ruled the city for ten years since its turnover to China, and he was significantly responsible for the city’s progress into the world’s biggest gambling center. The new leader, Fernando Chui who is fully supported by Beijing has replaced Ho and won in a massive victory getting 282 of the 296 votes cast by the city’s election committee of 300 members. Macau and Hong Kong are the only places in China where free elections are held.

In 2002 when Macau decided to open its doors to foreign competition, international gambling companies like Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have entered the city’s gambling scene and invested billions of dollars in Macau.

The past years have seen a phenomenal growth in Macau’s casino revenues, even surpassing those of Las Vegas in the last three years.

 

December 22, 2009

New Gambling Revenue Fails To Meet Desired Target

When Amendment 50 was approved in November 2008 in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, the purpose was to use a large portion of the additional tax revenue to augment the thinning budgets of Colorado’s community colleges. Amendment 50 called for the addition of new table games, the extension of the casinos’ operating hours and the increase in the betting limits. Most of the new tax revenue, projected at $29 million in the first year and $222 million in the next five years would go specifically to the classroom instruction and financial aid of the schools. "Anything that's going to add over $200 million over the next five years . . . is very good for us," Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, said in November 2008 shortly after learning that Amendment 50 had been approved by voters.

Five months after Amendment 50 was officially in force in July though, the outcome of the gambling reforms from Amendment 50 has not lived up to the expectations of many, and the projected boost from the additional revenue was not fully realized. Perhaps owing to the economic recession that compelled gamblers to scrimp on gambling trips and wagers, McCallin says the community colleges may get just $2 million to $3 million from gambling taxes in the first year. Officials of the gaming industry had forecasted casino revenue to increase 20 to 25 percent, but actual growth this fiscal year beginning July is only 8.5 percent.

This year, the community colleges’ state funding was decreased from $142 million to $106 million, but the federal government took care of the difference, with a one-time funding, but this year there is no guarantee from the federal government that it will pay for the $11 million reduction. According to last week’s report from the Colorado Division of Gaming, Black Hawk casinos revenue increased 13 percent in November, but Central City and Cripple Creek casinos each saw a 5 percent drop. Almost twenty years ago when gambling was legalized in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, the tax revenue from gambling was envisioned to finance the preservation and rebuilding of the historical mining towns.

In the current setup with the Amendment 50, the state historical fund and the general fund, would get $97.7 million this fiscal year, before regulatory expense deductions, with a 3 percent increase from last fiscal year. Any amount over $97.7 million will be for the beneficiaries of Amendment 50, 78 percent for the community colleges and the remaining 22 percent for the counties where the casinos are located.

For fiscal year 2010, based on five months of data, from the estimated $106 million gambling tax revenue, Amendment 50 recipients would get $5.7 million after deductions. The 2008 ballot measure may seem an unreliable solution to the challenges facing the community colleges, but McCallin is optimistic that an increase in revenue is forthcoming as the economy starts to recover.

 

December 21, 2009

No Entertainment, Just Gambling In Macau

For years, Macau has always been associated with gambling, and the sole purpose of visitors entering Macau has always been to gamble. It was unheard of for gamblers to go to Macau to watch an entertainment show. Gambling in Macau has been monopolized by Stanley Ho’s casinos for four decades since 1962 until 2002 when the Macau government decided to open the gaming industry to foreign competition. A succession of gaming companies from Las Vegas rushed into Macau, eager to make the most of the huge potential of its market of gamblers from mainland China and Hong Kong.

Indeed, money flowed into the former Portuguese colony, as giant gambling companies put up grand and impressive casino hotels, overpowering in size the city’s old casinos. Now, Macau’s gambling revenues have surpassed Las Vegas’, but it has retained its reputation as a sleazy gambling den of Asia, contrary to the idea of turning it into a center for gambling as well as for family entertainment in the fashion of Las Vegas. It may be known as the Sin City of America, but Las Vegas offers top acts and a variety of wholesome, family-rated entertainment. On the other hand, Macau’s scant entertainments consist of a few striptease floor shows and a nasty and vulgar theme park.

Ticket sales of the recent Cirque de Soleil show ZAIA at the Sands Venetian Hotel were “disappointing”, while the show was a hit in Las Vegas. "It is the early stages of the whole entertainment offering in Macau. It's going to take some time for tourists and locals to accept it," said Davis Fong, director of the University of Macau's Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming. It has also been noted that the huge number of visitors coming in to Macau stay only for about a day and a half, much shorter than the usual three of four-night stay in Las Vegas. Therefore, most people just spend their time gambling, having no extra time for other activities like entertainment shows and shopping. Hence, the boutiques, too, are not as much visited. Experts say they are giving non-gambling businesses in Macau around five to ten years to reach an “acceptable level.”

Meanwhile, the city government has expressed concern about the leasing prices for the residents that have skyrocketed, and young people leaving school to work in casinos, among other social implications of a gambling environment. Beijing, too, restricted the entry of mainland Chinese to Macau last year, worried over the large sums of money their people were squandering on gambling, although at present, visa restrictions have been eased. Experts say the effort to transform Macau into a family entertainment destination is not a profit issue, but to make Beijing and the Macau government less upset and hostile to the gaming economy.

 

December 20, 2009

Shelving of Pa. Casino Bill Could Lead To Job Losses

Gov. Ed Rendell said if the Legislature does not pass a bill on expanded gambling in Pennsylvania by Jan. 8, he will have to lay off at least 1,000 more state government employees. The bill would legalize the addition of table games in Pennsylvania casinos that offer only slot machines. It is a major factor of October’s state budget agreement and is aimed to raise $200 million by allowing expanded gambling and redirecting $50 million gambling tax revenue from slot machines. "It's my hope that this is a circumstance that we won't ever have to reach, but the Legislature is on notice," Rendell said. "If it's the will of the Legislature not to pass table games then we're $250 million short and I have to act accordingly. I can't raise taxes. My only option is to make severe cuts."

David Fillman, head of the largest labor union of state employees said the union members are prepared to take necessary steps to persuade lawmakers to approve the bill in order to prevent the layoffs, although he said he has not been informed of any official plan or statement from the governor’s office. "This is just another nightmare, part two, of the budget that should have been finished July 1st. We're disappointed that this announcement came out especially at the holiday time," said Fillman, executive director of Council 13 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The economic recession, with tax collections failing to hit targets reaching billions of dollars, has compelled the Rendell administration to dismiss more than 700 workers this year, equal to around 1 percent of the state workforce. The state’s funds have remained sparse this year as tax collections continued to lag.

On the other hand, officials of Penn State, Pitt and Temple universities have seen an end to their anxiety and tension after a period of suspending construction projects, cutting spending and drawing on reserves, when Gov. Rendell finally approved Thursday more than $700 million in subsidies for universities after a delay of more than six months. The funding for education was a conditional requirement of the federal government for the state to avail of the stimulus amounting to nearly $2 billion. The governor also approved the subsidy for the veterinary laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania, but with a cutback of 13 percent.

The House and the Senate could not seem to agree on many issues, such as how to apportion the revenue from the proposed 2 percent tax on table games that is assigned for communities near the casinos, and whether to increase the number of casino licenses and keep the existing applicants for the last remaining casino license, or to keep the same number of licenses but accept new applicants for the last available license.

The Senate and House sessions came to a close Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and will resume on Jan 5.

 

December 19, 2009

Campton Hill Imposes Local Ban on Video Gambling

The list of communities that have banned legalized video gambling has grown longer with the addition of the village of Campton Hills in western Kane County. The village of Elburn and the city of Batavia and the counties of Cook, DuPage, McHenry and Lake, in addition to about 50 other communities, have already imposed their own ban.

Campton Hills became the most recent community to opt out of a piece of legislation passed by the state of Illinois allowing up to five video gambling machines in bars and taverns and other establishments that have liquor-serving licenses. The law known as the Illinois Gaming Act of 2009 also gave communities the right to impose local bans. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Act into law with the objective of raising funds to help support the state’s capital projects, a quarter of the budget supposedly to come from revenue generated from the video machines.

Campton Hills trustees cast the 5-1 vote a day after the Legislative Committee members of the Kane County Board said they could vote again at a later date, probably next year, after they decided to ban video gambling in the county a few weeks ago. The chairman of the Kane County task force that recommended the approval of the machines, County Board member Jesse Vasquez, D-Montgomery said the county’s vote to ban the machines and the suggestion of the Legislative Committee members to vote again on the ban next year were unexpected by him. The liquor-licensed establishments inside the unincorporated areas of Kane County are affected by the county ban.

As for Campton Hill, the trustees who voted for the ban said they were concerned that the village might not be allowed to vote for a ban once regulations are set in place by state agencies. Susan George, village trustee who voted for the ban, said it was not a good idea to use losses from gambling to increase revenue, and that the plan was “weak.” "I think it's a shot in the dark. ... It's not really thought through," she said.

Trustee John Strauss was the only one who voted against the ban, saying the village had very few businesses with liquor licenses, and he thinks video gambling would not trigger any harm. "I don't see the danger, quite frankly," Strauss said.

 

December 18, 2009

Advocate General’s Opinion May Mean Initial Defeat for Ladbrokes and Betfair

The Opinion of the Advocate General of the highest court of Europe, the European Court of Justice, which was published today was not very encouraging for the gambling operators who wanted to get into the gambling market of the European Union’s member nations. Advocate General Bot’s Opinion was in relation to the two separate cases turned over to the ECJ by two Dutch national courts in which two gambling operators, Ladbrokes and Betfair asked whether the licensing system of the Dutch Government is consistent to the laws of the European Union whereby businesses based in the Union have the right to offer their services in other Member States.

In his Opinion, the Advocate General questions the monopoly of De Lotto as the only legal provider of the national lottery and online gaming in the Netherlands without having undergone a competitive bidding process against other EU-licensed gambling operators. The Advocate General said that any Member State should first conduct a free and honest tender process before an exclusive gambling license is issued to an operator. If the ECJ has a similar thinking, the Dutch Government may require a competitive tender process to be conducted, and may even allow gambling operators outside of the Netherlands to join the bidding procedure.

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of lobby group the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), said: “This is a key question for the Court given that the exclusive license has repeatedly been handed out to De Lotto without any form of tender.” But, the negative part of the opinion, particularly to Ladbrokes and Betfair, is that the Advocate General also said that EU Member States can rightfully practice monopoly if they can give a good reason for their decision, such as, to lessen gambling addiction and to avoid fraud. Moreover, the AG concluded that the Member States have the right to prohibit any gambling operator from penetrating their gambling markets even if those operators are allowed in other Member States.

Ladbrokes’ John O'Reilly said: " We continue to believe that the ECJ should uphold principles of free and fair competition across borders as there is no logic in the fact that the Dutch monopoly could freely compete against us in the UK but we are prevented from accepting bets from any Dutch resident that finds us on the Internet.” April Carr, an associate at law firm Olswang said: "This will be disappointing for those online operators who thought they could rely on EU law to liberalize the gaming markets. If the opinion is followed by the European Courts then there is reduced scope for them opening markets."

Chris Bryant, a partner at the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said: “This is round one to the monopolies.” Although the opinion of the Advocate General does not have any legal consequence, it usually provides a glimpse of the final and binding verdict of the ECJ. Usually, the ECJ agrees with the AG, but whatever the outcome is will be known next year when the high court hands down its decision.

 

December 17, 2009

Ownership of Resorts in Atlantic City Transferred To Lenders

Resorts Casino Hotel, which started operation on May 26, 1978, has been turned over to its new owners. On August 14 this year, the casino filed a petition with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to pass on ownership to its lenders, one of which is Well Fargo Bank N.A., after it failed to make a payment since October 2008 on its $360 million mortgage. Last month, the current owners and the lenders arrived at a deal, having the approval of the commission, in which the lenders agreed to call off the debt of almost $381 million in exchange for equity ownership.

Alan Marcus, spokesman for Resorts’ co-owner Nick Ribis said of the deal, "It's safe to say that a transaction like this has never taken place, in which you have the lenders becoming equity holders with a management team in place to continue to run the casino. For the employees and customers, it's basically a seamless transaction. They are not going to see any difference." Resorts’ equity interest was given up to Ribis by its former owner, Colony Capital L.L.C., of Los Angeles. The property’s title was entrusted to RAC Atlantic City Holdings L.L.C., a new unit owned entirely by Wells Fargo Bank N.A.

The casino which will be managed by Ribis, has less than 2,200 employees that are under a renewable contract of six months. Resorts is the first casino in Atlantic City to be taken over by a lender, although in Las Vegas it has become the customary process when smaller casinos are devoured by competition, as is the case with Resorts in Atlantic City, and bigger projects are unable to finish construction due to funding difficulties. Last month, Resorts’ revenue was down from $17.8 million to $14 million or a drop of 21.4 percent from last year. It was the third-largest decline among the 11 casinos in the city, after Caesars which had a 23.1 percent drop and Trump Plaza which saw a 25.8 percent decline.

Total revenue for the 11 casinos dropped 13.4 percent for November this year, compared with same month last year, and for January to November this year, the casinos earned $3.7 billion, or a decline of 13.5 percent from same period last year.

 

December 16, 2009

Atlantic City’s Casinos Threatened by Pennsylvania’s Parx Casino

Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack, popularly known among its patrons as Philly Park will soon be replaced by a new $250 million facility called Parx Casino, which will have its formal opening on Friday. Its fashionable name speaks of the casino’s modern touches and stylish features. Some of the crystal chandeliers were hand-blown in Italy, and one even costs $1 million. The teakwood marble floors were brought in from Pakistan. Special modern lighting will illuminate the front face of the building at night.

A sophisticated gambling area, called Xclusive, is resplendent with glitz and glamour. Parx also has restaurants, bars and a nightclub, offering customers other forms of entertainment aside from gambling. In the midst of all the extravagance, the facility also has a food court located on the outer edges of the casino, to cater to local customers who are on a tight budget, the food being priced not higher than $7.99. The facility, owned by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., is situated on a 260,000-square foot lot, and the building is designed to provide space for future expansion, such as a hotel.

The Parx and the other casinos as well are giving the Atlantic City casinos a run for their money, particularly at this time when a bill allowing table games at the state’s slots parlors is at its final stages of being approved by Pennsylvania lawmakers. “It just gets worse for Atlantic City. I truly believe Atlantic City is permanently disfigured,” said Justin T. Sebastiano, gaming analyst for Morgan Joseph & Co. Inc. “I certainly think table games will hurt Atlantic City.”

Before now, the old Philly Park, being Pennsylvania’s highest-earning casino, has been a tough competitor for the Atlantic City casinos. It is located 20 miles north of Philadelphia proper, and in light traffic, it is just an hour’s drive away from Atlantic City. Parx will be offering more than 3,100 slot machines, and the best area in the middle of the casino floor has been assigned for table games. This, plus the new casino’s excellent amenities will certainly keep gamblers in Pennsylvania and away from Atlantic City.

“Everyone is going to want to see what the little Philly Park casino has been transformed into,” spokeswoman Carrie Nork Minelli said during quick look around the new facility. “Now we have Las Vegas-style or Atlantic City amenities, we really have captured it all, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t attract the Atlantic City crowds.”

 

December 15, 2009

Casino Group Offers California A Portion Of New Revenue If Poker Websites Are Legalized

A group, which includes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Commerce Casino, is asking the state of California to legalize Internet poker sites and offered the state a share in the new revenue if their request is approved. The group is planning to submit the proposal to the state Legislature next month. Federal and state laws say it is unlawful to operate Web-based games in the U.S., but do not say in clear and definite terms that U.S. citizens are prohibited from playing Internet poker, although financial institutions are not allowed to transact money for payment or collection of online bets.

There are more than 1,000 existing Internet poker sites used by millions of U.S. residents, but since these sites are based abroad in order to avoid the law, the government is powerless to tax them.

"About 1 million Californians are playing poker offshore right now," said Patrick Dorinson, a spokesman for the Morongo band. He said the group wants the state to regulate such games so that players can be guaranteed their privacy, and can be assured of the legitimacy of the sites and the state can benefit from the revenue generated from the taxes.

At present, the state of California gets $361 million as its annual share of slot revenue from the Indian tribes that have been given exclusive right by the state to operate slot machines. Considering this, the California Legislature would have to be prudent in their legislative decision, as a breakdown in friendly relations with the Indian tribes could cost the state its share of slot revenue. State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who is chairman of the committee which reviews gambling legislation says that Internet games would have to be legalized without authorizing the expansion of electronic gambling in casinos that would compete with the Indian tribes’ slots. And the bill would have the backing of the tribes. The Morongo tribe paid for Wright’s $50,000 television ads in support for his election bid last year.

Wright said that if Internet games would be regulated, he expects a great number of license applicants, including from many of the Indian casinos and from the non-Indian card clubs as well, and even from charitable groups. "There are 300 to 400 entities who could apply and say we want a piece of the action," Wright said.

Some say that legalizing Internet poker would decrease the state’s income from the casino revenue as gamblers are likely to shift their interest from the casinos to the online games. But other lawmakers see big money at stake for the state, although they have no estimate as yet. I. Nelson Rose, a gambling law expert said that if the state will get the same 25% share from online poker that it gets from the Indian tribes’ slots, the state could be seeing an additional $250 million for its treasury, a substantial relief for its budget shortfall.

 

December 14, 2009

$47 Million Spent By Issue 3 Supporters For Campaign
According to the secretary of state’s office in Ohio, reports on campaign contributions showed that the entire campaign for issue 3 had cost its supporters more than $47 million. The money was provided by Penn National Gaming Inc. which is based in Pennsylvania and Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and founder of Quicken Loans which is based in Michigan. Both donors are from out of state.

As per the report, the two backers divided the total amount of $47.2 million, and Lakes Entertainment Inc. of Minnesota also put in a $1.9 million support. The total cost of $47.2 million was the biggest amount used on a campaign for a ballot issue in the history of Ohio or in any state for that matter, since 1998 when Indian gambling supporters raised $63 million to campaign for a measure that would allow casinos on Indian reservations in California. The amount also surpassed the $25.7 million that a gambling company spent to promote another casino measure that was rejected by Ohio voters last year.

Issue 3 was a ballot measure presented to Ohio voters last Nov. 3 that would authorize casinos in the cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo which was passed with a vote of about 53 percent, after a series of four gambling measures failed since 1990. The spokesman for the pro-casino Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan, Bob Tenenbaum said the record sum shared by Penn National and Dan Gilbert certainly provided the money needed for a strong campaign to get the vote out. "The feeling was, that was the amount needed to be sure that the issue would pass, and that's what happened," Tenenbaum said.

TruthPac, the anti-gambling group that headed the campaign against Issue 3, raised $9.1 million from MTR Gaming Group, a gambling operator based in West Virginia, and its chairman, Cleveland developer Jeffrey Jacobs, and Northfield Park. Families Against Issue 3 put up $2.4 million, all coming from MTR, Jacobs and Northfield excluding $4,900. Democrats Against Issue 3 declared contributions amounting to $370,000 in sum, $270,000 of that coming from Jacobs and his controlling company and $100,000 coming from Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. Beulah Park racetrack and the Wheeling Island racetrack and casino in West Virginia also gave $307,000 to the group Citizens Against the Wrong Plan. Vote No Casinos raised $38,675, but not from contributions from gambling operators.

 

December 13, 2009

Icahn And Beal Bank To Jointly Reorganize Trump Casinos In Atlantic City

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., severely affected by the economic downturn, has sought bankruptcy protection for its three casinos in Atlantic City since February, confident that it would soon come out of bankruptcy after some reorganization. The company has been burdened with debt and the situation was aggravated by the decline in the economy and the increasing competition from neighboring states.

Since the time the company entered in bankruptcy, Donald Trump has made efforts to acquire the company and emerge it from its problems. Initially, he teamed up with Beal Bank to restructure the company, but last month he changed his mind and, together with his daughter, chose to support a bid by a group of bondholders to take control of the company’s three casinos, namely, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and Trump Marina Hotel Casino. But Beal Bank has persisted with its plan to acquire the company, and lately Carl Icahn, billionaire investor and widely-known buyout expert has come into the picture by joining Beal Bank’s offer to take over the company.

Icahn announced Friday that he has purchased, through his affiliate entities, a majority of Beal Bank’s first-mortgage liens on the three casinos and he is backing the acquisition and restructuring proposal of Beal Bank. The bondholders have been critical of Mr. Beal’s restructuring plan, saying he has no knowledge in operating casinos and it is not typical for a bank to own a casino. Now, Mr. Icahn is saying his partnership with Mr. Beal has weakened that contention. “This completely takes away that criticism,” he said. For his part, Mr. Beal said he has joined forces with Mr. Icahn “to capitalize on his extensive experience both in the gaming industry and in turning around troubled companies.”

Icahn has fixed problematic gaming companies in the past and is currently completing restructuring at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas and Tropicana Entertainment. Icahn said his reorganization plan will ensure that the Trump company will be debt-free, and that it will be able to withstand and survive economic difficulties. "Despite the current problems in Atlantic City I continue to have great faith in the city's future," said Icahn, in a statement, "I will create the best outcome for all stakeholders, including customers, employees, and Atlantic City itself."

The two opposing factions are trying to discuss and compromise on a settlement, but if that effort fails, they will ask a U.S. bankruptcy court early next year to decide between their competing restructuring proposals.

 

December 12, 2009

Catholic Schools Stop Fundraising Through Gambling

The Catholiac Archdiocese of Edmonton is asking Catholic schools in the city through a formal policy to stop raising money by means of casinos. Catholic schools in Edmonton and in other cities and provinces have been raising funds through bingo and casinos. The money helps pay for the various needs of the different schools, like computers and their upgrades, music programs, field trips, team uniforms, nutrition programs, school payments for parents who cannot afford, for playgrounds and other school essentials.

The casino fundraising has been lucrative, bringing in as much as $6 million every 18 months as in the case of Edmonton’s Catholic schools. But the issue of propriety in using gambling to raise funds has long been debated ever since the matter was brought up in Alberta in 1998 when bishops released a pastoral letter tackling the escalation of gambling in the province. This recent move by the Archdiocese of Edmonton is the latest action on the issue which has not died down since. "What we are concerned about is not raffles or Grey Cup pools," says Lorraine Turchansky, director of communications for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton. "The policy is specifically about casinos, video lotteries, and high stakes bingo."

Ms Turchansky says gambling addiction is what disturbs the Archdiocese and for the Church to offer an opportunity for such addiction to happen is morally wrong. The Edmonton Catholic School district is thinking of establishing a fundraising foundation akin to what the Calgary Catholic School district has started, which will organize events and look for private donors from other Catholic organizations. The Calgary district’s foundation will start on December 10 and the different schools in the district have already been given a list of fundraising opportunities. The Catholic school board in Calgary has decided to discontinue the money-making practice using bingo and casinos starting in 2006, but carried it on until March this year because of their previous commitments to gambling fundraisers.

This formal prohibition by the Archdiocese has raised concerns among parents about where the money for the schools’ needs will come from and whether they will be made to pay for the deficit, especially when the education budget of the province is reduced by $80 million this year. And the parents are not convinced that other fundraisers would be as lucrative as the casino fundraisers. Karilyn McAuley, the mother of two students at Holy Cross Academie Internationale says her children’s school gets around $70,000 every 18 months from the casinos. "Without the casino fundraisers we wouldn't have computers, we wouldn't have a playground, our teams wouldn't have uniforms, and the band wouldn't be affordable," says Mcauley.

 

December 11, 2009

No Help Seen For Horse Industry After Election

The ailing horse industry of Kentucky is at its wit’s end trying to come up with a plan on how to press forward a legislation allowing slot machines at racetracks after the defeat of the Democratic candidate that it strongly supported in Tuesday’s special state Senate election. The industry was counting a lot on the election of Democrat Jodie Haydon for a legislation on expanded gambling, and it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertisements supporting Haydon and opposing Republican candidate Jimmy Higdon. "We didn't plan on losing, so we don't have a strategy other than we want to attempt to continue to have our voices heard," said Ric Waldman, of the group Keep Our Jobs in Kentucky Inc.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester said Wednesday the horse industry has made a great effort to try to reverse the political dominance in the Senate, even spending a lot of money, but after two costly elections, the Republicans have stayed in power. "If they spent the $1.9 million that we've heard that they've spent, I feel that they were not very good at spending their money," Stivers said. "Maybe they are not in as bad a shape as they claim to be if they can spend basically $2 million on an election." Stivers also said that Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is the horse industry’s only hope and that the outcome of the expanded gambling legislation now lies in Beshear’s hands. For his part, Beshear did not say whether a particular bill is in the offing, but he did say that he has remained a supporter of a legislation allowing slots at the state’s racetracks. "All options are on the table, and helping the horse industry survive is a top priority, but we are still developing our legislative strategy for next year," Beshear said.

Racetracks and horse breeders have turned down a bill currently filed by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown because it was for a constitutional amendment. Jay Blanton, spokesman for Keeneland said a constitutional amendment causes delay and "doesn't provide the kind of immediate, near-term relief the industry needs.". "We still prefer the statutory approach," said John Asher, Churchill Downs spokesman, referring to House Speaker Greg Stumbo's bill, which didn't require a constitutional amendment. The slots bill died in a Senate committee after Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg sponsored it in a special legislative session this summer. Stumbo is not planning on filing another slots bill again. "Until things change over in the Senate, I don't see why the House would want to consider it," he said.

Bill Farish of Lane’s End Farm, a Republican but an outspoken opponent of Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said that with Williams in control, the likelihood of passing a slots bill in the General Assembly seems remote, so the industry heads will set their sights on next year’s election. "It's very, very hard to move the ball right now. We have no choice but to keep trying."

 

December 10, 2009

Pennsylvania Gambling Bill Runs Into A Snag In House

The session of the state House of representatives came to an unexpectedly sudden close Tuesday afternoon as legislators delayed voting on a gambling bill for the state. House Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon and House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne did not pause to oblige reporters on the reason for the set back. But the chief of staff of McCall, Paul Parsells said Democratic leaders were still trying to solicit backing from the Republicans so as to gather a sufficient number of votes for the bill to pass. ”We don't have a majority yet," Parsells said.

Republicans in the House are against the bill, and before it can become a law, it has to be approved in the Senate which happens to be dominated by Republicans. A number of lawmakers also said they wanted more time to read and understand it before a vote. The bill aims to allow two more casinos in Pennsylvania and to legalize table games in the state’s nine casinos which have only slot machines.

The license fees that the casinos would have to pay to the state are in millions of dollars, and the tax rate would be at 14 percent until June 1, 2011 and 12 percent thereafter. House and Senate leaders have worked to find an area that would be mutually agreed upon by legislators both supporting and opposing the bill since gambling expansion in Pennsylvania is a vital element in last October’s budget agreement to create new tax revenue badly needed by the state government.

Expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania is expected to give the state more than $300 million in tax revenue in the next couple of years. Approval of the bill would also mean around $700 million in discretionary state funding for universities, museums and hospitals, but most of it going to the universities of Penn State, Temple and Pitt that said they would be forced to increase tuition fees for the second semester if funding is delayed. Gov. Ed Rendell has also stated that without help from additional gambling revenue, the state would be in a dire financial state next year.

Democratic leaders wanted to remove some writings of the present bill and add 131 pages of thoroughly new words and phrasing that was presented to legislators Monday afternoon. They were hoping that the chamber would follow their lead, but not even a preliminary vote took place on Tuesday, and a final House vote before Thursday is not promising.

 

December 9, 2009

Pierce County Council Committee Postpones Discussion Of Card Games Proposal Indefinitely

Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom has recommended to the council a measure to allow “social” card games in local business establishments in unincorporated Pierce County. He reasons that there is already gambling going on in the county, such as pull tabs, a type of gambling that is legal in the area, and card games sponsored by nonprofit groups. “There is this concept that we don’t allow gambling in Pierce County. But we do,” Muri said during Monday’s meeting.

Muri’s proposal came up because of the issue of a certain commercial establishment, Walt’s Tavern of McKenna, that held regular poker games in the joint until state authorities revoked its license when the officials became aware that it was in unincorporated Pierce County where the local law banned games of that nature. The Washington State Gambling Commission had allowed the tavern to provide a venue for the games, which were not funded by the tavern, and where the customers who participated in the activity brought their own money and played against each other.

The acting manager at Walt’s, Lorna VanFleet told the committee there were no troubles encountered as a consequence of the games, which was confirmed by council attorney Jeff Cox through reports from the sheriff’s office. VanFleet estimated that a minimum of six people to a maximum of 20 took part in the games. Muri suggested social card games should be allowed at local establishments, but doing so would also compel the county to legalize bigger card games of up to 15 tables, as required by state law. That would make the entire unincorporated Pierce County amenable to larger games entailing as many as 150 people.

Such a scenario was a cause for concern for the council’s rules committee, which, as a result, voted 3-0 to put off discussion of the issue at an undetermined time. “To me, it looks an awful lot like a casino,” said council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham. “It would be akin to opening major card rooms and casinos throughout the county. I don’t think the people of Pierce County would support that.” “This has very, very little support on the council,” Bush concluded. “It’s not likely to go anywhere.” Which means that, since Muri is the only council member backing the proposal, the possibility of the council reviving the matter is very remote.

 

December 8, 2009

Gambler Sues Harrah’s After Losing $127M

Terrance Watanabe, a 52-year old businessman from Omaha who lost $127 million in 2007 has filed a civil suit against Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., claiming that the employees of the two casinos which it owns, Caesars Palace and Rio, loaded him with painkillers and alcohol to keep him gambling. For the whole of 2007, Watanabe was virtually living at the two casinos, gambling away the money he made from running the party-favor import business of his family. The two casinos tended to him lavishly. He was given a 3-bedroom suite for free, provided attendants, and served a seven-course meal while playing. He was also offered a half-million in credit at gift shops, provided $12,500 a month for plane tickets and granted 15% cash back on losses of more than $500,000 from table games.

Watanabe, an extravagant gambler, would be seen at the blackjack table, playing three hands of blackjack at the same time, each with a $50,000 limit, or roulette and the $25 multi-line slot machines non-stop for 24 hours. Watanabe was also said to have lost $5 million in one day. His bets for that year have totaled $825 million, and it was reported that 5.6% of Harrah’s total Las Vegas gambling revenue for 2007 was from Watanabe. His excessiveness even extended outside the gambling halls. Reports say he often gave bunches of $100 bills to employees at Caesars, and thousands of Tiffany gift cards and $100 coins to security guards, bartenders, and others.

A Harrah’s official, Jan Jones said that Watanabe’s legal action against Harrah’s was just his strategy to avoid paying a debt. "Mr. Watanabe is a criminal defendant who faces imprisonment." Watanabe has paid almost $112 million of his debt to the casinos, but some months ago, he was accused of refusing to pay Harrah’s the $14.7 million which the company says it offered to Watanabe as credit. It could mean an imprisonment of 28 years for the gambler. State law and casino rules state that anyone who is visibly intoxicated should not be allowed to gamble. Watanabe’s attorney said that his client “takes full responsibility” for his drinking, but the casinos took advantage and exploited his condition. Watanabe has claimed that the Wynn casino has banned him in 2007 because of his compulsive drinking and gambling.

"We're in the gambling business," Jones declared. "We had no reason to believe that Terry Watanabe was anything other than a big player with huge resources who made an adult decision to bet the money he did. Are we going to provide an environment that keeps him very happy? Of course we are." The Gaming Control Board of Nevada has looked into the charges of Harrah’s violation of gambling rules.
According to his sister, Watanabe has sold his mansion in Omaha and is now living near San Francisco, and has not set foot in a casino after being treated in a facility.

 

December 7, 2009

Governor’s Office Says Altered Gambling Machines Are Still Slots

In March this year, 105 bingo gaming machines were seized in a raid on the White Hall entertainment Center in Lowndes County. The operator of the gaming center, Cornerstone Community Outreach made several moves to avert more raids, which prompted Gov. Bob Riley through his Governor’s Task Force to turn to the court to request for a ruling on the legality of the machines. Last month, after almost a year of debate on the classification and legality of the machines, the court finally ruled that the so-called “electronic bingo machines” are in fact an illegal form of gambling, and they “operate almost exactly like slot machines” which are illegal in Alabama. The court likewise made a list of six features distinctive to the traditional game of bingo.

As a result of the court ruling and the half-dozen distinguishing traits of bingo established by the court, Alabama’s major gaming centers including the Country Crossing, Victoryland, and the White Hall Gaming Center are now altering their bingo machines to conform to the level acceptable by the court. In order for the machines to be considered bingo, the games must announce and display balls one at a time, must call for players to pay attention to the drawn balls and mark their cards correctly, refuse to pay players who don’t focus on the game, and have players competing against each other, not against the machine.

But the reconfigured machines still had the slot-like qualities like the blinking lights and the rotating reels, and the Governor’s office is not satisfied, saying the changes the casinos have made to the machines are not much, and the Task Force could be preparing to conduct more raids. "It just seems so ridiculous to me that they're still arguing that this is bingo," Todd Stacy, Riley's press secretary said. "It doesn't pass the smell test."

They officials in the governor’s office say that if the machines accept and eject money, which is what the state describes slot machines, they may still be illegal, even if the machines are altered extensively. “I don't care if you're playing tic-tac-toe," Stacy said, "if you're playing it on a slot machine in Alabama, it's illegal." They also argued that the casino operators are trying to broadly interpret the rules allowing bingo, when the court wants the rules to be “narrowly construed.”

When asked if the governor’s office is poised to conduct more raids on casinos soon, the Deputy Legal Advisor replied, “We’ll wait and see.”

 

December 6, 2009

Gambling ship’s onboard staff air gripes

About 40 crew members of the gambling cruise ship, the Palm Beach Princess went on strike Wednesday to complain about their safety and working conditions on the ship. They were among the 150 foreign workers who live and work on the ship. After the work stoppage that lasted for a day and a half, the ship’s management was able to resolve the disagreement that needed urgent attention, and the ship began sailing again Thursday night. The workers objected to their demanding working situation that is stretching them to the limit. Ross Toyne, attorney for the International Transportation Worker’s Federation said that some are forced to cope with additional tasks and working rotations are extended to more than 10 months, which is the standard, due to the dwindling staff.

Toyne, who was on the ship Thursday, said that some workers have worked and stayed on the ship for 15 straight months without a break, and others complained of having a hard time collecting overtime pay, and of paychecks arriving behind schedule. "The crew's been on the ship for so long now that people are starting to make mistakes," said Toyne. "As a general proposition, the economic component of their treatment is fine. What we're more concerned about is, long term, when you run a crew hard, you end up with people getting injured."

The Wednesday strike has in effect exposed management’s unfair and somewhat manipulative style of handling their employees and the rather abusive working conditions of the floating casino business. "They are virtual sweatshops at sea," Toyne said. Toyne bared that the average monthly income for a cocktail waitress is $50 plus tips, while those in the casino are paid $13 a day plus tips, and engine and deck workers get $400 a month. It is compulsory for crew members to work 6.5 days a week, 12 hours per day. The standard contract is for a 10-month period. The workers get free room and board on the ship. "All the major cruise lines have slashed their operating costs, basically recognizing that the passengers will pay the employment costs of their labor forces," Toyne said.

But there is still a demand for the jobs from foreigners because of the opportunity to earn precious dollars from tips. In accordance with the visa requirements for foreign workers, the Princess has to leave the U.S. every 28 days. Thus, the ship sails to the Bahamas every month for the crew to get their passports. The workers stay overnight and the following day the ship sails back to the port of Palm Beach to start its twice-a-day cruise-to-nowhere schedule.

Meanwhile, ship’s officials refute the allegations and say no worker has been forced to stay on the ship, and that anyone who wants to leave can do so. "I know we have some people asking for an extended contract, and when we have people ask for an extended contract, sometimes we say 'OK,'” Mauro Sebben, owner of the ship said.

 

December 5, 2009

Bank Official Says Financial Institutions Calling For Regulation Of Internet Gambling

Samuel Vallandingham, vice-president of the first State Bank of Barboursville, West Virginia, and vice-chairman of the Payments and Technology Committee of the Independent Community Bankers of America testified today before the House Services Committee assembly on online gambling. He made it known to Congress that the requirements imposed by the UIGEA on the banking institutions in the US on the online gambling ban are quite hard to meet.

He said that Barney Frank’s bill seeking to regulate Internet gambling and online casinos would be the solution to the complexities the financial industry is presently encountering as a consequence of the UIGEA ban. Although he declined to give his opinion and was reluctant to take a position on the advantages of legal Internet gambling, he was basically saying that the entire financial industry is throwing its full support behind Rep. Frank’s bill.

He also said that it is a difficult job for the financial institutions to try to prevent gambling Web sites from making and receiving payments through banks or other financial establishments. It is an extra responsibility that is just too hard for the banks to cope with. "The added burden of monitoring all payment transactions for the taint of unlawful Internet gambling would drain finite resources currently engaged in complying with anti-terrorism, anti-money laundering regulations, the plethora of new regulations emerging from the financial crisis and the daily operation of community banks to meet the financial needs of their customers," said Samuel Vallandingham, who is also an expert on banking technology.

Vallandingham also expressed disappointment that the much-criticized UIGEA does not give a clear and comprehensive definition of illegal online gambling. He said banks find it hard to verify and confirm the legitimacy of each and every client because there is no law currently available that supersedes the numerous state, federal and local laws. He said that credit card companies have a merchant coding method that enables them to identify gambling and casino dealings, but he stressed that coding relies on the merchants giving complete and secret information about themselves and their business operation, which is like making online gambling operators give themselves away.

At the close of his testimony, the bank executive told legislators, "ICBA strongly endorses H.R. 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act which establishes a federal regulatory and enforcement framework for licensing Internet gambling operators."

 

December 4, 2009

McHenry Latest County To Opt Out Of Video Gambling

The members of the McHenry County Board voted Tuesday 13-10 with one abstaining, to ban video gambling in establishments in unincorporated areas. The county is the latest local government in Illinois to opt out of the state’s fundraising scheme, joining around 30 municipalities and the counties of Cook, DuPage and Lake. A county ban does not affect municipal governments, as they are entitled to their own decision. In July, state legislators of Illinois passed a law allowing video machines in establishments with liquor licenses to raise funds to help pay for the state’s $31 billion capital plan. The law gives counties and municipalities the right to opt out, but any local government that opts out will still be allocated its projects.

Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, who had appealed to the board not to be too quick to decide on a ban, informed the board members that under the General Assembly’s plan, McHenry County has at least $315 million in infrastructure projects. “Ultimately the decision was in the hands of the County Board, and they voted to ban it, and I will respect that decision,” Althoff said. Bob McDaniel, owner of Old Rivers Inn said a ban would be bad for his business, and Chris McSwain of A.H. Entertainers, a game machine company, said, “This county needs roads, bridges, bypasses and schools. That’s what this capital plan is all about, and this is what video gaming helps support.”

Although not one board member defended video gambling before the vote, some suggested delaying the ban until the Illinois Gaming Board has formulated rules and enforcement procedures. Board member Marc Munaretto, R-Algonquin suggested to postpone the vote until March, but was rejected. “This County Board has a history of making informed decisions, and by acting on this today, we are violating that work ethic,” Munaretto said. Board member Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry said she would be willing to re-examine the ban when rules have been worked out by the gaming board. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who is strongly against gambling, lauded the board for doing the right thing.

Board member Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, calling video gambling “a sucker’s bet”, said, “Supporters of video gambling love the idea of easy money for the state, but they ignore the very real and substantial law enforcement and social service costs.” “It’s not about the capital plan. It’s not about monies coming to our county. It’s about video poker,” McHenry resident Joyce Story said. “It’s not about jobs; it’s about addictions.”

Randy Donley, R-Union, the lone abstainer, was advised by McHenry County’s State’s Attorney’s Office to refrain from voting because his family owns Donley’s Old West Steakhouse which has a liquor license. “I represent a group in this county, and I was totally silenced,” Donley said, upset over the fact that he was not able to vote on the issue, let alone make a comment on the matter as a restaurant owner.

 

December 3, 2009

Gaming Board Approves Kansas Speedway Casino Plan

A Hollywood-inspired entertainment destination facility will soon rise in the Kansas Speedway site. The project will be developed and operated by the Kansas Entertainment LLC, a company owned by partners International Speedway Corp. and Penn national Gaming Inc. of Wyomissing, Pa. The casino plan was approved by the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board by a unanimous 7-0 vote. The first phase of the project estimated to cost $386 million consists of a casino with a gaming room area of 100,000 square feet that could hold 2,300 slot machines and 86 table games, and a dining area of 28,000 square feet with restaurants, clubs and nighttime entertainment.

Additional phases would include a hotel, casino expansion, spa, and convention and entertainment center. Officials of the company say these would be built depending on the market’s demand. Penn National Gaming and International Speedway Corp. will equally divide the development costs of the project which include project financing, gaming equipment financing and owner equity contributions.

This is the first entry of International Speedway Corp. into the gambling business, and in its news release, Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy said, "International Speedway Corp. is committed to creating a world-class sports and leisure destination at Kansas Speedway, and we believe this effort will enable us to bring a second NASCAR Sprint Cup series date to the speedway." "Partnering with Penn National Gaming on this project will allow us to develop a property that will be well-positioned to maximize tourism, drive additional tax revenue, attract national media attention for the state of Kansas and our host community, Wyandotte County, and ultimately create value for our shareholders," Kennedy said.

Early this year, Penn National and International Speedway Corporation handed in separate and competing bids for the casino project and, in October, decided to merge and form a partnership that effectively combined Penn’s know-how in gaming operations and ISC’s NASCAR connection, and produced a very liquid corporation. Penn National Gaming owns and runs casinos and racing facilities that concentrate mainly on slot machines. ISC is owner and operator of 13 leading racetracks and sponsors more than 100 races annually.

As soon as the license is released next year, Kansas Entertainment would start construction of the first phase in the second half of 2010. The opening is scheduled on the first quarter of 2012. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission handles the background checking and the licensing of Kansas Entertainment.

 

December 2, 2009

Illinois Horse Tracks Offer To Accommodate Video Poker Machines

When state legislators passed a law that will allow establishments with liquor licenses to have up to five video gaming machines, their main objective was to raise funds from gaming revenue to pay for the state’s infrastructure projects. The state has been grappling with deficits in the budget owing to the economic instability. But the law also gave the state’s towns and counties an option to locally ban the machines, which was what some communities did, and which consequently posed a problem for the state. In banning the video poker machines, the communities have messed up a large amount of the projected gambling tax that has already been earmarked by the government for its infrastructure improvement plan.

In the midst of all this, the horseracing tracks across the state have decided to come to the aid of the government by offering to provide room for the gaming machines in their facilities. The representatives of the horseracing industry said in their emailed statements that if they are allowed to operate the video poker machines at their tracks, they will give the state its share, and the infrastructure plan could go on as intended. “It’s a no-brainer,” horse racing industry lobbyist Gary Mack was quoted as saying. He thinks that “no one would be opposed to it” given that there is already betting happening at the racetracks.

The horseracing industry may have smelled an opportunity here because for some time the racetracks have been trying to get slots at their facilities to attract more patrons and to boost their profits.

But they have always been blocked by the casino operators who are worried of the competition. Only this time the racetracks’ line of reasoning is to save the state’s infrastructure improvement plan by helping it raise the money.

But the casinos are also proposing the same idea for their establishment, although they still oppose allowing the video poker machines at the tracks. And, like the racetracks, they say they want to do it to help the state realize its infrastructure plan. “If the state would allow us to have more machines we could get them up and running,” says Tom Swoik, spokesman for the casinos. But anti-gambling lobbyist Anita Bedell says that gambling “is not a good way to raise revenue for the states.” She says that is exactly the reason why the state is having this trouble with projecting revenue from a new gambling law.

 

December 1, 2009

Philadelphia Gambling Has Beneficial Effects

Detractors of gambling have been saying that gambling has negative social and moral consequences and casinos have become a breeding ground for illicit and immoral activities. The critics also say that the disadvantages of gambling have always outweighed its advantages. But the state of Pennsylvania, and in particular the city of Philadelphia, has shown that this has not been so. The casinos, in coordination with the Gaming Control Board and the State Police have employed personnel with the task of overseeing and securing the area. They have also installed reliable systems to monitor activities within the property of the facilities. All the expenses for security are being shouldered by the casino operators.

The gambling-related criminal incidents have been petty and the suspects promptly arrested. Thus, the casinos in the state have become a secure and harmless place for visitors. When the first casino opened in Pennsylvania three years ago, the state and the city of Philadelphia have reaped substantial benefits. Currently, the nine casinos that are operating statewide have brought 8,346 steady jobs including those at Harrah’s Chester in Delaware County and Philadelphia Park in Bucks County. The construction of casinos throughout the state has also provided employment for a large number of qualified workers.

In the city of Philadelphia, the work on the initial stage of the Sugar House and Foxwoods casinos is projected to create around 2,500 jobs, and when they open, will hire 1,000 employees. And on the matter of revenue, since the first casino opened, the state has collected tax revenue of more than $3 billion. Two-thirds of that amount has been used to reduce wage or property taxes.

The residents of Pennsylvania have also been spending their gambling money within the confines of the state, finding no sense in traveling to New Jersey or other neighboring states, thus keeping gaming revenue inside the state. For the city of Philadelphia, wage-tax relief from revenues taken from casinos in other parts of Pennsylvania has amounted to $112 million, and that figure will certainly increase once the city’s two casinos open. After the two new casinos are completely operational, they are estimated to generate new tax revenue of more than $25 million a year for the city.

Casino revenue has also paid for the numerous projects and public works such as road improvements and constructions, community recreation and tourism programs. The sum of $220 million was given to the local governments where there are casinos or have casinos near them, for the purpose of funding those projects.

 

November 30, 2009

UIGEA Enforcement Postponed For Another Six Months

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve confirmed that the U.S. financial institutions are given an additional six months to implement the new regulations banning illegal Internet gambling. The agencies said that the new rules