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Best Gambling Guide for online gambling reviews, best gambling bonuses, gambling games, and gambling tips. Best gambling payouts and best gambling bonuses are featured in this gambling guide.

 

Gambling News by Gambling Headquarters

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Philadelphia Casino Designs Receive Critique

 

As reported by Globe Street: "Designs by developers of five different proposed casinos here received criticism by a panel of architects and urban planners during "Slots and the City: A Public Design Forum." It was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center just ahead of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's June 2 deadline for public comment, and a recording of the event has been entered into the board's public record. "Each developer made a 10-minute presentation, followed by comments from panel members. The least criticized design was by Pinnacle Entertainment, except for the Trump Organization. Its presentation contained no renderings, floor plans or details, because, the developer said, they have gone back to the drawing boards after obtaining input from neighbors at the site. "All but the Trump proposal are at sites along the Delaware Riverfront. The six panelists leveled as much criticism at the city as at the developers in respect to all plans, but especially the riverfront four."

Golf Betting Column: What The Golfinggods Say..

 

Victory for David Howell at the European tour flagship event, the BMW Championship. Once again he gave notice to golfing world that he's a player of the highest quality. His complete game was faultless and he reduced the newly lengthened and toughened Wentworth course to its knees. He is, without a doubt, the most improved player in world golf over the past three years and I see no reason why he cannot compete for a Major championship. He is an unobtrusive player who sometimes slips under the radar of many but he is the 'real deal' and will continue to win at good odds. Hard to think the way Jeff Maggert finished off the Fed Ex Classic on the weekend was the form of a man who has not won for over seven years. Like Tim Herron the week before Maggert was able to move the doubts aside for a week and capitalise on a leader board that was not moving forward on the back nine. It is hard to suggest what this may do for Maggert in terms of winning again as it has been so long since his last win, however he does have the game for a US Open course and maybe he will compete at Winged Foot in two weeks.

Speaking of the US Open it seems that Tiger will not play at the Memorial this week and will go straight to the US Open as his first tournament back after the death of his Father. Tiger is a different class to everyone else but this is obviously not ideal preparation and his price has crept out to 11/2 to win at Winged Foot. Is this the best price for Tiger ever or just about right for a player who must be still shaken by his loss?

The US tour moves to Ohio for Jack's event, The Memorial Tournament played at Muirfield Village GC. The Nicklaus designed course takes a page from Augusta with the fairways being wide but positioning within the fairways paramount. The rough is penal and there is both water and bunkers ready for wayward shots, however it is the positioning of the tee that is key this week.

Selections:

Fred Couples: this is a tournament Fred just loves to play at and his runner up position in the last two years shows his form around Muirfield is as good as anyone's. His putting is always the key to his game but I see no reason why he cannot compete at good each way odds.

David Howell: fresh of victory last week at the BMW Championship he is back to his best. Howell has both the composure and the game to win around Muirfield and I expect him to contend.

Jose Maria Olazabal: I chose him last week in Europe and am keeping faith. If his driving stays as consistent as it has all season then the Spaniard must rate a good each way chance. He should have won twice this year already and I think his short game genius will be required this week. A good each way option.

Others to mention: Stephen Ames, K.J Choi & Vaughn Taylor.

The European tour moves to Wales for the Wales Open played at the Celtic Manor Resort course. This course will play host to the 2010 Ryder Cup and the 7,200 + yards provides a severe test of golf. The designer, Robert Trent Jones Jr, has created a course that has undulating fairways that provide challenging approach shots to large greens. Add to this the expected soft conditions and you have a real slog!

Selections:

Anthony Wall: the Englishman has played solid golf all season and in a tournament that does not have depth he is likely to contend this week. At around 50/1 he represents good each way odds.

Simon Khan: finished second to David Howell last week and this was his first display of form this year. However he was definitely a player to follow last year and his season may now be 'kick started'. Expect him to contend.

Ross Fisher: the Wentworth player continues to play solid golf. He is a player of great attitude and his game will be suited by the Celtic Manor test. The more he knocks on the winners door the more likely it will open. This could be the week.

Other to suggest: Peter Lawrie, Phillip Price & Stephen Gallagher.

Until next week - May The Golfinggods Be With You!

Pennsylvania Gaming Investigator Suspended

 

As reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "A Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board investigator arrested Saturday on the South Side has been suspended without pay. "Control Board spokesman Nick Hays announced the suspension of Justin Husar, 26, on Sunday and said the case is being investigated by the state's Office of Professional Responsibility in Harrisburg. ".Husar makes $64,000 a year as an investigator with the board's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, which is responsible for looking into the backgrounds of those applying for slots licenses. "Husar, who lives on Pretense Way on the South Side, faces charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, escape and public intoxication after a verbal and physical altercation with off-duty police officers working a security detail at the Town Tavern on East Carson Street around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, said Pittsburgh police Sgt. William Vollberg, who helped subdue Husar."

VIPSports.com Car Heads to NHRA Summer Nationals

 

After a three week rest, the ParkerTech Racing Services crew is ready to start burning some alcohol again. Their VIPsports.com funny car is loaded up and ready for Topeka, Kansas and the May 26th - 28th NHRA O'Reilly Summer Nationals. The Heartland Park Topeka track promotes itself as "the world's fastest ¼ mile" and the crew is hoping that feature will work to their advantage. "For Frank Parker, owner of the VIPsports.com Dodge Stratus, the time between races hasn't been very restful. "We've freshened up the whole car since Atlanta and made some adjustments," he said. "If it moved, we took it apart and put it under the microscope. If it didn't move, we polished it. I made the mistake of taking a brief nap and woke up to my four-year old rubbing polish on my leg." Danny Townsend, driver of the VIPsports.com Top Alcohol Funny Car and Dan Parker, co-chief, have been studying past data from Topeka and working on set-ups and strategy. "We're a real close second in Division 3 points and holding on to number five in national points," said Townsend. "With one win, out of only two points meets, the odds are in our favor for a great season finish."

Round one of Top Alcohol qualifying is on Friday, May 26, at 3:00 pm and the second at 6:00 pm. The final qualifying session takes place at 11:00 am Saturday. Eliminations begin at 4:00 pm Saturday and pick up again at 11:00 am Sunday.

MSPokerChallenge Plans MySpace Event

 

In the past two years poker has exploded to become one of the worlds favorite past times. At the same time what was once a small community for friends to catch up with each other has grown be one of the most popular web portals on the internet. Today an internet start-up company has announced the launch of its all new poker championship event and website that will be bringing these two explosive markets together for one huge event. Working with the internets top poker rooms, MSPokerChallenge.com has planned a World Championship Poker Event to take place July 29th, 2006. This event will be a $30+3 buy-in tournament and will crown the first ever world champion poker player of MySpace. Leading up to the main event, MSPokerChallenge.com will be hosting several satellite tournaments where players can win their entry into the main event for free. In an interview with MSPokerChallenge.com director of marketing Steve Cook, he stated "We are confident that by bringing together two of the most popular trends in the world right now, (myspace & poker) we have an idea that simply will not fail" The MySpace Poker Challenge is a first of it's kind and is targeting an audience of over 80 million members. Although the main event is a $30+3 buy-in, members have the opportunity receive a free entry by referring 50 new members to the website or by winning one of the freeroll events.

In a phone interview with MSPokerChallenge.com CEO Jeremy Enke, he stated "Our marketing plans for this promotion are so well thought out, it is scary. We are integrating both viral marketing as well as network marketing to bring together MySpace members from throughout the world who play poker. I have no doubt that this will be one of the premier online poker tournaments of the year."

MSPokerChallenge.com is independently owned and operated by Poker Affiliate World Inc. and has no relation to myspace.com.

Swedes Qualify For Everest Poker Event

 

Three more players qualified to represent Sweden at the Everest Poker European Championship to be held in September. Tobias Eriksson won the Gothenburg, Sweden qualifier on May 6 to secure a seat representing Sweden at the Everest Poker European Championship. Tobias is from Stockholm. Charles Elisson from Gothenburg placed second while Rickard Sollander from Gothenburg placed third. In Virsbo on May 13, Daniel Olsson and Peter Lindström each won a seat in this qualifier and secured their places in representing Sweden. The event took place at Wirsbo Pokersällskaps clubhouse in Virsbo.

During May, Swedish players can compete for free to represent Sweden in the Everest Poker European Championship finale being held at the Casino de Barcelona on 9 September 2006. The finale will be a free roll offering a ?50,000 prize pool. Upcoming Sweden live qualifiers are in Nyköping and Kristianstad. "We are bringing two really good poker players to Barcelona from the Virsboro event," said Jack Hansen, Everest Poker Event Manager. "There is a strong possibility that one of these players will walk away with first prize in September."

The Everest Poker European Championship (EPEC) is open to all Europeans. The event will consist of a series of free poker tournaments in 7 countries including Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, and Denmark from March to June 2006. Players from all over Europe can also qualify at free, online satellites at EverestPoker.com from May to August 2006.

Ultimately, 100 players from throughout Europe will qualify to represent their country in a European Championship finale which will take place at the world famous Casino de Barcelona in Spain on September 9, 2006. The prize pool for this free roll is ?50,000 offered by Everest Poker.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Choctaw Casino Faces Hurdles for Approval

 

As reported by the Mississippi Press: "The Choctaws' plan to build a casino in Jackson County isn't quite as simple as a roll of the dice, despite public perception that the tribe can do pretty much whatever it wants. "In fact, winning federal, state and local support for a casino resort may be the tribe's biggest gamble yet. "...The Choctaws also have to convince the governor to allow a casino -- Haley Barbour has balked at their proposal -- and have requested the support of Jackson County voters, who have overwhelmingly rejected gaming in the past. "But before jumping those hurdles, the Choctaws must place their 100 acres of land, located along Miss. 57 near Interstate 10, into a trust for the purposes of gaming, as required by The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. "...In order for all 100 acres to be considered for gaming, the tribe must follow five steps set out in the act and one self-imposed requirement..."

Pechanga Puts Additional High School on $400,000 Contribution Roster

 

As reported by the Temecula News: "...In an effort to enrich the educational experiences of local high school students, the tribal leaders and the management of Pechanga Resort & Casino have committed to making a yearly donation of $50,000 to each of the high schools in the Temecula Valley. This contribution is expected to offset the costs associated with academics, extracurricular activities, athletics and scholarship programs. "With the recent addition of Lakeside High School in Lake Elsinore, eight local high schools each received a $50,000 check during a special luncheon on Wednesday, May 24, at Pechanga. Representatives from those eight high schools, including principals, teachers and students, gathered with the members of the Pechanga Development Corporation and the Pechanga Tribal Council..."

Gambling Beyond Nevada : Just Like Vegas, Half a World Away

 

The first time he saw China's planned Cotai Strip development four years ago, Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson thought the Chinese government was banishing him to some faraway no-man's land. Much of the Cotai Strip was submerged under several feet of water. Engineers were just beginning to reclaim land from the South China Sea and transform the area into an industrial complex. Adelson had other ideas. Las Vegas Sands Corp., was already spending close to $300 million to build a Sands casino on the waterfront of the Macau Peninsula, a former Portuguese colonial region that is the only place in China where gambling is legal.

Government sponsors asked Adelson to look at Cotai, which is just minutes south of Macau by car, as another potential gaming destination.

"At first, I thought it was political exile," Adelson recalled. "I thought (rival Chinese casino developer) Stanley Ho had some influence that he got me off the peninsula because that's where he believes the center of everything is. All I was hoping was that I could get a location in which I could really do something."

By the end of the decade, Cotai, which derives its name from its position between the islands of Taipa and Coloane, could be home to more than a dozen hotels with 20,000 rooms, casinos, showrooms, restaurants, convention space, shops and a 15,000-seat sports arena.

Adelson guided Cotai's development, persuading some of the world's largest and most profitable hotel chains to join Las Vegas Sands in opening locations on the Cotai Strip. North American hotel companies, such as Hilton, Starwood and Four Seasons will join Asian hotel company Shangri-La to build properties using some of the world's most recognizable brands -- Sheraton, St. Regis, Intercontinental, Conrad and Holiday Inn.

The hotel operators will manage their own rooms and restaurants. Las Vegas Sands will run the properties' casinos and showrooms.

The anchor centerpiece of the Cotai Strip, the $3 billion Las Vegas Sands-owned Venetian Macau, is well under construction on slightly more than 67 acres. It will open in 2007.

With 3,000 rooms, 565,000 square feet of casino space, a 1 million-square-foot convention and meeting center, a 2,000-seat showroom and a 1 million-square-foot version of the Grand Canal Shoppes, the Venetian Macau emulates its sister property, The Venetian in Las Vegas.

The sports arena is also part of the Venetian site.

The development of Cotai helps complete a personal vision for the 72-year-old Adelson: creating a second, somewhat smaller, Las Vegas.

In a long interview with the Review-Journal, Adelson, the majority shareholder in Las Vegas Sands, said developing Cotai almost didn't happen until he investigated the location.

"When I went out to see it, I said to myself 'this could be what I'm dreaming about. I could create another Las Vegas,'" Adelson said. "That's when I got excited about (Cotai). Nobody wanted this and it wasn't even land anyway. It was just a bay."

Adelson said architects and planners helped his company devise a U-shaped Strip with seven sites covering a little more than 147 acres. Each site could hold several hotel-casinos. Adelson thought Asia, which includes China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, deserved its own Las Vegas.

"There isn't anybody who knows anything about hospitality, lodging, casinos and entertainment that would deny, if you picked up Las Vegas and brought it over to anywhere in Asia, it would be a grand slam home run," Adelson said.

Adelson said he had little trouble conveying his vision and encouraging hotel operators to build on Cotai. Many of the hotel sites could be under construction by 2007. One 15-acre site controlled by Las Vegas Sands remains in development negotiations.

Even rival casino developer Steve Wynn, who Adelson says at first scoffed at the idea of developing Cotai, is asking the Chinese government for permission to build three or four casino-hotels on about 50 acres of Cotai Strip property east of Las Vegas Sands' development.

"All you have to do is go over there," Adelson said. "You can't help but see it if you go over there."

Wall Street analysts estimate Cotai, which is about 25 miles from Hong Kong via ferry, could lead one of the world's most lucrative gambling markets.

By decade's end, Cotai Strip casinos, along with casinos in Macau, could collectively report anywhere between $15 billion and $18 billion in annual gaming revenue. In 2005, Macau casinos, including the Sands Macau which opened in 2004, churned out almost $6 billion in gaming revenue. By comparison, Nevada, the nation's leading casino market, reported gaming revenues of $11.6 billion in 2005, an all-time record.

Macau casinos operated by Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Mirage are scheduled to open in the next 12 months.

"A lot is going to depend upon how loose the Chinese government gets in opening up travel restrictions," said Steven Wieczynski, gaming analyst for Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore. "There are anywhere from 2 billion to 3 billion people living a short distance from Macau and Cotai. Once those nice properties are built on Cotai, a lot of people are going to want to get over there. Our estimates have been $11 billion (in gaming revenues by the end of the decade) but we're a little conservative. While $15 billion is a big number, it's absolutely doable."

Wieczynski said savvy investors understand what Las Vegas Sands is doing in China.

In March, Las Vegas Sands shares were trading in the $50 price range on the New York Stock Exchange. The company's stock price climbed to a 52-week high of $72.69 on May 9 but investor profit-taking brought the share price down below $60 this past week. However, shares in the company closed at $69.63 Friday on news that Las Vegas Sands won its bid to build a $3.6 billion resort in Singapore.

Much of Cotai's approximately 250 acres has been reclaimed and is being prepared for development.

Adelson said the Cotai Strip will create, in essence, two Macaus. The downtown area, dominated by the Sands Macau, Stanley Ho's Lisboa casino, and the soon-to-open Wynn Macau and MGM Grand Macau, will be the domain of day-trip Chinese gamblers. The Cotai resorts will be packed with destination travelers.

Though competitors may disagree, Adelson thinks the Cotai Strip properties will be the true destination resorts in Macau; he envisions free-spending gamblers and tourists flocking there.

"Downtown (Macau) is not a destination market," Adelson said. "When my competitors say they are building a destination resort, to me, it's like saying you're building a destination resort in downtown Las Vegas. You have to be sensitive enough to the market to understand what the people want and what they respond to. I frequently touch the numbers and I know what's going on over there, and it's not a destination resort."

But revenue from casinos in the Macau Peninsula area won't vanish. His company's Sands Casino is expanding, ready to capitalize on its location less than a mile from Macau's ferry terminal.

Gaming analysts agree with Adelson's assessment that Macau's market will change.

Wieczynski said Macau could see a boost in day-trip gamblers who would flood the downtown casinos while high-end gamblers gravitate toward the Cotai properties.

Expansion of the Macau International Airport to accommodate more airline traffic and the building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge by 2011 or 2012 would connect regions now separated by water.

Susquehanna Financial Group gaming analyst Brian McGill said pent-up demand for more gambling in Macau will drive the market. He said the Cotai Strip will turn the area into a true travel destination.

"What they've done with the Sands Macau has already exceeded everyone's expectations," McGill said of the casino, which reported revenues of $278.2 million and cash flow of $103.4 million in 2006's first quarter.

"There is a lot that doesn't exist in Macau that Las Vegas Sands is helping to create," McGill said. "(Adelson) is clearly a visionary in the industry and he's been proven right more times than he has been wrong. There was a lot of skepticism on Macau and Cotai early, but most have come around and believe he'll be right on this."

One early skeptic was Wynn.

In a 2005 interview with Fortune magazine, Adelson said Wynn dismissed any notion of building on Cotai, a claim he repeated recently to the Review-Journal. Adelson even offered witnesses to corroborate his story, people who were with him when he approached Wynn outside a meeting in Macau and proposing a partnership in the Cotai project.

"I said 'Steve, I have this idea about doing a Strip. I think if you and I did it together, it would be unbeatable,'" Adelson recalled. "He turned me down flat. He said it was the most stupid idea he had ever heard in his whole life. I think he now sees that it is happening and everybody is trying to buy into it, so now it's a perfect time. Of course, when he gets ready to open his first (casino), I'll have seven hotel-casinos open on Cotai."

Wynn was traveling last week and could not be reached for comment.

To complement its projects on Cotai, Las Vegas Sands signed an agreement in October with the city of Zhuhai to master plan and build a 1,300-acre nongaming resort on Hengquin Island, less than a mile from the Venetian Macau site and a short trip by water taxi to the main areas of Macau. Adelson said the Hengquin Island site, which will have golf courses, resort villas and a marina, will serve as an amenity to Macau tourism.

Adelson said Cotai and Macau will combine to make the Chinese region the Las Vegas of the Far East.

"In the Asian culture, there is a great propensity to play, but they're not gambling addicts," Adelson said. "Gambling is a form of entertainment to them and that's their social activity to gamble. Every Chinese New Year, they give family members little red envelopes with 'lucky money.' The concept of luck is in all their thoughts."

Although he believes Asian visitors will flock to Cotai, Adelson believes few Americans will have any reason to venture halfway around the world to visit.

"Would Americans want to go? No," Adelson said. "I think Americans will go for convention purposes. But Americans already have Las Vegas. Why would they want to go to an Asian Las Vegas? To me, it's a broadening of the market so that Asians will want to come to the real Las Vegas, which is the mecca of entertainment."

Inside Gaming Column: $30 Million an Acre Called Too Much for Tropicana

 

Wall Street analysts examining the Columbia Sussex Corp. deal to buy Aztar Corp. tell us the $54 a share price amounts to an astronomical record $30 million an acre for the 34-acre Tropicana site at the south edge of the Strip. They reached the estimate by looking at how much the Tropicana in Atlantic City and Aztar's Midwest properties contribute to its financial performance. Quietly, they say Pinnacle Entertainment was smart to bow out. They say that combining Aztar with Columbia Sussex makes operational sense. But the strain on finances and human resources for Columbia Sussex to develop its first megaresort may prove overwhelming. More to come.

Nevada has more Starbucks stores per resident than any other state, something overlooked in recent reports about the Seattle-based chain. Industry analysts told us the reasons were a combination of three factors: wise investments since Starbucks owns most of its stores and land in Las Vegas has been leading the nation in appreciation, savvy marketing and a caffeine-craze driven by Las Vegas' 24-hour economy where many casino workers never sleep, or so it seems.

A lot of readers took exception to remarks by MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni, reported here, that it's unfair to discriminate against immigrant workers who have helped build our economy and companies such as MGM Mirage, and it's impractical to talk about shipping illegal immigrants back home. Experts, however, say at reasonable rates and given government escort policies, it could take a century to send them all back. Plus, three-quarters of the touted 12 million figure are simply undocumented because of U.S. government foul-ups or the intimidation it has encouraged. Lanni seems to have a point.

Wall Street analysts are touting sales in MGM Mirage's three-tower Signature development as a barometer of land values on the Strip. The sales price per square foot for the hotel-condos has climbed to a death-defying $1,057 per square foot, the cost of construction is actually coming in lower than expected, sales are going great guns and profits are surging. Extrapolate from that and it's not hard to imagine land at $25 million an acre, realistic or not.

What does this tell you about your investments? By Thanksgiving, mutual funds will be required to file the same anti-money laundering reports with the U.S. Treasury Department as casino operators. Treasury officials say the new requirements are part of a campaign to nab drug dealers, terrorists and other criminals who launder money. It sounds as if Al Capone's got our money.

Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith can be reached by phone at 477-3893 or by e-mail at rsmith@reviewjournal.com.

Atlantis Announces $50 million Expansion Plan

 

As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal: "The Atlantis Casino Resort wants to build a sky bridge over Peckham Lane to pipe guests to and from the Reno-Sparks Convention Center as part of a $50 million expansion. "The hotel-casino could begin work late this year on a 116,000-square-foot expansion that would add significantly to the casino floor and convention space, officials said. "...The casino expansion plans have been approved by the city as part of the company's 1998 master plan, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive John Farahi said. The bridge and skywalk connecting the convention center and hotel-casino will need approval from the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority board of directors. "...The entire project should take 10 to 12 months to complete once work begins, Farahi said..."

Women's Poker Club Hits England

 

Women's Poker Club, the largest organized international group of women poker players, has been in existence for over three years. WPC is free to join and offers programs catering to all levels of players, from those just learning how to play to women who play professionally or semi-professionally. It is because of the growing number of members from the United Kingdom, that they are pleased to announce their first live tournament overseas. The WPC UK Showdown will be a No Limit Hold'em tournament, held at Grosvenor Casino in Walsall on June 17, 2006, with a £50 entry fee.

The lucky winner will win her share of the prize pool, plus an additional prize of a WSOP package. Bluesquare will be adding a prize of a seat to the World Series of Poker Ladies event for the champion, including hotel, entry and travel funds.

"Women's Poker Club is very excited to be working with Bluesquare and Grosvenor Casinos on the first WPC tournament in the UK. We welcome and encourage all women players to join the tournament competition, and experience what is guaranteed to be a fabulous time." Said Maryann Morrison, founder of Women's' Poker Club. "The added prize of a trip to the World Series of Poker, is an excellent way to show support to the growing demographic of female poker players in Europe."

Single table satellites will be offered at Grosvenor Casino on the morning of the main tournament, at £5 or £10 entry.

"There are many UK women playing poker online, that would find going to a live game very intimidating. I helped to organize this event so that myself and other UK women would have a welcoming, friendly and fun experience." Said Jacky Reynolds, Tournament Coordinator and UK Member of Women's Poker Club.

Dawn Dineen, Tournament Coordinator and WPC member adds, "The time has come for women to step away from their computers and experience the environment of a live casino. The staff of Grosvenor Walsall and BlueSquare have been a pleasure to work with in making this possible, and in showing their support for the growing demographic of women who enjoy poker. All women should look forward to a brilliant weekend of poker!"

There are opportunities for women in North America to also to win their way to this event, including travel funds to the UK, by participating in online satellites.

All women are invited to attend.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Goa to Get India's 2nd Floating Casino

 

As reported by the (Indian) Financial Express: "Hospitality major Hotel Leelaventure Ltd is launching India's second floating casino in Goa. Current government guidelines do not allow casinos on land. Hence, the idea for a casino at sea. "...'The boat will be stationary at a particular area on the water and at the required distance from the shore as per the rules laid down by law,' Hotel Leelaventure vice chairman and MD Vivek Nair told FE. "...The company is in the process of evaluating various international casino operators who have a presence in Nepal, Europe and US. The company will select one operator to manage and run the casino..."

Treasure Bay Could Reopen by Next Month

 

As reported by the (Biloxi) Sun Herald: "Treasure Bay could be the fourth casino to reopen after Hurricane Katrina. "The Biloxi City Council on Tuesday put its reopening on a fast track by unanimously voting to rezone the property and dropping a usually required lag time for a new land use to become effective. "The action allows Treasure Bay to go before the Mississippi Gaming Commission with its plans next month instead of in July. Under a best-case scenario, the casino could reopen some time next month..."

Poker Royalty Teaming Up With Go Big or Go Home Tournament 1, LLC

 

Poker Royalty, the premier poker agency representing poker players and properties, is pleased to announce that it has been hired by Go Big or Go Home Tournament 1, LLC to provide poker industry expertise and business consulting services for the "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party." This unique No-Limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament is structured like a professional sports season with league games, playoffs and finals. League games will be held at casinos throughout the United States beginning in May. Winners will advance to the playoffs which will be held in August. Play culminates with the playoff winners advancing to the finals which will be held September 6-10, 2006 at the luxurious Sun Village Resort and Spa in the Dominican Republic.

"We look forward to working with Poker Royalty in making this tournament fun, exciting and rewarding for the players and the charities," said Zac Hartog, Executive Director of Go Big or Go Home Tournament, LLC, in announcing the alliance. "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" features professional poker players, professional athletes, celebrities and amateur poker players of all skill levels. All players will compete for the opportunity to play for a final estimated purse of $3,000,000 and a host of other prizes. The all-inclusive buy in for the finals at Sun Village Resort and Spa is $15,000 which covers player entry, airfare, hotel, meals and incentives at the lavish resort. More information about the tournament can be found at www.gobigpokerparty.com. "Rarely has a Celebrity Pro-Am event been played for stakes at such a high level," said Chris Porter, Director of Corporate Marketing for Poker Royalty. "Combining this tournament format with an incredible setting in the Dominican Republic makes this event incredibly exciting."

ABOUT POKER ROYALTY:

Poker Royalty is a full-service poker player marketing and representation agency specializing in the poker industry. Founded in 2003, Poker Royalty has successfully negotiated over 200 poker related sponsorships, endorsements, speaking appearances, licensing and consulting agreements. Poker Royalty's relationships within the gaming industry are unparalleled and include exclusive management of the games most marketable players. Please contact Poker Royalty if you are interested in poker marketing opportunities, furthering your poker related business ventures or wish to hire poker players for speaking engagements or personal appearances.

Go Big or Go Home Poker Party

 

What do you get when you combine a deck of cards, professional poker players, celebrities and professional athletes, fans, amateur poker players, worthy charities, exotic locations, incredible prizes and millions of dollars? You get the ultimate poker party.the "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party." The "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" is a No Limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament structured like a sports season with season league games, playoffs and championship finals. Those final players lucky enough to win their games and make it through the tournament playoffs will advance to what we can easily say will be the biggest, most luxurious poker finale one can dream of!

This unique event features professional athletes (retired and active), celebrities, and the world's top professional poker players competing against each other in a game of No Limit Texas Hold'em. To add to the excitement, the tournament is open to the public for a once in a lifetime opportunity for fans and amateur poker players to bid on limited seats at the various tables and play along side their favorite players and celebrities.

LEAGUE GAMES The League games will be a series of casino and internet based satellite poker tournaments where poker players will compete for a piece of the prize pool which will be determined by the number of entrants. The league games will be played throughout the US at selected Native American casinos where players can win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. The winners of each league tournament will advance to the 2006 Season Playoffs where they will compete against the athletes, poker players, celebrities and fans.

PLAYOFFS Here, the top players of the League Games and those who choose to buy-in at a higher amount to skip the League Games will compete for a ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLAR prize pool and will get pampered during a fun-filled weekend. The winner of the tournament will get an all-expenses-paid trip to the "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" Tournament Finals where they can walk away with a number of prizes - cars, boats, vacations, and cold hard cash to the tune of $3,000,000! ($2,500,000 main event and $500,000 second chance game. Sliding prize pool based on 300 paying participants)

THE FINALS!!! The Finals can be summed up in five little words, GO BIG or GO HOME!!! This larger-than-life televised championship will be hosted at the beautiful Sun Village Resort & Spa in the Dominican Republic over a four day period. This all-inclusive poker party vacation includes tons of additional prizes, entertainment, complimentary guest services and much more. The tournament winners representing the top ten percent of players will split a $2,500,000 prize pool (sliding prize pool based on 300 participants).

SECOND CHANCE ALL-STAR GAME But even if you get knocked out early and end up on the bench, there's still a chance to walk with a ton of cash and more prizes. The "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" features an additional Second Chance All-Star Game with a prize pool of $500,000 - Winner takes all! The top three finalists and several invited celebrity guests will automatically qualify for this high stakes game. Then there are an additional six Wild Card winners drawn in lottery fashion from the losing participants. And finally, any player that still feels they have a bit of luck left can pay a buy-in fee and shoot for one last shot. In keeping with the "Go Big or Go Home" theme, the location of the final game is a private luxury yacht accessible from the hosting resort.

SPONSORSHIP Throughout the entire Playoffs and Finals, our name brand sponsors sporadically incorporate "purse perks." In various rounds of play, products get dramatically revealed on the playing tables and the winner of that particular hand wins that prize along with that round's winnings. Players may not walk away with the big purse or even make it to the second chance All-Star Game, but by even winning a single hand in the "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" they could walk away with incredible prizes like tickets to sporting events, a boat, an exotic car, or another wonderful vacation!

FAN APPRECIATION In addition to the top finalists participating in the Tournament Finals, a limited number seats will be reserved for additional fans and amateur poker players who wish to pay to play along side their favorite athletes, celebrities, and professional poker players and are willing to pay an all-inclusive entrance fee of $15,000 which covers their buy-in, second chance lottery card, airfare, hotel, meals and incentives at the lavish resort.

These players will span the globe, as well as economic levels. From the average basement player to the Vegas-favorite high roller, the wide variety of contestants offers exciting degrees of playing experience, diverse backgrounds, and tremendous potential for a variety of storylines. These days reality television reigns and televised poker is currently the third most-watched sporting event in the world. The "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" is guaranteed to take the world of poker to another level - ante up!

Sun Village Resorts Welcomes World's Biggest Poker Champions to "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party"

 

Sun Village Resorts today announced that "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" will take place from September 6-10, 2006 at its upscale four-star all-inclusive Sun Village Resort & Spa in Cofresi on the northern shores of the Dominican Republic. As Official Host Hotel and Party Central, the panoramic Cofresi vacation destination will allocate a majority of its 305 luxe rooms to participants and the general public for the exclusive $3 million prize purse event, one of the biggest No-Limit Texas Hold 'em poker tournaments and parties in the world.

Derek Elliott, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sun Village Resorts, calls the tournament and event "the first of many world-class events that will take place at our resort properties in the Dominican Republic over the coming year."

"Go Big or Go Home Poker Party is not just a high stakes poker tournament, it is the definition of a new breed of unique high end poker parties and Sun Village is the perfect location to throw such a party," says Zac Hartog, Co-Founder of Go Big or Go Home Tournament 1, LLC.

The tournament is open to professional and non-professional card players, and will feature a lineup of guests that includes pro athletes and celebrities. Bookings for the poker tournament can be made at www.gobigpokerparty.com The site offers complete tournament information including registration and accommodations, as well as a current list of participants and guests. For more information on the "Go Big or Go Home Poker Party" and other planned events at Sun Village Resort &Spa, go to www.sunvillageresorts.com . . .2/ Page 2/cont'd/SUN VILLAGE RESORTS OFFICIAL HOST HOTEL. . .

The company's flagship vacation destination, Sun Village Resort and Spa is set to open The Spa at Cofresi and its overlooking spa suites in Summer 2006. The Caribbean's most exclusive and modern facility, The Spa at Cofresi is a 5,000 square foot destination that will offer the most comprehensive services and products for mind, body and soul of any five-star resort spa in the region, and promises to be the "must" in resort spa dream vacations in both the high-end and mid-range travel sector. With a fully equipped gym and workout facilities, the million dollar venue will be managed by Germany's Ronald Ganswindt.

Sun Village Resorts, the largest Canadian-owned resort company in the Dominican Republic, is managed and operated by Elliott. Sun Village Resort & Spa in Cofresi is an all-inclusive luxury hotel with 305 rooms, seven swimming pools and five unique dining facilities. The resort's upscale amenities are found in a dramatic mountain-beach setting that is unparalleled on the north coast of the Dominican Republic and is accessible in less than 30 minutes from the International airport in Puerto Plata. Sun Village is set to open its second all-inclusive resort in Juan Dolio, along the country's south coast, in fall, 2006. For more information about Sun Village Resorts, visit www.sunvillageresorts.com

Bill to Ban Gambling Online Gets Another Chance

 

As reported by the Washington Post: "Online poker players will have to fold their hands if a Virginia congressman gets his way."Today, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill introduced by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R) that would ban much online gambling, including bets on sporting events and games of chance -- namely poker, which has enjoyed a boom in recent years.". The bill would update the Federal Wire Wager Act, which prohibits gambling over telephone lines but may not apply to Internet gambling because not all Web traffic travels over phone lines. It also would force banks to block transactions related to online gambling and would empower law enforcement agencies to force Internet service providers to remove or disable links to gambling sites.

". Poker players argue that their pastime should be excluded from Goodlatte's ban because it is a game of skill, not chance. Last month, three World Series of Poker champions visited a House office building to defend their game against attempts to ban it online.

". 'We don't believe that simply putting the word 'Internet' in front of 'poker' should make the game suspect,' said Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance. 'Poker is a skill game. You can influence events. The original cards are random, but you can influence your success or failure,' .

". Three House members from Nevada -- Jon Porter (R), Shelley Berkley (D) and Jim Gibbons (R) -- yesterday introduced legislation for an 18-month study of online gambling and whether games could be regulated and taxed, as they are in Britain .

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bangor Approves Permanent Racino

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "The Bangor City Council unanimously approved a series of agreements to pave the way for a $70 million permanent slots facility that will eventually replace the temporary Hollywood Slots that has been in operation since November.. "Penn National Gaming Inc. has been operating a temporary slots facility with 475 machines at the former Miller's Restaurant. Its permanent facility will have 1,500 slot machines and will generate at least $2.1 million a year for the city of Bangor. " "Penn National's permanent racino will include a parking garage, restaurant and retail space. Penn's off-track betting operation will also be housed in the new facility. "Construction on the new complex will begin in 2007 or 2008."

Massachusetts Man Wins Year's Supply of Cake

 

A Massachusetts man won a years supply of cake and $10,000 in Poker.com's recent "birthday tournament." A year after Poker.com launched their online poker software they celebrated by rewarding their players with a unique promotion. 694 Poker.com players took their seat and lined up for a shot at $50,000 in prizes plus a year's supply of cake. After over 7 hours of play, and by his own admission through a little luck, P0kerFaceB0uy, a 26-year-old student from Lawrence, Massachusetts was the last man standing.

"P0kerFaceB0uy had the following to say on his win: "I just kept telling myself it's like any other final table, play the cards, play the players. About halfway through I had enough of a chip lead to try to bluff a big pot with nothing after the flop. Got called with my pants down (9-10) and hit a K high straight with a J on the river. It was turning from conservative to aggressive play at final table, combined with incredible luck that let me win. Poker.com has the best tournaments and competition I've found on-line. I love playing against the crowd here. It was just my lucky day."

Hollywood Poker Antes Up For the 4th Annual Dennis Quaid Charity Weekend

 

HollywoodPoker.com helped raise more than $30,000 for the 4th Annual Dennis Quaid Charity Weekend. The proceeds from the May 4-7 event will benefit four Austin children's charities. New to this year's event was the HollywoodPoker.com Texas Hold 'em Celebrity Challenge, helping to push the weekends contributions over $300,000. Quaid, who has called upon his friends at Hollywood Poker in the past to help raise money for the victims of Katrina, knew they would come through for him at this worthy event. An elated Quaid said, "The Hollywood Poker event was a blast, we had so many people turn out, it was amazing. Next year we'll make it even bigger."

More than 900 people attended the poker event where Brett Cullen ("The West Wing") was the highest placing celebrity in the tournament. Other celebrity participants for the weekend include Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Topher Grace (In Good Company), Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), Zac Efron ("Summerland"), Richard Schiff ("The West Wing"), Robert Loggia (Wild Seven), Rex Linn ("CSI: Miami"), Gordon Clapp ("NYPD Blue"), Gregory Itzin ("24"), Don Felder (The Eagles), Kyle Massey ("That's So Raven"), Otis Thorpe (NBA Player) and many others.

The Dennis Quaid Charity Weekend presented by H-E-B was founded in 2003. All expenses of the Quaid Weekend are fully underwritten by sponsors, which allows 100 percent of the gross proceeds generated from the sale of event tickets and participant slots to directly benefit the following non- profit organizations: Any Baby Can, Austin Children's Shelter, Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas; and the International Hospital for Children. The Dennis Quaid Charity Weekend was formed for the purpose of supporting both International and Austin, TX children and is held every year. The weekend raised approximately $340,000. More than $700,000 has been raised since 2003.

Titan Poker Signs "World's Sexiest Woman"

 

TitanPoker.com announces the signing of supermodel and actress Joanna Krupa as an official spokesperson. Over the past twelve months, Krupa has appeared on the cover of Maxim's US Calendar and was also featured on the cover of Playboy. Joanna was voted 'sexiest woman in the world' by magazines in Australia, USA, South Africa, England, Czech Republic and Germany. Aside from Playboy and Maxim, her covers include GQ, Esquire, FHM, Inside Sport, TV Media, TV Spielfilm, Fitness Rx, Trump World and Men's Fitness, and she was the featured model of the week at Askmen.com. Krupa was voted one of the top 10 Supermodels in 2004 by Austrian bestselling magazine TV Media and voted model of the year by Maxim in 2004 and TV Media (2005).

After winning a Trump Tower charity poker event, Joanna fell in love with the game. "I am excited about being part of the Titan team and look forward to playing online against players from around the country."

Krupa's endorsement contract will keep her very involved in the poker world, representing Titan Poker at public appearances and autograph signings. Joanna will also be playing at the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. In future months, players will be given a chance to win a 'behind the scenes' pass to a swimsuit calendar shoot.

"We're thrilled to have such an international super model like Joanna Krupa representing Titan Poker," commented a spokesperson from Titan Poker.

In preparation for her WSOP Main Event appearance, Krupa will be playing regularly on TitanPoker.com, including Thursday, June 1, from 8-10 p.m. EDT. To play poker online with Joanna Krupa or to see a recent photo visit www.titanpoker.com .

Sprucing Up Vernon Downs

 

As reported by the Post-Standard: " .While the harness track's new owners await permission from the state to open, they're spending $4 million to renovate restaurants, the grandstand, parking lots, barns and a never-used casino. "No opening date has been set for the track or the casino, but American Racing officials are optimistic the track will open this summer. .. "Work crews from VIP Structures in Syracuse are focused on adding a buffet area to the casino and renovating the Miracle Mile restaurant in the grandstand. Both areas will feature betting and nightly entertainment. The casino will have about 900 machines.

"The work is the first phase in a five-year plan that will completely renovate and link the hotel, casino and grandstand.The entire complex will carry a Vernon Downs-history theme. Gone will be the Polynesian theme previous owners chose for the casino."

Site List Out for Casino in U.K.

 

The odds improved Wednesday for one of the major Las Vegas-based casino companies to enter the British gaming market big-time. In London, the Casino Advisory Panel announced a short list of eight locations that will be open to development of the first Las Vegas-style casino in the United Kingdom. American operators with interests in British projects include Harrah's Entertainment, MGM Mirage, and Las Vegas Sands Corp., all of Las Vegas; Kerzner International and Isle of Capri Casinos. The site list released by the British government-appointed independent advisory board had Blackpool, Wembley Stadium, Cardiff, Glasgow, the Millennium Dome, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield as U.K. sites for the proposed Las Vegas-style casino.

The short list of largely economically distressed areas was whittled down from 27 applications.

The development of Las Vegas-style casinos in Great Britain is particularly important here because of its ability to feed Las Vegas' voracious demand for visitors, said Brian Gordon, a partner in the Las Vegas-based market research company Applied Analysis.

"A significant share of our international visitors come from the United Kingdom with some travelers visiting Las Vegas more than once a year," he said. "Expansion of gaming in England will give gaming operators in Las Vegas an opportunity to increase our profile, pique consumer interest and generate added visitor traffic."

Matthew Jacob, senior gaming analyst with Wall Street-based Majestic Research, said the British market is doubly valuable for Las Vegas operators, both because of Britons' high propensity gamble and its potential as a feeder market.

"It's essentially the Harrah's (Entertainment) model applied internationally, cross-marketing casinos there with the market here," he said.

The Harrah's business model focuses on developing regional gaming operations and feeding customers into a computerized, national players network and major casino operations.

Jacobs said the development of a supercasino in Great Britain is important because the potential for growth within the United States is limited with no new markets opening and the best sites spoken for in established markets.

Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone said the final selection will probably depend on how much a supercasino could add to the efforts to redevelop one of the depressed areas, based on estimates by the British government.

Las Vegas Sands has two agreements with the Rangers Football in Glasgow and Sheffield United Football clubs in Sheffield.

MGM Mirage has focused early development efforts in Birmingham, which did not make the final list. However, it also has an agreement with Newcastle United for a 50-50 joint venture, and is pursuing opportunities in Glasgow and Sheffield.

Kerzner is involved with the Millennium Dome. Isle of Capri, which owns two-thirds of three Blue Chip pub casinos in Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall, has focused development efforts on Coventry, which also did not make the short list.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said his company is pleased to be associated with three of the final sites selected and still hopes that other supercasinos will be developed.

He added that the U.K. market is particularly important both because of its size and because of the well-established tradition of wagering.

Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese also said his company will continue to pursue opportunities in the United Kingdom in addition to the two deals it already has. The company is now talking with authorities in Blackpool, he said.

Harrah's has been pursuing opportunities to develop a supercasino at Wembley Stadium.

A spokesman for Harrah's had no comment.

British officials who will hear detailed plans for each bid will visit each of the sites over the summer.

A recommendation for the eventual supercasino site is to be delivered to the government in December, with a final decision in early 2007.

That decision, however, may not be the end of the story for Las Vegas operators, Falcone said.

In March, the British government was reported to be considering expanding the supercasino concept from a single site, as authorized by Parliament last year, to possibly four sites.

The legislation approved in 2005 includes a supercasino with unlimited table games and a maximum of 1,250 slot machines plus eight large casinos with unlimited table games and a maximum of 150 slot machines.

However, Falcone noted that the legislation represented a significant reduction from previous proposals.

"A report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister claims that after three years the U.K. could see another 40 super-casinos as well as hundreds of smaller ones," Falcone said.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ja Rule Launches Online Poker Room with the Action Poker Network

 

Ja Rule is the latest in a series of celebrities who have entered the booming online poker market. StarsOnPoker.com opened its doors with a $500,000 Freeroll, a free poker tournament with top prize of $200,000. The cardroom offers popular multiplayer poker games like Texas Hold'em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Low, 7 Card Stud and exclusive games like Chinese Poker, Guts Poker, Panguigne, and Big 2. StarsOnPoker.com offers its full suite of poker games in free download. Players at www.starsonpoker.com can enjoy unique features like a link to recording star Ja Rule's website; a music player with Ja Rule's music, and an online store with cool merchandise from the top hip hop player in the music business.

The Action Poker Network is ranked in the top twenty poker networks worldwide and counts as its members ActionPoker.com, TigerGaming.com, Nine.com, EnglishHarbourPoker.com and many other fast-growing brands.

The network is licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, and the proprietary gaming software is independently certified by iTech Labs.

Tigergaming.com Sponsors the Canadian Texas Hold'em Charity Championship

TigerGaming.com of Action Poker Network sponsors the Canadian Charity Poker Championship: www.charitypokerchampionship.com

A national and regional Hold'em tournament, the Canadian Charity Championship started in Montreal and then expanded to Toronto in 2006. On Tuesday, May 30, 2006 regional tournaments will be held in Montreal and Toronto to determine the final top 10 players who go on to compete in the final table championship in Las Vegas. A total of 10 top finishers from the Montreal and Toronto tournaments will be awarded exceptional prizes for winning their local tournament, and then be flown to Las Vegas to compete in the final table championship for the grand prize - travel, accommodations and entry fee to the 2006 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, which all adds up to a prize package with a $15,000 value

All proceeds from the tournament will go to support various Canadian hospitals and Street Kids International.

Panel Passes Bet Ban Pitches

 

Proposals to ban Internet gambling took another step toward becoming law Thursday as a House committee passed two bills designed to outlaw online wagering. The action by the House Judiciary Committee means the House could vote as early as next month on whether to shut down Internet gambling, which has quadrupled in the past six years into a $12 billion industry. If the House approves an Internet gambling ban, it would still have to pass the Senate before being sent to President Bush to be signed into law. The committee voted 25-11 to pass a bill by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that would update a 1961 federal statute known as the Wire Act so it would ban all forms of Internet gambling and apply to new gambling technologies that may be developed.

"Offshore online gambling Web sites are cash cows and the greed that propels these companies leads them to solicit bettors in the United States despite the fact that the Department of Justice already believes this activity is illegal," Goodlatte said in a statement after the vote.

Goodlatte estimated there are as many as 2,300 gambling Web sites and they receive about $6 billion annually from U.S. gamblers.

The committee also passed by voice vote a bill by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, that would prohibit credit cards and checks from being used to make Internet gambling payments.

The committee also approved by voice vote an amendment to the Leach bill by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, that would preserve states' rights in regulating gambling.

House Republican leaders would like to merge the Goodlatte and Leach bills into one piece of legislation that could be brought to the House floor by the first or second week of June, sources said.

Goodlatte and Leach have expressed a willingness to blend their bills.

"We have had sporadic contacts, and I would think today's votes by the committee will expedite our negotiations," said Gregory Wierzynski, Leach's chief of staff.

The committee's debate on the Goodlatte and Leach bills did not include any mention of a bill introduced Wednesday by Nevada lawmakers that would set up a one-year study of Internet gambling by a federal commission.

Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, said Congress may not have enough time this year to pass an Internet gambling ban.

"There are about 35 legislative days left, and if they are going to merge these two bills, that's going to take some time," Fahrenkopf said.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., argued that the Goodlatte bill would be ineffective because 85 foreign countries permit Internet gambling and are unlikely to cooperate with a ban.

Scott also complained the bill would create an enforcement nightmare for financial institutions.

"This bill, as written, does not prohibit Internet gambling," Scott said. "It prohibits running the (offshore) operation. If you wanted to be effective in prosecuting illegal gambling over the Internet, you would prosecute the individual gamblers."

Goodlatte responded that his bill modifies a federal statute which applies to gambling entities, not gamblers.

To address concerns by the Department of Justice, Goodlatte said he amended his bill so it will not include an exemption for horse racing.

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., contended the bill still exempts horse racing and offered an amendment that would exempt dog racing and jai alai. When the committee voted 21-15 to reject his amendment, Wexler offered another amendment that would ban all forms of gambling on the Internet.

Goodlatte described the second Wexler amendment as a "poison pill" similar to a measure backed by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in July 2000 The committee rejected Wexler's second amendment by voice vote.

Goodlatte blamed Abramoff, who was convicted of bribing members of Congress, for defeating efforts to pass an Internet gambling ban six years ago. Passing a ban this year would "expunge that smear on the House of Representatives," Goodlatte said.

'The New American Dream'

 

Poker has soared in popularity because, unlike other sports, the average guy sitting in front of his TV set figures he can win the World Series of Poker, a champion player said Thursday. Professional poker player and television commentator Howard Lederer said the charm of poker is that "people at home believe they can be part of it. Anyone can win. Occasionally you get a guy who has a lucky run." Lederer was the keynote speaker Thursday at the 13th International Conference of Gambling and Risk Taking at Harrah's Lake Tahoe. He also participated in a panel discussion on the future of poker.

Nicknamed "The Professor" for his serious style of play and the way he calculates his chances of winning a hand, Lederer has won two World Series of Poker bracelets. He hosts the Fox Sport Network's "Learn from the Pros" show. His sister, Annie Duke, is one of the world's top female players.

He and others credited TV broadcasts of tournaments on ESPN and other networks for the surge in poker popularity in the past five years. They also predicted continued growth in the game's popularity as more and more women begin to play and the game is exported around the world through televised tournaments.

"Poker is the new American dream for 20- to 30-year-old men," said Jeffrey Pollack, Harrah's vice president of sports and entertainment marketing. "I can go play against Howard Lederer. You can get off the couch and play for life-changing money."

Pollack credited the victory by amateur player Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 World Series of Poker for helping spread the fantasy that anyone can win at poker. Moneymaker, an accountant, parlayed the $39 he paid to enter an online tournament into the $2.5 million grand prize.

Until its emergence on television, poker was considered a game for the "pretty old, pretty male and not as much teeth as you want," said Steve Lipscomb, producer of the televised World Poker Tour.

"It was the black sheep of the family who was the poker player," he said. "Now the poker players are the coolest, hippest guys at the cocktail party."

Their praises of poker, however, were challenged by Arnie Wexler, who runs a hotline for problem young gamblers in New Jersey.

Wexler said that one-third of the calls he receives are from underage players addicted to poker.

"The kids think they all can be professional poker players," added Wexler, who called for television to start empathizing the potential problems of poker playing.

Lederer maintained it would hard to become a compulsive poker player "based on the skill element. It is a skill-based game."

"You have the skills," Wexler told Lederer. "They think they have the skills."

Stratosphere Planning Nightclub Way, Way Up

 

The Stratosphere is approaching the city about building a nightclub atop its centerpiece tower in place of the roller coaster, which was shut down in December. Stratosphere executives were to present a site plan to the Las Vegas City Planning Commission on Thursday night. The idea is to build a 6,880-square-foot nightclub 900 feet above Las Vegas. The nightclub would be on the tower's 111th and 112th level and include an outside revolving observation deck. "We would have a 360-degree view and it easily would be the most spectacular nightclub in Las Vegas," Stratosphere spokesman Mike Gilmartin said. No designs or renderings have been drawn up.

Gilmartin said the nightclub would take advantage of its location atop the Stratosphere Tower, offering skyboxes and views of the city.

"We would like to turn the site of the High Roller (roller coaster) into a nightclub setting," Gilmartin said.

The High Roller, a fixture at the Stratosphere since its opening in April 1996, was considered the country's highest roller coaster. It carried some 4 million riders around the 32-degree banked track since opening.

Work crews have been disassembling the 840-foot track over the past few months in the evening hours. Three rides remain atop the Stratosphere Tower; The Big Shot, X Scream and Insanity.

The proposed nightclub is just one of a number of changes being planned over the rest of the year by Stratosphere owner American Casino Entertainment Properties, a subsidiary of the Carl Icahn-controlled American Real Estate Partners. Plans include a casino renovation and more entertainment offerings and could include the construction of an additional hotel tower.

Gilmartin said the Stratosphere had an additional item pulled from the planning commission agenda on vacating portions of Philadelphia and Commerce streets, where the casino's ownership has acquired land parcels for expansion.

He said the Stratosphere taking over those streets wouldn't affect residents or businesses since the casino company has already purchased that land.

Las Vegas Tourism: 291,000 Not Fearing Fuel

 

To travel or not to travel, that's the question facing millions of Americans as they contemplate Memorial Day holidays to Las Vegas and elsewhere this weekend. Gasoline prices, which averaged about $3.14 per gallon for regular unleaded on Thursday, are a large reason for their concerns. AAA predicts that the number of Americans driving and flying over the holiday weekend will increase only slightly this year as consumers respond to higher gasoline prices and air fares. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority spokesman Vince Alberta said 291,000 visitors are expected to visit the city this Memorial Day holiday, about the same as last year.

Room occupancy is expected to hit 95.9 percent, up just 0.3 percentage points from 95.6 a year ago, and the nongaming economic impact is expected to hit $190.4 million, up 4.8 percent from $181.7 million in 2005.

Alberta said there are not enough data to suggest what effect surging gasoline prices may have on Las Vegas this summer, although the authority is monitoring the situation.

However, individual hotel-casino operators are already feeling some impact, although they are feeling it differently. Operators believe there are factors others than gasoline prices affecting consumers' decision making.

The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas, for example, had expected a drop-off based on national predictions, but instead spokeswoman Bonnie Crail said this weekend is the most heavily-booked Memorial Day in its history.

Further, the property's reservations office said so far there are no indications gasoline prices are a factor for most visitors, either for Memorial Day or later this summer.

"This year's Memorial Day strength here may relate to increased awareness of Lake Las Vegas as a destination," Crail said.

By contrast, New Frontier spokeswoman Melanie Mabry said her property expects a drop-off in business this weekend and over the summer.

"This is a time when I can almost always depend on the whims of my drive-in customers to jump in the car and run away to Vegas for a couple days," she said.

"However, I am expecting that I won't see as many of those folks as often as I usually do," Mabry said.

However, she said gasoline prices are among several factors involved.

"It's hard for me to realistically predict where we might credit any kind of fall-off in business right now, since I have some unique factors to consider, such as the speculation of a date for our closing," she said, referring to the company's plans to implode the building to make way for a new megaresort. "However, I am expecting the gas prices and the anxiety about the economy that those prices have fueled, to have an effect continuing through the summer months."

Other properties fall somewhere in the middle, with strong booking trends continuing from previous months and little effect from oil prices.

Sources at Aladdin said surging gasoline prices have had no adverse effect on its business, which they described as booming. Bookings at the property, which is being converted to a Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, are very strong for Memorial Day and up from last year, they said.

Reservations for Memorial Day weekend are similarly mixed across properties owned by MGM Mirage.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman, for example, said his company is seeing some softness in advance reservations for Circus Circus and its properties in Primm.

Although high gasoline prices may be starting to take a toll, Feldman said he expects to see some offsets as families that otherwise might have taken long driving vacations this summer to visit national parks or relatives come to Las Vegas instead.

"Even after the offset, though, I expect (business) will get slower this summer," he said.

Harrah's spokesman David Strow said there has been no evident effect on the seven hotel-casinos his company operates here and none is expected.

That may be partly because Harrah's is just completing the integration of its Total Rewards program with the Caesars Entertainment operations that it bought last year.

Matthew Jacob, senior gaming analyst at Wall Street-based Majestic Research, said although it is difficult to separate out factors causing some softness in the market, the price of gasoline has to be having some effect.

"If fuel prices continue to ramp up, it may be a cause for concern, even though, (historically,) the gaming industry has been resilient to broad economic trends," he said.

Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the Memorial Day weekend will serve as a barometer for how the current gasoline price surge will affect hotel-casinos here.

Schwer said that although any new sharp price increases inevitably will result in some visitors not coming to Las Vegas, the relatively low cost of Las Vegas as a destination may lead some consumers to substitute vacations here for ones in costlier destinations.

Nevertheless, Jacob said Las Vegas hotel-casinos are likely to experience a slowdown if gasoline prices continue to climb.

And overall, Schwer said it is likely increasing gasoline prices will have a drag effect on local hotel-casinos, cutting into the strong growth rates the properties have experienced over the past couple of years.

"In the final analysis, it is likely spending will be relatively flat compared with year ago levels. There might even be a very modest percentage decline. But we should expect the adversity impacts of higher fuel prices on travel spending will be far less than the percentage change in gas prices."

Isle Plans Casino in West Harrison County

 

As reported by the Sun Herald: "Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. plans to develop a casino resort in west Harrison County and has leased a site on the north side of the Bay of St. Louis south of Interstate 10... "...'While the project is in the early planning stages, we are extremely excited about its potential,' said Tim Hinkley, president and chief operating officer of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. "...The company said the project is still subject to licensing, approvals and permits..."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Leading Forces Combine to Create GTS

 

vsGaming and vsTechnology are pleased to announce their incorporation into Gaming Technology Solutions plc (GTS plc). This is a natural progression following strong growth in both companies, growth which is in line with the phenomenal expansion that the e-gaming industry is seeing. The formation of GTS signifies the advent of a powerful leading global supplier of open end-to-end soft gaming solutions for delivery to IP enabled devices and iTV boxes. With a strong background in research and quality of service provision, vsGaming and vsTechnology have already established themselves as market leaders in developing cross-platform delivery and virtual sports soft gambling titles for the industry. vsGaming is an innovative and highly respected games supplier, specialising in the creation of 'sticky' games for internet gambling portals. They have a wide catalogue of games covering virtual sports, games of skill and games of chance, including their pioneering Virtual Horse Racing - one of the first commercially successful online games of its kind. vsTechnology is a specialist technology provider to the online gaming industry. Their patented and TST (Technical Systems Testing) accredited EdGE (Enhanced Gaming Engine) architecture provides a high quality black box solution for the 'cross platform' deployment of games onto PCs, mobile phones, interactive TVs and games consoles.

The combination of both companies' expertise and resources puts GTS forward as a unique and major pacesetting international games technology supplier to many of the world's most successful online gambling businesses across Europe and the Americas, including Bet and Win AG, SportingBet plc, Bet24, Victor Chandler, Grand Central Sports, Bowmans International, BetWWTS, World Gaming, English Harbour, Silver Dollar, Caribbean Gold Casino and Unibet.

QUOTE

The formation of GTS makes delivery of complete 'Soft Gaming' solutions to its customers more seamless in offering a world-class entertainment experience.

Venetian About to Give Gamblers a Hand

 

By year's end, Venetian customers could be the first in Nevada to gamble somewhere inside the casino using a wireless hand-held device. An agreement between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Cantor G&W, the first company licensed by Nevada gaming regulators to distribute mobile gaming devices, is expected to be announced today. The deal calls for Cantor G&W to be the exclusive distributor of mobile gaming equipment to both The Venetian and Palazzo, Las Vegas Sands' new $1.8 billion Strip resort expected to open next year. Neither company would disclose financial terms of the agreement. Cantor G&W, an affiliate of New York-based financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, is free to strike similar deals with other casino operators.

"Obviously, this is a goal we've been working toward for quite a while," Cantor G&W President Lee Amaitis said Wednesday.

Once the technical standards for usage of the devices are completed -- possibly in the next 30 days, said Gaming Control Board member Mark Clayton, who is overseeing the process -- mobile devices and related equipment, such as servers and systems, can be submitted to regulators for approval.

Cantor G&W managing director Joe Asher said the company would have a product ready for investigation as soon as possible. The goal is to begin testing by December.

Amaitis said the size of The Venetian offers Cantor G&W a large platform to demonstrate both the capabilities and safeguards of mobile gaming.

"Some people might have thought it would have been easier for us to go into a smaller casino and test out our product," Amaitis said. "But we think introducing this product at The Venetian is making a bold statement about how we believe our mobile gaming devices will perform."

Venetian President Rob Goldstein said he is curious to see what type of customers mobile gaming attracts. He said the company had a continuing dialogue with Cantor G&W over the past two years and Las Vegas Sands views mobile gaming as another amenity to offer customers.

"I really don't know how to predict what the response will be to mobile gaming or who would use the product," Goldstein said. "That's the main reason we want to get it out there to be tested. I've enjoyed playing with the devices and we think our customers will look at them as a convenience. Honestly, we're happy to be out in front on this."

Amaitis said The Venetian's customer demographics covers all age levels and incomes because of Las Vegas Sands' reliance on convention attendees through its large convention facilities, and the increasing customer volume The Venetian is experiencing through the property's new restaurants, entertainment venues and nightclubs.

"We think The Venetian gives us a tremendous demographic makeup to launch mobile gaming," Amaitis said.

Cantor G&W spent two years pushing hand-held gaming legislation through the Nevada Legislature. In 2005, the company lobbied lawmakers to approve Assembly Bill 471 and Gov. Kenny Guinn signed the measure into law.

The company also offered its comments while the Gaming Control Board wrote the regulations governing mobile gaming. The regulations were approved in March. Last week, Cantor G&W was licensed by the Nevada Gaming Commission to distribute mobile gaming devices.

Since the measure became law, some of the gaming industry's largest equipment makers, including International Game Technology and Shuffle Master, have expressed interest in bringing hand-held gaming devices to the market.

Cantor Fitzgerald has invested more than $400 million in technology development and was the first company to offer customers interactive electronic bond trading. The company has supplied similar hand-held devices for mobile gaming use in the United Kingdom.

Mobile gaming allows Nevada casinos to offer their customers use of a wireless, hand-held gaming device, similar in size to a BlackBerry. Casino patrons will be able to use the devices to place wagers from areas outside the traditional casino. For example, gamblers could wager on hands of blackjack or spins of a roulette wheel from poolside or the buffet line.

Gambling from hotel rooms or a property's parking garage is not legal.

Clayton said the control board and commission may look at where mobile gaming is allowed on a property-by-property basis. Areas where there is a high concentration of minors may be prohibited.

"Some casinos may not want mobile gaming allowed from their high-end restaurant," Clayton said. "It will be up to the properties to determine if some locations are appropriate for mobile gaming."

Nadal & Henin-Hardenne Favored To Repeat at Roland Garros

 

With the second leg of tennis' Grand Slam beginning Monday at Roland Garros, PinnacleSports.com today released odds on who'll win the Men's and Women's singles titles at the 2006 French Open. Although the tournament draw hasn't been announced yet, PinnacleSports.com foresees history repeating itself on the clay courts, listing 2005 French Open champions Rafael Nadal and Justine Henin-Hardenne as the favorites to win again this year. The largest sports betting site on the Internet, PinnacleSports.com believes Rafael Nadal will continue his clay court dominance at Roland Garros and lists the Spaniard as a 10/11 favorite to win his second consecutive French Open title. Meanwhile, the world's top ranked men's player and winner of seven of the past eleven Grand Slam singles titles, Roger Federer is a slight 9/5 underdog to capture his first title at Roland Garros. Outside of the top two players in the world, PinnacleSports.com believes all other players are long shots to win on the red clay of Paris. Argentinian David Nalbandian (23/1); Spaniards Nicolas Almagro (31/1) and Tommy Robredo (48/1), Russian Nikolay Davydenko (57/1), and Chilean Fernando Gonzalez (59/1) are considered the top contenders despite long odds against them. The odds are also heavily against top American players Andy Roddick (124/1), James Blake (225/1) and Tommy Haas (225/1) winning the second Grand Slam of the year.

On the women's side, PinnacleSports.com lists last year's champion Justine Henin-Hardenne as a 5/2 favorite to win her third French Open title. World number two, Kim Clijsters and four-time 2006 WTA tournament winner Nadia Petrova have the second best odds to win the tournament at 5/1. Winner of this year's Australian Open, Amelie Mauresmo currently stands at 7/1 odds to overcome the pressure and capture her home country's Grand Slam tournament. After capturing her first singles title since her comeback, PinnacleSports.com lists Martina Hingis as a solid contender at Roland Garros at 10/1 odds. Other contenders on the clay courts include; Svetlana Kuznetsova (11/1), Venus Williams (16/1), Maria Sharapova (16/1), Elena Dementieva (35/1) and Dinara Safina (43/1). The women's champion in 2000 and last year's runner-up, Mary Pierce is a 49/1 underdog to win her second French Open championship.

Current Odds: *All Odds Subject To Change*

Odds To Win Men's French Open (favorites & notable)

Rafael Nadal 10/11

Roger Federer 9/5

David Nalbandian 23/1

Nicolas Almagro 31/1

Tommy Robredo 48/1

Nikolay Davydenko 57/1

Fernando Gonzalez 59/1

Gaston Gaudio 64/1

David Ferrer 70/1

Jose Acasuso 70/1

Marat Safin 88/1

Andy Roddick 124/1

James Blake 225/1

Tommy Haas 225/1

Odds To Win Women's French Open (favorites & notable)

Justine Henin-Hardenne 5/2

Kim Clijsters 5/1

Nadia Petrova 5/1

Amelie Mauresmo 7/1

Martina Hingis 10/1

Svetlana Kuznetsova 11/1

Venus Williams 16/1

Maria Sharapova 16/1

Elena Dementieva 35/1

Dinara Safina 43/1

Mary Pierce 49/1

Patty Schnyder 56/1

Francesca Schiavone 72/1

Anastasia Myskina 79/1

PinnacleSports.com will also offer betting lines on every French Open match utilizing their unique -105 pricing model that provides more value and up to 50% better odds to players than traditional sportsbooks. For more information and a complete list of odds, please visit www.pinnaclesports.com.

About PinnacleSports.com PinnacleSports.com (www.pinnaclesports.com) is the Internet's largest sports betting site serving customers in more than 80 countries worldwide. Founded in 1998, PinnacleSports.com was the first sports book to introduce reduced margin wagering, using a -105 pricing model that gives bettors up to 50% better value on wagers than traditional bookmakers.

Land of Smiles Frowns on Illegal Cup Gambling

 

As reported by the Electric Paper: "Thailand is going all out to stamp out illegal World Cup betting. "Bangkok police put the city's bookies on notice yesterday, announcing they have set up some 100 special units to crack down on football gambling during the World Cup finals. "...'These special units will boost the existing police work to effectively crack down on football gambling by focusing on bookies,' the city's police chief Viroj Chantharangsi said. "He also warned that police would be punished if they failed to arrest gamblers.

"During the three-week Euro 2004 championships, a polling agency estimated $814 million ($1.3b) were laid down in Thailand, despite the arrest of hundreds of bookies on the tournament's first day

"...Thailand will also ban 'live' broadcasts of World Cup games in prisons in a bid to prevent football gambling among inmates..."

Betting Probe Targets Buffon

 

As reported by the Agence France Presse: "Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been quizzed by prosecutors investigating alleged illegal betting. "Magistrates in Parma and Turin want to determine if the Juventus player - the world's most expensive keeper - struck bets on his team through unauthorised bookmakers. "Buffon, who was grilled for two hours by magistrates in Parma, is one of four people under suspicion of floating the law on illegal gambling. "...Buffon has already admitted placing bets when he voluntarily appeared before prosecutors in Turin on May 13. "But he insists he stopped when the Italian football federation (FIGC) made gambling on any matches an offence last year..."

Leading Forces Combine to Create GTS

 

vsGaming and vsTechnology are pleased to announce their incorporation into Gaming Technology Solutions plc (GTS plc). This is a natural progression following strong growth in both companies, growth which is in line with the phenomenal expansion that the e-gaming industry is seeing. The formation of GTS signifies the advent of a powerful leading global supplier of open end-to-end soft gaming solutions for delivery to IP enabled devices and iTV boxes. With a strong background in research and quality of service provision, vsGaming and vsTechnology have already established themselves as market leaders in developing cross-platform delivery and virtual sports soft gambling titles for the industry. vsGaming is an innovative and highly respected games supplier, specialising in the creation of 'sticky' games for internet gambling portals. They have a wide catalogue of games covering virtual sports, games of skill and games of chance, including their pioneering Virtual Horse Racing - one of the first commercially successful online games of its kind. vsTechnology is a specialist technology provider to the online gaming industry. Their patented and TST (Technical Systems Testing) accredited EdGE (Enhanced Gaming Engine) architecture provides a high quality black box solution for the 'cross platform' deployment of games onto PCs, mobile phones, interactive TVs and games consoles.

The combination of both companies' expertise and resources puts GTS forward as a unique and major pacesetting international games technology supplier to many of the world's most successful online gambling businesses across Europe and the Americas, including Bet and Win AG, SportingBet plc, Bet24, Victor Chandler, Grand Central Sports, Bowmans International, BetWWTS, World Gaming, English Harbour, Silver Dollar, Caribbean Gold Casino and Unibet.

QUOTE

The formation of GTS makes delivery of complete 'Soft Gaming' solutions to its customers more seamless in offering a world-class entertainment experience.

Las Vegas Sands Wins Bid to Build Casino in Singapore

 

As reported by the International Herald Tribune: "Singapore said Friday that it had selected Las Vegas Sands to build and run the first of two planned casino resorts here, choosing the company's vision of a $3.2 billion convention-driven district over three other bids, including two backed by government-owned companies. "The company promised to open the new resort, which it has named the Marina Bay Sands, by 2009. ".Sands had disclosed plans to create a huge entertainment district including a giant waterfall and a museum designed by the architect Moshe Safdie, who designed the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The company also promised to create 10,400 jobs, 75 percent of them for Singaporeans, and said its complex would account for 1 percent of Singapore's economy."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Most Americans Believe People Bet Beyond Their Means

 

Americans are wagering more dollars in casinos, at racetracks and through state lotteries, but they're not too happy about it, a survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests. The study found that seven out of 10 people questioned believe that legalized gambling encourages folks to spend more money than they can afford on the activity. The Washington, D.C.-based center called the finding a "modest backlash" toward legalized gambling despite a decade-long explosion in the growth of states offering casino gambling and the boom over the past few years in online wagering Web sites. Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, said the softening of support for legalized gaming isn't surprising because the activity has become a growing part of the American culture.

"What's interesting is that when you have an activity that over a long period of time becomes more pervasive, you're either going to see increased public acceptance, or some sort of backlash," Taylor said. "I think the modest softening of public support is related to that pervasiveness."

The survey, which was conducted nationally by telephone between Feb. 8 and March 7, questioned 2,250 adults on their views about legalized gambling. The Pew Research Center is conducting a series of surveys into American social trends. It was the first time Pew looked at Americans' attitudes toward gambling on an expansive level, other than just asking a few questions as part of another survey.

To gauge a change in American attitudes on gaming, the Pew Research Center used the results of a 1989 survey on gambling conducted by The Gallup Organization.

While 70 percent of Americans say legalized gambling encourages people to gamble more money than they can handle, 62 percent expressed similar reservations, according to Gallup in 1989.

"The is really just a snapshot of public attitudes on gaming," Taylor said. "It's a small softening of support for legalized gaming, but a we still have a great majority of the public still supportive of the notion of legalized casinos."

Casino industry representatives were not surprised by the Pew findings.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman, who has studied dozens of surveys on legalized gaming over the past few years, said the findings were not different from other studies. The attitude that legalized gambling causes people to wager more than they can handle is a common finding.

"This seem consistent with what we've seen in other public polling," Feldman said. "People's opinions have always been that gambling is OK for me and my friends, but not for others."

American Gaming Association Executive Director Judy Patterson said the Pew survey had similar findings to those discovered in the organization's annual survey of the American gaming consumer.

"It really confirms nothing new," Patterson said. "More and more people are going to casinos for the entertainment value."

In 1989, casino gambling was legal in just three states -- Nevada, New Jersey and South Dakota. Today, every state except Hawaii and Utah has some form of gambling.

Americans can wager legally in almost 900 casinos, 455 Las Vegas-style casinos operate in 11 states and 406 casinos on American Indian reservation in 29 states. In addition, 11 states operate racetrack-casino combinations, known as racinos, and nine states are exploring laws that would allow their existing racetracks to convert to racinos.

In March, North Carolina became the 42nd state to launch a state lottery.

Nevertheless, the survey found that fewer people approve of state-run lotteries, 71 percent compared with 78 percent in the 1989 Gallup study, and even fewer support the increased legalization of casinos, racetrack wagering or betting on professional sports.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed believe gambling is immoral. Pew cited a similar 1990 survey by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in which 32 percent of Americans said they considered gambling immoral.

The Pew study found that 29 percent of Americans report having gone to a casino in the past year, up from 20 percent who said they did this in 1989. Also, those who go to casinos are going more frequently, according to Pew.

Sports Betting Column: The Pinnacle Pulse

 

This week we move to Paris and serve up a Royale with Cheese while looking for a betting edge in the second Grand Slam event of the year at Roland Garros. The French Open is tactically very different from the other three Grand Slam events and is where tennis gets dirty (and I'm not talking about Anna Kournikova). At Roland Garros, the surface of the court is made up of natural clay covered with crushed brick which slows the pace of the game down and increases the length of the rallies. This hands an advantage to players with incredible power endurance - the ability to repeat short bursts of power over a long period of time - and to quick, nimble players who can reposition themselves well after every shot. What are some things to consider when handicapping tennis match-ups at the French Open? The most obvious is the player's recent form on clay and their conditioning during winter training. While most will come in fit and firm, the French Open punishes those who haven't done enough conditioning.

In addition to playing five sets, clay courts are conducive to long rallies. These factors led to the longest game ever at the 2004 French Open - a grueling 6 hour and 33 minute war between Santor and Clement. Another critical thing to contemplate during the tournament is if a player played a full five sets in the previous match because five set matches wear a player out both physically and mentally.

Should a high seeded player win a difficult match against a weaker opponent, consider fading that player in the next round. A tougher than expected match might indicate a player's form is worse than other recent matches would suggest. Combine that with a tired player and there might be additional value on his opponent.

If you like a certain player to win the tournament, you might find better value backing that player - especially if they are one of the longer shots - to win through each of their individual matches rather than betting them to win on the futures market. Not only will you potentially earn a higher return on your investment, but you also have more control over your money if the player suffers an injury during the earlier rounds.

The reason for this is that when sportsbooks deal futures markets, they try to maintain a semblance of balanced action and attempt to limit liability on the worst case scenario. Due to a large number of bettors playing long shots, this can often lead to grossly depressed prices on underdogs. On the other hand, this may lead to solid value on the favorites.

At Pinnacle Sportsbook, futures markets are normally priced between 110% and 135% depending on the size of the field. This compares to futures markets of greater than 200% at most traditional sports books. Even though this represents excellent value on our future markets, often even these margins won't properly reward long shot players.

When betting tournaments like the French Open it's best to estimate the moneyline quote of a player in each round. After estimating the prices for your selection to win through, you'll be able to work out the estimated parlay price. Then simply compare the projected price for your parlay to the odds on the futures market and you'll find whether the future or a win parlay would give the best possible return on investment.

Another factor to consider when betting tennis is the juice you will pay on every bet. When playing head to head match-ups, Pinnacle Sportsbetting offers the best price thanks to our 10-cent lines. This means that when you bet at Pinnacle Sports Book, you'll get up to 75% better odds on tennis than other bookmakers who use 30 or 40-cent lines. Similarly, many of our prop bets also have a 10-cent line, offering players of every level the same great value. You can often gain as much equity from sports book shopping as you can from handicapping.

What should also never be overlooked, is that many players might spend hundreds of hours handicapping individual players, but often don't spend five minutes studying the sportsbook where they play. It's critical to know the rules wherever you play - especially on tennis. You'll find that one of the areas where Internet sportsbooks vary quite a bit is how a wager is graded if a player retires due to injury.

At Pinnacle Sports, if at least two full sets are completed, we grade the match-up normally despite an injury. Other sportsbooks will refund all bets regardless of when a player retires - even when that player is hopelessly losing. Still other books might state "Las Vegas rules apply". If you must deal with an online sports book that has no listed rule or follows Las Vegas rules (which is action after one serve), you might want to confirm via email how they'll grade such a result. You might be surprised how many sportsbooks are unaware of Las Vegas rules.

What are some of the more interesting line moves this week?

Will Nadal win the French Open? Yes -104

The 19-year old Spaniard Rafael Nadal currently owns a 53-match winning streak on clay. Federer is 39-3 on the year, with all 3 losses coming to Nadal. Many see the French Open as a 2-horse race, with it a given that Nadal and Federer will meet in the final. We opened the "No" for Nadal to win at -130 (Yes +120), and early sharp money was on the "Yes". After stabilizing near Pick'em, we're seeing heavy two-way action at this number.

UFC 60: Matt Hughes (-286) v Royce Gracie (+266)

Hall of Famer Royce Gracie was considered a master practitioner of Gracie jiu-jitsu, but hasn't fought in the UFC since 1995. Hughes is the current Welterweight champion and while he's a strong wrestler, he can also knock his opponents out. We opened Matt Hughes as a -400 favorite and early sharp money quickly pushed this number down. It went as low as -240 before favorite money returned, equalizing the price at the present number.

NBA Playoff series: Dallas (-360) versus Phoenix (+330)

Dallas opened as a moderate -245 favorite to win the Western Conference Championship. While we're now taking heavy two-way action, the early bettors clearly favored Dallas. The sharps have been on Dallas for the entire playoffs, including series and conference championships.

Pinnacle Sports Book & Online Betting

Pinnacle Sportsbook is an online betting company providing the best odds on sportsbook gambling, online horseracing, online casino gaming, and online poker.

Beating Casinos on Table at Tahoe

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "'Advantage' gamblers, skilled bettors who are often ousted from Nevada resorts if spotted at blackjack tables, were welcomed Tuesday at an international conference on gambling -- held at a Lake Tahoe casino. "One of them, James Grosjean, didn't take any chances on getting tossed by hotel security guards. He showed up in disguise at the 13th International Conference on Gambling & Risk-Taking, wearing a long black wig. He also sported sun glasses and a blacked-out front tooth.

"As the conference opened, Grosjean and fellow 'advantage' gambler John Chang were among speakers covering topics ranging from legal ways to beat the odds to problem gambling, efforts to lessen smoking in casinos, online poker players and sports betting..."

Casinos Bewail Missed Opportunity of Web Betting

 

As reported by Reuters: "U.S. casinos wish they had access to the growing universe of gamblers that seem intent on placing bets online, but companies claim they are not losing customers to the foreign operators that offer Web wagering. "'It represents an enormous opportunity,' said Alan Feldman, spokesman for U.S.-based MGM Mirage, the world's second-largest gaming operator. 'And it is an opportunity that is being completely handed to foreign companies right now.' "Standing in the way of this potential windfall is a 1961 federal law that forbids interstate telephone betting that the U.S. Justice Department has said also applies to the Internet, making it illegal for U.S. companies to offer online gambling.

"But the law is difficult to enforce on operators based abroad, who are luring a growing number of American gamblers to their Web sites, even as some U.S. lawmakers renew attempts to snuff out the business.

"...The number of Americans who placed bets on the Web doubled in 2005 to about 4 percent of the adult population..."

PBL to Float Casino: Report

 

As reported by the Courier and Mail: "Publishing and Broadcasting is planning to float its Macau casino joint venture with Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho on the US stock exchange, a newspaper report says. "The Australian Financial Review said PBL was working with three investment banks, believed to be Citigroup, Credit Suisse and UBS, on floating a 20 per cent stake in the venture on the Nasdaq Composite Index in the US. "The deal is expected to value the venture at $US5 billion ($6.6 billion) and is scheduled to take place before the end of the year..."

Minister Hopes Lotto Win Won't Encourage Gambling

 

As reported by the (New Zealand) Newswire: "A Northland Minister says she hopes a massive Lotto win from a ticket bought in Kaeo will not encourage more spending on gambling. "The largest ever Powerball jackpot was worth a record $17.7 million. "...The winner has yet to come forward, and it is not known whether the jackpot went to a local or a traveller passing through the town..."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Golf Betting Column: What The Golfinggods Say..

 

In last weeks article I discussed the importance of confidence and how it can lift a player to a higher level. The victories last week for two very talented players but ultimately players who simply do no have the mental ability to finish the job off enough once again highlighted this issue. For instance Tim Herron is a fine player but he had not won for over seven years on the PGA tour. He continually created winning chances in tournaments only to fall away each time when it was 'crunch time'. His form this year was sound and perhaps it is this momentum that allowed him to win the Colonial. Thomas Bjorn's win at the Irish Open was one for people who can ride the rough with the smooth with this sport. Thomas more than any other player except John Daly really should have been institutionalised after the self inflicted misery he has caused himself over the past five years. If it was not The Open disaster a few years ago it was the walking of courses during tournaments because he could not cope. Add to that a number of blown chances to win and you have a player who is very much on the edge of sanity on the golf course. However his win at Carlton House must be admired and the way he did it, birdying the final two holes must be admired. Perhaps the shackles are off, the men in white coats banished and the real Thomas Bjorn is back and ready to win a lot more. I hope so.

For one of the rare occasions on the global golf stage the European tour has the premier tournament this week. The BMW Championship at Wentworth is the most important tournament on the European tour calendar outside of The Open. Played around the West course at Wentworth the players will find a very different course than recent years. Completely revamped by Ernie Els, a local resident, the course now has significant challenges on every hole. Over twenty-five bunkers have been added, many holes lengthened and all par fives strengthened. This is now a world-class challenge for the field and only a player who is in complete control of his game will win.

Selections:

Adam Scott: as always he is striking the ball very well but not sinking enough putts. He does have a little form around Wentworth and I expect a very good showing from him this week.

Luke Donald: a little quiet recently but the changes to the Wentworth layout will suit his game. With more intelligence required now to win this tournament I feel he will go very close this week.

Jose Maria Olazabal: if his driving stays as consistent as it has all season then the Spaniard must rate a good each way chance. He should have won twice this year already and I think his short game genius will be required this week. A good each way option.

Others to mention: Lee Westwood, Brian Davis & Nick O'Hern.

The US tour this week moves to Memphis for the St Jude Classic, played at the TPC at Southwind. A rather weak field this week is present and many lesser known players will be keen to stake a claim at the title. The TPC course has wide fairways that will allow low scoring if the winds do not get up. Expect a putting competition this week!

Selections:

Zach Johnson: a little hot and cold this year but he does play well in the Southern parts of the USA. A solid ball striker who can shoot low scores when the putter behaves. I expect him to go close.

Camilo Villegas: the hot kid on the block this year has the game to win this week. He hits it miles and can be very streaky with the putter. This is a course he will like and don't be surprised if he wins.

John Daly: there are a few Casinos' in the area of the TPC but I think this will not stop 'JD' performing well this week. After the revelations about his gambling I think Daly will be keen to let his clubs do the talking.

Other to suggest: Henrik Bjornstad, Shigeki Maruyama & Aaron Baddeley.

Until next week – May The Golfinggods Be With You!

Don't Gamble with Jobs and Tourism

 

As reported by the (UK) Times: "The closure of Ireland's fledgling casino sector would mean the loss of 500 jobs, cost the economy millions of euros a year in tax revenues and discourage tourism, an industry lobby group has warned the government. "The Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland, which represents top casinos including Dermot Desmond's Sporting Emporium and Fitzwilliam Card Club, wrote to Michael McDowell, the justice minister, and three of his senior cabinet colleagues on Friday, warning that an outright ban would be nonsensical. "...Casinos are currently outlawed in Ireland, but get around this prohibition by operating as private members' clubs..."

UK Lottery Show Delayed by Protest

 

As reported by the BBC: "The BBC's National Lottery show was briefly delayed on Saturday evening after protesters invaded the studio and chanted slogans. "Presenter Eamonn Holmes was led from the stage as Fathers 4 Justice members made their way on to the set. "The National Lottery: Jet Set was delayed for several minutes before the draw for the £17m jackpot was resumed. "...The group appeared to have disbanded in January after some of its members were accused of allegedly plotting to kidnap Prime Minister Tony Blair's youngest son, Leo. "...Later, Holmes (the presenter) said the protesters had been 'well-orchestrated'..."

Packer Storms Out of Star City Casino

 

As reported by the (Australian) Sunday Times: "Australia's richest man, James Packer, walked out of Sydney's Star City's high-rollers' room at the weekend in protest after the casino refused to provide credit to his friend. "Croupiers and other staff in the high-stakes Endeavour Room were amazed when management refused a $20,000 line of credit to the gaming mogul's friend, despite Mr Packer's offer to guarantee the sum, sources said. "...They were playing the "big bac" - baccarat - the game loved by Mr Packer's late father, Kerry, who was such a big gambler at Star City that he even had his own personal chips marked with KP.

"Kerry Packer's betting - and tipping - was the stuff of legend as a 'whale' or one of the world's biggest gamblers in industry-speak.

"...A spokesman for Star City said the casino was prohibited by law from providing credit to any customer..."

Jeff Simpson Predicts Some Major Gaming Acquisitions We May See in Near Future

 

The biggest casino operators have achieved their status not by building new resorts but through mergers and acquisitions. Harrah's Entertainment acquired the Rio, Horseshoe Gaming Holdings, Caesars Entertainment and the Imperial Palace on its way to becoming the industry's biggest player. Kirk Kerkorian's MGM Grand swallowed Primadonna Resorts, Mirage Resorts and Mandalay Resort Group on its way to becoming the Strip's kingpin, MGM Mirage. That record suggests that it would be foolish to believe that the industry titans will rely only on their announced or expected plans to build giant casino resorts on the Strip and overseas to fuel their growth.

Recently announced deals involving a couple of Las Vegas properties, the Hard Rock Hotel (to boutique hotelier Morgans) and Tropicana parent Aztar Corp. (to Westin owner Columbia Sussex Corp.), are doing more than confirming the rapidly escalating value of Las Vegas gaming real estate.

The sales make clear just how savvy the earlier Harrah's and MGM purchases were. Most folks applauded MGM's Mirage and Mandalay deals, but many industry insiders questioned the price Harrah's paid for Horseshoe and Caesars.

I wasn't one of the detractors - I thought Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman made shrewd deals, acquiring strong brands and relatively scarce gaming licenses, cementing its top-dog status in the central region of the country while establishing itself as a solid No. 2 on the Strip.

With the continuing red-hot performance of the Las Vegas casino business and rapidly escalating prices for Strip-area casino real estate, there's absolutely no doubt now that the Harrah's Caesars deal was a coup - a deal that would cost billions more if attempted today.

What current buying opportunities might Harrah's and MGM Mirage be considering? I'm privy to no inside information, but I think a couple of companies might make sweet acquisition targets for the top two players. The prices would be high given the industry's current strength, but the rewards would be great.

Target No. 1: Station Casinos. Harrah's Loveman made a play for both Station and Coast Casinos (eventually gobbled up by Boyd Gaming Corp.) a couple of years ago but couldn't agree on a price. For Loveman, these truly were prize catches that got away. Station's stock price went far higher, and the company maintains its stranglehold on the Las Vegas locals market.

Loveman has made no secret of his desire to capture a chunk of the lucrative Las Vegas locals market, and with Station's arsenal of properties and inventory of casino-entitled sites primed for development, the fit seems obvious.

The question, of course, centers on price, and you can bet Station would sell for a tasty premium. Station owner, the Fertitta family, has already proved its willingness - a deal to sell to a Texas-based real estate investment trust collapsed in 1998.

Station would be a perfect fit for Harrah's, but, if Loveman passes again, rival MGM could pounce.

Target No. 2: Boyd Gaming Corp. Boyd Chairman Bill Boyd has never expressed an interest in selling, but the company has a couple of prize assets MGM Mirage in particular would covet. MGM shares ownership of the Borgata resort Boyd operates in Atlantic City, Boyd's solid second-place standing in the Las Vegas locals market and its Stardust site.

MGM has in the past shown an appetite to acquire companies that were MGM partners in casinos, buying New York-New York partner Primadonna and Monte Carlo partner Mandalay. Borgata is unquestionably Atlantic City's best property.

Harrah's central U.S. dominance would overlap with Boyd's riverboat presence, and Harrah's already has a giant stake in the Atlantic City market. But the lure of Boyd's Las Vegas locals and Strip assets could prove irresistible.

Target No. 3: Wynn Resorts. Steve Wynn tells me he's not interested in selling, but his company's two prized assets might make for an offer he couldn't turn down. The Desert Inn parcel has space for a handful of resorts beyond Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.

And Wynn's Macau casino concession is undeniably worth billions, especially to Harrah's, which has been shut out of the lucrative enclave, although is believed to be angling for a Macau venture with Wynn.

Kerkorian timed his last Wynn buyout when the market was soft. He'd get no such price advantage this time, but the multibillionaire has already demonstrated a willingness to spend big to get what he wants.

Annual GIGSE Conference Attracts Record Numbers

 

Record numbers of I-gaming industry members participated in the annual Global Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo (GIGSE) May 16-18 at the Palais de Congres in Montreal. A total of 1821 people from more than 42 countries registered for the conference and 127 businesses either had an exhibition booth or sponsored a proceeding. "I think a lot of it is still the poker buzz," said Sue Schneider, CEO of River City Group, which hosted the conference. "Our industry is continually growing. Many people were here just looking, trying to see if there is a way they can get involved with I-gaming." The week kicked off with a keynote address by Lawrence Lessig, a professor from the Stanford Law School and author of several books on the Internet including Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology . He is also the founder of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society.

Speaking as an expert in the evolution of the Internet field, Lessig told attendees that regulation of online gambling is inevitable because coming Internet identification technologies will make regulation simple and cost effective. He recommended to the audience that they prepare for the coming regulations, rather than continue to ignore and/or fight the process.

His words set the tone for the conference, inviting industry leaders to take a proactive approach in the upcoming regulation battles. He advised that the industry, through advertising, public relations, and exposure, mobilize the masses to influence lawmakers through traditional democratic practices. By working proactively through the regulation move, Lessig believes the industry can help institute regulations that work with and help expand the industry for the better.

The dozens of speakers who followed Lessig expounded on his premise, arguing that the industry must move forward with "one voice" because regulation of the Internet has been and will continue to be inevitable.

"We wanted to bring in an outside perspective for our keynote speaker and I think we succeeded," Schneider said. "I believe our attendees responded well to Mr. Lessig and it was good to see his ideas become the themes of the conference."

The GIGSE exposition hall opened Wednesday morning, presenting a virtual city of I-gaming companies trying to out do each other with extravagant presentation. Traditional marketing giant Bodog.com anchored the hall, using their two-story metallic booth to promote their annual industry conference.

A bevy of tall blonde Bodog girls handed out cigars to booth viewers, inviting the masses to ascend the stairs to the second floor where Bodog offered a club atmosphere with music and drinks. Bodog CEO Calvin Ayre paced the dance floor underneath eight-plasma screen TVs displaying the digital flame that is his company's theme for the upcoming Bodog conference.

One booth over, payment-processing giants NETELLER and Wirecard attempted the same marketing blitz, handing out lattes and alcohol, and using the beautiful Wirecard girls to woo people into viewing their financial service presentations.

Other extravagance included a massage parlor, giveaways ranging from pens to footballs, and the I-slot acting crew, a group promoting their "story-line" slots with a provocative martini spilling female escorted around the expo hall with her enormous mafia bodyguards.

"The expo hall is a great way for people to promote their business in fun and innovative ways," Schneider said. "Every year it gets a little crazier and this year is no different."

Attendees tired from the nights of partying gathered in the expo hall for GIGSE's final event on Thursday. Trying to raise money for Gordon House, a UK-based charity that provides international support for gambling addiction, River City Group entertained the masses with their Velcro Drag Racing Grudge Matches.

Strapping on oversized ski boots with large wooden planks covered in Velcro attached to the bottom, industry members raced down and back on a 25-meter Velcro track in two-person-heats designed to be grudge matches.

Wulf Hambach of Hambach and Hambach recorded the fastest time in round one, telling anyone who would listen that he was unbeatable on Velcro. He moved onto the finals to face Bryan Bailey, the trash talking CEO of Casinomeister.com and winner of round one's closest race against Bluff Magazine's Michael Caselli.

Hambach won the final race handily, proudly touting his GIGSE charity championship for the rest of the final evening, but the real winner was Gordon House, which collected more than $120,000 from donations at GIGSE.

The closing ceremonies for GIGSE was a roundtable discussion moderated by Schneider with Trident Group CEO Michele Oster, Chartwell Games Corporation CEO Lee Richardson, Intertops Founder Detlef Train, Bodog CEO Ayre, and industry research expert Eugene Christiansen.

Under the title "The Impact of I-Gaming, What Have We Done?" the group wove through the industry's future growth and potential problems, focusing on the legality of online gambling in the US and the UK, and the apparent lack of transparency some companies have - leading to a discussion on how to create credibility for the growing industry.

Regulation made a healthy appearance in the discussion, with the panel agreeing with a questioner from the crowd that it would be better for the industry to come together under one banner, rather than allow external forces to determine regulation parameters.

Still, even with the list of concerns and problems facing I-gaming, the panel agreed that the industry would continue to grow, avoiding future problems by continuing to produce innovative ideas that help evolve the market .

"I have seen it all, and I have no more fears. The attempted bans, the proposals to cut off our financial channels, monopolistic government policies, competition - we are still in business, and that will continue to be the case," Train told an applauding audience.

GIGSE will take place at the Palais de Congres in Montreal again in 2007 from June 4-7. Reservations will be possible as soon as more concrete plans are in place.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Experts Define Key Performance Indicators for the iGaming Industry

 

Ten prominent iGaming operators will be invited to participate in the 2006 KPI Summit at the London Stock Exchange on Friday 30th June. The aim of the summit is to define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the gaming sector, with key members of the media and city analysts also in attendance. The Summit will be chaired by Baker Tilly, Canaccord Adams and Berwin Leighton Paisner, who bring their accounting, finance and legal expertise to listed iGaming firms and those wishing to go to market. Industry experts will listen to a debate between operators and then reach a singular definition of the KPIs, following discussions on turnover, customer lifetime, lifetime customer value and active players. Other KPIs will be defined by our sponsors in a pre-summit meeting to be held on Monday 12th June.

Following the summit, the definitions of the KPIs will be published in industry journals and made available to firms of accountants along with listed iGaming industry companies who wish to use them in their public accounts.

Neil Johnson, Managing Director and Head of Corporate Finance of Canaccord Adams, commented: "With the maturation and market acceptance of this growing industry, we feel the time is right for the leading participants and the thought leaders of the iGaming industry to agree on the metrics that define their performance. By standardising the KPI's for the industy, public investors will be better able to make investment decisions."

Publicly listed firms who prepare their accountants in accordance to the definitions derived will be invited to indicate that their financial reporting is performed in accordance to Agreed definitions of the 2006 KPI Summit.

About Canaccord Adams

Canaccord Adams is a leading independent financial services firm committed to fostering the entrepreneurial economy by bringing corporate and institutional clients unique perspective on global investment opportunities.

About Baker Tilly Baker Tilly is a leading independent firm of chartered accountants and business advisers that specialises in providing an integrated range of services.

About Berwin Leighton Paisner

Berwin Leighton Paisner is a premier City law firm with offices in London and Brussels.

Mergers and Acquisitions: Ante for Aztar Upped Again

 

The end of the bidding war for Aztar may finally have arrived. Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. topped its previous bid by $1 a share late Monday and Aztar Corp. declared the $54 a share offer superior to the company's signed merger agreement with Pinnacle Entertainment. The $2.97 billion all-cash deal -- which includes acquiring all outstanding shares of Aztar stock, assuming the company's debt and converting bonds -- would allow Columbia Sussex to buy the Tropicana casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and three small casinos in Laughlin, Indiana and Missouri, almost doubling its casino portfolio. Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment has until late Thursday to decide if it wants to match or exceed the Columbia offer. The latest Aztar-Pinnacle merger agreement, signed May 5, calls for Pinnacle to pay $51 a share in cash and stock for Aztar, or $2.64 billion.

If that deal collapses, Aztar has to pay Pinnacle a deal termination fee of $52.2 million and pay up to $25.8 million of the company's legal expenses.

After Pinnacle's initial $2.1 billion agreement to purchase Aztar, 14 additional bids from four casino companies drove the price for Aztar almost a $1 billion higher than the original deal. Aztar's stock price, which has gained more than $20 in value since the beginning of March, also benefited from the interest.

Gaming analysts said Tuesday that it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Pinnacle, which started the back-and-forth bidding war March 13, will take its breakup fees and look elsewhere along the Strip for a Las Vegas casino.

"We believe that ($54 a share) is more than a full price for Aztar and we believe that Pinnacle should walk away with a $78 million breakup fee," Merrill Lynch gaming analyst David Anders said in a note to investors.

While buying the two Tropicana casinos would have given Pinnacle something it lacks, a presence in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the price "simply seems to have gotten too rich," Davenport Equity Research analyst George Smith said.

Morgan Joseph gaming analyst Adam Steinberg also thought Pinnacle is finished bidding.

"I think so," Steinberg said. "They'll probably take the full three days, but I'd be surprised to see another bid."

Privately held Columbia Sussex has four casinos in Nevada; the off-Strip Westin, Caesars Tahoe and Horizon in Lake Tahoe and the River Palms in Laughlin. The company entered the bidding war April 17. Last Wednesday, the company offered $53 a share for Aztar, but Aztar's board of directors said it wasn't ready to declare the bid superior to Pinnacle's last offer.

Sources familiar with the negotiating process said Columbia Sussex upped the offer by $1 a share during discussions with the Aztar board.

In a statement, Columbia Sussex President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Yung III discounted analysts' predictions that the company might have trouble closing the Aztar purchase. Last year, the company dropped a bid to buy the President Casino in St. Louis after several contentious meetings with Missouri gaming regulators.

"We have a strong acquisition track record, having successfully closed 36 transactions in the last five years, including seven gaming acquisitions," Yung said. "And we are confident in our ability to obtain all necessary approvals to close this acquisition in a timely fashion."

A company spokeswoman said Yung would not comment beyond the statement.

Columbia Sussex said it would work with Aztar to sell its riverboat casino in Missouri to avoid any complications with that state's regulatory body. The company, which has been licensed in Nevada, Louisiana and Mississippi, said it expects to be licensed in New Jersey and Indiana.

As part of the merger agreement, Columbia Sussex deposited $313 million in a bank account, payable to Aztar if the deal collapses.

Also, Columbia Sussex agreed to increase the purchase price to just less than a penny a share if the transaction takes longer than six months to close. If the deal takes longer than nine months to complete, the cost of the transaction will increase to just less than 2 cents a share.

Aztar shares rose $1, or 1.95 percent, to close at $52.30 on the New York Stock Exchange. More than 4 million shares were traded, about four times the average daily volume. Pinnacle shares closed at $29.39, up $1.16 or 4.11 percent.

Tough Rules Seen for Net gambling

 

As reported by the Globe and Mail: "The burgeoning U.S. on-line gambling industry must stop resorting to tactics aimed at evading government regulation, and prepare for a future in which it will have no choice but to deal with it, says a cyberspace legal expert. "'My argument is that it's a mistake to bet the industry on the capacity to escape the government's ability to regulate,' Stanford University law professor and author Lawrence Lessig said Tuesday in the keynote speech at the Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo. "New technologies being developed by Microsoft Corp. and other software giants will soon make it possible to authenticate the identity of a computer user anywhere in the world, said Mr. Lessig, the author of two books about Internet regulation. "That ID technology will, in turn, allow governments around the world to co-operate on a global approach to cyberspace regulation, including gambling, he said..."

Professional Poker Tour Selects Veteran Poker Pro and Hollywood Personality as Hosts

 

With Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, the WORLD POKER TOUR (WPT) captured lightning in a bottle. The chemistry between these two personalities - one veteran poker pro and one Hollywood personality with a passion for poker - has been a major factor in the Travel Channel show's success. Now WPT Enterprises, Inc. creator of the WPT, is looking to use the same formula to help ignite its newest venture, the Professional Poker Tour (PPT), slated to debut on the same network Wednesday, July 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Leading poker pro, WPT Finalist and two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Mark Seif joins personable actor and poker aficionado Matt Corboy behind the mic for commentary on the exciting new series, that will feature a host of new innovations in televised poker.

The action-packed PPT series will showcase poker's 250 leading stars in a new and exciting format, destined to ratchet up televised poker to a whole new level. The PPT will bring to TV viewers the cream of the crop -- 250 of the world's top poker players, culled from thousands who aspire to the first rank. With its PPT Qualification System, the PROFESSIONAL POKER TOUR has ensured the highest level of play at each and every tournament. The first season of jam-packed action will stretch over 24 weeks, spotlighting a stellar lineup of poker's All-Stars - champions from the WPT, The World Series of Poker, and European poker tournaments.

"We think poker fans will love the interplay between these two commentators," said Steve Lipscomb, CEO and founder of WPT Enterprises. "Mark's strategic insight combined with Matt's magnetic personality provide for great entertainment and an easy way to pick up pointers on improving one's game. Analyzing the differing styles and the psychological warfare between poker's leading stars will give them plenty to work with."

Here's a look at the two PPT hosts:

Mark Seif

As the commentator, Mark Seif comes to his position with a bona fide poker championship background. He won two World Series of Poker bracelets in 2005: the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em for $611,145 and the $1,500 Limit Hold'em Shootout for $181,330-the only player to win dual bracelets last year.

Seif was a well respected and well-paid lawyer who quit law to play professional poker. And while this talented prosecutor did well at the bar, he has truly made his mark-and his bankroll-at the poker table. Playing professionally for the past five years, he has won well over two million dollars.

His numerous other tournament victories and Final Table finishes includes a collection of titles: the Bicycle Casino's Legends of Poker, the World Poker Open (Tunica), World Poker Finals (Foxwoods), Borgata Open, Festa al Lago (Bellagio) and Sport of Kings (Hollywood Park). In 2003, he was ranked 12th in CardPlayer Magazine's Player-of-the-Year standings.

Even though it is the first time that Seif will serve as a host for the PPT, he is no stranger to the WPT, having scored a fourth place, $38,700-victory in the WORLD POKER TOUR's inaugural stop at the Bicycle Casino. He currently has winnings of $104,853 on the WPT, having been in the money on four occasions

A poker player since he was six, Seif showed such a natural inclination that his father barred him from the family poker games at 10, when he won a particularly large pot. He did not play again until he was 19, while working as a waiter during college. One of his fellow restaurant workers staged a home game and then it was a toss up for Seif-hit the cards or the books!

The books won out-at least for the time being. Seif attended UCLA and graduated with high honors in 1991 with a degree in Economics. He then went on to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class in 1997, receiving numerous American Jurisprudence Awards (among them honors for achieving the highest grade in his class). While in law school, he clerked for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, prosecuting more than 200 felony preliminary hearings and trials under a special program that let law students perform as prosecutors under the direction of other more experienced attorneys. The most high profile case to which he contributed was the O.J. Simpson trial.

He left the DA's office to join a Newport Beach firm -- Fisher & Phillips, a national law firm specializing in employment and labor law. Subsequently, he was appointed Chief Counsel of America's biggest leasing company in 2000 and moved to Lake Tahoe, NV, where he began commuting to Las Vegas and Los Angeles each weekend to play poker. That continued even after he left that prestigious position to become a professional poker player in May 2001. In 2004 Seif, who now lives in Las Vegas, was picked to do commentary for the PPT.

For fun, Seif indulges his interest in saltwater reef aquariums and entertains his new baby daughter.

Matt Corboy

Most poker players learn to "act" by perfecting their bluffing skills. Matt Corboy learned to play quality poker by virtue of his acting skills. Corboy was tutored in Texas Hold 'em by Jennifer Harman and Scotty Nyugen while filming the poker movie, The Big Blind, in 1999, in which he played Jennifer's brother. The actor/TV-show-host has now parlayed his interest in the game and his telegenic personality into a roll as one of the two hosts for WPT Enterprises' Professional Poker Tour.

As a teenager, Corboy and his friends would gather at his grandparent's house in Honolulu, Hawaii every Wednesday night to play poker. That lasted until he went off to college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. Though he graduated with a business degree, Corboy decided to pass up that world to give acting a try first.

Since 1996, he has built a successful career, acting in films, TV, commercials and as a host for television or web-based shows. Most notable, was his three-year stint as the villainous police officer Ray Carlson on The Shield. He's also had guest roles on The West Wing, Cold Case, The Loop, Threshold, JAG, Malcolm in the Middle and Spin City. Additionally,he is a regular at the Los Angeles Improv Olympic, doing improvisational comedy. When not in front of an audience or camera, Corboy plays poker whenever he can find a good home game in Los Angeles.

An avid player who watches each of the WPT episodes multiple times to pick up playing tips, Corboy admits that doing the color commentary on the PPT and watching the professionals has substantially elevated his own game.

Corboy surfs, mountain bikes and competes in triathlons in his spare time. He's also personally doing the renovation of his house, while enjoying being the father of a newborn.

About WPTE

WPT Enterprises, Inc. is a company engaged in the creation of internationally branded entertainment and consumer products driven by the development, production, and marketing of televised programming based on gaming themes.

French Lick Resort Being Restored to Former Glory

 

As reported by (Indiana) Eyewitness News: "Six months ago, French Lick Resort closed to begin a multi-million dollar restoration of the century old hotel. "This massive project is ahead of schedule, including the 84,000-square-foot casino and entertainment complex. " 'We will have 1,200.35 gaming tables.We have a fourteen-table poker room,' said Eric Whitson, director of sales and marketing. ". Much of the spa area went from demolition to renovation just this month. ". The West Baden Hotel that is slated to open in June 2007. The French Lick Springs Resort and Casino opens November 1, 2006."

Book Review: In the Money by Antonio Esfandiari

 

The World Poker Tour recently released the third in its series of books on poker, In the Money by Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari. The book takes a different approach than many of the recent poker books on the market, providing readers with a guide on how to become a winning Texas Hold'em cash game player.By eliminating the tournament aspect of poker, the format of the book allows Esfandiari to focus solely on the game itself, rather than the extra factors a tournament brings, such as chip stacks, increasing blind levels, and tournament payouts.

Perhaps the best part of the book, however, is its voice. Esfandiari fills the book with stories about the games he's played and the friends he's made. Whether it's a heads-up match with Phil Hellmuth to determine his fee for a magic show or the story about how he won the first poker tournament he entered, In the Money is an entertaining read. Phil "The Unabomber" Laak gives the reader an insight into Esfandiari's personality in the foreword, while Hellmuth and Annie Duke also provide interesting stories about the author.

Esfandiari spends one chapter detailing the differences between Limit and No Limit Hold'em. The concrete examples are excellent, such as how to play pocket fives in late position, or the effect of a raise in Limit vs. No Limit. Esfandiari explains the phrase "Limit Hold'em is a science, No Limit Hold'em is an art," and he makes it clear that he prefers the No Limit version. No Limit Hold'em, in Esfandiari's view, requires more skill, and is also much more rewarding.

Esfandiari goes back and forth between Limit and No Limit Hold'em when describing how to play each part of the hand. The transition, or lack thereof, can be a bit confusing, and one can't help but think that these topics should have been covered in separate books. Esfandiari may have been better served with a focus solely on No Limit Hold'em. After discussing how to play in given situations, Esfandiari offers advice on more abstract parts of the game, such as establishing a table image and identifying the texture of the game (i.e. passive vs. aggressive). While the section lacks specific guidelines, Esfandiari explains that these aspects of poker can only be mastered with time and practice, and are therefore hard to glean from a book. Overall, the poker advice is a little thin, but it's the perfect combination of strategy and entertainment for someone just getting serious about the game. Intermediate players will find a few nuggets of wisdom while getting a refresher course, but players with a great deal of experience should look elsewhere for advanced strategy.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Drennan Gambling Case Ends With Deal

 

As reported by the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer: "Radio host Bruce Drennan's gravelly voice was a barely audible whisper Tuesday when he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to not paying taxes on his gambling winnings. "The longtime broadcaster on Cleveland sports radio stations will probably serve five months in prison and five months of house arrest under a plea deal worked out with federal prosecutors. "...Drennan admitted that from 2000 to 2004, he bet between $14,000 and $37,000 daily on baseball games. He pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false income tax returns, because he did not declare his winnings. "He was put on leave from WKNR in 2004 after FBI and IRS agents raided his Strongsville home. Investigators believed Drennan ran a large bookmaking operation with two other men. "Albert Giuliani, Drennan's lawyer, said his client never ran a bookmaking operation..."

Nooksacks Plan Lynden-Area Casino

 

As reported by the Bellingham Herald (Washington): "The Nooksack Tribe plans to open a casino in March near the Canadian border between the Lynden and Sumas crossings. "The 35,800-square-foot Northwood Crossing Casino is expected to create 250 jobs with a $6 million payroll. Anyone can apply for jobs, although Nooksack tribal members would get preference.."The tribe intends to use revenue from the new casino to move and expand the Nooksack River Casino in Deming.

"The goal, said Mike Wootan, manager of the Nooksack River Casino, is to move the Deming casino to a 40-acre site opposite the current location and build a hotel and resort alongside it.

"The new $14 million casino would be built by the Nooksack Construction Co. and run by the tribe without outside partners.

"To avoid cannibalizing its own business, the Nooksack River Casino is shifting its marketing focus, Wootan said. With a hotel, visitors to Mount Baker can ski during the day and have a place to sleep and gamble at night.

"Bellingham company 2020 Engineering conducted a feasibility study for the tribe 18 months ago that concluded casinos could draw in more business."

John Meeske Named Chief Executive Officer for Myriad Entertainment and Resorts

 

John Meeske has agreed to serve as the Chief Executive Officer for Myriad Entertainment and Resorts, Inc. ("Myriad"). Myriad is an emerging destination development and management company with current focus on the development of a planned $1.9 billion casino/resort in Tunica, Mississippi. Mr. Meeske will begin his posting as Myriad's CEO on July 1, 2006. Scott Hawrelechko, current CEO and founder of the Tunica resort project, will continue as Chairman of the Board. John received his MBA from Michigan State University and is currently the Director of Methodist College, NC, the nation's first accredited Business and Liberal Arts Institution that is dedicated to Resort & Club Management Concentration. John is a member of CAYUGA Hospitality (a Cornell consulting group), the founder and principal of Resorts & Clubs, Inc. and a member of the International Resort Management Association. Furthermore, he represents USA Partners in North Carolina and serves on the Board of the Downtown Development Corp. in Fayetteville, NC.

The 550-acre Myriad Botanical Resort in Tunica, Mississippi, will feature the world's first fully enclosed, climate controlled championship golf course, a 1,200-room hotel, casino, convention center and spectacular gardens. Myriad has been granted development and gaming site approvals for the Tunica resort.

Myriad Botanical Resort

The Project is a multi-attraction themed resort designed to be an international destination, including a cable supported structure covering its 18-hole golf course permitting play on a 24/7 basis.

The Project will emphasize the spirit and history of Mississippi and the Mississippi River -- the Heartland of America -- a story that will intrigue the mind of the global guest seeking travel and leisure. The Project will be situated on 540 acres along the Mississippi River in Tunica County, Mississippi for year-round enjoyment of the following resort attractions:

a.. 80,000 sq. ft. casino b.. 1,200 room 4-star hotel c.. 375,000 sq. ft. convention center d.. 250,000 sq. ft. of retail (Phase 1); e.. 750,000 sq. ft. for total build out. f.. 18-hole golf course (7,205 yards) g.. 2,500-seat venue h.. Luxury Spa Water Park i.. Snow Park (called The Snow Globe) In addition to the features listed above, the Project may include an ice venue with various trails and skating rinks; another water venue with aquariums and lagoons, and a 450 ft. high observation wheel called "The Mississippi Eye."

Additional entertainment venues such as Lucid, a three-level multimedia night club, music amphitheaters, a 10,000-seat arena with regular and premium seating options will be included as well as various thematic designs throughout the property.

The different elements of the Project will be linked by an indoor waterway transportation system and an elevated people-mover ground transportation system.

Other infrastructure requirements will be supported by applying state-of-the-art technology such as solar power, climate control and air-filtration technologies, and security and maintenance technologies.

Construction on Michigan Casino Near

 

As reported by The Post-Tribune (Michigan):".the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians will break ground on its casino in New Buffalo, Mich., on June 3... "...the tribe will begin construction on the 144,000-square-foot Four Winds Casino Resort, which it plans to open sometime in mid-2007... "...the $160 million casino plans call for 3,000 slot machines, 100 game tables, six restaurants and a child-care center... "The Pokagon band is working with Lakes Entertainment Inc. of Minnesota."

Endemol Gaming Launches in the UK

 

Endemol Gaming plans to build on the UK group's strategic relationships with key players in the gaming industry to bring mass-market entertainment to the sector. Brian Macsweeney and Sarah Bellamy have been respectively promoted to Creative Director and Managing Director of the new division. Through its digital media arm Victoria Real, Endemol UK has already developed strong commercial relationships with leading companies such as Ladbrokes, Sportingbet, Camelot and Gala. The new division aims to continue building activity in this sector, creating stand-alone content for a wide range of media platforms as well as new gaming ideas around Endemol's existing portfolio of formats.

Projects are planned to include live sports betting; poker formats, instant win games, gaming TV, fixed odds games, multiplayer quiz formats and other skill games.

Sarah Bellamy: "Our goal is to bring Endemol's substantial creative resources to the gaming industry and develop a wide range of tailor made entertainment for the global market."

Brian Macsweeney: "Endemol Gaming allows us to combine expertise in the online gaming sector with the creative talent and production capabilities of Endemol. It's a very unique mix."

Lotto to Launch Huge Promotion with $112M Unclaimed Jackpot

 

As reported by Stabroek News (Guyana): "The time to claim $112,640,940, the largest jackpot prize of the Guyana Lottery Company, has run out and the company disclosed yesterday how the money would be utilised. "General Manager, Tracy Lewis, told reporters.that a countrywide "fantastic promotion" will be launched in June. "The promotion will have 108 prizes, Lewis said, ranging from $10,000 to $10M. ". the company will "bump up" the start-off money of the next jackpot from its usual $4M to $10M. "The $112M ticket was bought on January 21, 2006, at Benie Sukra, a lottery agent in New Amsterdam."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Morgan Stanley Unit Buys Land for 13th A.C. Casino

 

As Reported by the Inquirer :"The gambling subsidiary of Morgan Stanley has acquired 20 acres on the Boardwalk to develop what will be Atlantic City's 13th casino. "The Wall Street firm confirmed it paid about $74 million for the land, which had been controlled by a group of developers and the Atlantic City Housing Authority. "A Morgan Stanley official said yesterday that the company intended to choose a casino operator to build and operate the previously reported $1 billion casino hotel on the site that abuts the Showboat casino and the Bella Condominiums high-rise tower in the city's rapidly developing South Inlet area."He would not name the firm with which MS is negotiating, and the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, which regulates Atlantic City's casino industry, has not received any application for a new casino license.

"But real estate professionals and gambling industry officials familiar with Morgan Stanley's plans say a leading contender is Hard Rock International Inc.

"A housing agency official said MS Gaming was also obligated to produce a condo tower, or casino hotel, or both, at a cost of at least $80 million under the terms of the original agreement made when North Beach Holdings acquired the land.

"With its plans to develop Atlantic City's newest casino, Garrity said MS Gaming would not be in direct competition with Trump's three casinos there."

Gambling Kingpin Returned to Prison

 

As reported by the Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania): "The former kingpin of Western Pennsylvania's largest video poker empire was sent back to federal prison Wednesday for returning to his old ways -- running an illegal gambling operation and associating with known felons. "John Francis 'Duffy' Conley, 43, of the South Side, was sentenced to four years by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab for violating the conditions of his supervised release. "Conley was arrested in February after a state and federal investigation determined he was running a multimillion-dollar sports betting and video poker ring. ". wiretaps from the investigation showed that Conley handled $3 million in bets in less than a month late last year. ".wiretaps revealed Conley was the central figure in a sports betting ring using a stable of bookies from Allegheny County to Las Vegas and offshore casinos in the United Kingdom and Costa Rica."

GIGSE Latest: Bluff Magazine Editor Under Observation in Mental Clinic

 

Michael Casseli, editor of Bluff magazine and I-Gaming Review remained under care at the psychological ward of the Montreal General Hospital after being apprehended at the ACME Velcro Co. in Montreal for trespassing and minor property damage. "The damage was minimal," said a spokesperson from Acme. "It turns out the guy had broken in and was trying to modify a pair of Velcro boots. These are the type used for racing competitions." But it was a bit more complicated than that. According the RCMP, a call was received from ACME's security department that they had apprehended the suspect at around two AM. Caselli had broken through an alley way window, and was causing damage to company property. An officer described the bizarre and embarrassing scene.

"He found where the company had stored the boots for Velcro drag racing. He had wrapped duct tape around one pair and had written on the tape in big bold letters MIKEY'S BOOTS. The suspect then began to shave off the plastic hooks located on the soles with a Swiss Army knife."

A company employee discovered Caselli in the act, Tami Smith who said, " He didn't see me at first. He was giggling and repeating over and over "Must beat Bailey, must beat Bailey." When he saw me, he dropped the knife and screamed like a girl. He got up to run, but I tackled him. I was surprised he went down so easy since I only weigh 115 pounds. He didn't put up much of a fight."

According to witnesses, he began screaming, "Don't you know who I am?" which puzzled them - they had no idea who he was. Mental Health officials were called in at that time.

"I'm afraid Mr. Casselli suffers from what we call hyper-delusional fixations," explained Dr. Frankenfurter, MGH's ward supervisor. "He is fixated with the webmaster of Casinomeister.com, a certain Bryan Bailey, and Caselli simply snapped."

This may be the case. Several days ago, Caselli's Lyceum Publishing distributed a bizarre press release claiming that Bryan Bailey had an unfortunate accident that involved Velcro and sheep. Bailey was contacted and stated, "Yes, that was an odd press release. The funny thing is, when I was supposedly chasing sheep I was actually sponsoring a picnic for the local orphanage. We were barbequing, and I was teaching orphans how to play American softball. In fact, Casinomeister has always been generous. We donated a decent sum of money for the charity drive at GIGSE. I don't see Caselli doing that."

And while this may be true, we spoke with one of Caselli's office workers who wished to remain anonymous. She said, "He hasn't been the same since he accepted Bailey's challenge. He stares off into space and mumbles a lot. I think it's really sad."

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

 

Hollywood studios are lining up to cash in on the anticipated popularity of summer films featuring comic book heroes such as the X-Men mutants and Superman. Far away from Krypton, local travel leaders are counting on a few lesser-known heroes to steer some big bucks in Las Vegas' direction. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority this month unveiled its latest business travel promotional campaign. Known as "Hero," the ads primarily target event planners whose decisions could bring tens to tens of thousands of travelers here for corporate meetings and conferences. Some ads are intended for trade show producers and exhibitors, a sector Las Vegas has long dominated. But most are aiming for smaller gatherings of executives, sales teams and board members -- groups that prefer the kind of top-tier amenities Las Vegas only recently started offering widely.

"The corporate meeting market segment has a huge growth potential," Terry Jicinsky, the authority's senior vice president of marketing, said Wednesday. "We now have a style of restaurants, meeting facilities, entertainment options and golf courses that bring us into head-to-head competition with some of the traditional corporate meeting destinations."

Competitors for such gatherings historically include Chicago, New York, San Francisco and various beach destinations.

Five different hero-themed print ads were produced to reflect the diverse genders and ethnic backgrounds of those in the industry. Each ad shows a person in an office environment striking a heroic pose. Headlines include "Glory is on line one" and "From cubicle to cubicle they will praise your name."

The ads will appear in more than a dozen travel industry publications, as well as newsletters and daily magazines distributed at events in which the authority participates. Pop-up ads are also appearing on industry Web sites including Tradeshow Week magazine's online page.

The Hero ads replaced a 3-year-old business marketing campaign known for the tag line, "We work as hard as we play." Customer feedback showed business traveler planners enjoy the city's "What happens here, stays here" ads, which target leisure travelers. The authority hopes the Hero spots will strike a similar chord.

"Dropping 'We work as hard as we play' takes the formal business message out of it ... and says, 'This is more about you,'" said Rob Dondero, an executive vice president with R&R Partners, the authority's contracted advertising agency.

Added Jicinsky: "(The new ads) put the emphasis on the individual meeting planner's experience" when dealing with Las Vegas.

A guerrilla marketing push is accompanying the Hero launch. At next week's Springtime expo in Washington, D.C., for example, street teams will ride scooters and pedicabs near the Washington Convention Center. They'll pass out brochures and fliers highlighting Las Vegas' meeting and exhibition services.

"There's nobody else doing this," Dondero said. "(Attendees and exhibitors) will see the message and say, 'I've got to go by the Las Vegas booth and meet these guys because they've got something new going on.'"

A direct mail campaign also could raise interest by allowing meeting planners to enter a drawing for a high-end Las Vegas vacation for six, Jicinsky said.

Las Vegas' developing relationship with the National Basketball Association could lure more corporate business here, Dondero said.

The NBA routinely hosts executives from big businesses in cities where it has franchises. In anticipation of next year's NBA All-Star events in Las Vegas, the league is allowing local sales representatives to attend those gatherings during the current NBA playoffs. Similar events could take place when the 2006-07 season tips off in the fall.

"This is a very unique (opportunity) for us," Dondero said. "These CEOs get invited by a lot of people to a lot of special events. You really have to have something special to get them out and have some one-on-one time with them."

The authority is committed to the Hero campaign through the end of the calendar year, Jicinsky said.

The ads will cost $360,000 to distribute through June 30, though a specific expenditure for the fiscal year beginning July 1 was not yet available, Dondero said.

The current-year budget called for $980,000 in spending on similar business travel promotions.

Herbst Gaming to Buy Sands Regent

 

Las Vegas-based Herbst Gaming pushed into Northern Nevada's casino market Wednesday, agreeing to a $148 million purchase of Sands Regent, which operates four casinos including the Sands Regency in Reno. The transaction, in which privately held Herbst Gaming would buy the outstanding shares of publicly-traded Sands Regent for $15 a share, is subject to approval by gaming regulators and Sands Regent stockholders. The company hopes to close the purchase by year's end. The deal would give Herbst Gaming control of 12 casinos in Nevada, Missouri and Iowa. Herbst Gaming now operates eight casinos, including the off-Strip Terrible's Casino on East Flamingo Road, two casinos in Pahrump, one in Henderson and one in Searchlight. Herbst Gaming is also one of the state's largest slot machine-route operators with more than 8,400 games in noncasino locations such as grocery stores, drugstores, convenience stores, bars and restaurants. Herbst Gaming General Counsel Sean Higgins said the slot-route operation has included locations throughout Northern Nevada for several years. "This transaction will enable Herbst to further broaden and diversify its geographic presence within the state of Nevada and its cash flows as well as create cross-marketing and other growth opportunities." Herbst Gaming Chairman Edward Herbst said in a statement. Once the deal closes, the four Sands Regent casinos -- Sands Regency, Gold Ranch in Verdi, Rail City in Sparks and Depot in Dayton -- would be operated as a Herbst Gaming subsidiary. The current Sands Regent management is expected to remain with Herbst and manage the properties. "We believe this transaction delivers excellent value to our shareholders and creates increased opportunities for growth and development for our employees, who will benefit from being part of a larger and more diversified gaming company," Sands Regent President Ferenc Szony said. The news sent shares of Sands Regent up 6.34 percent in trading on the Nasdaq National Market Wednesday. The company's stock price closed at $14.70, up 88 cents. Herbst Gaming, which has public debt, began in 1987 as an offshoot of the family business, Terrible Herbst Oil Co., which operates more than 80 all-inclusive service stations in Nevada, California and Arizona. The stations offer gasoline pumps, convenience stores, oil and lube services and car washes. The gaming operations have grown steadily over the past few years, beginning with maintaining and repairing the slot machines in the Terrible Herbst stores. In February 2005, the company bought a Midwest casino operator, which included the St. Jo Frontier in St. Joseph, Mo., Mark Twain Casino in LaGrange, Mo., and the Lakeside Casino in Osceola, Iowa. Terrible's Casino in Las Vegas is undergoing a renovation that will expand the casino and add a second hotel tower and a parking garage.

Odds Are Taylor Hicks will Become The Next American Idol

 

After last night's elimination of Elliott Yamin, the fifth edition of American Idol has reached the grand finale with two remaining contestants vying for a major recording contract and the adoration of millions. While the hit reality series has drawn nearly 30 million viewers each week it's also become the most popular entertainment event for wagering with online bettors. The first company to offer betting on the country's largest talent search, PinnacleSports.com has released updated odds on who'll be named the next American Idol. The largest sports betting site on the Internet, PinnacleSports.com has received an exceptional amount of wagers on American Idol and is now accepting individual bets of up to $10,000 on who'll win the reality show. Throughout the series duration, support continuously grew for Taylor Hicks and the grey-haired vocalist is now an overwhelming favorite to become the next American Idol at 1/2 odds (i.e., win $1 for every $2 bet). As the series heads into its final week, PinnacleSports.com lists Katharine McPhee as a 9/5 underdog to be crowned the next pop superstar.

"We've seen support for Taylor Hicks really increase since last week's surprising elimination of previous favorite Chris Daughtry," said Simon Noble of PinnacleSports.com. "Although Katharine has been one of the favorites since the show's onset, Taylor's consistent performances and stage presence appears to have won the hearts of voters as well as Simon Cowell and company. Bettors at Pinnacle Sports certainly think that there won't be any surprises next week when Ryan Seacrest unveils the next American Idol."

Current Odds: *All Odds Subject To Change*

Odds To Win American Idol

Taylor Hicks 1/2

Katharine McPhee 9/5

PinnacleSports.com will accept wagers on American Idol until the winner is announced on the May 24th series finale.

About PinnacleSports.com

PinnacleSports.com is the Internet's largest sports betting site serving customers in more than 80 countries worldwide. Founded in 1998, PinnacleSports.com was the first sports book to introduce reduced margin wagering, using a -105 pricing model that gives bettors up to 50% better value on wagers than traditional bookmakers.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

NIGC Releases Draft of Casino Licensing Regulations

 

As reported by Indianz.com: "Tribes will have to certify every year that their casinos are operating within the law as part of a new rule developed by the National Indian Gaming Commission. "Last Friday, NIGC Chairman Phil Hogen released a working draft of the proposed facility licensing regulations. He said tribes have until June 30 to submit comments as the agency moves forward with the rule-making process. "...Under the proposal, tribes will have to submit an annual license for each and every Class II or Class III gaming facility they operate. Among other information, tribes must show that each gaming site is located on 'Indian lands' as defined by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"...The majority of the 400-plus casinos in operation today are located on Indian lands. But recent developments have prompted the NIGC to take a closer look at the legality of particular sites due to the way the land was acquired..."

Las Vegas Tourism: Fuel at a Threshold?

 

Fuel prices are nearing a 'tipping point' that could deter Americans from taking summer vacations, the head of one of the nation's largest travel trade groups said Thursday. "I am concerned about a number of economic indicators with gasoline prices and the pocket-book impact they're having," said Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association of America. "We've had gasoline prices jump up for the summer travel season before and (we've) weathered it. But there are additional factors to be considered this year," Cook said, citing the power of price increases in fuel to undermine consumer confidence and economic growth. Cook's comments were delivered at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

Three dollars per gallon, Cook said, is the threshold at which 10 percent of Americans polled by TIA said they'd seriously consider canceling a planned leisure trip. That total climbed to 36 percent when gasoline prices are between $3 and $3.24 per gallon.

Overall, TIA projects Americans will take 325.6 million individual leisure trips of more than 50 miles between June and August.

That's up less than 1 percent from last year's 322.9 million tally.

Separately, the Energy Information Administration, a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, said last week that summer driving costs will be greater than a year ago.

Still, a 34-cent-per-gallon increase would add only $8.50 to the bill paid by drivers taking a 500-mile trip in a vehicle that averages 20 miles per gallon.

The greatest cost increases, EIA warned, could hit air travelers because jet fuel prices are also on the rise.

So far, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has not seen any dips. Visitor volume through March was up 1.8 percent from the first quarter of 2005, while incoming auto traffic was up 3 percent.

But with AAA reporting Los Angeles-area gasoline prices of $3.40 per gallon Thursday, authority President Rossi Ralenkotter said fuel costs have local leaders' rapt attention.

"It's always a concern as gas prices increase," Ralenkotter said. "Where that price elasticity is (at which point people choose not to vacation), we're still in the analysis stage."

Approximately one-third of Las Vegas visitors are from Southern California.

The authority and local hotels closely monitor surveys that pertain to fuel costs and travel, Ralenkotter said.

Because the authority's budget is tied to local visitation, he said, adjustments are made monthly to ensure that expenditures don't grow faster than income dictates.

That restraint is critical since the authority's board on Thursday approved a new budget that anticipates record-high revenue of $265.5 million in fiscal 2007, up 8.7 percent from the current year.

That growth is based upon projected 5.9 percent gains in room taxes and a 17.7 percent surge in convention center business, said Brenda Siddall, the authority's senior finance director

Next year's expenditures will also be larger than ever at a projected $207.7 million.

Approximately 4,700 more rooms are scheduled to open citywide in the first half of 2007. Occupancy rates are projected to rise slightly, but the bulk of the revenue growth would come through hotel taxes collected on increased room rates.

For fiscal 2006, for example, the authority's budget was based on room rates rising by 3.5 percent. They are now estimated to end the fiscal year, which ends June 30, with a 12 percent increase.

Next year's budget calls for a 4.8 percent increase, a plan Siddall termed conservative.

The authority collects a 9 percent room tax from most guest rooms leased in Clark County. Portions of that tax are used to fund its efforts to promote the city's convention and leisure travel industries.

The authority's marketing budget will jump by 5.8 percent to $34.6 million, while advertising expenditures will climb 1 percent to $84.7 million.

Special-event-related expenditures will rise by 46 percent to $15.3 million due to a $4.5 million commitment to host the National Basketball Association's All-Star events in February.

The authority will spend $46 million next year toward the planned $737 million renovation of its Las Vegas Convention Center.

A more optimistic travel outlook came earlier this week from TripAdvisor, a Needham, Mass.-based information service that hosts more than 20 million unique visitors on its Web site each month.

It recently polled more than 2,300 people for its international summer travel survey. It found that 70 percent of respondents said rising fuel costs will not interfere with their travel plans. In addition, 29 percent said they'll spend more money on summer vacations than they did in 2005.

Americans are more concerned with gasoline prices than travelers from other countries, with 27 percent reporting they will take fewer trips because of fuel costs, compared to 12 percent of foreign respondents.

TripAdvisor's survey showed Florida is this year's summer destination of choice, followed by California and Las Vegas. Its leading international destinations include Italy, Canada and France.

"Travelers seem eager to pull out their credit cards this summer, even at the gas pumps," the company's statement said.

Still, TripAdvisor's numbers could favor more-positive projections. Because its Web site caters to travelers, those with no plans to leave home this summer were less likely to participate in its survey.

Icahn Company to Take Over Flamingo Laughlin

 

The Flamingo Laughlin was expected to change ownership this morning after the gaming arm of the Carl Icahn-controlled American Real Estate Partners received Nevada regulators' approval to operate the Colorado River community's largest casino. The Nevada Gaming Commission took only 20 minutes Thursday to approve American Real Estate Partners' $170 million purchase of the Flamingo Laughlin from Harrah's Entertainment. At midnight, the casino was expected to change hands. "We'll have 140 of our people ready to affect the transition," American Real Estate Partners Chief Executive Officer Richard Brown told commissioners.

The company, which operates the Stratosphere and the two Arizona Charlie's casinos in Las Vegas, expects to invest between $30 million and $40 million in refurbishing the Flamingo Laughlin, which Harrah's acquired in last year's $9 billion buyout of Caesars Entertainment.

The Flamingo, opened in 1990, has 1,907 hotel rooms and a 57,000-square-foot casino.

"We've had the luxury of spending the past seven months looking at the property and deciding what we'll need to do," Brown said. "We're going to immediately begin a refurbishment of the casino and we're going to get very aggressive on the marketing side."

The Flamingo's casino will get new technology: machines will be upgraded to include ticket in-ticket out technology. About 30 percent of the casino's 1,400 games now have the feature. The property will also get a new name. A new title and theme was expected to be announced this morning.

Brown said Thursday he wanted current Flamingo employees to know the new name first. He did say the name and theme would be different from the company's Arizona Charlie's brand. The Flamingo name will remain through October.

Laughlin has been a challenging market for casino companies in the last few years; competition with American Indian casinos in Arizona and California has intensified. In 2005, gaming revenues were $621.2 million, a 4.4 percent increase from $594.8 million in 2004. Statewide gaming revenues jumped 10.3 percent year-over-year and 13 percent on the Strip during the same period.

Still, Brown said the market has been resilient. He said residential population growth, both in Laughlin and across the Colorado River in Bullhead City, Ariz., could help the area's casinos.

"We see a lot of opportunity, especially in cross marketing ideas with our existing Las Vegas casinos," Brown said. "I think Laughlin is still a good place for our Arizona Charlie's customers that are looking for a quick, couple day getaway."

Brown told regulators his first job in the gaming industry was at the Flamingo Laughlin 15 years ago, so he was excited about returning to the casino and helping to revive it. Harrah's, which operates Harrah's Laughlin, wasn't interested in running a second Laughlin casino.

"Laughlin was a great opportunity for our company," Brown said. "We weren't really interested in buying properties in other (states). We think this is a great location."

American Real Estate Partners, based in Mount Kisco, N.Y., is 87 percent controlled by Icahn. In addition to its casino holdings, the company owns residential subdivisions, condominiums, hotels, and golf courses across the United States.

The sale is the second transaction in the past year involving a Laughlin casino; Landry's Restaurants closed on its purchase of the Golden Nugget Laughlin in September. The Ramada Express, owned by Aztar Corp., is expected to be sold as part of the ongoing bidding war for the company.

The purchase of Flamingo Laughlin also included an undeveloped 7.7-acre parcel in Atlantic City next to Sands, a casino operated by American Real Estate Partners.

Brown told members of the Gaming Control Board earlier this month the company was still exploring its options with the parcel.

Octavian Appoints New Head of Marketing

 

Networked gaming specialist Octavian has expanded its team with the appointment of Helen Hedgeland as Head of Marketing. Hedgeland joins Octavian's corporate team having already worked for Octavian for three years in a senior role at Octavian's lead marketing agency. Prior to this she was an account director at Nettec (now LB Icon), where she worked on award-winning transactional websites for First Choice Holidays, as well as on print and interactive projects. Talking about her new internal role at Octavian, Hedgeland said: "Octavian's innovative games and systems answer many of the gaming world's biggest challenges, particularly in the drive to make gaming operations more efficient and profitable. However, the precise way in which our solutions can be applied by operators and manufacturers can vary from market to market. My key challenge is to ensure that centrally-managed marketing can be as relevant and meaningful as possible to every one of Octavian's existing and emerging geographic markets."

To achieve this Hedgeland says she is very much looking forward to getting under the skin of Octavian's diverse operating territories, which currently include Russia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and soon a large presence in Asia.

"I see a multi-language Octavian website playing an increasingly important role in how we serve clients and partners around the world," added Hedgeland. "With increased mobility, people in our industry want resources they can plug into from anywhere. Those resources could include anything from an online demo of a downloadable games system to an interactive return-on-investment tool for someone selecting one of our networked ACP (Accounting, Control, Progressives) slot management systems."

In addition to managing Octavian's online programme, Hedgeland will also be responsible for Octavian corporate and product literature, direct mail, email newsletters, public relations and Octavian's presence at exhibitions such as ICE and G2E.

Commenting on the appointment Harmen Brenninkmeijer, CEO of Octavian, said: "Marketing is about meeting customer needs, but especially focused on creating clear communication lines between all we can offer and what is required and wanted in the different markets. Helen will help us to bring first class experience to a very focused industry"

Octavian International Ltd

Octavian International is a Systems and Software Company, which develops and supplies a range of products for the Gaming Industry.

Two Slot Cheats Added to A.C.'s Exclusion List

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City : " "... Two of the country's most notorious slot cheaters will not be welcome in Atlantic City's casinos. "Following similar action two years ago by their Nevada counterparts, New Jersey gaming regulators voted Wednesday to bar the swindlers from ever stepping foot inside the 12 casino hotels here. "Dennis McAndrew, 64, and Eugene Bulgarino, 72, are now part of New Jersey's 'exclusion list,' a veritable rogues' gallery of cheaters, mobsters and other unsavory characters banned by the casino industry. In 2004, the two men were placed on Nevada's casino blacklist. "McAndrew was the mastermind and Bulgarino his chief accomplice of a Las Vegas swindling ring that stole more than $6 million from the Circus Circus, Luxor, Sahara, Excalibur, Rio and Harrah's casinos between 1996 and 1997. The scheme involved using a concealed, handheld computer to illegally program slots so they would pay off big jackpots..."

Sands Could Sell to Vegas-based Firm for $148 million

 

As reported by the Reno Gazette Journal: "A Las Vegas 'bad guy' is taking over The Sands Regent in Reno, but casino officials say it's a good thing. "Las Vegas-based Herbst Gaming Inc. announced Wednesday a $148 million deal to buy Sands, pending approval from shareholders who will get $15 per share. "Herbst is known for its trademark 'bad guy' cowboy logo, Terrible's casinos and statewide route that services slots in small businesses. It is not publicly traded like Sands, but does have publicly traded debt. "...The deal is being called a merger, where a subsidiary of Herbst will merge with the Sands, making Sands a wholly owned subsidiary of Herbst..."

Friday, May 19, 2006

3BWin Takes New Approach to Sports Betting

 

Betting on football is by no means new - quite the opposite. It's one of the oldest sports betting forms across Europe. But when 3BWin (www.3bwin.com) opens for business, it's coming with a fresh approach and a promise to completely transform sports betting. 3BWin has been receptive to betting trends, and has understood that fewer and fewer people are prepared to risk betting against the house, or on games were the house has too much control over the betting. Instead of forcing the players to bet on predefined coupons with limited chances of winning, users themselves are allowed to control the bets. It allows the user to define the matches enclosed in the bet, betting limits, participants - and ultimately, the limits for how large winnings can be and how they are spread among the participants. Once that's done, users can invite friends, colleagues or other contacts and start placing bets.

The people behind this initiative are by no means newcomers to the online community, or to the betting or gaming industries. 3BWin is a co-operation between Hattrick, one of the world's largest football communities with over 800.000 active users, and the 3B gaming/betting community with over 10.000 active users. 3BWin's ambition is to quickly establish themselves as one of the leading betting companies in Europe. They already have close to 850.000 community members within reach, which puts them in a clear position to succeed.

"I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that betting is hotter than ever in Europe right now. A good example is the astonishing growth of online poker in the last 18 months, it clearly illustrates the potential and interest for betting forms that go beyond the traditional offerings in Europe," says 3Bwin CEO Peter Jidesten. "To some extent we've been inspired by the business models that poker companies have brought to the market, where players themselves are allowed to choose size of the bet, game, number of participants to challenge - and in the long run, how much they can win. The betting model itself, where the organisers take their profit in the form of a rake or fee, is good for both players and betting companies. Players no longer have to face the disadvantage of starting the bet with a mathematic formula that is set at loss".

"Even though we open for business now, it's important to know that we have been on the Internet for longer than most of today's betting companies. We have a strong background in building lively sports and betting communities, and we are quite sure that our business model, which combines betting knowledge with Internet expertise, will have an impact on online betting in Europe. The World Cup gives us an excellent platform for growth," says Jidesten.

3BWin is being launched in a number of markets across Europe including England, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden. Apart from coupon betting, 3BWin offers traditional sports book betting for most major sports and sporting events. The company, like most of its competitors, is registered in Malta, where it also holds its betting licenses.

Gambler Hits Jackpot With Court's Tax Ruling

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "What Estelle Busch lost at the slot machines, she won with tax collectors. "The Minneapolis woman with a 60-hour-a-week gambling regimen - she labeled it a business - convinced the Minnesota Supreme Court that she should be able to deduct $200,000 in gambling losses over three years from her taxes. "...State tax collectors had been demanding she pay $102,000 in back taxes. "...Justices concurred that she was involved in a 'trade or business,' even if it wasn't a particularly reasonable one to practice..."

JCM/AGA Golf Classic Raises $75,000

 

This year's JCM/AGA Golf Classic, an annual gaming industry fundraising event, raised $75,000 for the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) to help fund future gambling research and responsible gaming programs. Since its debut eight years ago, the event has raised more than $500,000 for the NCRG. The tournament, held last month at Anthem Country Club in Henderson, Nev., was sponsored by JCM American and the American Gaming Association (AGA). "The popularity of this event has grown every year, and the fact that we've raised half-a-million dollars is a testament to the importance of responsible gaming to our industry," said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the AGA. "We are proud to have sustained a long-standing partnership with JCM to host this event. Their exceptional commitment remains invaluable to the success of the NCRG and its mission."

More than 140 golfers, including operators, manufacturers, suppliers and members of the media, participated in the tournament. The winning foursome represented Shuffle Master, Inc., and included Brooke Dunn, Chris Costello, Scott Hager and Mark Kelley.

"The tournament presents a wonderful opportunity for our company to help deal with the issue of problem gambling and to emphasize the importance of organizations such as the NCRG," said Aki Isoi, president of JCM American. "We are proud of our contribution and look forward to even greater success with the tournament in coming years."

***

The American Gaming Association (AGA) is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. In addition to representing the interests of its members on federal legislative and regulatory issues, the AGA serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.

The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) is the American Gaming Association's (AGA) affiliated charity. Founded in 1996 as a separate 501(c)3 charitable organization, the NCRG's mission is to support peer-reviewed, scientific research into pathological gambling and provide scientifically-based responsible gaming education and outreach programs to casino communities nationwide.

Bet on a Job

 

As reported by Leeds Today: "Leeds will strike it lucky with up to 4,000 new jobs if it wins the race for Britain's first supercasino. "A city council report says deprived areas such as Harehills, Holbeck and Gipton would be the biggest beneficiaries of the boom a casino would bring. "The complex's operator could even be asked to hand over a slice of its profits to a social inclusion fund dedicated to improving the quality of life in the city's struggling neighbourhoods. "Top gaming names from around the world have already expressed a 'strong degree' of interest in running the Las Vegas-style establishment should Leeds be chosen ahead of Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle, according to the report..."

Casino Firm Buying Riverboat

 

As reported by the Enquirer (Ohio): ". Fort Mitchell-based Columbia Sussex Corp. has cut a deal to buy a riverboat casino on the riverbank opposite downtown St. Louis. " . No purchase price was disclosed. "."It's in excellent condition, but we are proposing to break ground on the 25th on a new casino facility, a 'boat-in-the-moat'-type property adjacent to the current hotel," said Casino Queen spokesman Ron O'Connor. "The Casino Queen is a full-fledged casino with 1,122 slot and video poker machines, 19 blackjack tables, four craps tables and four roulette wheels."

£350M. Casino Plan for Bowling Revealed

 

As reported by the Evening Times (UK): "But Harrah, one of the world's largest gaming companies, can only go-ahead can if the government allows several supercasinos to be built across Britain. "The Las Vegas casino group today announced its plans to turn Bowling in Dunbartonshire into a gambling mecca for international high-rollers. ". the US casino giant would spearhead the redevelopment of a disused Esso terminal at Bowling, which lies between Clydebank and Dumbarton. ". the ambitious development would create 5000 new jobs and include luxury hotel, restaurants, bars and a site where cruise ships could berth.

"Harrah's today confirmed its blueprint would also incorporate a new railway station and helicopter landing pads.

"A dock for cruise ships may also include facilities for hovercrafts."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gambling With Mobile Bill

 

As reported by the Courier-Mail: "Betting cash on the outcome of blackjack, roulette or poker games in Australia could soon be as easy as pressing a few buttons on your mobile phone. "Without even dialling a number, users could also be able to enter lotteries, play electronic slot machines and use animated "scratch cards". "But Queensland academics are already concerned this new form of gambling, dubbed m-gambling, could spawn a new generation of addicts. "As such, a group of four researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland and Griffith University have joined to investigate the emerging trend and assess whether it's a risk to Australian mobile phone users.

"...M-gambling is already taking off overseas and Juniper Research estimates that the industry will take in $US19.3 million ($A25 million) by 2009.

"Its reach is also spreading. Vodafone in the United Kingdom, for example, last week signed a deal with the owner of Gambling.com to add betting games to the Vodafone Live! menu in June..."

Riviera Announces Resignation at Riviera Black Hawk

 

Riviera Holdings Corporation announced today that Ronald P. Johnson, Executive Vice President of Gaming Operations of Riviera Operating Corporation and President of Riviera Black Hawk, Inc., has resigned for personal reasons effective May 16, 2006. The Company also announced that Chief Executive Officer William L. Westerman has been appointed to Mr. Johnson's position as President of Riviera Black Hawk, Inc. effective May 16, 2006. Mr. Westerman said, "We appreciate Ron's 15 years of dedication and service to the Company, especially his contribution to the development of our successful Black Hawk Casino, and wish him well on his future endeavors."

About Riviera Holdings Corporation

Riviera Holdings Corporation owns and operates the Riviera Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip and the Riviera Black Hawk Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado. Riviera Holdings Corporation's stock is listed on the American Stock Exchange ("AMEX") under the symbol RIV.

$3M. Sands Ruling Favors A.C. Coffers

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: "When a state Tax Court judge ruled last week that the resort owes Sands Casino Hotel about $3.29 million for excess taxes charged over four years in the late 1990s, the city avoided owing most of the $15 million in claims that were under appeal. "In his landmark 84-page decision, Judge Vito L. Bianco upheld the city's original 1996 assessment and laid out for the first time how to properly assess a New Jersey casino. "If the court had sided with Sands and ruled the city had overassessed the casino, it could have set a precedent that may have forced the resort to turn to residents and businesses to make up the balance, potentially leading to tens of millions of dollars in extra taxes. The casino industry accounts for about 80 percent of the resort's property taxes.

"...Bianco's ruling may save the city millions in future legal fees associated with the now-numerous tax appeals by providing guidelines for the city and the casinos to resolve tax disputes without going to court..."

Bill Proposes Vote on St. Landry Casino

 

As reported by the Advocate: "Evangeline Downs race track in St. Landry Parish could become Louisiana's second state-regulated land casino if a bill headed to the Senate floor becomes law. "The Senate Judiciary B Committee reported the legislation without action Tuesday. That means the Senate will have to decide whether to consider expanding the gambling facility near Opelousas. "Evangeline Downs needs to compete with unregulated Indian casinos that are in easy driving distance, said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Don Cravins, D-Opelousas. "Evangeline Downs already bills itself as a casino and operates slot machines as well as horse race wagering.

"But it cannot offer table games - such as blackjack, craps and roulette - offered by Indian casinos in Marksville, Kinder and Baldwin. That's putting Evangeline Downs at a big disadvantage, Cravins said.

"...Cravins wants to change state law to allow the Evangeline Downs facility, operated by Peninsula Gaming, to offer table games..."

Harness Track Reopens After Driver's Death

 

As reported by the Morning Call: "Harness racing resumed Tuesday night at Harrington Raceway in Dover, Del., a day after a driver was killed in a pileup when his horse stumbled and fell. "Two other drivers, 19-year-old Brandon Givens of Seaford and 54-year-old Steve Warrington of Galena, Md., were injured..."

Casino City's Corfmans Locked Together in Velcro "Incident"

 

Casino City CEO Michael Corfman and his wife Sylvia are under observation at Mass General Hospital on Wednesday morning after a bizarre series of events left the couple locked together in Velcro in their offices in Newton, Mass. Corfman is scheduled to battle Ken Dreifach, formerly of the New York State Attorney General's Office, in a Velcro Drag Race Grudge Match at the Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo (GIGSE) in Montreal on Thursday. While the event was organized as a charity fundraiser, Corfman's relentless competitive attitude ultimately played a large part in his hospitalization.Corfman had employed traditional training methods for months, including pedaling on a mini-stationary bike while at his computer. But as the competition drew near, he also allegedly sought out extra help from BALCO founder Victor Conte.

A close associate reports hearing Corfman say: "If Barry Bonds can challenge Babe Ruth's home run numbers with Conte, I should mop up the floor with Dreifach!"

Recent reports indicate that Conte mixed canine growth hormones with anabolic steroids for Corfman's use. It now appears that the performance enhancing supplement, combined with a full moon on Saturday night, produced an unexpected result, with Corfman transforming into a Velcro Werewolf with hooks growing out of his pores.

Corfman became alarmed after seeing the change in his appearance. He ran to his wife Sylvia for help, but ironically the change in his skin condition produced an allergic reaction in Sylvia, resulting in a fluffy skin coating. Dismissing their new differences and searching for comfort, the twosome became entangled in a Velcro embrace.

In an attempt to avoid embarrassing media involvement, the Corfmans contacted a discreet dermatologist to separate themselves. Treatment was delayed however, as a wire transfer from the Corfmans to the doctor was intercepted by the Treasury Department as a precaution against money laundering.

Finally giving in to exhaustion, the couple took an ambulance to the emergency room at Mass General on Sunday and underwent surgery. Michael Corfman remains "questionable" for Thursday's Velcro Drag Race.

His eligibility has yet to be confirmed by Bryan Bailey, the CEO of Casinomeister, who vowed to introduce drug testing this year to keep the Velcro Race free of the cheating scandals that have marred previous GIGSE Grudge Matches.

"GIGSE Grudge Match Champion is one of the most sought-after titles in the industry," Bailey said. "How are we going to describe this era to our kids?"

Corfman, whose werewolf Velcro hooks are now receding thanks to the waning moon, refuses to address the performance enhancing drug controversy, answering reporters' questions with his own: "Does anyone want to talk about Velcro Drag Racing?"

Regardless of his health and the outcome of Bailey's investigation, Corfman vows to beat all odds and not only participate in the Velcro Drag Race, but to beat Dietrich handily.

"It's not even going to be close," Corfman said. "Regardless of any distractions you all want to pay attention to, I'm just going to go out and win this race."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Poker Hands Paddy Power Online Boost

 

As reported by RTE: "The chairman of bookmaker Paddy Power has told shareholders that the group's turnover in the first 19 weeks of this year is running 25% ahead of the same period last year. "Fintan Drury said turnover in betting shops was up 19%, while in telephone betting the rise was 18%. Online turnover was 44% higher, excluding gaming revenues, which were 27% ahead, helped by the addition of poker games. "Mr Drury said gross win percentages were in line with expectations, while costs had risen by a third, because of new outlets and expansion of the online business..."

Dispute Puts Gary Casino Development on Hold

 

As reported by the North Western Indiana Times: "Casino owner Don Barden put plans on ice this week for a hotel, condominiums and other lakefront attractions after Mayor Rudy Clay criticized a deal brokered by Barden and former Mayor Scott King. "'Everything is on hold,' Barden said. 'I'm not going to be investing tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, in a hostile environment.' "Clay questioned the legitimacy of the development agreement struck by Majestic Star casinos owner Barden and the former mayor just months before King resigned in late March.

"Barden last month hired King as a consultant to his Barden Development company.

"...Barden and King defended the new agreement Monday, saying it guarantees a minimum $6 million annually deposited with the city from the casino, a guarantee not in place earlier..."

With Cash in Hand, Jackpot Factory VIP is Dancing All the Way to Ireland

 

The VIP Lounge in conjunction with the Jackpot Factory, a leading online casino group known for a large array of games and player satisfaction, is sending an All Jackpots Casino VIP on a magical trip to Ireland, casino officials confirmed. Longtime player Vicky C., a dance teacher, won the VIP Lounge's exclusive Emerald Isle promotion recently and is packing her bags with her husband for their first transatlantic voyage. The six day all-expenses paid trip includes: round trip flights, helicopter transfers, accommodations at a 5 star resort and spa, car rental, $600 spending money, and much more.

"The Jackpot Factory Group, All Jackpots Casino, and the VIP Lounge are overjoyed with Vicky's big win. This amazing trip further cements our VIP program as being one of the finest in the industry," said David Brickman, Spokesperson for the Jackpot Factory Group.

The VIP Lounge runs alongside the Jackpot Factory's casinos - All Slots Casino, All Jackpots Casino, First Web Casino, and Wild Jack Casino - and has a longstanding reputation as offering some of the casino industry's best promotions. In addition, they have penchant for making dreams come true.

Emerald Isle winner Vicky C., who has been a VIP member since November 2004, commented about her win that, "This is something I have dreamed of and talked about doing [for a long time]. I have never won anything like this before. My husband and I are so excited. The [Jackpot Factory] also give bonuses more [frequently] than anyone else and that is what is important. The Jackpot Factory makes you feel important."

David Brickman explained further, "The essence of the Jackpot Factory Group is that our players are held in the highest regards. We strive day in and day out to make all of our players feel important. And of course, making dreams come true, like Vicky's, is a hobby that we like to dabble in, too."

About the Jackpot Factory Group With over $4 billion in payouts since its launch, the Jackpot Factory Group is a leading online casino group. Using Microgaming technology, the Jackpot Factory Group offers the largest and latest selection of games, and as a member of eCOGRA, the group prides itself on customer support, fast payouts, and honest play.

Albany Track Project Opponents Say They Have Signatures for Ballot Measure

 

As reported by the San Francisco Business Times: "Opponents of a mall and housing development proposed at Albany's Golden Gate Fields racetrack said they expect to qualify a measure on the November ballot that could kill or limit the $300 million project. "The opponents said Tuesday they collected almost 2,400 signatures of Albany voters, qualifying the Albany Shoreline Protection Initiative on the November 2006 ballot. The measure would impose a two-year development moratorium along the Albany waterfront and establish a committee to come up with an alternative development plan.

"...Caruso's firm proposes 450,000 square feet of stores and restaurants as well as up to 200 housing units on 45 acres of bayfront property. The land is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., a Canadian racetrack operator..."

Youbet.com, Harrah's Louisiana Downs Seal Marketing Pact to Build Track's Online Brand, Handle

 

Harrah's Louisiana Downs Racetrack and Casino and Youbet.com, Inc. are joining forces to help build the online segment of the track's pari-mutuel wagering business. The unique multi-year marketing partnership breaks new ground for both companies as a major thoroughbred race track will begin using an independent online wagering source to pro-actively and aggressively build a broader following for its horse racing content. "We believe we can grow our business by leveraging our content in the online channel," said Mark Midland, Vice President of Racing Operations for Harrah's Louisiana Downs. "Youbet is where the largest share of the online market is congregating to watch and wager on horse racing. So it makes a lot of sense for us to use their channel to target handle growth from new, young and active racing fans from all over the country. We're excited about the prospects."

"We've said all along that Youbet is a conduit to growth markets for tracks that want to seize the opportunity to mine our customer base for new and sustainable sources of handle," said Youbet CEO Charles F. Champion. "We're delighted to have the opportunity to prove the point by putting our online marketing expertise to work for a highly respected content provider like Harrah's Louisiana Downs.

"With this agreement, Youbet will be taking Louisiana Downs content and presenting it to customers not as a passive broadcast option," Champion continued, "but rather as a powerful, fully integrated marketing proposition that offers a true horse racing experience with handicapping, wagering, live broadcasts, instant replays and attractive player rewards."

The new marketing arrangement makes Youbet.com the official account wagering provider for Louisiana Downs, a designation that the Harrah's facility will promote aggressively. Track patrons will be encouraged to sign-up for Youbet accounts through on-track signage and videos, ads in daily racing programs, point-of-sale promotions and online programs staged from the track's own website.

For its part, Youbet will promote the Bossier City oval's racing cards to its growing database of account wagering customers with double Youbet Advantage(TM) points for wagers placed on races every Thursday and Friday at the Harrah's track this year and in 2007. The points can be redeemed for prizes ranging from large screen TVs to trips to sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, The Masters, the NCAA Final Four and, for high volume players, cash.

In addition, Youbet will feature Louisiana Downs' content in targeted customer e-mails and mobile phone text messages. Youbet will deploy marketing resources to help promote Louisiana Downs' on-track business, and the two companies intend to produce a series of online handicapping contests with cash prizes culminating on Super Derby Day, the track's marquee annual racing event.

About Youbet

Youbet.com is a diversified provider of technology and pari-mutuel horse racing content for consumers through Internet and telephone platforms and is a leading supplier of totalizator systems, terminals and other pari-mutuel wagering services and systems to the pari-mutuel industry through its United Tote subsidiary. Youbet.com's International Racing Group subsidiary is the only pari-mutuel rebate provider to be licensed by a U.S. racing regulatory jurisdiction.

Through its website, Youbet offers members commingled track pools, live audio/video, up-to-the-minute track information, real-time wagering information, phone wagering, race replays, simultaneous multi-race viewing and value-added handicapping products.

Youbet.com's Players Trust(SM) revolutionized advanced deposit wagering by placing player deposits in the custody of a major U.S. financial institution. The Youbet Advantage(TM) Player Rewards Program is the only player incentive program of its kind in the U.S. pari-mutuel market; and Youbet's play-for-points racing education website -- www.Youbet.net -- is helping to attract new fans to racing. Youbet.com is an official online wagering platform of Churchill Downs Incorporated and the Kentucky Derby and is the exclusive provider of horse racing content for CBS SportsLine.com. More information on Youbet.com can be found at www.youbet.com.

Legislators Schedule Hearing on Internet Gambling

 

As reported by Bloodhorse: "Lawmakers will tackle the complicated issue of Internet gambling during a two-hour hearing June 2 during a meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States in Boston. "NCLGS is currently lining up experts from the public and private sectors to testify on the pros and cons of Internet betting, as well as legal and regulatory concerns. Florida Sen. Steven Geller said individuals are welcome to discuss everything from recent World Trade Organization findings to the impact of Internet gambling on pari-mutuel wagering.

"'NCLGS believes that Internet gaming is a states' rights issue, and states should ultimately have final say over its existence in the U.S.,' Geller said in a statement. 'NCLGS is holding the hearing in order to revisit its current position on Internet gaming, initially formed in the late 1990s, and to take into consideration recent relevant activity, including World Trade Organization findings, Department of Justice rules, state initiatives regarding the Internet, and new technology.'..."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mayor Criticizes Ex-Mayor's Casino Deal

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "Mayor Rudy Clay said he and city attorneys will review a casino deal former mayor Scott King renegotiated just months before he resigned and went to work for the casino developer. "'Mayor Scott King went behind closed doors to shortchange the taxpayers of $1.2 million. And before the ink was dry, he went to work for the man,' Clay said. 'That just don't smell good to me.' "Developer Don Barden, who already owned the Majestic Star lakefront casino, bought Donald Trump's adjacent riverboat and hotel late last year and negotiated an amended agreement with the city that reduces monthly payments from his adjusted gross income from the Trump boat..."

Italian Gambling Scandal Deepens

 

As reported by Reuters: "SERIE A clubs Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio are formally being investigated for alleged match-fixing last season. "The public prosecutor of Naples, Giovandomenico Lepore, said 41 people, including Serie A directors, Italian football federation officials and referees would be called in for questioning. "Lepore said his team had identified a total of 19 Serie A games that appeared suspicious. "In separate developments, judicial sources in Parma said a probe into suspected illegal gambling involving four Juventus - one current and three former - players was also underway..."

Golf Betting Column: What The Golfinggods Say..

 

What a difference a little bit of confidence can make. Both the US and European tours produced winners last week that have benefited from the intangible element that is confidence. Johan Edfors wins for the second time this year at the British Masters and Brett Wetterich wins the Byron Nelson Championship. Both players have started the 2006 season well with improved consistency and results. Brett Wetterich has toned down his aggressive nature and is now finding fairways and greens and Edfors has just recaptured the potential he showed as an amateur. Both players sneaked under the radar a little last week but if you backed either you must be smiling - both were 150/1!

Ian Woosnam must be a little worried with the Ryder Cup only a few months away. The form of players like Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Paul Casey (collapsed last week), Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harringon is not where either he or the players would want it. In fact a number of expected players will need to find form quickly to qualify at all.

The US tour this week moves to Fort Worth, Texas for the Bank of America tournament, played at the Colonial Country Club. The Colonial layout will offer a very tough test with smallish greens and tight fairways. A good ball striker will win this event and the boomers only have two par fives to sink their teeth into.

Selections:

Lucas Glover: one of the best young American players and a real contender this week. His form over the past two months has been very good without winning and it is only a matter of time before he wins again. I think eh will be hard to beat this week.

Mike Weir: this 'lefty' is playing solid but not spectacularly this year. However poor putting and poor scrambling form have caused this. That said, his form around the greens has started to improve over the past month and I expect him to contend around a course that will suit his game.

Fred Couples: I know he blew his chance at the Masters with a dodgy putter but they are the fastest greens in the world. Fred has a good record at Colonial and I expect it to continue. A good each way option.

Others to mention: Nick O'Hern, Ben Crane & Chris DiMarco.

The European tour heads across the Irish Sea to Carlton House in Ireland for the Nissan Irish Open. Played on a resort course the Carlton House course will still offer a good test of golf across its 7350-yard layout. With the short game being tested this week on greens that are quick and severe in their sloping it will be important to possess good iron play. Poor driving will leave poor angles into tough greens.

Selections:

Ian Poulter: been playing on the US tour this year and his game is starting to come together after some poor early performances. He is aggressive and streaky with his putting but I feel he is primed to perform well this week.

Padraig Harrington: sticking with him again as the Irishman is starting to play himself into some form with solid result on the US tour. He will love the grinding qualities required around this course and I expect him to go very close.

Graeme Storm: a good player in the making his game lacks a little consistency but he has been in form recently. I expect him to play well around this course at large odds.

Other to suggest: Johan Edfors, Charl Schwartzel & Niclas Fasth.

Until next week - May The Golfinggods Be With You!

LCI Veteran in New Casino Role

 

As reported by the Times: "Alan Goodenough, the former chairman of London Clubs International (LCI), has become a director of Les Ambassadeurs, the London casino, after its sale by LCI to an Indonesian cigarette billionaire. "It has emerged that the £115 million deal, which was announced in February, was brokered by Mr Goodenough. The buyer, Putera Sampoerna, is believed to have been a longstanding member of the Mayfair club before deciding to make an offer for it.

"Mr Goodenough, who quit LCI in 2001 with heart problems, is the senior director of Twinwood, the vehicle set up by Mr Sampoerna to buy the club..."

Casinos Give All to Win New Gamblers

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: "Never gambled in a casino? Atlantic City's gaming halls want to change that. "And some of them are offering sweet deals to any new customer who walks in the door. "Billboards on the major highways into town blare with offers. First-time players at the Sands Casino Hotel will get a scratch card worth at least $10 after they sign up for the slot club and play a bit. The Tropicana Casino and Resort and the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort offer to double or triple the cash back and complimentaries first-time slot players earn. Sign up for a slot card at Resorts Atlantic City, and you'll get a free hat or logo jacket.

"The city's juciest promotion just ended. The Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort offered to refund everything new players lost in the slots their first day of play, and the limit was fairly high. The rebate came in the form of coupons to be redeemed on three separate visits.

"Of course, the casinos don't give this stuff away for nothing. They're hoping first-time gamblers will give their property a try, or to lure some players away from the competition. And it's working.

"...The Tropicana's offer to double the cash back and complimentaries for new players has helped pull people to its gaming floor, spokeswoman Katie Dougherty said.

"...Some loyal casino players aren't too thrilled that the newbies get the best offers..."

PAGCOR Hit for 'Mobsterlike' Takeover of Subic Casino

 

As reported by ABS-CBN Interactive (Philippines):"Legenda Casino CEO Khoo Boo Boon hit back at the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) for what he calls a "mobsterlike takeover" of its facilities last Friday. "'.They were very rude and they forcibly entered the casino and harassed our security staff, casino personnel and other guests,' Boon told local press." "Boon insisted that Legenda Casino has no financial obligation to PAGCOR. .it is PAGCOR that owes Legenda around P300,000 in nominal and attorneys fees. "Legenda Casino is now bringing criminal charges against PAGCOR.

".PAGCOR said it revoked the casino's license because it has allowed cockfighting and has failed to pay the government more than P365 million in gaming license fees."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Former Indonesian President Suggests Casino

 

As reported by the Jakarta Post: "Former president Habibie has suggested the government consider opening a casino on Batam to draw visitors to the island. "He made the suggestion Tuesday during a gathering on Batam of local figures and representatives of the Riau Island provincial administration. "Habibie, who is also a former chairman of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Scholars, urged ulema and the Batam city administration and legislative council to study the possibility. ".The former president recalled that in 1977 he made a verbal promise to then Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew not to open a casino on Batam, which is located near the city-state. He said the logic behind this agreement was to avoid any negative associations with Batam, which at the time was being transformed into an industrial estate."

Meadows Plans $450 Million Expansion

 

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Tribune: "Daily attendance at The Meadows harness-racing track could grow 10 times larger after its prospective buyers add 3,000 slot machines and build a 250,000-square-foot entertainment complex, backers said Wednesday. "Visitors to the Washington County racino -- a race track with a casino -- could top 4,200 people a day by 2010, said Bill Paulos, partner in Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming, which plans to buy the facility. That's up from an average of 355 people now. "Visitors walking into the permanent grandstand and casino would see the track behind banks of slots machines, according to plans presented yesterday to the state Gaming Control Board.

"The $450 million building would include tiered buffet dining for 700 people overlooking the track, a wine bar, steak house, theater and conference center. From one spot in the casino, players could overlook a new paddock where horses would be groomed for racing.

"Planners expect to break ground next month on a temporary casino that could open with slots on New Year's Eve. It would sit in The Meadows parking lot and have 1,500 slot machines…"

Casino Rumors Surround Trump Philadelphia Tower

 

As reported by the Commercial Property News: "Donald Trump has unveiled plans to build a $300 million Trump Tower in Philadelphia, in a former industrial area that has recently become the site of several significant residential developments. "The 45-story luxury condominium building will house 263 condos priced between $700,000 and $3.5 million. "'The site is also near where some casinos may eventually locate,' explained Jonathan Stavin, first vice president with CB Richard Ellis Inc. who specializes in multi-housing investments. "'A school of thought within the real estate community here feels that the decision to build this tower at this time is closely related to his attempt to get a casino license.'."

Thai Authorities Warn Against Holiday Gambling

 

As reported by the TNA News: "Thai police in the northern border town of Mae Sai have imposed strict measures to prevent gamblers disguised as tourists from crossing to Myanmar to gamble in its casinos during a four-day holiday which begins Thursday. "Pol. Maj. Gen. Jamnong Kaewsiri, Chiang Rai provincial police chief, said the measures included checking the identity of every passenger in passing vans belonging to the casinos. "The provincial police chief said tourists crossing to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, from Thai side would not be allowed to carry more than Bt500,000 (more than US$13,000) on their trip."

Alderman Invites Mississippi Gaming Commissioners

 

As reported by the Mississippi Press: "Moss Point Alderman Michael "Shorty" Middleton invited the executive director of Mississippi's Gaming Commission and its commissioners to meet with the city's Board of Aldermen to discuss casino gambling in the city. "'Come down and meet with our board,' Middleton told Gaming Commission Executive Director Larry Gregory on Wednesday. Middleton's invitation came during a Pascagoula Rotary Club program in which Gregory was discussing the status of the gaming industry on the Coast. //

"Casino gaming has been a hot topic in Moss Point and with residents determining a plan to rebuild and improve the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Board of Aldermen recently rejected a proposed feasibility study on casino gambling in the city.

".State law requires a countywide vote to determine if residents will allow casino gambling anywhere in their county. Middleton said he would like to see that provision changed.

New Carolina Senate Considers Poker Machine Ban

 

As reported by the Ashville Citizen-Times: "The state Senate today will consider banning video poker machines in North Carolina, renewing criticism the industry is plagued by corruption and not worth regulating. "The ban would apply to an estimated 10,000 video poker machines often found in convenience stores and intended only for recreation. Harrah's Cherokee Casino would be excluded from any ban. "Authorities confiscated $1 million and 100 machines during a weekend raid nearly two weeks ago in Fayetteville, highlighting arguments some businesses offer payouts to encourage gambling.

".One provision in the Senate bill up for a vote requires the Legislature to review any agreements made between the governor and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians when it comes to expanding gaming in the state. The Legislature has no power to approve or reject the agreements.

",,,The Senate has passed similar legislation four times before, only to have it stymied in the House."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Daly Book Details Slot Losses in the Millions

 

As reported by the Times-Picayune: ". In 1991, he was an eager-eyed 24-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour, about to tee it up in the USF&G Classic at English Turn. ". Daly was on his way to a Rookie of the Year season. Five months later, he won the PGA Championship. "Now it's 15 years, two major championships, four wives and four children (he inherited two) later. If you believe what Daly tells us in a book just off the press, 'My Life In And Out Of The Rough,' it's $55 million later, what he claims are his net losses shooting bogeys inside one casino after another. ". When Daly showed up in St. Andrews to play, and win, the 1995 British Open, he owed various casinos close to $4 million.

"'Gambling,' writes Daly, 'is the only thing that gets my juices flowing like golf does, or whiskey used to. Playing slot machines is like being completely alone, on my own, like a cross-country drive. All the noise in a casino? I don't hear it. I'm in a zone, all by myself. I check my watch and maybe 15 hours have gone by. Scary how far away I get.'

"What Daly did last year, after closing out his golf season by finishing second to Tiger Woods in the AmEx Championship, and picking up a $750,000 runner-up check, was real scary. Instead of going home, he visited Las Vegas and those $5,000-a-shot slots. In 90 minutes, he says, he lost $600,000. He went from one casino to another, from $5,000 machines to $100 machines, and, in less than five hours, he says he lost $1.65 million.

". And that's only part of the story.

". In the past five years, 'my father pulled a gun on me, my mother died, my best friend since first grade walked out on me and my wife was convicted of a felony and sent to prison.'

"That's all in the past, says John Daly.

"As for the immediate future: 'I'm planning on making the Ryder Cup team.'

Morgans Hotel Group Buys Hard Rock Casino

 

As reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: ". Morgans Hotel Group Co. has agreed to buy the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for $770 million in cash from the property's founder and chairman .". The sale of the 647-room hotel and 30,000 square-foot casino on 41 acres near the Las Vegas Strip will net Peter Morton more than $731 million, he said in a statement.". Morton co-founded the Hard Rock brand in 1971 .The Morgans Hotel Group . runs the Hudson, Morgans and Royalton in New York and the Delano in Miami .

". Morgans shares fell 7 cents to close at $17.95 Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market before the sale announcement.

Wisconsin Tribe Considers New Casino

 

"Ho-Chunk Nation leaders are considering a new casino somewhere in Wisconsin, a spokeswoman said Thursday, and a decision could be made public early next week. "The gaming compact negotiated between the Nation and Wisconsin allows the Ho-Chunk to build a fourth casino, said Katie Matha, spokeswoman for Ho-Chunk President George Lewis. ". The Nation has a location they would like to place the new facility, Matha said, but she would not make that public Thursday. It is within the area where Ho-Chunk people have traditionally lived, she said. "'So far, it would just be a casino, slot machines,' Matha said.

". The Ho-Chunk have had the option for a fourth casino since 1991 under an agreement negotiated with former Gov. Tommy Thompson, said Scott Larrivee, a spokesman for the state Division of Gaming.

". Matha said she expects to have an official statement on the leadership's casino decision Tuesday afternoon.

Mergers and Acquisitions: Hard Rock Sold for $770 Million

 

The Hard Rock Hotel, a pop icon in Las Vegas with its signature neon guitar and concert venue, The Joint, has been sold to New York-based Morgans Hotel Group for $770 million, Hard Rock founder Peter Morton said Thursday. The sale, pending regulatory approval and other conditions, includes the 647-room hotel and 30,000-square-foot casino on 17 acres at Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue, 24 adjacent acres that were planned for a hotel-condo expansion and related intellectual property. Morton will receive about 95 percent of the net proceeds from the sale and said he doesn't plan to develop any other properties in Las Vegas, gaming or otherwise.

"I'm taking my chips off the table," Morton said from his Los Angeles office. "Vegas is a great town. I've got great people working at my hotel, and the community has been phenomenal. We tried in our own small way to make a contribution. We brought some rock 'n' roll to town."

The Joint turned Las Vegas into a popular music scene destination with performances by such acts as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Coldplay, Norah Jones, David Bowie, Elvis Costello and Nine Inch Nails.

Morton built the Hard Rock in 1995 for $80 million and expanded the property in 1999 with a beach club and swimming pool that became one of the hottest party spots in town. It was chosen as one of the top 10 pools in the world by the Travel Channel. Other Hard Rock attractions include Body English nightclub, Nobu restaurant and an 8,000-square-foot spa and fitness center.

"The Hard Rock is already an extraordinary landmark and we are pleased to be able to acquire a property that has so much expansion potential," Edward Scheetz, president and chief executive officer of Morgans, said in a statement. "Since Las Vegas is the largest hotel market in the U.S., it is key for our growth strategy. This transaction provides us with an immediate and highly visible entry into this market."

He said the Hard Rock will complement Morgans' existing collection of hotel brands, which include Morgans, Royalton and Hudson in New York; Delano and The Shore Club in Miami; Mondrian in Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Clift in San Francisco; and Sanderson and St. Martin's Lane in London.

"What I assume is they're buying the Hard Rock brand because they went public recently and they need recognition," said Jim Stuart, principal of Las Vegas-based Centra Properties, a joint venture partner with Related Cos. in the Las Ramblas project on Harmon. "Strategically, it's a logical move for Morgans because their growth mechanism is they buy a brand."

Morgans, which closed down 7 cents at $17.95 a share Thursday on the Nasdaq National Market, is known as a boutique hotel operator targeting a younger demographic.

"This hotel, along with our established and renowned Delano and Mondrian brands, will allow us to dominate the Las Vegas market at multiple price points by offering the style, innovation and service with which our brands are synonymous," Scheetz said.

Morgans, which was founded by Studio 54's Ian Schrager, also has an agreement with Boyd Gaming to build a 600-room Delano and 1,000-room Mondrian hotel at Echelon Place, planned for the current site of the Stardust on the Strip.

"We have high regard for their company and we're very excited about their involvement in the Echelon development," Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell said. "They're coming into Las Vegas in a big way."

Two Wall Street analysts who wouldn't comment on the record because of conflicts said Morgans has wanted to enter the Las Vegas market for some time and that the Hard Rock fits with its mode of operation. It was only a question of reaching terms, especially on price, since Morton wanted at least $750 million.

Hard Rock Hotel reported earnings of $45 million before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortization last year, but because it's privately held, nobody knows to what degree there may be excess expenses, said Jane Pedreira, a gaming analyst for Lehman Bros.

She said the hotel was selling somewhere between nine times and 12 times its EBIDTA multiple, depending on how you value the 24 acres. She ran numbers from $10 million to $15 million an acre.

"We don't know if they're linked to just the hotel or can they use the Hard Rock name on other hotels," she said. "In the grand scheme of things, it's not a lot of money, rather than buying a Strip property and imploding it. You're not talking multiple billions of dollars. And it still fits with their trendy market niche."

The part that intrigues Pedreira the most about the Hard Rock sale is the gaming license. Morgans would have to go through the licensing process or contract with a casino operator, possibly Boyd.

"It would be unusual to give away the upside of a gaming license," she said.

Morton cofounded the Hard Rock brand in 1971 and sold his chain of Hard Rock cafes to the Rank Group for $410 million in 1996.

"I've been involved with the Hard Rock for 35 years," Morton said. "I just think it's a great time to sell. There's a lot of liquidity out there. As you know, the market is at a peak right now and I got a great offer. I just sort of felt there came a point in my life where I wanted to do more with my life and re-evaluate things. I want to do some different things."

Adam Frank, principal of Edge Resorts, which is developing the W Las Vegas hotel at Harmon and Koval Lane, said he'd heard Morgans' name tossed around as a possible suitor of the Hard Rock, but it wasn't one of the names he heard most often.

The Rank Group also was one of the unsuccessful bidders for the hotel-casino.

"This is great news for the Harmon corridor," Frank said. "We're happy to hear it. We've got a strong partner at that end of the block. We're trying to create a boutique environment and Morgans brings that."

Frank has stayed at Morgans, Delano and Mondrian and said they combine the hotel and nightlife that will contribute to the overall young, hip vibe that's coming to the Harmon corridor. Like the W and other hotel brands around the world, Morgans realized they had to be in Las Vegas, Frank said.

The acquisition will be financed with cash on hand and Morgans' corporate line of credit, as well as a $700 million loan from an affiliate of Credit Suisse.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

Indian Gambling Officials Urge Regulation by Compacts

 

Indian gambling officials on Thursday told a House panel that tribal casino regulations should be controlled by agreements between tribes and states, not the federal government. Last month, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee passed a bill by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would authorize a federal agency -- the National Indian Gaming Commission -- to regulate tribal casinos. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., chairman of the House Resources Committee, is working on his own Indian gaming bill but has not decided whether to expand federal regulation. McCain's bill would override a federal judge's ruling in August 2005, saying the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 does not empower the National Indian Gaming Commission to regulate tribal casinos.

Phil Hogen, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, said the 1988 law needs to be clarified so the commission can do its job.

"We are finding the door slammed in our face," Hogen told the House Resources Committee. "We sent two of our investigators ... out to Western Montana this week and when they got there, they were denied access (to an Indian casino), and the tribe pointed to the ruling ... to keep us out."

But Franklin Ducheneaux, a member of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and a former counsel to the late Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz., who helped craft the 1988 law, said Congress did not intend to authorize federal regulation of tribal casinos.

The law limited federal regulation to bingo and other tribal operations less sophisticated than casinos to preserve tribal sovereignty, Ducheneaux said.

When the National Indian Gaming Commission began imposing minimum auditing and internal control standards on tribal casinos in 1999, Indian gaming officials argued this was a violation of the 1988 law.

The friction led to last year's ruling in favor of the Colorado River Indian Tribes of Arizona which challenged the National Indian Gaming Commission's minimum internal control standards for its casino.

"If Congress believes it is necessary for the (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) to address the (minimum internal control standards), it should do so in a way that is deferential to the regulatory scheme negotiated between tribes and states in their compacts,' said Raymond Aspa, a member of the tribal council of the Colorado Indian River Tribes.

Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, said tribes spent $320 million last year on regulation and employ more than 2,800 regulators.

Norman DesRosiers, a commissioner for the Viejas Tribal Gaming Commission in Alpine, Calif., said tribes that comply with minimum internal control standards for three years should be eligible for a certificate of "self-regulation."

Kevin Washburn, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, said state regulation of Indian gambling has been "spotty," and the industry has become so important to tribes that it must be protected.

"That's largely why I think the federal government should have this (regulatory) role," Washburn said.

Downtown Plan Meets Mostly Silence

 

Proponents of downtown redevelopment are counting on new hotel-casinos to spice up an entertainment district proposed for Las Vegas' 61-acre Union Park site. But if local gaming companies' tepid early responses are an accurate indicator, those hoping for Striplike gaming halls in the shadows of Fremont Street are in for a tough sell. As city leaders prepare for Wednesday's vote on downtown's latest master plan, an unresolved concern is which, if any, gaming operators would invest in an area that's long struggled to compete with the Strip's newer, flashier resorts. "This could be a jackpot" for casinos, said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, whose civic interests convey a natural bias favoring the prospects of Union Park, a rail yard west of Main Street near Grand Central Parkway.

Goodman said Tuesday he'd like the industry's largest companies to vie for Union Park's three designated hotel-casino sites, which would be surrounded by 3,600 residential units, high-rise offices and stores.

So far, however, only one operator contacted by the Review-Journal was willing to publicly express interest in the area.

Tamares Group, a privately held international investment company, is open to the city's plan to extend the Fremont Street Experience canopy into Union Park, a step that would require demolition or reconfiguration of the Plaza's north tower.

But managing director Michael Treanor said Thursday that Tamares has not committed to such a deal, nor has it agreed to a new city hall site that would be built on what is now a parking lot Tamares owns near Main and Lewis Avenue.

"There ought to be a situation in which we can enhance the value of our land and at the same time enhance the value of Union Park by providing for connectivity" to Fremont Street, Treanor said. "We're interested in continuing that conversation" with the city.

In exchange for such access, Tamares wants seven to 10 acres of Union Park land to build a new $500 million hotel-casino connected to the Plaza.

With or without that deal, the Plaza will be renovated or rebuilt, he added.

"We want to be part of the revitalization. We have $100-plus-million invested in downtown, and that number is only going to go up," Treanor said. "If we redevelop our property and don't provide for connectivity with Union Park, I think we'll be shorting ourselves ... and cause a huge blow to the value of Union Park."

Tamares is working on plans for the new Plaza, which Treanor said will cater toward middle-market gaming customers, a niche he believes is increasingly underserved.

The company, which also owns several smaller properties on 35 acres downtown, wants to create a Main Street entertainment district to enhance downtown offerings.

"It's got great bones," Treanor said of downtown. "It just needs a little TLC."

Other neighborhood players had less to say, however.

Boyd Gaming Corp., whose California, Fremont and Main Street Station hotel-casinos do brisk business downtown, is interested in downtown redevelopment.

Still, it hasn't studied the latest Union Park plans well enough to speculate on future projects there, spokesman Rob Stillwell said Thursday.

A representative of MTR Gaming Group, which owns Binion's Gambling Hall, said no one but Chief Operating Officer Bill Robinson could answer questions on downtown redevelopment.

Robinson was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

George Maloof, whose off-Strip Palms resort successfully lures a mix of local and out-of-town customers, said downtown is "kind of tricky" because so much is taking place elsewhere in the valley.

"If someone can come up with something really special, perhaps people will go (downtown). But it's really going to need a clear vision," Maloof said.

Maloof added he'll never underestimate Goodman, but the Palms owner believes access is a key stumbling block when luring visitors and locals downtown.

Representatives of Station Casinos and Harrah's Entertainment said their companies continually evaluate growth opportunities, though each declined to address downtown specifically.

MGM Mirage is not looking to do business downtown, though the company is "enthusiastically watching the developments of Union Park" because of the site's overall importance to the community, spokesman Alan Feldman said.

In the meantime, MGM Mirage will continue developing the 830-plus acres it owns on the Strip, most notably the $7 billion Project CityCenter now rising between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. will spend several billion on new resorts in Macau, and hopes Singapore's government will tab it to build a major tourist attraction in the Asian city-state.

Closer to home, The Venetian's parent company is focused on completing The Palazzo, a $1.8 billion megaresort across from Wynn Las Vegas and Treasure Island.

Beyond that, the company would not speculate on where, or if, the company would launch another Southern Nevada project, spokesman Ron Reese said.

Goodman criticized local gaming icons Steve Wynn and Michael Gaughan for selling their respective downtown Las Vegas properties rather than staying on Fremont Street and working to improve its fortunes.

Wynn's Golden Nugget was sold six years ago to MGM Grand (now MGM Mirage) as part of a $6.7 billion deal; the hotel-casino has been sold twice since, with new owner Landry's Restaurants at work on a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion.

Golden Nugget management declined comment for this story.

Wynn has since opened the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas, and broken ground on Encore, an adjacent $1.74 billion Strip development. A third project will open in Macau later this year, with more Asian developments set to follow.

In March 2004 Gaughan sold the Plaza and three other downtown properties to Barrick Gaming Group and Tamares, which has offices in London, New York and Tel Aviv, Israel. Tamares last year assumed 100 percent ownership of Gaughan's former properties, plus two more smaller downtown hotel-casinos.

Gaughan's father, Jackie, co-founded the four properties with the late Mel Exber. As Jackie Gaughan grew older and less able to work, his son sold the family's downtown holdings, excluding the El Cortez, to focus on Coast Casinos' locals casinos throughout the valley.

Boyd bought Coast for $1.3 billion in July 2004, and Michael Gaughan has since run Coast as a Boyd subsidiary.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pinnacle Advised to Halt Aztar Bidding

 

Investors and Wall Street analysts had a message Thursday for the management of Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment. Get out of the bidding for Aztar Corp. After rival gaming company Columbia Sussex Corp. raised the ante for ownership of the Tropicana casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City late Wednesday to $2.64 billion, most thought it would be wise for regional casino operator Pinnacle to cash in its chips. "While Aztar would bring geographic diversity and a Las Vegas presence, the price simply seems to have gotten too rich," Davenport & Co. gaming analyst George Smith said Thursday in a note to investors.

Aztar's board of directors has until Wednesday to decide if it wants to accept Columbia Sussex's all-cash offer of $53 a share. Pinnacle has a signed agreement to buy Aztar for $2.58 billion, or $51 a share ($47 in cash and $4 in Pinnacle stock).

The latest offer by Columbia Sussex, which operates eight casinos, including four in Nevada, was the 15th for Aztar since March 13, when Pinnacle agreed to a $2.1 billion buyout of Aztar at $38 a share.

If the board deems that Columbia Sussex's bid is superior, Pinnacle has 72 hours to match or better the offer. If the Aztar-Pinnacle deal collapses, Aztar must pay Pinnacle $52.2 million as a break-up fee and cover up to $25.8 million in legal expenses.

Some thought Thursday that the sides in the bidding war should call a truce.

"I have never seen this happen to this extent," CRT Capital Group gaming analyst Steve Ruggiero said of the back and forth bidding war. "It's like watching a tennis match."

Most analysts thought Pinnacle, which owns casinos in Reno, Louisiana, Indiana and Argentina, should not make another a bid and take the breakup fee from Aztar if Columbia Sussex's offer is accepted.

Pinnacle could explore other possible casino purchases on the Strip, and the company is spending $800 million to build two casinos in St. Louis. Pinnacle Chairman Dan Lee recently toured the Sahara, which is reportedly being shopped by commercial real estate company CB Richard Ellis.

Investors also thought Pinnacle should get out of the Aztar deal, based on the company's performance on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Shares of Pinnacle traded higher most of the day, closing at $28.93, up 45 cents or 1.58 percent.

Analysts said investors expect the breakup fee to be worth as much as $1 a share in earnings to the company.

"We believe many Pinnacle investors may greet this news positively," Smith said. "We do not expect Pinnacle to go any higher. As evidenced by the stock's recent performance, many had grown wary of stretching for Aztar. While Pinnacle stretched a bit for Aztar, we do not believe it was reckless or went far enough for investors to question the company's financial discipline."

Many analysts think $53 a share is too much to pay for Aztar, which also has three smaller casinos in Laughlin, Indiana and Missouri.

In 2005, the Tropicana in Las Vegas had revenue of $163.8 million, 1 percent more than in 2004. Meanwhile, the Tropicana in Atlantic City drove Aztar, with revenue of $490.1 million, a 27 percent increase from the prior year.

The 34-acre Las Vegas Tropicana site, which fronts a long stretch of the Strip real estate across from Excalibur, is the prize in the deal. Before announcing its deal with Pinnacle, Aztar said it would tear down the Tropicana and build a $1.2 billion hotel-casino on 17 acres of the site.

John Knott, senior vice president of the CB Richard Ellis Global Gaming Group, said the Tropicana site is valued at between $25 million and $28 million an acre.

Gaming analysts thought the $2.64 billion price for the company was excessive.

"Columbia Sussex is making a play on the mineral, natural gas and oil rights beneath the Las Vegas 34 acres," Ruggiero joked. "As a private company, we can't really follow them. So we don't know what their thoughts are on this."

A spokesman for Columbia Sussex wouldn't comment on any aspects of the Aztar deal.

Aztar confirmed in a statement it had received the offer from Columbia Sussex but said the company's board of directors was still considering the bid.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Columbia Sussex has deposited $300 million in a bank account payable to Aztar should a signed agreement fall apart.

If the deal takes longer than six months to be completed after signing an agreement, Columbia Sussex agreed to increase the purchase price by almost one penny a share each extra day it takes to close the transaction.

Analysts wondered if Columbia Sussex could close the transaction. There has also been speculation on the company's plans for the Tropicana site.

Columbia Sussex's four Nevada casinos are Caesars Tahoe and the Horizon in Lake Tahoe, River Palms in Laughlin and the off-Strip Westin.

"The real question is whether or not Columbia's offer will be accepted," Smith said. "Aztar has stated it will consider Columbia's ability to not only close the deal, but close in a timely fashion. Some have expressed doubts about Columbia's ability to get gaming licenses given its past experience in Missouri."

Last year, Columbia Sussex dropped its bid to purchase the President Casino in St. Louis after several contentious meetings with Missouri gaming regulators.

Meanwhile, shares in Aztar again reached a 52-week high on news of the Columbia Sussex offer.

Trading around $30 a share in early March, Aztar closed Thursday at $51.59, up $1.70 or 3.41 percent.

Gaming analyst David Katz on CIBC World Markets wondered if the price for Aztar could still increase.

"The bidding could continue, as it is not clear to us that either party has reached an absolute maximum or that it is in Aztar's interest to conclude the process," Katz said in a note to investors. "Our view is that the (Columbia Sussex) offer is not materially greater than the prior offer from Pinnacle irrespective of it being all cash."

Isle Plans Expansion in Florida Market

 

As reported by the QC Times: "Isle of Capri Casinos will expand its gaming offerings in southeast Florida with a $140 million slots parlor at Pompano Park Harness Track. "The project will add 1,500 slot machines to the Pompano Park Harness Track, the only track in the Isle of Capri Casinos' family. The creation of a Racino - combination racetrack/casino - also includes four restaurants on the 331-acre property, which already houses a poker room. Isle of Capri acquired the track in 1995.

"...At the heart of the Racino will be a multi-story bar offering high-action imagery and audio on multiple video displays. The project, which is expected to be completed in the next seven to nine months, also will include new racetrack amenities such as a high-tech Winner's Circle..."

"The Isle of Capri was one of four pari-mutuels in Broward County authorized to add slot machines after Gov. Jeb Bush signed the slot machine bill into law in January..."

Blind Curve Casino Bus in Collision

 

As reported by the Rocky Mountain News: "A casino bus hit a utility truck head-on Thursday afternoon on Colorado 119 near Black Hawk, triggering a second accident and injuring at least 10 people, two seriously. "Authorities said the drivers of the bus and truck were airlifted to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver with the most serious injuries. "The rest of the injured were transported by ambulance to various Denver-area hospitals.

"...Of the 10 people who were hospitalized, four were taken to St. Anthony's and three of them had been released by late Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"'The canyon is a heavily traveled road that is narrow with curves and just not an ideal driving situation,' said Stacey Stegman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"...State officials have tried to make the highway safer with a number of improvements..."

Pinnacle Chairman Says Aztar Used 'Sleazy' Negotiating Tactics

 

Shareholders attending Pinnacle Entertainment's annual meeting Wednesday didn't have much to say about the company's proposed $2.58 billion buyout of Aztar Corp. But company Chairman Dan Lee did. Lee told shareholders that Aztar's advisers acted in a "sleazy" manner as the price for buying the Tropicana's parent corporation rose significantly in the weeks after Pinnacle agreed to buy Aztar for $38 a share, or $2.1 billion, on March 13. Lee speculated that Aztar's advisers were using late negotiations with Pinnacle as a tool to try to get rival bidder Columbia Sussex Corp. to increase its bid for the Phoenix-based casino company.

"It seemed like they were shopping our bid with other companies," Lee said.

Pinnacle and Aztar agreed Friday to amend their merger agreement to $51 a share -- $47 in cash and $4 in Pinnacle stock -- and to significantly increase the break-up fee Aztar would have to pay Pinnacle should the deal collapse.

Lee said the break-up costs, $55.2 million in a termination fee and up to $25.8 million to cover the company's legal expenses, sweetened the deal for Pinnacle shareholders.

"We would not have amended the merger agreement without increasing the break-up fee," Lee said.

During the company's shareholder meeting at the Four Seasons, Lee initially said he didn't plan a long discussion on the proposed Aztar transaction, in which Pinnacle would acquire the Tropicana casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and three smaller casinos in Laughlin, Indiana and Missouri.

Lee said the deal, which could close by the end of the year, would double the size of Pinnacle and give the company a national presence.

Lee wouldn't discuss plans for the Tropicana's 34-acre Las Vegas location, saying he didn't want to give rival bidders any details.

However, as Lee began to describe the events that led to last Friday's price increase, he couldn't contain his feelings.

Aztar's board of directors, he said, had a duty to their shareholders to look at any solid offer that might have been better than Pinnacle's original signed deal. However, he said, some of the 14 bids that were floated in the past eight weeks were never really bids.

Colony Capital, owner of the Las Vegas Hilton, never made a formal offer of $41 a share for Aztar, Lee said. Others, such as rival regional casino operator Ameristar Casinos and Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex, which owns four Nevada casinos, made formal bids for Aztar only after speculating publicly that they might bid.

Ameristar dropped out of the bidding last week, while Pinnacle's latest agreement trumped Columbia Sussex's $50 a share offer.

"It was a frustrating process," Lee said. "We've probably spent more time in Aztar's properties in the last few weeks than Aztar's management has in the last few months."

A spokesman for Aztar could not be reached for comment. In the past, Aztar has declined to comment on all negotiations surrounding its possible sale.

Columbia Sussex and Pinnacle have a history. Pinnacle attempted to buy the bankrupt President Casino in St. Louis a few years ago, only to be outbid at the last minute by Columbia Sussex. However, Columbia Sussex let the President Casino fall back into bankruptcy last year after the company ran into problems with Missouri gaming regulators.

Pinnacle, which is spending $800 million to build two casinos in St. Louis, is expected to buy the President Casino next month in bankruptcy court.

"(Columbia Sussex) either stepped out of the deal for financial reasons or couldn't get licensed," Lee said.

A spokesman for Columbia Sussex declined to comment.

Biloxi Mayor Says Casinos Will Again Revitalize Region

 

Mayor A.J. Holloway watched during his first 12 years in office as a booming Gulf Coast casino industry fueled his city's economic prosperity. Holloway told the opening session of the Global Gaming Exposition Institute on Wednesday at Red Rock Resort that casinos will once again serve as the catalyst to revitalize the small community ravaged by Hurricane Katrina last year. "We're going to look at the things that made us successful in the past," said Holloway, who had just started his fourth four-year term as Biloxi's mayor when Hurricane Katrina hit the community Aug. 29. "We're going to build on those qualities to help make us even more successful in the future."

Before Hurricane Katrina, Biloxi's 10 casinos produced $911 million in gaming revenue in 2004, providing taxes that enhanced the city's budget. The estimated 30-foot storm surge and 130 mph winds dismantled the city's gaming industry, which had helped make Mississippi the third-most prosperous casino state in the nation behind Nevada and New Jersey.

In December, three Biloxi casinos reopened. Several gaming companies, including Harrah's Entertainment and MGM Mirage, have said they will reopen their Biloxi casinos this summer. Other casino operators have hinted at opening rebuilt casinos by the end of the year.

"There's a difference in actually reopening and saying you're going to reopen," said Isle of Capri Casinos President Tim Hinkley. His company's Biloxi property reopened in December with a temporary casino located in the hotel's convention space. An expansion expected to be completed next week will give the property 1,300 slot machines and gaming tables.

Hinkley participated in a panel discussion with Holloway on reviving the Gulf Cost gaming market.

"I think everything we've heard gives us confidence that Biloxi will come back," Hinkley said.

Mississippi gaming revenue statistics show the three reopened casinos had gaming revenue of $64.2 million in January, $58.8 million February and $63.7 million in March, about 70 percent of what 10 casinos earned in the prior year.

Revised Mississippi gaming regulations that allow casinos to be located 800 feet from the Gulf of Mexico shoreline has Holloway predicting that between 15 and 20 casinos will dot the Mississippi coastline by 2010.

He said the rebuilding of the Highway 90 bridge that connects the Biloxi peninsula with Ocean Springs, Miss., to the east, will help bring back the tourists. The new bridge could be open in 15 months after the construction contract is awarded in June.

Still, Holloway said visitors are finding their way into the casino district. He said his own personal survey of the license plates in casino parking lots show vehicles from Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and other areas of Mississippi.

"Conventional wisdom was that our casino customers would be construction workers and FEMA employees," Holloway said. "But our visitors are starting to come back."

Before the hurricane, Biloxi had $6 billion in development during Holloway's first three terms. The casinos hired 15,000 employees while the number of hotel rooms on the Gulf Coast grew from 6,000 rooms to 20,000 rooms.

"We went from 1 million visitors a year to between 8 million and 10 million a year," Holloway said. "When Beau Rivage opened in 1999, we saw gaming revenue jump to $775 million, which was a 35 percent increase over the previous year. In 2004, the casinos in Biloxi grossed $911 million. That's an 18 percent increase in the five years since the Beau opened."

Hinkley said Biloxi's biggest needs are affordable housing and infrastructure. He said jobs are becoming available; Isle of Capri has hired more than 1,000 workers since reopening.

"We need to provide those employees a place to live," Hinkley said.

The hurricane wiped out 6,000 homes and businesses in Biloxi and several historical homes and landmarks along Highway 90, which runs alongside the coastline.

Holloway said land values have doubled and tripled in Biloxi, especially in the hurricane-devastated community of Point Cadet at the peninsula's eastern tip. Almost all the older residences in the area that borders the casino district were destroyed. Holloway said he expects that area to become a commercial zone that enhances the returning casino industry.

Gavin Smith Named World Poker Tour Player of the Year

 

Professional poker player Gavin Smith capped his strong year of play in Season IV of the World Poker Tour by being named the tour's "Season IV Player of the Year." Over the past year, Smith reached the final table in three separate $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour events, including a first-place finish at the 2005 Mirage Poker Showdown. "Getting to a WPT final table is an accomplishment achieved by many," said Full Tilt Poker representative and professional poker player Howard Lederer, "but making three final tables in one season, including a win, shows that Gavin is among poker's elite competitors."

Smith is the third Full Tilt Poker representative to earn the WPT Player of the Year honor, following in the tradition set by Team Full Tilt members Howard Lederer in Season One, and Erick Lindgren in Season Two.

Smith is a representative of www.FullTiltPoker.com, and spends several hours a week online helping amateur players learn the game by sharing his poker knowledge through real-time chats at the virtual tables.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Diversity Remains Target for Companies

 

Despite accolades from business and community leaders, MGM Mirage executives conceded at their annual diversity program presentation Wednesday that they have a long way to go in building a company and industry that fully reflects American culture. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking from the audience, said MGM Mirage and the audience of 1,500 suppliers, contractors and employees attending the annual meeting, looked like a little United Nations. "This is who we are, and you deserve a lot of credit," he told MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni, who Jackson said should be "in the White House."

Lanni said on every metric, MGM Mirage's diversity improved in 2005 compared with 2004, despite the challenges of integrating 30,000 Mandalay Resort Group employees with 40,000 MGM Mirage workers. The companies merged last year, creating the world's second-largest gaming company.

Minority workers at MGM Mirage, for example increased to 55.7 percent of its work force in 2005, up from 54.4 percent a year earlier, and minority managers increased as a proportion of the total to 32.6 percent from 31.2 percent a year earlier.

MGM Mirage executives also conceded that while financially rewarding, the MGM Mirage's merger with Mandalay has proven to be a tremendous challenge for the company's diversity program.

Data comparing results for the combined companies were not available.

Senior Vice President Punam Mathur said the merger was the biggest challenge MGM Mirage faced in 2005 but also a great opportunity.

Mandalay Resort Group did not have a formal diversity initiative like MGM Mirage and its employment of minorities in many ways lagged MGM Mirage's, which helped drag the company's statistics down last year.

Mandalay property managers, for example, were only 24 percent minorities in 2005, compared with MGM Mirage, where they accounted for 32.6 percent of the total. Minorities accounted for only 54.6 percent of the Mandalay workforce, compared with 55.7 percent at MGM Mirage.

Still, Mathur said introducing MGM Mirage's diversity programs to workers and managers at Mandalay properties was a critical first step in merging the cultures of the two companies and motivating the Mandalay employees.

Lanni said diversity programs are critical to maximizing the motivation and performance of employees.

That is why, as chairman of the American Gaming Association, he has initiated a program to establish industrywide standards for diversity in hiring, procurement and contracting.

Mathur said it is ironic, perhaps, that MGM Mirage found itself facing a new diversity challenge in its latest acquisition because its diversity program grew out of the merger that created it.

In 2000, regulators and community leaders expressed concern that MGM Grand Inc.'s diversity programs were weaker than those at Mirage Resorts, which was then headed by Steve Wynn, which it was buying.

Regulators considering the proposed merger insisted that MGM Grand at least perpetuate the diversity programs and standards in place at Mirage Resorts. Arte Nathan, the chief of human resources at Wynn Resorts Ltd. who was then in the same position at Mirage Resorts, said the result has been a high profile program at MGM Mirage that has had the bonus of good results.

Nathan said Wynn Resorts has similar programs that focus on hiring, purchasing, construction and maintenance.

He said 60 percent of the Wynn Resorts work force is made up of minorities and the company is very mindful of its commitment to diversity.

Boyd Gaming Corp., which acquired Coast Casinos two years ago, faced no challenges similar to those facing MGM Mirage in its merger, according to Marianne Johnson, chairman of its diversity committee.

Minorities made up 49.3 percent of its work force and 54 percent of its managers in 2004. Data for 2005 are not yet available.

But the profiles of the two companies and their commitments to diversity were very similar at the time of the merger.

Since then, Boyd Gaming has been formalizing and expanding its diversity program at the initiative of Chairman Bill Boyd.

"His mandate has always been for diversity. We just found the time had come to put it on paper," Johnson said.

The picture was not quite so clear at Harrah's Entertainment, the world's largest gaming company, which is still completing its integration with Caesars Entertainment.

Harrah's acquired Caesars last year in a $9.4 billion deal.

Fred Keeton, Harrah's chief diversity officer, said his company is still in the throes of forming a postmerger diversity program.

He said Harrah's faces enormous challenges in developing a diversity program sensitive to the many communities in which it operates all across the country. Plus, it has moved from having just two properties in Las Vegas to having seven, including the Imperial Palace, which it acquired last year.

And the impetus for its diversity program, he said, is threefold: compliance with r

egulations, good business and character. "It's an issue that is critical to business," Keeton said.

Given the complexity of the merger and melding databases between the companies, data on the makeup of Harrah's work force was not available.

Lanni and other gaming executives, however, acknowledged that the gaming companies still have miles to go in accomplishing their objectives.

"It's a long, winding road," Lanni said. "We don't reflect yet the communities in which we live, but we will (persist until we do)."

Trident Entertainment, Carmen Media Team Up

 

Two of the most successful and established online casino and poker room groups in the online gaming industry have announced plans to create a new Internet super-group. Trident Entertainment Group out of Kahnawake in Canada is in discussions with regard to a proposed merger of its operations into Gibraltar-based Carmen Media Group. This would result in a Carmen Media Group line-up of 10 top online casinos, 4 poker rooms on the Prima Poker Network and a sportsbook powered by LudoLogic.

Las Vegas Visitor Count Breaks Record

 

The March winds blew yet another travel industry record into Las Vegas, this time the highest monthly visitor count in local history. More than 3.4 million people came here in March, or 11,821 more than were reported for the same month a year ago, the previous titleholder for Las Vegas' busiest month. That 0.3 percent increase seems small, but an insignificant change in percentage belies the strength of Southern Nevada's booming travel industry, one expert said. "You're dealing with such high numbers each year that the percentage changes don't look that large. But we're continuing to break records," John Piet, senior research analyst for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said Wednesday.

March is traditionally one of the city's busiest months, capitalizing on a mixture of moderate weather and special events that fill hotels, restaurants, casinos and convention centers throughout the valley.

Piet credited two sporting events for this year's spring surge.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament, a monthlong event known as March Madness, brought tens of thousands of travelers here to bet on games at the city's legalized sports books.

In addition, March hosted the state's largest live sporting event, a four-day series of auto races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Speedway spokesman Jeff Motley said Wednesday the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, a NASCAR contest held March 12, drew 157,7000 fans.

Estimates show nearly 95,000 of those fans came from out of town as race lovers satisfied their need for speed in a town that's built to accommodate travelers both slow and fleet.

"Each year we try to make our facility and event bigger and better," Motley said. "The sport is growing in attendance and TV ratings. What better place to take in a world-class sporting event than Las Vegas?"

Were it not for a quirk in the convention calendar, this March would have been even bigger.

ConExpo-ConAgg, the largest U.S. trade show of 2005, did not return to the Las Vegas Convention Center this March because the massive construction event occurs every third year.

Smaller events filled some of the void left by ConExpo-ConAgg and its nearly 98,000 attendees, but March convention attendance was still down 7.4 percent vs. 2005.

Conventioneers' economic impact was still more than $850 million, down 3.6 percent.

Fewer convention attendees contributed to a 0.4 percent decline in occupancy, though the city's 131,762 guest rooms were still filled at a 94.1 percent rate.

Average daily room rates were $125.25, up nearly 11 percent.

McCarran International surpassed 4 million monthly travelers in March, a first for Las Vegas' primary passenger airport.

But auto traffic from Southern California was down 5.1 percent, a potential trouble sign given recent increases in gasoline prices.

Year-to-date, Las Vegas' 9.56 million visitors was nearly 2 percent better than last year's pace.

The city hosted nearly 38.6 million visitors last year, a 12-month record.

Laughlin and Mesquite continued to struggle.

Laughlin's March visitor count was 338,391, down more than 13 percent. Its year-to-date count of 927,831 visitors was off 12.1 percent.

Mesquite reported 149,070 March visitors, down 4.6 percent, while its first quarter count of 393,285 guests was 7.2 percent below last year's pace, the convention authority reported

Bally's Bumps Borgata from Top Spot

 

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer: "For the first time since it debuted nearly three years ago, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was not Atlantic City's top-grossing casino. Bally's Atlantic City casino toppled the Borgata from the top spot last month. "The Jersey Shore resort's 12 casinos generated $440.2 million in revenue in April, up 4 percent from the same month last year, data released yesterday by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission showed.

".Bally's generated $59.1 million in total revenue, up 9.7 percent from April 2005. The Borgata finished with $58.5 million, down 3 percent. Trump Taj Mahal rounded out the top three with $48.5 million, up 13.2 percent.

"John Payne, who oversees Harrah's Entertainment Inc.'s four properties in Atlantic City, said April was the first month in which the company's Total Rewards customer-loyalty program was available at all of Harrah's casinos, including Bally's.

".Dan Heneghan, spokesman for the casino commission, which regulates Atlantic City's casinos, said this was the first time that the Borgata had a year-over-year decline in total monthly revenue since it opened in July 2003."

Centrebet Considers Public Listing

 

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald: "Sydney bookmakers Con and George Kafataris appear to be finally preparing for a big punt on the sharemarket with the listing of their online sports-betting shop, Centrebet. "'We're looking at all options at the moment,' said Con Kafataris, confirming that public listing was one possibility. "The brothers have sounded out brokers here, including Wilson HTM, and in Britain. A decision was expected before the end of the calendar year, Con Kafataris said.

"The British connection makes sense, not just because the company does a lot of its business in Europe (football is reputed to account for half of its bets).

"London's Alternative Investment Market has become a mecca for online gambling stocks and the Kafatarises don't have to look too far to see what a difference a UK listing can make.

".Little is known about Centrebet's financials but it is expected to be valued north of $100 million."

PokerTek Announces Results for Q1

 

PokerTek, Inc. today announced financial results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2006. Net loss for the first quarter of fiscal 2006 was approximately $1,591,000, or ($0.17) per diluted share, compared with net loss of approximately $725,000, or ($0.11) per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2005. Revenues from both license fees and equipment sales totaled approximately $473,000, up from zero in the same period in 2005. Revenues consisted of monthly license fees totaling approximately $360,000 from the Seminole Hardrock properties in Florida and the Chickasaw Properties in Oklahoma and the remainder from equipment sales to our international distributor, Aristocrat, for its use in demonstrations of the PokerPro(TM) system to international licensing bodies and potential customers.

As expected, the net loss increased to approximately $1,591,000 from approximately $725,000 in the same period in 2005, creating a net loss per common share, basic and diluted, of ($0.17) compared to ($0.11) for the first quarter of fiscal year 2005. The following factors were the main components affecting the loss for the first quarter of 2006 as compared to the first quarter of 2005: increase in employees and related salaries and benefits; increase of approximately $133,000 of legal and professional fees primarily associated with being a public company; and an increase of approximately $120,000 related to non-cash stock option expense in accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 123R. Partially offsetting the increase in expenses was an increase in interest income of approximately $192,000.

At March 31, 2006, the Company had no debt and approximately $18.3 million total cash and cash equivalents.

"We believe that we are gaining sales momentum as we continue to aggressively pursue sales opportunities in the United States and Canada. We understand that Aristocrat, our international distributor, is doing the same on a global basis," stated Lou White, Chief Executive Officer of PokerTek. "We believe it is only a matter of time before many venues realize the win-win impact our PokerPro(TM) system should have on both the player's poker-playing experience and the casinos ability to operate more profitably. Expense growth was as expected as we continue to gear up for our anticipated expansion."

Friday, May 05, 2006

More Oregon Tribal Casino Proposals Expected

 

As reported by the Columbian: "A list of pending Indian casino proposals circulated Wednesday raises the possibility that the Klamath Tribes of southern Oregon will seek to build a casino in Aurora, Ore., some 20 miles south of Portland. "Federal officials have been deluged with Indian casino applications in response to a bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would shut the door on off-reservation gambling. "Nineteen tribes, including the Colville, Muckleshoot and Spokane tribes here in Washington, submitted applications last month before the April 15 cutoff date in McCain's legislation.

".The Klamath, which already operate a small casino in Chiloquin north of Klamath Falls, Ore., could be the latest tribe trying to get a toehold in the lucrative Portland-Vancouver market.

".The list indicates the Klamath have applied for a casino on a 153-acre site in Clackamas County."

House Panel Approves Internet Gambling Legislation

 

As reported by the Bloomberg News: "A House panel has approved legislation to toughen laws criminalizing Internet gambling, a preliminary step that may lead to enactment by Congress. "A Judiciary subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday to endorse the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, sponsored by two Virginia representatives, Bob Goodlatte, a Republican, and Rick Boucher, a Democrat. Bush administration officials in the Justice Department support the proposal. Online gambling's legal status in the United States is unclear under present law. "The measure would force U.S. financial institutions to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities in shutting down illegal gambling sites based outside the United States."

Gaming Regulators African Forum Appoints Chairperson

 

As reported by the Botswana Daily News: "Chairperson of the Casino Control Board of Botswana Lekwalo Mosienyane has been appointed chairperson of the Gaming Regulators African Forum. "A press release from the Ministry of Trade and Industry says Gaming Regulators African Forum aims to promote grounds for sharing of practical experience on matters pertaining to regulations of the gaming industries across Africa. "The Gaming Regulators African Forum is also a consultative forum where various matters of common interest in the gaming industry are presented and discussed by the members.

".Membership of the forum is open to national gaming regulators on the continent. Currently Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana have signed the memorandum of understanding and are full-fledged members of the forum."

IBM Launches Casino Products

 

As reported by the Search400 News: "IBM and four of its software partners announced they are collaborating to launch a "Casino-in-a-box," an integrated hospitality and gaming suite of products for the System i. "The partners, established vendors in the casino industry (Agilysys, Bally Technologies, InfoGenesis, SSA Global) are offering software that spans the board. Hospitality and gaming businesses traditionally require separate systems to handle property management, gaming, catering, point-of-sale, finances and human resources, creating a complex IT infrastructure. The suite is a good match for System i and its OS flexibility, according to Kevin Patterson, director of worldwide sales for System i.."

Las Vegas Sands Reports Record Q1 Results

 

Net revenue for the first quarter of 2006 increased 31.3% to a record $530.4 million compared to $403.8 million in the prior year's quarter. Adjusted net income for the first quarter of 2006 improved to $134.8 million, or adjusted earnings per diluted share of $0.38, versus adjusted net income of $103.1 million, or adjusted earnings per diluted share of $0.29, in the first quarter of 2005. (*) Adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per diluted share in the first quarter of 2006 exclude loss on disposal of assets, pre-opening expense, development expense, and certain stock offering costs. Adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per diluted share in the first quarter of 2005 exclude loss on disposal of assets, development expense, charitable contributions, and loss on early retirement of debt. On a GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) basis, net income in the first quarter of 2006 was $121.8 million, or $0.34 per diluted share, compared to $7.1 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2005, when net income was affected by a significant loss on the early retirement of debt.

Consolidated adjusted property EBITDAR in the first quarter of 2006 came in at a record $204.5 million, an increase of 23.0% compared to $166.2 million in the year-ago quarter. Operating income improved significantly to $148.9 million versus $125.3 million in the first quarter of 2005.

"The first quarter of 2006 was another record earnings quarter for our company," began William P. Weidner, president and COO. "We delivered outstanding results at both our Las Vegas and Macao properties. And we continued to execute our development plans for The Palazzo in Las Vegas and for both The Sands Macao and The Cotai Strip(TM) in Macao, as we lead the historic effort to create Asia's Las Vegas(TM)." In addition, we identified and progressed on a series of additional growth initiatives designed to enhance our strategic position, and are in the process of completing a $2.5 billion credit facility to support our development plans in Macao."

Las Vegas First Quarter Operating Results

In the first quarter of 2006 in Las Vegas, table games drop increased 17.6% to $363.5 million versus $309.1 million during the first quarter of 2005. Slot machine handle (volume) increased 5.0% to $529.5 million versus $504.4 million during the first quarter of 2005. Casino revenues were $97.1 million in the first quarter of 2006 compared to $94.7 million a year ago, an increase of 2.5%. Table games win percentage (calculated before discounts) was 22.1% in the 2006 quarter compared to 23.8% in the first quarter of last year. This compares to our expected range of 20% to 22%.

The Venetian's average daily rate (ADR) was $249 during the first quarter of 2006, compared to $243 in the first quarter of 2005. The Venetian's occupancy of available guestrooms was 99.9% during the first quarter of 2006, which compares to 97.8% during the prior year period, generating revenue per available room (REVPAR) of $248 in the 2006 period, an increase of 4.6% versus $237 in the 2005 period. Hotel revenues were $89.6 million during the first quarter of 2006 compared to $85.4 million in the first quarter of 2005.

Food and beverage revenues were $43.3 million in the first quarter of 2006 compared to $35.3 million in the 2005 period, an increase of 22.7%. Convention, retail, and other operating revenues were $34.2 million in the quarter compared to $27.3 million in the quarter last year, an increase of 25.3%.

On a GAAP basis, operating income for our Las Vegas operations was $79.3 million versus $80.8 million in the 2005 period. Adjusted property EBITDAR from our Las Vegas operations was $101.1 million. This compares to $98.4 million of EBITDAR from Las Vegas operations for the first quarter of 2005, an increase of 2.7%

"We are seeing the benefits of our targeted capital investments at The Venetian," noted Weidner. "The recent addition of 450,000 square feet of carpeted meeting space continues to fuel increases in group business and related food and beverage revenues. Our casino business was also strong, as both table drop and slot handle reflected healthy increases compared to the quarter one year ago. Our Blue Man Group Theater, Tao restaurant/night club and new Poker Room, which opened last month, are driving incremental visitation to the property, and we expect our new promotion of Phantom of the Opera -- The Las Vegas Spectacular to contribute additional visitations when it opens in June.

"Looking further ahead, construction of The Palazzo remains on track for a third quarter 2007 opening. Upon completion, the Venetian and Palazzo together will encompass the largest integrated destination convention resort in the world, with over 7,000 hotel rooms, 1.1 million square feet of carpeted meeting space, and 1.15 million square feet of convention space. We believe this property will provide an excellent platform for growth in Las Vegas for years to come."

Macao First Quarter Operating Results

In Macao, first quarter casino revenues increased 62.7% to $278.2 million versus $171.0 million in the 2005 period. The Sands Macao reported record adjusted property EBITDAR of $103.4 million for the first quarter of 2006 compared to $67.8 million in the first quarter of last year. On a GAAP basis, operating income in Macao was $90.1 million for the first quarter of 2006, an increase of 48.9% compared to $60.5 million in last year's first quarter. Table games drop (the Non-Rolling Chip segment) was $1.06 billion in the first quarter of 2006, reflecting a year-over-year increase of 23.8% versus $855.4 million in the first quarter of 2005. First quarter 2006 Rolling Chip volume was $3.70 billion, compared to $855.7 million in the first quarter of 2005.

Non-Rolling Chip table games win percentage (calculated before discounts and incentives) came in at 18.6% in the first quarter of 2006, while Rolling Chip table games win percentage (calculated before discounts and commissions) was 2.5%. These results compare to our expected Non-Rolling Chip table games win percentage (calculated before discounts and commissions) of 17% to 19% and Rolling Chip table games win percentage (calculated before discounts and commissions) of 2.5% to 2.8%.

Slot handle (volume) for the first quarter of 2006 was $247.0 million, representing a 78.3% increase versus $138.6 million in the first quarter of 2005.

The substantial increases in revenues and operating income in Macao reflect robust market demand and capacity increases at The Sands.

Weidner stated, "We are continuing to make progress in Macao at all levels. We are particularly pleased with the continued strength of our mass market business. Despite significant increases in capacity in the Macao marketplace, our win per unit per day over the last twelve months has continued to increase. Looking ahead, we are preparing for the opening in May of an expansion to our Sands' Paiza Club, which will increase VIP gaming capacity, and we are on track for the completion and opening of the remainder of our Sands Macao expansion in August 2006. When the expansion is complete, The Sands Macao will have approximately 700 tables and 1,200 slot machines."

Other Factors Affecting Earnings

Interest expense, net of amounts capitalized, was $21.4 million for the first quarter of 2006 compared to $27.1 million during the first quarter of 2005. The decline is the result of the company's strategic decision to retire $850.0 million of 11% Mortgage Notes, which were replaced during the first quarter of 2005 with a combination of senior notes bearing interest at a rate of 6.375% and lower cost bank debt, and the redemption during the second quarter of 2005 of $120.0 million of floating rate notes which were secured by assets at The Sands Macao. Capitalized interest was $8.3 million during the first quarter of 2006 compared to $4.1 million during the first quarter of 2005.

Depreciation and amortization expense was $25.0 million for the first quarter of 2006, compared to $20.0 million for the first quarter of 2005.

Stock-based compensation expense was $2.9 million in the first quarter of 2006. We recognized no stock-based compensation expense in the first quarter of 2005.

Development expenses relating to our efforts in Singapore, Macao, Pennsylvania, Europe and elsewhere were $9.2 million in the first quarter of 2006, compared to $5.2 million in the first quarter of 2005. The increase of $4.0 million was principally related to our efforts in Singapore.

The effective tax rate for the first quarter of 2006 of 11.7% is lower than the United States federal statutory rate due primarily to a zero effective tax rate on our Macao net income as a result of an income tax holiday on gaming operations through 2008.

Balance Sheet Items

Unrestricted cash balances at March 31, 2006 stood at $317.3 million while restricted cash balances were $690.6 million. Of the restricted cash balances, $577.4 million is restricted for construction of The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, the company's second resort hotel casino property in Las Vegas.

As of March 31, 2006, total debt outstanding, including the current portion, was $1.69 billion.

Capital Expenditures

Capital expenditures during the first quarter of 2006 totaled $294.2 million. This includes $196.0 million for construction and development activities in Macao, $75.5 million for construction and development activities at The Palazzo, and $22.7 million for improvements and maintenance capital expenditures at The Venetian and The Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Concluding Comments

Weidner concluded, "While we continue to deliver exceptional financial and operating results, the opportunities that lie ahead are significant and broad-based. Our proven capabilities in the development and operation of integrated destination resorts position us to build and execute on a robust pipeline of growth opportunities worldwide.

"In addition, we recently submitted a proposal for a spectacular $3.6 billion project in Singapore, The Marina Bay Sands. The Marina Bay Sands proposal includes plans for an integrated resort with 2,500 hotel rooms, 1.2 million square feet of flexible meetings, incentive, convention, food and beverage, and exhibition space, one million square feet of retail space, three large entertainment venues, and gaming space which will include our high end Paiza Club.

"We continue to advance our proposal to develop an integrated destination resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on the site of the Bethlehem Steel Works, about a 90 minute drive away from Midtown Manhattan, and only one hour from the lucrative Northern New Jersey Corridor.

"We remain particularly pleased with the progress we are making in developing 'Asia's Las Vegas' on the Cotai Strip. Importantly, we have reached agreements with a prestigious group of hotel operators that will participate with us in this historic opportunity. Thus far, our hotel partners include The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which will operate both a Sheraton and a St. Regis hotel, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which will operate both a Shangri-La and a Traders hotel, and Hilton Hotels, which will operate both a Hilton and a Conrad hotel. We are actively negotiating the definitive agreements under which these leading operators will manage hotels and related vacation suites for us on the Cotai Strip.

"Construction of the Venetian Macao remains on track for a summer 2007 opening. We have made additional progress in the leasing of our Macao shopping malls, and now have reached agreement on commercial terms with over 150 retailers for approximately 500,000 square feet of retail space on the Cotai Strip, and we continue to make good progress in the negotiation of the definitive agreements with these retailers. In addition, we have secured a number of commitments from the largest and most important tradeshow organizers in the world and received dozens of tradeshow expressions of interest for our Venetian Macao convention and meeting facility. We have also reached an agreement with Cirque du Soleil to provide them a permanent home, their first in Asia, in our 1,800 seat Cirque du Soleil theatre in The Venetian Macao on the Cotai Strip.

"Looking further ahead in the Macao region, we remain enthusiastic about our strategy to master plan a leisure and convention destination resort on Hengqin Island, which will complement our entertainment developments just a few hundred yards from the Cotai Strip. We have advanced our master plan design activities and look forward to bringing another important dimension of travel and tourism to the region over the long-term. Our Hengqin Island plans remain subject to numerous conditions, including further government approvals."

Ameristar Casinos Reports Q1 Results

 

* Record first quarter consolidated net revenues of $256.1 million, representing an increase of $16.0 million, or 6.7%, over the first quarter of 2005. * First quarter consolidated operating income of $43.7 million, a decrease of $2.6 million, or 5.7%, from the prior-year first quarter, after giving effect to $2.1 million of stock option compensation expense in the 2006 first quarter, as described in the following paragraph. * First quarter consolidated EBITDA (a non-GAAP financial measure that is defined and reconciled with operating income below) of $66.2 million, representing a decrease of $0.9 million, or 1.3%, from the first quarter of 2005. 2006 first quarter operating income and EBITDA give effect to $2.1 million of stock option compensation expense resulting from the adoption on January 1, 2006 of Financial Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 123® ("FAS 123®"), which requires the recognition of compensation expense in an amount equal to the fair value of share-based payments (e.g., stock options) granted to employees. 2005 operating income and EBITDA do not include this expense.

* Adjusted to exclude the loss on early retirement of our senior subordinated notes described below, first quarter consolidated net income was $19.7 million (adjusted net income is a non-GAAP financial measure that is reconciled to reported net income below), an increase of $0.5 million, or 2.4%, compared to the first quarter of 2005. Consolidated reported net income for the quarter ended March 31, 2006 was adversely impacted by a one-time $17.1 million after-tax loss on early retirement of all $380.0 million aggregate principal amount of our 10.75% senior subordinated notes due 2009, which we redeemed on February 15, 2006 using borrowings under our $800.0 million revolving loan facility. The revolving loan facility bears interest at variable rates that are currently substantially lower than the 10.75% fixed rate on the senior subordinated notes, and we expect that the redemption will result in significant savings in future interest expense. The redemption of the senior subordinated notes resulted in $1.3 million in after-tax savings on interest expense during the first quarter of 2006.

* Adjusted to exclude the loss on early retirement of our senior subordinated notes, first quarter diluted earnings per share were $0.35 (adjusted diluted earnings per share is a non-GAAP financial measure that is reconciled to reported diluted earnings per share below), compared to $0.34 for the first quarter of 2005. The adoption of FAS 123® negatively impacted diluted earnings per share in the first quarter of 2006 by $0.02. Analysts' latest consensus estimate for the first quarter of 2006, as reported by Thomson First Call, was $0.37, before the impact of the loss on early retirement of the senior subordinated notes, which adversely impacted reported diluted earnings per share by $0.30. Our reported diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2006 were $0.05. Our previously issued earnings guidance for the first quarter of 2006 indicated a range of diluted earnings per share, on a GAAP basis, of $0.08 to $0.10. All share and per-share information in this press release has been adjusted as necessary to give effect to our 2-for-1 stock split effective June 6, 2005.

* On April 1, 2006, we rebranded our newly renovated and expanded casino in Black Hawk, Colorado. Ameristar Black Hawk, formerly known as Mountain High Casino, now features an expanded parking garage with 1,550 parking spaces, refurbished and rebranded dining venues, additional gaming space, 1,600 slot machines and an upscale Star Club for our top players. Additionally, we announced the details of the 33-story, 536- room Four Diamond-quality hotel that we plan to begin constructing this quarter.

* We were the leader in market share (based on gross gaming revenues) for the first quarter of 2006 in all our markets, with the exception of our Black Hawk property, which was undergoing the renovation and expansion project throughout the first quarter.

* On February 15, 2006, our Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.09375 per share, which was paid to stockholders of record as of March 1, 2006. This amount represents a 20% increase in the dividend rate over 2005.

Craig H. Neilsen, Chairman and CEO, stated: "In the first quarter of 2006, we completed the initial phase of our expansion activity at our Black Hawk property. We nearly doubled the parking garage's capacity, the first and second floor gaming areas and non-gaming venues have been remodeled and we have added a second floor casino area that now features 650 slot machines. On April 1, 2006, we rebranded the property as Ameristar Black Hawk, and the increase in business volumes we have experienced since the rebranding indicates that we are on the way for the property to gain a solid presence in the greater Denver market similar to our achievements in our other markets.

"We faced a number of competitive challenges in the first quarter of 2006 that adversely impacted our financial results. The heightened competition in our Missouri markets resulted in increased promotional spending and lower operating margins. In response to the ongoing competitive pressures, we are currently implementing several cost-containment initiatives that we believe will effectively modify our cost structure and create operating efficiencies with the goal of maintaining our leadership in operating margin and market share in these jurisdictions. Our proven business model has historically resulted in high operating margins and market share leadership, and with the help of these initiatives and our previously announced capital improvement projects, we believe we will be able to achieve similar results.

"In Council Bluffs, the competitive pressure from the recently completed expansion and rebranding of our land-based competitor has also resulted in declines in operating margin and market share. Although we are slightly above the market share level we had prior to the competitor's construction disruption, we do not anticipate achieving market share levels reached while construction was in progress. Once the market environment stabilizes, we will complete a thorough evaluation of our cost structure in Council Bluffs along with an in-depth analysis of our marketing and advertising costs in order to maximize operating margin and market share.

"In Vicksburg, our first quarter financial performance was significantly improved over the prior-year first quarter due to the increased business volumes following Hurricane Katrina. However, we are seeing a quicker than expected lessening of these increased business volumes as gaming capacity continues to be restored on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

As for external development, we continue to seriously consider new jurisdictions, acquisitions and other opportunities to broaden our earnings base and diversify the geographic profile of our Company. Our ongoing commitment to internal and external expansion provides us the opportunity to continue to build shareholder value."

Financial Results

Net Revenues

Consolidated net revenues for the first quarter of 2006 were $256.1 million, an increase of 6.7% compared to the first quarter of 2005. All of our properties improved in net revenues, with increases of 23.4% at Ameristar Vicksburg, 8.9% at the Jackpot Properties, 5.1% at Ameristar Kansas City, 3.9% at Ameristar Council Bluffs, 3.6% at Ameristar St. Charles and 1.1% at Ameristar Black Hawk. The improved financial performance of our Vicksburg property continues to be primarily attributable to the increase in business volume following the closure of the Gulf Coast casinos as a result of Hurricane Katrina. However, this increase in the property's business volume diminished significantly from the fourth quarter of 2005 following the reopening of three Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos in December 2005, and we expect it to diminish further as more Gulf Coast casinos reopen.

For the quarter, Ameristar Kansas City and Ameristar St. Charles increased market share by 0.9 and 0.1 percentage point to 36.7% and 31.7%, respectively, over the prior-year first quarter. Ameristar Council Bluffs and Ameristar Vicksburg continued their long-time market leadership positions, despite decreases of 0.5 and 0.2 percentage point to 42.1% and 45.6%, respectively, from the first quarter of 2005. Our Council Bluffs property's market share was adversely impacted by the completion in March 2006 of a major expansion and rebranding by a competing land-based casino. We anticipate the increased competition from the land-based casino will have an ongoing negative impact on our market share in Council Bluffs.

Consolidated casino revenues for the first quarter of 2006 increased $19.8 million over the 2005 first quarter, principally due to a $20.1 million (9.5%) increase in slot revenues. We believe the growth in slot revenues at all our properties has been driven by our continued slot product enhancements and our successful slot mix strategy. We further believe casino revenues increased in part as a result of the continued successful implementation of our targeted marketing programs, as evidenced by a 10.6% increase in rated play at our properties from the first quarter of 2005. For the quarter ended March 31, 2006, promotional allowances increased $10.0 million, or 22.9%, over the prior-year first quarter due in part to the rise in rated play and the increasingly competitive environment in our Missouri and Iowa markets.

Operating Income and EBITDA

In the first quarter of 2006, consolidated operating income decreased $2.6 million, or 5.7%, to $43.7 million compared to the first quarter of 2005. Consolidated operating income margin decreased 2.2 percentage points from the prior-year first quarter to 17.0%. Consolidated EBITDA decreased 1.3% to $66.2 million and the related margin decreased 2.0 percentage points to 25.9% compared to the first quarter of 2005. The decline in operating income, EBITDA and the related margins from the prior-year first quarter was mostly attributable to the increased competitive pressures experienced by our Missouri and Iowa properties and greater than expected construction disruption at Ameristar Black Hawk. The financial performance of these properties was somewhat offset by Ameristar Vicksburg's strong first quarter 2006 results, namely a 34.9% increase in operating income and a 27.7% increase in EBITDA.

Consolidated operating income and EBITDA were also affected by the stock option compensation expense we were required to recognize in the first quarter of 2006 as described above. Additionally, depreciation and amortization expense increased $1.8 million (8.4%) over the first quarter of 2005, primarily due to $0.8 million in depreciation expense from capital improvements placed in service over the last six months at Ameristar Black Hawk. The rate of growth in health benefit costs moderated significantly in the first quarter of 2006, as compared to the trend of the last several quarters. During the first quarter of 2006, Ameristar Vicksburg increased operating income $3.2 million over the first quarter of 2005, to $12.5 million. EBITDA improved by $3.4 million over the prior-year quarter. We expect the property's quarterly financial performance to be better than in 2005 through the third quarter. However, as previously mentioned, we anticipate the increase in the property's business volume to diminish further as the Gulf Coast casinos continue to reopen.

At Ameristar St. Charles, increased revenues and a reduction in workers' compensation expense were mostly offset by increased costs associated with marketing and promotional activities. As a result, operating income and EBITDA were relatively flat compared to the prior-year first quarter. Ameristar St. Charles' 2006 first quarter operating income and EBITDA margins decreased by 1.1 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively, from the first quarter of 2005.

Ameristar Kansas City's 2006 first quarter operating income decreased $1.5 million, or 10.7%, and EBITDA decreased $1.2 million, or 6.0%, compared to the corresponding prior-year period. The related operating income and EBITDA margins declined 3.5 and 3.3 percentage points, respectively, over the first quarter of 2005, due in part to increased marketing, advertising and entertainment costs.

First quarter operating income at Ameristar Council Bluffs declined by $0.6 million, or 4.1%, and EBITDA declined by $0.3 million, or 1.6%, compared to the prior-year first quarter. The property also experienced decreases in its operating income margin and EBITDA margin of 2.2 and 1.8 percentage points, respectively. As previously noted, this property's first quarter financial performance was adversely impacted by the completion of the competing land-based casino's rebranding and expansion.

For the quarter ended March 31, 2006, our Black Hawk property's operating income decreased $2.5 million, or 109.6%, and EBITDA decreased $1.7 million, or 46.1%, compared to the prior-year first quarter. Significant construction disruption due to the recently completed casino expansion project materially affected this property's operating results during the first quarter. During the quarter ended March 31, 2006, our Black Hawk property also incurred $0.4 million in costs related to its rebranding as Ameristar Black Hawk that occurred on April 1, 2006. The rebranding costs are non-recurring in nature and are expected to total approximately $1.7 million over the first and second quarters of 2006.

During the first quarter of 2006, corporate expense increased $1.3 million, or 10.6%, compared to the first three months of 2005. The increase resulted primarily from the recognition in the 2006 period of $1.4 million of stock option compensation expense at the corporate level related to the adoption of FAS 123® (the remaining $0.7 million of this expense was recognized at our various properties), which was partially offset by a reduction in development-related costs.

Net Income and Diluted Earnings Per Share

Reported net income decreased 86.4%, from $19.2 million in the first quarter of 2005 to $2.6 million for the first three months of 2006. Reported diluted earnings per share were $0.05 in the quarter ended March 31, 2006, compared to $0.34 in the corresponding prior-year quarter. The one-time charge relating to the loss on redemption of our senior subordinated notes adversely impacted reported diluted earnings per share by $0.30. Additionally, diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2006 were negatively impacted by $0.02 by the adoption of FAS 123®. Interest expense for the 2006 first quarter was $13.5 million, down $1.7 million from the first quarter of 2005. The decrease was due primarily to a reduced average interest rate resulting from the November 2005 refinancing of our senior secured credit facility and the February 2006 redemption of our senior subordinated notes with borrowings under the new credit facility at a substantially lower interest rate.

Our effective income tax rate increased from 36.9% for the quarter ended March 31, 2005 to 43.0% for the quarter ended March 31, 2006, due primarily to a change in our recorded tax reserves.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

Our financial position remains strong, with approximately $107.9 million of cash and cash equivalents and $369.6 million of available borrowing capacity under our $800.0 million revolving loan facility as of March 31, 2006. Upon satisfaction of certain conditions, we will also have the option to increase the total amount available under the credit facility by up to an additional $400.0 million. During the first quarter of 2006, our long-term debt increased by approximately $45.8 million, due primarily to $425.0 million in borrowings under our revolving loan facility, of which $420.9 million were used to redeem the senior subordinated notes at a redemption price of 105.375% of the principal amount plus $20.4 million in accrued and unpaid interest at the redemption date. Capital expenditures for the 2006 first quarter totaled $56.4 million. These expenditures were mostly funded with cash from operations and, to a lesser extent, with the proceeds of a senior term loan under our new credit facility that was drawn in the fourth quarter of 2005. Capital expenditures during the first quarter included $17.8 million for capital improvement projects at Ameristar Black Hawk, $13.6 million for the acquisition of slot machines, $12.1 million related to our expansion activities at Ameristar St. Charles described below and $8.9 million for the construction of a new parking garage at Ameristar Vicksburg. Capitalized interest for the quarter ended March 31, 2006 totaled $1.6 million.

Capital Projects

At Ameristar St. Charles, we have commenced the construction of a 400- room, all-suite hotel, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, a 7,000 square-foot full-service spa, 20,000 square feet of new meeting and conference facilities and an additional 2,000-space parking garage. The total cost of these projects is expected to be approximately $240 million, with the completion dates projected to be the second quarter of 2006 for the conference facilities, the fourth quarter of 2006 for the initial 1,400 spaces of the parking garage and the fourth quarter of 2007 for the hotel and the remainder of the garage. We believe these planned improvements will allow us to further enhance our competitive advantage in the St. Louis market, which should position us to extend our market share leadership. We expect minimal construction disruption to existing operations as these capital improvement projects are being completed.

At Ameristar Vicksburg, we have commenced the first phase of our master expansion plan with the construction of a new 1,100-space parking garage, which is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2007. In June 2006, we intend to commence an expansion of the casino vessel that will directly connect to the new parking garage. The expanded casino will allow for the addition of up to 800 slot machines. The expansion project will also include the addition of two new restaurants, a new Star Club for our VIP guests, a poker room, a retail shop and other amenities. This project is slated for a mid-year 2007 completion. The expected cost of our planned capital improvements at Ameristar Vicksburg is approximately $90 million. These improvements will help alleviate long-standing capacity constraints in parking and gaming positions, which we believe will allow us to increase our market dominance in Vicksburg. In addition to these internal capital expenditure projects, we will continue to explore opportunities in new jurisdictions and potential growth from acquisitions. We will continue to aggressively pursue external expansion opportunities in an attempt to further diversify our assets and increase shareholder value.

Outlook

Based on our preliminary results of operations in April 2006 and our outlook for the remainder of the quarter, we currently estimate operating income of $33 million to $35 million, EBITDA of $57 million to $59 million (given anticipated depreciation expense of $24 million), interest expense of $12 million and diluted earnings per share of $0.23 to $0.25 for the second quarter of 2006.

We are revising our financial guidance for the full year 2006. We currently estimate operating income of $154 million to $160 million (decreased from prior guidance of $166 million to $174 million), EBITDA of $248 million to $254 million (decreased from prior guidance of $263 million to $271 million) and diluted earnings per share of $0.86 to $0.92 (decreased from prior guidance of $0.98 to $1.06). We currently anticipate $94 million of depreciation expense, $49 million of interest expense and $9 million of stock option compensation expense for the full year 2006.

Our revised financial guidance for the full year 2006 primarily reflects quicker than expected lessening of increased business volumes at Ameristar Vicksburg (i.e., increases that resulted post-Hurricane Katrina) due to capacity being added at Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos faster than we originally anticipated and the higher-than-anticipated business levels at the reopened casinos. The declining business volumes at our Vicksburg property resulted in a reduction of our previously issued annual operating income and EBITDA guidance of $11 million, of which $4 million related to the first quarter of 2006 and $7 million relates to the remaining three quarters of 2006. To a lesser extent, our revised guidance reflects the increased competition in Council Bluffs due to the recent completion of our competitor's major expansion, the effect of which is somewhat greater than we originally expected.

The above estimates of operating income, EBITDA and diluted earnings per share give effect to the impact of FAS 123®, which we anticipate will result in additional after-tax expense of $1.3 million for the second quarter of 2006 and $5.7 million for the full year 2006 and adversely impact diluted earnings per share by $0.02 and $0.10 for the second quarter and full year 2006, respectively.

Gaming regulatory authorities in Colorado, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri currently publish, on a monthly basis, gross gaming revenue, market share and other financial information with respect to the gaming facilities, including Ameristar's, that operate within their respective jurisdictions. Because various factors in addition to our gross gaming revenue (including changes in operating costs, promotional allowances and other expenses) influence our operating income, EBITDA and diluted earnings per share, such reported information, as it relates to Ameristar, may not be indicative of the results of our operations for such periods or for future periods.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

$8.45 Million Jackpot Still Unclaimed

 

As reported by the Kennebec Journal: "State lottery officials are still waiting for someone to come forward and claim an $8.45 million Megabucks jackpot. "Employees of D&L Country Store in Oakland last Thursday celebrated the announcement that they had sold the winning ticket. Selling the winning ticket netted the convenience store owners a $30,000 selling prize, but no one has claimed the Megabucks jackpot, Maine State Lottery Director Dan Gwadosky said."

Wyoming Committee Authorizes Powerball Legislation

 

As reported by the Casper Star-Tribune: "In the latest push to make Wyoming a Powerball state, an interim legislative committee on Monday authorized legislation allowing Wyoming to join the multistate lottery. "Individual lawmakers have sponsored Powerball bills in past legislative sessions, but this marks the first time a committee will formally introduce a bill of its own. ".'The way I look at it, the lottery is something the majority of the people in this state want, and that's reason enough to pass the bill,' said Wayne Reese, D-Cheyenne, a member of the Joint Interim Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, which authorized the bill.

".Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently take part in Powerball. The largest-ever jackpot was $365 million won by eight co-workers at a Lincoln, Neb., ham processing plant in February.

".The committee plans to introduce the bill when the Legislature meets in January."

Wyoming Committee Authorizes Powerball Legislation

 

As reported by the Casper Star-Tribune: "In the latest push to make Wyoming a Powerball state, an interim legislative committee on Monday authorized legislation allowing Wyoming to join the multistate lottery. "Individual lawmakers have sponsored Powerball bills in past legislative sessions, but this marks the first time a committee will formally introduce a bill of its own. ".'The way I look at it, the lottery is something the majority of the people in this state want, and that's reason enough to pass the bill,' said Wayne Reese, D-Cheyenne, a member of the Joint Interim Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, which authorized the bill.

".Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently take part in Powerball. The largest-ever jackpot was $365 million won by eight co-workers at a Lincoln, Neb., ham processing plant in February.

".The committee plans to introduce the bill when the Legislature meets in January."

Sportsbook.com Offers Kentucky Derby Odds

 

When the gates open at Churchill Downs it will be Brother Derek that is favored to charge to the finish line according to odds makers at sportsbook.com, the world's largest online sportsbook and casino. But Brother Derek will have an admirable challenger in Lawyer Ron, listed at 9-2. The three year old colt is on a winning streak leading up to the Tournament of Roses, taking the top prize at six races beginning with Allowance at Louisiana Downs and most recently, the Arkansas Derby. Brother Derek's mount Alex Solis will be looking to prove odds makers right, having placed second at the Derby three out of his four years as a jockey at the premier race.

"Whether you're a fan of horse racing or not, the Kentucky Derby is the one horse race that everybody bets on," said Alex Czajkowski, Marketing Director, Sportsbook.com.

Sportsbook.com has posted odds on whether the eventual Kentucky Derby winner will go on to take the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes. The steep odds against seeing Triple Crown winner are in response to the 27 year drought since the last time the feat was accomplished, when Affirmed ran to victory in 1978.

Sportsbook.com is also offering odds of whether the winning saddle cloth number will be odd or even, both listed at -115.

Scientific Games Results Up

 

Scientific Games today reported first quarter 2006 revenues of $208.1 million, up 13 percent from $184.6 million in the first quarter of 2005. Net income was $22.4 million or $0.24 per diluted share, net of $6.4 million of stock compensation expense and other unusual charges, up 6 percent from $21.0 million and $0.23 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2005. Non-GAAP adjusted net income before stock compensation expense and unusual charges was $26.9 million or $0.29 per diluted share, up 28 percent from the first quarter of 2005. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- see the following EBITDA definition and reconciliation) for the first quarter of 2006 was $56.2 million, up 10 percent from the first quarter of 2005. Excluding the stock compensation expense and unusual charges, adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter of 2005 was $62.4 million, or approximately 22 percent ahead of $51.3 million for the first quarter of 2005.

This is the first quarter in which Scientific Games has reported through its three new reporting segments: Printed Products, Lottery Systems and Diversified Gaming, noted Lorne Weil, Chairman and CEO of Scientific Games. "We changed our reporting segments to reflect the way we currently manage our business," he said. The Printed Products Group includes instant tickets and related services, licensed brand games and prepaid telephone cards; the Lottery Systems Group includes lottery systems and technology for, and the operation of online lotteries; and the Diversified Gaming Group includes pari- mutuel operations, off-track wagering, sports betting and other non-lottery gaming initiatives. The Diversified Gaming Group will also include the Global Draw business beginning in the second quarter of 2006.

"Revenue growth in the Lottery Systems Group was particularly strong in the first quarter. Year-over-year growth in service revenue and service gross profit were 32 percent and 31 percent respectively, with about half of the revenue growth coming from new contracts and half from growth in 'same store sales'," said Weil. Revenue and profitability levels of the three newest contracts -- Colorado, Catalunya and Oklahoma -- improved relative to the fourth quarter of last year, but were still below average and below target.

"We also continue to see strong demand for our instant lottery tickets and services, particularly our licensed brands and cooperative services. International instant ticket growth continues to be driven by Italy, where the market is now at an annual rate of over three billion euros of retail sales. Overall, Printed Products Group service revenues were up 12 percent in the quarter; with new contracts ramping up, new orders for Major League Baseball instant tickets, and expanded capacity in our UK printing facility, we expect instant ticket sales to accelerate in the coming quarters."

While revenue in the Diversified Gaming Group was essentially flat year- over-year, EBITDA increased by 5.4 percent from $7.0 million in 2005 to $7.4 million in 2006, largely as a function of cost reduction initiatives that began in the second half of 2005.

Added Weil, "We made good progress during the quarter regarding SG&A." Excluding severance charges of $0.9 million, business unit SG&A declined from $21.0 million, or 11.4 percent of revenues in 2005, to $20.3 million, or 9.7 percent of revenues in 2006. Similarly, excluding the $4.5 million of stock compensation expense and the SERP expense, unallocated corporate expense declined from $7.0 million, or 3.8 percent of revenues in 2005 to $6.6 million, or 3.2 percent of revenues in 2006, notwithstanding the addition of significant corporate personnel expense as reported last quarter.

In addition to the non-cash stock compensation expense mentioned above, pre-tax unusual charges included:

* Severance costs paid in conjunction with a reduction in force of $1.3 million.

* A CPI (Consumer Price Index) adjustment of $0.3 million on the SERP termination charge taken in the fourth quarter of 2005.

* Interest expense paid on the EssNet acquisition before closing of $0.3 million.

Business development was strong in the quarter, highlighted by the award of the instant ticket contract for the New York Lottery, the largest lottery in the United States, and the completion of the EssNet purchase. Shortly after the close of the quarter, we completed the acquisition of Global Draw. Equally important was the continued stream of contract renewals, including the Washington State, West Virginia, and Illinois lotteries, and the Mohegan Sun racebook facilities management contract, one of the most profitable in the Diversified Gaming Group.

At the end of the quarter, just before Opening Day, Scientific Games completed a licensing deal with Major League Baseball that will include team- oriented games and prizes. A Red Sox themed game for the Massachusetts Lottery had an extremely strong launch early in the second quarter, to be followed shortly by a "Subways Series" game featuring the Yankees and Mets for the New York Lottery. The Company was also named the apparent successful vendor for new instant ticket contracts to be the primary supplier to the New Hampshire Lottery and the secondary supplier to the Maryland Lottery. Both lotteries had not previously been an instant ticket customer of Scientific Games.

Sportsbook.com Posts NHL Semi-Final Odds

 

Sportsbook.com, the world's largest online sportsbook and casino, has posted odds on the NHL's Eastern Conference semi-final match-ups. The Ottawa Senators are big -280 favorites against the upstart Buffalo Sabres while the red hot New Jersey Devils come into their series with the Carolina Hurricanes as -175 favorites, despite being the lower seed. Ottawa and Carolina battled for supremacy in the Eastern Conference all season long, but while Ottawa easily dispatched of the defending champions, Tampa Bay, in five games, Carolina looked less than convincing in their come from behind six game victory over the Montreal Canadiens. New Jersey on the other hand comes into the second round riding a 15 game winning streak, including a sweep of the New York Rangers, who they outscored by a 17-4 margin. Riding the red hot scoring of Patrik Elias, who leads all players with 11 playoff points in only four games of action, and the best playoff goalie of the last generation, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey seem the logical choice as favorite.

"The NHL playoffs have been as exciting as always so far and there are some amazing match-ups in the second round," says Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com. "Everybody bets on the playoffs and while Ottawa and New Jersey are favored, both series have the potential to go down to the seventh game, and then it's anybody's guess."

New Jersey and Ottawa are co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup at 3-1. Ottawa's odds have not changed since the beginning of the post-season, but the Devils have improved from 10-1. The other big movers after the first round are the San Jose Sharks who jumped from odds of 14-1 to 4-1, and the Edmonton Oilers, a 40-1 longshot before upsetting the Detroit Red Wings who know sit 15-1. San Jose has now become the favorite to win the Western Conference at 3-2, followed by Calgary at 3-1, assuming the Flames win tonight's deciding game against Anaheim.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wisconsin Bill Threatens Beloit Casino Plans

 

As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal: "A bill in front of the State Senate could jeopardize a plan to put a casino in Beloit. The bill would put off-reservation gaming compacts in front of Senate and Assembly members for approval. Right now, the Governor alone has the authority to approve those casinos. "For the last seven years, two tribes have been working together to build a casino in Beloit. The city passed a referendum back in 2000, in favor of it.

"The project spokesman, Joe Hunt, says the new casino would create 3,000 jobs in Beloit and help the Bad River Band of Lake Superior and Saint Croix Chippewa tribes."

Texas Legislators Consider Casinos Next January

 

As reported by the Midland-Reporter Telegram: "Ushering in casino gambling to help finance public schools will not be considered during the Texas Legislature's current special session on education reform, but it will be debated when lawmakers convene for their regular biennial session next January, legislators say. "With the city of Stanton in particular wanting a casino or greyhound racing track, the issue remains in play in the Permian Basin with the horse racing track and casino in nearby Hobbs, N.M., attracting a multitude of area citizens.

"A Stanton city official and the Austin lobbyist promoting Stanton's interests say legislators will be asked simply to put a proposed 'local option' constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot and let cities decide if they want casinos.

".Lobbyist Robert Cox, a Stanton native, said a bill like the one Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston introduced last year can be expected at the session's outset. Ellis proposed allowing the creation of up to 24 Las Vegas-style casinos including two in West Texas, five each in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, two in San Antonio and two on American Indian reservations."

Atronic Launches Lady Orleans Series

 

Atronic invites customers to visit booth #507 at the upcoming Southern Gaming Summit in Tunica, Mississippi May 4th - 5th. Atronic will launch the stunning new Lady Orleans(TM) series of games, featuring four unique themes, each with a distinctive design and character. The exceptional games combine a free games feature with Atronic's new Mystery Magic(TM) progressive link. Additionally, Atronic will donate a percentage of its Lady Orleans' sales to reconstruction efforts in the hurricane stricken south.

"Atronic is committed to the southern market and the donations from Lady Orleans are just one way we are actively working to facilitate relief in the area," said Ken Bossingham, VP of Sales and Marketing. "We look forward to the Southern Gaming Show as an opportunity to show our support for our customers in the Mississippi and Louisiana markets. As the rebuilding process continues, we are also pleased to be able to show a large variety of new products that are already approved for this market."

In addition to Lady Orleans, Atronic will feature the new Deal or No Deal(TM) series of games based on the hit TV show. The two Deal or No Deal themes both feature a thrilling bonus where players can select a suitcase and then play against the bank, just like in the popular TV show. Additionally, the games feature jackpots designed to hit frequently, guaranteeing lots of action.

Through an agreement with Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, Atronic's new Miami Vice(TM) slots bring the memorable television show to life in two new games, Miami Vice(TM) and True Identity(TM). One of the most visually stunning and stylized television shows of the 1980s, Miami Vice not only rocked our pre-conceived notions of just how far a police drama could go, but changed the face of television forever. The games feature the iconographic brand and unique, scatter triggered jackpots designed to hit frequently, and are being launched in Spring 2006. Additionally, Universal Pictures brings Miami Vice to the big screen in its motion picture debut scheduled for release on July 28, 2006.

The popular Cash Fever(TM) multi-level bonus link will be shown with new game themes and a new configuration designed for pennies. Atronic's successful eMillions(TM) Wide Area Progressive (WAP) will also be featured.

Additionally, Atronic will launch a library of games, many designed for the extremely popular penny denomination. The Super Play(TM) series features both paylines and scatter play modes and configurations up to 750 credits. The entertaining Super Wiener Dog(TM) and new "win two ways" game Mistress of the Egypt(TM) also feature player selectable, high bet configurations that are ideal for pennies. Atronic will show a many additional e-motion themes including the striking Mystery II and volatile Madame Sakura(TM).

Diamond I to Take WifiCasino GS to Jamaica

 

Diamond I, Inc., a developer of wireless gaming products, today announced that it has entered into a strategic alliance with Viking Productions, a Jamaica-based marketing and promotions firm, to bring Diamond I's WifiCasino GS to venues within the Jamaican hotel and tourism industries. Viking Productions is best known for its representation of the Jamaican Bobsled Team. A final agreement is expected to be completed by the middle of May 2006.

"We are extremely excited to have formed this business relationship with Viking," said David Loflin, Diamond I's CEO. "We believe our video gaming products, including our wireless, hand-held WifiCasino GS, will have great appeal on the Island," Mr. Loflin added.

Diamond I, Inc. is a development-stage company that develops wireless gaming products, including a hand-held Wi-Fi-based gaming system for on-premises use by casinos/resorts, known as "WifiCasino GS Concierge and Gaming System"T. The term "Wi-Fi" (wireless fidelity) refers to an industry standard for wireless equipment that meets published 802.11(x) standards. Wi-Fi equipment operates in unlicensed spectra, such as 2.4 and 5.8 Ghz.

With the passage of Nevada Law AB471, which authorizes the use of mobile communication devices for gaming in public areas in Nevada casinos, Diamond I seeks to secure a Las Vegas hotel/casino to serve as the demonstration site for its WifiCasino GS, in conjunction with its application for a gaming license in Nevada. To that end, in a letter of intent, The Palms Resort and Casino has agreed to continue to develop a working relationship relating to Diamond I's WifiCasino GS and, assuming Diamond I continues to meet certain standards, The Palms stated that it intends to pursue an opportunity with Diamond I. Diamond I continues to seek venues in which to establish its WifiCasino GS system, including other U.S. casinos and horse and dog racing facilities. Diamond I has had preliminary discussions with certain owners of cruise ships, certain owners of horse racing facilities in the United States and dog and horse racing facilities outside the United States.

Opposition Builds Against North Las Vegas Casino

 

A group of North Las Vegas residents hopes that a casino proposed for a 16,000-home master-planned community will crap out. Opposition is mounting to the casino planned at the northwest corner of the Las Vegas Beltway and Losee Road as part of a 2,675-acre development by the Olympia Group. Organizers have submitted petitions to the city with the names of about 2,000 residents opposed to the casino. Council members also have received numerous letters, e-mails and phone calls from residents. The North Las Vegas Council on Wednesday will consider a development agreement that, if approved, would enable Olympia to petition the City Council in the future to build a resort casino.

In its petition drive, residents warned that a casino could create traffic congestion, increase drunken driving, harm their quality of life and lower property values. Allowing it, opponents say, will open the door to other casinos along the beltway.

Petition-drive organizer Mike Mathis, a 28-year-old construction safety director, said recent Strip-area beatings highlight casinos' potential downside.

"You are going to see young drivers in the neighborhoods and partying all night," Mathis said. "I am not against casinos. I have lived here my whole life. I just don't want them in my neighborhood."

Station Casinos already plans to construct Aliante Station, about 3 1/2 miles from the proposed Olympia casino at the northeast corner of the beltway and Aliante Parkway. Station has partnered with the developer of Aliante, the American Nevada Company, which is owned by the Greenspun family, owners of the Las Vegas Sun.

"I think people feel we are getting too many casinos," said North Las Vegas resident Cherlynn Thomas, who lives about a mile from the master-planned community. "We don't want to be the Strip."

Although he has no proof, Olympia partner Guy Inzalaco suspects that gaming interests, not eager to see new competition, may be behind the opposition. A Station official said the company has not played a role in the petition drive.

Mathis, who said he is not working on behalf of any casinos, said he became involved when someone came to his door with a petition, and he agreed to help with the campaign.

"Everyone who signed that petition is a resident (who) doesn't want gaming in their neighborhood," he said.

Inzalaco, who said his group hopes to win over residents when it gets a chance to explain its plan, noted that the development agreement does not guarantee a casino, only the right to petition for one. Olympia still would have to seek state authorization before any final city vote.

Some council members already have expressed concerns about approving a casino, given the amount of casino-zoned property already in the community. The nearest gaming district is at Lamb Boulevard and Centennial Parkway. There also are gaming districts at Centennial Parkway and the Las Vegas Beltway and Ann Road and Interstate 15.

"I will be hard-pressed to allow more gaming," Councilman Robert Eliason said. "And I still have issues with the density."

Olympia paid a record $638 million for the 2,675 acres of federal land in an auction last November. In addition to 16,040 homes, Olympia proposes 28 acres of neighborhood commercial development and 113 acres of regional commercial development, including the resort casino. About 118 acres would offer a mix of commercial and residential uses.

Beyond opposing the proposed casino, some civic leaders also have questioned its density of six homes per acre - nearly double the density of Aliante's planned 6,500 homes on 1,905 acres.

"The flagship was Aliante and I want to see an upgrade," North Las Vegas Planning Commissioner Angelo Carvalho said. "I don't think it is an upgrade. They are bringing in high density."

City officials estimate that 16,000 housing units would increase North Las Vegas' population by 40,000 to 50,000 people. Some residents worry that North Las Vegas lacks the roads to handle the resulting higher traffic volume.

Planning Commissioner Dean Leavitt said he would like to see Olympia scale back its project by at least 2,000 homes.

Some residents such as Steve Lauber, a member of a strategic planning committee, said North Las Vegas does not need another massive master-planned community without having jobs to go with it. A focus of the development, he said, should be to create business parks so residents can work close to where they live.

"If we are going to be a major city, it is time we start acting like one and not a bedroom community of Las Vegas," Lauber said.

Under the development agreement, Olympia would be required to donate land for a fire station, five elementary schools and a middle school, and for 130 acres of parks and trails.

The company also would have to build and partially equip a fire station and to construct a police command station and library for the development, which will be adjacent to a 300-acre conservation area set aside by the Bureau of Land Management.

Aristocrat Leisure Growth Compensates for Japanese Loss

 

As reported by the Australian Financial Review: "Poker machine maker Aristocrat Leisure expects its first-half result to be broadly in line with the previous corresponding period, despite difficult trading conditions in Japan. "Aristocrat said strong growth in its non-Japanese business was expected to compensate for an approximate $30 million fall in pre-tax profit from its Japanese business in the first half. "The shortfall, reflecting the transitioning to new industry regulations which had caused short term uncertainties in the market, affected all competitors, Aristocrat said on Tuesday.

".Aristocrat chief executive and managing director Paul Oneile said that while the current situation in the Japanese market was disappointing, the remainder of the business was likely to post 20 to 25 per cent growth in segment profit in the first half which compensated for the Japanese profit shortfall."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Poll: Support for Ohio Slots is Fading

 

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Half of Ohioans say they don't like either of two proposals to set up slot machines here, meaning slots backers face a costly, difficult battle to turn the tide. "A Plain Dealer poll shows that only four in 10 respondents favored the two proposals to open slots parlors in Ohio. Half were against, with the rest undecided. "The poll of 625 registered voters was done this week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"The results show that the state's slots supporters need to unify their dueling campaigns and focus their resources for an uphill fight, observers and gambling proponents say."

Jeff Simpson: A Deal with MGM Mirage and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Might be Coming to a Casino Near You

 

Initial discussion about the new partnership between Strip titan MGM Mirage and the tribe that owns and operates the world's biggest casino has focused on the deal to build a $700 million MGM Grand-branded casino next to the tribe's Foxwoods resort. While the plans to use an MGM Mirage brand on a casino owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation are big news, expect bigger developments closer to home.

Much closer.

MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni told me he thinks one likely spot for a joint venture is right here in Las Vegas, on the Strip, where MGM Mirage has a wealth of undeveloped and under-used land.

And a project could start sooner rather than later, he said.

The cash-rich tribe has been looking for ways to diversify its business off its Connecticut reservation. The tribe has already applied for a license to run a Pennsylvania slot parlor and announced plans to build a casino in Biloxi, Miss.

Lanni says the company's deal with the tribe should please investors, demonstrating MGM Mirage's intention to aggressively pursue prudent growth opportunities. After buying Mirage Resorts in 2000 and Mandalay Resort Group last year, along with its $7 billion CityCenter development south of Bellagio, its $1 billion-plus MGM Grand Macau and bid to build a multibillion-dollar resort in Singapore, no one should question MGM Mirage's commitment to growth.

...

Focus group guru Frank Luntz, in town to deliver the results of the survey he and pollster Peter Hart annually do for the American Gaming Association, says the sky is the limit for the city's resort business.

Luntz says research he does for the major casino resort operators - and he's worked for all of them - indicates that, as good as times are now for operators, they can get much better.

"There are no limitations; I see no danger signs," Luntz told me. "I see opportunities, particularly at the highest of the high end. I tell these guys (resort operators) to be aggressive. The potential of this place hasn't come close to being realized. It's about the feeling, the emotion, the experience - you can have a once-in-a-lifetime time here."

The new shows, the great restaurants and world-class hotels mean that visitors have to come here three times to see what they need to, he said.

"Las Vegas can legitimately say - and this is what separates it from anywhere else - 'Come see what you haven't seen before.' "

...

MGM Mirage President Jim Murren is rightfully proud of his company's record of spending big money to keep its Strip resorts fresh. Major renovations of the MGM Grand, Treasure Island and the Mirage are some of the best examples, with new showrooms, restaurants and attractions luring bigger-spending guests.

Hotel rooms are redone every five years and carpeting is regularly replaced. "If we're not moving forward we're falling behind," Murren told me last week.

Expect major work to begin soon at the former Mandalay Resort properties, including Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus, Murren said.

...

Strip developer Steve Wynn and wife, Elaine, used the occasion of Friday's Encore ground-breaking ceremony to praise Wynn Las Vegas' 9,500 employees and promise them major professional opportunities as the company grows. Wynn said that resort construction would probably be taking place on the old Desert Inn site "as long as I live."

Wynn's big announcement about the $1.7 billion Encore, slated to open in December 2008, was that he plans a retractable glass roof that would cover the resort's pool and poolside nightclub and restaurant. Wynn's not worried about copycats. "They're always one hotel behind me," he said.

Irish Official Looks to End Gambling Clubs Growth

 

As reported by the (Irish) Sunday Business Post: "Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has vowed to bring the country's gambling clubs to their knees. For decades, Irish gambling clubs have operated in a legislative grey area because, unlike every other country in the EU, Ireland has no law specifically governing casinos. "Gambling is illegal in the state unless it is a game of chance, or partly a game of chance, under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act.

"However, so-called casinos have traditionally sidestepped the rules by setting themselves up as 'private members' clubs', which are not subject to the same rules as normal commercial entities.

"To gamble in a gambling club, all a customer needs to do is sign up as a member at the door. They can then gamble freely, as often as they want, so long as they show their membership credentials each time they enter the club. Membership is generally free.

".However, McDowell is intent on reining in the growth of gambling clubs.

".McDowell said he would soon ask for government approval to include the clampdown on casinos in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006.

"The new bill is to update the 1956 act which was introduced to govern the running of slot machines, amusement arcades and raffles."

Poker Gains Fans on College Campuses

 

As reported by the Billings Gazette: "Poker players are becoming the 21st-century version of campus jocks, said Montana State University-Billings sophomore Dustin Swensgard. ".More than half of male college students interviewed last summer in a national survey had gambled on card games at least once a month, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. More than 15 percent of male college students across the country gambled in card games in an average week. "The survey found that a little fewer than 2 percent of female college students gambled on cards in a week, and more than 26 percent had played monthly.

"The most popular game at MSU-B, as on other campuses, is Texas Hold 'Em, a game that's easy to learn but remains challenging for players with more skill, said Shaun Johnson, a sophomore from Billings.

".Resident assistants organize poker nights where no money is bet. Students also play in their own, informal games, said Nick Cordingly, area coordinator for Anderson and Widenhouse halls.

".The University of Montana also has a no-gambling policy in campus dorms.

".Several students say there's a strong link between poker and athletics. Some say that poker has gone beyond being a card game and now is thought of as a sport."

Casinos Recommended for Israel

 

As reported by Globes: "Recognition of tourism as a priority industry, a target of 11 million tourists in 2011, a casino in Eilat and later in Mizpe Ramon and at the Dead Sea, and more designated carriers, are among the recommendations of the national task force headed by Dan Hotels chairman Michael Federman that examined ways of boosting the number of tourists visiting Israel. "The ministers of finance and tourism should appoint a team to present recommendations by June on government involvement in the tourism industry, the task force's report says.

"The task force recommends investing in the promotion of internal tourism, and the development of cultural and leisure facilities."

Family's Joy as Tourist Found Safe

 

As reported by the (British) Daily Express: "The family of a British tourist missing for more than a week in Australia are celebrating the news she had been found safe and well. "Frances Embleton, 24, walked into a police station in Sydney following an extensive appeal to trace her. "She disappeared just hours before she was due to attend her own farewell party ahead of returning to England. "There were reports Miss Embleton, who was at the end of a year-long working holiday in Australia, had lost all her money gambling in a casino..."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Workers Unsure About Protest

 

A day after local labor leaders and casino executives said workers could do more for immigration reform by going to work, rumors were circulating that any workers staying away would be fired. Whether gaming and hospitality employees will stay away from their jobs to participate in the planned Day Without Immigrants protest was anyone's guess. "Fifty-fifty," replied the Hispanic employee, who declined to give his name. "Some say they're coming in, and others say they'll stay away." Added another Hispanic Wynn kitchen worker, "People talk a lot, and they say a lot of stuff. We'll see if they stay away."

A day after Culinary Local 226 and Nevada's largest unionized casino operators publicly encouraged immigrant workers to reject the one-day boycott, the issue was still up for debate. The national boycott is designed to draw attention to the role immigrants play in the U.S. economy.

Instead of staying away from their jobs, employees were asked by the Culinary and corporate gaming executives to come to work and sign copies of a large petition placed in employee dining areas inside unionized casinos along the Strip, downtown and at properties that cater to local customers.

The petition calls on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Also on Monday, the union will sponsor a rally at 6 p.m. at the Fremont Street Experience that will recognize the contributions immigrants have made to the gaming industry.

Culinary Local 226 leaders were out in force Thursday in Strip and downtown casinos, handing out fliers to casino employees written in English and Spanish that asked them not to participate in Monday's protest.

According to the flier, "Calls for immigrants to stay home from work and school on May 1 are irresponsible. Our Union, and other community leaders do not support these statements."

Casino executives fear thousands of Hispanic workers could take part in the planned protest, which could cripple the Strip hospitality industry. Hispanic workers account for some 40 percent of the 60,000-member Culinary union.

Hispanic workers on the Strip who were interviewed Thursday generally said they would be at work on Monday unless it was their scheduled day off.

A janitor sweeping floors inside Circus Circus said union officials told her and other members to go to work Monday, but to refrain from buying food or gasoline that day to show immigrants' economic impact. She said she believes "everybody will come to work."

The worker added that management at the MGM Mirage-owned Circus Circus had not expressed specific policies concerning employees who fail to show up for work on Monday.

She will be unable to attend the Monday rally on Fremont Street because she is slated to work at 6 p.m., but she said she believes the Culinary's approach, with an after-hours demonstration downtown replacing a work stoppage, is the right one.

"It's good that people are helping other people," she said. "Why not help other immigrants? Other people are coming here for hard work and to make a little more money. They are working for their families."

A housekeeper cleaning rooms inside Circus Circus expressed similar sentiments.

She said she understood that management at the hotel would fire staffers who posted unexcused absences on Monday, so she will be on-site then. But she'll also attend the union event after she gets off work. Most of her co-workers also plan to come to the rally, she said.

"I think (the union's plan) is a good way to handle (it)," she said. "You have to work anyway. You need the money. Most people will come to work."

Another housekeeper at Circus Circus kept the union's May 1 flier folded up in his shirt pocket, and referred to it when asked to describe communications he had received about Monday's activities.

"We'll be at work. I doubt we will stay at home," he said.

He added that Circus Circus managers told him and other workers they would lose their jobs if they didn't show up for their appointed shifts.

However, the housekeeper said he wasn't sure he would attend the downtown rally, because he has "a lot of things to do."

Like other Circus Circus employees, he said the Culinary's ideas for drawing attention to immigration reform were an improvement on a workplace walkout.

"This way, we don't lose our jobs," he said.

He added: "We are not more powerful if we don't come to work. There are different ways to do it. They say we don't have to buy food. I already have had my shopping day because they say some of the stores will be closed Monday."

At Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Stardust, every worker interviewed stated that hotel management had said nothing about whether they would lose their jobs if they were absent from work on Monday.

One housekeeper said union officials called her at home and told her to go to work on Monday. She said that she would "maybe" avoid buying food and other retail items, and that she would attend the organized demonstration on Fremont Street. She said she wasn't sure about her co-workers' plans.

"Some say they are coming to work and some say they are not," she said.

A second housekeeper at the Stardust also said she was under orders from the Culinary to show up for work on Monday. She's not sure she will make it downtown for the protest, and she does intend to buy food that day. But she'll also sign the petition the union will circulate calling for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

If union-represented employees do stay away from their casino jobs Monday, they will be dealt with according to absence policies that each company has negotiated with the Culinary, said several casino spokesmen.

"It would be handled as a case by case situation," said Boyd Gaming spokesman Rob Stillwell. "We're not going to assume that someone is participating in the protest if they miss work. These matters would fall under the guidelines of our human resources department."

Stillwell said workers who don't show up for work without prior notice would be held to the company policy as if it were any other day.

"We're not anticipating any major problems because of what we've set up for the workers with the union," Stillwell said.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said unexcused absences would be handled accordingly.

"They will be subject to the normal disciplinary policies of their property," Feldman said. "This could include suspension or termination."

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal participated in Wednesday's news conference with the Culinary.

He said the message has been sent to employees they are expected to be at their shifts on Monday. However, the casino was making contingency plans in case there is a large amount of absenteeism.

Several Wynn employees interviewed Thursday said the word had been passed down through management that any workers staying away would be terminated.

"That's kind of been the word. Show up or be fired," said one Wynn housekeeping employee.

A Wynn Resorts spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Station Casino Offers Options to Workers

 

Nonunion Station Casinos isn't encouraging its immigrant employees to come to work if they want to stay home and support Monday's Day Without Immigrants protest. But there will be activities at all company casinos for workers who do decide to stay on the job. Station Casinos' 14,000-person work force is about 35 percent immigrants, corporate Vice President of Human Resources Valerie Murzl said. The company, in writing last week, encouraged workers who didn't want to come to work Monday to apply for a one-day leave. She said "a couple of hundred people" are taking the day off.

For those who work Monday, Station Casinos is handing out white T-shirts that have a printed message in support of immigration reform.

In addition, 50,000 postcards, pre-addressed to members of Nevada's congressional delegation, will be available for employees to sign.

Station Casinos will mail the postcards to Nevada's U.S. senators and representatives.

The postcards state that the signer opposes federal legislation that makes an illegal immigrant a felon, makes it a crime to assist an illegal immigrant, or makes it impossible for an illegal immigrant to become a U.S. citizen.

The postcards support federal immigration legislation that protects the borders of the United States, provides for a guest worker program and identifies a path to citizenship for immigrants.

"I think we're doing something (that) allows all our team members to be involved," Murzl said

Nonunion Station Casinos isn't encouraging its immigrant employees to come to work if they want to stay home and support Monday's Day Without Immigrants protest. But there will be activities at all company casinos for workers who do decide to stay on the job.

Station Casinos' 14,000-person work force is about 35 percent immigrants, corporate Vice President of Human Resources Valerie Murzl said. The company, in writing last week, encouraged workers who didn't want to come to work Monday to apply for a one-day leave. She said "a couple of hundred people" are taking the day off.

For those who work Monday, Station Casinos is handing out white T-shirts that have a printed message in support of immigration reform.

In addition, 50,000 postcards, pre-addressed to members of Nevada's congressional delegation, will be available for employees to sign.

Station Casinos will mail the postcards to Nevada's U.S. senators and representatives.

The postcards state that the signer opposes federal legislation that makes an illegal immigrant a felon, makes it a crime to assist an illegal immigrant, or makes it impossible for an illegal immigrant to become a U.S. citizen.

The postcards support federal immigration legislation that protects the borders of the United States, provides for a guest worker program and identifies a path to citizenship for immigrants.

"I think we're doing something (that) allows all our team members to be involved," Murzl said.

Lobby Group Calls for Online Gambling Study

 

The board of directors for the casino industry's top lobbying group agreed unanimously this week to call for a one-year study of Internet gambling by a federal commission. The action Wednesday by the American Gaming Association in Las Vegas is likely to hinder efforts in Congress to ban Internet gambling. Association President Frank Fahrenkopf said his organization remains neutral on legislation to prohibit online wagering.

But without the support of casinos, measures by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Jim Leach, R-Iowa; and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; to outlaw Internet gambling face an uphill struggle.

Fahrenkopf estimated there will be between $12 billion and $15 billion bet on the Internet this year, and 60 percent will come from U.S. citizens.

"Something has got to be done about this, and we need to know if technology exists that can protect young people, pathological gamblers and prevent money laundering," Fahrenkopf said. "We realize that a commission may conclude that Internet gambling still cannot be properly regulated."

The association's support for a study mirrors the position of the Internet gambling industry.

"The Internet gambling industry will be delighted AGA has called for an objective study because this will show (Internet gambling) can be regulated," said Joseph Kelly, a State University of New York, Buffalo business law professor who has authored regulations for online gambling sites in Antigua.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who has joined Kyl in trying to prohibit Web gambling, said he does not back a one-year study.

"We don't need another study to demonstrate what is already known to be fact. Instead, we need to enforce the laws already on the books that prohibit online gambling," Pryor said in a statement.

Kyl and Pryor are seeking to attach an Internet gambling ban as an amendment to legislation in the Senate.

Leach's bill, which would prevent the use of credit cards and checks to pay for online wagers, passed the House Financial Services Committee March 15 and may reach the floor by June.

"We never expected much support from AGA," said Gregory Wierzynski, chief of staff for Leach. "This issue has been debated in Congress for several years, and we certainly are not in favor of delaying the enactment of our bill."

The association's support for a study of Internet gambling echoes a 2003 bill by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. Co-sponsors of the Conyers bill included Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

Berkley said she may seek to re-introduce the bill calling for an Internet gambling study.

"It occurs to me that the congressmen who introduce anti-Internet gambling legislation are opposed to gaming, period," Berkley said.

Cannon said Congress is likelier to vote on the Goodlatte and Leach bills before considering a measure to study Internet gambling.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not oppose a study but he still does not believe Internet gambling can be effectively regulated, spokeswoman Sharyn Stein said.

A call to Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., was not returned.

Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., would support a study of Internet gambling, spokesman T. J. Crawford said.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., wants to review the association proposal, spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said.

Harrah's Focuses on Expansion

 

Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment said Thursday that with hotel-casinos that were once part of Caesars Entertainment now under its corporate banner, the company can turn its attention toward expanding its presence as a casino industry giant. Driven largely by contributions from the former Caesars properties and the integration of gamblers from those casinos into Harrah's customer loyalty program, Harrah's called its earnings for the first quarter of 2006 "record setting."

Company revenue for the three-month period that ended March 31 were $2.4 billion, a 93 percent increase from $1.2 billion a year ago. Same-store sales -- revenues earned by casinos that were part of Harrah's prior to the company's $9 billion buyout of Caesars last June -- grew more than 10 percent.

First-quarter net income was a company-record $182.4 million, a 76 percent increase from $103.8 million in 2005. That figure translated into an earnings per share of 98 cents in the quarter, up 9 percent from the 90 cents achieved a year ago.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had predicted Harrah's would earn 92 cents per share.

"We are one company and what the Caesars transaction did in general was give us a tremendous footprint to expand and grow," Harrah's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman said following a conference call with analysts and investors.

He said cost-savings from the merger with Caesars reached the company's projected target of $80 million by the end of the quarter, three months ahead of schedule. Loveman said the full-year cost savings from the Caesars deal should reach $110 million by the transaction's one-year anniversary and $180 million in the second year.

"(This is) very positive and something that should not be overlooked," said Bear Stearns gaming analyst Joe Greff.

In Las Vegas, Harrah's said its total revenue during the quarter was $825.7 million, $255.1 million from its original Harrah's properties (Harrah's Las Vegas and the Rio) and $570.6 million from acquired casinos (Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Bally's, Paris Las Vegas and the Imperial Palace).

Companywide, cashflow -- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- was $690.1 million, a more than 100 percent increase from $343.2 million last year.

Despite the loss of revenues from casinos damaged by Gulf Coast hurricanes last fall, Harrah's financial performance in the quarter grew as former Caesars customers became part of Harrah's Total Rewards customer-loyalty program.

"(The first quarter was) a period in which our Total Rewards customer-loyalty program was not yet fully integrated into all Caesars properties," Loveman said. "Now that it is operational at every domestic property, Total Rewards is expected to produce even more substantial gains in operating results, particularly in the second half of the year."

Greff said the product integration included bringing Harrah's management system into Caesars properties.

"We think these metrics bode well for future Caesars' performance," Greff said.

Harrah's shares closed at $79.95, up $1.68, or 2.15 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Loveman said the integration of the Caesars puts the company on a long-term development program.

While using the Caesars brand to grow internationally, Loveman said Harrah's also intends to expand its influence along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, rebuild its presence in hurricane-ravaged Biloxi, Miss., and develop a master plan for Las Vegas that includes more than 100 acres of undeveloped land around its seven Strip casinos.

"Over the past eight years, we have demonstrated our ability to drive customer visitation to multiple Harrah's properties across the wide range of markets we serve," Loveman said. "That ability will serve us well in the future as we execute the stages of our master development plan for Las Vegas."

Harrah's is looking at a wide range of expansion possibilities for its Las Vegas properties, including additional hotel rooms and a potential sports arena. Much of the development, Loveman said, will focus on an area surrounding the intersection of Flamingo Road and the Strip.

"We're conceptualizing what we want to do there because we have three corners (Bally's, Caesars Palace and the nearby Flamingo)," Loveman said. "Think of Times Square (in New York) and Piccadilly Circus (in London). No one has three corners there, We want to make that intersection a central place that transcends one hotel."

Harrah's is moving ahead with plans to put Caesars-themed casinos into Spain, Slovenia and the Bahamas. The company also is in the final stages of bidding to build an integrated resort in Singapore.

In Atlantic City, Harrah's will open the initial phase of a retail shopping complex at Caesars in June while planning a $550 million expansion at Harrah's. The company has more than 20 acres available for additional development.

Harrah's will also reopen a portion of the hurricane-shuttered Grand Casino in Biloxi this summer, while planning a larger facility to anchor the Gulf Coast gaming market.

Immediately after the earnings announcement, Harrah's announced it would spend $485 million to expand and renovate its Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., which serves nearby Chicago.

One gaming analyst questioned the move. Goldman Sachs gaming analyst Steve Kent thought the company would invest in stronger gaming markets. He thought the move might be done in answer to Boyd Gaming Corp., which recently spent $170 million to build a new casino boat in Bluechip, Mich., about 40 miles away.

"Last week when we visited the property, we were dismayed to see how negatively impacted the property would be for the next few years due to road construction," Kent said. "It may be good timing to start these renovations now considering this likely construction disruption but the amount of capital commitment seems very high."

Sportsbook.com Offers White House Odds

 

George W. Bush may be the worst president in American history. At least that's what some Washington talking heads are now saying. Bush has accepted resignations from two senior Administration officials in the past few weeks but many Republicans and Democrats believe that much more needs to be done in order to salvage his lame duck presidency. They have their sites set on Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, lightning rods for public criticism of the Bush White House and the War in Iraq. Odds on Cheney still being Vice President on December 31, 2006 currently sit at YES +400, NO -600, while odds on Rumsfeld being Defense Secretary on December 31st are YES +250, NO -400.

"Bush is gambling that by replacing two White House staffers he will be able to kick start what many view as the worst presidency and most incompetent White House in the nation's history," said Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com. "There is no evidence yet that his gamble is paying off, no reported improvement to his approval rating. So what Bush will do next is what makes betting on this prop very interesting!"

Chief of Staff Andy Card resigned on March 28, and Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced his departure on April 19. David Gergen, a White House advisor to four presidents wrote in the New York Times on the weekend that to rescue his presidency, Bush "has to want to change policies like those in Iraq, energy and taxes".

That kind of radical change would suggest that Bush has to consider the resignations of his very close confidants Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney if he is to have a chance at restoring some lustre to his presidency.

"Everyone loves to bet and wagering on whether Cheney and Rumsfeld will go for the good of their President is one way for Americans to let pundits know just how seriously they hold their views," added Czajkowski

Spectre Gaming Receives AWP Certification

 

Spectre Gaming, Inc. announced today that it has received certification, from an independent testing lab, that its AWP devices meet the widely used "Application of Skill" test. D. Bradly Olah, President of Spectre Gaming stated, "I congratulate our engineering team and our compliance staff in completing this critical certification for Spectre and its AWP games." Florida law allows amusement with prize (AWP) or redemption games to be distributed and played throughout the state as long as the games meet certain requirements and are operated in certain venues. A central requirement is that the game must be a game of skill, but the law does not define what skill is. A general guide used by many jurisdictions within Florida has been a test/process known generally as the New Jersey skill test.

To support the compliancy of Spectre's AWP games in Florida, Spectre voluntarily submitted its games to Nick Farley & Associates for evaluation and confirmation that its games had the requisite skill component. Based on the Farley laboratory's review, they recommended Spectre's game for certification for use in the state of New Jersey. Based on this opinion, Spectre further believes that its games will be deemed compliant in Florida.

Nick Farley & Associates is a full service regulatory compliance test laboratory and electronic gaming device consulting organization. Serving the regulated gaming, amusement and vending industries, its management has been testing electronic gaming equipment for all regulated jurisdictions since 1987. In addition to regulatory compliance testing, they also provide expert testimony regarding electronic gaming and amusement devices in numerous jurisdictions, including jurisdictions within Florida.

Mr. Olah went on to say, "With this recent certification, Spectre is now in position to deliver what it believes to be the only compliant system within the Florida marketplace. This market has historically been served by 'grey area' suppliers who have delivered games that are constantly being challenged by States Prosecutors and local Sheriffs who have no defined standard on the application of skill.

"With an estimated 20,000 devices already operating in Florida and a market that many believe will grow to over 100,000 games, Spectre is in a unique position to deliver the only compliant system ever placed in the Florida AWP marketplace. We look forward to delivering on our large backlog already established in the Florida marketplace."

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