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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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Megaresort Planned for Sands Site

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: "The buyer of the Sands Casino Hotel likely will tear down the existing casino to make way for a $1 billion megaresort that would take about three years to build, according to a gaming analyst. "Attorneys for the Sands' owner, billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn, have confirmed that negotiations are under way to sell the casino, but have not yet disclosed the names of potential buyers. "Gaming analyst George L. Smith III of Davenport & Co. said Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. appears to be the front-runner for the Sands. Pinnacle has been looking for other ways to enter the Atlantic City market after losing out in May to Columbia Sussex Corp. in a $2.75 billion bidding war for Aztar Corp., parent company of Tropicana Casino and Resort. ".Smith added that Pinnacle probably would demolish the aging Sands to build a new casino. Icahn's American Real Estate Partners investment group recently acquired oceanfront property next to the Sands that could be combined with the existing casino site for a $1 billion megaresort, Smith noted. ".Demolition of the Sands likely would put most of the casino's approximately 2,000 gaming and hotel employees out of work while construction continued for three years on the new resort."

A Duet of Lottery Luck

 

As reported by the Toronto Star: "It's not unusual to have people walk into the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation office and ask for millions - but rarely two at the same time. "Anne Gray and her husband Michael Psaki had alerted the lottery staff that they would be coming to the Dundas St. office to claim their $10.8 million prize at 11 a.m. yesterday. At the same moment, unexpectedly, Antonio Arrojado and his family walked into the office with a winning $9.1 million ticket. "'This is rare,' said Teresa Roncon, the senior manager of public relations at the lottery corporation. ".Gray, 46, and Psaki, 54, have known for more than two weeks they were millionaires. On Aug. 12, their ticket was one of four that split the $43 million Lotto 6/49 pot. "As for Arrojado, 'life is going to be a lot easier, he said. The winning number was drawn Aug. 19, but the construction worker didn't realize his Lotto 6/49 ticket was a winner until last Friday. He rushed in yesterday to collect his prize."

Bodog Wraps Filming for Series

 

Hungry to release its highly anticipated Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) reality series, BodogFight, digital entertainment powerhouse Bodog.com has wrapped filming in the jungles of Central America and the debut episode of the action-packed weekly series is scheduled to air September 12 on Men's Network, a Dish Network satellite channel, and online at Bodog.TV. In an onslaught of head-to-head bouts, Bodog.com's billionaire Founder, Calvin Ayre, has set the stage for the toughest fighters in the world to showcase their talents. In the eight-episode series, seven elite modern-day American warriors will earn the right to represent the United States. As part of "Team America", the seven fighters will square off against members of the Russian Red Devil Sports Club, which is known for its fierce roster that includes world heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. This USA vs. Russia grudge match will be broadcast live on pay-per-view in November and will include three Superfights. Viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at the secret training regimen of the elite Russian squad as well as the individual training programs and lifestyles of the American fighters all through the eyes of BodogFight's special agents - rock phenomenon Bif Naked in the United States and her beautiful Russian counterpart Natalia Vilakova. The sexy duo will be on a quest to find the toughest, most ruthless Mixed Martial Arts athletes the two countries have to offer. Plus, audiences are going to be treated to up close and personal experiences with fighters as they prepare to enter the ring, and spectacular training and interview footage shot in the lush Central American jungle and rustic Costa Rican cities - visuals that will leave no doubt BodogFight has set the new standard for reality TV. "As each episode of BodogFight airs, viewers are going to witness firsthand why we are emerging as a dominant force in mainstream digital entertainment," says Calvin Ayre, creator of a number of reality television series and Founder of Bodog.com Entertainment Group. "The footage capturing the lives, personalities and grueling training regimens of each athlete can only be described as raw and riveting. Bodog has captured the essence of Mixed Martial Arts as a sport and lifestyle for the world to see."

Elimination battles, behind-the-scenes training, interviews with fighters, and lifestyle segments will compose seven of the weekly one-hour "BodogFight" episodes, with the recap finale leading into the PPV main event. The three massive super fights and the spectacular USA vs. Russia event will be produced by the Mixed Fight Championship (MFC) and sponsored by BodogFight.

Aces.com Hosts Movie Premiere

 

Culminating a summer of special tournaments, prizes and parties, Aces.com will host a gala Movie Premiere Party in Hollywood October 7th to celebrate the release of ACES the Movie, the sexy new poker movie sponsored by the retro-Vegas-style online casino. Tournament and contest winners will win all-expense-paid trips to the party, and hundreds of L.A. area Aces.com players will be invited to join the director and cast at Vanguard Hollywood, one of the biggest dance clubs in Los Angeles. Organized by Hollywood party producer Alex Quinn, this Aces party is sure to be an A-list crowd. ACES the Movie, from Rolling Stones video director Daniel Zirilli, is the story of three sexy college girls that take a high tech cheating scheme to the underground card rooms of Las Vegas. It will be released on DVD by Warner Brothers October 3rd but new players registering at Aces.com will receive a free copy. In all, five lucky players will win an all-expense paid trip to the gala movie premiere. Two party prize packages were awarded to Wednesday Night Free Roll Tournament winners in July and another two will be awarded September 13th and 20th. The winner of the Three-Card Poker Tournament September 11 - 18 will also win airfare and accommodation to attend the event. "It's an incredible time for Aces.com - with the movie and the new re-designed site, we're really in the mood to celebrate!" said Rene Quesada Manager of the long-established site that recently underwent a total makeover. "We've had a lot of fun with the girls from the movie - hosting our online tournaments and making special appearances at the WSOP last month. It'll be great to have them all together again in Hollywood!"

Alex Quinn, son of Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn, is known for throwing exclusive invitation-only Hollywood parties.

"What Alex Quinn has done so far is beyond FAB," says Courtenay Semel, daughter of Yahoo CEO Terry Semel and Quinn's cohort on the E! reality show 'Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive'. "His parties are glam and chic, not to mention filled with hotness. They're only going to become more exclusive and the talk of the town. AQ Presents = tres sass to the millionth degree."

The cavernous 20,000 square foot Vanguard Hollywood is one of L.A.'s biggest, trendiest dance clubs - the most technologically advanced and sophisticatedly designed venue in the United States. One Hollywood party-scene blogger says it has a ".frightening mofo light and FX rig on ceiling! Massive sound system that will actually compress your brain with avalanches of bass!"

Sporting Index Joins Tribeca Tables

 

Tribeca Tables Europe Ltd, the leading providers of comprehensive ePoker solutions has announced that Sporting Index have joined the Tribeca Tables Poker Network, the world's largest aggregator of ePoker brands. Sporting Index, the world leaders of sports spread betting having captured approximately 70% of the UK market, have chosen the Tribeca platform ahead of other poker vendors due to Tribeca's long standing reputation and position in the poker industry. Tribeca represents the best choice of poker vendor going forward with their in-depth poker knowledge and expertise. Steve Cook from Tribeca Tables said, "We recognize Sporting Index's unique position in the spread betting market and many of their customers have a very close synergy with poker. Sporting Index will be able to take advantage of the lucrative poker market with their extensive customer base. Everyone at Tribeca is extremely pleased to welcome them onboard. They are a significant signing for us and we look forward to their launch around mid September". Warren Murphy, Sales & Marketing Director, from Sporting Index said, "Sports spread betting maximises people's interaction with sporting events and dominates all other forms of betting in the provision of "in-play or in-running" betting. The challenge, interactivity and excitement generated by Poker is a natural extension of our offer. Our partnership with Tribeca will solidify our reputation as World Leaders in the provision of highly involving betting and gaming content".

Sporting Index join many prestigious brands in the Tribeca network such as Paddy Power, Blue Square, Victor Chandler, Golden Palace, Doyles Room, G-Fed Games, Bowmans and USbets. Tribeca now boosts over 150 poker and lifestyle brands and they are now considered to offer one of the best poker room environments. Their impressive client portfolio speaks volumes for its growing reputation in the poker industry and Tribeca are one of very few choices left in the market as a poker vendor that do not own or promote any in-house brands.

The Tribeca poker network frequently has over 12,000 players online simultaneously and regularly updates the network with new features. Steve Cook added, "We are constantly adding new software functionality and games. We are very excited to announce that we will be releasing shortly a new game designed by Tribeca called "HoldemWarz". A wacky fixed odds shoot-out betting game for those that need an adrenalin rush! As well, we are releasing a series of casino side games; foreign language clients, a new custom avatar feature for players to upload their own pictures, graphics and text; a new play again STT feature; a seat rotation function and many more new enhancements. We are also completing our poker software integration with several other large brands and we will be releasing further details in due course."

Bond Star Gets the Gambling Bug After Casino Royale Role

 

As reported by the (UK) Express: "New James Bond actor Daniel Craig has added gambling to his range of 007-inspired skills. "The 38-year-old star, who had to learn how to drive a high-powered car and handle a gun convincingly for his Bond debut, revealed he has now become a card-sharp. "Craig was taught to play a plausible hand of poker during the filming of gambling scenes in the forthcoming 007 movie Casino Royale. "In one casino scene, Bond has to ruin the arch villain by bluffing him at the poker table. And Craig enjoyed learning how to play poker so much he has taken to the game in his spare time as well. "...British card player John Duthie, who has made £1.5million from poker, was asked to advise on the gambling scenes. He said Craig not only had to learn the game but also had to look convincing playing it..."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quechan Tribe Close to Gambling Agreement

 

As reported by the Yuma Sun: "After more than a year of feeling like the ball in a political pingpong game, the Quechan Tribe appears on the brink of securing a new gambling agreement. "The California State Assembly voted 50 to 1 last week to ratify a new compact with the Quechan Tribe that sets regulations under which the tribe can build and operate a new casino. The legislation is scheduled to go to the Senate floor today, where it could receive its final state approval. "After Senate approval, the compact must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior for final approval, which Felix Montague, chairman of the tribe's construction committee, said he expects to 'be a formality.' "Quechan Tribal President Mike Jackson Sr. said on Monday that he's been told by Senate leadership the bill likely will pass. "The tribe needs the new compact with the state of California to construct a proposed casino and resort off Interstate 8 at the Algodones exit."

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More Casinos for Mashantuckets-MGM Mirage Team

 

As reported by the Rhode Island Providence Journal: "A memorandum of understanding signed this spring by the Mashantucket Pequots and MGM Mirage, the publicly traded gaming colossus, lays out a plan for possibly more casinos in southeastern Connecticut, elsewhere in Indian Country, in Atlantic City or on the Las Vegas strip. "The Mashantuckets and MGM envision, in addition to the $700-million expansion already under way at Foxwoods, the potential for more new casinos on the Connecticut reservation using MGM brand names and other nongaming, destination-resort development along Route 2 in North Stonington. "The tribe announced its intention to partner with MGM in April. The memorandum, released by the state Division of Special Revenue in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Day, includes these provisions: "The Foxwoods expansion, scheduled to open in 2008, will get an MGM brand name, probably MGM Grand. The Mashantuckets will have access to additional MGM casino hotel brand names for future expansions.

".MGM and the Mashantuckets will establish a new entity, jointly owned, that could develop casino resorts all over the country, including the Las Vegas strip. A specific 14-acre site in Atlantic City now owned by MGM is one location mentioned as a possibility.

".The National Indian Gaming Commission, which is required to approve anything considered to be a management contract with an Indian tribe, is also reviewing the Mashantucket/MGM memorandum, a spokesman said."

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NIGC Changes Website

 

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) is undertaking changes to its website to address reliability and security issues. In addition, the NIGC has recently been the victim of website hackers. This incident has in no way compromised the content of NIGC's website or our networks and the Commission is moving swiftly to resolve this issue. The NIGC website was cosmetically defaced, which means the hackers inserted their materials in front of NIGC's homepage by breaching NIGC's current hosting company's security measures. With anticipation of continued increase in usage of the website, the Commission is in the process of relocating the website to another hosting company that possesses additional security against such attacks. This transition should be complete next week.

--- [This E-mail scanned for viruses by Tradebooster Anti-Virus]

Video Lottery Ballot Clarification Ordered

 

As reported by the Argus Leader: "Circuit Judge Max Gors ordered state officials Monday to add an explanation to November's ballot about the repeal of video lottery, putting the tax loss of $112 million into the context of the state budget. "Gors, in a 12-page order, said no one disputes that the loss of video lottery would cost the state $112 million. But he told Attorney General Larry Long, who wrote the ballot explanation, to add a phrase that points out the amount is 11 percent of the state's general fund. ".Long said his office is satisfied with that decision. ".Long is required to write brief explanations about the purpose and effect of each ballot measure. Supporters of the gambling repeal complained that Long's inclusion of the amount of money that could be lost, $112 million, was the equivalent of sticker shock without some context. "Ending the video lottery case and a challenge to another ballot explanation that is in the state Supreme Court will clear the way for ballots to be printed."

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Biloxi Struggles to Rebound

 

As reported by Reuters: "The clean-up is mostly complete and business is brisk at the beachfront casinos, but a year after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Biloxi is still struggling to get back on its feet. "...A year of uncertainty over new building codes and the anaemic local economy have prompted long-time residents to considering leaving the city, especially since government funds to help rebuild houses have only trickled in. "...Most of the pre-storm population of about 50,000 has returned, city officials aid, and the state government has recently begun distributing federal funds to rebuild homes. "...Mississippi loosened casino restrictions in the aftermath of Katrina, allowing more land-based facilities to help replace revenues lost when the storm ravaged the giant floating gambling barges that once dotted the coast. "Tax receipts from the casinos, which contributed more than a third of Biloxi's $50 million in annual revenues, have rebounded to pre-storm levels in recent weeks, and the city is hoping to more than double the number of gambling houses to 20 facilities in the next decade.

"More important are the 15,000 jobs the casinos generated before the storm. Nearly 10,000 of those jobs have returned, and the re-opening of the Beau Rivage scheduled for the August 29 anniversary of Katrina will add more than 1,000 to that..."

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Sheriff Proposes Casino Cameras Cover Las Vegas Strip

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "Clark County Sheriff Bill Young is pushing for the gambling industry to install and manage an expanded surveillance camera system on the Las Vegas Strip that could film robberies, fights and other crimes and alert police immediately. "'For a very reasonable investment, I think we can provide a much more secure net to encompass the entire tourist corridor,' Young told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Young estimated it would cost about $3 million to get the program involving about 120 surveillance cameras up and running, not including operational costs. "'The idea would be to expand on what they have now. None of the cameras would be on public property; they would all be on private property,' he said, adding, 'We'd all benefit from it.' "Several casino companies said they wanted more information on Young's proposal..."

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Quechan Tribe Close to Gambling Agreement

 

As reported by the Yuma Sun: "After more than a year of feeling like the ball in a political pingpong game, the Quechan Tribe appears on the brink of securing a new gambling agreement. "The California State Assembly voted 50 to 1 last week to ratify a new compact with the Quechan Tribe that sets regulations under which the tribe can build and operate a new casino. The legislation is scheduled to go to the Senate floor today, where it could receive its final state approval. "After Senate approval, the compact must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior for final approval, which Felix Montague, chairman of the tribe's construction committee, said he expects to 'be a formality.' "Quechan Tribal President Mike Jackson Sr. said on Monday that he's been told by Senate leadership the bill likely will pass. "The tribe needs the new compact with the state of California to construct a proposed casino and resort off Interstate 8 at the Algodones exit."

--- [This E-mail scanned for viruses by Tradebooster Anti-Virus]

More Casinos for Mashantuckets-MGM Mirage Team

 

As reported by the Rhode Island Providence Journal: "A memorandum of understanding signed this spring by the Mashantucket Pequots and MGM Mirage, the publicly traded gaming colossus, lays out a plan for possibly more casinos in southeastern Connecticut, elsewhere in Indian Country, in Atlantic City or on the Las Vegas strip. "The Mashantuckets and MGM envision, in addition to the $700-million expansion already under way at Foxwoods, the potential for more new casinos on the Connecticut reservation using MGM brand names and other nongaming, destination-resort development along Route 2 in North Stonington. "The tribe announced its intention to partner with MGM in April. The memorandum, released by the state Division of Special Revenue in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Day, includes these provisions: "The Foxwoods expansion, scheduled to open in 2008, will get an MGM brand name, probably MGM Grand. The Mashantuckets will have access to additional MGM casino hotel brand names for future expansions.

".MGM and the Mashantuckets will establish a new entity, jointly owned, that could develop casino resorts all over the country, including the Las Vegas strip. A specific 14-acre site in Atlantic City now owned by MGM is one location mentioned as a possibility.

".The National Indian Gaming Commission, which is required to approve anything considered to be a management contract with an Indian tribe, is also reviewing the Mashantucket/MGM memorandum, a spokesman said."

--- [This E-mail scanned for viruses by Tradebooster Anti-Virus]

NIGC Changes Website

 

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) is undertaking changes to its website to address reliability and security issues. In addition, the NIGC has recently been the victim of website hackers. This incident has in no way compromised the content of NIGC's website or our networks and the Commission is moving swiftly to resolve this issue. The NIGC website was cosmetically defaced, which means the hackers inserted their materials in front of NIGC's homepage by breaching NIGC's current hosting company's security measures. With anticipation of continued increase in usage of the website, the Commission is in the process of relocating the website to another hosting company that possesses additional security against such attacks. This transition should be complete next week.

--- [This E-mail scanned for viruses by Tradebooster Anti-Virus]

Video Lottery Ballot Clarification Ordered

 

As reported by the Argus Leader: "Circuit Judge Max Gors ordered state officials Monday to add an explanation to November's ballot about the repeal of video lottery, putting the tax loss of $112 million into the context of the state budget. "Gors, in a 12-page order, said no one disputes that the loss of video lottery would cost the state $112 million. But he told Attorney General Larry Long, who wrote the ballot explanation, to add a phrase that points out the amount is 11 percent of the state's general fund. ".Long said his office is satisfied with that decision. ".Long is required to write brief explanations about the purpose and effect of each ballot measure. Supporters of the gambling repeal complained that Long's inclusion of the amount of money that could be lost, $112 million, was the equivalent of sticker shock without some context. "Ending the video lottery case and a challenge to another ballot explanation that is in the state Supreme Court will clear the way for ballots to be printed."

--- [This E-mail scanned for viruses by Tradebooster Anti-Virus]

Sheriff Proposes Casino Cameras Cover Las Vegas Strip

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "Clark County Sheriff Bill Young is pushing for the gambling industry to install and manage an expanded surveillance camera system on the Las Vegas Strip that could film robberies, fights and other crimes and alert police immediately. "'For a very reasonable investment, I think we can provide a much more secure net to encompass the entire tourist corridor,' Young told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Young estimated it would cost about $3 million to get the program involving about 120 surveillance cameras up and running, not including operational costs. "'The idea would be to expand on what they have now. None of the cameras would be on public property; they would all be on private property,' he said, adding, 'We'd all benefit from it.' "Several casino companies said they wanted more information on Young's proposal..."

--- [This E-mail scanned for viruses by Tradebooster Anti-Virus]

Biloxi Struggles to Rebound

 

As reported by Reuters: "The clean-up is mostly complete and business is brisk at the beachfront casinos, but a year after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Biloxi is still struggling to get back on its feet. "...A year of uncertainty over new building codes and the anaemic local economy have prompted long-time residents to considering leaving the city, especially since government funds to help rebuild houses have only trickled in. "...Most of the pre-storm population of about 50,000 has returned, city officials aid, and the state government has recently begun distributing federal funds to rebuild homes. "...Mississippi loosened casino restrictions in the aftermath of Katrina, allowing more land-based facilities to help replace revenues lost when the storm ravaged the giant floating gambling barges that once dotted the coast. "Tax receipts from the casinos, which contributed more than a third of Biloxi's $50 million in annual revenues, have rebounded to pre-storm levels in recent weeks, and the city is hoping to more than double the number of gambling houses to 20 facilities in the next decade.

"More important are the 15,000 jobs the casinos generated before the storm. Nearly 10,000 of those jobs have returned, and the re-opening of the Beau Rivage scheduled for the August 29 anniversary of Katrina will add more than 1,000 to that..."

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When Casinos Decide You're Losing Too Much Money

 

The Harrah's casino in Reno expects to see one of its regulars in the next few days. But this man won't receive the typical welcome when he walks through the door. Instead, a Harrah's casino manager will approach him and bring up an unpleasant topic: recent comments the man made to a casino host about refinancing his house and gambling with his retirement money. After expressing concern, the manager will give the man a problem-gambling hotline number and a chance to enter himself into a database that will stop mailers from being sent to his home, among other self-help services. The unidentified man is an unwitting participant in a program that casino giant Harrah's Entertainment implemented several months ago that is believed to be the first and most aggressive problem gambling effort of its kind in the country. The "ambassador" program - taking its name from the casino managers charged with approaching gamblers with information about programs many casinos have offered for years - has captured the attention of problem gambling treatment experts normally skeptical of casino efforts to help compulsive gamblers. Casinos in Nevada and many other states are required by law to post problem gambling hotline numbers, offer self-help pamphlets and educate casino workers about warning signs. Harrah's also allows gamblers to sign up on a "self-exclusion" list that applies to all of its casinos nationwide. These efforts, which acknowledge problem gambling as a legitimate mental health disorder similar to alcoholism, require gamblers to take the first step themselves. The Harrah's program is different, experts say, because it requires workers such as dealers and cashiers to notify a manager if they believe a person has a gambling problem. The manager then calls the "ambassador" on duty to handle the touchy task of sitting down with the customer. Competitors say the responsibility to help gamblers already lies with every rank-and-file employee on the casino floor as part of state-mandated training programs.

In reality, problem gambling advocates say, workers are being told about the disease but are rarely taking the initiative to intercept people on the casino floor.

"Frankly, there's a lot of lip service at the corporate level that doesn't get translated down to the employees," said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. "I can't tell you the number of times I've gone into a casino and have found brochures tucked away and employees who don't know what their responsibilities are. There's a difference between having a program and making sure employees are comfortable enough to take action."

Previously, workers didn't feel at ease approaching people who probably needed help, said Andy Donato, a casino supervisor at Harrah's Reno and one of about 700 "ambassadors" who have volunteered for the added responsibility nationwide.

"This program reassures them ¦ that we really believe in this," Donato said.

The program requires employees to take action based on what a person says. Casinos and some treatment experts believe that unless a gambler's behavior is over the top, words are a more definitive indicator of a person's mental state.

There aren't any specific "trigger" phrases - that's left to employees' judgment. Workers receive several hours of training that includes watching instructional videos with interactions between employees and distraught customers.

"We don't want to shoehorn them into a box so that they're thinking, 'If I don't hear this phrase then I don't need to help the person,' " said Harrah's spokesman David Strow.

So far, about two to three such conversations have occurred at each Harrah's property per month. Gamblers don't appear to be resisting efforts to strike up a conversation, though in some cases, ambassadors find that the best time to approach them is not right away but after the person has had time to cool off from his last gambling session.

Some appreciate the information and concern but do not appear to need help, while others have been referred to treatment as a result of the program, Strow said.

Donato said he received input from outside problem gambling and human resources experts on how to approach people in a friendly way without making them feel defensive or combative.

For example, a Harrah's manager might approach a gambler and suggests a "timeout" over a drink or a meal.

"I've been with Harrah's almost 30 years, and over the years you hear all sorts of statements, like, 'My wife is going to kill me when I go home' to 'I'm having a bad day, I never should have come here,' " Donato said. "It's not easy to evaluate without talking to the person directly whether the person is serious."

Henry Lesieur, a staff psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital's gambling treatment program and one of the nation's foremost treatment experts, calls the effort "one of the most thought-out programs I've seen" from a casino company.

Lesieur, who co-authored the first definition of problem gambling included in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, said discussing self-help schemes with gamblers in the casino is an "improvement." However, he questions Harrah's commitment to maintaining a growing "watch" list documenting conversations and outcomes involving hundreds, even thousands of gamblers for years to come.

The program also is not going to catch each gambler who tries to re-enter casinos after requesting that they be excluded or refused service from Harrah's properties, he added.

Some problem gambling experts are skeptical that the program will make a difference for gamblers in the throes of addiction.

Robert Hunter, clinical director of the Problem Gambling Center in Las Vegas, said Harrah's may have trouble reasoning with addicts in a gambling environment.

"If someone at a bar has had too many drinks, that's not the time to talk to someone about their drinking," Hunter said. "I see folks who've already crossed the line into addiction. For them, this is not going to be much help. That said, I support any efforts to get people into recovery."

Carol O'Hare, director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, says the program still represents a "big step" for the industry because it aims to help people before they hit bottom.

Lesieur says the program is a sign that the industry is willing to face its Achilles heel head-on rather than be pummeled by critics.

Strow said the effort resulted from a policy of continuous evaluation and improvement based on new research. It is not a knee-jerk reaction or an admission of inadequacy of past programs, he said.

Lesieur, though, said the program does not go far enough.

The responsibility to be more proactive lies with state governments, not Harrah's, he said.

"Harrah's is in the business of making money," he said. "I don't expect them to have a hard sell. If any education of gambling is to be done, it needs to be done by the state."

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Oklahoma Tribes Lobbying More

 

As reported by the Tulsa World: "State Indians' spending on issues representation has soared since the start of this decade. "Oklahoma's American Indian tribes are scoring political points with a significant increase in spending on federal lobbying. "According to the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records disclosure statistics, 13 of Oklahoma's 38 tribes reported that they paid lobbyists a total of about $1.17 million in 2005. "That's up from five tribes that paid less than $90,000 in 2000 -- at least a 13-fold increase in Indian lobbying in five years. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates the total spending on American Indian lobbying nationwide at $2.2 billion. ".The biggest tribes aren't spending the most money, however. For 2005, the 16,000-member Osage Nation reported spending $380,000 on lobbying while the 38,000-member Chickasaw Nation reported spending $250,000. ".With Indian gaming revenues at a total of $22 billion a year, the tribes' investment in the mechanisms of politics is skyrocketing. "The changing political focus of the tribes comes in part from gaming revenues, but it also has roots in changes made in federal law about 30 years ago, one chief said."

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Tourists Do Worry About Gas Prices

 

Research guru Jim Medick doesn't want to rub it in. But it's difficult for him not to say, "I told you so," after a handful of major gaming companies have blamed rising gasoline prices for lackluster profit growth at lower-rent properties frequented by budget-conscious tourists. Tourism honchos had disputed results of a controversial telephone survey of Southern Californians that Medick's MRC Group conducted last September showing that gas prices were closely correlated with trips to Las Vegas. Prior to somewhat disappointing second-quarter performance figures, gaming giants and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority were asserting that gas prices and other national economic concerns were not affecting business. Medick's telephone survey of Vegas travelers told a different story, that rising gas prices were significantly cutting into travel plans over other activities such as going to the movies or the mall. In fact, close to half of the respondents said they had cut back on trips to Las Vegas as a result of higher gas prices. Drivers also were asked at what point they would stop driving to Las Vegas, a question based on the assumption that most folks have a limit. About half of drivers said they would stop driving to Vegas if prices hit $3.50 per gallon and about 80 percent would stop if gas reaches $4.33 per gallon. With the LVCVA reporting a 2 percent decline in visitor traffic in June and the state noting a 7 percent drop in Strip casino revenue for the month - the biggest dip in three years - even Gov. Kenny Guinn admitted that "an economy based so much on tourism is always at the mercy of higher gas prices and a slowing of the economy." What does Medick make of all this?

"I have a saying: 'Never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in but always be prepared to duck,' " he said. "With this survey, I was ducking."

. . .

A prime piece of resort land is in play - again - on the Strip.

An investment group including Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Edge Group, Tristar Capital and RFR Holding picked up 63 acres of land just east of Interstate 15 and behind Mandalay Bay for about $202 million in May. It's now on the market for more than $400 million.

Investors say they had plans for a large, mixed-use project on the parcel - one of the largest assembled on the Strip. It made sense: Development costs are forcing operators to build projects with large numbers of rooms - including condos that can be sold upfront to help finance construction.

But it's hardly a slam dunk.

Rising development costs continue to delay major Strip projects, which could mean more land resold for a quick profit in the months to come as resorts prove to be less profitable, real estate experts say.

Even well-known groups could have problems trying to pencil out profits and secure financing for multibillion-dollar projects on the Strip, they say.

"We think people are buying land in the hope that the larger fish are going to assemble bigger parcels down the road," said luxury residential broker Bruce Hiatt. "I also think we're going to see a shrinkage of projects, which we want to see because it changes our supply-demand balance in a favorable way."

Seller and investment partner Adam Frank of Edge Group, who is building Las Vegas' first W hotel at Harmon Avenue along with Starwood, says they're not in the business of flipping land. Rising development costs did not factor into the decision, either, Frank said.

The Russell Road site was under contract well before the company picked up 25 acres in June next door to its W project, the site of the failed Las Ramblas condo resort complex, he said.

"To make this work you have to have a lot of density," Frank said. "Now that we've got 50 contiguous acres, it allows us to do that at the W site. It's more logical for us to focus all our energy in one place."

. . .

Paging Little Richard, Frankie Avalon and Debbie Reynolds ¦

In an era of rising prices, Coast Casinos regulars are wondering about the future status of Coast's slot club - a program that lets low-rollers rack up freebies - as well as its stable of lower-priced vintage acts.

Parent company Boyd Gaming Corp. has made it clear that the company, which is buying out Coast boss Michael Gaughan in exchange for his purchase of the South Coast, isn't planning on changing things much at the remaining four Coast properties that Boyd owns: the Barbary Coast, Gold Coast, Suncoast and Orleans.

But some Coast-goers remain suspicious of changes on the horizon once Coast founder Gaughan - who built his reputation on serving "the little guy" - is out of the picture.

Boyd President Keith Smith says not to worry.

"Michael stepping away from the business really doesn't change anything, from our entertainment policies to our slot club policies to our promotional policies," Smith said. "That said, every morning you wake up and the world has changed. We have no planned changes for how we operate that business, but maybe there are some opportunities for us to further integrate the properties."

That could include streamlining purchasing for all properties and, more important for customers, integrating the Boyd and Coast slot clubs. Boyd now has separate clubs for each of its non-Coast properties.

Boyd is likely to fold the club for Sam's Town - the only big locals property Boyd owned outside of the Coast chain - into the Coast club program.

"That makes the most sense to do quickly," Smith said.

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Casino Helps Relocated Workers

 

As reported by the Arizona Central: "Russell Green's wife gave him a hard time when he whipped out a video camera recently to capture his youngest daughter's first day of kindergarten. All the parents were doing it. "The excitement Green felt that day was a far cry from his anxiety a year ago, when Hurricane Katrina drained his bank account, separated him from one of his daughters and sent his family hopscotching their way to Arizona from Louisiana. ".Green, a sous chef, found work at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa, which reached out to several families displaced by the disaster. A couple of people have returned to New Orleans, but about 20 have stayed, Harrah's spokeswoman Susan Baker said. "He said he hopes improvements will come soon for people living outside of the French Quarter. ".Cheryl Bernard agrees. One of Green's co-workers at Harrah's, Bernard visited New Orleans in February and has no desire to go back. ".Even though she is without her close-knit family, Bernard said she is happy here. She calls Arizona home."

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Citizens Proclaim War Against Gambling

 

As reported by The Korea Times: "A hundred and sixty senior citizens have launched a nationwide campaign to root out gambling. "The members of the National Council for Upgrading Korea held a press conference yesterday at the New Kukje Hotel in Seoul proclaiming a war against gambling, criticizing the current situation where Korea is being labeled as a 'Gambling Republic' instead of 'a developed country.' "It has decided to create a citizens' group with other civil organizations, help gambling addicts and launch a nationwide campaign to eradicate the addictive habit. "...The council asked for a clear explanation about the 'Pada Iyagi,' or 'Sea Story' scandal from the person responsible and also demanded that the government employ powerful steps needed to remove the stigma of the 'Gambling Republic.'..."

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False Claim by Foreign Remote Gaming Company

 

The Lotteries and Gaming Authority would like to bring to your attention that a foreign remote gaming company by the name of Pokerzade.com is claiming that it is being regulated by 'Malta Gaming Commission Ltd.' The Lotteries and Gaming Authority which is the only body that regulates lotteries and gaming in Malta would like to inform the public at large that the above statement is not true. Pokerzade.com has no connection whatsoever with the Maltese jurisdiction. The LGA strictly advices the public to play responsibly with companies licensed with reputable jurisdictions who have sound remote gaming regulations.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Australian Communities Get Pokie Money

 

As reported by the Australia ABC News: "More than $100,000 raised from poker machines is being distributed to community groups in Griffith and Wagga this week. "Under the Community Development and Support Expenditure Scheme, clubs making more than $1 million profit from gaming machines are required to return money to the community. ".Mission Australia says while the charities receiving money are certainly worthy, these donations could not have been made without gambling."

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Iowa City Pushes for Casino Riverboat

 

As reported by the Iowa Times-Republican: "The City of Tama is making a run at putting a casino riverboat on its recently acquired Cherry Lake near downtown. "The Tama City Council on Monday approved an agreement with Signature Management Group to negotiate and develop a casino project after a representative presented them with a strategic plan to compete for a gaming license. "Petitions circulating recently had amassed 1,031 signatures by Thursday in favor of asking voters whether to legalize gambling during this November's general election. ".Mayor Chris Bearden said he approached SMG in May about looking at Tama as a possible site for a future casino after Caraustar Industries donated the 40-acre Cherry Lake and surrounding land next to their Tama Paperboard mill."

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Missouri Ban Amendment Rejected

 

As reported by the Kansas City Star: "A plan to significantly shorten Missouri's lifetime self-ban from casinos for troubled gamblers failed to win approval Wednesday from the Missouri Gaming Commission. But the idea is not dead. "The shorthanded commission, meeting in Maryland Heights, Mo., voted 2-1 for a proposal to allow a minimum two-year ban before gamblers could apply for reinstatement and admission to the state's riverboat casinos. ".More than 10,000 Missourians have placed themselves on the list since it was established in 1996. Those caught violating the ban can be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing. The ban also forces violators to forfeit any jackpots they win. "The proposal would have given those on the list an opportunity to switch to the two-year minimum ban. Under the plan gamblers could petition the commission to be removed from the list if they met certain requirements for counseling and self-education. "Missouri's self-exclusion program was the first in the nation and has been copied by other states that do offer a menu of self-banning options, which is the approach favored by the National Council on Problem Gambling."

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Pennsylvania Regulators Calls for Slot Law Changes

 

As reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "State gambling regulators have joined the chorus of critics calling for changes to Pennsylvania's slot machine law, saying they will take matters into their own hands to the degree possible if amendments are not made. "In a letter dated Wednesday to a dozen state lawmakers, Thomas Decker, chairman of the state Gaming Control Board, said the board wants 'critical' amendments to the law that would include: "- Prohibiting public officials from holding up to a 1 percent interest in gambling companies. "-Banning political contributions from slots license holders and their immediate relatives. "- Eliminating blind trusts that the board says are designed to 'circumvent' the ban on political contributions and other disclosure requirements.

"- Giving the state broader powers to regulate and control gambling operations.

".The proposals generally echoed changes that Gov. Ed Rendell, one of the key gambling proponents, recently suggested in his own letter to lawmakers."

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Experts: Japan Gaming Won't Affect Singapore's Resorts

 

As reported by the Channel News Asia: "Three gaming licences could be awarded in Japan in 2009, with the projects expected to be completed around 2012, according to some market watchers. "But while that will add to the growth of the industry in Asia, they say the emergence of the gaming sector in Japan is not likely have a major impact on Singapore's integrated resorts. ".Said Sean Monaghan, vice president of equity research at Merrill Lynch (Singapore), 'In 2008, the government is likely to pass the legislation. So you probably have tendering in 2009 and the award of around three casino licenses, probably one in Tokyo, one in Okinawa and one in another major city on the main island - so three major casino licenses. Obviously if you have a tender, you will have global focus on it, massive bidding and probably at least US$10 billion investments for those three casino properties.'."

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Empire Resorts Announces End to Horsemen Arbitration

 

Empire Resorts, Inc. ("Empire") today announced that the New York Racing and Wagering Board has arbitrated terms of a new contract with the company's horsemen. The new contract will run through December 31, 2007. As part of the agreement, the horsemen will receive 8.25% of the first $100 million of VGM revenue, after which they will receive 9.25%, with a minimum of 200 race days per year. In addition, for insurance, legal, and administrative matters, the horsemen will receive $20,000 per month as a direct management contribution, along with 3.5% of revenue from all sources; in 2007, the horsemen will receive 4.5% of revenue from all sources. Empire Resorts continues to review its options and possible avenues of appeal.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Spectrum Gaming Group Launches New Service

 

Spectrum Gaming Group announced the latest addition to its casino-oriented suite of services: confidential casino audits. The new service, which has already been met with success in different gaming markets, leverages Spectrum's depth of experience in casino operations by conducting anonymous covert interactions with gaming staff. This service supplements Spectrum's consumer-service audits, which already measure customer satisfaction in various critical areas. Spectrum Vice President Harvey Perkins, with nearly three decades of experience in casino operations in positions ranging from dealer to assistant general manager, oversees the auditing service. "We offer casino operators a view of their operations through the eyes of a team of experienced professionals," Perkins said. "Qualified Spectrum professionals interact as players with gaming staff members. This vantage point would simply be otherwise unavailable to management." Spectrum employs a depth of experience in gaming operations and regulation not offered by traditional mystery-shopping programs or other consultants. Spectrum has developed and refined various techniques that would measure, among other things:

 

-- Compliance with regulations

 

-- Courtesy and professionalism

 

-- Adherence to company policy and procedures

 

-- Condition and control of gaming equipment

 

-- Procedures regarding the evaluation and issuance of player complimentaries

 

"Recently conducted audits at various casinos have revealed unprofessional and unethical employee conduct, player mismanagement and questionable operational practices with respect to compliance, staff integrity and ethics," said Spectrum Managing Director Fredric E. Gushin, a former regulator and Assistant Attorney General in New Jersey. "As with all our services, these confidential audits provide critical gaming knowledge to our clients to help save money, improve operations and ensure compliance with regulations."

Island View Casino Prepares for Grand Opening

 

As the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, Miss. is preparing to open, creating one of the region's largest casino properties. Island View officials announced today that the property, which will be the city's only casino, will celebrate its grand opening and unveiling of the project's first of two phases on Monday, September 18 at 7 p.m. The land-based waterfront resort is privately held by Rick Carter and Terry Green -- owners of the former Copa Casino, which was located in Gulfport's harbor and was destroyed in the storm. In March, Carter and Green purchased Harrah's Grand Casino resort on 40 acres of land on Gulfport's beachfront as the site for the new Island View. "This has been a year of challenges and changes for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but the people of Gulfport are ready to look forward. As the city's only gaming resort, Island View Casino wants to lead the way in rebuilding our community to be better than ever," said Rick Carter. "On September 18 we will open an exceptional property, with first-class amenities and state-of-the-art gaming. But equally as important, we will provide more than 800 jobs to this area, with an additional 700 positions to be added in the second phase," Carter added. The grand opening, which is open to the public, will feature live entertainment, food and beverage, and dignitaries who will do the honors of the first dice roll and first slot pull.

Hollywood Sportsbook Offers MLB Game Odds

 

Hollywood Sportsbook features odds on the MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners on August 24th 2006.

The New York Yankees grabbed full control of the AL East race with an almost unimaginable five straight wins at Fenway Park, finishing the run with a 2-1 victory on Monday. New York outscored Boston 49-26 in the five games. Now the Yankees will try to continue their roll as their powerful lineup follows its stunning sweep in Boston with a matchup against the sinking Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on Thursday. The game is scheduled to start at 10:05 p.m. (ET) and Hollywood Sportsbook proudly features odds on the event. Hollywood's Media Relations executive, Alejandro Gomez, was quoted saying – "After sweeping a five-game series from their archrivals, it seems that the New York Yankees are playing their best baseball of the season". "On the other hand, the Seattle Mariners are mired in an 11-game losing streak. The slide is the Mariners' longest since September 1992, when they dropped a club-record 14 straight. Beyond that, the New York Yankees took two of three from Seattle from July 17-19 at Yankee Stadium, with two of the games decided by one run and the other decided by two. So, let's see how all this will end," added Mr. Gomez. Hollywood Sportsbook is eager to provide you with a convenient and secure environment through which you can enjoy your recreational sports betting; they are currently offering sports betting lines for the game mentioned above. It's really easy to contact them via phone or internet from anywhere in the world. You can get started by opening your account within 5 minutes of verification of your funds. Three easy steps: Register, Deposit and Play. It's that simple!

Lawyers: Wynn Tip Decision is Legal

 

Dealers at Wynn Las Vegas have universally voiced their displeasure over the casino's plans to restructure tip distribution that will cut their wages between 10 and 20 percent. Legally, however, they may have little recourse, labor law experts said Wednesday. Starting Sept. 1, table game supervisors will share in the tips earned by dealers. Wynn executives said the move is being done to correct the widening disparity between the wages earned by dealers and casino floor supervisors. Las Vegas attorney Gregory Kamer, who specializes in labor law and represents Wynn in labor matters, believes the plan, where the shared tips will supplement the salaries earned by table game supervisors, is "ironclad" legally under Nevada law. "This has been vetted every which way possible," Kamer said, adding that he believes other casino companies will adopt this plan. "I believe this will ultimately become the industry standard within a matter of months." Kamer said the plan is allowed under Nevada law that deals with tip earnings. He said several rulings regarding the pooling of tips and how that money is shared by a group give the plan solid footing. He cited a U.S. District Court decision in 1975 that allowed tip pooling at the Las Vegas Hilton and opinions by the Nevada attorney general. In the 1975 decision, a federal judge said that a group of employees all contribute to the good service given to a casino customer, and as such, should share in any gratuities.

 

In an Aug. 21 memo distributed to all Wynn table games employees, casino President Andrew Pascal used almost the exact language as the 1975 decision in saying that supervisors contribute to customer service as much as dealers.

 

"As such, it is only appropriate that each of these positions share in the generosity of the customers," Pascal said in the memo.

 

Las Vegas attorney Richard Segerblom, who represents employees in labor disputes, said he believes the Wynn Las Vegas tip distribution plan may withstand any legal challenges.

 

"Based on the legal rulings we've seen regarding tip pooling, I think they can make an argument in favor of what they're doing," Segerbloom said.

 

Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn and other executives told table game employees of the pending changes Monday night.

 

One Wynn Las Vegas dealer, writing a post on CasinoDealers.net, an Internet forum, said Wynn challenged the dealers to contest the changes.

 

"He even had the guts to stand up and say in the meeting, 'You can try to get a lawyer, but don't bother. Just talk to our lawyer and he'll tell you that what we are doing is legal by Nevada law,' " the dealer wrote.

 

Pascal said that dealers at the property are the highest-paid dealers in the city, averaging about $100,000 per year in salary and tips. But the employees supervising dealers average about $60,000 a year in salary, Pascal said.

 

The large tips are due to Wynn's reliance on high-end customers, such as baccarat players, and is the main reason for the salary gap.

 

Dealers who split tips by shifts now will share those tokes with team leaders and supervisors, who also will receive a boost in base salary.

 

Pascal said dealers will earn an average of $90,000 annually while supervisors will be paid $95,000.

 

In addition, Wynn Las Vegas will implement a bonus program that will allow dealers to earn additional pay.

 

"We're still going to have the highest-paid dealers on the Strip," Pascal said. "What it does is rebalances the structure of our table games division and gives a person an incentive to take on more responsibility."

 

Wynn Las Vegas operates 140 table games, including baccarat. Pascal said about 820 table game positions at the casino will be affected in the restructuring.

 

The changes won't affect the casino's poker room and slot machine area.

Riviera Holdings Holds Shareholder Vote

 

Riviera Holdings Corp. said Wednesday it will conduct a shareholder vote next week on a $426.5 million buyout offer from a privately held investment group after the company's board of directors said it did not have enough information to determine if an 11th-hour competing offer was credible. The vote, in which Riviera stockholders will either accept or reject a $17 per share offer from Riv Acquisition Holdings, had been scheduled for Aug. 8. That same day, International Gaming & Entertainment proposed to pay $20 a share for the company, which operates the Riviera and a Colorado casino, causing the vote to be postponed. "In a statement, Riviera Holdings said its board of directors had not received sufficient information from International Gaming & Entertainment on the takeover proposal to compare the offer to one from Riv Acquisition, a well-financed investment group that includes Starwood Capital Group founder Barry Sternlicht, Las Vegas developer Brett Torino and Chicago developer Neil Bluhm. ""The information requests pertained to, among other things, (International Gaming & Entertainment's) equity investors, assurance of obtaining financing, and plans for obtaining the necessary approvals to consummate the acquisition," Riviera Holdings said in a statement. "Riv Acquisition President Scott Butera said he wasn't surprised that the company rescheduled the vote.

 

""It was a bizarre offer. There wasn't a lot of substance behind it," Butera said. "We're ready to go forward with the vote. We're still firm in our position that we are the only credible bidder out there for Riviera. We have proof of our financing and we believe we have offered a full price for the company."

 

"The shareholder vote was rescheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

 

"Approval of the buyout by Riv Acquisition is not a foregone conclusion, however. Several of the company's largest shareholders have said they will vote against the buyout, saying the $17 per share price is too low.

 

"Some investors thought the 26 acres of Strip property that houses the Riviera is worth twice the purchase price, which values the land at $10 million an acre.

 

"Asset management firm D.E. Shaw, which controls 1.2 million shares; and Triple Five Investco, a subsidiary of Canadian mall developer Triple Five Group, which owns 1 million shares; have said they would vote against the deal.

 

"Riv Acquisition already holds more than 2.1 million shares of Riviera stock, having purchased the holdings of company Chairman Bill Westerman for $15 a share.

 

"Riviera Holdings needs approval from 60 percent of its outstanding shareholders for the deal to be approved. If a shareholder doesn't participate, that will have the same effect as if he voted against the buyout.

 

"Westerman has actively lobbied shareholders to support the transaction, even during the company's quarterly conference.

 

"In Wednesday's statement, Riviera said it remained open to discussions with International Gaming & Entertainment. However, if shareholders reject the buyout offer from Riv Acquisition doesn't mean the company would enter an acquisition agreement with the second bidder.

 

"Riviera Holdings made the announcement after trading closed Wednesday on the American Stock Exchange. Shares in the company fell 28 cents, or 1.38 percent, to close at $20.

Playtech Reports Results

 

Playtech (LSE: PTEC), the international designer, developer and licensor of software for the gambling industry, today announces Interim Results for the Six Months Ended June 30 2006. Financial Highlights · Revenues up by 139% to $46.2 million (2005 - $19.3 million) · Casino revenues up by 129% to $40.4 million (2005 - $17.6 million) · Poker revenues up by 851% to $4.8 million (2005 - $0.5 million) · Adjusted net profit* up by 172% to $37.3 million (2005 - $13.7 million) resulting in a margin of 81% compared to 71% last year · Adjusted basic EPS* up by 157% to 18 cents (2005 - 7 cents) · Interim dividend of $18.5 million equating to 8.7 cents per share to be paid on 6 October 2006, representing approximately 50% of the adjusted net profit*

 

Operational Highlights

 

· Seven new licensees added so far this year - three through migration of active game sites with the majority accommodating Asian and European players

 

· New products developed and launched

 

· Mobile offering - providing Casino gaming through mobile phones

 

· Videobet - providing access to the land and server based gaming terminals

 

· Initiating new Asian focused games and product development, including Mahjong.

 

· Long-term recruitment initiative underway - Playtech Academy in Estonia and new development centre in Bulgaria

 

Avigur Zmora, Chief Executive, commented:

 

"Playtech is ideally placed to take full advantage of the growth being enjoyed by global gambling markets. Geographical diversification through the addition of quality licensees, coupled with our new product pipeline, will allow us to offer an enhanced and more complete solution to our licensees and their customers. As a result of our various initiatives, the global markets, in which we hold strong positions and the continued growth being enjoyed by the online gaming market worldwide, I look forward to the second half of the year with confidence."

 

*excluding founders cash contribution and employee stock option expenses of $6.8 million

 

Chairman's Statement

 

It gives me pleasure to present the first set of financial results for Playtech since its shares were admitted to AIM by way of an Initial Public Offering in March this year.

 

In the six months under review the Group has made outstanding progress in all key areas of performance. I am pleased to report that the business has grown significantly in terms of revenues generated from existing licensees and, importantly, in terms of winning new high quality clients. In the period, seven new licensees have been added to the portfolio - bringing the total to 42 operators. Between them, our clients operate 137 gaming sites, making Playtech one of the world's leading software providers to the gaming industry.

 

The out-performance of the operations has translated into strong financial results. In the period, the Group improved revenues by 139% and adjusted net profit increased by 172%. As a result the Board is pleased to declare its maiden dividend as a listed company - an interim payment of 8.7 cents a share. Adjusted basic earnings per share* amounted to 18 cents per share, a 157 % rise, which is a creditable achievement from a growing company.

 

The international online gaming market continues to grow strongly for Playtech. Recent legal issues in the US have caused concern amongst investors in the online gaming sector, however, as Playtech is not an operator, does not supply Sportsbook software or have exposure to this section of the market, we believe that the Group remains in an extremely strong position. It is the Board's firm view, therefore, that the worldwide trading environment remains robust and that the US legal issues have not altered the prospects for Playtech in any way.

 

Playtech is committed to diversifying its business portfolio, in terms of both geography and product, and I am pleased to report that progress has been made in both of these areas. The percentage of total revenues derived from the US have decreased, whilst the contribution from Europe and the exciting Asian markets have increased. The Group launched two new products last month. Its mobile product offers players access to Playtech's popular Casino platform through their mobile phones, whilst the Videobet product provides access to the land based gaming terminal market, an entirely new market segment for the Group that utilises the leading expertise that Playtech has gained through the development of its other online gaming software products.

 

The Group also has a number of products under development due to be released in the second half of the year. Mahjong will provide this hugely popular game to the Asian market and its live gaming offering is also being enhanced to further support the Asian market in which this type of gaming is favoured.

 

In a show of particular generosity the founding shareholders of Playtech have offered the employees of the Group a cash contribution of $6.6m from their IPO proceeds payable through a designated trust, as an expression of their appreciation for the hard work and commitment shown to date. For this the members of the Board would like to extend their thanks. I would also like to add my thanks to all our employees and to my fellow directors for the significant contribution they have made to our success.

 

In summary, the Board is very excited about the prospects for the second half of the year. Growth in the international online gaming market continues apace and the Group is building its position in its traditional markets whilst expanding into growth markets such as Asia. Product development remains at the forefront of Playtech's strategy which will enable the Group to continue supplying operators with market leading products and new solutions. As a result we look forward to a prosperous and successful future.

 

Chief Executive's Report

 

I am delighted to report a very successful first half of 2006, our first as a publicly quoted Company. Despite the demands that successfully completing the IPO has placed on the management's time in this period, we still managed to reinforce Playtech's position as one of the world's leading software providers to the gaming sector.

 

The Company has managed to build on its already high historic growth rates during this period, achieving a 139% increase in revenues compared to the same period last year and an 172% increase in adjusted net profit*. The poker product now accounts for over 10% of the Company's top line and is expected to increase this contribution into the future.

 

The Board's focus in the first half of the year was to maintain our high growth rates and this has paid off with the Company registering the fastest growth in its short history. We would not have been able to achieve this had it not been for the outstanding efforts of our employees and for this I extend the sincerest thanks of the Board. As a public company we are now able to offer a share incentive scheme that rewards such loyalty and this will help us recruit and retain the quality of staff for which Playtech has become known.

 

One of the main reasons for becoming a public company was to create new and exciting business opportunities for Playtech and I am pleased to say that our aim in this respect has been achieved. We are taking part in much larger business development opportunities and achieving a higher level of sales than we ever had before.

 

Since the Company was established, at the end of 1999, it has been evolving its strategy to adapt to the changes and dynamic growth within the online gaming market. Our first transition period involved geographical diversification in order to reduce exposure to any one particular market whilst taking advantage of emerging high growth markets such as Asia, and positive changes have been made in this regard.

 

We are currently in the middle of our second transition period which is focused on diversifying the Company's product portfolio by leveraging the success of the casino software offering in order to become a major multi product supplier. We are investing considerable efforts into new product development and have launched two new products last month - namely Mobile gaming and Videobet, our server based gaming terminals product.

 

Strategy

 

Our goal is to be the leading software solution company to the international online gaming market. In order to achieve this, the Board has set out the following aims:

 

1. To continually develop market leading solutions for our licensees which enable them to increase their revenues

 

2. To supply a global software solution that is tailored for specific markets

 

3. To enhance cross selling opportunities using the unified system philosophy

 

4. To continue worldwide expansion

 

Recruitment Programme

 

At the heart of any successful software company lies quality employees. In order to ensure that we attract the highest caliber employees we are undertaking an extensive recruitment program aimed at enlarging the Company's research, development and production capabilities. We have established Playtech Academy, our own computer science academy based in Tartu, Estonia, where 40 graduates are already studying and receiving a world class, tailored IT education. The first intake will graduate by the end of September 2006, which will provide a significant number of new programmers trained to the exact needs of Playtech. In addition we have established a new development centre in Bulgaria which is in the process of recruiting its first 20 employees, all of which are IT specialists.

 

Our recruitment program is central to our strategy of increasing the number of licensees and for the introduction and support of new products. Growing our base in Estonia and expanding into Bulgaria will allow us to keep control of our low development and production costs whilst increasing our revenue potential.

 

Licensees

 

The Board is continuously looking at ways to diversify its licensee portfolio by adding quality international customers. So far this year seven new licensees have been added, three of which migrated their active game sites and the majority of which accommodate Asian and European players. This goes a long way to achieving the Board's goal of adding between 10 to 12 new licensees for the year.

 

Choosing the right partner licensee is very important to Playtech as client operators carry with them the reputation of Playtech into the wider market. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the Board is confident that a new licensee has the potential to attract a substantial level of players.

 

Being a public company provides a level of security and transparency required by some of our prospective licensees. As a result, we have a good business pipeline which helps the Board look forward with confidence.

 

Products

 

A key part of the Playtech development philosophy is to supply licensees with a unified system that ensures cross selling and revenue maximization. We are in the process of adding new products to our traditional Casino, Poker and Bingo offerings. During the first half of the year we have completed our Mobile offering as an integrated part of our online Casino offering. Mobile can, therefore, be used as a stand alone platform or be utilized through cross selling opportunities directly from the online Casino, Poker and Bingo products. In addition, we have launched our Videobet product which provides software to land based, server based gaming terminals. This takes Playtech into a whole new land based market with software that is based on our market leading online expertise.

 

Our new game developments are mainly focused on the Asian and South American markets, providing players from these areas with the traditional games that they have grown up with. This approach is much more effective than trying to convert these conservative gaming markets to Western games that players are unfamiliar with. For the Asian market we are close to launching versions of Mahjong. The Mahjong development process will be divided into stages and will continue into 2007. In addition, we are enhancing our live gaming experience in order to better support our Asian licensees and increase our Casino game portfolio.

 

Option Plan and Founders' Cash Contribution to Employees

 

As has been previously stated, the quality of employees is the core of Playtech's success and it is important that the knowledge base built up within the Company is maintained and grown. Now that we are a public company we are able to offer our employees an option plan that will allow them to share in Playtech's future success.

 

In addition the founders of the Company who sold shares during the IPO have offered a one-time cash contribution to show their appreciation for the hard work and outstanding achievements shown by the Company's employees. The total amount of the cash contribution was $6.6 million to be distributed amongst employees. The Board approved this gesture and thanks the founders for their initiative. While International Accounting Standards dictate that such a cash contribution be registered as an expense in our income statement, it will have no impact on the cash flow of the Company due to the fact that the entire sum is contributed directly by the founders for the benefit of Playtech's employees.

 

Dividends

 

Given Playtech's highly cash generative nature we are pleased to announce an interim dividend payment of 8.7 cents per share. As has been previously stated it is the Board's ongoing policy to distribute 50% of net profit every year to shareholders via the dividend.

 

Outlook and Current Trading

 

Playtech is ideally placed to take full advantage of the growth being enjoyed by global gambling markets. Geographical diversification through the addition of quality licensees coupled with our new product pipeline will allow us to offer an enhanced and more complete solution to our licensees and their customers. This is all designed to increase the licensees revenues and through the royalty model, Playtech's revenues. As a result of our various initiatives, the strong positions that we hold in global markets and the continued growth being enjoyed by online gaming worldwide, I am looking forward to the second half of the year with confidence.

 

Financial Review

 

Playtech concluded the first half of the year with a very strong set of results. The Group experienced revenue growth in respect of all of its product areas and its tight control over costs resulted in an encouraging increase in the margins. A positive cash flow from operations, together with the cash proceeds from the IPO, placed Playtech in a very healthy position.

 

The following is a summary of the key elements of the financial results. It should be noted that all figures quoted exclude the cash contribution from the founders of the Company to Playtech employees and Employees stock option expenses to the amount of $6.8 million.

 

As at 30 June 2006, the Group's revenues were generated by 42 licensees operating 137 game sites. Revenues have increased from the same period last year by 139% to $46.2 million (2005 - $19.3 million) which was due to the combined growth of both the Casino and Poker products. Casino revenues increased by 129% to $40.4 million (2005 - $17.6 million) and Poker revenues increased by 851% to $4.8 million (2005 - $0.5 million).

 

Adjusted operating profit* increased from the same period last year by 166% to $36.5 million (2005 - $13.7 million), resulting in a margin of 79% compared to 71% in H1 2005. Adjusted net profit* increased by 172% to $37.3 million (2005 - $13.7 million), resulting in a margin of 81% compared to 71% in H1 2005. Adjusted basic EPS* increased by 157% to 18 cents (2005 - 7 cents).

 

Total cost of operations increased from the same period last year by 73% to $9.7 million (2005 - $5.6 million).

 

Operating expenses increased from the same period last year by 51% to $3.2 million (2005 - $2.1 million). Salaries contributed 52% to this increase, reflecting the number of employees joining the Group in order to support the growing operating activities.

 

Sales and Marketing expenses increased by 37% to $3.7 million (2005 - $2.7 million) mainly as a result of salary increases attributable to the recruitment of new sales staff, an increase in reseller fees that are paid as a percentage of revenue and an increase in the number of trade shows attended.

 

Development costs decreased from the same period last year by 18% to $0.4 million (2005 - $0.5 million), as attributable costs to the development of the Group's Videobet, Mobile and Mahjong products were capitalized this year. In the first half of the year additional development costs capitalized under these activities amounted to $1.0 million (2005 - $0 million).

 

The increase in General and Administrative expenses to $2.5 million before the founders' cash contribution to employees (2005 - $0.4 million), is mainly due to expenses associated with the Company's listing on AIM and a provision for bonuses. These bonuses have not yet been allocated and, therefore, have been recorded as General and Administrative expenses.

 

In accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, the founders' cash contribution to employees of $6.6 million is included as a one time expense under General and Administrative expenses. Due to the fact that this contribution is fully payable by the founders directly to employees, there is no cash impact on the Group. Employee stock option expenses in H1 2006 amounted to $0.2 million (2005 - $0 million).

 

The only company within the Playtech Group that has taxable income is the Israeli subsidiary. Following an agreement signed with the Israeli Tax Authorities during H1 2006, this subsidiary paid $0.2 million in back taxes. Under the terms of the agreement the Israeli subsidiary will pay taxes on a cost plus basis going forward.

 

The Group generated $39.1 million of cash over the period from operating activities (2005 - $13.4 million). The Group cash usage in investing activities was $2.5 million (2005 - $0.3 million), which mainly accounted for development costs capitalized due to the Videobet, Mobile and Mahjong products. The group's financing activities generated $35.0 million from net IPO proceeds, less the dividend payment to shareholders prior to the IPO (2005 - usage of $10.2 million).

 

The Cash balance of the Company, as at 30 June 2006, amounted to $89.6 million. Cash was generated mainly from the net IPO proceeds and from operating activities and profit. Financing Income is the result of the interest yield on the Company cash deposits.

 

On 23 August 2006, the Board declared an interim dividend of $18.5 million equating to 8.7 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on 6 October 2006 to those Shareholders and Depositary Interest holders on the record as at 8 September 2006. The ex-dividend date will be 6 September 2006. Shareholders and Depositary Interest holders may elect to receive the equivalent dividend amount in pounds sterling.

Blackpool Bid Receives Support

 

As reported by This is Lancashire: " Support for Blackpool's casino bid has poured in from groups and members of the public according to staff at the Casino Advisory Panel (CAP). "Details of the comments from 25 letters of support and three letters opposing the resort's bid for the UK's first and only regional casino licence were published on the CAP website yesterday.

"Some writers said the casino would give Blackpool a much-needed boost and claimed overwhelming support for the bid while others expressed scepticism of the economic and regenerative benefits and said transport links were inadequate. "But these details only relate to letters received until July 8 and Kate Rounce, a member of the Casino Advisory Panel Secretariat, who was responsible for receiving letters of support and objection said more arrived after the date. "…The news follows the announcement of the 14 organisations and individuals invited to join members of the Casino Advisory Panel at an examination in public at the Imperial Hotel on September 8…"

Winnie Ho's Lawyer Beaten

 

As reported by Australia Age: "Hong Kong is reeling after a prominent lawyer representing the estranged sister of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho in a bitter feud was beaten by three men wielding baseball bats. "Albert Ho Chun-yan, a Hong Kong legislator and Democratic Party vice-president, was attacked in a McDonald's restaurant in daylight. He is in hospital suffering a broken nose and eye and head injuries. Pictures of him lying bloodied and bruised on the restaurant's floor, and later in hospital, have been plastered in Hong Kong's media in the past two days. "Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said after visiting Mr Ho in hospital that the injured solicitor believed the attack was motivated by his legal work rather than his political career. "…Mr Ho represents Winnie Ho (no relation) in a complicated legal battle over her brother Stanley Ho's restructuring of his extensive Macau casino holdings after his 40-year gaming monopoly ended in 2002…"

Tribe Loses Appeal

 

As reported by the Kansas City Star: "After 11 years in court, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma is right back where it started in its plan to build a casino in Miami County, Kan. "A federal appeals panel in Denver this week dismissed the tribe's latest legal maneuver and ruled that any further litigation must await a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission on whether a tract near La Cygne Lake, about 45 miles southwest of Kansas City, is tribal land eligible for gambling. "The tribe sued the federal Gaming Commission in 1995 over the same issue. Appeals and other claims along the way now appear to have brought the matter full circle. "…A three-judge panel on Monday dismissed Miami IV, saying the tribe's challenge of Interior's opinion was premature because it did not represent a final decision by the Gaming Commission…"

Illinois Suburbs Unruffled by Chicago Casino Proposal

 

As reported by the Illinois Daily Herald: "Leaders in Des Plaines, Waukegan and Rosemont appeared unruffled Wednesday after hearing Republican governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka's casino plans don't include those towns. "Topinka said, if elected, she'd push for a Chicago casino and allow existing riverboat gambling barges to expand operations. Casinos in Elgin and elsewhere would pay an increased licensing fee. "Rosemont, Waukegan and Des Plaines have a vested interest in Topinka's casino ideas. The trio competed for the state's 10th and final casino license in 2004, with the Illinois Gaming Board selecting Rosemont…"

Seneca Exec Appointments Reported

 

The Seneca Gaming Corp. reports two executive appointments, promoting Brian Hansberry general manager at Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel, and Gus Tsivikis to the same position at Seneca Allegany Casino. NIAGARA FALLS, New York – As reported by the Buffalo News: "The Seneca Gaming Corp. announced two executive appointments Wednesday, promoting Brian Hansberry general manager at Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel, and Gus Tsivikis to the same position at Seneca Allegany Casino. "The appointments take effect Monday. This is the first time the Niagara Falls casino and hotel will have a general manager.

"Hansberry served as general manager of the Seneca Allegany Casino, which opened in 2004…"

Nebraska Casino Decision

 

As reported by the Lincoln Journal Star: "The state's appeal of a recent court decision that pleased casino supporters will not drag out. "The state Supreme Court guaranteed a quickened pace by ordering an expedited schedule for legal arguments to be submitted. That increases chances the state high court will rule on the appeal before a key date — Sept. 15. "That is the deadline for Secretary of State John Gale to certify issues and candidates for the November general-election ballot. A Supreme Court decision before Sept. 15 would give Gale clear direction on whether to certify the three-casino initiative for placement on the ballot…"

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sands Macao Boasts 740 Table Games

 

Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced that the Sands Macao, the first western-operated casino in Asia, has completed the expansion of its casino floor. The total casino area now measures over 229,000 square feet, and the 740 tables now on the casino floor position the Sands Macao as the largest casino in the world. "The Sands Macao continues to outpace the competition by offering an entertainment experience not found anywhere else in Asia," stated Bradley H. Stone, executive vice president of Las Vegas Sands Corp. "Reaching this extraordinary milestone clearly establishes us as a leader in the region." The completion of the gaming floor expansion adds more than 64,000 square feet of gaming space spanning three floors of the casino area. The expansion allows the Sands Macao to accommodate an additional 273 gaming tables -- a 58% increase -- and 365 slot machines. The total area of casino space now houses an unprecedented 740 table games and 1,254 slot machines -- all designed specifically for the Asian market. "The Sands Macao has welcomed more than 20 million visitors since it opened in May 2004 as the first Las Vegas style casino in Macao," said Mark Brown, president of the Sands Macao. "The expansion will allow us to provide additional gaming options for our guests, while at the same time enticing new customers to visit our property. We are particularly enthused that the expansion will enable us to serve a larger portion of the highly profitable and rapidly expanding mass table game and slot markets. Our new table game capacity is aimed squarely at that mass market segment, and has allowed us to expand our mass table game capacity by nearly 70 percent." Mr. Stone added, "Looking ahead, the opening of The Venetian Macao next year will mark the presence of the first true Las Vegas-style Integrated Resort in Macao and will be followed by the opening of the rest of the Cotai Strip(TM) -- which will provide visitors an experience not replicated anywhere else in Asia."

Wembley Casino Plans Dropped

 

As reported by Reuters: "Britain's Quintain Estates & Development Plc has abandoned plans to build a casino near the new Wembley national stadium following opposition from the local government, knocking its shares. "Quintain said on Thursday its decision would end its proposed joint venture with U.S. group Caesars Entertainment, owned by the world's biggest casino operator Harrah's Entertainment Inc.. "...Quintain shares were down 1.7 percent to 649-1/2 pence by 1230 GMT..."

Pinnacle Extends Note Offer

 

Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. announced today that it has extended the expiration date of its offer to purchase any and all of the outstanding 12% Notes due 2001 (Cusip No. 740822AA9) and 13% Senior Exchange Notes due 2001 (Cusip No. 740848AF3) issued by President Casinos, Inc. (collectively, the "Notes") until 8:00 a.m., New York City time, on August 30, 2006. The previously-scheduled expiration date was 8:00 a.m., New York City time, on August 23, 2006. Subject to the satisfaction of the remaining tender offer conditions, the Company will accept and purchase any Notes validly tendered on or prior to the extended expiration date. The terms and conditions of the tender offer for the Notes are more particularly described in the Company's Offer to Purchase dated July 19, 2006. As of August 22, 2006, approximately $74.2 million, or about 98.9% of the outstanding original principal amount of the Notes, has been tendered. Of this amount, the Company has already purchased $74.1 million in original Notes validly tendered prior to or on August 15, 2006. The Company is offering to purchase Notes at a purchase price of $809.07 per $1,000.00 of original principal amount of the Notes. HSBC Bank USA, National Association, is the depositary agent in connection with the Tender Offer. D.F. King & Co., Inc. is the information agent for the Tender Offer. Requests for copies of the Offer to Purchase and Letter of Transmittal should be directed to the information agent at (800) 967-7635.

This announcement is not an offer to purchase or a solicitation of an offer to sell with respect to any Notes. The Tender Offer is being made solely by the Offer to Purchase dated July 19, 2006, which sets forth the complete terms and conditions of the Tender Offer. The Offer to Purchase and related Letter of Transmittal have been mailed to holders of the Notes. Holders of the Notes are urged to read the Tender Offer documents carefully because they contain important information.

PinnacleSports.com Offers US Open Odds

 

With the final leg of tennis' Grand Slam beginning Monday at Flushing Meadows, PinnacleSports.com today released odds on who will win the Men's and Women's singles titles at the 2006 US Open. The top-ranked player in the world, Roger Federer enters the tournament as the top seed in the men's draw and PinnacleSports.com has made him the hot favorite to capture his third consecutive US Open title. The largest sports betting site on the Internet, PinnacleSports.com lists Federer as a prohibitive 5/9 favorite (win $5 for every $9 bet) to become only the third man in the Open era to win three consecutive US Open singles titles. Two-time French Open champ and Federer's main rival, Rafael Nadal has been listed with the second-best quote at 11/2 odds to win his first Grand Slam title away from the clay courts of Roland Garros. The top American contenders for the tournament are 2003 US Open champion, Andy Roddick (12/1) and fifth- seeded James Blake (31/1). After upsetting Federer in Ohio earlier this month, PinnacleSports.com lists British teenager Andy Murray (35/1) as a solid contender in the tournament's 125th year. Two-time champion and crowd favorite, Andre Agassi is currently a 106/1 long shot to end his illustrious career on a high note at the National Tennis Center. On the women's side, PinnacleSports.com lists 2004 Wimbledon champion and third-seed Maria Sharapova a slight favorite at 3/1 odds to win her second Grand Slam title. The 2003 winner and three-time French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne has been installed with the second best odds to capture her sixth Grand Slam singles title at 7/2 odds. Despite entering the tournament as the top seed in the women's draw and ranked number one in the world, PinnacleSports.com lists Amelie Mauresmo with only the third-best odds to win the US Open at 9/2. Two-time Open champion Serena Williams has been listed at 13/1 although she's unseeded on the women's draw, while 1997 champion Martina Hingis stands at 14/1 to win her first major championship on the comeback trail. Other players that could contend for the women's hard court title include: ninth-seeded Nicole Vaidisova (14/1); two-time champion Venus Williams (18/1); 2004 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova (19/1); 2004 US Open runner-up Elena Dementieva (25/1); and American Lindsey Davenport (27/1).

PinnacleSports.com will also offer betting lines on every US Open match, utilizing their unparalleled -105 style pricing model that offers up to 70% better value to the player on tennis than traditional bookmakers.

Sportsbook.com Posts 2007 BCS Championship Odds

 

According to odds makers at Sportsbook.com, on January 8, 2007 the Fighting Irish faithful may be toasting their 14th national title in Arizona - Notre Dame's first national championship in close to 20 years. Although Sportsbook.com has listed Notre Dame as the 5-1 favorite to win the 2007 BCS National Championship, fans in Columbus do not need to cancel their tickets to Glendale just yet. The Ohio State Buckeyes, listed right behind the Irish at 7-1, are also heavy favorites to win college football's most coveted prize, while West Virginia, USC and the 2006 National Champion Texas Longhorns - all listed at 8-1 - are strong contenders as well. Sportsbook.com has also posted odds on the conference championships for the ACC, Big 12 and SEC. In the ACC - it could be anyone's title, particularly for the two schools from the Sunshine State. Florida State and Miami, both listed at 2-1, are favored to win the 2006 ACC Championship Game, with the 'Noles hoping to finish in the nation's top 10 for the first time in five years, and the 'Canes looking to avenge their 10-7 loss against FSU in last year's ACC Championship game. Moving west to the Big 12, Sportsbook.com has listed Texas as 7-5 favorites to repeat as conference champions, even though the Longhorns lost their national championship-winning quarterback Vince Young to the NFL. In the south, the Auburn Tigers - led by Heisman-hopeful senior running back Kenny Irons - have been given the best odds to win the 2006 SEC Championship at 5-2. "Bettors are chomping at the bit, waiting for the NCAA football season to start," said Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com. "Everybody bets on college football and this season will definitely be no exception. Most people are looking to either Ohio State or Notre Dame to win the BCS, but with USC, Texas, Florida and West Virginia in the mix, there are many teams who could crash the party out in the desert this January."

Pennsylvania Gaming Board Approves Suppliers

 

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board today voted unanimously to approve licenses for two companies that filed applications to be suppliers of slot machines and associated equipment in the Commonwealth. All licenses are subject to a series of conditions set by the Board to ensure that the requirements of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, and Board rules and regulations are met. "Approving these licenses is another major step forward for gaming in Pennsylvania," said Tad Decker, chairman of the Board. The Board today approved supplier licenses for the following companies: * Gaming Ventures LLC * Winner Security LLC Under the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, also known as Act 71 of 2004, the Board is responsible for licensing 14 gaming facilities across the state and ensuring the integrity of the acquisition and operation of slot machines and associated equipment. Pursuant to the Act, the Board has jurisdiction over every aspect of the authorization and operation of slot machines in the Commonwealth.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Casino Dealer Charged with Cheating

 

As reported by the Yakima Herald Republic: "Prosecutors have filed a rare felony charge against a former casino dealer accused of manipulating card games. "Peter R. Schuetz, 29, of Kittitas was arraigned Tuesday in Yakima County Superior Court on charges of first-degree cheating, a Class C felony, as well as a gross misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft. "According to charging documents, Schuetz was working for the Nob Hill Casino in October when state gaming regulators were asked to review security tapes. "...An agent with the state Gambling Commission said a review of the security footage showed Schuetz shuffling in a way that manipulated the results of a card game called 'Match the Dealer.'..."

Hollywood Park Casino Unlikely

 

As reported by the Daily Breeze: "A Los Angeles tribe is pushing an unlikely bid to establish an Indian casino at Inglewood's Hollywood Park racetrack. "The proposal developed by Santa Monica attorney Jonathan Stein for the Gabrielino-Tongva Band was quietly inserted this week into a bill by Assemblyman Tom Umberg, a lame-duck Democrat from Orange County. "But the proposal faces major legal obstacles, even if it had political support in the Legislature, which appears doubtful. "The Gabrielino-Tongva, a tribe with several factions that claim greater Los Angeles as aboriginal lands, is not recognized by the federal government, a requisite to have land taken into trust, which is generally required to conduct Indian gambling. "The Gabrielino-Tongva was recognized by the state 12 years ago. A number of other states also recognize tribes, but the right to conduct Indian gaming is limited by federal law to federally recognized tribes."

Beloit Casino Application Process Clarified

 

As reported by the Beloit Daily News: "Beloit City Manager Larry Arft updated the community on the casino application process at Monday night's city council meeting. "The city has been working to update the language in the intergovernmental agreement. The BIA found that some of the current language may be in violation of existing federal law. The BIA is requiring that the tribes and local jurisdictions make modifications to address those sections before it will complete a review of the gaming application at the regional level. "'We decided between the tribes and local jurisdictions to submit a red lined draft to the BIA so they can review it and make sure they are comfortable with it. We are waiting to hear the results of that evaluation before we ask the city council to take final action on these proposed modifications,' Arft said. ".The language of the agreement had to be amended to deal with restrictions on business activity. The language required the tribes comply with city and county codes and zoning ordinances."

Jeff Simpson on Steve Wynn's Proposed Changes to Dealers Tips

 

If you want to see the wave of the future for pit bosses and tipped casino dealers at Las Vegas' most luxurious properties, check out Steve Wynn's plans to shake up his casino floor. Wynn Las Vegas dealers - the highest paid in the city at a shade more than $100,000 per year, mostly from tips - will soon lose some of their tip income. Resort executives plan to reorganize the casino floor on Sept. 1, and to begin giving first-level supervisors a cut from the tip pool. Dealers are expected to see their pay drop by about $10,000 per year, while some frontline supervisors would see theirs jump by more than 50 percent. The high-rolling gambling action at the Wynn generates some big tips, money that now gets divided by casino dealers. The problem is finding qualified floormen and pit supervisors. It's tough for the casino to get dealers, the most knowledgeable candidates, to accept a 40 percent pay cut to take a salaried position as a $60,000-per-year floorman or pit supervisor. Wynn said the disparity in pay isn't fair. "This is upside down," Wynn said. "It's inverted. It's just outrageous." Wynn Las Vegas has 578 dealers. Of those, more than 100 have run shifts or been supervisors at other casinos. "The current system makes the (200 supervisors and 38 craps boxmen) feel cheated," Wynn said. The pay disparity has contributed to a reduction in the quality of the front-line managers, the folks who resolve game disputes, rate gamblers' play (how much is he betting and how long did he play?) and dispense comps such as free meals.

Wynn's solution? Reorganize the casino chain of command, and group dealers together with newly named frontline managers, who will now be "casino service team leaders." (Or, in the case of craps boxmen, they'll be renamed "craps team leaders.")

The casino is eliminating some of its top-level hierarchy. In the current chain of command dealers and clerks are supervised by floormen, pit supervisors and boxmen. They are supervised by pit managers, who themselves are directed by casino managers and assistant casino managers. At the top is the vice president of casino operations.

The VP of casino operations slot is being eliminated and each shift is being organized as a standalone entity. Each shift will have a casino manager at the helm with two specialists to assist him. The casino manager will supervise the service team leaders, who will manage one to four table games and their dealers along with a shared pit administrator who will handle regulatory and game inventory paperwork.

Wynn believes that by empowering talented people to run small groups of games that customer service will improve, leading to even stronger results from an already successful casino. Key will be finding people who understand the games and have good leadership ability, customer-service skills and judgment.

And that's where giving the frontline executives a salary increase and a share of the tip pool comes in.

Wynn said that most casino service team leaders will get 40 percent of a tip-pool share (dealers get a full share), but the combined tip and salary would boost their pay to about $96,000.

Craps team leaders would get 20 percent of a share of tip proceeds and would see their total pay increase from $52,000 to $67,500.

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal doesn't expect any current employees to lose their jobs as a result of the reorganization. In fact, he expects to hire at least a few casino supervisors from competitors.

First, Wynn Las Vegas will collect expressions of interest internally. Some current dealers may want to be team leaders - and some managers may return to dealing, Pascal said.

Some of the dealers' lost tip income will be replaced by a bonus system that will reward customer service, adherence to procedures and attendance, Wynn said, noting that initial feedback from the affected dealers has been good.

"My dealers are the highest paid dealers in the world," he said. "They still will be. But I want them to think of becoming a team leader as a career move."

Nevada law allows casinos to divide tips among workers in the service chain, said employment lawyer Gregg Kamer, who worked on the plan with Pascal. The team leaders clearly are in the service chain, he said.

Wynn told workers about the changes in Monday evening meetings after flying back from Macau, where he's preparing Wynn Macau for its Sept. 5 opening.

If the Wynn Las Vegas changes work as planned, table game customer service will improve. That's a surefire recipe for increased tipping, and an improved Wynn Resorts bottom line. Wynn will more fully utilize his employees' talents, and he'll develop and attract top-flight managers as he builds a succession of new resorts on the property that surrounds the hotel.

"This gives me the chance to get the best people in the gaming industry," Wynn said.

I don't know if giving frontline casino supervisors a small cut of the tip pool would work at midlevel and low-budget casinos, but I suspect it wouldn't, as the tip pools are already much smaller than those at Wynn.

But at high-end properties where dealers make substantially more than the folks who supervise them, the change makes sense. When talented table game supervisors start leaving for better-paying jobs that include a share of the tip pool, I predict other high-end casinos will follow Wynn's lead.

Buyer Emerges for North Las Vegas Casinos

 

As reported by the Las Vegas Business Press: "A local real estate investor has emerged as the potential buyer of two gaming-designated properties in the North Las Vegas redevelopment area. "Jeffrey Fine, son of local developer Mark Fine, has reportedly entered into a contract to purchase the Mahoney's Silver Nugget casino and the adjoining RV park along with the Opera House Saloon & Casino. All three properties cover 20 acres with frontage along North Las Vegas Boulevard. "NLV Mayor Michael Montandon acknowledged that the contracts were in place, but he has not heard any plans the new owner has for the property. ".In addition to the pending gaming sale, seven acres behind the Silver Nugget was recently purchased by an investment group led by Fine's uncle, Brian Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun. On May 16, G.C."

Condo Partner Fights Red Rock on Break Up

 

As reported by the Las Vegas Business Post: "Station Casinos has been accused of attempting to 'hijack' an in-progress condominium project at Red Rock Resort, Spa & Casino from minority partner Stephen Cloobeck.The accusation, made by Cloobeck's attorney, Patricia Glaser, comes in the wake of Station Casinos' recent revelation to investors that it had severed ties between Cloobeck Molasky Partners and Station subsidiary SCRR Residential, which holds 80 percent of the 400-unit condo development. "The disclosure, in an Aug. 9 SEC filing, also revealed that Cloobeck is seeking damages via binding arbitration. "Station, citing a corporate policy of not commenting on pending litigation, did not reveal its reason for terminating the Cloobeck/SCRR partnership..."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beau Reopening Makes it a Family Affair

 

As reported by the Sun Herald: "The Aug. 29 reopening of the Beau Rivage means coming home for the McDougal family of Long Beach. "Jon G. McDougal and his wife, Catherine McDougal, are returning to work at the Beau along with their two sons, their daughter-in-law and Mrs. McDougal's brother. After Hurricane Katrina hit, they thought they all were without jobs. Now they are back on the payroll with 3,800 other people at the Beau. "It's been a year of stress, frustration, change and finally hope. "Some family members evacuated for the storm, while others holed up at the parents' home off Klondyke Road. Initial news reports about the Beau and other casinos were bleak."'We just assumed it was gone,' said Mellisa McDougal, the daughter-in-law who works in room reservations. "...The blow was especially crushing for son, Jon D. McDougal, who was newly hired as a senior systems engineer. He had driven a moving truck filled with belongings from Atlanta about a day and a half before the storm hit..."

All that Glitter is not Gold's, Says Lawsuit Seeking Half of Poker Win

 

Call it the $6 million promise. Recently crowned World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold is being sued for half of his mammoth, $12 million winnings. According to a suit filed Monday in District Court, Los Angeles-based "television development executive" Bruce Crispin Leyser claims that Gold promised to pay him half of whatever he won at the series as part of an informal arrangement. Leyser also asked a judge to stop Gold from claiming or spending any of the money until the dispute is settled. Chief District Judge Kathy Hardcastle signed a temporary restraining order preventing Gold from collecting his winnings from the Rio, where the World Series was held, at least until Sept. 1, when the first court hearing in the case is scheduled. According to Leyser's complaint, here's what happened: Leyser met Gold - a former Hollywood talent agent from Malibu, Calif., and also a fledgling television producer - in Las Vegas in July. They had common interests, Leyser claims, including poker and the entertainment industry, and hit it off. They even talked of co-producing a new television show. During those discussions last month, Gold, 36, told Leyser that he had a contract with Bodog, an Internet casino company, through which the company agreed to offer a paid-for, $10,000 seat at the World Series championship event. In return, Gold agreed to find some celebrities to wear clothing with the Bodog logo during the tournament.

So, according to the complaint, Gold asked Leyser to help him find the celebrities, and the two would then "share" the seat.

"Being that there was only one seat being offered by 'Bodog,' Plaintiff and Defendant agreed that whoever played in the seat at the World Series of Poker main event would split any winnings equally with the other," Leyser claims in the suit.

Leyser fulfilled his end of the bargain, he claims, by finding Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard to play and wear the company's logo.

Lillard played the role of "Shaggy" in two recent Scooby-Doo films and has appeared in several horror films. Shepard is a comedian who has appeared in several films. He may be best known for his work on a popular MTV practical joke show, "Punk'd."

Leyser - who is also a poker instructor and accomplished player, according to his lawyer, Las Vegas attorney Richard Schonfeld - claims that Gold told him Bodog insisted that Gold play in the event instead of Leyser.

Schonfeld declined to say whether Leyser had obtained a written contract from Gold, but the lawyer referred to a lengthy message Gold allegedly left on Leyser's answering machine.

Final table play on the last day of the championship event - which this year drew 8,773 contestants and a record prize pool of $82.6 million - started at 2 p.m. Aug. 10.

About three hours beforehand, at 10:52 a.m., Gold left a message for Leyser, according to the complaint, in which he tried to reassure Leyser that he would be getting half of whatever after-tax winnings Gold won that day.

"I promise you - you can keep this recording on my word - there's no possible way you're not going to get half ¦ after taxes," Leyser claims that Gold said in the telephone message. "So please just be with me. I can't imagine you're going to have a problem with it. I just don't want any stress about any money or any of that (expletive) going on today, or even after the end of the day."

Later in the recording, Gold allegedly said: "But please just trust me. You've trusted me the whole way, you can trust me a little bit more. I promise you there's no way anybody will go anywhere with your money. It's your money."

Gold also said on the recording that he would be setting up a Nevada-based corporation that would pay Leyser his portion of the winnings, according to the complaint. "I can't just pay out personally because I could get nailed," Gold allegedly said.

But Leyser claims Gold now refuses to direct the Rio to pay him his $6 million. He also claims that Gold broke their contract and defrauded him, among other things.

Leyser claims that he is worried, in part, because Gold "is a gambler and there is the possibility that he will dispose of the funds" before Leyser can claim them.

Neither Gold nor his Los Angeles-based attorney, Sam Israel, could be reached for comment. Messages were left at Israel's office and through Gold's Web site, but neither responded by Monday evening.

California Deal Clears Senate

 

As reported by the Press Enterprise: "A deal allowing an Inland tribe to operate 5,000 slot machines narrowly survived a challenge by some Democrats and labor unions Monday, clearing the state Senate by just one more vote than needed. "The measure now goes to the Assembly, where its fate is uncertain. The close vote has given one labor leader hope that the measure can be defeated. Supporters, meanwhile, believe the economic benefits to the state and local communities will be enough to sway a majority of Assembly members. ".Gov. Schwarzenegger crafted the agreement with the tribe earlier this month and is expected to sign it if it reaches his desk. The U.S. Interior Department must approve the agreement after that. "With tribal leaders watching legislators closely from the Senate gallery, supporters of the agreement struggled to get the votes they needed Monday afternoon. After an initial vote in the state Senate failed by three votes, backers of the bill rounded up enough to pass it 22-7 about 20 minutes later. ".The agreement, known as a compact, calls for allowing the Agua Caliente Band add a third casino and 3,000 more slot machines, for a total of 5,000. In exchange, the tribe has agreed to pay the state an estimated $1.83 billion through 2030."

Looking in on: Business

 

Big-time developers have claimed another Strip landmark. Metroflag, the company that has emerged with the top bid to buy the Riviera's parent company, recently bought the Harley-Davidson Cafe at the southeast corner of Harmon Avenue and the Strip for $14.9 million.The site, just short of 1 acre, gives Metroflag about 18 prime acres of contiguous real estate from the Harley-Davidson Cafe site to the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, across the Strip from the Monte Carlo. Metroflag President Scott Butera, who joined the company in November from Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, said the company has no immediate plans to redevelop the Harley-Davidson property or the rest of its roughly 1,200-acre Strip frontage. "Clearly our focus is on the Riviera," Butera said. It's also clear the company is positioning itself for a time when the last company without a major, mixed-use resort project on the Strip is a rotten egg. One sign is Metroflag's relationship with the New York architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, a global powerhouse working with the Las Vegas company to master-plan potential projects. Metroflag, which also owns the Strip's Hawaiian Marketplace mall, is a joint venture between New York developers Flag Luxury Properties and Las Vegas developer Brett Torino's Torino Cos. "The current plan is to operate the properties as we have them, though we're always looking for better ways to take advantage of that site," Butera said.

. . .

Breaking up, apparently, isn't that hard to do.

Station Casinos' partnership with timeshare developer Stephen Cloobeck and condo builder Steven Molasky to build two condominium towers at the company's Red Rock Resort has entered Splitsville. Station dissolved the partnership in June and intends to move ahead with the condo project on its own.

Under the initial agreement, Station owned 80 percent of the joint venture, and Cloobeck Molasky Partners LLC owned the remaining 20 percent. Station, which has opened a sales center for the condos at Red Rock, still intends to stick with initial plans to build up to 600 units by 2008.

The company has not finalized prices and is not yet taking reservations for the towers, which would be the first to be part of a suburban casino.

Cloobeck Molasky group seeks damages from Station in a demand for arbitration sent to the gaming company last month.

Station is still exploring the possibility of building condos at some of its other locals casinos around town, though these plans probably will not involve the residential developers.

. . .

Fontainebleau, oh Fontainebleau, wherefore art thou?

Developers of the much-awaited Fontainebleau casino resort and condo tower at the north end of the Strip haven't said boo about the project since it was announced in May of last year. The project's marketing boss says Fontainebleau Resorts - the partnership between Florida-based condominium developer Turnberry Associates and former Mandalay Resort Group executive and local arts patron Glenn Schaeffer - has not begun the official process of hiring executives to run the property.

But there is some movement afoot behind the scenes.

Developers recently filed their first set of plans with the county showing a hotel with 2,929 rooms and 959 additional condo units.

As expected, the property will feature multiple entertainment areas, shopping, indoor and outdoor dining and a convention center.

The main high-rise building would be 725 feet - one of the Strip's tallest. The Clark County Planning Commission was scheduled to vote on the plans this month, but that discussion has been delayed until Sept. 5.

John Marz, the Fontainebleau's marketing executive, cautioned that those plans are not final and said there is no firm timetable for when the project - initially scheduled to open in 2008 - might be approved and built. Turnberry already has begun the two-year renovation of the famed Fontainebleau hotel in Miami, purchased last year.

The details come amid cooled hype about condos, though luxury hotel brands are still hot to capture a piece of the Strip's burgeoning market of wealthy tourists.

Deutsche Bank Securities stock analyst Bill Lerner said he is not familiar with Fontainebleau's latest plans. Developers up and down the Strip, however, are delaying their projects after taking stock of an increasingly competitive marketplace, he said.

"Projects that penciled out favorably with good returns a year ago are less favorable today," Lerner said. "Not only is labor more expensive and materials more expensive, but labor isn't necessarily available. It's not as easy now as it was a year ago to lock down a general contractor."

Aristocrat Remains Quiet Over Legal Expenses

 

As reported by the Australian: "The world's second-biggest poker machine maker, Aristocrat Leisure, is remaining coy about how much it will provide for litigation expenses this year after provisions jumped 73 per cent to $28.94 million last year. "Chief executive Paul Oneile was loath to talk about current litigation funding, saying only that it was a fact of life in the gambling industry. "Aristocrat provided $28.94 million in litigation expenses in calendar 2005 - up from $16.74 million the previous year - as it battled a $190 million class action from shareholders who watched the company's share price fall dramatically between September 2002 and May 2003. Mr Oneile became CEO in November 2003. ".Yesterday Aristocrat released first-half results that showed declining revenues but a record after-tax profit of $104.7 million. "Aristocrat revenue was dragged down by falling sales in Japan because of new gaming rules which demand that payouts are reduced but made more frequently. ".Despite the problems in Japan, once Aristocrat's biggest foreign market, net profit rose 3 per cent on the back of a marginal decline in revenue to $495.9 million."

Online Gambling Hedges Its U.S. Bets

 

As reported by Business Week: "The U.S. Congress has yet to pass the pending legislation cracking down on Internet gambling. But in the meantime, the Justice Dept. has cast a much deeper freeze over the business with its July arrest of BetOnSports Chief Executive David Carruthers. Now, under pursuit of U.S. legal authorities, European online gaming companies are scrambling to reduce their exposure in the U.S. and find new markets in Europe and Asia. "Industry insiders say the trend could signal the start of a major wave of consolidation. "...The potential loss of their U.S. markets is devastating for online gaming companies. "...But companies are now facing up to the possibility that they'll lose their fight with Washington..."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vietnamese Transport Official Bet $1.53 Million in 2005

 

As reported by Thanh Nien Daily: "Police have completed their probe into a multi-million dollar gambling case and concluded the director of a state road-building agency bet away US$1.53 million on football via three bookmakers in 2005. "The public security ministry, a central police agency, said Bui Tien Dung - former director of the transport ministry's Project Management Unit No 18 or PMU18 had placed 30 bets totaling $500,000 via Nguyen Quang Hung, a policeman-turned-bookie. "Dung also gambled 10 times amounting to $1 million through Nguyen Van Hong, who used to be the director of a joint stock real estate company in Hanoi. ".Dung's highest bet was $286,000. "Of the $1.53 million in wagers, Dung claims he won $430,000 and lost $450,000. "He confessed to using gifted money and a house mortgage in his gambling."

Royal Oasis Sold

 

As reported by the Freeport News: "Former workers at the Crowne Plaza Golf Resort and Casino at the Royal Oasis will get first pick at employment when the property reopens and government is expected to make an official announcement of the long-awaited sale this week. "The resort property is inclusive of a Towers, Country Club and Casino amounting to 965 rooms and 98 timeshare units which shut down in September 2004 after Hurricane Frances, forcing the lay offs of some 1,300 employees. "World Investments Holdings (WIH) signed a contract with Lehman Brothers, the financiers of the resort, on Monday for the purchase and a subsequent contract - the foundation of the sale - was concluded on Tuesday. ".A second bidder, Harcourt Developments, a property construction and management company based in Dublin, Ireland, was also vying for the property. ".In May 2005, government paid out an unprecedented $5 million of the $6.12 million to 900 displaced workers owed by the resort, the second largest in Grand Bahama. ".It is expected that the towers and the casino will reopen first and, government wants that to happen as quickly as possible."

New Round for Lazy 8 Debate Wednesday

 

As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal: "The hotly debated plan for the Lazy 8 casino heads to Sparks City Council on Wednesday as developers move forward on their plans for the Pyramid Highway project. "The hotel, casino and movie theater plan from Peppermill casinos and developer Harvey Whittemore has brought opposition from citizens and major casinos during the past two years. "Most recently, both sides have pushed their agenda through advertisements, which themselves have become controversial. "The casino opposition group, Citizens for a Better Sparks, is inappropriately advertising a political message without properly registering as a state political action committee, developers say. "Those complaints follow an ethics complaint against a councilman whose campaign consultant now represents the Lazy 8. "The bickering follows changes in Sparks law enacted in January that require casinos to have hotel rooms and restrict casinos to the Victorian Square and Truckee River area. The new rules were spurred by the Lazy 8 plans. Developers contend they have the right to build Lazy 8 at Pyramid and La Posada Drive, and hope the five council members agree Wednesday at the special meeting for the request. ".Wednesday's meeting is likely a precursor to a court battle, with the losing side expected to sue over the council's decision."

Tip Income Dispute: IRS Audits Anger Casino Workers

 

A nasty dust-up over taxes owed on tip income has Las Vegas bar and restaurant workers seething and the Internal Revenue Service beating a hasty retreat -- for now. The ruckus, which reached a head at a so-called "tip summit" between IRS and hotel-casino industry representatives on Thursday, stemmed from two recent developments that insiders said may or may not be related. The first involves negotiations between the IRS and Culinary Local 226 to revise and extend three-year tip agreements that are set to expire this month. Those negotiations appeared to have been at a loggerhead. At the same time, the IRS has been sending notices to thousands of local workers saying they are being audited or that they owe additional taxes because they underreported their tip income. The notices subjected the affected workers to back tax liabilities and penalties, possible prosecution for tax evasion and possible liens on their homes, Culinary union spokesman Kevin Klein said Friday. The notices also abrogated a longtime pact between local casino workers and the IRS in which the federal agency promised not to audit workers who agreed to have their taxes withheld by their employers based on an agreed-upon formula to calculate their tip income, he said. Under the 15-year-old program, each worker's reported tip income is determined by their position, the property they work at and their work shift. The intent of the program is to make it easier for the IRS to ensure compliance and relieve individual workers from having to keep an exact records of all their tips. Participants said Thursday's meeting started off acrimoniously, with gaming companies complaining about the audit notices and the problems their workers are encountering. "People are very upset," Klein said. "(The IRS) blew it on this. They negotiated rates three years ago and should have just stuck with it." The IRS is saying in its notices to workers that they underreported their tip income by $2,000 to $6,000 a year, he said.

Marvin Naus, a food server at Sir Gallahad's Pub and Prime Rib House in Excalibur for 13 years, has been snared in the dispute for almost a year.

He got a notice in September that he failed to report $5,000 in tip income and owed an additional $1,700 in taxes.

That's because he worked in three different restaurants at different times, and MGM Mirage reported his tip income under the three formulas appropriate to each restaurant.

Even when Excalibur documented his employment and confirmed his estimated tip income was correct, the IRS refused to relent.

Naus, who called the situation intimidating, said after an exchange of nine letters, the IRS has reduced its claims against him to $542.

"It's too bad. We had a win-win situation the way it was set up. We liked the tip rates and the absence of audits. Now they just changed the rules," he said.

Some employees hit by surprise with the letters from the IRS have just gone ahead and paid the disputed amounts, sources said.

Others, like Naus, have contested them with little success, which may also be contributing to the tensions over the issue.

For now, a gaming company executive said, "The main message from the hotel industry is if a worker gets a notice, he or she should not pay it, but go to their supervisor to see what can be done."

If the IRS continues sending out notices, there is a real risk the program will implode because workers who see it as unfair will opt out, Klein said.

Naus, for one, said he and a lot of his co-workers will walk away from the program if the IRS breaks its agreement.

That wouldn't benefit the IRS, which has managed to privatize its tax collection with the agreements; or the 50,000 workers, 35,000 of whom are Culinary union members, who are free from the fear of audits; or gaming companies whose tax withholding is vastly simplified by the program.

"The ultimate goal is to be fair," said American Gaming Association Vice President Wally Chalmers, who was at Thursday's summit.

"It's worked for over 10 years. But if new rates aren't fair, workers will take a second look, and the program will fall apart," he said.

Thursday's meeting ended on a better note than it started, although industry insiders said they doubted the issue will be resolved before December.

Industry officials said the participants seemed to reach some agreement on four points raised by Culinary union representatives.

The union is seeking better communications with the IRS, a grace period for workers being notified by the agency while a new agreement is being negotiated, and new tip calculations based on a worker's shift and where they work. It also wants the IRS to act fairly toward workers who sign up for the voluntary program.

Also, gaming company executives agreed with IRS officials that it was reasonable to look at adjusting the amount of tip income that is being withheld from workers' pay because it has not been reviewed in years, especially considering the proliferation of high-end amenities on the Strip.

A gaming executive, who asked not to be named while the program is being negotiated, said the companies also want the IRS to implement any new formulas all at once.

Otherwise, the companies fear workers will be jumping from one casino to another to take advantage of different tip income projections.

Another executive conceded that there is some tax cheating by workers signed up in the program.

Specifically, some employees jump in and out of the program as their tip income goes over and under the applicable formula.

At the summit, the IRS agreed to extend the deadline for back taxes owed and audits until the end of the year, taking the immediate pressure off workers, according to a Washington source who asked not to be named because he was not at the meeting.

The agency also agreed to set up an internal task force to review tip rates and compare them to actual tip income that is reported in other cities, he said.

Meanwhile, Culinary union officials got busy Friday organizing committees at every major casino and scheduling a follow-up meeting with gaming executives to plot strategy to resolve the issue, Klein said.

IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino on Friday declined to confirm or deny the outcome of the meeting because he is prohibited from discussing specific cases.

Other sources in Washington said the IRS is interested in not seeing the issues "over-hyped" because of the delicate negotiations now under way.

"This was the first meeting in a process of meetings," another Washington source said. "Lower level IRS bureaucrats were the source of the problem. Now, higher-ups have to see what can be done to break the logger-head."

Nothing more concrete is likely to happen until after Congress returns from its recess on Sept. 5, Chalmers said.

"But I'm optimistic. I think some real progress was made yesterday," he said.

Urban Growth: Strip Squeeze

 

If you've driven down the Strip anytime in the past few years, you know how bad traffic is. Now imagine yourself creeping along past one construction site after another trying to get to a restaurant on time with an additional 50,000 cars crowding the already jammed-up Las Vegas Boulevard every day. It's going to happen. And it's going to be even worse than that. The Regional Transportation Commission is projecting that, without major changes in transportation systems, seven Strip hotel-casino projects already started or planned to be built in the next four years -- the Cosmopolitan, Echelon Place, Encore, Palazzo, Project CityCenter, Signature and the first Trump tower -- will boost daily traffic along the resort corridor by 25 percent. The resort corridor, which includes Las Vegas Boulevard, Interstate 15, Paradise Road, Frank Sinatra Drive and Industrial Road, already carries about 225,000 vehicles per day, the agency said. All those trips include drive-in visitors, taxis, rental cars, and cars driven by Strip workers and local residents, the agency added. "It will be very difficult to meet the demands for all those new cars," Regional Transportation Commission General Manager Jacob Snow said. The traffic snarls will be much worse if all of the 80,000 hotel and condominium rooms that have been proposed along the Strip corridor are built. The RTC projections for the seven Strip projects expected to be built in the next four years are based on its estimates that each new hotel and condo room will increase traffic along the Strip corridor by about two trips per day, meaning the projects' 23,000 proposed rooms would add 53,670 cars each day.

But another 74,000 condo units have been proposed or are under construction along the Strip, and, using the RTC estimate of about 2.3 new cars per room, traffic could increase by another 100,000 or more vehicles each day along the corridor if all those condos are built.

That could mean that traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, which is already maxed-out at 50,000 vehicles per day, could more than triple.

And tourists are already complaining.

For example, one gaming analyst who asked not to be identified and who visits Las Vegas frequently, said a taxi ride from the Four Seasons Hotel at the south end of the Strip to Wynn Las Vegas takes longer than the one from Battery Park to Central Park in New York City, even though the local trip is half the distance: 2.7 miles vs. 5.3 miles.

"That's a real problem for businessmen and convention-goers and a pretty unpleasant surprise for leisure travelers," he said. "Just picture it getting that much worse."

Jim Medick, head of MRC Group Research Institute, a market research firm, agrees and said those kind of surprises will have a major impact on whether or not leisure and business travelers pick Las Vegas over other destinations.

His surveys already suggest that problems getting to and from major conventions are one of the biggest concerns for business travelers.

Additional traffic and construction delays will only discourage more visitors from making return trips until the problems are resolved, he said.

Before such a Doomsday scenario comes to pass, however, something has to give, said Greg Borgel, owner of consulting firm Moreno and Associates.

"The numbers are accurate," he said of the RTC's predictions. "But that number of vehicles simply couldn't be sustained. There is no possibility of broadening the Strip to 20 lanes and that, among other things, is what you'd have to be talking about."

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, ranks the Strip as one of the world's greatest pedestrian malls and said it warrants special attention.

"I'd suggest that the number one tourist activity in the number one tourist city in the world, Las Vegas, is walking and gawking on the Strip," he said.

MRC's research backs him up. Medick said his surveys have consistently found that, depending on the season, walking the Strip is a leading recreational activity for visitors with most tourists walking to seven or more casinos on each trip.

Because of that, Thompson and Snow agree that government and industry officials need to put a greater emphasis on pedestrian and people flows to relieve traffic congestion along the Strip corridor.

"Any destination that has grown as rapidly as we have, and continues to grow, needs to look at (these) issues, whether it's transportation or highways into Las Vegas, or its air capacity," agreed Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President Rossi Ralenkotter.

Ralenkotter also believes the multibillion-dollar investments that hotel-casino operators are making to Manhattanize the Strip show they believe the challenges can be met, too.

David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, doubts that traffic problems will become serious enough to hurt Strip tourism because many visitors to Las Vegas already face worse traffic congestion in their own hometowns.

Comments from some recent visitors suggest otherwise, though.

Vicki Park, who was visiting from Chicago in July, for example, complained about her half-hour midday taxi ride from Fashion Show mall to MGM Grand.

"Look, that's the kind of problem I come here to escape. Change the formula and I stay away," she said. "It's not that the stores here are that much better, it's that they are that much more convenient."

Park said if traffic problems in Las Vegas get much worse she may decide to do her shopping at home or to vacation elsewhere.

Similarly, Marcy Matheson from Washington said she missed the beginning of "Love," the new Beatles show at The Mirage, because of the unexpected time it took to take a cab from Mandalay Bay.

"I don't need the headache. I might as well stay home if they're just going to turn this into another Manhattan in terms of crazy traffic," she said. "That's not what I'm looking for on vacation."

But another Manhattan is exactly what gaming companies and developers have said they foresee as the Strip's future.

Skyrocketing Strip land prices make high-rise, mixed-use developments like MGM Mirage's Project CityCenter and New York developer Bruce Eichner's 2,200-room Cosmopolitan necessary for the future growth of Las Vegas' tourism and gaming industry. Industry leaders such as MGM Mirage boss Terry Lanni and Eichner acknowledge that their projects will create more traffic snarls. But they argue that, partially because of the traffic, future guests will spend more of their time at the "urban center" resort they are staying at and less time visiting other resorts.

But local officials and developers are taking steps to accommodate visitors who want to wander outside.

The RTC's Snow notes that some traffic improvements have already been completed, although he conceded that even the newest projects such as Frank Sinatra are already inundated with traffic and much more needs to be done.

"What we need are the financial resources first," he said.

Borgel, the consultant, said the Strip resorts can help generate the revenue needed to make traffic improvements.

"If the monies generated on the Strip from the various sources are not used to finance transportation, then people will face unacceptable transit problems," he said. "But that is not the history we have had in Nevada. The premise that we won't provide the enhancements on the Strip (is false). We will as we always have."

UNLV's Schwartz said he is also confident that developers will be able to mitigate traffic problems by working with the state and county on improvements.

That is already happening with the already announced mixed-use projects.

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said traffic and pedestrian mobility were "top of mind" in planning the $7 billion, 2,800-room Project CityCenter. The first challenge for Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, Project CityCenter's lead architect, was to analyze traffic flows in Las Vegas to produce a design that minimized disruptions.

The project will include an elevated Harmon Place roundabout that will create a new above-ground level for transit. The level will give drivers off-Strip access to two of Project CityCenter's major structures.

Borgel, who has worked as a consultant to The Venetian on its Palazzo expansion, said Las Vegas Sands Corp. has built pedestrian overpasses and has paid to install right-turn lanes and resynchronize traffic lights around the expansion. Also, he said, Las Vegas Sands is building all of its visitor and employee parking structures on the Palazzo's backside with access through Koval Lane.

"Just like MGM Mirage's CityCenter, that helps the Strip by putting access and parking off the Strip," he said.

MGM Mirage also owns the 1,728-room Signature tower at MGM Grand.

Doug Williams, chief development officer for the Cosmopolitan, said easing potential traffic problems is a priority for his $1.2 billion project.

"To mitigate potential traffic issues, we're putting our main entrance and porte-cochere on Harmon Avenue rather than Las Vegas Boulevard," he said. "And we'll dedicate land for an additional right-hand turn lane into our main entrance to our main entrance on Harmon Avenue.

"In addition, we are working in partnership with CityCenter to fund and build two pedestrian bridges, one across Harmon and the other across Las Vegas Boulevard."

Rob Stillwell, spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corp., which has announced plans for the $4 billion, 2,000-room Encore high-density urban resort project at the Strip's north end, said it is premature to discuss his company's traffic plans.

However, he said the company will consider donating some land on Encore's Strip side to the county if it will help mitigate traffic congestion.

Encore developer Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Trump developer Donald Trump did not return phone calls or e-mail messages about what traffic-easing steps they may take or favor.

Donald Trump is building a 1,282-unit condo tower and Wynn Resorts is building the 2,000-room Encore.

Harrah's Entertainment is devising plans to redevelop its properties on the Strip's east side around Flamingo Road. But Harrah's spokesman David Strow said he couldn't comment on rumors or speculation.

Snow and others agree that it is in the developers' and casino companies' own interests to take steps to help local and state governments alleviate traffic problems along the Strip corridor.

"When you start getting the type of development density we'll get on the Strip and look at all the cities in the world with the same density, the successful ones have created world-class transportation systems," Snow said.

Otherwise, he warns, "if it becomes a problem, it will start to affect the bottom line of all the operators."

Casinos Eager to Deal in Hispanics

 

Major U.S. brands such as Coca-Cola and Ford are doing it. As are Bank of America, AT&T and Microsoft. But Las Vegas casinos - faced with the more nuanced task of selling the image and flavor of a resort vacation rather than a product - are years behind other companies in recognizing that promoting their wares to the nation's largest and fastest growing minority group is no longer a matter of choice. Indeed, for casinos, like other companies, marketing to Hispanics has become a matter of simple math. About one in seven people in the United States is Hispanic, with half of the Hispanic population younger than 27. In California - Las Vegas' biggest feeder market - one-third of the population is Hispanic, with Hispanics estimated to become the largest ethnic group by 2010 and a majority by 2040. The ballooning Hispanic market is fairly young, with high birthrates outpacing new immigrants. That could be important to gaming's future because the casino industry's typical customer is about 50 years old and cannot sustain the industry for generations to come. "It's a very untapped market here in Las Vegas," said Jim Medick, chief executive of MRC Group, a Las Vegas-based market research firm that has conducted Hispanic marketing studies for Las Vegas casinos. Casinos stand to capture a big percentage of the estimated $25 million that Hispanic Nevadans could potentially leave behind in Las Vegas casinos and a chunk of the estimated $215 million Hispanic tourists could spend overall, Medick said. While casinos know this, many are uncertain how to tap into a group that is not necessarily swayed by the same sexed-up, irreverent messages that attract a primarily white crowd. They also know that cultural marketing - for an industry schooled in generic direct-mail offers for gamblers - is a potential minefield for marketers unfamiliar with Hispanic culture.

Some American companies have invested years and millions of dollars to learn a host of marketing do's and don'ts. Translating catchphrases directly into Spanish can result in embarrassing or ineffective messages. Add to that some concern that Hispanics tend to include their children in trips to hotels, which accommodate kids but prefer adults with money to burn.

Casinos, though, will have little choice but to pay attention to niche groups as industry growth slows because of competition and graying slot customers, said Dennis Conrad, a Reno-based casino consultant.

The Hispanic market has largely been ignored by casinos relative to its size and profit potential, a situation Conrad blames primarily on the long-held notion that Hispanics don't have much money to spend on a resort vacation.

That viewpoint is changing, with casinos starting to develop more sophisticated outreach efforts based on the latest market research - which points to rising incomes and a desire to spend money on entertainment.

One upcoming event, a tequila festival and trade show inviting tequila makers from Mexico, is expected to kick off next year on the Strip. Earlier this month, four venues, including the Stardust and Mandalay Bay, hosted the Las Vegas Caliente festival, Las Vegas' first multivenue Latin music event.

A couple of weeks ago, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority wrapped up its first major public relations event for Spanish-language travel writers, pitching media from key markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston on the latest Strip attractions.

Some companies are running occasional Spanish-language ads, "Latin night" events or Latin musical acts while they conduct preliminary research on the Hispanic market.

Julio Cordova, a partner in Elias Entertainment, a company that promotes Hispanic acts across the Southwest, says those efforts have not been aggressive enough.

"They aren't spending much effort thinking about the general market or even the Mexicans who actually live there," Cordova said. "They probably just think of them as the help."

Some off-Strip properties say that while they already market to Clark County's 25 percent Hispanic population, those efforts have been beefed up recently.

Locals chain Coast Casinos hosts a weekly party at the Gold Coast called "Latin Vida" and regular dances, or "bailes," at the Orleans Arena and South Coast that can draw up to 7,000 people. The company's Sam's Town property, located near heavily Hispanic neighborhoods in eastern Las Vegas , hosts frequent "quinceaneras," or coming-of-age birthday parties for 15-year-old girls. And the Stardust, which offered nine Hispanic entertainment events in the past two years, offered its 10th, called "Salsa Vegas," earlier this month.

Locals giant Station Casinos is following the lead of other corporate brands by appointing a director of Hispanic marketing. Former Four Seasons Hotel executive Ivan Negri will assist on advertising campaigns, advise the company's human relations department and serve as a liaison for Hispanic employees and community groups.

Roughly a quarter of Station's 14,400 employees are Hispanic, and all employee communications are translated into Spanish. Station will soon translate its Web site and slot club kiosks into Spanish as well.

The biggest Strip properties, though, are further behind.

The country's two biggest casino companies admit they do not yet have a comprehensive plan to court Hispanics.

Harrah's Entertainment says it is starting to work on such a plan. Harrah's recently compiled a survey showing that about 29 percent of the Hispanic population had visited a casino during the first half of this year, up from 26 percent a year ago.

Competitor MGM Mirage has focused its outreach on public relations campaigns targeting Hispanic media outlets rather than advertising messages. Those efforts have quadrupled in the past few years, MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said.

The LVCVA is spending at least $2 million a year - more than any other target market - on Hispanic marketing, a figure to be increased by about $1 million next year.

A couple of years ago the LVCVA ran print and TV ads with the catchphrase, "En Las Vegas, todo se vale" (In Las Vegas, anything is possible).

One ad entitled "Tres Generaciones" featured a daughter, mother and grandmother shopping and lounging by a hotel pool - a far cry from the sexual innuendos in Las Vegas' quirky and brash "What happens here, stays here" campaign.

Last year about 2.4 million U.S. Hispanics visited Las Vegas and spent about $1.7 billion on nongaming activities, according to the LVCVA. A recent survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America concluded that Las Vegas ranks as the nation's top destination for Hispanic travelers.

Casinos will do more to market to Hispanics in the years to come - up to a point, MGM Mirage's Feldman said.

While properties will hire more Hispanics and do more business with the Hispanic community, they are not likely to launch year-round Spanish-language venues or entire Hispanic-themed properties, he said.

"I think it's important to cast the net as far and wide as possible, as opposed to going after one group," Feldman said. "Hispanics are the largest emerging market and is clearly the group that needs the most attention. But that doesn't mean at the expense of everyone else."

If consumers see more Spanish-language signs and ads in the future, that's good, said Yvette Sugg, a Mexican tourist who has visited Las Vegas twice and stayed at Bellagio last week with her family.

Sugg, who lives in Southern California, said promotions in Spanish would make her feel more welcome in Las Vegas and therefore more likely to return.

"It's my language," Sugg said. "It's like going to Europe. You'd want to see signs in English and have people who speak English. I know English - I was an English teacher in Mexico - but some people don't know English that well or they're shy."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Vision Impaired Version of Texas Hold'em Released

 

All inPlay, an accessible online community focused on fun and friendship for all, visually impaired and sighted alike, today announced the release of the world's first accessible version of Texas Hold'em. "From day one All inPlay has been about letting the skill of the player determine the outcome of the game, not whether or not they could see the screen," said Cofounder and CEO Jeremie Spitzer. "With our non-gambling version of Texas Hold'em, anyone who loves to play and make new friends now can, even those who use specialized assistive technologies like a screen reader." By focusing on the social aspect of games, it's no surprise that All inPlay's largest demographic is women over the age of 40. All inPlay is the first company dedicated to uniting the sighted and blind populations through online games. "Every time we set out building a new game we always made sure the graphics were top notch," said Cofounder and Community Director Paul Silva, "otherwise the games wouldn't have been able to attract as many sighted players it has." With 15 percent of its members sighted and 25 percent from outside the US, All inPlay is well on its way toward bringing fun and friendship to all.

Isle of Capri Casinos Appoints GM

 

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. officials announced today the appointment of Bari Richter as vice president/general manager of the company's Isle of Capri-Boonville, Mo. property. Bari joined Isle of Capri in 2000 at the company's Marquette, Iowa property as senior director of marketing before transferring to Boonville in 2003 serving in a marketing capacity until she was appointed to the role of senior director of operations in 2004. Her prior experience includes extensive marketing, accounting and operations expertise including positions with Miss Marquette Riverboat Casino in Marquette, Iowa; Silver Eagle Casino Cruise in East Dubuque, Ill. and Dubuque Casino Belle in Dubuque, Iowa. Bari holds a bachelor's degree in business from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, as well as the executive development program from the University of Nevada at Reno.

Fortunes Entertainment to Acquire Aztar Property

 

Aztar Corporation and Fortunes Entertainment, LLC today announced that they have signed a definitive agreement under which Fortunes Entertainment will acquire from Aztar the casino property commonly known as Casino Aztar Caruthersville. A sale of Casino Aztar Caruthersville, which is expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2006, had been contemplated in Aztar's May 19 merger agreement with Wimar Tahoe Corporation d/b/a Columbia Entertainment, the gaming affiliate of Columbia Sussex Corporation. Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by the Missouri gaming authorities and other customary closing conditions. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is acting as legal counsel and Banc of America Securities LLC is serving as financial advisor to Aztar. Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch, L.C. is acting as legal counsel to Fortunes Entertainment.

Littlefield Plans New Texas Bingo Hall

 

Littlefield Corporation announces that it will open a new bingo hall in San Angelo, Texas. The Company currently owns a bingo hall in San Angelo (Strike It Rich Bingo) which it purchased in 2005. That bingo hall has been performing at an increasingly high level. The new bingo hall (Let It Ride Bingo) is adjacent to the existing bingo hall and will offer complementary bingo sessions which will not conflict with the existing bingo hall offerings. Initially it will offer daytime bingo sessions and will ultimately be a daytime and late night bingo hall. The Company has been working on this development for some time and has accomplished the following key milestones: 1. The Company, acting through the appropriate corporate subsidiary, controls the adjoining real estate through a favorable lease arrangement with its existing bingo hall landlord. 2. The Company, acting through the appropriate corporate subsidiary, has applied for and received a zoning change necessary to operate a bingo hall on the adjoining premises. The Company has some minor physical plant improvements to be made to the site as part of the zoning change.

3. The Company will renovate the interior of the adjacent property for operation as a bingo hall.

4. The Company has several commercial lessor licenses on administrative hold and will activate one of these licenses for the new bingo hall.

5. The Company will form the appropriate corporate subsidiaries to hold its commercial lessor license and to enter into leases with charities to conduct bingo on the premises. Several charities are either already licensed or in the licensing process.

All of the above will be completed in sufficient time for the new bingo hall to begin operations in Q4-2006. Initially, the new bingo hall will offer Friday, Saturday and Sunday daytime sessions. Additional sessions will be added as these new offerings become accepted by the marketplace. It is expected that it will take approximately three full quarters for this new bingo hall to become fully acclimated and accepted by the marketplace.

Jeffrey L. Minch, President and Chief Executive Officer of Littlefield Corporation, offered the following comments:

"This is an opportunity we envisioned when we made the purchase of the San Angelo bingo hall in 2005.

"The existing bingo hall has improved its performance dramatically and is now performing very well. There is still some physical plant work to be done on that property and that work will be completed shortly.

"We have made good progress in laying the groundwork for the new bingo hall. The new daytime and late night bingo hall will be complementary with the existing nighttime bingo hall. They will both become stronger because of the customer recognition of this location as a full time bingo site.

"The success in turning around the existing bingo hall has inspired charities to express interest in conducting bingo at the new bingo hall.

"This opportunity has the potential to become a wonderful success and lots of hard work has gone into making this a reality. I appreciate the hard work that Richard Bunkley, GM of Texas Bingo Operations, has put into making this potential a reality. I am confident he will make the new bingo hall a great success."

Bally Technologies Reports Death of Board Member

 

Bally Technologies, Inc. is saddened to announce the death of Board Member Joel Kirschbaum. Mr. Kirschbaum passed away on August 16, 2006 after a brief illness. "We are all deeply saddened by Joel's death," said David Robbins, Chairman of the Board. "Joel's contributions to our Company during the past 12 years, including playing a leading role in guiding its development from a route operations company in the early 1990s to its present state as a sophisticated integrated gaming, systems and software company, have been enormous. Joel will be sorely missed by all of his many friends in the Company and in the industry, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to family and friends." Mr. Kirschbaum has been a director since July 1994, served as Chairman of the Board of Directors from July 1994 to March 1995 and served as a member of the Company's Office of the Chairman since July 1, 2004. Mr. Kirschbaum was the controlling person of Kirkland Investment Company and, prior to that, served in various capacities including General Partner at Goldman Sachs.

Hollywood Sportsbook Offers MLB Game Odds

 

Hollywood Sportsbook features odds on the MLB game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres on August 18th, 2006. Tuesday's game gave the Arizona Diamondbacks a 2-1 victory and with the victory, they moved into a tie with second-place San Diego Padres in the NL West, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. The Diamondbacks and Padres also trail the Reds by one game in the wild card race. So now, the Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres will continue their fight to remain in the playoff race when they open a series on Friday night. The game is scheduled to start at 10:05 p.m. (ET) at PETCO Park in San Diego, California, and Hollywood Sportsbook proudly features odds on the event. Hollywood's Media Relations executive, Alejandro Gomez, was quoted saying,"The Arizona Diamondbacks, who aren't afraid to play their younger players, will continue their road trip against the San Diego Padres, who opened a 10-game homestand against Arizona, the Giants and Dodgers." "Beyond that, the Padres, rather than coming on strong in the second half, have lost for the sixth time in eight games. They are 12-19 since the All-Star break, a skid that dropped them into second place in the West. So, there is some panic and a sense of urgency with the stand," added Mr. Gomez.

Hollywood Sportsbook is eager to provide you with a convenient and secure environment through which you can enjoy your recreational sports betting; they are currently offering sports betting lines for the game mentioned above. It's really easy to contact them via phone or internet from anywhere in the world. You can get started by opening your account within 5 minutes of verification of your funds. Three easy steps: Register, Deposit and Play. It's that simple.

Vision Impaired Version of Texas Hold'em Released

 

All inPlay, an accessible online community focused on fun and friendship for all, visually impaired and sighted alike, today announced the release of the world's first accessible version of Texas Hold'em. "From day one All inPlay has been about letting the skill of the player determine the outcome of the game, not whether or not they could see the screen," said Cofounder and CEO Jeremie Spitzer. "With our non-gambling version of Texas Hold'em, anyone who loves to play and make new friends now can, even those who use specialized assistive technologies like a screen reader." By focusing on the social aspect of games, it's no surprise that All inPlay's largest demographic is women over the age of 40. All inPlay is the first company dedicated to uniting the sighted and blind populations through online games. "Every time we set out building a new game we always made sure the graphics were top notch," said Cofounder and Community Director Paul Silva, "otherwise the games wouldn't have been able to attract as many sighted players it has." With 15 percent of its members sighted and 25 percent from outside the US, All inPlay is well on its way toward bringing fun and friendship to all.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Betfair Signs Buzzer

 

Betfair Poker has signed a deal with Thomas 'Buzzer' Bhil, which formalises his position as one of TEAM BETFAIR's sponsored pros. He joins Ben 'Milky Bar Kid' Grundy and Bengt Sonnert in representing Betfair at major tournaments. The three pros will also play important roles in the education of new Betfair Poker players. "Buzzer is a very strong player with some excellent tournament results. In single table tournaments he is one of the toughest players in the world. He will be responsible for passing on his knowledge to our user base," said head of poker, Ben Fried. In future, Betfair Poker will use its professional players in educational videos that will be downloadable from its website. Ben Grundy will give his expert insights into Omaha. Bengt Sonnert is a high-stakes limit cash game specialist and Buzzer will give lessons on single table tournament play. "I'm pleased we have expanded our existing friendship into official sponsorship. Betfair Poker is where I first learned and later improved my game, and has always been my "poker home". I am looking forward to a longstanding relationship," said Buzzer. Buzzer is based in Frankfurt and can mainly be found playing Sixpaks on Betfair Poker, often playing 10 tables at a time. He was recently nominated to the advisory board of the World Federation of Poker and is a speaker at the Howard Lederer and Annie Duke-run European Poker Camp, along with Marcel Luske.

APAT Tournament Series Launched

 

Amateur Poker Association & Tour ("APAT"), in association with PokerStars.com and PokerPlayer Magazine, announces the launch of the APAT Online Series. APAT Online is a series of 30 International tournaments hosted exclusively at PokerStars.com. The inaugural APAT Online Series event will be the English Amateur Poker Open, to be held on August 19. Tournaments, including the Australian, European and North American Amateur Poker Opens', will be played every second Saturday throughout Season One, which will culminate with the five day "World Series of Amateur Poker" , which will include H.O.R.S.E., Omaha, Stud and Razz events in addition to a No Limit Hold Em Championship finale. APAT Online Series tournaments are open to APAT members of every nationality. Each event will see players beginning with 5,000 chips. These deep stack tournaments will encourage creative play throughout and will represent excellent value for a $20 +$2 buy-in. Players finishing in the top nine places of each APAT Online Series event will win tournament ranking points, with the overall highest point scorer from APAT Live and Online Series events winning a PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure World Poker Tour entry package, and the prestigious title of APAT Player of the Year.

Sportsbook.com Offers NFL Odds

 

Last year the Indianapolis Colts won more regular season games than any other team in the NFL with a 14-2 record. Although they failed yet again to win the big prize and despite the off-season loss of running back Edgerrin James to free agency, Sportsbook.com odds makers still believe the Colts should lead the league again, setting their over/under odds for total wins this season at 11.5, the most for any team. Seattle, the NFC Champion is given the next highest over/under for total wins, along with New England, at 10.5. They are followed by three teams listed at 10 wins, including the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina and Denver. The lowest over/under of five wins belongs to the once mighty and revered San Francisco 49ers. Last year the 49ers finished with a pathetic 4-12 record, but they were not alone. The team across the Bay in Oakland also had just four wins as did Green Bay, the New York Jets and Tennessee. Last year's bottom feeders, the Houston Texans, who managed only two wins in 2005, have their over/under for total wins this season set at 5.5 games.

Along with Houston, the teams expected to make the biggest improvement by the odds makers are the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints. Two big-time running backs might be the reason behind the optimism in those cities, with the aforementioned James signing with the Cardinals this summer and the Saints bolstering their attack with highly touted rookie Reggie Bush.

"Everybody bets on the NFL and betting on total wins has always been one of the most popular pre-season bets for Sportsbook.com users," said Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com. "Every team and every fan has a sense of optimism and hope heading into the season. Everyone looks good when their record is 0-0."

Four Winds Casino Names New GM

 

Four Winds Casino Resort has named Matthew Harkness, a seasoned gaming executive with over 25 years of New Jersey gaming experience, as their new General Manager. Beginning in early September, Harkness will assume day-to-day responsibility for all facets of Four Winds operations. "Matt's extensive casino background and proven track record in the gaming industry will be extremely valuable to Four Winds Casino Resort," said John Miller, Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. "He's the right leader to create the best possible gaming experience for our Four Winds patrons." Harkness' gaming experience includes marketing and casino operations. He served five years as chief operating officer for Trump Plaza in New Jersey where he managed all aspects of the casino hotel with 3,000 slot machines, 90 table games, 900 hotel rooms and 2,500 employees. Harkness successfully incorporated new slot technologies ahead of the competition in New Jersey. He also served as senior vice president/marketing at Trump Taj Mahal, executive director/marketing at Trump Marina, and executive director/casino administration at Trump Taj Mahal. Recently, Harkness served as a consultant in tribal gaming.

Tim Cope, President of Lakes Entertainment, the management company of Four Winds stated, "We're pleased to have filled this key position with an individual of Matt's caliber as we begin to build a quality team to open and operate the Four Winds Casino Resort."

"I'm very excited to be working with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and Lakes Entertainment," said Harkness. "I believe Four Winds Casino Resort, when it opens in August 2007, will be the premier gaming resort in the Chicagoland market."

Harkness was born in Lansing and still has family in the Detroit area.

GTECH, Manitoba Lotteries Sign Deal

 

GTECH Holdings Corporation today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, GTECH Corporation, has signed a product sale contract to supply the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation with a new video central system, which includes a five-year support agreement. With respect to this contract with the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, GTECH anticipates generating revenues of approximately U.S. $8 million. "Video lottery has been an expanding component of GTECH's growth strategy in recent years," said GTECH President and CEO W. Bruce Turner. "We're pleased to have established a partnership with our newest Canadian customer, the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, to provide a state-of-the-art video lottery central system to ensure they continue offering high-quality gaming entertainment in Manitoba." Under the terms of the contract, GTECH will replace the Lottery's existing video central system, currently supplied by another vendor, with the Company's Enterprise Series(TM) Video central system. GTECH's central system will monitor the security and integrity of approximately 5,500 video lottery terminals (VLTs) in the network.

Additionally, GTECH will provide Manitoba with approximately 650 internet protocol (IP)-ready video site controllers, which will link the VLTs to the central system and provide validation of winning receipts and printing of retailer reports. Manitoba will also receive video central system software support and maintenance for a five-year period. GTECH expects the new video central system to be operational by April 2007.

In addition to Manitoba, the Company currently supplies, or has contracts to supply, video central computer systems to customers in the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Atlantic Canada; and to customers throughout the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.

PinnacleSports.com Offers NCAA Football Odds

 

While the kickoff to the 2006 NCAA football season isn't for another two weeks, fans can already get in on the action on all of the season's big games at PinnacleSports.com. The largest sports betting site on the Internet, PinnacleSports.com has already opened wagering on every game taking place during the first week of college football, as well as on several marquee match-ups taking place each week of the NCAA season.

The first day of college games takes place on Thursday, August 31, with Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks traveling to conference rival Mississippi State where PinnacleSports.com lists the host Bulldogs as 6 point underdogs in Starkville. On the first Saturday of games, Heisman hopeful Brady Quinn and Notre Dame kick off the second season of the Charlie Weis regime at Georgia Tech where the Fighting Irish are 7.5 point favorites. The biggest match-up of the opening week pits in-state rivals Miami (Florida) and Florida State squaring off in the Orange Bowl where the Hurricanes are favored by 3.5 points over the Seminoles.

In addition to posting betting lines on the full schedule of games taking place during the first week of the NCAA season, PinnacleSports.com is also taking wagers on several of the most anticipated games taking place each week during the entire 14-week regular season. These marquee match-ups include:

* Ohio State (pick 'em) at reigning national champion Texas on September 9

* Michigan (+6) visiting Notre Dame on September 16

* October 7th's "Red River Shootout" between Texas (-2.5) and Oklahoma

* Florida (-4) vs Georgia at "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" October 28

* Louisville (-3.5) hosting West Virginia on November 4

* Michigan (+6) at rival Ohio State November 18

* "The Iron Bowl" November 18 with Auburn (-3.5) facing in-state rival Alabama

* Notre Dame (+3) hoping to avenge 2005's last second loss to USC November 25

* Florida (+1.5) traveling to Florida State on November 25

* Cross-town rivals USC (-12) facing UCLA December 2

"It's simply not enough to give our players the opportunity to bet on the first week of college games, so for the second straight year we've offered lines on the best match-ups of each week throughout the entire season," said Simon Noble of PinnacleSports.com. "Whether bettors like Ohio State to beat reigning national champs Texas in Austin on September 9, or favor Notre Dame avenging last season's last second loss to USC, they'll find lines on all of the biggest games at PinnacleSports.com."

PinnacleSports.com also has compiled odds on a number of NCAA teams winning the BCS Championship Game where Notre Dame is a slight favorite at +684 (i.e., win $6.84 for every $1 bet) to win their first title since 1988 over surprise West Virginia (+703) and top-ranked Ohio State (+730). In addition, the online sportsbook lists Brady Quinn as the early favorite to become the seventh Heisman Trophy winner in Notre Dame history at 7/4 odds. Bettors can also place wagers on the total number of regular season wins by every Division IA NCAA team exclusively at PinnacleSports.com.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Spectre Gaming Completes Placement

 

Spectre Gaming, Inc. announced today that it has completed the private placement of convertible debentures with gross proceeds of $5,171,700. The private placement was subscribed to by institutional investors and high net worth individuals. The debentures are convertible into common stock of the Company at the price of $1.00 per common share. The debenture purchasers also received 5-year warrants to purchase an aggregate of 10,343,500 shares of common stock at a price of $1.10 per share. The Company also announced that it has begun placing its AWP machines at customer locations. To date, the Company has successfully installed 156 games at three locations. In addition, the Company has acquired or has in inventory, another 975 machines which it is currently converting to AWP for placement at customer locations. The Company currently has a backlog of customer orders exceeding 4,000 units. D. Bradly Olah, President of Spectre Gaming stated, "We are very pleased with the response we received during this offering. The proceeds from the offering give us the capital we believe we will need to continue with installations of AWP games in the Florida and Texas marketplace. To date we have placed 156 machines and expect to continue toward our goal of installing 2,000 units by year end. We believe that the initial response from our customers and their patrons at installed locations has been excellent and that we have proven the viability of our technology." The market for AWP is legal in some form in at least 45 states with an estimated 300,000 machines already in operation nationwide.

Nevada Agency Targets New Jersey Companies

 

An agency bent on economic diversification is diversifying its recruiting pitch. The Nevada Development Authority, known for cheeky advertising campaigns that take pot shots at California's business climate, is reaching across the continent in a bid to capture some of New Jersey's prized biotechnology and life-sciences companies. Earlier this month, the authority launched a $100,000 advertising buy in four East Coast newspapers: the Times of Trenton (N.J.), the Press of Atlantic City, Business News New Jersey and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The ad features Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman flashing the peace sign while leaning on a 6 of hearts card that touts the city's business environment. Nevada Development Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Somer Hollingsworth said the ad buys resulted from a July budget impasse in New Jersey that led to the shutdown of the state's 12 casinos. When New Jersey Gov. John Corzine's proposed budget included an increase in the state's sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to cover a $4.5 billion deficit, legislators refused to pass the spending plan. The state ran out of money, and government offices including the Casino Control Commission closed. Without state inspectors to watch over them, casinos were shuttered for three days until legislators passed a spending plan. The new budget included Corzine's sales-tax boost.

"It was very obvious to us that (New Jersey businesses) are taxed to the point that no one wants any more taxes," Hollingsworth said. "With the casino shutdowns and the tax problems there, we saw an opportunity and decided to see what we could do."

The authority's goal: to siphon off some of New Jersey's biotech sector.

Biotech is vital to the New Jersey economy: New Jersey life-sciences companies spent more than $12 billion on research and development in 2003, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization. More than half of the new medicines the federal Food and Drug Administration approves were developed in the Garden State. Global pharmaceutical companies including Merck & Co., Ortho-McNeil and Johnson & Johnson are headquartered there.

Authority officials said they hope some of the companion businesses that have clustered around Big Pharma will consider moving or expanding to Nevada.

"If we can get them out here, they'll see the cost of living is much lower," Hollingsworth said. "They can do the same business they're doing and put major dollars on their bottom line, just by moving here."

Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, spotted the authority's ad in Business News New Jersey. The promotion caught his eye, he said, because he'd never seen relocation pleas from such a far-flung state. Most pitches for New Jersey business come from nearby states such as Virginia and the Carolinas.

Kirschner said the authority's ad was cause for concern.

"Every state wants to protect the base of companies it has," he said. "Obviously, any threat to that base is something that should be taken seriously."

Added James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.: "New Jersey should worry, and is starting to worry. New Jersey still has enormous concentrations of pharmaceutical headquarters, but the state has not focused much on economic development."

However, Kirschner and Hughes said Silver State officials have to overcome significant obstacles to draw companies away from the Eastern seaboard.

Life-sciences companies might hesitate to abandon New Jersey's massive concentration of biotech labor and capital for a market that doesn't have much of either thus far.

"(Biotech companies) have a lot of natural buyers for their products in New Jersey, and a lot of people who might acquire their companies when the founders cash out," Kirschner said. "There's a lot of talent already here that life-sciences companies can raid. We have the infrastructure, the major hospitals and the pharmaceutical companies. These are the collaborations scientists and businesspeople are looking for that you can't create overnight."

Also, Hughes said, the biotech businesses that are expanding are looking for locations near top-flight research universities in major cities such as Boston and San Diego. They're after the abundant doctorate holders and "faculty superstars" that big-name schools churn out, he said.

And life-sciences companies are unlikely to yield their positions near New York and Philadelphia, which have their own big biotech contingents. In addition, dual-income families living in central New Jersey can access about 9 million jobs in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey by car, rail or ferry -- a key factor that could help New Jersey retain biotech experts, Hughes said.

There's also hope in the state that Corzine, despite his sales-tax increase, will roll back some of the state's business levies.

Kirschner said the state's newest budget reversed a 4-year-old law that barred companies from claiming net operating losses. It also struck down the state's alternative minimum assessment, which ordered companies to pay taxes even if they lost money on the year.

Hollingsworth said he has a plan to maneuver around those hurdles.

He'll call on the new Nevada Cancer Institute to help with the authority's sales pitch. The institute has hired researchers from the University of Chicago, Yale University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"We'll have (institute researchers) tell recruits why they came from all over the world to Las Vegas," Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said the cancer institute, the Lou Ruvo Alzheimer's Institute planned in downtown Las Vegas and the Nevada Neurosciences Institute are just a handful of developments that could attract biotech research and development to Las Vegas.

Next week, the authority will launch a direct-mail campaign targeting the top management at 250 biotech and life-sciences companies in New Jersey.

If response to the authority's initial marketing blitz is positive, the group will roll out a second ad in September giving specifics on Nevada's tax structure.

"We would like nothing better than to educate people and tell them, 'You don't have to commute from one state to another for work or home,'" Hollingsworth said. "We'll tell them, 'It's all here for you: quality of life, home -- everything is here.'"

Coffee CEO Applies for Gaming License

 

Jeffrey Fine, a local real estate investor and chairman of Fine Concepts, which owns 13 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchises here, seems ready to try his hand at a new career -- casino management. State investigators are wrapping up background checks in preparation for hearings on Fine's applications for licenses to run the Opera House Saloon and Casino and the Silver Nugget in North Las Vegas. Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said he expects the applications to be considered at the board's November hearing. Neilander has had no meetings so far with Fine, who is also licensed as a shareholder at Barley's Casino & Brewing Co. Insiders said licensing is likely, however, given that Fine already has been cleared by state regulators.

Rumors have circulated for months that Fine, son of local developer Mark Fine, had contracts to buy both gaming-qualified properties as well as an adjoining 7.5-acre recreational vehicle park.

Together, the three parcels cover 20 acres along North Las Vegas Boulevard.

Fine has declined to comment on any plans he may have for the properties and said he was in Israel this week and unable to comment until he returns.

However, Opera House General Manager Joe Guzzo said he understands Fine plans to remodel the Silver Nugget and triple its size.

Otherwise, Guzzo said he has not heard that Fine has any plans to upgrade or expand the Opera House.

Silver Nugget General Manager Jeff Southwick did not return phone calls about plans for the property.

Jeremy Aguero, a principle in Las Vegas based-financial consultants Applied Analysis, said any such gaming-entitled parcels are potentially very lucrative, whatever the development plans.

"I don't know how you can go wrong in Southern Nevada as long as he's paying a decent multiple for the property," he said. "We're going to have 3 million people here in the next 15 years. He (should) be able to throw off cash flow and make money.

"The fact is we're not issuing any more licenses and it's one of the few approved properties."

However, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, was decidedly downbeat about prospects for the project.

"It's a lousy location in terms of perception. Maybe he's going to spruce it up, but it doesn't have the demographics for a good locals casino," he said. "It's in an incredibly poor area. He could fill it up, but no one who lives anywhere else in Las Vegas would drive over there."

North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon and Economic Development Director Mike Majewski did not return phone calls about the project.

Fine initially applied for his new gaming licenses in March and incorporated Silver Nugget Holdings in May, according to state records.

Besides the sale of the two North Las Vegas casinos, G.C. Investments in May paid $4.3 million for the undeveloped land behind the Silver Nugget, which is zoned for office use.

G.C. Holdings is headed by Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun, Fine's uncle.

Fine's father, who is chairman of Mark L. Fine & Associates, was involved in the early development of Summerlin and Green Valley. He was also president of American Nevada Corp., the Greenspun family's development arm.

Greenspun, a director of American Nevada, has an ownership interest in Barley's and in Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, which is owned in partnership with and operated by Station Casinos.

Star City Casino Workers Demand Pay Raise

 

As reported by the Australian: "Hundred of Star City Casino workers gathered on the steps of Sydney's premier gambling venue today to call for better pay. "Blowing whistles and yelling 'decent wages, listen up', the workers called on the casino's management to offer an increased pay deal to offset rising petrol prices, interest rates and inflation. "Workers staged the protests to coincide with their shifts, with more than 100 turning up at each of the two morning rallies today. "The casino, in inner-city Pyrmont, is currently negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement with its 3000 employees. "Today it upped its offer by half a per cent to an 11 per cent wage increase over three years."

Nebraska Casino Vote Depends on Petition Count

 

As reported by the Nebraska State Paper: "Depending on how fast signatures can be counted, and the time appellate courts need to review the matter, Nebraskans might have a chance to vote in November on a plan for building three casinos. "District Judge Karen Flowers ruled Thursday that signatures on initiative petitions seeking a vote on the gambling proposal should be counted. "Attorney General Jon Bruning promptly took the case from Flowers' court and went down the street to the state Court of Appeals. "Secretary of State John Gale previously said the petition proposal was basically the same as one that went to the people in 2004."

New Jersey Results Mixed

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: ".With the unprecedented government shutdown of the gaming industry still weeks away, gamblers packed the casinos in the second quarter to push up gross operating profits by 8.5 percent to $355.9 million. "Net revenues rose nearly 5 percent to $1.27 billion, although net income was down 74.5 percent to $98.5 million, according to figures released Thursday by the state Casino Control Commission. ".All but three of the 12 casinos had higher gross operating profits in the second quarter. Also known as cash flow, gross operating profit is a closely watched measure of the industry's financial health and is considered a better comparison between the casinos than net income."

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Real World Series of Poker

 

I tried to qualify for the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event and failed. I tried to qualify for some of the smaller WSOP events and failed. So I did what any bitter poker player would do - I held my own World Series. True poker fan know the real WSOP is held at Binions, so when I became tired of losing in the corporate atmosphere of the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, I took a cab over to the former Horseshoe to claim my own personal glory.Little did I know, my luck was not about to change. Walking into Binions with a confident stride, I cranked my iPod, slid my sunglasses down, and pulled my Red Sox cap low enough to shade my eyes. I nodded to all the pictures of the past WSOP Champions on the wall and tried to exude a little cockiness.

After all, this was the pinnacle of my budding poker career.

"Don't worry guys," I said to the pictures. "I'll be joining you soon." None of them responded, but I swear Scotty Nguyen's expression told me that I could do it baby.

I kept telling everyone in the casino that I was going to take down the Main Event, but no one knew what the hell I was talking about. I received a couple of sympathy laughs from patrons who got the joke, but for the most part, the players at the old Horseshoe were too busy trying to find something to gamble on to pay any attention to me.

Sensing an opportunity for stake money from the gamble prone patrons, I asked one gentlemen placing bets at the sports book if he wanted a piece of me. He thought I wanted to fight him so I quickly made my way to the tournament area.

The tournament registrar, a shady looking character with grease in his hair reminiscent of McDonald's cheeseburger, was tired of my act the minute he laid eyes on me. I repeatedly stated my intention to be World Champion. He told me to settle down and tell him what I wanted.

"I want to buy into the Main Event," I said confidently.

"You mean the 8 p.m. tournament?" he queried cautiously.

"What's the prize for that, $12 million?"

"Uh, we have 20 people so far, so maybe a couple hundred."

"Do you get a bracelet for that?"

"Listen.do you want a seat or not?"

Clearly the registrar didn't understand. Even if no one else was taking this seriously, when I won the Binions Nightly Main Event, I was going home and telling everyone that I was a champion. Perhaps I'd even purchase a bracelet to immortalize my victory.

Armed with confidence and dressed for the part, I paid the $60 to enter the nightly tournament and even threw in the extra money for the add-ons. I didn't need the extra chips, but everyone else was buying them so I did too.

I sat down in seat #3 of table #11, right next to a guy who smelled like a brewery. I tried smiling at him and he ignored me, so naturally, I immediately tried to strike up a conversation.

"This is it. The big one. You excited?" I asked.

"Nope."

"Don't like your chances bud?"

"Huh?"

"You come here to be a champion too?"

"Hey, you seen the cocktail waitress lately?"

My night deteriorated quickly. On the second hand of play, I looked down to find A-K suited in late position. There were two limpers and one raiser in front of me. The raiser merely doubled the big blinds. I was in the cutoff seat so I raised four times the big blind. Only the raiser called me.

The flop was good to me. I hit top pair, top kicker when it came K-10-7 rainbow. Without the flush scare I came out firing. The initial raiser smooth called. The turn brought a three of spades. A little concerned about the call, but still thinking I was ahead (I put my opponent on a weaker King), maybe K-Q, K-J, I fired another pot-sized bet. My opponent immediately went all-in.

"Crap," I said aloud. Then I repeated it like this: "Crap, Crap, Crap, Crap." I played the hand again over in my head. Mr. All-in min-raised the pot then called my re-raise. Although a K-10 was possible, players make this type of raise-call typically with pairs. If he had a big pair (A-A or K-K) I was in serious trouble), but considering his blood alcohol level (three Coronas in the 10 minutes I'd been sitting with him), I put him on a lower pair, something like sevens maybe? I folded and showed him my A-K.

"You folded that? Damn, I had a set," he said as he flashed his sevens.

"Sure did."

"I thought for sure I'd get all your chips."

"Professionals like me make big lay downs bud."

Seething as my opponent stacked most of my chips, I vowed to play smaller pots, not wanting to blow my Main Event chances. I'd shown my ability to lay down a big hand, and the tight image worked for me, as I was able to grab some uncontested pots.

Not wanting to get too low in chips, I made a couple of speculative calls and got caught making a continuation bet on a blank board while holding 8-7 of spades. The other guy had pocket Queens. Down to just 1,000 chips (starting stack was 2,500), I needed a hand.

I looked up at a smiling Doyle Brunson on the wall and asked for a little help. If he was physically there, he probably would have told me that the real World Series was at the Rio, but what does he know, he's like 80. His picture was telling me to take my place right beside him.

An exciting hand developed shortly thereafter and my tournament life was on the line. I had pocket Jacks and I watched as an aggressive player raised the pot and a loose player called him. Wanting to win the pot right there, I re-raised all-in. Mr. Aggressive folded, but Mr. Loose refused to back down. Apparently, he had a good reason. He showed A-K offsuit and it was time to race.

The dealer, a cranky gentlemen in a bowtie who was either having the worst day of his life or was just an ass, told us to put all our money in "or else." He never finished the sentence, but judging by his demeanor, I imagine he had little to lose.

We both put in our money and showed our cards. When the flop came J-10-3 of clubs, my heart started racing. The crowd cheered my set (or the one woman watching yelled something to her friend across the room) and I was relieved that neither of us had any clubs. The turn brought a blank. I was golden, ready to collect a pot of nearly 2,800 chips. Then the river brought a Queen. Mr. Loose didn't even know he'd made a straight on the hand's final card.

I shook everyone's hand at the table as I began my exodus. You could say I was a little upset. The caller told me he was ahead with the A-K (not true) and that I never should have gone all-in against him. Ever the gentlemen, I flipped him the bird.

As I got into my cab, I asked the cabbie what he thought of my play at the World Series. He shot me a blank look and asked me if I wanted to go to the Rio. Grudgingly, I agreed, especially since I was on deadline for a WSOP Main Event Final Table preview story.

I guess that's the lesson. Not everyone can win the Main Event. Apparently, I can't even win the ones I make up. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

AC Casino Supervisor Suspended

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: "One former surveillance supervisor had his gaming license suspended but another was exonerated Wednesday in a case of video spying at an Atlantic City casino. "In a 4-0 vote, the state Casino Control Commission suspended the license of James Doherty for 20 days for using his security cameras to spy on women at Caesars Atlantic City. "Doherty was present for the vote, but said nothing to the commission and declined to comment afterward. His attorney, Derek G. Timms, said the case had dragged on long enough and Doherty would not appeal the suspension. ".At the same time, the commission exonerated another former Caesars surveillance supervisor who had also been accused by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement in the spying case. The commissioners found no evidence that Robert Swan violated any gaming regulations while performing his security duties."

New Orleans Board Considers New Riverboat Casino

 

As reported by the Undaunted by questions about whether it will even exist five months from now, the Orleans Levee Board has added another project to its to-do list: the pursuit of a new riverboat casino to replace the gambling hall lost to Hurricane Katrina. "The agency, which could become part of a regional authority next year if voters approve a Sept. 30 referendum, is already entertaining offers from separate developers looking to launch $200 million real estate developments on its storm-ravaged waterfront property. "On Wednesday, only minutes after hearing details about the latest, post-Katrina proposal to bring commerce to the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, board President Mike McCrossen told his colleagues that he has decided to ask Gov. Kathleen Blanco to make the state's lone remaining riverboat casino license available to an operator willing to lease dock space from the cash-strapped agency."

Mississippi Casino Revenues Dip

 

With seven hurricane-destroyed casinos still on the sidelines, revenues produced by Mississippi's gaming industry took another year-over-year dip in July, according to figures released Wednesday by the state's gaming regulators. But clearing skies are on the horizon. With only five casinos open during the month from what had been a 12-casino coastal gaming market, Mississippi gaming revenues were $222.7 million in July, a 6.3 percent drop compared with $237.6 million in July 2005. The five casinos in Biloxi contributed $74.7 million in gaming revenues. Last year the 12 operating casino brought in $101.7 million in gaming revenues during July. Mississippi's river county casinos, which includes properties in Tunica and Vicksburg, reported collective gaming revenues of $148.3 million, a 9.1 percent increase compared with $135.9 million a year ago. The Mississippi Gaming Commission does not break out individual casino totals. Gaming analysts said the gaming revenue total has been remarkable, given the devastation Hurricane Katrina brought to the Mississippi communities of Gulfport, Biloxi and Bay St. Louis almost a year ago. The powerful storm destroyed or heavily damaged 12 casinos and a 13th that had been scheduled to open shortly after the Aug. 29 disaster. The Imperial Palace, Isle of Capri, and Palace Casino, all in Biloxi, reopened in December. The Treasure Bay and Boomtown, also in Biloxi, recently reopened with small, temporary facilities.

"The Gulf Coast results remain impressive considering the constrained capacity in the Biloxi and Gulfport markets," Bear Stearns gaming analyst Joe Greff said in a note to investors Wednesday. "Revenues have grown sequentially since April, due, in part, to additional capacity from 500 slots added at Isle of Capri in late May and the opening of Treasure Bay and Boomtown at the end of June."

Greff said the river county casinos, which include properties owned by Boyd Gaming Corp. and Harrah's Entertainment, have benefited from the lost business on the Gulf Coast, which will change in the coming months.

Las Vegas-based Harrah's is reopening the Grand Casino Biloxi today as a temporary land-based facility with 800 slot machines and 28 table games, as well as a 500-room hotel, a buffet and other amenities.

Harrah's recent purchased the closed Casino Magic site from Pinnacle Entertainment, which is next door to the Grand Casino, and is master-planning the location for a large resort complex.

The Biloxi community will become even healthier on the first anniversary of the hurricane when MGM Mirage reopens the Beau Rivage, the state's largest casino. The company said it made many improvements including a new casino layout and remodeled rooms and suites. MGM Mirage said the hotel-casino, which includes convention space, will employ 3,800 Mississippi residents.

Also, a golf course designed by Shadow Creek designer Tom Fazio and operated by Beau Rivage, is scheduled to open in November.

The Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, owned by Penn National Gaming, is expected to reopen shortly as the Hollywood Casino.

Connecticut Tribe, MGM Mirage Envision More Casinos

 

As reported by the Connecticut Day: "What do you get when you marry a tribe that operates the world's largest casino with one of the world's biggest gambling companies? "Well, for one thing, a lot more casinos, possibly here in southeastern Connecticut, elsewhere in Indian Country, in Atlantic City or on the Las Vegas strip. "That's part of the vision of a memorandum of understanding signed this spring by the Mashantucket Pequots and their prospective partners at MGM Mirage, the publicly traded gaming colossus that operates 23 casino properties, from the enormous MGM Grand, Luxor and Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas to a new resort on the coast of China. "Here in southeastern Connecticut, the Mashantuckets and MGM envision, in addition to the $700 million expansion already under way, the potential for more new casinos on the reservation using MGM brand names and other nongaming, destination-resort development along Route 2 in North Stonington."

Tabcorp Takeover Bid Rejected

 

As reported by Bloomberg News: "Tabcorp's hostile offer of 1.9 billion Australian dollars for Unitab was rejected by the Australian antitrust regulator Wednesday on grounds the combined company would dominate betting on horse races. "The deal would have been worth the equivalent of $1.45 billion. "Unitab shares tumbled 5 percent after the regulator said it opposed Tabcorp's plan to add betting shops in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory to its own outlets in the two most populous Australian states, Victoria and New South Wales. "The decision increases the likelihood that Duncan Fischer, the chief executive of Tattersall's, could succeed in his 1.8 billion dollar bid for Unitab, based in Brisbane. Fischer wants to acquire Unitab to reduce his dependence on lotteries and slot machines as well as give him a wagering unit to bid for Tabcorp's license in Victoria when it expires in 2012. ".Shares of Tattersall's rose 20 cents, or 7 percent, to 3.07 dollars in Sydney on Wednesday. Unitab fell 72 cents, or 5 percent, to 13.80 dollars and Tabcorp slid 40 cents, or 2.6 percent, to 14.90 dollars."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Manitoba Casino Not Worried About Smoking Ban

 

As reported by the Winnipeg Sun: "South Beach Casino's popularity and success wouldn't be threatened if a provincial smoking ban were extended to First Nations, the chairman of the native-run casino says. "The casino on Highway 59 would continue to thrive if puffers were forced to butt out because fewer than 10% of its total patrons are smokers, said Furlon Barker, head of South Beach's governing board. ".However, the casino will do what is necessary to protect its smoker-friendly status, Barker said. "Casino officials are waiting on the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and province to act on a judge's decision Monday to strike down the section that exempts First Nations from provincial smoking legislation. ".South Beach is on Brokenhead Ojibway Nation land in Scanterbury, about 60 km north of Winnipeg. "It is operated by an ownership group of seven First Nations and is one of two native-run casinos in Manitoba."

Biloxi Projects Given Green Light

 

As reported by the Biloxi Sun: "The Commission on Marine Resources on Tuesday gave a long-delayed casino project near Diamondhead more time to put its plans into action and said the Isle of Capri Biloxi can fill wetlands to expand its gambling space. "Casino World Inc. received its fourth consecutive extension for a permit originally issued in 1996 to put two gambling barges, a bridge and a gazebo south of Diamondhead. "Deborah A. Vitale, the company's CEO, said the project is now on a faster track. In June, the company and Trump Entertainment Resorts announced they had signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture and develop a casino resort. ".Diamondhead Casino Corp. has to come back before the commission to apply for a permit related to trees that have already been cleared from its property. Vitale said the trees were storm damaged and property needed to be cleared to remove hurricane debris, including the Casino Magic Bay St. Louis entertainment barge. ".Vitale said the goal is to have the Diamondhead casino open by Dec. 31, 2008, to qualify for federal tax benefits on new construction as part of the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005. The federal legislation excludes casinos, but not hotels and other buildings. "Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. has plans for a new casino on property adjacent to the Diamondhead site, but it is in Harrison County and accessible from a different exit of Interstate 10..".

Clermont Club Set to Fall to Malaysian Billionaire

 

"The London casino where Lord Lucan once played bridge with the likes of Sir James Goldsmith and John Aspinall, is to be acquired by the Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan, The Times has learnt. "BIL International, the Singapore-listed investment firm controlled by Mr Quek, is understood to be close to agreeing the purchase of the Clermont Club in Mayfair from Rank in a deal worth an estimated £30 million. "The Clermont, which Rank acquired in 1990 as part of the takeover of Mecca Leisure, was designed in 1742 by William Kent and later was the home of Beau Brummell, the Regency dandy, and Lord Clermont, who often entertained the future George IV there. "...The sale of the Clermont comes after a review of Rank's operations by Ian Burke, the group's new chief executive. "...The Clermont is the only upmarket casino in Rank's Grosvenor Casinos division, attracting high-rollers who can win or lose fortunes at a single sitting, making the business very volatile..."

Locals Praise Caesars Indiana

 

As reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal: "Two groups of Harrison and Floyd residents gave Caesars Indiana casino overwhelmingly high marks yesterday for improving their community. "The casino's tax revenues and incentive payments to two local community foundations have helped pay for college scholarships, adult-education programs and an array of projects. "That message was delivered to two consultants who visited Corydon yesterday on behalf of the Indiana Gaming Commission, which is performing an investigation on Caesars as part of renewing the boat's license later this year. ".About 43 people testified in detail about how more than $100 million over eight years has helped the county and region."

Former Online Gambling Executive Remains in U.S. Custody

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "Former online gambling executive David Carruthers remained in federal custody Tuesday as his attorneys hammered out technical details of his release with federal authorities. "Carruthers' bail is set at $1 million. If released, Carruthers would be required to stay in the St. Louis area until his trial on racketeering and fraud charges. "Carruthers' attorney Scott Rosenblum said late Tuesday Carruthers wasn't released because a dedicated telephone line must be installed in the residence where Carruthers' will stay in St. Louis. All other conditions had been met, including the payment of $1 million, Rosenblum said. "...Carruthers was arrested nearly a month ago as part of a 22-count indictment against London-based BetOnSports PLC being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway in St. Louis..."

Canal Fulton Council Upset by Casino Survey

 

As reported by the Canton Repository: "Canal Fulton City Council members were both bewildered and dismayed about a telephone survey being conducted by Discovery Research Group about casinos. "Council members were bewildered because none knew anything about the survey. City Manager Mark Cozy said the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma contacted him July 26 about the survey and he informed Mayor John Grogan. "Cozy said he told the tribe representative that he was concerned that residents did not have all the information about the casino. Grogan said the tribe was paying for the survey. "Council and other city officials were dismayed by the information the survey takers were telling residents and the questions they were asking."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Developer Looks to Sign Agreement with Tribe

 

As reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: "The developer behind a proposed casino in downtown Fort Smith says his next step is forging legal agreements that will hold him and a partnering Indian tribe accountable for their promises regarding the project. "Bennie Westphal of Fort Smith also said he hopes that winning the endorsement of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce's directors board last week will give him a boost toward getting other support. "He said that with support from the board, the Central Business Improvement District and the Downtown Action Committee in hand and a decision from the Fort Smith Convention Center Commission pending, he'll next try for the endorsement of the Fort Smith Board of Directors. ".Westphal and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma want to build a $ 131 million casino with hotel on 10 acres on the city's downtown riverfront. ".The agreements also would allow Westphal and the tribe to formalize an offer to share a portion of casino revenues. They have proposed that Fort Smith receive 7. 5 percent of net profits."

Radio Host Banished From Casinos

 

As reported by the Tulsa World: "Local radio talk-show host Michael DelGiorno -- who has railed against Indian casinos and gamblers on his show -- has been banished from Creek Nation casinos after he allegedly was caught taking poker chips following a losing hand at blackjack, tribal records show. "DelGiorno also was told to leave a Cherokee Nation casino on the same day last year after a dealer complained that he had made sexually inappropriate remarks, records show. "DelGiorno hosts a morning talk show on KFAQ (1170 AM), where he often discusses his views on religious and social issues. ".The Creek Nation Office of Public Gaming held a hearing Sept. 20 and issued an order banishing DelGiorno from the tribe's casinos for five years, the maximum allowed under the tribe's code, records show. ".About three hours before the incident at the Creek Nation casino, DelGiorno had been told to leave the Cherokee Casino in Catoosa ".The incident report, dated Aug. 29, 2005, states that DelGiorno and another man who were playing poker began cussing at the dealer because they were losing. The men also made sexually inappropriate remarks to a male dealer about a nearby female dealer, the report says."

AG Criticized for Slot Measure Explanation

 

As reported by the Argus Leader: "South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long was criticized Monday for his explanation of a ballot measure that seeks to repeal video lottery. "The head of a group that collected thousands of signatures to put the issue to a statewide vote says it is misleading for Long to explain only that the measure would eliminate $112 million in state revenues each year. "Dan Brendtro said the ballot explanation is biased unless it also says the lost revenues amount to just 4 percent of the annual state budget. ". A new law that went on the books July 1 instructs the attorney general to explain the simple effect of each ballot measure and any potential legal repercussions."

Tattersall Bids for UK Lottery

 

As reported by the UK Times: "When Tattersall's announced in June its bid to run the UK lottery, few outside the gambling world had heard of the Australian lottery and gaming-machine operator. One Sydney analyst described it as 'not your typical corporation'. "Indeed, Tattersall's colourful past is sure to fascinate the panel that picks the winning bid after the deadline for entries passes in December. For more than 100 years it was run rather like a secret society, and is accused in Australia of preying on problem gamblers. "The competition for the lucrative 10-year licence to operate the lottery from 2009 will be the most intense yet. The winner must satisfy a rigid set of tests set by the UK National Lottery Commission. It must be a fit and proper organisation with a proven record and, most of all, meet the strict regulations governing the lottery. ".It said the bid was part of a strategy to diversify and expand internationally, as outlined in its prospectus ahead of its July 2005 listing on the Australian Stock Exchange."

Arizona Lottery Plans New Year's Eve Givewaway

 

As reported by the Arizona Republic: "The Arizona Lottery will give away $400,000 in Glendale as part of a New Year's Eve celebration at Westgate City Center. ".John Hogg, director of marketing for the Arizona Lottery, said that the cash prizes will be awarded live during the celebration. The money is part of the lottery's 25th anniversary and is tied to the $250,000 'Jubilee' jackpot. ".The New Year's Eve party will help put the icing on one phase and start work on the second, said Dave Groff, a consultant on the Westgate project."

Mohegan Sun Hosts Star Trek Collection

 

Mohegan Sun is proud to announce that '40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection' will beam down in the hotel lobby starting Friday, August 18th, running through Thursday, August 24th. The first-ever official auction of Star Trek studio items will take place at Christie's New York on October 5th, 6th and 7th. The preview of several auction items will be on display at Mohegan Sun 24-hours-a-day starting at approximately 4:00pm on Friday, August 18th, and closing at 2:00pm on Thursday, August 24th. On the evening of Wednesday, August 23rd, the exhibit will be closed to the public for a private function. Representatives from Christie's will be on hand to answer questions about the auction at peak times. Admission is free. 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection contains treasures from the archives of the CBS Paramount Television Studios that document every phase of one of the most popular franchises in television and movie history. Since the first episode of Star Trek debuted in 1966, six television series and ten feature films have appeared, gathering millions of fans across the globe, and now spanning several generations. The exhibit encompasses costumes, props, artwork, set dressings, and detailed models that were used in the various incarnations of the franchise.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

4 Winners to Share $43M Jackpot

 

As reported by the Canadian Press: "Three Ontarians and one Quebecer will share the second-largest lottery jackpot in Canadian history as the lucky winners of Saturday's $43.2-million Lotto 6-49 draw. "The ticket holders, who have not yet been identified, will each take home $10.8 million. "Two of the tickets were purchased in the Greater Toronto Area, and one in southwestern Ontario, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation said..."

Victorian Gambling Report Released

 

As reported by the Advertiser: "Gamblers spent almost $43 million on gaming machines in the City of Greater Bendigo in the past financial year, figures just released reveal. "The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation figures for the 2005-2006 financial year reveal the net electronic gaming machine expenditure in the City of Greater Bendigo was $42.7 million. "That was almost $2.6 million more than in the 2004-2005 financial year - the net expenditure then was $40.1 million. ".Gamblers across Victoria spent $2.47 billion on poker machines for the financial year up to June 30, $79 million more than the previous financial year, the figures show. "But Minister for Gaming John Pandazopoulos said the 3.3 per cent rise was the third lowest growth rate since the machines were introduced in Victoria in 1992, and less than the four per cent inflation rate."

Casino Stocks Mostly Unfazed by Latest Terrorism Incident

 

Gaming investors saw the foiled terrorist plot to bomb airline flights as a blip on their radar screens Thursday and showed little inclination to reduce their casino stock holdings. "I don't think it's really had much of an effect at all," said analyst David Katz of CIBC World Markets. Investors have priced the risk of a terrorist attack into gaming stocks, he said. "This is the new normal. From time to time, we're going to have these incidents," Katz said. Katz said he's optimistic that the casino industry and shareholders will be rewarded with higher stock prices within several months. Brian Gordon, a partner at Applied Analysis a Las Vegas research firm, said negative effects of the latest terrorist news on casino stocks was short-lived. "We saw a little bit of a knee-jerk for some stocks this morning," Gordon said. But most gaming stocks recovered and moved higher for the day, he said.

Gaming stocks showed mostly good results on Thursday, Katz said, noting several unrelated factors affected individual company stocks.

Harrah's Entertainment, for example, got a boost when a judge removed the last legal barrier to a November referendum on an Indian gaming project in Rhode Island, he said.

Harrah's gained $1.03 or 1.74 percent, closing at $60.08.

Stations Casinos got a boost Thursday from a presentation it posted on its Web site Wednesday arguing that the company and its stock are fundamentally strong.

The presentation followed a story a couple of weeks ago in Barron's, the financial tabloid, that suggested Station Casinos' stock performance is tightly tied to the Las Vegas housing market and is poised to fall.

"(Station Casinos argued that its) business is still in good shape. Their company is still in very good shape, and they believe they that their stock is grossly undervalued," Katz said.

Wall Street liked what it heard from Station Casinos and drove its stock price up $1.97 or 3.61 percent to $56.59. MGM Mirage picked up 50 cents, or 1.43 percent, and ended the day at $35.57. Boyd Gaming tacked on 66 cents, or 1.88 percent, and closed at $35.73.

Riviera Holdings Corp., however, slid 10 cents, or 0.49 percent, to $20.16, a slight premium to the $20 buyout offer the company received from International Gaming and Entertainment on Tuesday.

Shares of major hotel chains with global operations also were under pressure Thursday although airlines were getting the brunt of it.

Hilton slipped 2.22 percent to $23.77, while Starwood Hotels & Resorts shares were off 1.98 percent to $51.43 and Orient-Express gave up 0.63 percent to $31.80.

Marriott, after an early dip, ended the day with a gain of 1.14 percent to $35.36.

And Four Seasons, which rolled out higher-than-expected second-quarter numbers early Thursday, gained 3.93 percent to $56.55.

"Demand for luxury travel continues to be very healthy while supply growth in most markets has been minimal, creating a very favorable dynamic in the luxury segment of the lodging industry," the company said in its earnings report.

British Airways PLC was one of the hardest stocks hit because of its heavy exposure to trans-Atlantic routes. Its shares fell 5.1 percent to close at 370.25 pence ($7) on the London Stock Exchange.

U.S. airline shares sold off early but later recovered, with American Airlines parent AMR Corp. closing unchanged at $20.29 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of UAL Corp., the parent of United Airlines, fell 1.3 percent to finish at $23.52 on Nasdaq while Continental Airlines fell 1.45 percent to $23.86 on the NYSE.

"(Gaming stocks) have softened in recent months primarily due to speculation of the national economic climate as well as investor profit-taking," Gordon said.

The Dow Jones U.S. Gambling Index soared 28 percent between New Year's Day and May 10, when it hit a high of 622.23. Since then, the index has shed 16 percent. The index gained 4.74 points or 0.92 percent and closed at 522.51 on Thursday.

Katz suggested casino investors keep their holdings in anticipation of a pickup in three to six months when investors gain more confidence in stock projections for 2007.

"We're just taking a little break (in casino stock price appreciation)," Katz said.

Casino gaming revenues are more resilient than casino hotel and restaurant revenues during a recession, Katz said. Las Vegas casinos get about 55 percent of their revenue from casino gambling.

Katz was unconcerned about the 3.47 percent decline in casino gambling hold for Nevada in June.

"Month over month, there will be changes in the hold percentage," Katz said. Casinos do not see much change in the hold on slot machines, but they do see change in the hold on table games and baccarat in particular, Katz said.

Katz focuses more on the dollar amount wagered, and that is up 3.6 percent compared to June 2005. CIBC anticipates low single digit gains in the dollars wagered.

He doesn't consider results for June through August particularly telling, however, "because it's the slow season and it's so hot."

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

U.K. Residents Unlikely to Stop Coming to Las Vegas

 

United Kingdom travelers aren't canceling plans to visit U.S. cities such as Las Vegas, sources said Friday, even in the wake of a foiled terror plot to explode 10 U.S. passenger planes over the ocean. "We're used to it, and we feel that if we bow down, then the terrorists have won," Stella Clery, managing director of Cellet Travel Services, said Friday from Warwickshire, England. Cellet has contracted with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority since 1991 to promote visits here by residents of the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Scandanavia. In that 15-year span, western European consumers endured multiple Irish Republican Army's bomb attacks, watched from afar as the Sept. 11 hijackings devastated a key ally, and overcame al-Qaida suicide bombings on downtown London buses and trains last summer. Given that violent history, Clery said she was not surprised when Thursday and Friday telephone polls of Cellet's largest tour partners revealed almost no cancellations among customers who had already booked U.S. getaways. Clery still expects a small dip in sales to occur -- but only because reservation hot lines were tied up more than usual as operators answered security-related questions from prospective travelers.

"As long as we as the travel industry keep the consumer informed of exactly what they need to do, then they will do it," Clery said. "I think it's the lack of information that people get very frustrated about."

New security precautions that have all but eliminated carry-on items won't deter travelers either, she said.

"I remember a few years ago when they (banned) smoking on aircraft, and everybody said, 'That's the end. No smoker will ever fly across the Atlantic.'" Clery said. "That's not been the case."

Two of England's largest airlines agreed.

Virgin Atlantic Airways' passenger loads have held steady on all of the London-based carrier's trans-Atlantic routes, spokeswoman Brooke Lawer said Friday from Norwalk, Conn.

"We've had far fewer cancellations and changes than one might expect," said Lawer, who did not give a specific figure for either category. "People are still traveling."

Lawer did cite one curious fact: Virgin Atlantic's online bookings were higher Thursday than they were one week prior.

Virgin Atlantic has operated nonstop service between McCarran International and London's Gatwick Airport since June 2000. The route grew in popularity during its first six years, and the carrier's initial twice-weekly service was gradually expanded to today's daily schedule.

A spokeswoman for Derby, England-based airline BMI also said Thursday's arrests had little effect on her company's business.

"They had less than a handful of people call (Thursday) to say they wanted a refund, and that was all for intra-Europe travel," said Nancy Vaughan, who represents BMI from Phoenix. "Friday's operations were normal; it's just the inconvenience of newer security rules that have gone into play, especially on the U.K. side."

The carrier began thrice-weekly service between Las Vegas and Manchester in October 2004. Vaughan said BMI's next three Las Vegas flights were 90 percent reserved at the close of Friday's U.K. workday.

The continued strength of both companies' service is vital to Southern Nevada's tourism industry because the United Kingdom is this area's top overseas feeder market.

Approximately 392,000 U.K. residents visited here in 2004, well above second-place Japan's 217,000. Last year's international visitor data has not been released.

Over the 12-month period ended June 30, Virgin Atlantic reported 239,334 arriving and departing passengers at McCarran, a 54 percent gain from the 12-month period ended June 30, 2005, Clark County Aviation Department data show. In that same span, bmi carried 43,541 passengers, an increase of more than 36 percent.

On Sunday, a Cellet account manager will accompany 19 U.K. travel agents and leisure tour operators on an educational trip to Las Vegas.

Participants won the five-day trip by selling the most Las Vegas vacations within their respective companies. Clery said they'll use their time here to learn more about Las Vegas in order to better sell the city once they're back to work.

"Not one person has dropped out," Clery said. "It's a prime example of the resilience of this market and how we feel that these sort of events are not going to stop us traveling, particularly Las Vegas."

Luck, Aggressiveness Turn World Series of Poker to Gold

 

To the several thousand poker fans and observers who packed the Rio's convention area Thursday night and early Friday morning, Jamie Gold's World Series of Poker championship was a foregone conclusion. Of the 236 hands played during almost 12 hours of poker, Gold, a 36-year-old resident of Malibu, Calif., was involved in nearly 75 percent of the action, mostly on the winning side. "I just feel very fortunate that things went my way," Gold said after winning $12 million and a gold, diamond-encrusted World Series championship bracelet. The two-week tournament had 8,773 entries, and Gold was the chip leader 70 percent of the time. "I was playing the best poker of my life," Gold said. "I was in a zone where I just felt like I could manipulate people." Entering the final table of the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em main event with a seemingly insurmountable chip lead, Gold, a former Hollywood agent, watched his stash grow so much that the multicolored chips covered an area meant for two players. By 3:40 a.m., Gold owned all the game's $87.7 million in tournament chips.

The cards Gold drew to win certain hands in his championship run appeared to have a magical quality. During the event's live satellite radio broadcast, Sirius play-by-play announcer Howard Davis said it seemed that Gold was playing with his own deck.

Two-time world poker champion and 10-time World Series bracelet winner Johnny Chan, who served as Gold's unofficial coach during the tournament, said his pupil made very few mistakes.

"He knocked out seven of the eight players at the final table, and that's pretty strong," Chan said. "He didn't lose more than three pots in a row. He controlled himself pretty good, and he's got a lot of discipline."

Las Vegas poker standout Daniel Negreanu, who was providing analysis on the radio broadcast, said he was at the same table with Gold early in the tournament. The three-time World Series bracelet winner said his prediction that Gold would make mistakes was wrong.

"He was playing a lot of pots, but he was playing aggressive and at the same time very controlled," said Negreanu, who finished the event in 229th place.

"When he wasn't in a great situation, he let the pot go and he didn't get frustrated. I never question a player who's in a zone."

Even the eight other competitors at the main event's final table realized that they were just bit players as Gold, who co-owns Buzz Nation, an entertainment production company, steamrolled to the title.

Third-place finisher Michael Binger of Atherton, Calif., was busted out by Gold when a turn card gave the eventual champion a 7-high straight. The losing hand cost the theoretical physicist, who has a doctoral degree in physics from Stanford University, more than $14 million in tournament chips and his spot in the game. But he was philosophical about the outcome.

"I wasn't terribly shocked (when the 7 came up) because I saw Jamie bust out a lot of people these past few days," Binger said. "He got some incredible cards all tournament."

Gold earned the respect of other players he eliminated, as well.

Rhett Butler of Rockville, Md., who finished in fifth place, said the professional poker players who predicted Gold might catch a bad streak at some point were off-base.

"Jamie is a much better player than people perceive him to be," Butler said. "Obviously, he had a lot of good cards during the tournament. I've never seen anyone have a run like that. But he's a good player."

Dan Nassif of St. Louis, who was eliminated in ninth place less than 30 minutes into the final table, said Gold actually apologized for knocking him out of the tournament.

"He seemed to actually feel bad about it," Nassif said.

Most of the longtime professional players gave an edge in the event to four-time World Series bracelet winner Allen Cunningham, who entered the final table in second place with almost $18 million in tournament chips to Gold's $26 million. Many thought the two would face-off in heads-up play at the end.

However, Cunningham, a Las Vegas resident, caught a bad streak early and never recovered, slipping into fourth place out of the four remaining players by 1:30 a.m.

Gold and Cunningham clashed heads-up on numerous occasions, but Gold ended their competition on the 208th hand at 2:20 a.m. Gold had K-J suited, and Cunningham had a pair of 10s. Cunningham wagered his final $6.5 million in tournament chips before the flop, but the flop gave Gold a pair of kings and eliminated Cunningham.

With Cunningham busted, the feeling in the room was that the tournament would end quickly.

"I play the players, and I don't play my cards," Gold said. "I was just lucky at the end. He's a much more accomplished and experienced player than I am."

Cunningham gave only a few brief comments to ESPN, which was taping the tournament for broadcast in November. He left the Rio without taking additional questions.

When Cunningham's night ended, the stage was set for Gold. With three players remaining, he had $57 million in chips, three times what any other player had in his stack.

After disposing of Binger, Gold set his sights on Paul Wasicka of Westminster, Colo.

The two -- Gold with $78 million in chips and Wasicka with $11 million -- began heads-up play at 3:20 a.m. on the 230th hand. Twenty minutes and six hands later, the tournament was over when Gold paired queens on the flop to top Wasicka's pocket 10s.

In the end, Gold -- with his chip count growing -- said he thought the only way he could have lost would have been for another player to get extremely lucky.

"I think I did OK," Gold said. "No offense to (the longtime professional players), I have nothing to prove to any poker player. I didn't think about the chip count. I just focused on the players I was playing against at each table. I crushed every table, and I think I played pretty well in this tournament."

The main event was the culmination of the 46-event World Series of Poker, which this year generated more than $158 million in total prize money.

Inside Gaming Column: Fuel Prices Pinching Locals Casinos

 

Marketing gurus, in an ironic twist of fate, say the soaring price of gasoline is playing havoc with Las Vegas locals casinos more than it is with the Strip resorts that cater to drive-in traffic and air arrivals. The oft-cited reality is that Americans see vacations as a God-given right. The high cost of gasoline may even impel more visitors to Las Vegas as a cheap destination. But across the country, consumers are paying twice what they were a year ago for gasoline. And that's forcing other lifestyle choices. In Los Angeles, locals may forgo a trip to the movies or a dinner out. Here, they're cutting back on jaunts to casinos, whether to gamble, shop, dine or see a movie -- or so some say. Las Vegas attorney Bob Nersesian's new book, a kind of how-to guide for protecting yourself against the house in casinos, may be a winner with advantage gamblers, but it may not be a hit with casino operators. "Nevada hates you," Nersesian warns readers, "and merely tolerates you as a cost of doing business." It's a primer on what skilled or lucky gamblers should do if they "incur rousting, jailing, slander, handcuffing and banishment ... sometimes (for) just enjoying a night out." But it's a shocker for any novice about how serious hotel-casinos are about holding onto money they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be theirs.

Despite the taxicab shortage during holidays we're sure to see this Labor Day, you'd be right to guess Las Vegas has the country's toughest taxi regulations. Local drivers say they are prohibited from raising their voices with patrons. By comparison, New York City just got around to banning cabbies from driving in just their underwear.

Personal note: Sympathetic as I am to cabbies, I'd rather see a regulation requiring functional air conditioning than anything about dress codes.

Quebec and its 21 casinos are launching marketing drives to lure visitors from Europe, the bulk of whom would otherwise head for Las Vegas. A large share of the flights from Europe serving Las Vegas stop in Montreal or Toronto. And while Las Vegas is known as the faux capital of the world, witness Paris Las Vegas, Quebec is faux France to many visitors. Now, in an ironic twist of fate, Quebec could become a faux Las Vegas for European visitors.

What were the odds? A software engineer from Pacific, Mo., hit a royal flush on a Let it Ride machine on July 10 at the Imperial Palace Hotel. Duke Matlock won $25,000 aggregate plus $20,000 for playing the bonus. According to the Internet, the statistical odds of winning a royal flush in "Let It Ride" is 1 in 649,740.

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

Monday, August 14, 2006

BetOnSports Locks Out US Bettors

 

As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "BetOnSports, the online gambling company targeted by federal prosecutors in Missouri and Washington, is shuttering the majority of its billion-dollar operations and will no longer accept bets from the United States, a company spokesman said Thursday evening. "The move was seen as a significant victory for prosecutors targeting online gambling and as somewhat of a surprise. Industry experts and even a company insider had predicted that BetOn Sports would simply ignore the federal criminal prosecution and civil efforts to shut the company's U.S. operations down. "BetOnSports is one of the largest online gambling companies in the world, analysts say, in an industry worth an estimated $9 billion to $12 billion. After civil and criminal charges were announced last month, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said it was the largest prosecution of an online gambling company. ".Kevin Smith, a company spokesman, said 80 percent of the company's business came from U.S. customers, with the rest from Asian markets. "Smith said employees were told at 1:30 p.m. St. Louis time that the company's offices in Costa Rica and Antigua were being closed. The formal announcement was set for 7 a.m. London time today. "The decision will affect about 800 employees, at least 90 percent of whom worked in Costa Rica, he said."

Reno Casinos Bounce Back

 

As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal: "Reno casinos' revenue rose in the last fiscal year for the first time in six years, the Gaming Control Board said Thursday, giving solid evidence of a rebound experts have suggested is in the works. "The state works on a July-June fiscal year to plan its budget, and when casinos reported the revenue won from gamblers in June, Reno's take was up 5.9 percent to $774.79 million in fiscal 2006. And June itself was a better month than June 2005 for casinos across Washoe County, around Lake Tahoe and in Carson City, Minden and Gardnerville. ".Last June brought the first fiscal year gain for Washoe County since 2000, pushed by gains in Sparks, but Reno still was lagging, according to the board. "Thursday's report shows the rebound in Northern Nevada gaming penetrated to Reno. ".Besides rebounding tourism despite tribal competition, increased locals play and the finishing off of the downtown train trench, casino officials said the bounce back comes from increased marketing and casino improvements."

English Speaking Employees Ordered for Slots

 

As reported by the Reno-Gazette Journal: "Businesses that have gambling licenses in Nevada should have an English-speaking employee working whenever slot machines are available to the public, state regulators said Thursday. "The Gaming Control Board required the owner of a small Reno bar to have someone proficient in English on the premises before allowing a slot-route operator to run five machines in the bar. The Nevada Gaming Commission will have the final word on the license later this month. ".Some American Civil Liberties Union officials said the Control Board decision sets a bad policy against the state's rapidly growing Hispanic population. It is questionable whether the condition could be challenged, they said. ".The owner of Cantina El Jaripeo on Fourth Street, 41-year-old Rodolfo Martinez, speaks limited English. He brought his bilingual manager, 37-year-old Angel De La Torre, and regulators questioned the two over De La Torre's hours. The bar is open from 3 p.m. to midnight, but De La Torre said he arrives at 3:30 p.m. or later after a shift at a local restaurant, leaves at 11:45 p.m., and only works six days a week."

Locals to Share Views on Caesars Casino

 

As reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal: "Community leaders and residents in Harrison County will be asked to share their views about the impact of the Caesars casino during meetings next week in Corydon. "Comments from the sessions, to be conducted by consultants working for the Indiana Gaming Commission, will be incorporated into an analysis that gambling regulators will use this fall to evaluate Caesars' request to renew its state-issued license. "All 10 Indiana casinos undergo investigations before re-licensing. Licenses are renewed after a casino's first five years in business, and thereafter at three-year intervals. "The commission renewed Caesars' license in 2003 and is expected to consider its renewal application in November."

Bishops Unite Against Casinos

 

As reported by the Calgary Sun: ".Early next month, Bishop Fred Henry, the always forthright leader of Calgary's Catholics, will meet this city's Catholic school board and there will be little real wiggle room for the trustees. Early next month, the bishop will once again inform the board it must stop fundraising through casinos and bingos because the practice is 'morally problematic.' "The bishop is willing to discuss how long it will take for local Catholic schools to find other ways to raise money, but that is as far as he will go. But they must get out of gambling, something they have so far refused to do, an action Bishop Fred considers 'somewhat defiant.' ".Bishop Fred is prepared to discuss how to set up a task force to find other ways of raising money."

Saratoga Track Releases Schedule

 

As reported by the Albany Times-Union: 'The Saratoga Race Course will have a 36-day meet next year under a schedule adopted Thursday by the New York Racing Association's Board of Trustees. "The proposed season will run from Wednesday, July 25, 2007, through Monday, Sept. 3, 2007. No races will be held on Tuesdays during the six-week meet."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

IGT Approves TransAct Printer for Platforms

 

TransAct Technologies Incorporated, a leading producer of market specific printers for transaction-based industries worldwide, today announced that it has received notice that International Game Technology ("IGT") has tested and approved TransAct's Epic 950(TM) IGT USB printer for use in its existing and new slot machine platforms. IGT is a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of microprocessor-based gaming and video lottery products and software systems. TransAct developed the Epic 950(TM) IGT USB printer in collaboration with IGT engineers enabling it to perform to IGT's stringent USB specifications. The printer meets the latest IGT USB specification and, once regulatory approvals are received, it will be available for all existing and new IGT gaming platforms. TransAct's Epic 950(TM) IGT USB printer includes two game ports, NetPlex, and USB 2.0 Full Speed. In addition, the Epic 950(TM) printer includes many extraordinary features including TransAct's exclusive TicketBurst(TM) technology that ensures the ticket is completely printed and detached before it is presented; and Hot Swap QDT, a feature allowing the casino to change printer mechanisms without powering down the slot machine for simple repair and replacement.

Pachinko World Reports Positive Outlook

 

Pachinko World, Inc., a publicly traded company competing in Japan's estimated $240 billion pachinko industry, today announced a positive outlook for its fiscal year 2007, ending May 31, 2007, and outlined related expansion plans. Based on management estimates, total revenues for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2007 are expected to be in the range of $32 million to $34 million. By comparison, in advance of financial results for the 2006 fiscal year ended May 31, 2006, which will be reported in August of this year, this estimate range would represent an approximate 12% to 15% compound annual growth rate in Pachinko World's revenues as compared to the year ended May 31, 2005. It would also represent approximately 20% to 24% compound annual revenue growth compared to the fiscal year ended May 31, 2004. In each of those past fiscal years, results reflected then-newly opened pachinko parlors (or "stores") that had not yet achieved the revenue 'run rate' typical of comparable stores. This revenue guidance for fiscal 2007 is based on the expected performance of the Company's existing stores as well as the partial-year revenue contribution expected from a new store planned to be opened in the fiscal year ending May 31, 2007. The new store planned to open in fiscal 2007 is expected to have the new, larger-format configuration of the stores Pachinko World has opened since 2000. These feature a large, well air-conditioned, open floor plan, high ceilings, plenty of nearby parking, attractive customer amenities and (with the exception of its 480-machine Oyama store, opened in 2004), upwards of 600 pachinko and pachislo machines per location. Financing for new stores is expected to be provided by the Company's cash flow from operations, potentially combined with funds provided by the Company's existing lenders and/or other financing arrangements.

"The key to our growth plans is the larger, up-to-date design of our newer Kaminokawa, Jimokuji and Okazaki-Nishi locations," commented Henry Miyano, Pachinko World's Corporate Secretary. "The performance of these stores has, as expected, pointed the way forward for us. With these newer-format stores, overhead expenses are distributed over a larger base of gaming machines, leading to greater net profitability."

"In fiscal 2007," Mr. Miyano continued, "depending on the specific location, our established newer-format stores are expected to achieve average annual net pre-tax operating income per machine averaging between $1,500 and nearly $3,000, before accounting for U.S. corporate overhead expenses. This represents as much as triple the average pre-tax net profit per machine for our newer stores compared with our older stores."

"While we expect the new store we are planning for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2007 to make initial, partial-year revenue contributions to fiscal 2007 results," Mr. Miyano continued, "there is always a period of several months before any new store consolidates its customer base, reaches its revenue 'run rate' and can be considered 'established.' Prior to that, each new store requires investments amounting to $8 million in construction and machine installation costs, staff recruitment, advertising, more liberal gaming payouts and other start-up expenses. Following the first year's operations, however, each new store has the potential to generate approximately $6 million to $7 million in revenues and $2 million to $2.5 million in operating cash flow annually."

The Company plans to accelerate its schedule of new store openings in coming years, with the goal of operating a total of 11 to 13 stores by the end of fiscal 2009.

World Series of Poker: Players, Fans Eye Long Day

 

Poker professional Mike Matusow has some advice for the nine players at today's final table of the World Series of Poker, as well as for the hundreds of fans making the trek over to the Rio to watch the action: Go heavy on the Red Bull and pop a few NoDoz pills, because you're in for a long night. While play in the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas hold 'em event begins at 2 p.m., Matusow said he thinks the champion won't be crowned until sometime early Friday morning. "This really should be a two-day final table because you have so many chips in play," said Matusow, a Las Vegas resident who finished ninth in last year's World Series of Poker championship event, taking home $1 million. "It's the marathon of all marathons." Nine players hope to be the one with all $87.7 million in tournament chips stacked in front of them at the end of competition. But if play mirrors the 2005 final table, it will take awhile. Last year, Joseph Hachem of Australia outlasted the competition for almost 14 hours, winning a then-record $7.5 million. This year's champion will take home $12 million. Jamie Gold, a former Hollywood agent from Malibu, Calif., enters play as the chip leader with more than $25.6 million in tournament tokens.

Poker professional and four-time World Series bracelet winner Allen Cunningham of Las Vegas is second with more than $17.7 million. Richard Lee, a San Antonio investor, is the only other player whose chips are in double figures with $11.8 million.

Matusow, a longtime figure on the poker circuit, said the tournament is now Cunningham's to lose. Most poker professionals questioned on Wednesday's day off said the lack of World Series experience might be the undoing for the remaining players.

"They don't understand deep-stack poker, which involves a lot of chips," Matusow said. "The inexperienced and Internet players get reckless. It's a different poker world than it used to be. Allen is one of the top five pros in the world, and he understands all this."

Matusow said Gold has one large ace up his sleeve: two-time world poker champion Johnny Chan has served as his unofficial coach during the tournament. Several times during Tuesday night's play, Gold ventured over to Chan, who was standing at the rails, to collect some advice.

Chan, winner of 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, said Gold, 36, needs to make sure he plays slow when he finds himself heads-up in a hand against Cunningham.

" 'Don't call Allen. Let Allen call you,' is what I told him," Chan said. "Jamie has really become a strong poker player, and he's been doing all the right things during this tournament."

Chan said he expects the final table players to be "tight," playing slowly the first few hours. Once a couple of players bust out, then play might get a bit adventuresome.

Chan said if Gold stays within his game plan, his Hollywood career could have a whole new twist.

"I told him that whatever he has going right now outside of poker, drop it," Chan said. "He's now playing for his life."

Most poker tournament professionals expect Gold and Cunningham to be the final two players as the field is whittled down, which would mean slow play and a long night.

Robert Williamson III, who won a World Series bracelet in 2002, said Cunningham's tournament background will be a key factor. He doesn't think the 29-year-old pro will make too many daredevil moves.

"It seems to me that this tournament is Allen's to lose," Williamson said. "He would have to make some gross errors."

While the focus has been on Gold and Cunningham, that's not to say the other seven players are also-rans. The final nine outlasted a record field of 8,773 players who ponied up $10,000 each or who won their way into poker's signature event.

Matusow said he "heard good things" about Paul Wasicka, a bartender and restaurant manager from Westminster, Colo., who is fifth with more than $7.9 million.

"I think he and Alan are the two best players that are left," Matusow said.

Greg Raymer, who won the 2004 championship, said players can't be intimidated by the bright lights from ESPN, which is taping the final table for airing in November but also broadcasting the event on a live pay-per-view telecast.

"That's just one of the aspects of poker that comes into play," Raymer said. "Other than Alan, I don't know any of the guys at the final table. They could be world-class poker players or world-class chumps. The television lights will have a different impact on each player."

Steve Dannenmann, a certified public accountant from Severen Md., who finished second to Hachem last year and won $4.25 million, hopes the players take on his attitude: enjoy yourself, because you might never get back.

"Lose the sunglasses, so the world knows what you look like, and get rid of the Internet site logo shirts, because you're going to be a millionaire anyway and you don't need the (sponsorship) money," Dannenmann said. "Be respectful to the other players, but make it look like you're having fun. Enjoy it and take in the experience, because your life is going to change."

Vegas.com Desk Points Fliers to LV

 

Travelers flying from one busy Southern California airport can now get a head start on their Las Vegas vacation moments before they leave the Golden State. And soon travelers at more than a dozen other U.S. airports will get the chance to do likewise. Vegas.com, a Henderson-based travel planning and reservation provider, today opened its first airport-based concierge desk at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif. Vegas.com's fully staffed desk, located beneath a massive marquee travelers pass on the way from the security checkpoint to the gates, lets patrons complete many last-minute details of their Southern Nevada getaways. Over the next 18 to 24 months, similar desks will debut at 16 or more airports nationwide. "We always want to meet the customers where they are," said Howard Lefkowitz, Vegas.com's president and chief executive officer. "We feel that once they've gone past security, they believe in their own minds that their vacations have started and they're starting to think about what they're going to do when they get" to Southern Nevada.

Although just 4 percent of last year's 38.6 million Las Vegas visitors booked hotel accommodations the day they arrived, Vegas.com's data show that many travelers wait until they're here before making restaurant reservations, booking golf tee times or purchasing VIP passes to bypass lines at popular Strip nightclubs.

Sensing a captive audience that typically has time to kill, Lefkowitz is confident some of those reservations will now take place at the airport -- and Vegas.com will be there to collect a sales percentage.

"To see this giant Vegas thing in the middle of this dull airport environment, it's pretty cool," he said. "This is just another extension of Las Vegas into the customer's path."

Travelers with laptop computers can still make reservations online using a wireless Internet connection. But Burbank's airport charges $10 to go online, so Vegas.com's desk could attract those unwilling to pay the connection charge.

St. Charles, Ill.-based retail consultants Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender each called the strategy brilliant.

The desk's placement and imagery should make people think about Las Vegas even if they're headed elsewhere, Kizer said. On-site staffing is another plus, he added, because people enjoy believing that they've got information their friends and family might not possess.

"People will like to brag about the fact that they didn't have to stand in line at the Bellagio buffet, for example, because they had a pass. That kiosk almost becomes an 'inside tip,'" Kizer said. "People will say, 'From now on, when we go to Vegas, we'll get to the airport 45 minutes earlier than we normally would so we can take care of business.'"

The desk will also build brand loyalty, Bender said.

"It will draw customers, when they're not at the airport, to (Vegas.com's) Web site," she said.

Trained employees will staff the desk daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The number of workers on-site will vary so that more are on hand when outbound traffic is most busy.

Depending on the day of the week, McCarran International Airport hosts 13 to 14 daily flights from Burbank. Nearly all are operated by Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, whose passengers often favor smaller airports with easier access than major hubs such as Los Angeles International Airport.

"Lots and lots of traffic to our city" comes through Burbank, Lefkowitz said. He wouldn't disclose how much the desk cost beyond joking that, "Nothing is cheap in an airport."

Vegas.com has deals with 16 airports so far, Lefkowitz said, including Los Angeles International. The company plans to tune its airport business model in Burbank before it opens more locations several months from now.

Greenspun Media Group owns Vegas.com. The 450-employee company has relationships with nearly 80 local hotels, 160 shows, 30 nightclubs and 24 tour companies.

Greektown Receives Final Approval

 

As reported by the Detroit News: "Greektown Casino received final approval Tuesday for its permanent $200 million casino/hotel/entertainment complex. "The Michigan Gaming Control Board unanimously approved Greektown's plans, and casino officials hope to have the complex open by September 2008, about six months after the opening of permanent facilities for MGM Grand Detroit Casino and the MotorCity Casino."Each casino will feature 400-room hotels, 100,000-square-feet of gaming space, restaurants, entertainment facilities, meeting rooms and parking decks. "Greektown originally planned to spend $450 million to build an all-new facility. But casino officials changed their minds last November and decided to expand the temporary casino in the heart of the Greektown business district -- a move that will save $250 million…"

Blackpool Formally Submits Application

 

As reported by the North West Enquirer: "Blackpool's campaign to win the UK's only super-casino licence moved ahead another stage this week with the submission of a formal planning applic-ation to the council."It is hoped that outline planning consent will be secured for the development by the end of November 2006, before the government's Casino Advisory Panel (CAP) makes its final decision in December. "Campaigners believe planning consent would help demonstrate the willingness of Blackpool Council to support the casino bid. A site with planning approval could also be developed sooner rather than later if Blackpool wins the special gaming licence…"

Foxwoods Hosts World Poker Finals

 

Foxwoods Resort Casino will once again be the epicenter of the poker world as the prestigious World Poker Finals (WPF) and hugely popular World Poker Tour (WPT) return to New England this fall. This prominent three-week event attracts the game's biggest stars, throngs of amateurs, thousands of fans, national television cameras and an expected total prize pool of $15 million, consistently one of the top five prize pools on the WPT tour. Last year's Texas No-Limit Hold'em champion Nick Schulman, the youngest in the history of the World Poker Tour, took home a cool $2.1 million of an overall WPF prize pool of $12.3 million. The poker action gets underway with opening day qualifying on October 25th. The final tables take place on November 16th with the Professional Poker Tour event, followed by the highly-anticipated WPT World Poker Finals grand finale on November 17th, before a live audience, with television cameras rolling from the Travel Channel. "The prestige, participants and prize pool continue to grow each year," said Terry Chiaradio, newly anointed Director of Poker Operations at Foxwoods. "We're expecting more than 6,000 entries and based on last year's winner, it's anyone's game." Foxwoods is a charter member of the World Poker Tour, as well as home to the only WPT-branded poker room in the country. The WPT Poker Room at Foxwoods is the only poker room in New England and is the largest casino based poker room in the country.

Activists Push for Atlantic City Casino Smoking Ban

 

As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: "Nearly a dozen anti-smoking activists came to Wednesday's City Council meeting to urge the members to support a ban on smoking in the resort's casinos."But the effort was to no avail, as a resolution sponsored by Councilman Eugene Robinson was tabled. "The state's indoor smoking ban went into effect April 15, but gaming areas of the casinos are exempt. Assemblyman Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, has introduced a measure to make the gaming halls smoke-free. "Buoyed by a June report from the U.S. surgeon general that said there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, casino workers said they want the same protections as other New Jersey employees…"

Survey: Other States Benefited from Atlantic City Shutdown

 

The casinos in Atlantic City, NJ were closed down on July 5 through July 7, 2006 due to a temporary state budget impasse. Only one in 10 (9%) gamblers in New Jersey and surrounding states had made specific plans to go gambling in Atlantic City on those dates(1), but of those who did, 13 percent decided to go Connecticut to gamble instead. Three percent went to a casino in Delaware and three percent to Las Vegas, while about half (49%) of gamblers with plans to go to Atlantic City simply cancelled their plans and stayed home. These are some of the results of an online survey of 1,386 U.S. adults (ages 21 years and over) conducted by Harris Interactive(R) between July 7 and 10, 2006. The survey included residents of the states of Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia who have been to Atlantic City, New Jersey in the past 12 months for the purpose of gambling at a casino. The casino shutdown resulted from a temporary state budget impasse between New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who wanted to raise the income tax in New Jersey to close a $4.5 billion budget gap, and Democrats in the State Legislature, led by Assembly Speaker Roberts, who do not want to raise taxes. Because of this impasse, no budget was passed and the state temporarily closed all "nonessential" government offices, including the Casino Control Commission, the agency responsible for regulating gambling in Atlantic City. The casinos in Atlantic City were closed from July 5th through July 7th. A vast majority (86%) of respondents say they were aware of the shutdown, and 78% of those aware blamed the New Jersey State Legislature for the closure. This shutdown could have lasting effects for Atlantic City in some gamblers' minds, as 22 percent report that this closure had a negative or very negative impact on their opinions of Atlantic City.

California Tribal Consortia Review Compact

 

As reported by the Desert Sun: "With the ink barely dry on the new gaming deal for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Palm Springs tribe hit the ground early Wednesday to ensure its 1999 compact is passed by state lawmakers."But first, tribal council chairman Richard Milanovich met with Team 2006, a consortia of seven tribes in Southern California that he said has met weekly since April to discuss strategy to advance Indian gaming initiatives with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Those tribes, which include Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, reviewed the new deal Wednesday and were told they may use the amended compact as a template, according to Milanovich…"

Ho-Chunk Casino Games Return

 

As reported by the Baraboo News Republic: "It may be a few months before they return, but Ho-Chunk Nation officials announced Wednesday roulette, craps and poker will return to their Baraboo casino after a brief, legally induced hiatus. The games were pulled at midnight June 30 last year after a State Supreme Court ruling. The ruling was reversed a few weeks ago.
"Ho-Chunk Casino Executive Administrative Officer Jon Greendeer said the ruling is a strong victory for both the state and the Ho-Chunk Nation. "…The games were pulled after the court ruled Gov. Jim Doyle's negotiations with state tribes violated state and federal constitutions. "Rep. J.A. "Doc" Hines, R-Oxford, said if state tribes are allowed to operate casinos they should be allowed to have the same kinds of games as other casinos. "…According to the Ho-Chunk Nation, the casino offers 2,400 slot machines, 36 blackjack tables, 11 high-stakes tables a 500-seat bingo hall, 315 guest rooms and five restaurants. The casino employs about 1,300 people. "Greendeer said the games were not the casino's biggest money-makers, but provided patrons more variety…"

Florida Courts Order Slot Petition Trial

 

As reported by the Florida Sun-Sentinel: "A state appeals court handed down a potential death sentence for slot machines in Broward County on Tuesday. "But the four local pari-mutuels are still moving ahead with plans to offer the games, anticipating years of legal wrangling before a final ruling is made."The suddenly uncertain future of slot machines stems from a lawsuit filed by Floridians Against Expanded Gambling, a group that says pro-gambling petitioners forged signatures to get the issue on the statewide ballot in November 2004. A Leon County Circuit judge originally denied their request for an expedited trial before the election. After voters approved the constitutional amendment that opened the door for slots, the judge declared the issue moot. "In a 2-1 ruling, the Florida First District Court of Appeal now says that wasn't fair and ordered a trial. If fraud is found, 'the trial court should declare the Slots Initiative invalid,' the court wrote…."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Isle of Capri Completes Relocation

 

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. has completed its previously announced corporate relocation to St. Louis and established a regional office in Biloxi, Miss. The address and phone number for the St. Louis corporate headquarters follows:

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. 600 Emerson Road Suite 300 St. Louis, MO 63141 (314) 813-9200 The address and phone number for the Biloxi regional office follows:

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. Biloxi Regional Office 1635 Popps Ferry Road Suite G Biloxi, MS 39532 (228) 396-7000 Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc., a leading developer and owner of gaming and entertainment facilities, operates 13 casinos in 11 locations. The company owns and operates riverboat and dockside casinos in Biloxi, Lula and Natchez, Mississippi; Lake Charles (2 riverboats), Louisiana; Bettendorf, Davenport and Marquette, Iowa; and Kansas City and Boonville, Missouri. The company also owns a 57 percent interest in and operates land-based casinos in Black Hawk (two casinos), Colorado. Isle of Capri's international gaming interests include a casino that it operates in Freeport, Grand Bahama and a two-thirds ownership interest in casinos in Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton, England. The company also owns and operates Pompano Park Harness Racing Track in Pompano Beach, Florida.

VendingData Expands Line

 

VendingData(TM) Corporation (Amex: VNX) announced today that it will be entering the market for gaming plaques, which are used internationally by casinos for high stake games representing the highest monetary value denomination. Plaques are much larger than traditional gaming chips and their shape varies depending upon the casinos aesthetic preference -- rectangular, oval, etc. Because they are issued to "high rollers," plaques are usually highly decorative, featuring customized artwork of intricate designs specified by the casino. Dolphin plaques incorporate multiple security features of the latest technology -- both covert and overt. In the past, plaques have been formed and finished by hand, making them expensive and slow to manufacture. Dolphin plagues are entirely machine made with much higher precision while still maintaining the luxurious feel and appearance of the original, including fully customized features. Mark Newburg, VendingData's President and CEO stated, "The market for gaming plaques is predicted to rise exponentially, due to massive growth in Asia, where casinos have extensive facilities for high end gamblers. Our recent acquisition of Dolphin, with their manufacturing capabilities, and our patented RFID technology make this a logical step in the continuing expansion of our product line and broadening of our revenue base." Simon Herbert, VendingData's Vice President of Global Sales explained, "VendingData's patented RFID technology is a natural addition to the gaming plaque. In addition to providing enhanced security, the enhanced technology assists with marketing and accounting functions. Currently, there is only one manufacturing source of plaques and our customers, including a number of the largest international casino operators, have strongly encouraged us to offer an alternative or secondary source. We have developed a new manufacturing process which will deliver a highly cost-effective product, with or without embedded RFID technology. Casinos will be able to order Dolphin plaques which are superior in construction, more durable and highly decorative with a huge range of security features by fourth quarter 2006."

Simon Herbert continued, "As new entrants to the casino plaque market we will be cautious with our projections. Our advanced manufacturing techniques will, however, give us a distinct competitive advantage.

In the International market, casinos have an average ratio of 30% plaques to 70% chips. The global market for chips is estimated at 20 million units per year for the next 5 years. The value of the global market for plaques can therefore be estimated in excess of 6 million units per year over the next 5 years."

The Rio is Ready to Rumble

 

Phil Hellmuth Jr., not one to share the spotlight, almost made good on his quest to win his 11th bracelet Wednesday by finishing third in $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Event # 45. Earlier in the tournament, Hellmuth informed Doyle Brunson that he'd do just about anything to get number 11, including find one. With just three tables left in the WSOP's final event, it appeared as though Hellmuth must just accomplish the one feat that would be able to upstage today's Main Event final table, but Anders Henriksson spoiled the "Poker Brats" dreams. An accomplished European player, Henriksson had a good run in this year's Main Event (601) and also had a WSOP cash in 2005. This is his first career gold bracelet and one of several strong finishes in 2006 by the Swedish Invasion. For Hellmuth, Wednesday's third place finish marked his eight cash in the 2006 WSOP and more remarkably, his fourth final table. With one bracelet and three finishes of sixth place or better, Hellmuth has vaulted above multiple bracelet winners Jeff Madsen and William Chen for Card Player Magazine Player of the Year honors.

With the Main Event being played out today, only Allen Cunningham has a shot to pass Hellmuth for that honor, and in my opinion, even a first place finish might not be enough to do it.

Main Event Countdown

The line to get into the Main Event Final Table spectator area is huge, stretching nearly all the way down the corridor leading to the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.

Today's nine players, all of which are millionaires, are finishing up their ESPN interviews and will make their way to the ESPN stage to battle it out for a first place prize totaling $12 million.

Chip Leader Jamie Gold has $25,650,000 chips, more than enough to challenge the early favorite Allen Cunningham who has $17,770,000. Richard Lee, the San Antonio, Texas native who said he's winning this one for his hometown, sits in third position with $11,820,000.

For the first time, ESPN will provide live coverage of the Main Event Final Table available on Pay-Per-View. Professional player and former Celebrity Poker Showdown co-host Phil Gordon will host the event along with a slew of guest hosts that are rumored to include Greg "Fossilman" Raymer and Phil Hellmuth.

In the media room, there are two obscure singers preparing for their appearance as the guest national anthem singer. Warming up their "world famous voices," while writers are frantically blogging is causing more than one media member to stare the duo down.

Picking a Favorite

Two separate taxi drivers of mine picked two separates winners for today's event. Earlier this morning, my driver said there's no way to defeat experience, meaning he believed Allen Cunningham would win the big one.

This afternoon, a different cabbie said Gold would take home the bracelet, using his big stack to dominate the final table. Both were 100 percent sure they were correct, meaning I no longer know who's going to win this thing. Cabbies are never wrong.

The divided opinion of my chauffeurs pretty much represents the pulse of the Rio. Of the 10 people in line for the final table that I polled, six of them picked Cunningham and four of them selected Gold.

Although no one has been officially eliminated, spectators and cab drivers alike don't seem to be giving the other seven players much of a chance. If history has anything to say about it, the big stack usually takes the final table (Chris Moneymaker in 2003 and Raymer in 2004), but as Joseph Hachem proved in 2005, all you need is timing.

Two-time WSOP Main Event Champion Johnny Chan is also in the media room and is prediciting that Gold will win the whole thing. He has a bit of bias however, considering he taught Gold how to play.

As for my pick, I'm going with Cunningham. With everyone predicting that professional had little chance in such a large field, it will be very interesting to see if arguably the best player in the world can take home the world's biggest poker title. Plus, the hoopla surrounding this event is something only Cunningham has experienced before.

Missing Person

Maybe he just wasn't available, but the August addition of Card Player Magazine, featuring the cast and characters of the Full Tilt Poker Team, does not include Allen Cunningham on the front fold. Considering his run at the Main Event, Cunningham may soon be Full Tilt's most famous player.

Although Cunningham does appear on the cover's inside fold, I'd be willing to bet that Full Tilt wishes they'd displayed their quiet star in a more prominent manner.

PokerPro Table Momentum Growing, Despite Second Quarter Losses

 

When Antonio Esfandiari first sat down at a PokerPro automated poker table, he was a little unsure about the technology."I was very hesitant at first, and then I sat down, and I was like 'Wow!' because it really feels like poker," Esfandiari said. "It's like a dream come true; it's so awesome. I think it's so much better for tournaments, especially."Esfandiari won a single table exhibition against the likes of Mike Sexton, Kenna James, Clonie Gowen and other professional players at the Aussie Poker Millions in January on the table, which combines the technology of Internet poker with live poker. The PokerPro table offers a computerized Texas Hold'em game, with each player's seat in front of a touch screen that reveals hole cards and chip stacks. When it is a player's turn to act, that player is prompted to check, bet, raise or fold. Marketing statements claim that the tables average a 50 percent increase in hands per hour over traditional live tables, which pleases both players and card room management, and the table can run either a live cash game or a tournament.

PokerTek, the North Carolina-based company behind the technology, has been slowly building momentum for the past two years. While some poker rooms have utilized the technology for over a year, others are just signing on. Carnival Cruise Lines tried the table for the first time on one cruise ship in late April and it was such a success that the company signed a three-year contract to expand the deal to other ships.

"The cruise industry is just awesome for us," said Chris Manley, an Implementation Consultant with PokerTek. "It's a dream for these cruise ships, who have a captive audience. It makes a ton of money, and you don't have to keep the dealers working at the table."

Despite the recent growth, the news wasn't quite as cheery as PokerTek announced their results for the second quarter of 2006 on Thursday afternoon. The company finished the quarter with a loss of over $2.2 million ($0.24 per diluted share), but PokerTek CEO Lou White remained positive despite the numbers.

"While expenses were in line with our operating plan, we are behind our revenue target as it has taken us longer than expected to more broadly introduce the PokerPro system to the market, which is attributable in large part to regulatory delays," White said in a statement after announcing the results. "However, we are encouraged by many recent developments on the regulatory front, we are enthusiastic about our installation pipeline of announced and soon-to-be announced installations, and we are very proud of the progress that we continue to make toward our goals."

Part of that progress was taking place at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Gaming Life Expo. PokerTek's corner booth was one of the busiest exhibits as interested onlookers were invited to play turbo sit-and-go tournaments, with the winner getting a free T-shirt, hat or sweatshirt.

The software at PokerPro tables requires very little interaction on the casino's part, most notably in providing dealers. The elimination of the dealer at these tables has produced a mixed reaction. Some players enjoy a boost to their bankroll as tipping dealers is eliminated, but others just aren't ready to believe that the computerized game is as random as a deck of cards (it is). Dealers, however, are understandably worried about becoming irrelevant.

"Dealers want to hate it right away because obviously they think it's a threat to their job," Manley said. "I look at our table as a stepping stone. You've got players who are used to playing online. They've never walked into a casino, and when they do, they walk in and see a poker room with all these guys and it's an intimidating place. All the unspoken rules of poker are taken care of for you online. (The PokerPro table) looks familiar, and they play on this for a while and now they are used to playing with players in person. Now they're ready to make that jump, and it's kind of like a little stepping stone from the Internet to a live game."

The Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Tampa, Florida was one of the first to use the table. Henry Funke, the poker room manager at the Seminole Hard Rock has seen the table overcome early resistance from both players and dealers.

"It's not the table's fault," Funke said. "But they can't talk for themselves. For them to be accepted, you have to overcome a lot of dealer resentment, you have to overcome a lot of management in other casinos that don't want to deal with them. But what we're running on them now are things that dealers don't mind not having to deal. These tables are very efficient at running low-limit, single-table tournaments, and they're not really affecting the dealers in their take-home pay."

Despite these obstacles, the system has taken hold at the Seminole Hard Rock. The 50-table poker room includes two PokerPro tables, and Funke is planning on bringing in another.

"It's going to be the wave of the future," Funke said. "I wouldn't be surprised if you see final tables on television in the near future being dealt by PokerPro. I think it lends itself very well to that type of format, in terms of not having to worry about players showing (a holecam) their cards."

The tables, which have become popular in each location where they have been placed, are currently only equipped to run Texas Hold'em games. PokerTek, however, plans to launch Omaha in the near future and will continue to expand on the repertoire of games as demand dictates.

Some players insist they will miss the physical aspect of holding cards and doing chip tricks, but Manley has a quick response for those players: "Did you come here to play with your chips, or did you come here to play poker?"

Those looking to play poker might soon be finding themselves at a PokerPro table.

Elimination Hands from the 2006 WSOP Main Event Final Table

 

These are the elimination hands from the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event Final Table. Casino City reporter Ryan McLane will continue update this column as players are eliminated from the largest live poker tournament ever held.

3rd Place - Michael Binger

Daniel Negreanu's "dark horse pick" lasted longer than he should have, surviving several all-in chips to get as high as $14 million chips, but he ran into the Jamie "The Eliminator" Gold and was sent to the rail in third place.

In his elimination hand, Binger raised the pot $1.5 million after both Gold and Wasicka limped into the hand. The flop came 10-6-5. Wasicka bet, Binger bet $3.5 million, and Gold went all-in. Wasicka checked the hand and Binger called.

Binger showed A-10 for top pair, but Gold had a 3-4 for an open-ended straight-draw. The turn was a Seven and Binger was drawing dead to the river. On a side note, the river was a spade, meaning Wasicka folded the best hand with his 8-9 of spades. PRIZE MONEY: $4,123,310

4th Place - Allen Cunningham

It just wasn't Cunningham's day. Early in the tournament, Cunningham made a set of Nines when the flop produced a pair of them. He slow played the hand, making value bets on the turn and the river, only to be out kicked by Jamie Gold who also held a Nine.

Short stacked and in danger of getting blinded out, Cunningham moved all-in with a pair of Tens. After a long deliberation, Gold called the bet and flipped up K-J suited. The King came right on the flop and Cunningham was not able to find one of the remaining Tens in the deck.

Visibly distraught, Cunningham conducted his ESPN interview, then left the building, refusing to talk to the media or do his elimination press conference. Radio announcer Daniel Negreanu, who is a close personal friend of Cunningham's, left his Sirius Radio broadcast to go console his friend. PRIZE MONEY: $3,628,513

5th Place - Rhett Butler

Whether it was a cold run of cards of just his strategy from the beginning, Butler did not play many pots at the final table and eventually worked himself out of the tournament.

On his final hand, Butler saw Cunningham raise the pot and Gold call. With pocket Fours, Butler moved all-in and both players before him called the bet.

The flop came J-6-5. Cunningham and Gold checked. The turn was a two of clubs. Gold bet $2 million and Cunningham folded leaving just the all-in Butler against the chip leader. The river was a blank. Gold showed down K-J and eliminated his fourth competitor of this final table. PRIZE MONEY: $3,216,182

6th - Richard Lee

The man who didn't really care about the WSOP Main Event prize money gambled with his second place stack against chip leader Jamie Gold and paid the price.

Coming into the pot with a raise, Lee faced a re-raise from Gold who had position. Thinking Gold was weak, Lee went all-in and Gold called immediately. Lee had pocket Jacks and was dominated by Gold's pocket Queens.

The board was no help to Lee, who went from second place to out of the tournament in a single hand. That was the third elimination by Gold, the second in which he defeated an opponent with pocket Queens.

"Jamie (Gold) was raising a lot of pots," Lee said. "I've been watching him play for three days now and the cards have been running all over him. I didn't think he had a giant hand, maybe A-k or pocket Tens. I made a decision to win the pot right there. When you're gambling at this level you're not going to get a million opportunities so when you think you have one, I think you need to go for it." PRIZE MONEY: $2,803,851

7th Place - Doug Kim

The youngest player at the Main Event Final Table saw his starting stack of $6.7 slowly dwindle until he faced his Main Event demise at the hands of Michael Binger.

The 22-year old Doug Kim, an amateur from Martsdale, NY called Binger's pre-flop raise with pocket nines, then got all his money in on a board of 3-3-4. Binger had Q-Q and two cards later, Kim was eliminated in seventh place.

"I was calling to see a good board I could push with my nines," said the well spoken Kim at his press conference. "When it came 3-3-4, both our plays were automatic."

Amazingly, this is Kim's first cash in a live tournament ever. He said he's unsure where his poker career with go from here because he has a good job waiting for him at home. PRIZE MONEY: $2,391,520

8th Place - Erik Friberg

Part of the Swedish invasion, the 23-year old online professional Erik Friberg came into the final table with a decent $9.6 million stack, but was unable to use his strong poker abilities to survive for more than a few hours.

Looking down at a pair of Jacks, Friberg limped into the pot, then re-raised Gold's raise. Gold quickly called and proudly flipped his Q-Q. An uneventful board saw Friberg eliminated in eighth place.

"I tried to get my money in their somehow," Friberg said during his post-play press conference. "I am obviously very disappointed right now." PRIZE MONEY: $1,979,189

9th Place - Dan Nassif

The first player eliminated at the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table was 33-year old Dan Nassif from St. Louis, Missouri. Before play started, Nassif said he needed to double early to survive. He got his chance when he looked down and saw A-k, but chip leader Jamie Gold called his raise and flopped a set of twos on a board of 2-3-5. Nassif moved all-in and Gold quickly called. Nassif got a little help with an Ace on the turn, but was unable to catch up to Gold's set. PRIZE MONEY: $1,566,858

Richard Lee - A Champion at Heart

 

When Richard Lee went on record as saying he didn't care about the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event prize money because he already had enough, many people didn't know what to think about the well-spoken man from Texas. The question on everyone's mind was how could anyone say $12 million isn't life-changing money? The comment put many people off, but the more fans and media members found out about the 55-year old investor surrounded by a beautiful supportive family, the more they began to change their minds. Words that once rubbed people the wrong way eventually started to sound more and more like genuine honesty. Lee has the money and he's willing to admit it. Most of the professionals care little for the money so why can't a wealthy amateur? "I've been blessed by the good Lord to have done real well financially," Lee said. "Sure the $12 million would have been great. But I'm more interested in winning a championship for my city, my family, and the people who have supported me. I feel like I let them all down." When he uttered that last statement in his final press conference, family and media alike informed the would-be-champion that he was a winner in their hearts. Here was a guy who truly wanted to win something for the sheer sport of it - a rarity in the poker. It was refreshing in a way, the money didn't matter.

"The bracelet is just a symbol," Lee said. "I'm not a real big jewelry guy. I wear a watch and a wedding ring and that's about it. I care more about the bracelet because it's a symbol that you are the World Champion."

Lee continually proved he didn't care about the money in the days leading up to final table. Approached by several online poker rooms seeking ways to get their merchandise on anyone who would appear on television, Lee told them no.

His family was also approached. His beautiful wife and daughters were offered thousands of dollars wear advertisements. Again, Lee said no, sending his girls to the spa for a full day of beauty treatment rather than make them billboards.

"I'm a real funny person," Lee said. "They offered me money to wear their t-shirt or their ball cap. But I made a decision. I'm 55-years old. I've lived in the same city for 54 of those years. I told myself, if I was lucky enough to make the final two or three tables, the only thing I'll endorse is God, my family, and the great city of San Antonio."

Lee will not get the chance to go home with the title of champion, but considering the coverage he's getting in his hometown newspapers and the slew of friends supporting him, he will go home a champion in the hearts of his fellow Texans.

Lee is a gambler at the poker table, something he attributes to his Texas blood. His willingness to get involved in pots gave him the edge he needed to plow through a field of 8,773 Main Event participants. At one point at the final table, he built his chip stack up to more than $20 million, good enough for a solid second place.

His play amongst the final nine was solid. He won a bunch of little pots without showing a hand; something radio commentator and professional poker player Daniel Negreanu said was the key to being successful at a final table.

On his final hand, the gambler finally broke through. Lee came over the top of a sizable Jamie Gold raise and paid the ultimate price. His pockets Jacks were dominated by Gold's pocket Queens. When asked why he risked it all on a single pair pre-flop, Lee said he was tired of seeing Gold bully the table. Plus, he came to win.

"Jamie (Gold) was raising a lot of pots," Lee said. "I've been watching him play for three days now and the cards have been running all over him. I didn't think he had a giant hand, maybe A-k or pocket Tens. I made a decision to win the pot right there. When you're gambling at this level you're not going to get a million opportunities so when you think you have one, I think you need to go for it."

In the end, the great gambler simply picked the wrong pot against the wrong man. Lee wasn't able to win the 2006 Main Event, but by the end of his run of the WSOP, he had won the hearts of those who watched him play.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lawsuit Against Bodog Dropped

 

A lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court against Bodog Entertainment Group and related parties by BlueMoon Entertainment of L.A. was dismissed on Monday. BlueMoon also dropped its lawsuit against Fox Sports Net (FSN). The lawsuit against both Bodog Entertainment Group (and related defendants) and Fox Sports Net was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that BlueMoon cannot later re-assert its claims. "My client takes accusations of this type extremely seriously and will fight to whatever extent the law allows to ensure that frivolous claims brought against it are dismissed," said Bodog Entertainment Group attorney James Nguyen, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP and co-chair of the firm's Entertainment & Media Industry Team. "Bodog Entertainment Group wants to make clear that entities who decide to pursue litigation against it for capricious reasons or to try to get a quick nuisance value settlement payment will not be rewarded. My client believes the lawsuit by BlueMoon Entertainment was frivolous, and will vigorously defend itself from such baseless litigation. The case brought against Costa Rican-based Bodog and U.S.-based Fox Sports Net had no merit and it is telling that BlueMoon Entertainment abandoned the lawsuit." Filed in April 2006 in Los Angeles Superior Court, BlueMoon Entertainment's lawsuit alleged that Bodog Entertainment Group and its CEO Calvin Ayre were in breach of contract, breach of confidence and misappropriation of ideas in relation to Mr. Ayre's self-produced reality television series, which aired on Fox Sports Net (FSN). BlueMoon Entertainment claimed that it had proposed a similar show to Bodog Entertainment Group, though never had any written contract with Bodog Entertainment Group to produce any television program or to enter into any other business relationship together.

The Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker show was significantly different in numerous respects from the show proposal alleged by BlueMoon Entertainment. The only similarities were the involvement of Mr. Ayre and poker.

Immediately upon filing the suit in April, BlueMoon Entertainment sought a temporary restraining order to halt the broadcast of Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker on Fox Sports Net. But BlueMoon Entertainment lost that effort, when a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled against it at the TRO hearing. After that loss, BlueMoon Entertainment sought to extract a significant monetary payment from Bodog Entertainment Group, which was flatly rejected because Bodog Entertainment Group had no liability.

"This is just yet another case of a producer coming out of the woodworks to file a baseless lawsuit against a successful entertainment project because the producer somehow, somewhere met someone involved with the project," Nguyen said. "In reality, BlueMoon Entertainment raced to the courthouse to file this lawsuit before the Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker series was aired on Fox Sports Network, and therefore without even knowing what the show looked like. Before actually seeing the Bodog program, how could BlueMoon Entertainment reasonably believe that its supposed show proposal was strikingly similar to Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker? The answer is BlueMoon could not have, and my client believes that shows the lawsuit was baseless to begin with."

On Monday, BlueMoon representatives appeared in court and voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice, thus agreeing not to pursue any more litigation against either Mr. Ayre, any member of the Bodog Entertainment Group or Fox Sports Net in relation to the television series.

The fact that BlueMoon dismissed the lawsuit so quickly, without even requiring Bodog Entertainment Group S.A. to file a response to the complaint, just confirms the weakness in the case. Equally telling, is that BlueMoon filed its lawsuit, lost hearings in the case, and then promptly gave up on pursuing the case.

"It is very rare for a plaintiff to just voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit with prejudice so early in the case. That is a testament to the weakness in BlueMoon's legal position," Nguyen said.

Mr. Ayre and Bodog are not afraid to fight frivolous lawsuits, and will not settle frivolous claims just for efficiency's purposes. This lawsuit was baseless and appears to have been a cash-grab attempt.

The Bodog Entertainment Group continues to expand its digital entertainment division with a list of new television shows slated to kick off in the fall. The Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker television series, which showcased Mr. Ayre's billionaire philanthropist lifestyle, aired on Fox Sports Net (FSN) in spring of 2006.

Convention Authority Seeking to Halt Drug Ads

 

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board said Tuesday it will formally oppose a local drug company's quest to trademark the phrase "What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas." Samaritan Pharmaceuticals last summer applied to federally register the phrase to promote its research-stage medical products, as well as Southern Nevada's biotech industry. Because Samaritan's phrase is similar to the "What happens here, stays here" slogan used by the authority, however, board members authorized legal counsel Luke Puschnig to take action against Samaritan. The authority has spent nearly $115 million to promote "What happens here, stays here" on a national level, and several board members were incensed last month when told of Samaritan's application, largely because the company's research reportedly involves treatment for AIDS patients. Authority leaders worried that widespread public exposure to Samaritan's slogan could imply that visitors who indulge in sexual activities in Las Vegas will be infected with a deadly disease. Samaritan Chief Financial Officer Eugene Boyle contends his company's trademark applications would highlight that efforts are under way to develop life-saving drugs in a place known largely for its casinos. Authority executives recently met with Samaritan to discuss potential compromises, but Puschnig said Tuesday the company refused to withdraw its applications. In a written statement, Samaritan president Janet Greeson said her company offered to assign its trademark, if federally approved, to the authority in exchange for a license to use "What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas" in upcoming ads. But Puschnig told the board his staff believes any outside uses would be "detrimental to the destination."

The fight will now shift to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C., where Puschnig said legal costs associated with the trademark challenge could approach $100,000.

Samaritan was formed 12 years ago and became a public company in October 1997. It employs 10 people locally at its headquarters on Convention Center Drive, less than a mile from the authority's offices at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Multiple local critics dismissed Samaritan's application as a publicity stunt by a company that has reported losses of nearly $35 million since its inception, according to documents filed in May with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

No Samaritan product has been approved for commercial production, SEC documents show.

Hotel Planned for Golden Acorn Casino

 

As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Five years after opening one of the region's most remote gambling venues, the Campo Indian band is planning a 150-room hotel in hopes of moving its Golden Acorn Casino beyond a day-trip market. "The proposed three-story hotel, to be built in an arcing semicircle from the front of the freeway-side East County casino, could be under construction by November, casino and tribal officials said recently. ".Located halfway between San Diego and El Centro on Interstate 8, the Golden Acorn draws near-equal shares of patronage from San Diego County, Imperial County and northern Mexico. With 750 slot machines, it is the smallest of eight Indian casinos in the county. "As part of the project - the cost of which is not being disclosed - the casino administrative offices will be moved into outdoor trailers to make room inside for a steakhouse-style restaurant and an 80-seat entertainment lounge."

Nova Scotia Looks at Gambling Impact

 

As reported by the Chronicle Herald: "The province is hoping to break new ground in finding the social and economic impacts of gambling in Nova Scotia. "Bill Turpin, a spokesman for the Environment and Labour Department, said officials believe a socio-economic study to be completed by September 2007 will be the first of its kind in Canada. ".A request for proposals for the project says the consultant must describe and analyze video lottery terminals, the ticket lottery, casinos, online gambling, bingo, and harness racing. "The document says each of those areas 'will be examined from a societal perspective (including both public and private perspectives). This will include examining the impacts on individuals, households, communities, business, government and the economy.' ".The study, which will be made public, is supposed to cost a maximum of $250,000."

Oregon Lottery Reports $1 Billion in Sales

 

As reported by the Oregonian: "Twenty-one years ago, Oregonians spent $33 million for the novelty of scratching latex off cardboard tickets to see whether they had won a prize from the newly created state lottery. "Now, that seemingly quaint enterprise has morphed into a business and marketing behemoth that on Tuesday announced that it had just chalked up more than $1 billion in annual sales for the first time in its history. "Fueled by the popularity of its new electronic slot games, the Oregon Lottery now appears to be one of the top 10 states in per capita lottery sales -- and it's at least seventh in per capita profits. ".In addition, Oregon politicians turned again and again to the lottery to help fill budgets that always seemed to be strapped. The big jump came in 1991 when the Legislature allowed the lottery to set up thousands of video poker terminals in bars and restaurants around the state. Lottery sales tripled in two years as Oregon barrooms began to take on the sights and sounds of a mini-casino."

Notes From Day Before the Main Event

 

There is only one word - empty. Seriously, there is almost no one left at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino today, especially since the nine millionaires vying for the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship have the day off. The vendors, who have been handing out freebees and trying to sign people up for online poker rooms, cell phones, and credit cards all Series, really have nothing to do but hang around and jump all over the few people remaining in the corridors. It's pretty amusing to watch. As someone strolls down the hallway, the scantily clad women get ready to charm the poor sucker into buying their products. I witnessed a few creative ways to avoid the attack, but the winner for the most entertaining was the guy who faked a coughing fit and waved off the would-be salespeople as he scooted past. The side cash games, which once boasted a healthy collection of 40 tables per day, is now down to the few hard-core players trying to prove their lasting power. The satellite area, which has been bumping everyday as people tried to qualify for the big events, finally shut down this morning.

And it's cold! Like seriously cold. It looks like a New England winter inside the Amazon Room with people wearing all kinds of coverings. WSOP officials set the thermostat at a level to cool a room full of people, but when it's empty, spectators and players alike can be seen running to the gift shop to buy a sweatshirt. I have to give it to the WSOP though, great way to sell that remaining merchandise.

There is still a healthy crowd around the two tournaments playing today. The final table of Event #44 is drawing some attention, but most people are surrounding the collection of pros trying to win one last bracelets in the final tables of Event #45. The Poker WSOP Event #45, the one-day $1,500 No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament is down to seven tables and includes some very big names. One tournament director stopped me to say that even though this is the last event of the Series, it has the chance to become one of the most exciting. When I asked him why, he said "Just look around." I took his advice and quickly answered my question. Sitting just one table apart are Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth, both trying to become the first player to earn his 11th gold bracelet. Both men have large stacks and are playing strong, which begs the questions, will the record for WSOP bracelets come down to one table?

Each player is approaching the event in different manners. Brunson is stoic, quiet, and trying to ignore the dozens of Rail Birds trying to catch a glimpse of his hole cards. He's not being rude, taking the time to speak with all-comers in his typical ambassador of poker manner, but after close inspection, I feel confident saying his main focus is winning this final event. Hellmuth is the exact opposite, chatting up his table and berating all who raise him. Just before the dinner break, Hellmuth needed to call his wife. After losing his cell phone on a trip to Europe, Hellmuth has refused to get a new one; therefore, he had to borrow someone's phone to make the call. Of course, when he asked for some help, several people offered up their cell to "The Brat." As the dealer joked to the player who lent him the phone - "Well if you get knocked out, at least you can call him." Hellmuth seems to be uninterested, caring more about the dinner break when he yelled to Brunson "Hey Dolly, we going to break soon or what?" But don't be fooled, when asked why he was playing in this event, he had one answer, "To win."

He told Brunson that he'd "take any bracelet at this point, even one he found in an attic." Brunson smiled and laughed, but a couple minutes later, when Hellmuth went on a prolonged rant, Brunson quipped to his table that he was sure Hellmuth was dropped on his head when he was a child.

Other notables still in the action are David Chiu and the dangerous female combination of Cyndy Violette and Clonie Gowen. Of all the known players, none of them are short stacked, meaning the tournament director might be right about this final table.

The Mock Main Event

In preparation from tomorrow's Main Event final table, ESPN crews are holding a mock tournament on the main stage. Several staff members are playing a freeze-out while television and sound crews test their equipment.

At one point, two of the ESPN crew members went all-in with the same hand K-Q and there was so much commotion, one of the WSOP spectators rushed over to the final table to see what was going on. The ESPN guys and gals are working, playing, and laughing hard, but it's fair to say that the jovial atmosphere is deserved after 41 days of nothing but work.

The Millionaires and Their New Money

A woman who was sitting by the rail watching Brunson play pulled me aside to share a little story. She was inside the Rio spa conversing with a few ladies inside. The three she was speaking with - the daughters of Richard Lee and Rhett Butler's wife. Apparently, to reward their supportive families, two of the newest poker millionaires told their loved ones to take a day for themselves. The woman who shared the story with me said that Lee and his two girls are "delightful people" and all three have been approached by business men who want them to wear their logos during the final table telecast. The Lee family refused after Lee informed them that his was winning this one for the city of San Antonio.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Million Pound Lottery Win Ripped Our Family Apart

 

As reported by the People: "They seemed to be joined at the hip. Clyde Baxter and his sister Virginia shared their lives, their nights out, even their dreams. "But a £6.75 million windfall has made those happy, carefree days a distant memory - another example of the misery the National Lottery can bring when greed and jealousy take over. "The family has imploded. Clyde's parents' marriage has collapsed. His brothers don't talk, and his relationship with his sister soured amid bitter recriminations after he claimed she cheated him out of a house worth £2 million..."

Casino Aztar Ready for Competition

 

As reported by the Evansville Courier-Press: "Improvements under way at Casino Aztar - some subtle, some showy - are intended to position the Evansville riverboat casino against impending competition from a new casino at French Lick, Ind., and elsewhere. "'We have new competition coming on line, and we need to remain competitive,' said Jim Brown, president and general manager of Casino Aztar. "The latest additions to the mix of games on the riverboat's gaming floor are penny slot machines. Players can wager as little as 1 cent, up to several dollars, per pull (though they cash out using a ticket.) ".Construction is progressing on the $40 million entertainment complex - called 'The District at Casino Aztar' - that will have the first of a series of grand openings next month. ".Last year, Casino Aztar announced a second phase of its expansion-improvement project for 2007, to include a dining and entertainment venue. The second phase plans, however, are on hold for now while Aztar's new owner, Columbia Sussex Corp. of Fort Mitchell, Ky., reviews them."

Mohegan Sun Patron Wins Slot Jackpot

 

Renato Cottini of New York invested $34.00 in a Wheel of Fortune slot machine at Mohegan Sun on August 5th, before he won the $2,059,324.49 jackpot. Cottini, feeling lucky, was there to consider the hotel for his son's wedding. He plans to use his fortune to enjoy life. Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribe, is one of the largest, most distinctive and spectacular entertainment, gaming, shopping and meeting destinations in the United States. Situated on 240 acres along the Thames River in scenic South-Eastern Connecticut, Mohegan Sun is within easy access of New York, Boston, Hartford, Providence and located 15 minutes from the museums, antique shops and waterfront of Mystic Country. What began with the Casino of the Earth in 1996 has evolved into a legendary destination that now includes: the Casino of the Sky and over 300,000 square feet of total gaming space; The Shops at Mohegan Sun, featuring more than 60 retail shops and dining venues ranging from food court-style to gourmet; the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena for world-class sporting events and concerts, and an intimate Cabaret; and a 34-story luxury hotel, featuring 1,200 guestrooms and suites, premier meeting and convention space and a world-class spa.

eCogra Reports on Jackpot Factory Search Engine Issue

 

On 28 July 2006 the Compliance Committee of eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance, made up of Mr. W. Galston OBE (Chairman) , Mr. F. Catania and Mr. M.Hirst OBE, all independent directors of the organization, considered all the facts regarding an incident in which complaints were received concerning search engine optimisation practices being conducted by the Jackpot Factory group. The Committee received a report of an independent and on-site investigation which had been carried out by external auditors. This covered the circumstances surrounding the issue, its causes and effects and the remedial actions taken by the company. The Committee findings are that:

1) The nature and tenor of the Jackpot Factory search engine optimisation project was totally unacceptable because of the fictitious and misleading scenarios it portrayed. This had resulted in widespread public disapproval of the campaign.

2) However, there was no evidence to show that any individual or group of individuals were harmed or persuaded to indulge in potentially harmful behaviour by the campaign, which represented an important mitigating factor.

3) Similarly, there is no evidence to suggest that Jackpot Factory management had any deliberate intention to encourage vulnerable persons to participate in gambling activities at group casinos

4) The investigating team report indicates that it is satisfied that the Jackpot Factory claim to have outsourced the project initially is correct. However, the report finds, and Jackpot Factory management conceded that the company's supervision of the project was inadequate.

5) The report confirms that internal disciplinary action taken by the company against those responsible was appropriate.

6) The Committee also considered the more positive aspects of the case and in particular the actions of Jackpot Factory in the immediate aftermath of the issue coming to public attention. On two occasions the company admitted fault in the matter and offered public apologies.

Management backed this up by re-directing company resources and mounting a committed and energetic exercise to track down every element of the campaign that could be found in order to remove it, at the same time urging the public to report any elements discovered so that these could be addressed.

7) Jackpot Factory management cooperated fully with the independent investigation team, presenting verbal and documentary evidence without reserve to assist in its investigations.

8) Jackpot Factory management has since deployed control improvements in its systems as suggested by the investigation team, which will guard against any repetition of this unfortunate incident. Processes are now in place to ensure that any further material that may surface as a result of this campaign is dealt with on a timely basis.

9) Evidence was produced showing that the damage to business and reputation suffered by Jackpot Factory was substantial, as a consequence of public disapproval and the suspension of the Play It Safe seal.

10) Before the incident, Jackpot Factory had a solid reputation for compliance with all eCOGRA standards and requirements.

Having considered all of the above, the Compliance Committee has made the following ruling:

The suspension of the "Play It Safe" seal is lifted, but Jackpot Factory will be subjected to increased eCOGRA monitoring to ensure compliance with the new content code of practice. This is to ensure that all remaining traces of the campaign are removed wherever this is possible. The Compliance Committee is aware of the existence of inactive search engine links, but is satisfied that these do not provide access to any offensive material. The removal of this type of link is solely under the control of the search engines.

The Committee wishes to thank all those representing players' interests for their comments during the initial complaints and throughout the investigation. It also notes that the investigation team received the full cooperation of the Jackpot Factory management and is satisfied that they have shown their determination that this should not happen again.

The goal of eCOGRA in incidents such as this is to remove the immediate cause and potential for harm as quickly as possible, and then through fair and factual investigation isolate the reasons and ensure that systems are in place to guard against any repetition. These objectives have, in the opinion of this Committee, been met.

Down But Not Out, Lebanon Casino and Cabarets Battle On

 

As reported by the Agence France Presse: "...'The show must go on' has long been the motto of the Casino du Liban nestled on a hill on the tip of the Bay of Junieh, located in the Christian heartland north of Beirut. "The opening hours, however, have been curtailed and it now closes at a modest 1:00 am, instead of the normal five in the morning. At dawn on Friday, an Israeli air strike gouged craters in a road bridge near the casino. "'Everybody is feeling down. There is no life. You call this life?' said a cashier, pointing at a mostly empty room full of slot machines and flashing lights. 'Normally you can't walk through here, the crowd is so thick.' "Only one out of three gaming rooms is operating, for aficionados of roulette and blackjack, with guests asked to hire a jacket and tie if they don't turn up in the proper attire. "The private rooms are closed as 'the high rollers were the first to leave the country', the cashier explained. And the summer show, complete with dancing girls, has been called off. "...Opened in 1959, the casino has kept going against the odds and operated more or less normally through most of the 1975-1990 civil war. But it was badly damaged and forced to close its doors during inter-Christian battles in 1989..."

Stories from the WSOP Main Event Final Tables

 

Although there are two WSOP events running simultaneously today, including the final three tables of the 2006 Main Event, the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino has the feel of a deserted warehouse. There is a throng of spectators surrounding the ESPN televised poker stage, but gone are the lucrative cash game and satellite table players that have been a staple in the Amazon Room since the WSOP began in June. Still, there's a buzz about the place even if there isn't a crowd. Monitors line the entire conference room with pockets of people rushing to the screen whenever it's announced that another Main Event competitor is all-in. By far the fan favorite in this year's final grouping is consummate professional Allen Cunningham, who is looking to add to his already stellar poker reputation by grabbing a fifth gold bracelet and the coveted World Champion title. As on fan in the bleachers put it to his wife, "That's Gary Cullingham.I mean Al, or Allen Cunningham. He's really good."

So far, Day Six is moving day for Cunningham, who started near the middle of the pack early in the day, but has vaulted to second place, close to Jamie Gold's monster stack of $18 million chips. Continuing his big-stack bullying, Gold continues to accumulate chips and is still the leader after days as the front runner.

WSOP officials continue to say that play will continue tonight (Aug. 8) until the final table is set. Because the tournament is ahead of schedule, there will be a day off tomorrow. Events 44 and 45, both $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments will play to completion on Thursday.

The Main Event final table play will begin at 12 p.m. PST on Thursday. Because of contractual agreements with ESPN and pay-per-view telecasts, WSOP officials are forced to have tomorrow become a day off.

WSOP ANECDOTES

Nadia I was walking down the corridor to the Amazon Room on my way to cover some more final table action when a member of the opposite sex caught my attention. I did the obligatory double take and thought to myself "not bad." Of course it wasn't bad. It was Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame. I immediately felt like an idiot for not recognizing one of the most famous faces in the 2006 WSOP. She's still play well in Event #44 by the way, making her way towards her third cash this year.

Battle of the Coolest 2006 WSOP Names ESPN couldn't have scripted it any better. Rob Rose went all in against Leif Force in the "should be in a WWE pay-per-view telecast hand." The affable Rose had A-J versus the Force's A-A and didn't improve. If force wins this thing, how many endorsement deals is he going to get? And speaking of names, are you kidding me with Rhett Butler?

Phil and Barry I don't know what's more interesting to watch at the Event #44 tables, Phil Hellmuth's insistence to leave after every hand for prolonged periods of time, or the look of "Please God will this WSOP End" on Barry Greenstein's face. Both players are doing well as of 4 p.m. PST, but there is still plenty of play left in this event that won't end until tomorrow evening. Of course, when he's actually in his seat, Hellmuth looks pretty determined to grab that 11th bracelet.

The Agony of Poker While searching out things of interest at the less crowded Event #44 tables, I witnessed two bad-beats that would make me quit poker.

1.) The first bad-beat was a gentleman who flopped a set of Tens on an A-K-10 flop, only to watch his opponent flip over A-K and catch the case ace on the river. To make matter's worse, a player at the table told him it was obvious from the start that the opponent had A-K. The distraught player, who was now eliminated, said "no kidding, which is why I bet the set ass."

2.) The second bad-beat was an all-diamond flop that came A-7-3. Three players went all-in on a turn and a river that produced an Ace. Of course, two gentlemen flopped a flush and the winner believed his A-3 two-pair was still good after several re-raises. Nonetheless his miracle full-house was rewarded handsomely.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

PokerShare.com Still All-In With Mikey the Poker Playing Chimp

 

PokerShare.com and Mikey the chimp have not given up on their mission to earn Mikey his retirement money from poker tournament winnings. Despite Jeffrey Pollock, Vice President of Harrah's Entertainment's statement to the press Thursday, July 27, 2006 saying Mikey would not be allowed into the World Series of Poker, PokerShare.com will search hard to find another poker tournament that will let Mikey play."Mikey will overcome this rejection into the WSOP 2006 and keep practicing until another poker tournament picks him up. We will sponsor him in whatever tournament will accept him because we know a chimp can beat a chump," says Max Wright, PokerShare.com Poker Room Manager. Trainer Sheds Tears

With appearances on Good Morning America, Inside Edition, CBS, FOX News, and others, Mikey, the brainiest baboon around has made an impact on the hearts of America, and had thousands rooting for him to earn the retirement money it would take to keep him living with his trainer, owner, and mother, Judie Harrison. When Harrison heard the sad news Thursday evening, before the first day of the World Series of Poker main event, she broke into tears.

"Mikey has been training for months and really had a shot at winning money to live with me for the rest of his life. I can't believe they won't let him in. I take him everywhere and he is just like a human, and I am his mother. I am his everything," said Harrison.

Professionally trained to recognize colors, shapes, perform on television, and wear a green poker visor and sunglasses; Mikey was prepared to play with the best poker players in the world.

Pro Reactions to Chimp Rejection

Not only the trainer and sentimental citizens felt the wrath of the disappointing decision. Professional poker players were also upset, saying they were looking forward to playing against Mikey.

Pro player Marcel Luske enjoyed playing against Mikey in the MonkeyShare.net press conference at the Palms on July 27, 2006.

"Mikey played quite a few good hands. After looking at his cards, he knew he didn't want to bet because he had a bad hand. Playing against Mikey was certainly interesting, he was well behaved and the game was a lot more civil than other games I have played in my poker career" said Luske.

Marcel Luske was the star performer at the Bluff Rocks Party on Sunday night at the Hard Rock Café. His dazzling debut performance showed he has more in his repertoire than simply poker.

No More Monkeying Around

Mikey and his PokerShare.com sponsors are making a statement and not monkeying around, as he tries to find another tournament that will allow him to play. With the positive responses Mikey has received from poker players and poker fans alike, odds are that tournament executives will be going all-in for this poker-playing chimp.

New Poker Face

Mikey the chimp's high profile and army of poker-playing fans, have led PokerShare.com to use Mikey's image and identity as the new face of PokerShare.com.

"Mikey has stolen the show at the 2006 WSOP and he is the perfect marketing vehicle with which we want to brand ourselves. He embodies the brand of PokerShare.com because he is playful, fun, and different. All very positive attributes which contribute to the most generous site on the Web- PokerShare.com," said PokerShare.com and CasinoShare.com Poker Room Manager, Wright.

ENDS

About PokerShare.com (www.PokerShare.com)

The Poker Share Trust has the ultimate benefit of 40% ownership of PokerShare.com. It receives cash every month which it returns to the players, through its unique Share Point Loyalty Programme. If PokerShare.com floats on the stock exchange or is bought by another company, players will receive cash based on the number of Share Points they have.

PokerShare.com is operated by Playit Ownit Limited and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission through its parent company, GamShare Limited. Both GamShare Limited and Playit Ownit Limited are based in Gibraltar. PokerShare.com is powered by, Sweden based, Tain AB, the largest online poker network in Europe.

How The Concept Works

When you play on PokerShare.com, you earn Frequent Player Points (FPP) which can be used for betting and entering tournaments. For every FPP you earn, you get a Share Point for free.

Your Share Points give you exclusive access to the Poker Share Trust, allowing you to buy merchandise from T-Shirts to cars, entry to land based tournaments around the world or just cold hard cash. The more you play, the more Share Points you earn. The Share Point Total will always be recorded, whether you choose to redeem your points or not. Share Points are important because this is the ultimate measure of loyalty for the Poker Share Trust, the more points you have, the more benefit you receive.

About Mikey

Mikey is a chimp who loves life in the limelight! Like his human counterparts and other exotic animals in show business, Mikey has several years allotted to earn money for his retirement fund.

He has been professionally trained to recognize the colors and shapes of suits and numbers on playing cards and perform on television.His favorite move is going "all in" but don't tell his competition.

Appearances in Vogue and the Black Eyed Peas CD cover are only a few highlights of Mikey's illustrious career in show business.

Table Trac Signs Deal with Oklahoma Casino

 

Table Trac, Inc., a Gaming Systems provider to small and mid-sized casinos whose patented Table Trac system monitors the operation of casino floors, is pleased to announce that it has received a contract for a systems installation in Oklahoma. "Table Trac is pleased to announce the sale of its fully integrated casino systems to a casino in Oklahoma. This is our first sale into the growing Oklahoma market, and adds new communications technology for class II games to our proven product line," said Robert Siqveland, Director of Marketing. "Table Trac is very excited about our receptivity in the gaming jurisdiction of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of the fastest growing markets in the country, and presents a real opportunity for Table Trac. Our decade long history of solid performance and support, and certainly our affordable pricing, make this an ideal market for Table Trac, because Oklahoma casinos are both discerning and budget-minded," concludes Siqveland. "We are looking forward to presenting our products at the OIGA gaming show on the 7th and 8th of August."

Churchill Downs, Magna Team Up

 

Churchill Downs Incorporated ("CDI") and Magna Entertainment Corp. ("MEC") (NASDAQ: MECA) today announced that they have entered into an agreement to cooperate in the bidding process for the New York racetrack franchise, which is currently held by the New York Racing Association and will expire Dec. 31, 2007. In addition, CDI and MEC look to join other New York racing and business entities interested in forming a larger group to bid on the racing franchise that includes Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. In June, the State of New York initiated a process to formally invite bids for the franchise. CDI and MEC share a common view regarding the importance of New York racing to the overall success of horse racing in North America. As the owners of many of North America's other premier racing venues - including Churchill Downs, Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, Arlington Park, the Maryland Jockey Club, Fair Grounds Race Course, Calder Race Course, Lone Star Park and Golden Gate Fields - the two companies have extensive experience acquiring and upgrading racetrack facilities; managing and marketing major racing events, including Triple Crown races; building positive relations with horsemen; and growing their respective businesses. The two companies have already partnered in Racing World, a London-based satellite television service that delivers North American horse racing content to customers in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Robert L. Evans, CDI's newly appointed president and chief executive officer, said, "By working cooperatively, we can improve and enhance customers' entertainment experiences at the three racetracks that make up the New York franchise. Our companies have already experienced the benefits of working cooperatively, and our affiliation will maximize the contribution we can make to the future success of New York racing."

"It is not the goal of either MEC or CDI to control New York racing," added MEC Chairman Frank Stronach. "Our intention is to provide our companies' collective expertise to a bid group comprised of prominent New York enterprises and others with the capability and desire to win the franchise and the commitment and resources needed to revitalize New York racing."

Boxer Out on Day One of WSOP

 

Heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis was spotted at the tables of the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker. Reports are that the former champ had fun but he failed to make it past day one of the WSOP main event. This years WSOP has drawn almost 9,000 players and Lewis was considered a long shot to win it all. "In boxing you know what cards are going to be dealt, in this you don't" - Lennox Lewis, describing the difference between poker and pugilism. Texan Doyle Brunson, known as the "Texas Dolly" and the author of several poker books said "If you have been sent to the rail as Lennox Lewis was, you still have the opportunity to play poker at sites like DoylesPokerRoom.com." Lennox Lewis paid a surprise visit at the Doyle's Room hospitality suite at this years WSOP.

Hollywood Sportsbook Offers Odds on MLB Game

 

Hollywood Sportsbook features odds on the MLB game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants on August 4th 2006! It's never been as difficult to score runs at Coors Field as it has been this season for the Rockies, who after another low-scoring game there, wrap up a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. On the other hand, the losing continues for the San Francisco Giants, who will look to snap their longest losing streak in ten years when they play a game-series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The game is scheduled to start on Friday at 10:15 p.m. (ET) and Hollywood Sportsbook proudly features odds on the event. Hollywood's Media Relations executive, Alejandro Gomez, was quoted saying - "The average game at Coors features a combined average of 9.09 runs per game, down 33 percent from a decade ago. Besides, Tuesday's loss marked just the third time where the Rockies (51-55) have been involved in five straight home games where neither team scored more than four runs".

"So, the Giants, who have drooped nine straight, their longest skid since losing 10 in a row from June 21-30, 1996, will have to do a big effort if they want to win this time. The Giants (51-56) have fallen to last place in the NL West; 41/2 games behind leader San Diego".

Hollywood Sportsbook is eager to provide you with a convenient and secure environment through which you can enjoy your recreational sports betting; they are currently offering sports betting lines for the game mentioned above. It's really easy to contact them via phone or internet from anywhere in the world. You can get started by opening your account within 5 minutes of verification of your funds. Three easy steps: Register, Deposit and Play. It's that simple!

WSOP Main Event Update

 

Only 45 players remain in the 2006 WSOP Main Event as participants continue to fall out of the march towards the $12 million first-place prize. Malibu, Calif., native Jamie Gold currently resides in first place with $7,330,000 chips. Gold has never cashed in a World Series of Poker event, although he has made some appearances on the California tournament poker scene. With all of today's (August 7) Main Event players guaranteed at least $247,399, this will be Gold's largest pay-out to date and considering his $1.4 million chip lead over second place Erik Friberg, bigger money is well within his reach. As the final week of the 2006 WSOP Main Event begins, the big story is the relative lack of experience among the final 45 players. Although many believed the final field would be made up of mostly new faces, few thought so many big names would drop out so early. 2005 WSOP Player of Year Allen Cunningham is one of the biggest names remaining, tied for that honor with fan favorite and successful tournament player Humberto Brenes. Both men are far from the top spot, but given their edge in experience, it would be hard to count either out at this point.

If you exclude Cunningham and Brenes, the remaining 43 players combined have two WSOP bracelets, 14 final tables, and 44 cashes.

Cunningham alone has four gold bracelets, 14 final tables, and 28 cashes while Brenes had two gold bracelets, 17 final tables, and 40 cashes lifetime.

While either player could post their career WSOP stats against the field and come out looking good, if you combine the two, they surpass the rest of the field by nearly a 2-1 margin in each important statistical category.

For the professionals and the big names, the size of the Main Event field is the great equalizer. With a record 8,773 entries, making the money in the Main Event has become the great challenge, never mind winning the whole thing. By way of comparison, there are no former Main Event Champions remaining. Only Brenes, who finished fourth in the 1988 WSOP Main Event, has made a WSOP Main Event final table.

Other recognizable names to ardent poker fans are Jeffrey Lisandro (9th place currently, 6 WSOP final tables, 14 chases), Cong Do (34th place currently, 2 final tables, 6 cashes, and former bracelet winners Dan Schmiech (2005- No Limit Hold'em) and Prahlad Friedman (2003 - Pot-Limit Hold'em).

Main Event play begins again today at 12 p.m. PST. WSOP officials plan to continue action until 27 players remain. The rest of the schedule for the week looks like this:

Tuesday - 27 players down to 18 (three tables down to two).

Wednesday - 18 players down to 9 (down to the final table)

Thursday - 2006 WSOP Main Event Final Table

Here is the payout structure for the remainder of the Main Event:

45 thru 37 - $247,399

36 thru 28 - $329,865

27 thru 19 - $494,797

18 thru 16 - $659k

15 thru 13 - $907k

12 thru 10 - $1.15 million

9th Place - $1.56 million

8th Place - $1.98 million

7th Place - $2.39 millionv

6th Place - $2.8 million

5th Place - $3.21 million

4th Place - $3.62 million

3rd Place - $4.12 million

2nd Place - $6.1 million

Winner - $12 million

Casino City will be covering the final three days of the Main Event live with continual updates from the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sportsbook.com Offers Odds on Ferrell's Film

 

On Friday August 4, comedy heavyweight Will Ferrell returns to the silver screen in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Sportsbook.com, the world's largest online sportsbook and casino, has posted odds on the film's opening weekend U.S. gross, setting the line at over/under $35.5 million. In Talladega Nights, Ferrell plays a top NASCAR driver, Ricky Bobby, who fights to maintain his number one ranking against an upstart newcomer to the racing circuit, Jean Girard. Girard is played by Sacha Baron Cohen, known by comedy buffs around the world as Ali G of HBO's Da Ali G Show. Talladega Nights also stars Michael Clarke Duncan, of The Green Mile, and John C. Reilly of Boogie Nights and The Perfect Storm. With the huge box office successes of Old School and Anchorman, Ferrell has become a bona fide star whose comedic prowess now rivals the likes of Jim Carrey and Mike Meyers. Since his big screen debut in 1997, Ferrell's films have grossed more than $1.2 billion in the U.S. and he was recently named one of the top 100 stars of the 2000's. Industry experts are anticipating another comedy blockbuster from Ferrell in Talladega Nights.

Sportsbook.com continues to offer bettors the exciting new option of wagering on the opening weekend gross of major film releases throughout the year along with exclusive industry background information to help bettors make their choice.

"Will Ferrell is Hollywood's new funny man which means this movie will be a huge draw for moviegoers." said Alex Czajkowski, Marketing Director, Sportsbook.com. "Everybody bets and movie buffs love to wager on the fortunes of the season's next big film. It will be fun to see whether Ferrell can do it again."

MegaJackpot at Over $15 Million

 

The Penny Megabucks(R) progressive slot jackpot in Nevada casinos has increased by over $500,000 in the last month. With a current MegaJackpot(R) of $15,704,581, the progressive is statistically overdue to hit. The Penny Megabucks(R) progressive can be won for a max (300-coin) bet and when it hits, will easily set a record for the largest penny jackpot in history. In addition to the top progressive, these 5-reel video slots feature 60 ways to win. "The fun thing about video Penny Megabucks is that there are so many ways to win," said Ed Rogich, vice president of marketing for IGT. "Not only do you get the thrill of playing for a world record penny MegaJackpot, but, you have exciting bonus rounds and multipliers." Both the penny and dollar Megabucks(R) progressives have top jackpots that build from a base amount of $10 million and are paid in annual installments upon verification. International Game Technology is a global company specializing in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and sales of computerized gaming machines and systems products.

Tropicana Hosts Air Show Party

 

Get ready to fly sky high at the Top of the Trop at the Tropicana Casino and Resort which will host the ultimate, exclusive party for this year's largest air show, "Thunder Over the Boardwalk," on Wednesday, August 23. This premiere package, Sky High at the Top of the Trop, is available for up to 65 guests, costs $25,000 and includes an overnight stay. Top of the Trop, located on the 20th Floor, is completely surrounded by glass, offering stunning panoramic views of the beach, boardwalk and the city. While watching all the action at eye level, guests will be treated to an exquisite meal, including Colossal Cocktail Shrimp, Alaskan King Crab Legs, Medallions of Maine Lobster, Top of the Trop Cheesesteaks (made with filet mignon), Jumbo Lump Mini Crab Cakes, Veal Oscar, Tuxedo Chocolate Strawberries, Fresh Fruit Fondue with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream, and topped off with cigars from Tinderbox Vino 100. "Top of the Trop not only offers one of the city's most incredible views, but also provides superior service in a top-of-the-line setting," says Pamela J. Popielarski, president and general manager of Tropicana Casino and Resort. "Sky High at the Top of the Trop will offer an experience unlike any other in Atlantic City, creating the ultimate air show party package with a unique setting, superb dining and first-class accommodations that will continue to keep the Tropicana and The Quarter as the foremost party spot in AC."

The annual aerial spectacle will feature a combination of military and civilian demonstration teams, including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, who will be celebrating their 60th anniversary, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Team. Throughout the day, planes will be roaring down the beach performing formation flying stunts and solo routines. To book the private package, Sky High at the Top of the Trop, please call 609.340.4029. Tropicana, the largest hotel in the state of New Jersey, provides visitors with more than 18 restaurants, capable of accommodating more than 5,000 diners, and offers three times the entertainment, shopping and spa options of any other hotel casino in Atlantic City.

Movie and Poker Stars at WSOP Party

 

The stars of a sexy new poker movie sponsored by Aces.com partied with poker stars Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, Lisa Mueller and others last weekend at Lederer's private WSOP bash. The highlight of the evening was, without a doubt, the karaoke contest that Gordon was particularly determined to win. When Gordon began to peel off his clothing in his effort to win over the judges, Christina Morris, who plays the mischievous "Elle" in ACES the Movie, couldn't resist. "I've never seen anyone want to win a karaoke contest that bad," laughed Morris. "When he started wiggling his butt at the crowd I just had to run up and stuff a dollar bill in his underwear waistband!" Morris was joined at the event by co-star Sheena Chou and Rene Quesada, the Aces.com Manager who invited them to come to Las Vegas, home of Aces.com, for the opening weekend festivities of the WSOP Championship Tournament. "Sheena and Christina haven't been back to Vegas since they were shooting the movie here last year," said Quesada. "After the Lederer party, we ended up at the Venetian where Christina just wanted to dance at Tao night club and Sheena headed straight for the poker tables." The rest of the weekend was a series of special appearances, interviews and photo sessions.

"I've been playing poker since I was a kid," said Sheena Chou who plays the spoiled Chinese school girl in ACES the Movie, "And I've been playing online poker a lot at Aces.com since we started hosting Wednesday night Free Roll tournaments there. This is my first WSOP though and all I can say is WOW! So many cute poker players, so little time!" While in Las Vegas, Sheena and Christina recounted their WSOP adventures on their blog: AcesMovie.blogspot.com where they've also posted party photos and numerous snapshots from the WSOP itself.

New Aces.com players as well as tournament and contest winners will receive copies of the ACES the Movie DVD. Contest and tournament details are available at Ace.com/movie. A Texas Hold'em Tutorial featuring ACES star Lacey Toups -- produced as an extra feature on the DVD -- is also now available online at Aces.com.

Electracade Celebrates Second Birthday

 

Industry leading game development company Electracade, celebrate their 2nd year of business and 1st complete trading year with some unique numbers: # 1 Performing version of Roulette # 1 Complete year of trading # 2 Years from business start up date # 3 The average quantity of new products created every month # 5 Electracades head count # 16 Active clients # 29 Games mid production # 53 Games created to date # 76 Destination sites # 143 Unique game concepts ready to build # 15,000+ The number of different possible ball animations on Roulette Director of Electracade, Mark Paling commented "In such a dynamic and fast moving industry, Electracade have demonstrated that it can deliver state of the art products which add real value to our clients portfolio and to deliver these products to market with very short lead times. Regardless of how strong a new game is, we recognise the importance of creating new and innovative products and constantly feeding these into the market place".

Paling added "We are extremely grateful to our client base that has constantly supported us since start up. Establishing a new business in such a specific area of the industry requires more than just great products and services, it requires outstanding client relationships and delivering what the client wants. This is something Electracade never take for granted".

"We look forward to building on these relationships and to delivering to punters and clients alike, new and exciting gaming products as the industry and Electracade continue to grow and evolve".

Electracade specialise in the creation of cutting edge gaming applications covering: casino, keno, single line slots, hi lo games, poker, multiline slots, card and unique gaming concepts. These products are made available via sports books, soft gaming sites, casinos and bingo networks.

Riviera Stock Purchases Expected to Proceed

 

An affiliate of the investment group seeking to buy the Riviera's parent company was expected to complete its purchase of the stock owned by Riviera Chairman Bill Westerman today. Once the deal is completed, Riv Acquisition Holdings and its affiliates will control more than 2.1 million shares, or more than 18 percent, of Riviera Holdings Corp., which operates the 51-year-old Riviera and a slot machine casino in Black Hawk, Colo. In December, Westerman agreed to sell his holdings to affiliates of Riv Acquisition, an investment group that includes Starwoods Hotel chain founder Barry Sternlicht, Las Vegas developer Brett Torino and Chicago developer Neil Bluhm, for $15 a share. The group bought 1 million shares of Westerman's holdings in December and said Thursday it would buy the remaining 1.1 million shares today. "Once we received regulatory approval, we notified Riviera that we intended to complete the purchase of the shares this week," said Riv Acquisition President Scott Butera. The same group is asking Riviera shareholders to approve its $426.5 million purchase of the company at a stockholders meeting Tuesday. Riv Acquisition is offering to purchase all the company's outstanding shares for $17 a share.

The proposed deal has met opposition, however, from some of the company's largest shareholders because they believe the purchase price should be higher. Shares in Riviera closed at $19.78 in trading Thursday on the American Stock Exchange, off 16 cents, or 0.80 percent.

Several gaming analysts have predicted the deal might be rejected. The company needs affirmative votes from 60 percent of its outstanding shareholders. Representatives of groups holding 30 percent of the outstanding shares have already indicated they will vote against the buyout.

Morgan Joseph gaming analyst Adam Steinberg said the sale of Westerman's stock should have no effect on the outcome of next week's vote because he had already planned to support the deal.

In a statement, Westerman said the stock sale would not affect his role as Riviera's chief executive officer.

"I am very pleased that the Riviera stock, which I have held for many years, will be owned by a group who I believe is interested in the Riviera as an operating organization and is investing for the long term," Westerman said.

Last week, during the company's second quarter earnings conference call, Westerman urged shareholders to vote in favor of the buyout. If a shareholder doesn't vote, those shares would be tallied against the merger.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

MGM Mirage Posts Record Revenues

 

Despite a faltering lower-end market, MGM Mirage Thursday posted record revenues and earnings for the second quarter. The salvation of the company's overall performance came from strong demand for its premium products and condo-hotel unit sales in its Signature project. The company reported second-quarter net income of $146.4 million, or 50 cents per diluted share, up 4 percent from $141.2 million, or 48 cents a share, a year earlier. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson First Call had been for the company to earn 53 cents a share. "In the context of the economy, if there was any dip, it was in the lowest-end properties we have," said MGM Mirage President Jim Murren. He cited Circus Circus, Excalibur and the Primm Valley Casino Resorts as properties that have proved particularly vulnerable to the softening lower-end market. "What we've seen is a softening in some properties that cater to the lower end," he said, noting there were exceptions, such as Monte Carlo, which had a record quarter.

"But there has been softness in the value segment since January that mid-market and high-end customers have been covering," he said.

"People are just more circumspect in their spending. They're value shopping more. And they're more disciplined in their spending habits," Murren said.

The fundamental causes of concern, he said, are the deteriorating housing market, interest rates going up, "which impacts everybody," and "it's tough to read the newspaper these days because there just isn't much good news."

The trend so far is continuing into the third quarter as well and warrants watching, Murren said.

Still, Murren was optimistic MGM Mirage and its competitors will continue to outperform their peers in the hospitality industry.

"What's good about gaming is that it has always held up far better, and I expect that to be the case going forward," he said,

MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts and investors that his company has been very successful in luring premium players, especially high rollers from Asia.

Although the company has long had a marketing plan in Asia, Lanni said that lately it has been much more effective in attracting affluent customers from China.

He said 93 percent of the Chinese nationals who travel to the United States visit Las Vegas, a large share who try MGM Mirage properties.

Matthew Jacob, senior gaming analyst with Wall Street-based Majestic Research, said strength in the premium markets was more than enough to override the soft mass market.

MGM Mirage reported revenues of $2 billion in the second quarter, up 5 percent from $1.9 billion in the second quarter of 2005.

Earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortization for the company were $644.7 million, up 15 percent from $561.1 million in the second quarter of 2005.

Another big boost for the company came from sales of condominium-hotel units at Signature at MGM Grand, which contributed $27.9 million, or 6 cents per share.

Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Lerner said the success of the project, combined with similar developments in the pipeline, should prove a boon for MGM Mirage.

"We're pretty excited about (Signature). It gives us even more confidence in the residential component of (Project) CityCenter," he said.

Murren said the project has been far more successful than expected, not only in generating sales revenues, but also in generating added business for the casino, restaurants, shops and shows in MGM Grand.

The success of the Signature project has inspired confidence in the Project CityCenter hotel-condominium component and led MGM Mirage to beef up its pipeline.

This week, MGM Mirage presented preliminary plans to the County Commission for two high-rise tower projects adjacent to Luxor.

Lanni said the company is very bullish on condo-hotel projects, which it started at MGM Grand.

He also said that while the focus is now on hotel-condos at Project CityCenter, it makes sense to have others in the pipeline because of the time it takes to win government approval and get through construction.

Lanni confirmed the company is exploring opportunities for developing casinos in Japan.

"Obviously we're very interested in the market, but talks are in early stages and nothing is expected until after the November elections," he said.

Jacob said the overall results and guidance for the third quarter were disappointing for investors, and fueled further concerns about consumer spending in the third quarter and what that implies for the Strip.

MGM Mirage closed at $35.31, down $2.69, or 7.08 percent, on 5.5 million shares traded, almost four times the average trading volume..

"House Of Cards" Shows Life Beyond-The-Felt

 

The 2006 World Series of Poker's Main Event is underway this week in Las Vegas, and ABA Entertainment, LLC is capturing the behind-the-scenes footage for an upcoming documentary, "House of Cards" - revealing the roller-coaster-real-life-grind of the professional poker player. Marc Goodwin, the face of USAPoker, is one of seven widely recognized players being followed in this new documentary. For six weeks, camera crews will be following them between the tournament tables, bathroom breaks all the way to their residence, the "Parisian Palace;" a $13 million home rumored to have been previously owned by Whoopi Goldberg. "It's a house full of competitors," says Goodwin. "When we first arrived, we ended up playing cards to decide who would get which room." In a place where there's plenty of action to go around, Vegas is brimming with excitement surrounding the tournament. But, in this new documentary, the real action will center on the emotional jabs, psychological torture and international glory that can be uncovered at the world's largest poker tournament (first place winner earned $7.5 million last year and the pot promises to be yet larger this time around). Goodwin, (a.k.a. Mr. Cool), will reveal the intimate details of the twists and turns, the highs and lows, the wins and losses and the true day to day series of events in the real life of a poker pro.

"I'm truly excited to be chosen as one of the members of the show," says Goodwin. "It will really give the viewers an insight as to what goes on behind-the-scenes at this massive annual tournament."

TV cameras have been on-the-scene in the past, but now, in celebration of this country's unabashed obsession with Reality TV and Texas Hold 'Em, a refreshingly unexpected new perspective is being revealed. Sometimes shaken, oftentimes stirred, House of Cards serves up the perfect cocktail for all to enjoy, with a twist.

Poker Ratings Show Strong Hand

While US Poker TV ratings have been settling since 2004, the major networks have done well to maintain strong numbers. In an October article published by Television Week, CEO of the World Poker Tour (WPT) points out that WPT ratings are comparable to regular season NBA games and PGA Tour national telecasts. Tournament poker programming remains the second highest-rated hourly episode series ever produced by ESPN Original Entertainment while Fox Sports Net claims their coverage is "perhaps the most durable piece of programming we have."

"House of Cards" will continue to follow Marc Goodwin, and his house-mates, in their common quest to claim a highly coveted Bracelet at this year's World Series of Poker. As a member of the first reality show to ever document with a focus on the life of professional poker players, Goodwin is in position to go All-In and "House of Cards" will be there to capture the moment, the glory or the gut-bust.

Buffalo Casino Talks Not Over

 

As reported by the Buffalo News: "Buffalo officials and the Seneca Nation of Indians may not be through talking about a downtown casino after all. "On Wednesday Mayor Byron W. Brown declared an impasse in casino discussions, and the Senecas vowed to move ahead with a 'less grand' downtown gaming venue. But Thursday representatives from both sides acknowledged the door is still open for more negotiations. ".Rajat Shah, Seneca Gaming Corp.'s development chief, also admitted the publicly warring parties could return to the bargaining table. ".On Wednesday, Brown announced the parties had reached an impasse in talks on the sale of two blocks of Fulton Street to the Senecas, citing the nation's unwillingness to make a contractual commitment to such things as casino job guarantees for city residents and a marketing campaign targeting out-of-town gamblers."

Patrons Cash in on Casino's Error

 

As reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal: "The Caesars Indiana casino lost nearly half a million dollars over two-days last month on one slot machine that had been incorrectly set to give players credit for 10 times the amount of money they put into it. "Caesars and Indiana Gaming Commission officials say the machine - named Extra Money - paid out $487,000 over the July 21 weekend before an honest gambler from Louisville brought the problem to their attention. "The commission is investigating the matter and might penalize Caesars for failing to follow procedures designed to prevent such a problem, said Jennifer Arnold, its deputy director. "But so far, at least, there's no indication that criminal behavior was involved, according to casino management and the Indiana State Police. ".Caesars, meanwhile, plans to try to get back its money."

Navajo Could Get Arizona Casino

 

As reported by the Gallup Independent: " - The Navajo Nation could have a contract in place by next Friday to construct a temporary casino in Navajo, Ariz., President Joe Shirley Jr. told the Economic Development Committee Wednesday. "Shirley said though there had been a designation to have Nahata Dziil be the home of the Navajo Nation's first casino, there are still land issues which must be ironed out. "Shirley said the Nation had considered borrowing the money through its own governmental set-up. ".Another area the Nation is looking at very seriously is Shiprock."

Pause Urged for Pennsylvania Slot Legislation

 

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "State Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, is urging the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board not to approve any more slot machine-related licenses before Oct. 31, so the Legislature will have time to make necessary reforms in the 2-year-old slots law. "Mr. Piccola's call for the delay, made yesterday, conflicts with the board's current plans to issue slots licenses for up to six racetrack/casinos at its meeting Sept. 27. "The board already has issued licenses for several slot machine manufacturers and suppliers/distributors and may issue more. "Five GOP senators, including Mr. Piccola, outlined a list of 21 changes they want to make in Act 71 of 2004, the slots law, before any casino licenses are awarded. ".Legislators aren't the only Republicans who want changes in the slots law. Today in Pittsburgh, Lynn Swann, the party's candidate for governor, is expected to urge 'a top to bottom overhaul of the gambling law.'."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Libertarian Party Opposes Ban

 

As part of House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) agenda to force Americans to abide with his moral beliefs, Congress is now trying to outlaw Internet gambling. Hastert listed the prohibition of Internet gambling in his recently announced American Values Agenda. The House of Representatives already passed H.R. 4411, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This attempt to cut off Internet gambling by Americans bans financial payments to offshore casinos. The Senate will be tackling this issue after it returns from its August recess. The House version of the bill passed by a vote of 317-93. Should the Senate pass the (same general version of) the bill, it would force U.S. financial institutions to cut off payments to the thousands of popular online gambling institutions legally located outside of U.S. boundaries. The bill won't impact state sponsored gambling, such as lotteries and horse racing. "States have always had the right to approve and regulate gambling within their borders," according to the bill's sponsor Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). "This bill makes Internet gambling illegal except where regulated by the states."

This legislation coincides with the 22-count indictment against eleven people and four corporations for Internet gambling related charges. Among those charged with racketeering, conspiracy and fraud were Gary Kaplan and David Carruthers of BetonSports.com.

Additionally, the World Trade Organization has been asked to settle disputes between the country of Antigua and Barbuda and the U.S. over recent prohibitions to online gambling. According to Antiguan authorities, the U.S. has taken no measures to comply with the recommendations and rulings of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body on the issue.

"It's clear that Hastert and Goodlatte are trying to force their moral views on the entire country. Hastert's already added a gay marriage ban to his agenda," said Stephen Gordon, the Libertarian Party's communication director. "Hopefully, they don't plan to impose blue laws or prohibit alcohol, pre-marital sex and dancing, too."

The Libertarian Party has a 35 year commitment to keeping government out of people's wallets as well as their bedrooms. According to Gordon, this latest move by Congress violates both of these general standards.

Nevada Gold Gets Temporary License

 

Nevada Gold & Casinos, Inc., today announced that the New York Lottery has approved a temporary license to operate video gaming machines at Vernon Downs Racetrack. John Arnesen, President and Chief Operating Officer of Nevada Gold & Casinos, Inc., said, ``The receipt of this license is another important step in the redevelopment and expansion of Vernon Downs' entertainment offerings. We believe the video gaming facility will be a significant draw for our guests, and as such we are pleased to announce the advancement of our licensing efforts. We continue to make progress in our efforts to open Vernon Downs and remain hopeful that we can introduce this new and greatly improved racing venue and resort to the region in the very near future.' Nevada Gold & Casinos, Inc., through its subsidiary Nevada Gold NY, Inc., owns a 40% interest in American Racing and Entertainment, LLC. American Racing owns 90% of Vernon Downs Acquisition, LLC, which owns the Vernon Downs Racetrack in Vernon, New York. The other members of American Racing are Southern Tier Acquisitions II, LLC, TrackPower, Inc. and Oneida Entertainment LLC, each holding 20% membership.

Sportsbook.com Offers Odds on Utley's Hitting Streak

 

Chase Utley increased his hit streak to 35 games last night. He's only the fourth player in the last 20 years to get a hit in every game in a month, and sportsbook.com, the world's largest online sportsbook and casino, has posted odds on how long the streak will last. The Philadelphia Phillies' second baseman is on a tear and is gunning for Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak record, one that dates back to 1941. Utley will break Joltin' Joe's mark if he continues to get a hit each game up to and including August 26 against the New York Mets. The odds on his current streak coming to an end on that date are 60-1. "This is a great story for Phillies fans - and baseball fans around the world," said Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com. "Streaks like this don't come around often. This ranks right up there with Hank Aaron's home run record in terms of its significance and it's something everybody is going to bet on. Utley is batting .404 (57-for-141) during the streak, raising his season average to .328. His 35 game streak is tied for the ninth-longest in Major League history with Rogers Hornsby (1922) and George Davis (1893).

NIGC Holds Regulations Hearings

 

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) is continuing its efforts to better distinguish the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) standards for technological aids, which Indian Tribes may utilize to play bingo and similar Class II games without a Tribal-State compact, from slot machines and electronic facsimiles of games of chance which are Class III devices, and require Tribes to compact with State governments to play. In this connection, NIGC will hold a public hearing session with Tribal leaders, representatives of State interests, and gaming industry representatives to receive comments on proposed Class II regulations. This public session will be held at 10:00 am, September 19, 2006, at the Department of the Interior Main Auditorium, 1849 C Street Northwest, Washington, DC. "The Commission has tremendous respect for Tribal sovereignty and acknowledges that the process of consulting with Tribes on classification standards over the last several weeks has been very productive and helpful. In that light, we believe it will be useful to receive further input from Tribal leaders, as well others who participate in the Indian gaming industry. This public hearing is important in meeting the goal of having a full discussion by including all who may be affected by the proposed regulations." Chairman Phil Hogen stated.

Chairman Hogen added, "The consultations have added to the many hours of important comment by the Federal-Tribal Advisory Committee assembled in 2004 to advise the NIGC in formulating technical standards and classification standards."

Between March of 2003 and March of 2006, the NIGC has sent over 500 separate invitations to individual Tribes to consult on a government-to-government basis and provide input on these and other proposed regulations. Many Tribes accepted this invitation. In fact, during this three year period, over 300 separate government-to-government consultations were conducted between the Commission and individual Tribes and their leaders or representatives. In the last 20 days, the Commission has met with over forty-eight Tribes to discuss the proposed Class II regulations.

Notice of this public hearing will be published in the Federal Register on August 4, 2006. This public hearing will be transcribed and will be available on our website following the proceeding.

Guam Anti-Gambling Group Sued for Defamation

 

As reported by the Guam Pacific Daily News: "Slots-machine proponent Guam Greyhound and its owner James Baldwin sued an anti-gambling group for defamation today. "Named in the lawsuit were Lina'la Sin Casino and its spokeswoman Jackie Marati. Also sued were unnamed individuals referred to in the suit as John Does 1 through 20. "The lawsuit alleges Lina'la and Marati provided the media with 'a steady stream of inflammatory lies.'."

Macau Expected to Lead by 2007

 

As reported by the Agence France-Presse: "Booming Macau will leap-frog the world famous Las Vegas Strip as the world's strongest casino market this year, analysts said, predicting its gaming halls will generate 8 billion dollars by 2007. "With more than 20 billion dollars worth of investment committed to some 25 new hotels and casinos in the next five years the southern Chinese territory is expected to emerge as a world-class tourism destination, according to analysts Globalysis. ".While it gave no forecasts for Las Vegas revenues, the dozens of glitzy casinos on the strip earned just below 6 billion dollars in 2005. "The company stressed Macau was still some way from eclipsing all of Las Vegas' hundreds of casinos, which brought in 9.1 billion dollars in 2005. "Globalysis said Macau's mushrooming gaming business would be boosted by growth in casino-tourism related sector."

Friday, August 04, 2006

EGC Reports Results

 

Electronic Game Card, Inc. (OTCBB: EGMI), the creator of the Electronic GameCard, has provided a six month update of its business activity, including milestones achieved subsequent to the update issued January 31, 2006. Electronic Game Card ("EGMI") has entered a highly productive period, which was highlighted by its joint venture partner, Scientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ: SGMS), who markets and promotes the Electronic GameCard to the global lottery market. Steve Saferin, Scientific Games Properties' president, recently commented, "Both Kansas and Iowa have proven that the Electronic GameCard is the kind of innovative game that will catapult lotteries everywhere into the next generation of game play. The Electronic GameCard is a pioneering product for a pioneering lottery industry." This success of the Electronic GameCard has been demonstrated in several markets sectors and is receiving global interest. In the United States: - Kansas Lottery - After just 5 weeks of sales, Kansas Lottery placed a full second order for Electronic GameCards on July 21, 2006. - Iowa Lottery released its third order of Electronic GameCards on July 31, 2006.

- Iowa also confirmed that they are the first State to launch the brand new Pocket Poker Electronic GameCard product.

- EGMI has manufactured and completed delivery of over 350,000 Electronic GameCards to the State Lotteries in the US.

- Golden Palace.com - an order of customized code-breaker Electronic GameCards was delivered to Golden Palace.com for its promotion campaign.

- MGM Grand Detroit - EGMI received its first Electronic GameCard order from a casino, MGM Grand, on July 6, 2006.

- Santa Ana Star Casino (New Mexico) - EGMI signed a contract with Santa Ana Casinos on July 26, marking its first contract with the Indian Gaming community.

- New Initiative - North American charity bingo with initial focus on Texas - subject to approval by State regulators.

- EGMI has developed several additional games to extend its appeal to a diverse group of interests.

In Europe:

- Talarius - the UK's leading slot hall operator, and PromoCom, the direct mail/premium rate promotion company in Ireland, have both successfully received completed shipments.

- EGMI remains on target to complete an order with a major online-casino company operating in Europe within the next quarter.

- EGMI has signed an order for a charity promotion in Norway. Order to be delivered by third quarter.

- EGMI has secured an agreement to work on a charity lottery in Sweden subject to final approval from the regulators.

Internationally:

- EGMI recently secured distribution agents in Ukraine, Israel, Australia and South Africa and plans on adding additional international distributors during the second half of the year.

- EGMI has completed and delivered its first sale to an international cruise line company for onboard gaming. A revenue GameCard is expected to be launched during second half 2006.

- EGMI has continued to review commercial opportunities for sales promotions, gaming and charity fund raising.

The company commented, "We are in the process of concluding our reorganization and with the significant success witnessed by the recent lottery orders, we are now poised to begin to benefit from the enormous potential of this innovative product. Our activity over the past several months has grown materially and we are now entering a stage in which our results will reflect these efforts.

"The Company has begun to experience the results of its shelf game strategy which was introduced earlier this year. This strategy standardizes Electronic GameCards in four formats that can now be supplied to customers within a four week turn-around period. Additionally we are witnessing a broad mix of commercial opportunities that are coming on stream across the gaming and charitable markets."

Consumers Still Spending

 

Consumers will continue to say otherwise, but rising gasoline prices aren't keeping Americans from shopping normally, a prominent retailing consultant said Wednesday in Las Vegas. In recent months, worries surrounding fuel prices' negative effects on the economy have led more U.S. consumers to say they'll cut back at stores. But that talk means little to most once it's time to crack open the wallet or pocketbook, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with the NPD Group. "Boy, are we short-sighted, and have a very short memory, when it comes to what our promises are when it comes to our behavior," he told a group of trade show attendees at Mandalay Bay. NPD is a 39-year-old consulting firm whose corporate clients include Toshiba Corp., EMI Music and toy maker Hasbro. The Port Washington, N.Y.-based company regularly surveys retailers and their customers to monitor industry trends, and its data show that fuel prices are a top-of-mind concern. In October 2004, 42 percent of consumers NPD surveyed said gasoline prices affected their spending decisions. As prices rose, that percentage climbed to 76 percent this April. Despite the increase, Cohen said, retailers shouldn't be overly concerned.

"Seventy-six percent of consumers can say (fuel costs are) going to affect their spending, but that doesn't mean that they're going to react that way," he said. "It's generally about one-third of the people who (do) what they tell us they're going to do."

For example, federal data showed that Americans cut down on driving in September and October, shortly after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated parts of the oil-rich Southeastern United States.

By January, however, people across the nation were again driving at a record clip.

One gallon of unleaded fuel, on average, cost 71 cents more today than it did a year ago, according to AAA.

Based upon a smaller 60-cent annual increase, Cohen said the average 20-gallon fuel purchase still has a minimal effect on a typical household's budget.

"The consumer is spending $12 a week more" on gasoline, Cohen said. "Is that really going to sway your behavior?

"Are you going to stop shopping? Are you going to stop doing the things that you love to do, and (alter) the way you live, just for $12?"

Some believe that answer is "yes."

Wal-Mart reduced its earnings estimates for this year's fourth quarter because of fears that fuel costs would lead to reduced consumer spending.

Analysts have also projected that gasoline prices will cause flat or decreased profits for several small retailers, cruise lines and casual dining operators that greatly rely on discretionary spending.

Looking back, NPD's year-over-year data suggests spending in several key categories increased from June 2005 to June 2006 despite higher gasoline costs, Cohen said.

Cell phone sales rose by 15 percent, and footwear grew at a 10 percent rate, NPD found.

The largest growth involved large appliances, sales of which rose 22 percent.

"Front-load washers and French door refrigerators have captivated America by storm. The fastest-growing home improvement is the laundry room," Cohen said.

The only category to slide was toys, which slipped 4 percent. Cohen said that category is suffering as children -- or more precisely, their parents -- buy more electronics and video games instead.

Home pampering, which ranges from at-home spa treatments to massaging recliners, "is huge," Cohen said, as are outdoor kitchen products.

"There's a huge opportunity for retail, and for the brands that service the retail community, to take advantage of this," Cohen said of existing demand. "The consumer today wants one thing: more."

The U.S. Census Bureau on July 14 reported that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for June, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, totaled $363.8 billion.

That's a decrease of 0.1 percent from May 2006, but up 5.9 percent from the prior year.

"The government keeps telling us, every single month ... about how consumer confidence is up again," Cohen said. "But yet when you ask consumers what's going on, why is it that with all of this good news none of the consumers are telling us that they have more money?

"It's really a dichotomy of emotions here. The consumers hear that things are good, but they're not feeling like things are any better."

Still, they spend.

Cohen's comments came during a breakfast seminar hosted by the World Shoe Association.

Macau Boosts LV Sands

 

Results at The Venetian hit a road bump during the spring, but Las Vegas Sands Corp. had China to fall back on. Booming revenue at the company's casino in Macau helped rescue the second-quarter earnings for Las Vegas Sands Corp. "One quarter or one month does not concern us," Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson said during a conference call Wednesday afternoon with analysts and investors announcing the company's results for the quarter that ended June 30. "Las Vegas has been here for decades and will be here for decades more," Adelson said. "There are always going to be peaks and valleys." Company revenue in the three-month period was $517 million, a 29.6 percent increase from $398.8 million in the second quarter last year. Las Vegas Sands earned 31 cents a share, compared with 24 cents a share a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call estimated the company would earn 34 cents a share in the quarter. The company's net income for the quarter was $109.3 million, an increase of 26.5 percent from $86.4 million a year ago. The Venetian's casino revenue was affected by lower win percentages. Despite increases in the money gambled by customers on slot machines and table games, revenue fell 3 percent in the quarter to $71.3 million compared with $73.7 million a year ago.

The Venetian reported operating income of $42.8 million, a decrease of 17 percent compared with $51.6 million in the second quarter of 2005. Adjusted property cash flow was $63.2 million, a decrease of 10.3 percent compared with $70.4 million for the same period a year ago.

Las Vegas Sands executives blamed the decreases on the negative effect of lower win percentages coupled with higher payroll and related benefit costs. The Venetian hired more employees during the quarter to staff three areas -- a new poker room, 450,000 square feet of convention space and two new showrooms.

"We will now focus on fine-tuning our efforts to enhance the profitability of these business activities as well as look for opportunities for near-term operational efficiencies," Las Vegas Sands President Bill Weidner said.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas Sands said construction continued on the $1.8 billion Palazzo next to The Venetian, scheduled to open next year. Much of the enhancements at The Venetian, such as the added meeting space, will be integrated into the Palazzo.

The Sands Macau, however, pulled the company through.

Second-quarter casino revenue in Macau was $307.1 million, a 52.7 increase from $201.1 million in the second quarter last year.

Cash flow at the Sands Macau was $116.9 million, a 44.3 percent increase compared with $81 million a year ago. The casino's operating income in Macau was $101.6 million, an increase of 35.9 percent compared to $74.8 million last year.

"Despite significant increases in Macau mass market capacity overall, as well as increases in mass market table capacity at the Sands Macau itself, our mass table drop per unit, per day, has remained steady, and our win per unit, per day has increased," Weidner said.

He added that money wagered on slot machines in Macau grew while the casino's high-end business doubled.

Gaming analyst Matthew Jacob of Majestic Research said a weakening market in Las Vegas during the quarter affected the company's earnings. But the Sands Macau and its growing dominance in the Asian market will continue to carry the company.

"Macau was helped by being lucky at the tables; in Las Vegas, Sands was unlucky at the tables," Jacob said. "We'll have to see how business rebounds over the next few quarters."

The company announced earnings after the close of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Las Vegas Sands traded up Wednesday, finishing at $65.28, a jump of $3.86 or 6.28 percent.

But in after-hours trading, shares in Las Vegas Sands dropped almost 4 percent.

Company executives spent much of the conference call touting the growing presence in Asia.

Weidner said the $2.4 billion Venetian Macau on the Cotai Strip was topped off. He said six other sites in the area that will include brand-name hotels and casinos operated by Las Vegas Sands are under construction or the land is being prepared for development. The Venetian Macau is expected to open next summer.

Las Vegas Sands spent about $2.3 million in development expenses for its project in Singapore, which was awarded in April. The company plans to build the $3.6 billion Marina Bay Sands with an opening planned for 2009. Overall, Las Vegas Sands spent $7.9 million in development expenses during the quarter.

Las Vegas Gears Up for NBA Event

 

Representatives of some of the world's best-known brands will huddle here next month to discuss ways to link their products with February's NBA All-Star events in Las Vegas. The National Basketball Association's 21 official marketing partners are a who's who of commercial giants, from the Coca-Cola Co. and Nike to Toyota Motor Corp., McDonald's Corp. and Southwest Airlines. Their presence -- and subsequent marketing initiatives -- should form a foundation for several lucrative partnerships that will enhance Las Vegas' status as a popular international travel destination, sources said Tuesday. "Believe me, we're going to maximize everything that we can as far as the game being here and our partnership with the NBA," said Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In February, Ralenkotter said he hoped to sign deals with NBA sponsors by the end of March. His aggressive time frame didn't coincide with that of the NBA, which still had a regular season, playoffs and amateur draft to complete before it looked ahead to 2007.

Still, there's plenty of time to accomplish the city's goals, Ralenkotter said.

"A lot of times these marketing plans and so forth take a little bit more time to put together, but you focus at six months prior to the event," he said. "We're right at the cusp of that ... so now's the time where this will all come into play."

This year's All-Star events were broadcast in 44 languages in 215 countries. Several participants were from overseas, which should create the strong international viewership Las Vegas travel leaders will crave come February.

The mid-September sponsors summit, which will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, coincides with the period when many businesses plan their fourth- and first-quarter marketing campaigns.

Ski Austin, the NBA's executive vice president of events & attractions, said Las Vegas' reputation could make next year's All-Star events a bonanza for marketers seeking to capitalize on the event's popularity.

"There's a huge curiosity factor of, 'What's All-Star going to be like in the entertainment capital of the world?'" Austin said. "Las Vegas is interesting to a lot of our guests, a lot of our business partners, and I would expect that we're going to have some kind of unprecedented response from people who want to come and see it, be a part of it or take advantage of it."

Tuesday's roll-out of an $84,000 NBA-themed Las Vegas Monorail wrap followed April's unveiling of the 2007 All-Star logo at Fashion Show mall.

Also, the authority is developing ticket giveaways and promotions to draw attention to booths it will place at upcoming trade shows.

Beginning in this year's fourth quarter, residents of the city's 20 largest visitor markets will have the chance to win expenses-paid All-Star trips. The NBA and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., which makes the Lamisil athlete's foot treatment, now offers similar giveaways to fans online.

NBA and convention authority executives met locally Monday and Tuesday to discuss subjects that included All-Star countdown clocks, which should debut in mid-November in Las Vegas and on New York's Fifth Avenue.

Ralenkotter also hopes to draw attention using a campaign around balloting for next year's All-Star game, scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Talks are now under way for sponsorship deals that could be completed prior to September's end, while Las Vegas-themed radio, TV and print ads could tie into the Oct. 31 start of the NBA's regular-season schedule.

"Once that season kicks in, that's when the intensity of the promotions, campaigns and strategies will come into place," Ralenkotter said.

Added Austin: "It's pretty much all systems go from now through the start of the season and continuing on to All-Star. A lot of our business units are working closely with people here. ... We're in a good position to start leveraging this from both sides."

Las Vegas' first notable deal with an NBA partner was announced in Houston earlier this year.

This fall, the convention authority will co-sponsor the NBA Europe Live tour presented by EA Sports, a division of Redwood City, Calif.-based video game manufacturer Electronic Arts. In early October, ads for Las Vegas will shadow four NBA teams as they conduct weeklong training camps in Barcelona, Spain; Treviso, Italy; Lyon, France and Moscow.

EnglishHarbour.com Launches Bonus Slot Game

 

EnglishHarbour.com launches the exclusive $100,000 Mermaid's Quest bonus slot game and has added two new slots called Dr. Love and Eastern Dragon to the Vegas Technology casino platform. Mermaid's Quest is the 8th unique exclusive bonus slot game offered by online casino EnglishHarbour.com and features a $100,000 jackpot, free-spins, scatter symbols and a 3-stage bonus game. Developed in flash media, Mermaid's Quest is the most visually stunning game offered by Vegas Technology, and is the future direction of online casino slot games. Vegas Technology and NextGen Gaming have brought the popular Dr. Love and Eastern Dragon online slot titles to EnglishHarbour.com. These 2 online slot games titles are the most popular offered by NextGen Gaming and are the first titles being released on the modular Vegas Technology software in 2006. "Mermaid's Quest is the next level in online bonus slots. There are few online bonus slot games that rival the visual experience, quality and game-play. We are proud that Mermaid's Quest was developed in house by Vegas Technology joining the 7 other exclusive bonus slots found solely on our software platform." comments a spokesperson for EnglishHarbour.com

"This is part of our ongoing commitment to our slots players that we are devoted to bringing them more fresh new games than any operator not only this year but in years to come." "Dr. Love and Eastern Dragon are two of their most popular titles and the seamless integration of NextGen software into the Vegas Technology platform highlights its modular capabilities, unlimited future possibilities and partnerships."

Vegas Technology set the standard in 2006 for online bonus slots with the releases of Cleopatra's Pyramid, Princess Jewels, What's Your Sign? and now Mermaid's Quest slot machines. Each of these slot machines offers unique bonus game play and is exclusive to Vegas Technology online casinos.

Column - A Bad Beat in the Sunday Million

 

Halfway through last Sunday's Party Poker Million Guaranteed tournament I had visions of forever putting down the pen to live a life of luxury and leisure. The phone call to my boss Larry would have gone something like this."Hello Larry, yeah this is Ryan." "Good morning Mr. Best Poker Reporter ever." (That's my official title by the way) "Yeah uh.I'm headed to a casino.with tons of money.don't think I'll be in today." "Oh no whatever will we do!" Alas, the phone call never happened thanks to iplaypokerlikeaclown44. With a top prize in excess of $165,000, the tournament was thrilling, especially considering I was well above the average stack with only 2500 participants remaining out of the 5,249 players who entered. For a while, I was unbeatable, well on my way to being able to quit my day job. I played mistake-free poker for two hours, but one stupid hand cost me a chance at life of professional beach lounging.

Like most bad-beat stories, mine begins on the button. Salivating about a pair of Kings in the hole - the only thing on my mind, besides the drool, was how much my stack of 24,500 chips was going to grow.

I watched as player after player folded their hands ahead of me. Although I was perturbed about the lack of action, it was no big deal, there were still the blind players and I had a few tricks up my sleeve. For my entire time at this particular table, I had been making minimum steal raises from the button whenever the opportunity was there. The player to my left, ever the aggressive clown, was constantly playing back at me and making a tidy little profit at my marginal expense.

Not wanting to risk much in such a big event, I was allowing him to re-steal with the hopes of gaining a sizeable chunk when he made a move at the wrong time. The Kings became my opportunity. Because of his loose and poorly-timed plays, he only had 9,000 chips, not enough to double me up, but enough to make me two times the average stack and put me in a comfortable position to make a run at the money.

So I cast my line, (made my minimum raise) reeled in my fish (my fishy goes all-in) and as scripted, his cards flipped A-9 unsuited and I was thrilled. As a 72 percent favorite (almost 3-1), I was clearly dominating clown shoes and I pictured him taking off the red nose, stuffing it into his over-sized parachute pants, and hanging his raggedy-red wig in the ultimate poker shame.

The flop was beautiful. The blank on the turn was even better. With one card to go, I was a 90 percent favorite to win this crucial pot. However, clown boy had one more comedic trick, a heinous ace on the river.damn you Barry Greenstein!

I wasn't out, but I was in scramble mode, steaming and well below the average stack. To complicate matters, my table was a sea of big stacks. A couple orbits later I was down to a pittance and Miz_zou_fan, a feared Internet tournament player, eyed my stack, called my all-in and added my chips to his plentiful collection.

I was out. My only consolations were: I went into my crucial pot with the best of it and the player who bounced me, Mr. Miz_zou_fan, ended up using some of my chips to win the whole tournament.

Had I written this article immediately following my bust, it would have been a mess of incoherent sentences and scathing swear words. Honestly, I was devastated. It wasn't the loss. I understand that poker is a game of both luck and skill. It was the size of tournament, the thrill of chasing the big money, and the emotion of playing better than I ever have before, only to be eliminated in a position of little consequence.

And that is my point. It was fun. Life is basically made up of a few exciting moments tangled into a web of mundane days. If you're a poker player, few things are more exciting than playing well in a big one. Whether it's your once-a-year high-stakes home game or the World Series of Poker Main Event, there are moments in your poker career that stand out a little more than the rest and have the added appeal of meaning something. I say live a little and play in a few of these. For a low stakes amateur like myself, qualifying for the $215 Sunday Million was one of those experiences, win or lose, I felt alive playing in a tough tourney that was a little out of my league.

I didn't get to put down the pen forever, but maybe that's not so bad. Don't tell Larry this, but perhaps not being able to a live a life of luxury allows me to feel the pain and excitement of busting out of a big one. I wouldn't trade that feeling of being alive for any amount of money or the chance to quit my pretty cool day job.

Ok maybe I would, but you get my point.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Online Gambling Defendants Plead Not Guilty

 

As reported by the Associated Press: "Seven defendants named in a federal indictment of one of the world's largest online gambling companies, BetOnSports, pleaded not guilty Monday to federal racketeering and mail and wire fraud charges. "Neil Kaplan and Lori Kaplan Multz, the brother and sister of BetOnSports founder Gary Kaplan, were among those pleading not guilty to a 22-count indictment. "...No one appeared on behalf of the BetOnSports corporation. "...U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson extended a temporary restraining order prohibiting BetOnSports from doing business with U.S. residents until Aug. 14. She said she will decide before then whether another hearing is necessary..."

Culinary Union Petition Comes Up Short

 

As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal: "The Culinary Union failed to gather enough valid signatures of Reno voters for a ballot question that, if successful, would have required a public vote on new casinos outside traditional gaming areas, targeting in particular the Station casino recently approved in the South Meadows. "While petitioners turned in more than 17,683 signatures, the Washoe County registrar of voters office challenged 7,068, 40 percent, after a review lasting several weeks was finished Monday night. Most of those rejected were not registered voters or were voters who live outside the city. "Officials said that left 10,615 valid signatures, 1,046 signatures short of the 11,661 required for the question to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot."

Brain's 'Gambling Circuitry' Identified

 

From gamblers playing blackjack to investors picking stocks, humans make a wide range of decisions that require gauging risk versus reward. However, laboratory studies have not been able to unequivocally determine how the very basic information-processing "subcortical" regions of the brain function in processing risk and reward. Now, Steven Quartz and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology have created a simple gambling task that, when performed by humans undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of their brains, distinguishes the "gambling" structures in the brain. Importantly, their findings tease apart the gambling function of these brain structures from their functions in learning, motivation, and assessment of the salience of a stimulus. In their research article published in the August 3, 2006, issue of Neuron, published by Cell Press, the researchers said their findings and experimental method could help in understanding and perhaps treating aberrant risk-taking in disorders including gambling addiction, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia.

In their experiments, the researchers asked subjects to choose two cards from a deck numbered one to ten. Before their choice, however, the subjects were asked to bet $1 on whether the first or second card would be higher. The fMRI imaging of the subjects' brains during the gambling task could show the researchers which areas of the brain activated during different parts of the task. In fMRI, harmless radio signals and magnetic fields are used to measure blood flow in brain regions, which reflects activity in those regions.

The researchers concentrated their analysis on the "anticipatory period" between the display of the first and second card, since it was then that the subjects were able to judge from the number on the card the risk of whether they were likely to win or lose their bet that the second card would be higher or lower.

Furthermore, the researchers divided that anticipatory period into two subperiods. During a one second period immediately after the first card was displayed, subjects were concentrating on expected reward, theorized the researchers; and in the following six seconds before the second card, they were assessing the risk revealed by the first card. The researchers based this approach on studies by other researchers of such processes in primates.

Quartz and colleagues found they could distinguish brain regions that specifically responded to either reward expectation or risk. Importantly, these areas showed activity that increased with the level of expected reward and perceived risk. The researchers found that the activation related to expected reward was immediate, while the activation related to risk was delayed.

These regions were part of the brain circuitry governed by the neurotransmitter dopamine that is also involved in learning, motivation, and salience. However, emphasized the researchers, the design of their gambling task and analysis of their data ruled out involvement of these functions, meaning that they had, indeed, isolated the "gambling" function of these regions.

Of the practical implications of their findings, the researchers wrote that "pathological behaviors ranging from addiction to gambling, as well as a variety of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are partially characterized by risk taking. To date, it is unknown whether such pathological decision making under risk is due to misperception of risk or disruptions in cognitive processes, such as learning, planning, and choice.

"For example, a bipolar subject during a manic episode may invest in a risky business proposition either because they misperceive the risk to be lower than it actually is, or because they accurately perceive the risk to be high but may have impaired learning, attentional, working memory, or choice processes."

Previous research approaches had not been able to distinguish the processes underlying such risky behavior, wrote the researchers. However, they wrote, "Since our task was designed to minimize the involvement of these high-level processes, in the future it may be utilized with clinical populations to determine whether alterations in risk perception accompany their changes in risky behavior. This may lead to a better understanding of the relative contributions of risk misperception versus cognitive impairments in these pathological cases, may suggest different treatment approaches, and may also gauge the impact on and the feedback from higher-level brain regions known to contribute to decision making."

About the study:

The researchers include Kerstin Preuschoff, Peter Bossaerts, and Steven R. Quartz of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. This work was supported by NSF Grant 0093757, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Trooper Charged in Gambling Case Heading to Court

 

As reported by the Canadian Press: "A state trooper charged with running a massive gambling ring with retired hockey star Rick Tocchet and another man is due in court tomorrow, his lawyer says. "Craig Mitnick would not say yesterday why his client, James Harney, will be in New Jersey Superior Court, only that he is scheduled to appear before a judge in Mount Holly. "Tocchet, Harney and James Ulmer were charged in February with running a gambling ring. The story rocked the hockey world when authorities said that Janet Jones, the wife of Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, and several current National Hockey League players placed bets with the ring. None of the alleged bettors have been charged, but some were expected to be called to testify before a grand jury looking into the case..."

Study: Washington Tribal Casinos Have Great Impact

 

As reported by the Seattle Times: "A study of Indian tribal economies in Washington state indicates tribes are investing casino income in new businesses and their own government services and, as a result, raising the economic prospects of their members and the surrounding communities. "The Tulalip Tribes' economy was one of four Indian economies profiled in the study by independent economist Jonathan Taylor for the Washington Indian Gaming Association. "The report, delivered last week to the 2006 Northwest Indian Gaming Conference in Tacoma, calculates that in 2004, tribal casinos and other Indian businesses generated more than $3.2 billion in revenue in the state and employed 13,146 people, about 4,000 of them Indians. "Locally, the Tulalips' 2005 taxable sales rose to $311 million, yielding $26 million in taxes for the state, the report says."

B.C. Casino Off to Strong Start

 

As reported by the Langley Times: "A look at Cascades Casino shows that the downtown Langley City facility has been a huge success in its first year. "The casino's revenues were almost $90 million - an astonishing amount of money for a first-year business. This demonstrates the pent-up demand for gambling that existed in Langley and surrounding areas. "The profits have been excellent as well. After all, the house always wins in the gambling business. "Profits have exceeded $40 million, with 10 per cent of that amount going to Langley City's coffers and a larger amount to Victoria. The windfall has allowed the City to pay down its debt, part of which was accumulated in buying the land the casino now sits on. This has also allowed the City to keep tax increases to a minimum."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Gaming Stocks Showing Decline

 

Gaming industry investors found themselves snorkeling in July, as casino company stocks closed down for the third month in a row. The Dow Jones U.S. Gambling Index, a Dow Jones & Co. industry index of 64 publicly traded casino companies, closed at 525 Monday, down 6.25 percent from 560 at the end of June. Analysts said values declined both because investors were correcting for inflated values and are expecting weak results for the remainder of the year. Bear Stearns analyst Joe Greff said gaming stocks have been on a downturn since at least mid-May because of broad concerns that the industry is weakening and because there has been little news to instill confidence. He cited recent second-quarterly earnings reports by Boyd Gaming Corp. and Harrah's Entertainment in which the companies failed to meet market expectations. The Dow Jones gaming index has dropped 16 percent in the past three months since hitting a high for the year in early May of 622. For both July and the three months ending July 31, casino company stocks performed substantially worse than the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which closed Monday at 1,276.66. This reversed a trend in which gaming stocks have generally outperformed the S&P 500 for the past four years.

"Investors are taking profits after a multi-year (market) outperformance by gaming stocks and rotating them into other sectors that have been beaten down," Greff said. "The fundamentals of the gaming industry are still strong."

Nevada-based gaming companies, the largest in the industry, all trailed the Dow Jones casino index.

Brian Gordon, a partner in the Las Vegas-based financial consulting firm Applied Analysis, said local gaming company stocks have seen some price run-ups in recent months and are now going through a minor midcourse correction.

The Applied Analysis Gaming Index, a weighted average of nine Nevada-based gaming companies, closed July at 353.36, up 6.1 points, or 1.7 percent, from June. When computed on a similar weighted average basis, the S&P was up 0.6 percent for the month.

The Applied Analysis Gaming Index includes Alliance Gaming Corp., Boyd Gaming, Harrah's Entertainment, International Game Technology, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Mirage, Station Casinos, WMS Industries and Wynn Resorts.

Gordon pointed out that while the daily average stock price was down modestly for the month, more dramatic devaluations hit toward the end of July, suggesting the downward trend will continue.

Investor concerns were heightened by rising fuel costs, speculation that industry fundamentals are deteriorating and concerns about the increased supply in the locals gaming market, he said.

But perceptions drove prices down in July more than any real problem with fundamentals, which Gordon said should remain strong this fall.

Matthew Jacob, senior gaming analyst with Wall Street-based Majestic Research, said evidence is accumulating that weaknesses in consumer spending are beginning to bleed into spending patterns at casinos.

Still, Morgan Stanley analyst Celeste Brown said in an investor advisory that because of the "entertainment" nature of the gaming industry, it should hold up better than "other discretionary segments."

Despite the possible strength of the gaming industry in the long run, Merrill Lynch analyst David Anders last month completed a study that found gaming company stocks generally overvalued.

The constant reinvention of Las Vegas and the extended bull market have led to overly optimistic valuations of casino stocks, he said.

Investors have been lackadaisical in valuing hotel-casino companies; simply adding together development projects' and existing properties' anticipated cash flow, or earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortization.

Values have been established based on experiences in the rest of the hospitality industry without taking into account the need to raze or redevelop old casino properties, he said.

For example, many casinos that were open in Las Vegas in 1988 no longer exist, he said.

"We believe that for major hotels in central business districts, whose owners are willing to invest a sufficient amount to keep them competitive, cash flow increases over time and returns are maintained cycle over cycle," Anders said.

"Hotels that jump to mind are the Waldorf in Manhattan, first opened in 1931; the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, 1871; the Ritz Carlton Boston, 1927; the Beverly Hills Wilshire in Los Angeles, 1928" he said. "In contrast, Las Vegas takes pride in constantly reinventing itself; however, this is likely to lead to declining property cash flows versus increasing."

The difference in the sustainability of earnings between the Las Vegas-based casinos and hotels in major urban centers explains much of the relative overpricing of gaming stocks, Anders said.

"We want to be clear that we see nothing wrong with paying for growth; however, figuring out the right price is a challenge," Anders said.

Saratoga Track Simulcast a Winner

 

As reported by the Albany Times-Union: "It's cool, the lines are short and this year -- for the first time -- the thoroughbred races from Saratoga Race Course across the street are being broadcast live at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway. "After arguing over the impact video lottery terminals at the harness track could have on thoroughbred racing, the New York Racing Association and the racino agreed to cooperate. "'It's working out well for both parties. It's not having any real impact on our business here. The preliminary read would be it's going to be less than 2 percent of what we do on track,' said Bill Nader, NYRA senior vice president. "Across Nelson Avenue at the harness track, Skip Carlson, vice president for racing, sees the flat track as another draw, which will enliven the simulcast offerings and serve as a lead-in to the trotters and pacers running at night. ".About 150 people were at the harness track for the opening race simulcast. There were 17 pari-mutuel clerks working compared to the usual six or seven on duty."

Harrah's Names New Vice Chairman

 

Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. today announced that Charles L. Atwood has been appointed vice chairman of the board of directors. Atwood, Harrah's chief financial officer for the last five years, will be succeeded by Jonathan S. Halkyard, who will add CFO duties to his current role as senior vice president and treasurer. Both appointments are subject to required regulatory approvals. Atwood and Halkyard will both report directly to Gary Loveman, chairman, chief executive officer and president. In his new role, Atwood will have oversight of all of the company's development, design and construction efforts, as well as strategic sourcing, internal audit, enterprise risk management and security, surveillance and investigations. Halkyard will assume oversight of the company's finance functions. In addition to his current oversight of treasury, investor relations and planning and analysis, Halkyard will direct the company's accounting and business intelligence functions. "Harrah's is embarking on an ambitious era of growth. We will be dramatically expanding our international presence, and creating unprecedented new gaming experiences in our largest U.S. markets, Las Vegas and Atlantic City," Loveman said. "With a distinguished career spanning nearly three decades, Chuck is ideally suited to lead the development efforts that will bring our bold visions to life. Under Chuck's leadership, Harrah's will produce the next generation of compelling branded gaming experiences for our guests -- and long-term, consistent growth for our stockholders."

"Jonathan has handled the treasurer's office with remarkable skill," Loveman said. "He has built strong relationships with investors, consistently negotiated favorable terms on our bank facilities and debt offerings, and helped guide us through the two largest acquisitions in our company's history. I'm confident he will make an outstanding CFO."

Prior to assuming the role of CFO in 2001, Atwood held numerous finance and development positions with the company, including treasurer. He joined the company in 1979, and was appointed to the company's board of directors in July 2005.

Halkyard joined the company in 1999 as director of finance at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, and later served as assistant general manager of Harrah's and Harveys Lake Tahoe, assistant general manager of Harrah's Las Vegas and vice president of finance for Harrah's Entertainment before being named treasurer in 2003.

Legislature Unlikely to Return Early Just to Revise Slots Law

 

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "The issue of whether to call the Legislature back to Harrisburg to make changes in the law legalizing slots casinos is mired in politics again. "Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate can agree on one thing: The law should be refined. But they can't agree on how to refine it and who should take the first step to renew the process. "Yesterday, Gov. Rendell reiterated his refusal to call a special session that state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, has been pushing for and urged Republican leaders in the state House and Senate to call an early end to summer vacation by returning to regular session. "A Republican leader said there's no reason to call lawmakers back into session unless they know they can reach a consensus. "Democrats accused Ms. Orie of grandstanding and blocking previous attempts at changing the law. "Ms. Orie called for a special session two weeks ago after it was revealed that a Philadelphia lobbyist had listed his children as part owners of a proposed slot-machine supply company. They have since been removed. "Ms. Orie and others want to make several changes in the slots law, including prohibiting children as potential owners; eliminating middle-man slots machine suppliers; removing a provision that allows legislators to own up to 1 percent of a gaming company; and authorizing the state attorney general's office to oversee all slots operations, including background checks and operational oversight. ...Ms. Orie said it is important for changes to be made to the July 2004 law as soon as possible because the first casino licenses are scheduled to be awarded at the end of next month..."

GWIN Restructures Debt for Equity Transaction

 

GWIN announced today the company has completed the first step in a comprehensive restructuring plan to strengthen the company's balance sheet, and to retain the continued services of its key employee and founder, Wayne Allyn Root. Jeff Johnson, CFO of GWIN, stated, "Our chairman, Wayne Allyn Root, agreed to convert a six-figure liability of the company into preferred equity. He also agreed to remain for the foreseeable future in the role of chairman and CEO. Furthermore, he agreed to waive a termination clause in his current contract. We consider these concessions to be substantial contributions on Mr. Root's part for the long-term well-being of the company, and the board wishes to thank him for his continued hard work on behalf of the GWIN shareholders." Root added, "This should give a major boost of confidence to all GWIN shareholders and future investors. First of all, as someone who makes big bets for a living, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is, by agreeing to convert over $200,000 of GWIN liability into preferred equity -- which shows the faith I have in the future of GWIN. Secondly, I have agreed to this conversion at $.045 per share, a price significantly above the current price of the stock. In an age where CEOs consistently take stock and options at prices far below the current market price, I wanted to set a new example. This conversion makes me the largest individual shareholder in GWIN stock, and firmly ties my future and my fortunes to this company. It shows my faith that GWIN is on a path to fulfill our goal of becoming the global brand name in sports handicapping."

WSOP "Day Ones" Complete

 

After four days of intense play, the first round of the world's most prestigious poker tournament is complete with 3,200 players still vying to become the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. The story so far from the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Vegas is the strong play of defending champions Joe Hachem (2005) and Greg "Fossilman" Raymer (2004). At one time, professionals and amateurs alike wondered aloud whether these two might be one-hit wonders. Now, their lasting power in some of the biggest poker tournaments ever played is changing opinions. With two final able appearances and three cashes already in 2006, Hachem has an above-average stack in the Main Event after the completion of the "Day Ones." Likewise, Raymer, who finished 25th in last year's Main Event, is in an above average stack position after nearly busting early in the tournament. Both players will seek to add to their big tournament reputations tomorrow (Aug. 2, 12 p.m. PST) when play begins again for Day 1-C and Day 1-D survivors. Remaining players from Day 1-A and Day 1-B, a 1,600 player field that includes a variety of big names an unknown amateurs alike, will compete again today (Aug. 1).

Each Day 2 event will continue until WSOP officials are able to narrow the field down to 700 players. Beginning on Friday, the field will finally combine into one large group, with the tournament continually condensing until the winner is crowned on Aug. 10.

All Hail the Big Stack

In the history of WSOP Main Events, being the chip leader after the first day barely ensures making the final table, never mind winning the whole thing. However, with more than 50,000 chips than his nearest competitor and twice as many chips as the Day 1-A leader, Hossein Tagh Avi, who has 229,125 chips, is in a great position to go deep despite being an unknown face. In a survey of the Internet's largest tournament poker databases, Avi's name did not appear once, however, with the size of his stack going into Day 2 play, that may not be the case for much longer.

Notable Names Still in the Hunt

Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Allen Cunningham, Robert Varkonyi, Ted Forrest, Freddy Deeb, Kathy Leibert, Huck Seed, Charlie Sewell, Layne Flack, David Chiu, David Grey, Jeff Madsen, Hoyt Corkins, Mike Caro, Carlos Mortensen, John Juanda

Notable Main Event Busts

Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Howard Lederer, Dan Harrington, Gus Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matasow, TJ Cloutier, Bobby Baldwin, Chip Reese, Erik Seidel, Chris Moneymaker, Juha Helppi, Lee Watkinson, Tony G., Clonie Gowen, Sam Farha, Phil Gordon, Tuan Le, Jeff and Barry Schulman, Steve Danneman, Hasan Habib, Liz Leui, Antonio Esfandari, Marcel Luske, Patrik Antonius, and more.

Notable Celebrity Busts

Jennifer Tilly, Lennox Lewis (Heavy Weight Boxing Champ), Tobey Maguire (Spider Man), Shannon Elizabeth (Nadia - American Pie), Ron Jeremy (Porn Star)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Las Vegas Sands Spends Billions on Macau Project

 

As reported by the Financial Times: "The size of the investment, double the figure reported originally, is part of the US-based gaming company's plans to change the face of the former Portuguese enclave's tourism industry, from offering one-day gambling trips to becoming a longer-stay destination. "Company president and chief operating officer Bill Weidner said: 'These development opportunities are contingent upon approvals by government at several levels and will occur in phases over time as the markets develop and mature.'"In Macau, the company plans to spend $US3 billion each in two phases on the Cotai Strip.. The company is also in talks to develop Heng Qin island, a Chinese island bordering the Cotai Strip."

Casino Windsor Reports Layoffs

 

As reported by the Canadian Press: "Ontario's Casino Windsor says it is laying off 297 unionized and 32 non-union staff due to a slowdown. "Casino official Holly Ward says the reasons include a provincial smoking ban, the U.S. exchange rate and high gas prices. ".Bingo parlour operators predicted a drop in customers because of the ban and some have warned that layoffs or closures would be inevitable.

California Man Sues MGM Mirage

 

A California businessman who claims that Las Vegas casinos preyed on his gambling addiction is attempting to sue MGM-Mirage properties after losing millions of dollars over a nine-year period. Shibley Horaney, of Long Beach, Calif., claims that beginning as early as 1995, representatives from the MGM Grand and The Mirage aggressively solicited him to open lines of credit at the casinos, which prompted him to lose more than $5 million. He also is arguing that because he is a California resident and MGM-Mirage representatives repeatedly hounded him in his home state, he should be covered by a California law that says it will not "lend its process to the collection of gambling debts." Horaney's complaint was filed in federal court after the MGM Mirage threatened to sue him for failing to pay back $475,000 loaned to him during trips to the Strip. Horaney could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Allen Hyman, did not return phone messages. Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley granted the MGM-Mirage's motion to sanction Horaney for two deposition hearings he missed in March. Horaney claims the casinos "collect data on residents of California, particularly those susceptible to gambling addiction, (and) attempt to induce those" individuals to visit their Las Vegas properties.

The company contacted him "upwards of 20 to 30 times a year through phone communications and written communications," according to the complaint. They offered to send their corporate jet for Horaney and provide a hotel room at no cost.

MGM-Mirage officials denied the allegations included in the complaint.

"We did not employ any marketing efforts that we haven't used with other guests in the past during the ordinary course of our business," said Yvette Monet, a spokeswoman for the company.

"Further, issues related to problem gambling have been raised as a defense by plaintiffs in the past, and in every case the courts have rejected the argument that a guest is not obligated to pay his or her debt in full."

The case is scheduled for a jury trial, one that MGM-Mirage officials are confident they ultimately will win.

"The reality remains that Mr. Horaney owes an outstanding debt to our company, and we intend to continue to pursue all legal avenues to collect the full amount that is owed to us," Monet said.

Horaney's complaint says he suffers from "gambling addictions recognized by the American Psychiatric Association."

WSOP Exceeds Expectations

 

Sully Erna, lead singer of Godsmack, shares a laugh after doubling his winnings by going all-in during the opening round of the World Series of Poker's main event Friday at the Rio. So much for predictions. Harrah's Entertainment executives thought the championship event of the 2006 World Series of Poker would top out around 8,000 players. After the first day in the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold'em competition at the Rio, Harrah's officials said 8,604 entries were accepted by 2:30 p.m. By Monday afternoon, when entries will be cut off, the tournament field could see more than 9,000 players. "It's pretty amazing to have this number of players in here," World Series of Poker communications director Gary Thompson said Friday. The Rio's makeshift tournament poker room in its convention center can accommodate up to 2,000 players per session -- 200 10-player tables. As players bust out in the first two hours, however, Thompson said alternate players are being added. "It really depends how quickly players bust out in the first two hours," Thompson said. "The players entering now are being told they will be added as alternates." Thompson said 10 players are added at a time to form one table. Players at tables that lose players shift to other tables. As the number of entries increases, so will the prize money. As of Friday afternoon, more than $80 million will be awarded in the final event, with the winner, who will be crowned Aug. 10, taking home more than $11.7 million. The world championship event is the largest field in the 37-year history of the World Series of Poker.

Last year, 5,619 players entered the main event and World Champion Joseph Hachem of Melbourne, Australia, took home $7.5 million.

The opening round of the world championship event will span four days, concluding on Monday. Each day, the field will be cut to 800 players. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the 3,200 surviving players will compete until 1,400 are left.

Beginning next Friday, after a one-day break, the 1,400 remaining competitors will play on a daily basis until nine remain for the final table.

World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said the first 38 of 46 total events has generated 35,727 total player entries, which includes a global field of players from more than 50 countries.

By the time the World Series of Poker concludes, the number of entries and prize pool, which is approaching $100 million, will set tournament records.

Celebrities such as "Spiderman" star Tobey Maguire, Mekhi Phifer from "ER," James Garner of "The Rockford Files" and boxer Antonio Tarver paid their $10,000 entry fees to play on the first day. Poker pros Gus Hansen, Eli Elezra, Michael Mizrachi, Barry Greenstein and Juan Carlos Mortensen also took to the tables Friday.

Mentor Gaming Adds New Slots

 

New 54 online slots will be available on the company's online gaming sites. "There is a growing market for online slot machines and we have put a lot of effort into creating the best online slots on the Internet" explained Mr. Alon Peled, Mentor Gaming CEO The new online slot machines from Mentor Gaming will feature 3 and 5 reels with full screen option and advanced 3D technology. This is the second time in 3 months that Mentor Gaming releases new game versions. In order to stay ahead, Mentor Gaming aims at providing new alternatives of online gaming for their operators. Plans for the near future include the launching of more than 47 new table and online card games. It takes 2 clicks to install the online gambling software from Mentor Gaming, but it took 3 years of marketing research and software development to make it possible. Mentor Gaming was founded after 3 years of business research and software development with a challenging goal : to create a complete online gaming experience in order to provide the LCO (Licensed Casino Operator) with the opportunity to become industry leaders. At present, Mentor Gaming has offices in America, Asia and Europe.

Wisconsin Casino Negotiator was Former Lobbyist

 

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A state official who helped negotiate a casino agreement with the Oneida tribe previously worked for that tribe as a lobbyist. "Sean Dilweg, the chief aide to Administration Secretary Stephen Bablitch, said he did not believe his ties to the tribe constituted a conflict of interest. Dilweg lobbied for the tribe - along with two dozen other clients - in 2000 and 2001. In January 2003, he took the state job and immediately started working on negotiations with the Oneida and other tribes. "Dilweg noted that the deals he helped broker with the Oneida and the other tribes quadrupled the amount of money the tribes were to pay the state in 2004 for the right to operate casinos, bringing it to more than $100 million. "Dilweg lobbied for the Oneida over the tribe's payments to the state for tobacco sales and had nothing to do with their casino operations."

Poker Pros Sue WPT

 

As reported by the Minneapolis Business Journal: "Seven of the most famous poker players in the country, including Phil Gordon and Howard Lederer, will file a lawsuit against WPT Enterprises in Los Angeles federal court today, alleging the parent company of the World Poker Tour violated antitrust laws, the poker players' attorney said. "The lawsuit seeks to void releases that the players signed that give the WPT rights to use their names and likenesses, and also seeks to void agreements between the WPT and Las Vegas casinos that prohibit the casinos from staging poker tournaments that compete with WPT events, attorney Jeff Kessler said. ".The other plaintiffs are poker players Andrew Bloch, Annie Duke, Chris Ferguson, Joseph Hachem and Greg Raymer."

"Playing Poker" in the WSOP Media/Celebrity Event

 

John L. Parker's cult classic Once a Runner has captivated high school distance runners for decades. The fictional book follows the journey of Quenton Cassidy, one of the nation's top milers.Filled with excellent characters and memorable passages, my high school teammates passed the book around so many times that the cover was missing and the binding, which had also been destroyed, was replaced with masking tape.One of my favorite passages from the book has always been a section about "playing track." Cassidy's teammates blow off some steam on a Saturday night by watching Spider Gordon, the team's high jumper, leap over a makeshift bar into a landing area filled with pillows and cushions.While the height he clears is more than a foot lower than he is capable of jumping, this performance isn't about athletic achievement. It's a celebration of what he does. Cassidy calls it "playing track," saying that it's one of the few times the members of the team remember the reasons they love what they work so hard to do.Last night, I got to "play poker." My media credential gave me an entry into the World Series of Poker's Media/Celebrity Tournament with a chance to win $10,000 towards my charity: The Augsbury/North Country Scholarship Fund at St. Lawrence University.I haven't had so much fun in a No Limit Texas Hold'em Tournament, including home games that I've won, in quite some time. The atmosphere was incredible, and for a low-roller like me, the opportunity to sit down and play at the World Series of Poker was incredible.

Oh yeah, and being seated next to Shannon Elizabeth for half an hour wasn't that bad either.

I got to play for about two hours, and I finished somewhere in the neighborhood of 65th out of approximately 300 entries. Only the top nine players got money towards their charities, and while I was disappointed that I missed my goal of helping North Country kids like me pay for their St. Lawrence education, I still walked away beaming.

The players at my tables were constantly joking with each other. I got to play against Elvis, who was singing every time he had a hand. I even had a woman nearly knock me out of my chair with a excited and violent embrace when, down to one $25 chip, she cracked my pocket Jacks with her pocket 10s. If I had lost that hand with money on the line, it probably would have stung. Instead, it was an occasion to laugh, hug her back, and root for her to continue the comeback.

With just three times the big blind in the sixth level, it became clear that I had to make a move. It seemed like fate when I looked down and found A-T offsuit in the hole, so I went all-in from middle position. Things looked good when the big blind called me with Q-9, but alas, my day was finished when he paired his Queen.

I've been watching the top professionals play in pressure packed situations and have jumped into a few low limit games myself in the past few weeks. Poker had become a 24-hour a day job, and frankly, it was starting to become a chore. But the relaxed atmosphere of the charity tournament reminded me why I love this game, and I can't wait to "play poker" again.

Las Vegas Tourism: Fewer Visitors; Don't Blame Fuel

 

Recent visitor data show that Southern Nevada's once white-hot travel industry has cooled this year. And while it would be easy to lay the blame on soaring fuel prices, the real culprit -- at least in May -- was an absence of conventioneers. The Las Vegas Valley hosted more than 3.34 million visitors in May, down 0.9 percent from May 2005, according to information released Friday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. May's total was only the third monthly decline in local visitor volume since the start of 2005. Its dip comes on the heels of tepid 0.3 percent growth in both March and April, the same months gasoline prices began to spike throughout the United States. But a closer look indicates that drivers are still making their way to Southern Nevada despite unleaded prices around $3 per gallon. Traffic on Interstate 15 at the California-Nevada border averaged 40,288 vehicles per day in May, including local residents. That's down 0.4 percent from last year, and still a better monthly average than most reported since 2005 began. Traffic on all highways in and out of town averaged nearly 87,000 vehicles per day in May, a 0.6 percent decline from a year ago. History shows that highway traffic typically peaks in July and August. Decreased convention attendance was the largest factor in May's slight decline.

The valley hosted nearly 235,700 fewer conventioneers in May, or 35.7 percent less than visited here a year ago. Kevin Bagger, the authority's research director, said several large shows held here in May 2005 did not return 12 months later.

The Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, which drew 55,000 to the Las Vegas Convention Center last year, was held in Chicago this year. The 24,500-attendee American Institute of Architects National Convention moved to Los Angeles after coming to Las Vegas in 2005.

The International Esthetics Cosmetics & Spa Conference and its sister event, the Las Vegas Hair & Nail Conference, took place in June this year following May dates in 2005. Those events drew crowds of 45,000 this year.

The Hospitality Design Conference & Expo at Sands Expo and Convention Center took its 10,500 attendees to April in 2006, one month earlier than a year ago. The Waste Expo and its 11,000 attendees also came here a month earlier following May dates in 2005, Bagger said.

"We're still getting a net increase in visitor numbers despite having fewer rooms than a year ago," Bagger said, referencing the recent closures of the Strip's Boardwalk and downtown Las Vegas' Lady Luck.

Citywide occupancy was 90.1 percent, down 1.2 percent, while total room nights occupied slipped by 0.7 percent due to a nearly 37 percent decline in nights occupied by visiting conventioneers.

But average daily room rates in the Las Vegas Valley climbed 15.5 percent in May to $121.12. The annual average reached $122.99 percent, up 15.2 percent.

Year-to-date, the local travel industry's 0.9 percent growth rate was well off last year's 12-month pace of 3.2 percent, though 2005's strongest gains came in June, July, November and December.

May passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport topped 3.9 million, virtually unchanged from a year ago. The airport's year-to-date total of nearly 18.7 million was up 3.9 percent.

Laughlin's 273,415 monthly visitors represented a 15.6 percent decrease from May 2005. Year-to-date, the number of people who visited the Colorado River resort slipped by 224,080, or 12.9 percent, compared with last year's five-month total of 1.73 million guests.

The news was only slightly better from Mesquite, whose May tally of 132,779 visitors was 9.3 percent worse than a year ago. Its year-to-date visitor total was 670,326, down 6.9 percent.

Still, average daily room rates in Laughlin and Mesquite increased by 7.3 percent and 25.5 percent, respectively, through May 31.

Seneca Niagara Casino Expansion Continues

 

As reported by the Buffalo Business First: "The growth of the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel has again made its mark at a busy Niagara Falls corner. "Crews are finishing the demolition of a former Ramada Inn at the corner of Rainbow Boulevard and Fourth Street, a hotel that stood in the shadow of the casino. "Once the site is cleared, the property will be used for a surface parking lot to help ease a parking crunch near the popular Cataract City casino."

Online Gambling Overshadows Chinese Lottery

 

As reported by the Shanghai Daily: "China lottery sales amounted to approximately 70 billion yuan last year, said Wang Xuehong, director of the China Center for Lottery Studies at Peking University. "According to the center's market survey, illegal betting revenue was tenfold of legal lottery sales, Wang said. "In recent several years, gambling funds have been increasing year by year, Xinhua news agency said, without giving a comparison figure."

Pennsylvania Board Releases Meeting Schedule

 

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board today announced an updated schedule of public meetings for the remainder of 2006. All meetings will take place in Harrisburg. The next public meeting of the Board will begin at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23, 2006. It will take place in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building in Harrisburg. The dates, times and locations for these meetings, which are also available at the PGCB web site, are as follows: Wednesday, August 23 @ 2 P.M. North Office Building, Hearing Room 1 Tuesday, September 12 @ 10 A.M. State Museum, Auditorium

Wednesday, September 27 @ 10 A.M. Forum Building, Auditorium

Wednesday, October 25 @ 10 A.M. State Museum, Auditorium

Tuesday, November 21 @ 1 P.M. State Museum, Auditorium

Monday, December 4 @ 3:30 P.M. State Museum, Auditorium

Wednesday, December 13 @ 10 A.M. State Museum, Auditorium

Wednesday, December 20 @ 10 A.M. State Museum, Auditorium

Pursuant to Pennsylvania's Sunshine Law, the Board may change the time, date and location of any meeting with appropriate prior notice via its Web site and a legal advertisement in a local newspaper of general circulation. It also may schedule additional meetings or cancel any scheduled meeting with appropriate prior notice.

Members of the press and the public are invited to join the Board's e-mail list to receive direct notices of meeting changes and other important information from the Board.

Top Executives Bid Golden Nugget Adieu

 

As reported by the Las Vegas Business Press: "Times are a-changing at the Golden Nugget hotel and casino and some familiar faces will be missing as the 60-year-old resort tries to maintain its customer base during its first phase of a $200 million makeover. "Golden Nugget Chief Operating Officer Andre Carrier has tendered his resignation, but has agreed to stay on at least through the summer. Longtime Golden Nugget Vice President of Marketing Dan Shumny has already left his position, although he remains a consultant, according to Golden Nugget spokesperson Sylke Finnegan. "Shumny and Carrier had both recently signed three-year contracts to stay on with the property after it was purchased by Houston-based Landry's Restaurants in 2005. Carrier, 35, said he is leaving the gaming industry after 14 years to pursue an opportunity to run a consulting company. "...Carrier said he has agreed to stay during the transition, and that could mean staying on 'indefinitely' while the resort undergoes extensive renovation..."

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