Atlantic City Gambling Revenue Decreases for Second Straight Month

 Atlantic City Gambling Revenue Decreases for Second Straight Month

Atlantic City is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, as its gambling economy is recovering from a horrific years-long collapse that saw five casinos close in the span of two years. But the revenue graph isn’t always pointing upward, illustrated by February’s numbers released last week by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), which saw total gaming revenue (or win) decrease 6.5 percent compared to the same month last year.

The seven Atlantic City casinos brought in $ 170.1 million in revenue in February 2018, and 8.9 percent decrease from the $ 186.6 million generated last February. It was actually the internet gambling revenue that made the overall loss a bit softer. Online gaming win was $ 22.0 million last month, a 17.5 percent jump from the $ 18.7 million in February 2017.

This is the second straight month where Atlantic City’s casino revenue has been down; January’s win dipped from $ 204.6 million to $ 184.3 million.

There are always any number of reasons these things can happen, but it seems that weather has been a primary factor in the slump. New Jersey has experienced harsh winter weather, including a January blizzard, which would naturally serve to depress tourism. People are not going to want to drive to Atlantic City when it would require snow chains.

DGE bureau chief of financial investigations Christopher Glaum told the Press of Atlantic City, “With difficult weather conditions persisting into March, it is hard to gauge the market, but we are hopeful that the industry will ultimately experience revenue growth in 2018.”

And that’s a good point. Weather has continued to be a problem up there even as we head into spring, so even though the numbers say that casinos have brought in less revenue than last year, it will be hard to tell if things are really going poorly or if, in fact, the overall Atlantic City market is healthy and simply dinged by weather.

Jim Plousis, chairman of the state Casino Control Commission, said, “Let’s face it, February was a weak month. I am hopeful that casinos can turn this around and start expanding the market as we move into the busier spring and summer seasons.”

Online gambling, on the other hand, can actually be helped by bad weather, as people will tend to stay inside.

Golden Nugget and Resorts Digital (PokerStars) led the way in February. Golden Nugget saw a ridiculous 52.4 percent increase in its internet gaming win, from $ 5.18 million in February 2017 to $ 7.89 million in February 2018. Resorts Digital increased 23.7 percent, from $ 3.05 million to $ 3.78 million.

Just one casino had its internet gaming win decrease from last year: Caesars Interactive (888). Last year’s February revenue was $ 3.5 million, whereas this year it was $ 3.19 million, a drop of 8.7 percent.

Year-to-date, Golden Nugget and Resorts Digital are also the biggest winners, while Caesars is the biggest loser.

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Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board XO Offers Update on Online Gaming Regulations

 Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board XO Offers Update on Online Gaming Regulations

Although they have had the go ahead since last fall’s passage of the state budget to begin, lawmakers and gaming officials in Pennsylvania to this point haven’t done much of anything regarding opening the state for online gaming and poker. That changed earlier this week as the head of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced a timeline for gaming to begin in the state.

Tasked with crafting the regulations and licensing procedures, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole informed lawmakers on Tuesday that his organization was nearly ready for the licensing process to begin. In his report to lawmakers, O’Toole stated that the licensing process would begin on April 16. From that statement by O’Toole, the rest of the timeline regarding online gaming and poker in the Keystone State can be extrapolated.

If the process begins on April 16, all in-state operators of casino gaming have the “right of first access” to the gaming licenses that are available. Over the course of the next 120 days, such operations as Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia and Sands Bethlehem (now expected to be a player in Pennsylvania’s online gaming industry since anti-online gaming advocate Sheldon Adelson sold the property to Wind Creek Hospitality, a company established by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama) will be able to apply for any or all of the three licensing options available – casino table gaming, online slots and online poker. The cost of those licenses will initially be $ 10 million.

After 90 days, the price to be able to play in the new Pennsylvania system will kick up. Instead of the $ 10 million base price for licensing across all three platforms, the price will go up to $ 4 million for each operation and those businesses in the Pennsylvania market will be able to pick their options for licensing. This will hold through the end of the 120-day period, which brings us to August 16.

Once that initial 120-day clock expires, then any casino or online gaming company outside of Pennsylvania can apply for licenses, provided that there is any left after the in-state “rush.” Currently the regulations allow for 12 licenses each for the three options, ironically the exact number of casinos that exist in Pennsylvania. There is another 120-day clock for those outside of the state to apply and they would pay the same amount – $ 4 million – that those in-state operations did for each license.

After the PGCB receives the first applications, then they also have an “action” clock placed on them. By the regulations in the state, the PGCB would have 90 days to act on a received application. This would mean that the PGCB would have 90 days to either approve, reject or table those applications.

IF the first application came in immediately on April 16 (not out of the question but highly unlikely), that means that the PGCB would have to do something with it by July 16. Still, this doesn’t mean that they will go online immediately with their product. There would have to be extensive testing done on the software that the licensees would be using, surely another 60-90 days. That means that the earliest potential date for any online gaming in the state of Pennsylvania would be between September 16 and October 16.

Perhaps the only questions left for the Pennsylvania online gaming industry is who the players in the game will be. Will the dozen casinos inside the state – and a potential 13th, Pennsylvania LIVE!, on the horizon (when this casino is opened, a 13th license has already been approved in each of the three categories) – buy up all the licenses and prevent any outside operations from entering the state? Furthermore, just because an operation purchases a license, are they forced into using it? If this is the case, all the casinos could exercise their rights to buy up the licenses, but only a few could actually come out with a product for people in Pennsylvania to play.

While we’ve been able to extrapolate the potential key dates for Pennsylvania’s entry into intra-state online gaming and poker, nothing is set in stone. Further bickering over the regulations and/or delays (potential lawsuits from outside operators that have been shut out of the market?) could push the opening later. If this happens, that once optimistic September 16 opening date could go later into 2018 and perhaps even push it into the new calendar year.

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Florida Legislature Closes Door to Expansion of Gambling for at Least the Remainder of 2018

 Florida Legislature Closes Door to Expansion of Gambling for at Least the Remainder of 2018

With a referendum regarding gambling in the state being held during the 2018 midterm elections, the Florida Legislature had a final shot to make any moves regarding the state’s gambling laws. Instead, the politicians in Tallahassee punted the subject down the road, ensuring that there would be no further changes to the state’s regulations at least for the 2018 calendar year.

As the close of the legislative session loomed this week, both leaders in each chamber of the Florida Legislature revived the discussions on gaming in the state. Those two men, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, would be facing starkly different roads to coming to an agreement, however. The job, at first glance, would have been easier for Negron, with a Senate willing to expand gaming where voters had approved of it, rather than Corcoran, who would have to convince fellow Representatives that have shown previously to be anti-expansion.

Negron’s Senate contemporaries were the first to fire off, approving an expansion of gambling in eight counties that had previously passed new laws. Those laws would have allowed pari-mutuel outlets – horse and dog racing tracks and simulcast locations – to offer slot machines to their customers. The problems would develop when the bill was sent to the House for consideration.

The House wasn’t quite as willing to go with the plan, however. After at first completely rejecting the Senate plan, the House eventually came to the point where it would allow three of the eight counties to offer slot machines to their customers. Discussions with House members to allow all eight eventually would result in the Senate bill dying in the House, much to the consternation of their leadership.

“Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” Corcoran and Negron said in a statement quoted by The Palm Beach Post’s Dara Kam. “Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature. We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

Why is the decision by the Florida Legislature not to take up new gambling regulations important? Part of the problem is that the current compact between the state and the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida, which expired in 2015, is currently working its way through a federal court. Under question are “designated player” games that the poker rooms, pari-mutuel tracks and other gaming outlets have been using to circumvent the “house-banked” games that is the exclusive property of the Seminoles and their casinos. A “designated player” game is one in which a player in the game being designated as the “player to beat” by other players on the table, with the house winning bets on the “designated player” rather than having a hand in the game themselves.

Under the compact, the Seminoles have paid $ 300 million per year for that exclusivity (and have continued to pay since the compact ended in 2015), but they also see locales that are allowing for other gaming outlets to offer house-banked games under the “designated player” discipline. They want the state to be more proactive in preventing these “designated player” games that, the Seminoles contend, are cutting into the profits of their tribal casinos. But the state, while working with the Seminoles to either come to a new compact or extend the one that expired, also must contend with the individual county governments.

That is why the Florida Legislature was looking to amend their gambling laws. Many counties in the Sunshine State are looking to pass their own gambling laws, outside of the state’s purveyance and with no new statewide compact agreed upon, because they don’t see the state legislature looking out for their interests. There is also a huge desire for such tourist destinations as Miami to be able to expand their gambling options, while areas such as Orlando look to restrict any access to gambling in their area due to their “family” atmosphere.

The upcoming referendum in November also has lawmakers a bit nervous. Should the voters of Florida vote for expansion of gaming in the state, the legislature would be bound by the vote to expand gambling in the state outside of the Seminole compact. With this said, the Florida Legislature was forced by referendum to legalize the usage of medical marijuana in the state in 2016; the Legislature has been molasses-slow regarding any passage of laws regarding that issue.

While the Florida Legislature may not consider gambling expansion for the remainder of the year, there will be plenty of discussion on the subject outside of the halls of Tallahassee. What the eventual end of these discussions will be is still up in the air, however.

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Cameron Kennedy Apprehended for New York-New York Casino Robbery

 Cameron Kennedy Apprehended for New York New York Casino Robbery

In the midnight hour of January 10th, a black male robbed a cashier at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas. On January 25th, Cameron Kennedy, a white male, was arrested for the crime. Did the police nab the wrong guy? Nope, it was Kennedy, alright, just in disguise.

After the incident, the Las Vegas police said that a black male wearing a black beanie cap, black rimmed glasses, a black hooded jacket, black mechanics gloves, dark jeans, and black shoes showed the cashier a handgun that was tucked into his waistband, and demanded money. Cash was handed over without violence and the perpetrator escaped through the south entrance of the casino, leaving the area in a taxi.

Cameron Kennedy New York New York robber black face 150x150 Cameron Kennedy Apprehended for New York New York Casino Robbery

Cameron Kennedy in black face

The Las Vegas Review-Journal provided more detail this week, reporting that the man said to the cashier, “I want all your hundreds, and don’t mess around.”

And while the police press release showed a picture of what appeared to be a black man, it was really Kennedy, a white man, disguised in black face. In the pictures and security video, it’s a pretty convincing makeup job, but the cashier was skeptical, telling police that his skin tone looked “blotchy” and “off.”

More clues came in, as someone anonymously informed investigators that it was Kennedy that robbed New York-New York. A month later, someone else told police that Kennedy had gone to his apartment just hours after the heist and that his skin looked darker than normal, like one might look after initially wiping off Halloween makeup, before being able to do a more thorough cleaning.

Phone records also placed Kennedy near where the taxi dropped off the suspect after the crime. And not suspicious at all, Kennedy bought a $ 1,500 gold bracelet (come on, man), $ 1,800 in money orders, and a $ 1,000 prepaid debit card (at least he put the latter in someone else’s name).

Kennedy was no rookie to breaking the law. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to two bank robberies and was put in prison. He was release in June 2017, but was arrested again in December for trying to cash a bogus check at the Gold Coast casino. Kennedy was under federal supervision, but cut off his monitoring bracelet so he would be free to commit the crime. It was not reported when and if law enforcement officials were aware that he was no longer being tracked.

Kennedy faces up to 20 years in prison. One would guess that he will be seeing at least some time behind bars, as the case seems pretty cut and dry at this point.

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Nevada AG Hates Online Poker and is Running for Governor

 Nevada AG Hates Online Poker and is Running for Governor

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Tuesday via Twitter that he had officially filed the paperwork to run for Governor this fall. That he has thrown his hat into the ring is significant because he is extremely anti-online poker.

His stance on internet poker became known in late 2015, when he confirmed that he would be signing a letter with other state Attorneys General in support of Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill. Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is a billionaire Republican donor and has stated that he will do “whatever it takes” to get online gambling banned in the United States.

One of those things that he has done is pen (or have his legal flunkies pen) RAWA, a bill which would revert the Department of Justice’s official interpretation of the Wire Act to the incorrect one and include all online gambling under its umbrella. The Wire Act, passed in 1961, specifically bans sports betting over communications lines, but for years, the DoJ interpreted it so as to make all online gambling illegal. In late 2011, the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) clarified its stance on the Wire Act, saying that it only applies to sports betting. The goal of RAWA, as mentioned, would be to turn back time and go back to the former, wrong interpretation, making online poker illegal.

And Laxalt, the Attorney General and aspiring Governor of the first state to legalize online poker, supports RAWA. Go figure.

Speaking with Jon Ralston on his Nevada Public Television show, “Ralston Live,” in November 2015, Laxalt tried to explain:

There’s a couple giant exceptions to this, alright? One is Congress spoke on this issue and had an existing Wire Act, ok? And then Attorney General Holder issued an opinion a few days before Christmas some years ago and changed that landscape. He changed that landscape without gaming companies, without law enforcement, without all the parties that should’ve been involved to make sure that we can keep consumers safe and all this can be done properly. So, I think obviously in this case we’re looking to return it back to what the status quo was, that Congress passed, and, you know, the other thing is obviously gaming is a different animal. You know, you have, you need to know where the sources of money are coming from and you need to make sure you can police this area.

He used the excuse at the time that Adelson, Steve Wynn, and Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller all supported RAWA.

Then and current governor Brian Sandoval, a big supporter of online gambling, said of Laxalt’s opinion, “….I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry. At its core, this is a state’s rights issue and I disagree with the Attorney General that a federal government one-size-fits-all solution is in the best interest of Nevada.”

I don’t know who will be running against Laxalt, but here’s to hoping Laxalt loses.

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