Posts Tagged ‘Vegas’

Caesars Sells Harrah’s Las Vegas for $1.14 Billion

 Caesars Sells Harrah’s Las Vegas for $1.14 Billion

Caesars Entertainment Corporation has announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell Harrah’s Las Vegas to VICI Properties for $ 1.14 billion. If this sounds rather shocking, you may be relieved to know (or not really care, as the case may be) that it is all part of a plan.

In mid-November, Caesars announced that it will acquire Centaur Holdings, LLC for $ 1.7 billion in cash. Centaur owns Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, Indiana and the Indiana Grand Racing and Casino in Shelbyville, Indiana. The sale of Harrah’s Las Vegas is being used to finance the Centaur deal.

It will also continue to be business as usual at Harrah’s, as Caesars will enter into a 15-year lease for the property, paying VICI an initial annual rent of $ 87.4 million, a number which will increase as the years go on. Caesars will continue to operate Harrah’s. When the lease term is up, Caesars will be able to extend the lease for up to 20 years in four five-year extensions.

On top of that, Caesars is acquiring an 18.4 acre plot of land adjacent to Harrah’s from VICI on which it plans to build a 300,000 square foot convention center. The development “is expected to feature the largest column-free ballroom in the United States and to be outfitted with state-of-the-art technology.”

“The transactions we are announcing today demonstrate our commitment to pursuing growth opportunities while maintaining balance-sheet discipline,” said Mark Frissora, President and Chief Executive Officer of Caesars Entertainment, in a press release. “We expect the sale and leaseback of Harrah’s Las Vegas will allow us to acquire Centaur and develop the convention center without increasing leverage. The sale and leaseback transaction is our first post-emergence transaction with VICI and maintains Harrah’s Las Vegas’ connectivity to our network, which will create value and provide benefits to our guests. The acquisition of the adjacent land and development of the convention center allows us to develop another important destination right in the middle of our center-Strip footprint.”

That center-strip footprint includes, from north to south on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip: Harrah’s, Linq, Flamingo, Cromwell, Bally’s, Paris, and Planet Hollywood. Caesars Palace is across the street from Harrah’s. The company also owns the Rio just off the Strip, which is the home of the World Series of Poker.

The deal stipulates that once the convention center is completed, Caesars can actually require VICI buy the property and lease it back to Caesars, like it is doing with Harrah’s. If Caesars does not exercise that option, VICI can decide for itself if it wants to do it, anyway.

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Vegas Casinos and Government Officials Meet Over Marijuana Guidelines

 Vegas Casinos and Government Officials Meet Over Marijuana Guidelines

After initially stating that there would be a ban on any marijuana usage in casinos and on casino grounds in Las Vegas, a meeting between government officials and Las Vegas casino honchos under the auspices of a resurrected committee on Wednesday examined the problems that are confronting the issue.

With the passage of laws in the Silver State that opened Nevada’s recreational marijuana industry in late 2016, there was one place that wasn’t open to marijuana – the casinos. In September, the Nevada Gaming Control Board issues a directive that firmly spelled out that, even though it was legal to purchase and consume marijuana in the state, doing so on casino grounds was still verboten. Citing the current legal status of marijuana (it is still considered a Schedule I drug by the U. S. Department of Justice and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has looked to toughening laws rather than softening them), the NGCB didn’t flinch in making their decision to ban pot on casino grounds.

It wasn’t just the consumption of marijuana that the NGCB ruled on in September. The NGCB also ruled that there could be no marijuana dispensaries or “smoking zones” on casino grounds nor could a casino promote the product. Furthermore, the casino industry could not host any cannabis-related conventions nor could someone in the casino industry invest in the marijuana industry or vice versa.

The one thing that the NGCB didn’t do was codify any of their above directives into any concrete law that could be enforced. That’s where Sandoval stepped in, bringing back a long-defunct government group that would be able to hammer out some firm direction for the casino industry and the marijuana industry to coexist.

Sandoval has revived the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, a 12-member group that was defunct prior to the Governor’s call to action. The NGPC had not met regarding any casino issues since November of 2016, but Sandoval felt that this was an issue that required the Committee to come together. On Wednesday, that committee met for the first time to discuss the issue and, after many voices were heard from, it became apparent the difficulties of resolving the marijuana issue for the casinos.

In the five-hour meeting featuring several prominent members of the casino industry and government officials from the Nevada General Assembly, it was constantly expressed that it was important to protect the licenses of the individual casinos. In trying to improve the marijuana industry, Sandoval himself stated that he “(didn’t) want to make a decision that puts (our) licenses at risk.” For marijuana advocates, the testimony given during the hearing wasn’t exactly helping their cause.

Several attorneys testified that, if the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, then the casino industry in no manner could cohabitate with the marijuana industry. Attorney Brian Barnes stated that, under “virtually every aspect of federal law,” any marijuana business is illegal. Barnes said that any marijuana business in a casino “would be considered racketeering or money laundering.” Furthermore, any marijuana advocacy conference or convention – even if there wasn’t any product present – would fall under the same viewpoint.

This committee isn’t meeting to allow for usage of marijuana in a casino. What this committee seems more interested in would be allowing for either conventions regarding the industry or even dispensary sales on casino grounds. Nevada has 47 licensed marijuana dispensaries across the state, which drew in $ 27.1 million in sales in July 2017, the first month that those dispensaries were opened, and those types of earnings are something that everyone wants to get into. Also, the lifeblood of Vegas isn’t in its gaming, it’s in conventions across the myriad of halls that every casino has. By maintaining a ban on marijuana-related conventions, the Nevada convention industry is putting itself at a significant disadvantage and, once again, losing money.

The resurrected Nevada Gaming Policy Committee will be having several hearings regarding this issue. By July 2018, Sandoval is hoping to have guidelines set in place to regulate marijuana in the state’s casinos. While it isn’t expected to allow for partaking of the legal (in Nevada) product, it will probably allow for conventions and, perhaps, sales when the committee’s work is done.

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MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

 MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

Fear of gambling keeps getting harder to justify for professional sports leagues as MGM Resorts International has purchased the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and will move the team to Las Vegas for the 2018 season. After decades of staying away from the gambling capital of world, the leagues are now flocking there. The NHL’s Golden Knights just began its inaugural season, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas by 2020, and the United Soccer League’s Las Vegas Lights are slated to begin play next year.

The NBA, which backs the WNBA, has had Summer League games in Las Vegas for a number of years.

WNBA President Lisa Borders told the Associated Press, which originally broke the story this morning, that the league has been eyeing Las Vegas “for some time.”

Simultaneous to the Stars’ move comes the hiring of former Detroit Pistons great and New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer as the Stars’ new head coach and president of basketball operations.

“He’ll run the basketball side of the business,” Borders said in her interview with the AP. “The MGM team and the league will work to staff the business side. The folks that will run business, sales, social, digital, all the functions to run the business.”

The team will play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Lilian Tomovich, MGM’s chief experience and marketing officer, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of the decision, “Mandalay Bay is a smaller, more intimate arena with about 12,000 seats. We feel it’s the absolute right size arena for the fans to have that intimate experience to come watch basketball.”

As mentioned, aside from NBA Summer League games and minor league baseball, the major professional sports leagues in the United States have kept their distance from Las Vegas, claiming that sports betting can damage the integrity of the game. This is true – sports betting could damage the integrity of the game – but the fallacy of this argument is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not a team is located in Las Vegas.

In instances when someone committed sports betting crimes – say, taking money to shave points – the teams involved haven’t been based in Las Vegas or Nevada. The gambler or mobster was able to bet the money no matter where the teams involved were. Perhaps they bet with an illegal bookie, perhaps they actually placed the bets legally in Vegas (or had an accomplice place the bets). It doesn’t matter.

And today it is even sillier to worry about a team being in Las Vegas when it comes to betting on the games, as the players involved in the games could always place bets online if they want. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics kick off the NBA season tonight and if he wanted, LeBron James could logon to an online sports book and bet on or against his team quite easily. And he is nowhere near Las Vegas at the moment.

MGM is the second gambling corporation to take ownership of a WNBA team. The Connecticut Sun has been owned by the Mohegan Sun since 2003.

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Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. Settles Corrupt Practices Probe, Pays Fine

 Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. Settles Corrupt Practices Probe, Pays Fine

The Las Vegas Sands Corp., headed by online poker’s top enemy, Sheldon Adelson, has agreed to pay a $ 6.96 million criminal penalty to settle a federal case in which the government was investigating the company’s potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The issue at hand stems back nearly seven years to 2010, when Steven Jacobs, who headed up Las Vegas Sands’ business in China for nine months, sued the company for unlawful termination. As Bloomberg.com worded it, Jacobs “accused Adelson of directing him to collect evidence on Macau government officials that could be used to ‘exert leverage’ on them to thwart regulation unfavorable to Sands casinos.”

The FCPA, rightfully, says it is illegal for companies and their executives to try to bribe foreign government officials. The one caveat here is that I believe Donald Trump is permitted to do this, especially now that he is President. Well, he doesn’t have anything to do with his businesses anymore, so it probably doesn’t matter. I mean, he told us he’s not going to be involved with his businesses, so I TOTALLY believe him. Not for a moment do I think Donald Trump has ever or will ever do anything shady with governments of other countries.

Jacobs claimed he tried to stop the illegal business practices and for that reason, he was canned.

A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice reads, in part:

According to admissions by Sands made in connection with the resolution, certain Sands executives knowingly and willfully failed to implement a system of internal accounting controls to adequately ensure the legitimacy of payments to a business consultant who assisted Sands in promoting its brand in Macao and the PRC, and to prevent the false recording of those payments in its books and records.  Sands continued to make payments to the consultant despite warnings from its finance staff and an outside auditor that the business consultant had failed to account for portions of these funds.  In addition, Sands terminated the finance department employee who raised concerns about the payments.  

In total, from 2006 through 2009, Sands paid approximately $ 5.8 million to the business consultant without any discernable legitimate business purpose, it admitted.  

Among those consultant payments was $ 60 million to help the company acquire a Chinese basketball team.

As part of the settlement, Las Vegas Sands admitted no guilt and was not charged with a crime. It sounds lame, but that’s how these things go.

In 2016, Las Vegas Sands reached a similar settlement on the same matter with the Securities and Exchange Commission, paying a $ 9 million fine. After scapegoating people like Jacobs and then getting found out by the U.S. government, the company tried to claim it was just ignorant, just a blind little sheep wandering into the woods (I don’t know what I just wrote).

“We were moving into unexplored territory and we wanted to do some unique things that were structured by attorneys and accountants in New York, Hong Kong and Beijing,” Sands Chief Operating Officer William Weidner said at the time. “I don’t know that you can blame the lawyers who structured the deals.”

“But I think that the fact that I wasn’t disciplined in this matter shows that we were operating in areas that hadn’t been considered by regulators.”

Yeah, ok.

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Global Poker League Moves Playoffs, World Championship To Las Vegas

 Global Poker League Moves Playoffs, World Championship To Las Vegas

When it was conceived, the Alexandre Dreyfus-driven Global Poker League looked as if it would be “The One” attempt at making poker more “sport-like” that survived when others failed. A recent announcement has cast some doubt on that, however, as the GPL looks to end its inaugural season on a high note.

According to Will Shillibier of BackdoorQuads.com, the GPL has decided to NOT hold their end of season playoffs – the matches that would determine the teams for the inaugural GPL World Championship – at TwitchCon 2016 in San Diego. That event, which begins on September 30 and ends on October 2, will instead be replaced with a “Meet, Greet & Play” event that will feature some of the stars of the GPL (no names have been announced at this time).

Dreyfus looks at the change as a chance to present the GPL to the eSports community, stating, “The GPL and Twitch are expanding their partnership to promote poker as an eSport. We are thrilled to expose (the GPL) to the largest eSport community and connect poker fans and GPL players. TwitchCon 2016 is the perfect spot to help make that happen and it is another step in our GPL Fan Engagement strategy of ‘Watch’Em, Play’Em, Shop’Em.”

This isn’t the only change that is occurring for the GPL. The original plan was for the GPL to hold its World Championship Event – where two teams from each conference would have played down to an eventual World Champion – at the SSE Arena at Wembley Stadium. This was supposed to have happened in November, but it has now been eliminated totally. All that Shillibier could find out about the cancelation of the date in London from SSE Arena personnel was that they “didn’t know what happened to the event.”

So where will the playoffs and the concluding World Championship be held? If you recall the Summer Series – where the teams in the GPL competed live from Las Vegas – then you’ve already got a look at what will be the stage come this fall. The “GPL Arena,” as it has been dubbed, will host both the playoffs and the World Championship, presumably under live circumstances and inside “The Cube,” which made its debut during the Summer Series.

Shillibier also had inside information from several surveys that were conducted by Mediarex, the company that Dreyfus owns that operates the GPL. The information from those surveys wasn’t exactly glowing of the product that the audience was seeing, stating in many cases that their level of desire to be a part of the GPL action was quite limited. The respondents stated that they didn’t want to buy GPL merchandise (58.8%), that they wouldn’t want to play a Fantasy Poker real money game using GPL players (43.2%) and that they wouldn’t want to bet real money on GPL matches (62.5%), among other items. Add in the factor that 66.7% of respondents to the survey said that they had heard of the GPL but a majority of those people had not watched it and the emergency beacons are blinking.

So what has been the problems? Rumors have it that moving their playing arena – “The Cube” – to Las Vegas for the Summer Series put a serious hurt on the bank accounts of the GPL, so much so that it couldn’t be transferred to San Diego for TwitchCon and then to London for the World Championship. There are also the issues with the monetization of the league, which Dreyfus has admitted previously was a significant problem. The bottom line, however, may have been the factor that the GPL is primarily an internet “thing” and not “live” poker, which many fans thought it was going to be and, after seeing that it was online poker being played, turned away from the product.

In a discussion with Poker News Daily, Dreyfus didn’t exactly open up about the reasons for the changes nor what the future would hold. “We are preparing a press release as we speak (that will address these issues),” Dreyfus stated (that press release has not been seen). Dreyfus also stated that there was more of a “long term” plan for the GPL rather than knee-jerk short term changes and that the priority was on “the digital passengers” (presumably meaning the online viewers and fans over the GPL Twitch account).

Even with the pleas continuing for patience and to wait for the GPL to mature, anyone can see there are some glaring problems with the program. What the effects will be after their restart on September 20 – a quick six-week burst of league matches that will determine the four participants from each conference who will compete in the playoffs that begin on November 29 – and the potential for a second season for the GPL will reflect how those problems are being handled.

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