Thursday, December 28, 2017

Las Vegas Hits NFL Jackpot in 2017 with Oakland Raiders Decision to Relocate

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Las Vegas Hits NFL Jackpot in 2017 with Oakland Raiders Decision to Relocate

Much to the delight of Las Vegas football fans and city officials, the Oakland Raiders became the second major professional sports team to decide to make the eventual move to southern Nevada this year.

Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas

Raiders owner Mark Davis initially relied on the funding of Las Vegas Sands founder Sheldon Adelson to bring his team to the city but had to find other financing when the casino magnate pulled out of the deal. (Image: Twitter)

The NFL team joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in Southern Nevada, though its road to the Strip was a lot bumpier than the one the hockey organization had to navigate.

The idea of leaving the Bay Area came as early as 2009 as the team was trying to get a new stadium built but was having little success. Two years later Al Davis died and his son Mark took control of the team.

He had no more luck getting Oakland to build a facility than his father did and in 2013 when the lease expired he started exploring alternatives to the Oakland Coliseum. Several possibilities and rumors started popping up periodically and included everything from sharing Levi Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers to being courted by San Antonio.

Vegas Makes its Case

In 2015 the Raiders plan to return to the Los Angeles market fell through when the NFL rejected their relocation request. The Rams and the Chargers were picked to come to the Southern California market.

The whispers of the Raiders having interest in Sin City got louder and then became deafening when Davis met with Las Vegas Sands Owner Sheldon Adelson in January 2016 about getting his financial backing for a new 65,000 seat stadium. The casino magnate agreed and said he would put up $150 million of the then proposed $1.4 billion cost. He later increased that amount to $650 million. Davis would provide $500 million from a Goldman Sachs loan and a hotel tax would fund the rest.

Slowly owners of other NFL organizations began to warm to the idea of a football team in a town that offered sportsbetting. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Stan Kroenke, owners of the Cowboys, Patriots, and the now-Los Angeles Rams, all publicly declared their support for the Raiders move from Oakland.

One person who didn’t like the idea was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He was a staunch opponent of sportsbetting and sternly voiced his opposition to the plan.

Setback, Then Success

By January of 2017 it looked like Goodell might get his wish. Adelson pulled out of the project taking his pledge of $650 million with him. Goldman Sachs then announced they were pulling its financing for Davis’ $500 million. Suddenly Davis was without more than half of the funds for the now budgeted $1.9 billion stadium and the deal was in danger of falling apart.

It took two months but Davis found another backer, getting Bank of America to pony up Adelson’s share and his loan at the beginning of March. The only detail left was approval by the owners. That happened three weeks later at the owners meeting in Phoenix as they voted 31-1 in favor of the move with only Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross dissenting.

The Raiders would move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season and Davis was exuberant after the decision.

“My father used to say that the greatness of the Raiders was in its future,” Davis said. “The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world will give us the opportunity to achieve that greatness.”

The post Las Vegas Hits NFL Jackpot in 2017 with Oakland Raiders Decision to Relocate appeared first on Casino.org.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity

finland-veikkaus-slot-machine-identity-authenticationFinland is about to make life more difficult (or more responsible, depending on your perspective) for slot machine fans.

Last week, Finland’s state gambling monopoly Veikkaus used the Christmas hubbub to quietly announce plans to require slot machine players to verify their identities in order to use the machines. The changes will reportedly affect over 18k machines located in supermarkets, gas stations and other non-casino facilities.

The changes aren’t expected to fully take effect until 2023, but Veikkaus expects the new identification requirements will begin appearing on machines before then on a piecemeal basis through the natural process of upgrading older machines for new ones with enhanced features.

The precise method by which Finnish slot jockeys will be required to authenticate their identity has yet to be determined, given Veikkaus’ belief that there are likely to be rapid technological advances in this field over the next five years. Accommodations must also be made to ensure that international tourists can play the slots despite their lack of local credentials.

The change is expected to cost Veikkaus between €50m and €100m but the company was reportedly spurred to act following a report by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, which estimated that there were 130k Finns struggling with problem gambling behavior, and which claimed authentication was an effective method of curbing such undesirable activity.

Verification is currently in use on some machines and via Veikkaus’ online offering, but it only allows Veikkaus to track customer activity rather than impose restrictions on their behavior.

Veikkaus’ head of corporate social responsibility Pekka Ilmivalta told Finnish media outlet YLE that it was still too early to say “whether or not the requirement to authenticate will affect all games and all types of gambling.”

The post Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity appeared first on CalvinAyre.com.

Some table games at Palace Station now feature smartphone charging outlets

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Some table games at Palace Station now feature smartphone charging outlets
With the bevy of major upgrades as part of Palace Station’s multimillion remodeling project, one smaller addition might be easy to overlook. The Station Casinos property rolled out ...

The top casino stories of 2017

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
The top casino stories of 2017

2017-year-end-adelson-macau-banner-3

MACAU IS BACK
The Macau casino market’s tentative return to growth that began in 2016 accelerated dramatically this year, with each month posting strong double-digit year-on-year growth and the full-year total is now projected to come in at least one-fifth higher than the year before.

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of Macau’s resurgence was the fact that it was driven by VIP gambling, despite Beijing’s crackdown on corruption showing no signs of abating, and despite all the talk about Macau’s pivot toward mass market gamblers. Even the once beleaguered junket industry is back to opening new VIP rooms.

The market was buoyed by the first full year’s contribution from new casinos such as Las Vegas Sands’ Parisian (pictured above, behind Sands boss Sheldon Adelson) and even the ban on proxy betting couldn’t dent Macau’s momentum. Some stakeholders are now projecting a return to Macau’s pre-2014 revenue heights.

Ironically, the timing of Macau’s resurgence could actually work against the market’s six casino concessionaires. Macau is gearing up for its planned review of the concessions, the first of which are set to expire in 2020.

Had Macau’s market remained in the dumps, the authorities might have felt the need to tread lightly, banking that continuity was more important that wringing blood from a stone. But with operators back to printing money, Macau is free to consider all options, including opening up the market to other operators.

JAMES PACKER’S VERY BAD YEAR
2016 ended on a sour note for Crown Resorts owner James Packer with the arrest of multiple staffers – including VP Jason O’Connor – for aggressively promoting gambling activity on the Chinese mainland.

2017-year-end-crown-james-packerAs the calendar flipped to 2017 and it became evident that China was serious about prosecuting the Crown employees, Packer accelerated his sell-off of Crown’s stake in the Melco Crown Entertainment (now Melco Resorts & Entertainment) joint venture, ensuring Crown shareholders missed out on the benefits of Macau’s gambling revival.

With Crown’s name tarnished by the China arrests, Packer publicly withdrew his company from the race to win a coveted Japanese casino license. Packer also sold off Crown’s interest in a Las Vegas casino project, and looks set to unload the Crownbet online sports betting operation.

In September, Crown began defending itself in court against allegations that its pokies were misleading gamblers as to their chances of winning. The following month, an Aussie politician set off a firestorm by repeating the allegations of former Crown Melbourne staffers regarding tampering of pokies machines and helping high-rollers avoid federal financial reporting requirements.

Packer was also forced to submit to interviews with Australian federal police at the request of Israeli authorities, who are trying to determine what (if anything) Packer received in return for the generous hospitality he’s shown the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the years.

Packer even found himself indirectly connected to the #MeToo sexual harassment campaign when his former Hollywood production partner, Brett Ratner, was accused of abusive behavior. In April, Packer sold his share in RatPac Entertainment, which produced that star-studded promo film for Melco Crown’s Studio City resort, to Ratner.

It was Ratner who introduced Packer to singer Mariah Carey, with whom Packer reached a multimillion-dollar settlement this year after the pair broke off their engagement. Mariah got to keep the 35-carat diamond ring and, apparently, Packer’s mojo.

LAWRENCE HO’S VERY GOOD YEAR
By contrast, Melco Resorts & Entertainment CEO Lawrence Ho had a remarkably positive year. Packer’s selloff in Melco Crown gave Ho majority control over the rebranded joint venture, eliminating the need to share the profits from Macau’s resurgence. Ho reshuffled MRE’s senior management in January, and the year’s positive momentum suggests the changes were the right ones.

2017-year-end-melco-lawrence-hoThe Melco Crown/Resorts’ expansion into the Philippines also hit its stride in 2017, to the point that the City of Dreams Manila property now accounts for 15% of MRE’s earnings. MRE could further boost its Philippine presence next year if it wins the auction for the state-run Casino Filipino operations.

Ho’s Melco International also celebrated international gains in 2017 when the company took sole control of its joint venture casino in Cyprus, which will be Europe’s largest integrated resort when its first phase opens in 2019.

Ho likely scored some significant brownie points with Japanese decision makers by vowing to shift MRE’s corporate HQ to Japan if MRE were to win the Japanese casino derby.

If there was one stain on Ho’s 2017, it was his Russian casino Tigre de Cristal, which celebrated its second anniversary in October. The property has struggled to attract mass market gamblers, and the government’s abrupt decision to dramatically hike gambling taxes was apparently the last straw, prompting Ho to sell his stake in the project as the year drew to a close.

ASSHOLES WITH GUNS
There were two mass casualty events at casinos in 2017. In the Philippines, 37 people died when a gunman stormed Resorts World Manila (RWM) casino in June. What originally appeared to be a terrorist attack turned out to be a puzzling tale of an indebted gambler who didn’t appear that interested in shooting anyone.

Jessie Javier Carlos set several fires on RWM’s gaming floor, and the resulting smoke and fumes ended up killing casino guests who’d taken refuge in a narrow hallway. Carlos later shot himself, preventing any further explanation of his actions.

In October, Stephen Paddock opened fire on an open-air concert from the window of his hotel room in MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay casino. A total of 59 individuals died, including Paddock, who took his own life before security could enter his room.

Naturally, in both cases, the issue of the shooters’ gambling history was prime fodder for the media, even if there was little direct connection between their gambling activity and their violent ends.

Rightly or wrongly, RWM’s owner Travelers International Hotel Group and MGM were each accused of negligence in the wake of the attacks, and both markets suffered temporary dips in activity immediately following the incidents. However, both markets have since rebounded amid well-publicized improvements to security protocols, not only in the affected venues or markets, but at casinos across the globe, hopefully lessening the likelihood of such incidents going forward.

ATLANTIC CITY IS ALIVE… ALIVE!
The seaside gaming hub managed to go the whole year without closing another casino, which sounds like damning with faint praise, but when you’ve lost five of 12 casinos to mothballs in a short time period, you measure success differently.

2017-year-end-atlantic-city-casinos-aliveThe year got off on the right foot when AC announced its first annual gaming revenue gains in a decade. The surviving casinos showed they’d read their Darwin by getting far more efficient, posting double-digit profit gains despite only modest increases in revenue, and they got a wind-assist from online gambling, which now represents 10% of all monthly gaming revenue.

In March, Florida’s Hard Rock International showed its faith in AC’s rebirth by acquiring the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal and vowing to spend half-a-billion removing the Trump taint before reopening next summer as the music-themed Hard Rock Atlantic City.

Another mothballed property, the $2.4b white elephant that is Revel, also reportedly found a buyer late in the year, although Revel’s reliably loony owner Glenn Straub continues to deny it, even after the alleged new owner – Colorado developer Bruce Deifik – went to the trouble of applying for a New Jersey casino license (something Straub refused to do).

Trouble is, AC’s surviving casinos are worried that the reopening of some closed venues will upset the delicate balance that has allowed them to post those profits and restore the oversupply problems that led to AC’s decade-long decline.

VIETNAM WELCOMES LOCALS IN CASINOS
After years of hemming and hawing, Vietnam’s government finally approved plans for a three-year test of allowing local residents to gamble in casinos. (The government also announced a separate pilot program for legal sports betting.)

The locals ban had been cited by numerous international firms as the primary reason for their disinterest in pursuing Vietnamese casino projects. But the increasing likelihood of the government permanently bending on this issue has led to a flurry of casino project announcements.

While undoubtedly welcome news, the locals pilot program remains something of a chimera, in that none of the casinos designated to participate in the test are actually open for business. In fact, some of these casinos have yet to progress beyond the conceptual stage, and may not be ready to welcome gamblers – regardless of their nationality – for years yet.

On the plus side, if none of the specified casinos manage to open by the time the three-year trial is over, that means the potential for negative impact on Vietnamese society will be nil. So, uh, it will be considered a success?

BRITISH COLUMBIA: SO MUCH FAIL
A few years ago, the Canadian province of British Columbia dropped its pretentious official motto, ‘The Best Place on Earth.’ Now, if they’d added “…to Launder Money in Casinos,” they’d have been on to something.

2017-year-end-british-columbia-casino-money-launderingThis spring, BC voters threw out the governing Liberal party after 15 years in power, and the incoming NDP government announced they’d found a year-old report detailing rampant money laundering at BC’s land-based casinos. The situation was so prevalent that the laundering process was known internationally as ‘the Vancouver model.’

The Liberals and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation had long been accused of ignoring shady dealings at BC casinos but the report added flesh to those bones, including tales of Asian high-rollers collecting gym bags full of $20 bills in casino parking lots, then exchanging the cash for chips without too many questions asked. The government even shut down an investigative body that asked too many questions about the shady goings-on.

The release of the report led to police actions against BC-based private lenders, while Canada’s federal financial watchdog announced it was reviewing the allegations, and Great Canadian Gaming Corp – which manages the casino where most of the real shenanigans occurred – was forced into the embarrassing position of publicly declaring that it wasn’t in the money laundering business.

The whole incident added significant weight to the argument that acting as both gaming regulator and operator is a recipe for corruption. Calvin Ayre has predicted that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Cash will eventually make regulators like BCLC redundant but their own greed and incompetence might do the job first.

IMPERIAL PACIFIC FINDS THERE IS SUCH A THING AS TOO MUCH PUBLICITY
In July, Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International finally transferred its shopping mall casino’s gaming operations to IPI’s permanent facility, despite the new joint being nowhere near completion, and despite a near-constant deluge of negative attention from international media, US law enforcement, local politicians and the company’s own labor force.

After closing out 2016 denying that its VIP gambling operations were the subject of a probe by US financial watchdogs, monthly VIP turnover at IPI’s temporary casino hit a staggering $5.6b in January – a greater monthly sum than that generated by virtually any casino in Macau. Related or not, a few months later IPI announced it would no longer report its monthly turnover figures.

IPI’s offices were raided by US federal agents in March, in what was initially suspected of being a financial probe. Instead, the raid was linked to IPI’s contractors hiring undocumented Chinese workers (and not always paying them) while dodging workplace safety rules, which may have contributed to the on-site death of a worker.

While IPI’s permanent casino finally opened (dodgy sewage system notwithstanding), the company’s historic aversion to unloading risk on junket operators led analysts to warn that the company could default if it couldn’t collect on its staggeringly vast bad VIP debt total. In the first half of 2017 alone, IPI wrote off $266m in unrecoverable debts.

Meanwhile, Saipan politicians continued to make noise about IPI’s sweetheart deal with the government, which require the company to pay business taxes and license fees but no tax whatsoever on gaming revenue. There may yet come a day in which IPI wishes it had never left the cozy confines of its shopping mall origins.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Spain proved once again that it really isn’t interested in building integrated resort casinos; Baha Mar finally opened in the Bahamas, albeit to an underwhelming response; Phil Ivey’s bid to reclaim his millions in edge-sorting winnings crapped out in the UK Supreme Court; and US authorities fingered North Korea as the culprit behind 2016’s Bangladeshi bank heist that so embarrassed the Philippine casino and junket industries;

The post The top casino stories of 2017 appeared first on CalvinAyre.com.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Achieving Immortality: Which Gaming Icons Left Their Mark in 2017 Through Charity, Politics, and Sports

Casino.org
Achieving Immortality: Which Gaming Icons Left Their Mark in 2017 Through Charity, Politics, and Sports

From powermongers like Sheldon Adelson to the billionaire Fertitta brothers, 2017 saw some gutsy and passionate moves by the gaming industry’s most illustrious movers and shakers.

gaming icons Sheldon Adelson Las Vegas

Sheldon Adelson started the conversation of bringing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, just one of 2017’s crowning moments in the gaming industry. But the Sands CEO didn’t get to reap the glory when all was said and done. (Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Whether it was millions of dollars in donations in times of crisis and natural disaster, political influencing in DC through campaign contributions, or multibillion-dollar deals towards professional sports teams, the gaming icons were busy in 2017.

Here’s a look back at some of the legacies these moguls created.

Tragedy at Mandalay Bay

On October 1, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay onto the Route 91 Harvest country music festival crowd below. Some ten minutes later, 58 victims had lost their lives from his heavy artillery fire.

The casino industry quickly stepped up to provide relief. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, through his company Las Vegas Sands and the Adelson Family Foundation, gave $4 million to help victims. MGM Resorts, parent company to Mandalay Bay, gave $3 million.

Stations Casinos, owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, gave $1 million, as did the UFC and Las Vegas-based retailer Zappos, with the latter also offering to cover every victim’s funeral costs.

Fertittas Play Ball

Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who sold the UFC in 2016 for $4.2 billion, gave $10 million to University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV) to help fund a new football training center. Along with Caesars, Sands, MGM, Boyd Gaming, and Konami Gaming, the Fertittas also gave $2.5 million to UNLV to help build Hospitality Hall, a new facility for the school’s top-ranked hospitality program.

Frank and Lorenzo’s third cousin, Tilman Fertitta, also made headlines, but in even richer fashion. The Golden Nugget owner and Texas native announced this fall that he was purchasing the NBA’s Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion.

Friends in High Places

Several Las Vegas gaming moguls got behind Donald Trump, a former casino owner himself, to help his ultimately successful bid for the White House. Adelson gave tens of millions of dollars to the Trump ticket, and is thought to have been the Republican Party’s biggest donor in 2016.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which was partially funded by casino kingpin money, was instrumental in Trump’s first important events as leader of the free world.

Adelson paid $5 million to help cover January’s inauguration costs. Steve Wynn picked up the $729,000 tab for the Make America Great Again! concert, fellow billionaire, friend, and Treasure Island casino owner Phil Ruffin donated over $1 million, and the Fertitta clan again stepped up, giving $707,000.

On the charitable front, this past fall, $3 million from the Presidential Inaugural Committee was used to aid in hurricane recovery relief in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.

Walking His Talk

Adelson usually gets what he wants, but in 2017, he walked away from being permanently involved with the NFL’s Raiders in Las Vegas. Adelson was the man who initiated the push with team owner Mark Davis to bring the franchise from Oakland to Sin City.

The Las Vegas Sands CEO had pledged $650 million of his own money in building a stadium, in what many called his “legacy project.” But earlier this year, Adelson left the building, after he learned that Davis and Clark County had reached a lease agreement without his involvement.

The post Achieving Immortality: Which Gaming Icons Left Their Mark in 2017 Through Charity, Politics, and Sports appeared first on Casino.org.

Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Kentucky lawmakers are studying proposals to amend their constitution in a bid to accommodate four casinos across the Bluegrass State.

Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinosWCPO TV 9 reported that State Reps. Dennis Keene and Rick Rand pre-filed BR-197, which seeks to legalize casinos and at the same time expand pari-mutuel gambling, in the first week of December.

Kentucky, currently one of 10 U.S. states that does not have a casino offering, is becoming more receptive to the measure compared to the previous years, according to Keene.

Aside from welcoming casinos to the state, Keene’s bill also opened the possibility of allowing sports betting.

The cash-strapped state needs new revenue streams to straighten its budget and salvage the state pension plan. Kentucky casinos could help recapture money that its residents spend in neighboring gambling venues, according to the report.

In the historic coal town of Jenkins, Kentucky, residents are already throwing their support for the opening of casinos in the wake of high unemployment rate, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Meanwhile, lobby group Jobs 4 Kentucky is gathering signatures of Jenkins residents supporting the initiative.

“Responsible gaming is the pride of the modern gaming entertainment industry,” the pro-casino group said in a statement posted on its website. “The Citizens of Kentucky can count on an expanded gaming community to operate responsibly and with care for our people.”

Despite the growing support, several lawmakers believe that BR-197 faces a steep uphill climb in the Congress.

One of the factors why the casino measure has not moved forward in Kentucky is the disagreements over the casinos’ location. Social conservatives are exerting pressure on Congress not to allow gambling expansion in the state, while the Kentucky’s influential horse industry wants casinos confined to the tracks.

Other casino bills have been filed in recent years, but Keene said gambling expansion has always failed in the legislature because “there’s not been the political courage to pass it.”

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Top Gaming Industry Salaries of 2017: Which Casino Barons Brought Home the Most Bacon

Casino.org
Top Gaming Industry Salaries of 2017: Which Casino Barons Brought Home the Most Bacon

The gaming industry had a dynamic 2017, but for casino operators, there’s only one true way to count success, and that’s by taking a look at their ledger sheets at the end of the year. The top dogs in the business didn’t get there by being faint of heart, and this year, the industry’s notables took risks and faced their antagonists head-on. The result was hefty compensation all around.

Big money casino industry 2017

Good to be king: Las Vegas Sands Corp CEO Sheldon Adelson got a huge raise, but also pulled out of the Las Vegas Raiders stadium deal. (Image: Getty)

Many of the top names in the sector are billionaires, counting themselves among the richest people on the planet.

Here’s a look at a few of the major executives and owners who made the big bucks in 2017.

Adelson Gets Standard 400 Percent Raise

When it comes to the richest of the rich, there are few who have the vast resources of Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands CEO and chairman has a net worth of approximately $32.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and his piles of cash only got deeper in 2017.

Adelson saw his annual salary increase from $1 million to $5 million, and along with performance-based bonuses, his total compensation package could be worth more than $17 million a year.

But his biggest financial move may have been the one he didn’t end up making. The billionaire dropped out of a bid to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, withdrawing his $650 million in funding for a proposed NFL stadium after saying that the Raiders had left him out of discussions over the arena’s lease agreement.

Wynn Takes Stock Payout, Faces Off Against Frenemy

Steve Wynn also had quite the year, with his biggest windfall coming in January. That’s when Wynn Resorts awarded its CEO with a stock package distribution worth $12.5 million. Wynn immediately sold $5.2 million in stock, providing himself with plenty of spending cash to start the new year.

The casino mogul has other big money stock issues pending, though. Former Wynn Resorts board member Kazuo Okada is suing the company over his 2012 dismissal and the forced redemption of his 20 percent stake in the firm, a move that Okada says wasn’t made by the board because it was in the best interests of the company, but rather on orders from Steve Wynn himself.

Murren, MGM Must Deal with Shooting Aftermath

Another CEO to earn a raise in 2017 was MGM Resorts CEO James Murren. The 54-year-old executive received a new contract in October 2016, and while his base pay remained at $2 million a year, his bonuses and stock awards both increased in April, resulting in a total bump of about 25 percent.

Murren may be hard-pressed to get that kind of raise again in 2018, however. Following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, MGM is facing lawsuits from more than 450 victims. While most damages are likely to be paid by insurers, the legal and public relations ramifications from the shooting will extend into 2018 and beyond.

Frissora Leads Caesars Out of Bankruptcy

On the other hand, Caesars Entertainment President and CEO Mark Frissora reportedly took a pay cut in 2016, though his compensation package of $9.5 million was still more than enough to keep him living large.

That could easily change when his 2017 earnings are announced. Frissora helped Caesars emerge from bankruptcy after a three-year effort, and in October, he spoke to investors about the corporation’s plans to grow their operations not only in Las Vegas, but also in other global destinations like Japan, Brazil, and South Korea.

Northeast, Asia Likely Battlegrounds in 2018

So where will the big money players be focused heading into 2018? Increased competition may be the biggest concern to their respective bottom lines, particularly in the northeastern United States, where new casinos in Massachusetts and Connecticut, along with the introduction of online gambling in Pennsylvania, could put a lot of pressure on markets that are already beginning to feel saturated.

High stakes are at play in Asia as well coming into the new year. Not only will Japan likely grant final approval for the nation’s first integrated resorts, but regulators in Macau are also expected to announce the rules that will govern the renewal of gaming license concessions in the Chinese territory.

Both could lead to fierce competition amongst some of the largest gaming firms in the world, each of which wants to be a leader in these lucrative markets. And you know what that means: bigger payouts for the gambling industries biggest moguls in 2018.

The post Top Gaming Industry Salaries of 2017: Which Casino Barons Brought Home the Most Bacon appeared first on Casino.org.

Criminal-Minded: Bad Boys Who Made Gaming’s Naughty List in 2017

Casino.org
Criminal-Minded: Bad Boys Who Made Gaming’s Naughty List in 2017

The concept of “bad actors” has been part and parcel to casino and gaming worlds since their inception, and the fight to keep these industries clean can be an ongoing struggle. In 2017, we saw powerful online gaming executives, rising social media stars, and nefarious gamblers having to pay the piper for their efforts to achieve ill-gotten gains.

Craig “NepentheZ” Douglas, a “bad boy” of gaming in 2017

YouTube star Craig Douglas, aka “NepentheZ,” was one of two people arrested for inviting minors to gamble on videogames. (Image: YouTube)

Underage GamerGate

The successful prosecution of two YouTubers on charges of promoting and facilitating underage gambling with the use of in-game virtual items was a first in 2017. The UK Gambling Commission secured convictions against Craig “NepentheZ” Douglas and Dylan Rigby in January.

The YouTube stars, who also owned the now-defunct FIFA-coin gambling site FUT Galaxy, had a collective following of more than 1.6 million subscribers, many of whom were underage videogame players. The court saw footage of a 12-year-old boy gambling on FUT Galaxy at the encouragement of Douglas and Rigby on YouTube.

The pair was found guilty of violating the UK Gambling Act 2005 and fined a total of £265,000 ($332,000) for their efforts to promote gambling activities through the sale of in-game virtual items.

Billy Walters’ Big Fall

Legendary Vegas sports bettor Billy Walters also found himself in the dock this year, accused of profiting from illegal trades on Dean Foods stock, using information provided by ex-Dean Foods chairman Tom Davis.

In July, the 71-year-old Walters was found guilty of making “at least $43 million” from insider trading in a trial that entangled golf star Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, agreed to repay the $1 million he made on Dean Foods stock after following Walters’ tips.

In September, he was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $25.4 million fine.

Tom Davis, Degenerate Gambling

Davis, who testified against Walters as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, also proved himself to be a bona fide bad boy of gaming.

He admitted he borrowed almost $1 million from Walters under the pretext of investing in a Texas bank, but confessed to the court that he had spent it instead on gambling and hookers, including blowing $200,000 on one hand of blackjack in 2011 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. He lost.

The Dean Foods honcho and chairman of one of America’s biggest milk-processing companies also confessed to embezzling $100,000 from a golf charity for battered women to fund his gambling habits.

Davis told the court that Walters’ requests for information became “more demanding,” after he became indebted to him. In October, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

David Baazov on Trial

David Baazov, founder and ousted CEO of Amaya Gaming, went on trial earlier this month for financial crimes related to his company’s $4.9 billion acquisition of PokerStars in 2014. It was a coup that transformed his company into one of the biggest online gambling firms in the world, and embroiled him in one of the biggest insider trading scandals in Canadian history.

But was it “his” company at all?

Documents released by the Quebec financial regulator AMF as part of its case against Baazov suggested that he was never the majority shareholder of Amaya. Rather, he was a minority shareholder acting as a nominee, holding as much as 75 percent of Amaya on behalf of his brother, Josh, and their long-time business partner Craig Levett.

Thanks to a previous conviction in the US for telemarketing fraud, a black mark that could have jeopardized Amaya’s (and PokerStars’) gambling licenses across the globe, Josh Baazov plausibly had a reason to hide his ownership.

David Baazov, meanwhile, has vowed to vigorously contest all charges against him

Amaya changed its name to The Stars Group this year, partly to distance itself from the charges of securities fraud levelled in 2016 against its former chairman and CEO, who if found guilty will face significant fines and prison time.

The post Criminal-Minded: Bad Boys Who Made Gaming’s Naughty List in 2017 appeared first on Casino.org.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Casinos Pay Price for Unusually Stormy Year, as Mother Nature Lets Loose in 2017

Casino.org
Casinos Pay Price for Unusually Stormy Year, as Mother Nature Lets Loose in 2017

Casinos across the US and its territories, as well as in Macau, bore the wrath of Mother Nature over the past 12 months. In the end, it was gambling revenues that took the hit, as numerous Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes and typhoons pummeled both the American and Asian gaming markets in 2017.

mother nature casinos damage Macau

Macau was hit hard by mother nature this past fall, with August’s Typhoon Hato causing severe damage. It was but one of a series of catastrophes that left its mark on the casino industry globally. (Image: Anthony Wallace/Getty)

Casino closures, guest room cancellations, and inaccessibility following storm damage were among the factors that caused the industry to feel the pain at the bottom line this past year.

The Thunder Roared

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was hyperactive, with six major Category 3 or stronger storms hitting the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. Over 420 people died, and final damage estimates are predicted to be close to $200 billion across the board.

Harvey

The first major hurricane this year to make landfall in the US was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit Texas and the Houston area in late August. While the hurricane devastated much of southeastern Texas, riverboat casinos located in nearby Lake Charles, Louisiana, were spared.

Despite being docked in Galveston, the Jacks or Better casino cruise ship got lucky. Just 50 miles southeast of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico, the company, not necessarily advisedly, resumed providing gambling tours just days after much of the state endured a Category 4 hurricane.

Hato

Almost at the exact time that Harvey was doing damage in Houston, over 8,000 miles away in Macau, Typhoon Hato was delivering massive blows to China’s special gaming enclave in August.

The storm was the strongest to hit Macau in 53 years. Ten people died, and Hato caused almost $2 billion in damage in South China. The storm closed casinos and caused delays to the MGM Cotai , which is now expected to open its doors in January.

Executives from the six licensed casino companies in Macau, which will begin seeing permits expire as of 2020, stepped up to help aid in the city’s recovery. Combined, the six operators donated $26.7 million to Macau charities. Las Vegas Sands and its founder Sheldon Adelson led the way, with a $12.3 million pledge. Wynn Resorts gave $3.75 million to Macau, and another $3.75 million to Houston’s Harvey, an altruistic move, considering there are no legal land-based casinos in Texas.

US Takes a Hit

Irma

Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that was deemed the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, hit landfall in the US in early September. The storm pummeled towards Florida, but casinos and parimutuel tracks fared well.

Many gambling venues provided electricity and a climate-controlled escape, as power was slow to be restored in the southern part of the steamy and warm Sunshine State.

Maria

The final bad weather chapter in 2017 was devastating. Category 5 Maria targeted Puerto Rico, and made landfall on September 20. The storm caused catastrophic damage, and led to a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands went without fresh water, fuel, electricity, phone service, and other vital basic necessities for weeks.

Casino resorts across the island were closed for days after the storm, but began reopening in the weeks following Maria.

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Betting on Asia: Emerging Casino Markets Brought in Major Industry Players in 2017

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Betting on Asia: Emerging Casino Markets Brought in Major Industry Players in 2017

For gambling operators, emerging casino markets is Asia has created the most sought-after regional market on Earth today. And over the last 12 months, every major casino industry player in the world jockeyed for position in a race to expand the gaming industry’s presence on the planet’s most populous continent.

Asian casino market Japan

Japan’s National Diet worked behind closed doors all year on its integrated resort bill. Outside the chamber, the world’s biggest gambling companies anxiously awaited details on plans for the newest Asian casino market. (Image: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Getty)

Japanese Import

No country garnered more attention this year than Japan. The country has almost 127 million residents, making for the 10th largest national population, who collectively are some of the wealthiest. Nearly two years ago, Japan decided to legalize commercial gambling to grow its tourism industry. But the Land of the Rising Sun is proceeding with caution, granting only two licenses nationwide. The scarcity and exclusivity made pursuing a license in Japan like a quest for the holy grail among the world’s biggest casino conglomerates, companies such as Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts.

After months of waiting, Japan’s National Diet, the government’s legislative body, finally released its integrated casino resorts bill earlier this month.

The two licenses up for grabs will put an integrated casino resort in Osaka and Yokohama. The regulatory legislation restricts casino floors to 15,000 square meters (161,458 square feet), places an effective tax on mass market gaming at 22 percent and VIP play at 12 percent, and sets the minimum gambling age at 20. In an effort to curb a potential spike in problem gambling, the new law would require Japanese citizens to pay an entrance fee to access the casinos.

The official campaigning and pitches for licensure will begin in 2018. In addition to Sands and MGM, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and Hard Rock are among the hopeful, looking to place a winning bid in front of Japanese officials, with designs on a market that some analysts say could generate $40 billion in annual revenue.

Cold to Russia

Currently, China is still the biggest casino market in Asia, even after Macau saw casino wins slashed after the People’s Republic President Xi Jinping included VIP junket companies as targets in an anti-corruption crusade he launched in 2014. As a result, other Asian nations tried to become the next best thing for Chinese high rollers. And Russia was among them, though their efforts seemed to fall short in 2017.

In 2009, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the closure of all casinos and gambling venues in the motherland. Five years later, he approved four specific gambling zones, including one in Vladivostok, which sits between China and the Sea of Japan.

Russia hoped these regions would become tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign travelers, and provide a spark to the economically challenged locales. But international casino companies have shown little interest in investing.

The exception has been Melco Resorts owner Lawrence Ho. The Chinese billionaire is involved with the Tigre de Cristal casino in the Far East Primorsky Krai. Russia planned that zone to become its version of the Las Vegas Strip, but today Tigre is the only casino to have been built in the area.

Philippines Makeover

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is no fan of gambling. In 2017, he ordered the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the country’s gambling regulator that also happened to operate several of the casinos it oversaw, to sell off its land-based assets.

That created a problem for the federal government, as PAGCOR collects more tax revenue than any other Filipino agency other than the country’s IRS. But when the auction opened, few bidders showed up to buy the PAGCOR casinos.

That’s because while commercial casinos, Solaire and City of Dreams, for instance, pay only a 5 percent tax on VIP play and 15 percent on mass market revenue, the Philippines government said it would make up lost revenue by heavily taxing the former PAGCOR venues.

“The revenue stream will still come,” PAGCOR Chairwoman Andrea Domingo said in July. “The government will still earn the money.”

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

How ‘Non-Gaming’ Became a Casino Industry Buzzword in 2017

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How ‘Non-Gaming’ Became a Casino Industry Buzzword in 2017

Casino companies spent a lot of time and effort focused on non-gaming entertainment in 2017, not so much of a surprise after visitor spend on non-gambling activities in 2016, such as hotel stays, dining, dancing, and attending shows, accounted for 55 to 65 percent of casino resort revenues.

non-gaming casino resort Las Vegas Macau

Las Vegas resorts are more committed than ever to their non-gaming features. (Image: Daylight Beach Club/Mandalay Bay)

From Las Vegas to Macau, to regional casinos around the world, non-gaming became a buzzword in the board rooms of numerous gambling and hospitality conglomerates.

Plenty of factors led to gaming bosses deciding to look at non-gaming. Millennials, and their seemingly low interest in playing simple games of chance like slot machines, are one cause. Economic factors, first generated by a worldwide recession in the late 2000s, are also to blame.

But whatever the true root cause, it’s undeniable that in 2017 non-gaming was a key topic in the world of gaming.

Macau Makeover

In Macau, focusing on non-gaming was out of necessity, as resorts sought to become less reliant on high roller play due to People’s Republic President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. After years of gaming revenues growing at exponential rates, topping out at $45 billion in 2013, China began more closely monitoring VIP junket companies that were transporting wealthy mainlanders to the only area of the country where gambling is permitted.

As a result, dozens of junket operators closed shop, and casino companies that had invested billions of dollars in constructing massive five-star luxury resorts downtown and on the Cotai Strip quickly searched for new revenue streams.

Catering to more of the mass market instead of VIPs paid off. “Las Vegasization” became the term referring to resorts overhauling their amenities.

The Las Vegas Sands’ Parisian hotel opened with a water park, shopping center, and half-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower. And the newly opened Wynn Palace gives visitors breathtaking views of the Strip on its “SkyCab” ride.

Mighty Millennial

In the US, the millennial demographic, those born between 1981 and 1997, are beginning to start families and settle down. The 20- and 30-something adult demo has long been a coveted age range for Las Vegas, but the current group isn’t sitting down at the slots at nearly the same rates of their preceding generations.

To keep rooms occupied, restaurants filled, and concert arenas packed, casino resorts have started to look for new gaming concepts. The primary areas include skill-based gaming machines, which combine elements of skill with chance, and esports, also known as competitive video gaming.

Las Vegas has also begun booking younger and hipper residencies. No longer is it just Cher, Celine, and Wayne Newtown gracing Strip marquees, but also millennial-cherished names such as Britney, Mariah, J-Lo, and the Backstreet Boys.

When it comes to bringing new people to Sin City, casinos in Las Vegas were thrown a bone in 2017 through the inclusion of pro sports. The NHL Golden Knights began play at T-Mobile Arena this year, and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders soon will be renamed the Las Vegas Raiders.

OMGM

The most obvious non-gaming movement came from Las Vegas’ biggest casino operator. In September, MGM released an over-the-top marking campaign titled Welcome to the Show.

The one minute commercial spot makes no reference to actual gambling, instead focusing on MGM’s wide array of nightlife, dining, entertainment, and what they call the “Holy Sh*t Business.”

“The world’s leading producer of OMG,” MGM declared.

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Biggest Sports Scandals of 2017: Football Knees, Golf Clubs, and Baller Bribes

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Biggest Sports Scandals of 2017: Football Knees, Golf Clubs, and Baller Bribes

Sports scandals engulfed not only coaches, players, and fans in 2017, but everyone from President Donald Trump and former Wall Street executives, to league front offices and television networks.

sports scandals 2017 NFL kneeling

It divided the players and the country, and the NFL kneeling debate was unquestionably the biggest sports scandal of the year. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

It was a turbulent 12 months, and the stakes were high. The sports world didn’t only revolve around championship games and rivalries, but social injustice, drug addiction, bribery, and more.

Players Take a Knee

Few stories in America made more headlines in 2017 than the NFL kneeling controversy. Protesting social injustices and police brutality against minorities, hundreds of professional football players began refusing to stand for the traditional start-of-game national anthem.

The controversy escalated when President Trump added his Twitter voice to the issue, urging fans to boycott the league and owners to fire players who refused to stand.

Ratings for the NFL subsequently suffered, which also led to a lower handle for Las Vegas oddsmakers, as TV viewer interest began to wane the longer divisiveness over the issue wore on.

Golf Scandals (Seriously)

For a sport where fans typically give a polite clap (save a “mashed potatoes!” yell) after a good shot, golf certainly made its share of shocking headlines in 2017.  The biggest was, of course, Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest.

In May, the 14-time major winner was arrested after he was found asleep at the wheel of his running SUV. Toxicology reports found no alcohol in his system, but a dangerous cocktail of pain medications and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) did show up.

Woods’ absence hurt television ratings, but he did return in late November to competitive golf.

Phil Mickelson also got involved in some bad press through an insider trading scandal. His golf pal Billy Walters, known as the most successful sports bettor in Nevada history, was found guilty of using confidential information provided to him by an indebted gambler to make $43 million in stock profit on Dean Foods.

Lefty had also made about $1 million on the stock tip, but returned the money and was cleared of any wrongdoing.

B-Ball Briber

In September, the FBI brought charges against legendary coach Rick Petino’s Louisville basketball program for its alleged involvement in a “pay to play” bribery scheme with Adidas.

According to federal investigators, an Adidas executive agreed to pay the family of a high school recruit $100,000 and sponsor him once he turned pro, in exchange for his commitment to Louisville. Petino was fired in October, after 16 years with the school.

Speaking of Bribes

Also in September, the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Nuzman, was accused of buying votes for Rio de Janeiro’s successful bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

The accusations, which are still pending, state that Nuzman orchestrated a $2 million payment in 2009 to the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Ultimate Showdown

The fight of the year, or perhaps the decade for casual boxing fans, came in August with the much-hyped Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor spectacle. There was plenty of controversy leading up to the fight, with underdog McGregor accusing Mayweather of having a gambling problem and being unable to pay his tax bills.

More mundane polemics ensued after viewers watching livestreams complained about image quality, after shelling out $99.95 for Showtime’s feed. The premium network later agreed to refund certain purchases made through the Showtime app.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

MGM CEO Jim Murren Says Aftermath of Shooting Showed Las Vegas as Strong Community

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MGM CEO Jim Murren Says Aftermath of Shooting Showed Las Vegas as Strong Community

The October 1 Las Vegas mass shooting was the city’s most horrific day in its history, but MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren says the valley’s response put its strength, unity, and resiliency on full display.

Jim Murren Las Vegas shooting

Jim Murren says the world came to a better understanding of Las Vegas as a place where real people live and work after the outpouring of support for first responders to the October 1 shooting. (Image: CNBC)

Speaking with CNBC this week, Murren said no one in Las Vegas expected tourists to comprehend that the region isn’t just a wild travel destination informally known as Sin City, but also a hometown community for more than two million.

The Other Vegas

“There’s been a perception of Las Vegas as a transient community or a place where people just visit,” the top executive of Nevada’s largest employer stated. “But I’ve known it now for two decades as a different kind of place. I coach little league, and yes, we have churches, mosques, and synagogues.”

“The outside world didn’t really know that, nor did we expect them to,” Murren continued. “But I do think the world saw that. They saw great acts of kindness, courage, and how the community rallied together.”

The Las Vegas shooting garnered 58 fatalities, and hundreds of wounded, all of whom were attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival,

This week, Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg confirmed what we already knew: that all 58 homicides were the result of gunshot wounds. Twenty-one people were shot in the head, 36 died after being hit in the chest area, and one died by a bullet to the leg.

Shooter Stephen Paddock died by suicide after shooting himself in the mouth, Fudenberg noted in his report.

Getting Back in the Game

Murren said the healing process continues in Las Vegas, but added, “We’ve had a good couple months of recovery of our business.” Gaming and hospitality analysts have expressed the view that the Las Vegas shooting won’t have long-term financial impact on tourism.

Murren believes the addition of professional sports teams will further bring the community together. Having a team to root for, he says, “makes Vegas a hometown.”

The Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion franchise in the NHL, began playing at MGM’s half-owned T-Mobile Arena this fall. The team’s surprisingly strong play has them with the third-best record in the entire league.

The Golden Knights began the season with the longest odds (100-1) of winning the Stanley Cup of the NHL’s 31 teams. But today, that line has shrunk to 7-1 at Nevada sportsbooks.

Las Vegas will get its second professional sports team when the Aces begin play in the WNBA next year. MGM Resorts purchased the San Antonio Stars franchise this fall, but delayed the announcement by several weeks, due to the October 1 shooting.

“Sports is a common language. It certainly feels good that we’re going to have another opportunity to bring the community together,” Murren said, regarding the acquisition.

The soon-to-be-former Oakland Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas for the start of the 2020 NFL season. The team’s $1.9 billion stadium is being constructed west of Mandalay Bay on a 62-acre plot.

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A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college
UNLV’s latest building gives its world-renowned Harrah’s College of Hospitality a world-class facility. The modern-industrial style interior is designed to feel like you are in one of the properties on the Las Vegas Strip because university officials wanted students to feel like they were in the environment they are preparing to ...

Goa casino that ran aground relaunching on different ship

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Goa casino that ran aground relaunching on different ship

goa-golden-globe-floating-casinoDon’t look now, but the operator of the Goa floating casino that ran aground earlier this year has struck a deal to set sail on another vessel.

This week, the Times of India reported that Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd would be transferring its gaming operations from the currently unseaworthy MV Lucky 7 to the MV San Domino, a vessel that has been moored for the last eight years awaiting a casino license.

If you’re just joining us, the MV Lucky 7 ran aground in July after Golden Globe ignored warnings about launching the vessel during monsoon season. Goa officials had only just approved the MV Lucky 7’s license in March, allowing it to join the other floating casinos plying their trade on the Mandovi River.

It took several months, but the MV Lucky 7 was finally shifted from its sandbar and is currently under repair. Rather than let its license sit idle, Golden Globe has applied to shift its operations to the MV San Domino.

The San Domino is owned by the Essel Group, which had hoped to launch gaming operations aboard the ship under the Casino Maharaja brand. However, while the ship is already kitted out for casino operations, it has yet to take a single wager due to Essel Group’s inability to secure a Goa gaming license.

An unidentified Golden Globe director (hopefully not the one pictured in red) told the Times that the company had leased the San Domino for one year, and the plan was to launch operations “sometime in mid-January 2018, probably after we compete the interiors.” The state government has been asked to approve Golden Globe using the MV Lucky 7’s jetty as a mooring point.

The MV Lucky 7’s launch was highly controversial, given that Goa’s government has been trying to run all six floating casinos permanently aground, as part of the state’s plan to transition to an all land-based gaming market by 2020.

The state had promised to reveal its new casino policy this month, but Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Thursday that, while the amended Goa Gambling Act is done, it now won’t be issued until the new year, apparently due to the need to run it by his cabinet ministers.

The shift onshore will only grow the local casino industry, according to Anil Malani, CEO of Delta Corp, which operates four Goa casinos (three floating, one land-based). Local media quoted Malani saying (essentially) that shipboard casinos were a pain in the ass to operate and that he was looking forward to the landward journey.

Malani said Delta’s current Goa operations were “completely strained for capacity” but the water-borne constraints “will eventually fall” once the move onshore is complete. In the meantime, Malani is excited at the possibility that Delta “could be building maybe, five times, 10 times next year. So we can actually plan for years to come.”

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Maine Casino Effort Spent $8.4 Million to Lose, Receive Record $500K Fine from State Ethics Commission

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Maine Casino Effort Spent $8.4 Million to Lose, Receive Record $500K Fine from State Ethics Commission

Residents of Maine strongly rejected a casino question presented to voters last month, with less than 17 percent endorsing a measure that would’ve allowed one specific person to build a casino in York County.

Maine casino Shawn Scott

Shawn Scott, conceding after voters answered “no” to his Maine casino question in November. (Image: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)

Shawn Scott is notorious in Maine for successfully convincing voters in 2003 to allow his Bangor horse racetrack to incorporate a casino, only to quickly sell the gaming rights to Penn National for $51 million and skip town. He was back for another payday this year, but this time around, voters didn’t fall for his tricks.

Democratic Process

Through a political action committee called “Progress for Maine,” largely funded by Scott’s offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands, Horseracing Jobs Fairness spent $8.4 million, the entity sponsoring the York County question. But the measure won just 57,538 votes, compared to 286,847 against, meaning the campaign spent about $146 per favorable vote.

Question 1 asked voters whether they wanted to “allow a certain company to operate table games and/or slot machines in York County.” But the fine print mandated that only “an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County” would qualify for the license.

That left Shawn Scott as the only qualified potential applicant. On election night last month, Scott admitted, “This didn’t go our way.”

In Maine, citizens can initiate legislation through petitions. Once petitioners obtain the necessary validated signatures (61,000 in 2017), the issue goes before the State Legislature. Should the lawmaking body fail to enact what the petition sets out to accomplish, the proposition can be put before voters for legalization.

Buying Votes?

Opposition included controversial Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), who labeled Shawn Scott “Shady Shawn.” Oxford Casino owners Churchill Downs spent almost $700,000 persuading voters to reject the ballot question.

The funding of Scott’s Maine casino effort drew the attention of the state’s Ethics Commission, which said Horseracing Jobs Fairness failed to properly disclose who exactly was endowing the group.

Lisa Scott, a Miami realtor, initially claimed to be the primary benefactor, but it was later revealed that Shawn Scott and his offshore businesses were funneling the money to Lisa, who then donated to Horseracing Jobs Fairness.

That prompted the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to fine Lisa Scott and lobbyist Cheryl Timberlake a record $500,000 just days before the Nov. 8 election.

The $500,000 penalty placed against Lisa Scott and Timberlake was ten times more than the Ethics Commission’s previous record fine. Yesterday, the state agency unanimously upheld the decision.

That will clear the way for attorneys representing Scott and Timberlake to formally appeal the penalty in state court.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017