Inside Gaming: Irene Soaks AC's Summer Revenue, MA Casino Bill Progress, and More
In case you were lost in a fault line or too busy canoeing down a street to follow the latest gaming news, we've got it for you right here. Hurricane Irene didn't cause much structural damage to Atlantic City's casinos, but the Gaming-enforced weekend shutdown cost the financially flailing casinos more than $40 million. A little to the north, Connecticut casino executives wished a natural disaster would swallow the Massachusetts legislators who finally agreed on the details of a bill to allow three resort-style casinos and a slot parlor in Massachusetts. And MGM took to the courts to bring man-made disaster to an online poker site it says is violating its Gold Strike trademark.
Irene Washes Away Key Summer Weekend for Atlantic City Casinos
Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc up and down the eastern seaboard over the weekend, and Atlantic City's bank accounts were squarely in its sights. All 11 or the city's casino resorts closed from Friday night until Monday, only the third time since casinos opened there 33 years ago that all were closed at the same time. Late summer weekends are important sources of revenue for Atlantic City. Executives estimate that the total washout of the last one before Labor Day weekend cost between $40 and $45 million in gaming revenues.
Irene did little damage to the shoreline, and other than some minor flooding, all of the casinos escaped physically intact. Yet with their casinos already struggling financially, executives up and down the boardwalk lamented the weather. "It's horrible," Don Marrandino, president of Caesars, Bally's, Harrah's Resort, and Showboat told the Press of Atlantic City. Caesars Entertainment Inc. chairman and CEO Gary Loveman said that lost revenue at those locations, all Caesars properties, totaled more than $25 million. Tropicana CEO Tony Rodio said the weekend cost his property around $4 million.
"This was a major hit financially," said Dennis Gomes, CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel. "It was a $3 million loss for Resorts. You can't recoup it. We had an earthquake, tornadoes, and now a hurricane. What's next, pestilence?"
Some casino management was concerned that customers would think that Atlantic City had been hit hard since the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement required all of the casinos to remain closed until Monday morning. Marketing departments have been busy putting out press releases and offering post-Irene promotions in the hopes of filling their hotel rooms and gaming floor before the Labor Day rush. New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno stopped by the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort on Monday to "remind residents and tourists that the Jersey Shore is a great place to visit following Hurricane Irene," according to a press release issued by her office.
Massachusetts Legislators Agree on Proposal for Four State Gaming Properties
Massachusetts took a major step toward legalizing casino gambling last week when Governor Deval Patrick and state House and Senate leaders agreed to a proposal that would license three Las Vegas-style casinos and one slot parlor in the state. After three years of political infighting, all sides seem to have reached an agreement in order create jobs and make up some of the state's $1.8 billion budget shortfall. While Massachusetts leaders have finally agreed on the terms of a bill, it still must be approved by the Legislature.
The bill calls for three casino licenses to be auctioned for a minimum of $85 million each and require developers to invest at least $500 million per hotel-casino. The fourth license, to be sold for upwards of $25 million, would allow the operation of a slot parlor with up to 1,250 machines. Massachusetts would tax 25 percent of the casinos' revenues and 40 percent of the slot parlor's intake. The slot parlor would have to set aside an additional nine percent to subsidize the horse-racing industry, which has been lobbying against added competition from local casinos. All of the properties would be open 24 hours a day and be smoke-free. They could serve free alcohol but must be dry from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The bill gives the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe preference for securing one of the licenses but only gives the tribe one year to find land, win community approval, and negotiate a deal with the governor before the state opens the license to competitive bidding. And it could get very competitive. Caesars Entertainment already has a deal with the owner of the Suffolk Downs racetrack to manage a casino if they secure a a license. Las Vegas Sands Corp. has also demonstrated interest. Gary Loveman, Caesars chairman, and Sheldon Adelson, Sands chairman, both live in the Boston area and have political ties to the state.
Analysts say the Massachusetts proposal could have a positive impact on Las Vegas businesses in addition to those seeking operating licenses. Four new gaming properties could create a need for up to 10,000 slot machines, which is good news for gaming equipment providers like International Game Technology. Table game suppliers like Shuffle Master Gaming could also benefit. Those poised to lose the most from the construction of Massachusetts casinos are the two Indians casinos in neighboring Connecticut. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods both draw close to 35 percent of their revenues from Massachusetts residents.
MGM Sues Poker Site over Gold Strike Trademark
MGM Resorts International filed a federal lawsuit last Thursday against WorldPokerRewardsClub.com Co. Inc. and Washington resident John George alleging trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and unfair competition. The suit claims that the defendant's websites goldstrikepoker.com and goldstrikepoker.net infringe on MGM's trademark of the name attached to its Gold Strike hotels in Jean, Nevada, and Tunica, Mississippi.
WorldPokerRewardsClub.com Co. owns the subscription-based online poker club now called Gold Rush Poker, billed as "America's first 3-D poker site." Users pay $19.95 a monthl to play on the Atlantis Solutions-operated site.
According to the suit, attorneys for MGM asked the defendant to voluntarily transfer the domain names to MGM in July. The suit says that George agreed to change the site's name to Gold Rush Poker but insisted that MGM would have to buy the domain names. After being contacted by MGM, George filed applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark "Gold Strike Poker" and "Goldstrikepoker.com," according to the suit.
"Defendants were and are attempting to frustrate or divert Internet traffic intended for the trademark owner and its Gold Strike hotel casinos," the lawsuit charges. It asserts counts of cybersquatting and unfair competition in addition to trademark infringement.
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*Photo courtesy of Associated Press at WSJ.com.