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Inside Gaming: NJ Lawmakers Send Atlantic City Rescue Bill to Christie; SkyCity to Expand in Adelaide

Atlantic City
  • NJ legislators send package to Chris Christie designed to prevent Atlantic City from facing default.

  • SkyCity gets approval to expand Adelaide Casino; JACK rebranding of Ohio casinos underway.

This week's installment of Inside Gaming reports the latest development in the battle over Atlantic City where New Jersey legislators have voted to rescue the city from default, tells of SkyCity's plans to expand its casino in Adelaide, and gives an update on the name changes to Ohio casinos.

New Jersey Lawmakers Pass Atlantic City Rescue Legislation, Send to Christie

On Thursday New Jersey lawmakers passed measures designed to keep Atlantic City from running out of money, with the state Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly voting in favor of legislation to grant the city temporary loans to avoid facing default. Governor Chris Christie still has to sign the legislation in order for it to take effect.

The legislation comes after several months' worth of heated battling over the fate of the state's gaming center, a fight that at one point saw Christie supporting a bill to allow the state to take over Atlantic City's finances altogether.

The bill currently on Christie's desk stops short of that extreme, reports ABC News, granting Atlantic City temporary loans of $30 million for the rest of this year, then another $15 million in 2017. Beyond that, the city "would be able to get at least $120 million each year from casinos under a payment-in-lieu of taxes bill that would last for 10 years."

Not included in the legislation that was passed were provisions for the state to have taken over control of the city's finances, including giving the state the power to break union contracts. However, the state could still potentially "wield that power, but only after its Community Affairs department determines that the plan Atlantic City comes up with is not workable."

"It's huge," said Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian who had strongly opposed the state-takeover option supported by some lawmakers and Christie. "We want people to know the shore is open for business."

The news comes a couple of weeks after New Jersey regulators reported the city's eight casinos have shown a revenue increase year-over-year during the first four months of 2016. The $812.8 million in gambling revenue taken in by the casinos from Jan.-Apr. 2016 represents a 4.4% increase over the same period in 2015.

On Thursday Christie "stopped short of saying whether he will sign the bill, but said he will decide quickly."

Read more about the impasse, the breakthrough, and what may happen next on the Boardwalk at ABC News.

SkyCity Gets Approval for Adelaide Expansion

As we reported in this space last month, the focus of the gaming industry in Australia recently concerned The Star Entertainment Group possibly taking over SkyCity Entertainment Group, with the latter having indicated a willingness to enter such talks.

No new developments have occurred on that front, but there was news this week regarding SkyCity's planned-for expansion of its Adelaide Casino being given the go-ahead by the South Australian Goverment. The expansion of the casino — the only one with a gaming license from the South Australian Government — is expected to commence during the second half of 2016.

The Adelaide is one of five casinos operated by SkyCity in both Australia and New Zealand (where SkyCity is the only casino operator at present).

Costs for the new Adelaide expansion will be split between SkyCity and the South Australian government, reports NZ-based Scoop. SkyCity's interim CEO John Mortensen, currently in the position after Nigel Morrison's eight-year tenure as CEO officially ended late last month, expressed enthusiasm over the agreement.

"We're delighted that we've got agreement on the first phase of work on what will be an amazing rejuvenation of the Riverbank Precinct," said Mortensen. "SkyCity's Adelaide Casino expansion will bring high-net-worth visitors to South Australia, providing a significant boost to the tourism industry."

Go get the Scoop for more on SkyCity's plans in Adelaide.

Goodbye Horseshoe, Hello JACK

Back in February we shared how Rock Gaming LLC had indicated a plan to rebrand as JACK Entertainment LLC, a move that also would mean changing the names of its three properties in Ohio, the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, and the Thistledown Racino in North Randall, as well as the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit.

The renaming process has begun in earnest now, with the Cleveland casino's rechristening as JACK Cleveland Casino having taken place earlier this month. Now the Cincinnati property is going through the change, which may require the casino to close temporarily in order to create new signage and decor. As reports, the new JACK logo has already appeared on the 80-foot tower in front of the casino, viewable from the nearby I-71 interstate.

The transition is expected to be completed in full by June 9 when the casino officially becomes JACK Cincinnati Casino. The Thistledown Racino, meanwhile, became the JACK Thistledown Racino in March, while the Detroit property awaits its name change later this year.

The rebranding functions to help Rock Gaming distance itself from Caesars Entertainment Corp. after having acquired from Caesars its 20% share in the Ohio properties last year. The transition also involves the properties moving away from Caesars' Total Rewards program to a new loyalty program, dubbed ClubJACK.

The company's chairman and founder Dan Gilbert also operates Quicken Loans Inc. and is the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise. Gilbert began to assume day-to-day operations over the company shortly after the buy-out of Caesars in late 2015.

See for more on the changing skylines in Ohio, jack.

Photo: "Absecon Inlet Seawall & Boardwalk Reconstruction," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Creative Commons Attributions 2.0 Generic.

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