This week's installment of Inside Gaming begins on the boardwalk at Atlantic City where the Showboat reopens (as a hotel only) after being closed for nearly two years and the strike of Trump Taj Mahal workers continues. Meanwhile legislators in the Philippines look to make it less easy for money-launderers to use casinos to make their transactions, and a group of roulette-cheaters get nabbed in Iowa.
Nearly Two Years After Closing, Showboat Reopens Sans Casino
After shutting its doors and ceasing operations nearly two years ago, the Showboat Atlantic City reopens today albeit as a hotel only and without the casino that had been part of the complex for the 27-plus years it had previously been open.
The Showboat was the second of four hotel-casinos located on the famed boardwalk of Atlantic City to close in 2014, leaving eight up and running. Then owned by Caesars Entertainment, the Showboat's closure came amid failed attempts to sell the property. A sale finally took place in December 2014 when Stockton University purchased it for $18 million, then it was sold again to the developer Bart Blatstein for $23 million in January of this year.
As The Press of Atlantic City reports, the 852-room hotel will begin taking guests this afternoon, with the first online bookings having already been made this week.
Stockton University had planned to convert the property into a residential campus, but problems arose thanks to deed restrictions placed on the property. A clause in the original sale from Caesars to Stockton forbid the new owners from operating the property as a casino, but neighboring Trump Taj Mahal evoked an earlier agreement that had required its being run as a casino.
"Caught in the middle, Stockton sold to Blatstein," The Press of Atlantic City explains.
Both Showboat representatives and others are expressing cautious optimism at the reopening, hoping it heralds a larger revival of the tourist destination. The eight remaining hotel-casinos did enjoy an overall revenue gain to start 2016, with six of the eight seeing year-over-year increases for the first third of the year and only Caesars Atlantic City and the Trump Taj Mahal declining.
For more on the Showboat's return, visit The Press of Atlantic City.
Trump Taj Mahal Workers' Strike Reaches One Week
Meanwhile right next door to the Showboat at the Trump Taj Mahal, the mood is decidedly less upbeat as nearly 1,000 workers enter the second week of their strike. The carrying of picket signs and demonstrations continue in front of the hotel-casino, with no obvious end to the work stoppage in sight.
We reported here last week the start of the strike, begun to coincide with the Fourth of July weekend. Cooks, housekeepers, and other employees belonging to the UNITE Here union began the strike in response to the cutting of health benefits and ongoing low wages.
As we noted last week, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump no longer owns the Trump Taj Mahal, despite the fact that the property continues to bear his name. Even so, as The Philadelphia Business Journal reports, the ongoing strike has been politicized thanks in part to a visit to Atlantic City this week by the presumptive Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, with parallels between Trump and new owner (and Trump friend and supporter) Carl Icahn being drawn by the strikers.
"Donald Trump and Carl Icahn have done everything they can to suck money out of the property at the expense of the people who do the work," declared UNITE Here Local 54 president Bob McDevitt in a statement.
According to the Associated Press, the last strike by Local 54 workers was back in 2004 and lasted 34 days.
For more on the strike thus far and the uncertain future for both the strikers and the Trump Taj Mahal, see The Philadelphia Business Journal.
Lawmakers in Philippines Seek to Curtail Money-Laundering Vulnerabilities
This week lawmakers in the Philippines made clear their concerns with vulnerabilities in the country's gaming industry, particularly with regard to money-laundering, by the introduction of legislation designed to lower casinos' reporting threshold for transactions to the equivalent of $3,200 USD.
Currently casinos in the Philippines are exempt from the country's Anti-Money Laundering Act, but bills introduced both in the lower legislative house and the senate seek to have that exemption removed. The senate bill further would remove exemptions from real estate brokers, art dealers and sellers of motor vehicles, and other "covered persons" as currently designated by the AMLA, GGRAsia reports.
The senate bill was filed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, formerly director general of the Philippine National Police. According to Lacson, casinos are "exposed to the raging threats of money laundering," providing an "attractive" means for the undetected moving of large sums.
The bills come in the wake of an online theft of the equivalent more than $81 million USD from the Bank of Bangladesh in February of this year. That event was specifically highlighted in a press release from the senate which noted the heist exposed "vulnerabilities in curtailing money laundering schemes in the Philippines, as a sum of the laundered money was moved to the casino industry through junket operators."
Testimony uncovered that approximately three-fourths of the $81 million that had been stolen made its way via numerous transactions into Manila casinos. "There the money mostly vanished in exchange for gaming chips, it was said during the hearings" conducted in the senate this spring.
For more on the proposed bill, visit GGRAsia.
Council Bluffs Roulette Cheaters Caught and Charged
Last week we shared the story of a group of cheaters in Singapore being caught and jailed. The group had used smartphones to decode and analyze data from electronic slot machines, using the information to place winning wagers.
A less sophisticated cheating scheme occurring at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino roulette tables was also recently discovered and thwarted, with the perpetrators earning felony charges as a result.
A floor supervisor, a dealer, and a patron have each been charged with conspiring to steal over $20,000 from the casino over the course of several weeks in February and March. According to The Des Moines Register, "the three men worked together to move chips at the roulette table onto winning numbers, along with other cheating moves, which allowed the patron to earn thousands of dollars illegally each time," with the trio then splitting the money afterwards.
Jonathan Rumery (the supervisor), Jonathan Waugh (the dealer/croupier), and Cody Schroeder (the patron) have each been charged with felonies with their court cases now pending.
"Casino management became aware of the suspicious behavior after a 'concerned patron' complained in a customer service survey that a casino dealer 'was blatantly cheating for a guest,' according to the criminal complaint," explains the Register.
A review of surveillance videos confirmed the suspicions, with subsequent interviews with the suspects and review of text messages between the accused further substantiating the conspiracy.
Read more at The Des Moines Register.
Photo: “taj mahal” (adapted), Javier Rapoport. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.