Small Nuggets of News

Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein, whose Provence casino proposal is one of the four remaining contestants for the second license in the city, told the WHYY News channel that he is frustrated with how long the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is dragging out the approval process. With more than a year passed since all the applications were in, and five months since the original projected decision date in April, Blatstein—who recently made an unrelated deal to purchase the Pier Shops at Caesars in Atlantic City—said he believes “there are forces trying to keep the other casino license from going out, and that is the frustration. I do believe there is a lobbyist being paid to kill the license.”  •  The first legal poker tables in the city of Philadelphia were delivered to the SugarHouse Casino last week. The 24 tables will be featured in an interim poker room while the casino’s expansion is ongoing, and will debut a $2.9 million permanent poker room slated to open next year. Poker is part of a $164 million expansion program the casino began in July. The permanent poker room will generate 100 new jobs and $1.8 million in taxes for the city.  •  Sun International has opened a casino at the Trump Ocean Club Tower in the Panama City suburb of Punta Pacifica. The US$105 million Ocean Sun Casino features a public gaming area on the first floor and a Premium Casino for VIPs on the 66thfloor, which also houses six luxury suites.  •  A bill has been introduced in the Norwegian parliament to rescind a ban on live poker in the country, allowing games to be played at home and permitting public poker tournaments of no more than 10 players with a maximum buy-in of 1,000 krone (US$150). Observers say the reforms could lead to a more liberal approach to competition in the online market, currently controlled by state-sponsored monopoly Norsk Tipping.  •  Belgium’s new government plans to authorize two more casinos, bringing the number of venues in the country to 11. Authorities also are considering a revision in existing laws that will treat poker players’ winnings as “professional income” and therefore subject to income tax.  •  Sikkim has become the first state in India to license online gaming, granting an authorization to run internet games to Best & Co, a subsidiary of Indian lottery company Future Gaming Solutions. Two more licenses will be awarded soon, according to news reports.  •  A customer at Horseshoe Casino Cleveland was arrested after making a comment, apparently in jest, to a dealer that he was out gambling because his wife came back from West Africa infected with Ebola. Police arrested 60-year-old Emmanual Smith at his home after the casino identified him. The table he had played at was shut down as a precaution while police investigated, later finding out that his wife was neither a nurse as the main claimed, nor had he or is wife traveled to Africa. Smith is charged with inducing panic, a fifth-degree felony.  • The Newport Grand racino in Rhode Island has gone to court to stop what it says are campaign finance abuses by an anti-gaming group battling this November’s referendum to add table games to the state’s two racinos. The casino is seeking an order preventing the group from accepting campaign donations until the group reveals information on its donors under state Board of Election rules. David Prentiss, an attorney for casino proponents, told reporters the racino is abusing the legal process, and that he plans to file a counter-suit.  •  The U.K. Gambling Commission has confirmed that Trisigma B.V. has been approved as test house for the complete range of U.K. gambling categories. This follows the successful completion of the two-stage approval process which involved satisfying the integrity and independence checks, and successfully obtaining ISO 17025 accreditation to cover the scope of the commission’s technical standards and specifications from an internationally recognized accreditation body.  •  Pennsylvania may turn to casinos to take up the task of collecting overdue child support payments from deadbeat parents. Following a recent national trend in which states force casinos to withhold winnings from patrons with outstanding child support obligations, the Pennsylvania Senate intends to study the feasibility of implementing a system to intercept delinquent child-support payments in its 12 casinos. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee will study how states such as Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Louisiana collect past-due child-support payments from gambling winnings.  •  On January 13, just after midnight, developer Lorenzo Doumani will implode the old Clarion hotel casino on Convention Center Drive in Las Vegas. On the site, Doumani will build a mixed-use resort that could cost from $500 million to $1 billion, according to the Las Vegas Sun.  ?  Twenty of the 100 top-grossing restaurants in the U.S. are in Las Vegas, making Sin City second only to New York City when it comes to good eats. According to Restaurant Business magazine, Tao at the Venetian was No. 1 for sales last year, raking in $64.6 million. Its sister Lavo next door at Palazzo was fifth with $24 million in sales.  ?  Celebrity chef Bobby Flay is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace. Earlier this month, Flay hosted an anniversary dinner at the restaurant, then had cake with the staff.  ?  The New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council and the would-be developer of Traditions Resort & Casino have reached a labor peace agreement that makes the project eligible for a state gaming license. The New York Gaming Commission made such agreements a prerequisite of doing business in the Empire State.  •  The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin is shutting down its “electronic poker room” after a judge ruled the machines to be Class III gaming not covered under the tribe’s compact with the state. The PokerPro machines were installed at the Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison location where Class III gaming is not permitted. The tribe is appealing the ruling.  • Indiana’s Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center announced that it has opened a new gaming terrace that will allow for smoking. The terrace has its own entrance from the gaming floor and includes 82 video lottery terminals (VLTs) along with beverage service and other amenities. The new addition is the first of its kind in Cincinnati and will allow guests who prefer to smoke the opportunity to enjoy the gaming experience at Belterra Park. The gaming terrace will be open 24 hours a day, weather permitting.  •  The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services says that despite the state having four casino resorts and seven racinos that have opened in the last few years, this has not increased the incidence of problem gaming. Scott Anderson, coordinator of the program, attributes this to the fact that the state became proactive long before the first ca
sino broke ground. “There is nothing going on that is alerting us or alarming us,” he said.  •  The Indianhead Mountain Ski Resort in Upper Michigan has announced that it is prepared to partner with the Lac Vieux Desert tribe to create a casino and conference center near Ironwood. Proponents say that a casino combined with a ski resort would be something not seen before. It could, they saw, create 200 jobs.  The area has a high unemployment rate. The land has not been put into trust. The tribe could operate such a casino, but only if the state and federal governments agree.