Turning Japanese

Japan’s integrated resort bill, passed December 14, is the first step to an estimated multibillion-dollar gaming industry. There are still many questions yet to be answered such as the location of the casinos, the tax rate and the ownership structure. And the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe (l.), has taken a hit in public opinion polls since the bill passed, and some question how that will influence the development of casinos in Japan.

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WEEKLY FEATURE: Trump & Gaming Perfect Together?

AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman says having a former casino owner as president (Donald Trump shown at the opening of Trump Taj Mahal in 1990) will be a positive for the gaming industry, and pledges new efforts on issues important to the industry. Legalized sports betting is right at the top of the AGA agenda for President Trump, he says.

Duterte Cracks Down

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (l.) has ordered his government to seize all the gaming assets of Jack Lam, who fled the country last month after an alleged illegal online casino was found operating at his Fontana Casino. In addition, the president has doubled-down on his proposed ban on iGaming in announcing his 2017 budget.

Brazil Gaming Bill Takes a Step Back

Brazil gaming legislation, which has been in the pipeline in some form for 25 years, has been sent back from the Senate to the lower house for further debate, even though it has already been passed. The current bill was drafted by Senator Ciro Nogueira (l.) in 2014.

Judge Rejects Florida's Request

The state of Florida recently requested that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle reconsider his November 9 ruling allowing the Seminole Tribe to continue to offer blackjack (l.) at its casinos. The state wanted the judge to shut down the games, but Hinkle said the “original opinion correctly analyzes the issues.”

ASF Moves Into Queensland

The Chinese-owned ASF Consortia and director, Louis Chien (l.), has unveiled plans to build a $3 billion integrated casino resort at the Southwest Split in Queensland, Australia. The casino may be run by James Packer’s Crown Resorts, which lost a bid to develop a casino Brisbane last year.

Baazov Ends Amaya Bid

Amaya Inc.’s founder David Baazov (l.) announced he has ended talks on his $4.1 billion bid to take Amaya private saying some shareholders in the company were seeking too high a price. Baazov made the bid in November. Including debt and transaction costs, the deal was valued at $6.7 billion.

Indiana Gaming in Turmoil

Indiana's casino industry is bracing for the impact of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians' Four Winds Casino in South Bend, opening in 2018. A recent report showed in the tribal casino's first five years, existing casinos could lose $800 million in revenue, and the state could lose $354 million in taxes. But what about expanding gaming in Indiana? State Senator Jon Ford (l.) thinks it’s a good idea.

Virtual Reality, a Looming Game Changer

Forget eSports, social casinos or skill games, virtual reality and augmented reality could be the future of the gaming industry. Already the darling of millennials, VR/AR should liven up a flat casino gaming landscape in the near future.

Win Systems Acquires Gold Club

Win Systems has acquired Gold Club, the Slovenia-based company that has been one of the leaders in the electronic table game market in Europe. Dario Zutel (l.), executive chairman of Win Systems, says he’s committed to delivering “high-quality solutions” to Win’s customers.

Judge Rules Indian Online Bingo Unlawful

Operating an online bingo site at the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel reservation violates the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) a federal judge ruled last week. The tribe tried to be the first in California to operate online gaming.

FANTINI’S FINANCE: Fond Goodbye to 2016

The year is winding to a close, with a bonus for the gaming industry: casino legalization in Japan. Let’s remember what other gifts were delivered for gaming long before Christmas.

ASIAN GAMING More

Macau Ends Year on a Positive Note

Macau can head confidently into the new year, say analysts at Morgan Stanley. The team predicts that gross gaming revenues will rise 10 percent in 2017, up from their previous estimate of 2 percent, and more IRs will open to join the two that opened in 2016, Wynn Palace and Sands China’s Parisian (l.).

Okada Manila Preview Begins

Okada Manila (l.), the $2.4 billion integrated resort from Japanese pachinko magnate Kazuo Okada, kicked off with a glitzy preview event December 21. The official grand opening is set for the first quarter of 2017.

Macau, U.S. Sign Tax Pact

Macau’s Economy Minister Leong Vai Tac and Consul General Kurt Tong (l.) of the United States have signed an agreement that will require Macau banks and other financial bodies to inform the U.S. Internal Revenue Service about bank accounts held by American citizens.

Nagaland Launches Online

The Indian state of Nagaland has issued its first online gaming licenses. The first license was awarded to Khelo 365. Licenses also went to Club Empire, Poker High and Pokabunga.

Trouble for Imperial Pacific

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez (l.) has asked the federal government to issue a warrant to inspect the Imperial Pacific Resort construction project on the island of Saipan in association with the alleged death of a worker.

MQ Tech: No Naga Partnership

Malaysian investment firm MQ Technology Bhd says its partner in a $50 million casino and theme park in Prey Veng is Cambodia Resort and Entertainment, not Cambodian gaming giant NagaCorp.

Bangladesh Court Considers Club Games

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh will not rule immediately on the legality of wagering among private club members. Until a formal decision is made, those games may continue.

EUROPEAN GAMING More

York Wants to Lower Max Stakes

Council members in the UK city of York have called for maximum stakes in high street gaming machines to be reduced from £100 to £2. Officials are concerned about the spread of fixed odds betting terminals.

Poland’s Lower House Passes New Gambling Act

The Lower House of the Polish Parliament has passed a new Gambling Act designed to combat illegal online gambling in the country and increase revenue from legal gambling. The act also aims to increase player protection and underage gambling restrictions. The act also expands the amount of games that can be offered online.

GLOBAL GAMING More

OLG, Gateway Casinos Sign 20-Year Deal

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment of Vancouver will take over daily operations at nine OLG casinos in north and southwest Ontario under a new 20-year deal, which also includes options on two new casino developments. CEO Tony Santo (l.) says the company will work with the host communities to build the brands. Currently Gateway operates 18 gaming properties throughout western Canada.

Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill Interested in Tatts Sports Betting Assets

Stemming from the Pacific Consortium’s $5.5 billion bid for Australia’s Tatt’s Group, a report surfaced that UK bookmakers Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill are interested in acquiring the group’s sports betting assets if the deal goes through. The Australian newspaper reported that the consortium’s bid would split off Tatts Group’s wagering assets for a possible sale.

Xenophon v. Pokies: The Next Round

Senator Nick Xenophon (l.) will continue his war on pokies in 2017. The Australian senator has pledged to bring pokie machine manufacturers as well as corporate retailer Woolworths to task about their support for higher stakes.

ONLINE GAMING More

November Bitcoin Trading Sets Record

Bitcoin trading reportedly set a monthly record in November as 174.million Bitcoins were traded. The high trading was attributed to Chinese investors using Bitcoins to purchase U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, the Philippines is reportedly considering regulating virtual currencies.

Group Cautions Swiss On Online Gambling Blocks

A technology federation is warning Swiss officials that moves under consideration to block illegal online gambling sites in the county could backfire and threaten online security. The move could also lead to the blocking of sites not involved in online gaming, the group said.

GVC Launches New Pro Games

Blackjack Pro and European Roulette Pro recently were simultaneously launched by GVC for regulated markets on traditional desktops and online via mobile apps and browsers. Both are available through GVC's bwin, PartyCasino and PartyPoker casino brands and feature a contemporary design with an intuitive user interface.

BGT To Provide More Terminals to Stan James

Best Gaming Technology will supply 83 additional widescreen terminals into the new Stan James shops, the company announced. Stan James officials said the new terminals were needed after the acquisition of new shops stemming from the Ladbrokes, Coral merger.

Betfred Completes Refinancing

Betfred has completed a £195 million refinancing package ahead of its acquisition of 322 retail betting shops from Ladbrokes Coral.

BetConstruct Receives Gaming License in Romania

BetConstruct has been granted a software provider's license from the Romanian National Gambling Office. The license means BetConstruct’s software can be used by licensed online gambling sites in the country.

UNITED STATES GAMING More

Pro Sports Leagues, NCAA Respond to New Jersey’s Sports Betting Appeal

The four major sports leagues and the NCAA have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing New Jersey’s appeal to allow sports betting. The leagues and NCAA have been in opposition to the state’s attempts to get around a federal ban on sports betting for several years and have sued to stop sports betting legalization in the state.

South Carolina to Consider Gambling to Benefit Roads

South Carolina state Rep. Todd Rutherford (l.) recently pre-filed a bill similar to one he introduced last year that would ask voters to amend the state constitution to allow casinos and betting on horse racing and professional sports. Gambling revenue would fund road maintenance and repair.

New Jersey CRDA Braces for Loss of Casino Funds

The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is about to lose its casino redevelopment funds, forcing the authority to develop a new role in the city. Redevelopment funds assessed against Atlantic City casinos will now be used to pay down the city’s municipal debt. CRDA has funded more than $2.1 billion in redevelopment projects, including formulating a master plan (l.) in New Jersey over the past 30 years.

Harrah's Will Close Tunica Casino

Harrah's Tunica Casino will close June 2, 2017 unless Caesars Entertainment can find a buyer. The company cited increased competition for "declines in business levels" and said it will help Harrah's 1,300 employees find new jobs. Caesars also operates Horseshoe Tunica and Tunica Roadhouse Hotel and Casino.

Packer Quits Las Vegas―Again

James Packer’s Crown Resorts is pulling out of its investment in the planned Alon resort casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s the third go-round in Las Vegas for Packer (l.), which reportedly had trouble raising financing for the 1,100-room luxury project and plans to sell its stake to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

Group to Fight Online Gambling at New Jersey Racetracks

Trenton’s Bad Bet, a Newark-based group that opposed expanding casino gaming in New Jersey says it will now turn its attention to a plan to offer online gaming areas at the state’s racetracks. The group helped defeat a referendum to allow two new casinos to be built in the state outside of Atlantic City. The new plan would allow for two New Jersey racetracks to partner with online providers already operating in the state. The group will also oppose locating VLTs at racetracks.

Massachusetts Study: Little Connection Between Casino and Crime

There appears to be little causal relation between having a casino and crime. That’s been confirmed by study after study and now the conclusion of a 50-page report paid for by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, a report that studied the environs of the Plainridge Park casino (l.) for a year.

Nebraska Consider Keno Expansion

Keno operators asked Nebraska state senators to consider allowing keno play on smartphones and other mobile devices and to drop the 5-minute interval between games. They said the moves would generate additional funds for "community betterment" without adding to residents' tax burdens. Keno raised $232.6 million statewide, up 6.9 percent, in fiscal 2015.

New Jersey Bill to Block Icahn Reopening Taj Mahal Goes to Christie

The New Jersey Assembly has approved a bill that would block billionaire Carl Icahn (l.) from re-opening the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City as a non-union shop. The bill suspends the casino license of a company that closes a casino for five years. The bill now goes to Governor Chris Christie and also comes amid reports that Icahn is in talks to sell the casino.

Boyd Closes on Cannery Acquisitions

Boyd Gaming has added Cannery Casino Resorts’ North Las Vegas and Boulder Strip casinos to its growing Las Vegas locals portfolio. Together with its purchase of Aliante Station earlier this year, the company now owns 12 Southern Nevada casinos.

Kansas Crossing Opens March 2017

Kansas Crossing Casino in Pittsburg, Kansas will hold a job fair January 5 to fill 325 permanent jobs. The $70.2 million casino is set to open in March 2017. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission approved the fourth and final state-owned casino in Kansas in 2015 but lawsuits have delayed its progress.

Iowa Casinos Want Audits Kept Secret

In Iowa, 16 of the state's 19 casinos joined a lawsuit to permanently block the release of annual audits required by state law since 1989. The casinos said the financial reports serve no public purpose and reveal trade secrets. Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke (l.) said giving the information to regulators is acceptable, but not to competitors.

Wyoming ‘Instant Racing’ Recovers

After being hammered by court rulings, legal opinions and the state legislature, Wyoming’s “instant racing” industry may be on the comeback trail. Profits are starting to rebound since the games removed all vestiges of chance—thus making them fit legal standards.

Las Vegas Trump Workers Win Union Recognition

A bitter battle between the influential Culinary Workers Local 226 and Las Vegas’ Trump International Hotel has ended with recognition of the union and a contract for some 500 hotel and food and beverage workers. The settlement comes a little late for President-elect Donald Trump, who lost Nevada in the election, in part because of the much-publicized dispute.

Pennsylvania Keeping Liberal Blackjack

A top regulator said Pennsylvania has no plan to alter its player-friendly blackjack rules, opting to keep 3-2 blackjack payments, the requirement that dealers stand on soft 17 and other rules.

U.S. Virgin Island Racetracks Rebounding

Virgin Islands Gaming Ltd. and the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands recently signed a 20-year agreement under which VIGL will invest at least $27 to upgrade and operate the islands' two racetracks with resurfacing, repairs, new veterinary facilities, horse barns and public accommodations. Construction may begin by July 2017.

Gaming Money Behind First U.S. Atlantis Property

The company founded by the man that many call South Africa’s Donald Trump: Kerzner International Holdings plans to open an Atlantis resort in Hawaii. The Atlantis Ko Olina on O’ahu will be the firm’s first U.S. venture.

Effort On to Divert Maine Gaming Funds to Retired Race Horses

Champions of retired harness racing horses in Maine are urging that the state’s casinos provide the funding to pay for their comfortable golden years. The horses’ useful career is usually no longer than five years—after which they often face euthanasia or the meat market.

TRIBAL GAMING More

Lawsuit over Glendale Casino Will Go to Trial

Deciding that he doesn’t have enough information to make a ruling, Judge David Campbell last week ordered a full trial in the lawsuit by Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Nation against the state. It seeks to force Arizona Gaming Director Daniel Bergin’s to certify the Class III games at its Desert Diamond West Valley casino (l.) in Glendale.

Cherokee Casino Grove Opens

Frigid temperatures did not keep the crowds away from the opening of the Cherokee Nation's 10th casino in Grove, Oklahoma. The 39,000-square-foot facility created 170 new jobs, and offers electronic gaming machines, an as-yet unnamed restaurant, a bar and live music venue. A grand opening will take place in January.

Appeals Court Blow to North Fork Casino

A federal appeals court based in Fresno, California has ruled that Governor Jerry Brown couldn’t sign a tribal gaming compact with a tribe before its off-reservation land in Madera County was officially put into trust. That puts the casino that the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians wants to build—in limbo.

Miccosukee Offers New Class II Games

Unlike the Seminoles, the Miccosukee Tribe doesn't have a gaming compact with Florida, so it can't offer Las Vegas-style Class III slots. But recently the west Miami-Dade casino (l.) installed 50 Class II versions of popular Ainsworth slots. Next month Ainsworth will give away $2,500 a week to players who try them out.

Chickasaw Nation Proposes Texoma Casino

The Chickasaw Nation purchased 50 acres from the state of Oklahoma where it hopes to develop a casino resort. The acreage was part of 700 acres in Lake Texoma State Park the state sold to private developers in 2006 who failed to turn the property into a tourism destination as promised. Chickasaw Nation Commerce Secretary Bill Lance (l.) says the resort will be an “anchor” tourist destination.

Lake Havasu Casino Expected to Open in 2018

The Chemehuevi tribe is building a casino and hotel (l.) on the California side of Lake Havasu that is expected to be finished by April 2018. The facility will replace the existing Havasu Landing Resort and Casino.

Indigo Sky Expansion Reaches Top

A topping-off ceremony recently was held at the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma's Indigo Sky Casino. The $36 million project, to be completed July 2017, includes a seven-story tower with 127 hotel rooms, expanded restaurant and buffet, plus banquet and meeting space. More than 300 construction and permanent jobs will be created.

Milwaukee Charities Receive Record $1.17 Million

A record $1.17 million was donated by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino's Heart of Canal Street program to 31 Milwaukee-area charities. It's the fourth consecutive year the casino has given more than $1 million. Since the program began in 1994, it has contributed $17 million through 550 donations to charities in southeastern Wisconsin.

Payment Ousted But Michigan Casino Proposal Endures

The Sault St. Marie Tribal Board recently stripped authority from the position of chairperson, leaving Chairperson Aaron Payment without the power to negotiate a casino deal. Meanwhile the Michigan tribe still awaits approval of its land-trust application for the proposed $245 million Kewadin Lansing Casino.

LOTTERY More

Virginia Lottery Shortchanges Addiction Treatment

Last year the Virginia Lottery made $1.84 billion in sales and directed $533 million to education. In contrast, it spends $50,000 on a problem gambling pamphlets and a helpline—which does not typically result in comprehensive treatment. According to a study, about 139,000 Virginians have a gambling disorder.

Massachusetts Lottery Eyes Millennials

The Massachusetts Lottery is engaging social media and other platforms to encourage more play by millennials, and one of the hooks they’re using is the holiday season.

PEOPLE More

Frank Leaving Niagara Casinos

After 10 years, Art Frank will leave Niagara Casinos, operator of Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino Resort, in January. Frank has had a 35-year career in the casino industry, starting in Atlantic City. He will be replaced by Richard Taylor, vice president of operations at Niagara Casinos.

GOODS & SERVICES More

Scientific Games Launches Tetris Slot

Scientific Games has launched the first-ever slot machine base on the video game Tetris, bringing the best-selling video game in history to the casino floor.

GLI Participates in Brazil Presentation

GLI representatives gave a presentation on technical aspects of the potential casino market in Brazil as the country’s lawmakers consider gaming legislation.

GameCo Launches VGMs at Tropicana AC

GameCo has launched its skill-based Video Game Gambling Machines at the Tropicana Atlantic City, the fourth New Jersey installation following the Caesars properties.

WSOP Sets 2017 Dates

The World Series of Poker 2017 will run from May 30 to July 17 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The $10,000 Main Event running July 8 to July 17.

Muckleshoot Is First In Virtual Reality

Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, Washington recently installed the first streaming wireless multiplayer virtual reality system in a U.S. casino, designed by VRstudios. Players can put themselves into a town overrun by a zombie outbreak or in the middle of a Wild West shootout.

EGT Rolling in Colombia

With games in more than 20 casinos so far, Euro Games Technology has made an initial splash in the gaming market in Colombia, one of several Latin American markets the company is targeting.

Ainsworth Licensed in Kansas

Ainsworth Game Technology announced that it has received approval of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission to sell and distribute its games in the state’s casinos.

TRADE SHOWS & CONFERENCES More

Former William Hill CEO to Speak at ICE

Ralph Topping (l.), the former CEO of British gaming operator William Hill, will be one of the speakers at ICE VOX, the educational program at the ICE Totally Gaming trade show in February.

Merkur on Tour with ‘Tech Treffen’

Merkur Gaming has taken its Tech Treffen conference on tour in Latin America beyond its original location in what the company calls “Tech Treffen Tour 2016.”

WILD CARD More

Guests at Wynn, Meet Alexa

Wynn Resorts plans to install an innovative artificial intelligence system in all its Las Vegas hotel rooms by next summer. The technology, developed by Amazon, responds to voice commands and features an A.I. concierge that talks.

Italy’s ‘King of Slots’ Arrested

Gambling tycoon Francesco Corallo has been arrested in the Caribbean following his indictment in Italy on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and embezzlement. Corallo’s Starnet is a dominant player in Italy’s sprawling machine gaming market, controlling an estimated 30 percent of devices nationwide.

Judge Orders Ivey to Repay Borgata $10 million

A federal judge has ordered poker pro Phil Ivey and an associate to return $10.1 million to Atlantic City’s Borgata casino he won at baccarat in 2012. Ivey used a technique called “edge sorting” to gain an advantage over the house and see which cards were coming next in the game. The casino had been seeking more than $15 million from Ivey.

Woman Thinks She Wins $8 million—Casino Won’t Pay

A woman playing a machine at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Washington hit the jackpot for what the machine informed her was more than $8.5 million. The casino disagreed. It carted off the Jurassic Riches slot and paid her $80.

NUTSHELL More

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