Big Fish Hooked

A ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals last week found that the Big Fish social game constituted gambling and was illegal under the laws of Washington state. The decision that the virtual chips exchanged on free-to-play social sites are “things of value” threatens to upend the social gaming industry.

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WEEKLY FEATURE: Virgin Buys Hard Rock Las Vegas

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (l.) celebrated in Las Vegas last week about a deal in which his Virgin Hotels agreed to buy the legendary Hard Rock Hotel. The Hard Rock—not affiliated with the Seminole tribe’s Hard Rock International—has had many owners over the years and will be rebranded late next year as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

Political Deadlock Stymies Japan Gaming

The Japan government’s coalition partners, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito (symbol at left), remained deadlocked last week on the majority of issues surrounding passage of the Integrated Resorts bill. The scandal surrounding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe isn’t helping either.

UK Conservative Party MPs Back £2 FOBT Stake

Despite a recommendation to set the maximum bet for non-slot fixed odds betting terminals to £30 by the UK Gambling Commission, reports say many UK Parliament members are still pushing for a £2 limit. Conservative Party Parliament members, including Minister Sir Peter Bottomly (l.), are pushing the £2 limit and threatening a Parliamentary revolt of the government sets the stake higher.

Struggling del Lago Looks for State Aid

The central New York casino del Lago (l.) is coming off an abysmal first year and is asking the state for relief, most likely in the form of a reduction in its gaming tax rates. One top lawmaker says help for the struggling commercial gaming industry is being discussed, but Governor Cuomo and many lawmakers oppose any concessions.

Star Has Big Plans for Queensland

The Star, formerly Star Entertainment Group of Australia, is looking to grow its holdings in Queensland, with investments totaling AU$3 billion on the Gold Coast alone. The company recently opened the five-star Darling Hotel (l.) in Queensland.

Bill Would put Mashpee Land Into Trust

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, whose proposed $1 billion casino in Taunton has been languishing since a federal judge ruled for the tribe’s opponents two years ago. But now salvation in the form of an act of Congress sponsored by Massachusetts Congressman William Keating (l.) could come to its rescue.

The Answer to Integrity is Data, Not Leagues

The integrity fee being pushed by the major sports leagues will surely destroy the already slim margins for sports book operators. Worst of all, it’s not necessary, if you can use the latest technology and a new cryptocurrency. Gaming veteran Bruce Merati (l.) explains.

Seminar Views Floor of the Future

New game styles, skill slots and environments to please young players were weighed by a panel of casino executives who view the creation of the slot floor of the future as a work in progress. The first Episode of the UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series presented some cutting-edge views and controversial opinions by all the speakers.

FANTINI’S FINANCE: Big Issues, Big Impact

Sometimes the overriding financial issues of the day overtake the trends that influence individual companies. That may be the case as tariffs, interest rates and other economic policies may become the dominant worries for investors.

ASIAN GAMING More

Macau Visitation Reaches 2014 Levels

More than 3 million tourists visited Macau in February, the highest number since August 2014, according to government figures. Chinese New Year (Year of the Dog) helped as the gaming hub racked up a 23.1 percent year-on-year increase.

Goa Raises Casino License Fees

Offshore and land-based casinos in Goa will see an increase in licensing fees starting in April. They will pay 2.5 times to 4.5 times more following new rules from the state’s finance department, local media reports.

Boracay Casino OK’d, Sans Debate

Bypassing opposition to a proposed casino on the Philippine island of Boracay, the local government has endorsed the $500 million project, to be built by Galaxy Entertainment Group, without public comment. Catholic Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc (l.) leads groups opposing another casino on Boracay.

Where in the World Is Kazuo Okada?

If Kazuo Okada (l.) enters the Philippines—or tries to leave—the government of the island nation wants to know. Immigration authorities there are under orders to keep their eyes peeled for him in the wake of charges that he defrauded the company behind his Manila gaming resort out of millions.

Inspire to Break Ground in ’18?

Mario Kontomerkos (l.), CEO of Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, said in a recent interview that the U.S.-based tribal firm may break ground on its Inspire resort in South Korea sometime this year.

Tigre de Cristal Phase II to Add Non-gaming

The second phase of Tigre de Cristal, to date the only casino resort operating in Russia’s Primorye special economic zone, will increase the property’s non-gaming attractions. The resort is run by G1 Entertainment.

Travellers Takes Hit in Bloody 2017

Travellers International is still reeling from the mass shooting and subsequent fire that took 38 lives at Resorts World Manila (l.) last June. Gaming revenue fell more than 27 percent for the year, and large areas of the casino are still closed.

Shinhwa a Model for Philippines Resort

A plan by Landing International Development Ltd. to build a casino resort in the Philippines will emphasize the family-friendly amenities, according to the company’s chairman and executive director. The facility will be modeled after the recently opened Jeju Shinhwa World (l.) in Korea.

Tak Chun to Open New VIP Clubs

Macau junket investor Tak Chun Group has announced it will open a VIP club at MGM Cotai in the second half of this year, and another club at a property in Da Nang. The Vietnam location has not yet been announced.

Northern Marianas Islands Airport Gaming Proposed

Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Senator Jude Hofschneider proposed an amendment to a Senate bill allowing casino gambling at the airports in Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Hofschneider said airport gambling would help the struggling economies of Rota and Tinian and raise revenue for the island nation and the Commonwealth Ports Authority.

Macau Racing Gets Tax Extension

The Macau Horse Racing Company has been given three years to pay its overdue taxes. If it fails to clear the debt by 2021, its license will be revoked. The company owes a total of MOP150 million (US$18.5 million).

EUROPEAN GAMING More

Slovenia Vetoes Sports Betting Bill

The National Council, the upper house of Slovenia’s Parliament, has rejected proposed legislation to liberalize sports betting in the country. Slovenia's current gambling regulations limit offering games of chance to two operators. MP Branko Zorman (l.) says 80 percent of Slovenia’s bet with illegal operators, so the monopoly should be removed.

UK Competition Board Approves GVC Purchase of Ladbrokes

The UK Competition and Markets Authority has approved GVC’s acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral. The authority’s competition investigation found that since GVC products are almost entirely online and the company has only a small presence in the UK, the merger would not hurt competition in the country.

Arena Racing Company Acquires Vermantia Media Group Limited

British horseracing track operator Arena Racing Company Limited announced it has acquired a controlling stake in Greek virtual games developer Vermantia Media Group Limited for an undisclosed price. The company said it will utilize Vermantia’s partnerships with over 20 gaming operators in 31 countries to expand its global distribution capacity.

French Casino Group Accused of Money Laundering

Partouche Groupe, a company based in France that operates casino in Belgium, France, Sweden and Tunisia has run afoul of French authorities. Several high-ranking members of the company have been charged with money laundering and embezzlement.

GLOBAL GAMING More

Investigation of Australia’s ALH Woolworths Pokies Expands After New Whistleblower Complaints

An investigation into charges that staff at ALH Woolworths-owned pubs in Australia targeted and spied on vulnerable gamblers to encourage them to play more has been expanded after more whistleblower complaint came forward. The new charges include one from a worker at a Brisbane pub run by Woolworths that alleges that ALH held staff meeting discussing how to encourage a grieving woman to gamble away her inheritance money on poker machines—called pokies.

SkyCity Entertainment Seeks Darwin Buyer

SkyCity Entertainment Group is said to have approached Genting Group, Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment regarding purchasing its SkyCity Darwin casino (l.) so it can focus on Adelaide and Auckland casino expansions. However, Star reportedly isn't interested and Crown is recovering from a mass sell-off of its foreign interests and James Packer's surprising resignation.

Canadian Casino Zoning Approved Despite Local Opposition

Despite strong opposition at a public meeting, the Sudbury Ontario planning committee approved re-zoning a proposed site for a new casino, which would be built alongside a new sports arena (l.). Local religious leaders are opposing the casino saying its opening would lead to family breakdown and increased crime.

Ontario Horse Racing Gets Help

Help is on the way for Ontario, Canada’s horseracing industry in the form of $105 million over the next 19 years that the government last week authorized. There are more racetracks in the province than in any state or province in North America.

BC AG Seeks Aid Fighting Money Laundering

David Eby, attorney general of British Columbia, traveled to Ottawa last week to enlist the federal government in joining his effort to crack down on money laundering. He says the problem isn’t limited to his province and needs federal attention.

ONLINE GAMING More

Pennsylvania Approves iGaming Regulations

Regulators in Pennsylvania approved several temporary regulations for online poker and casino games, and daily fantasy sports, but have not yet decided on restrictions, if any, to the number of “skins” permitted. PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole (l.) says that could be addressed in a second set of regulations to be approved at a later date.

Online Gaming Rises in Europe

European iGaming revenues rose 11 percent last year and saw the greatest growth in markets that have regulated gambling according to a new report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. Play from mobile devices also increased and improved products are fueling growth.

eSports Market Hits $696 Million in 2017

A report by market intelligence firm Newzoo estimated the 2017 eSports market at $696 million and expects it to more than double to $1.5 billion by 2020. The reports expects the Asia Pacific region to see the most growth.

New Jersey Man Wins Big Online Payout on First Try

A New Jersey man hit a $194,000 jackpot on his first spin of an online slot machine after joining playsugarhouse.com. The player won a progressive Mega Jackpot that had been building since September. The spin was not his first play ever on a New Jersey online site, however, but still his first play after signing up for the site on his phone.

UNITED STATES GAMING More

Louisiana Gambling On Brink Of Change

Several gambling bills are advancing in the Louisiana legislature, including measure allowing Caesars Entertainment to operate Harrah's New Orleans (l.) another 30 years. Video poker truck stops would have fewer requirements. And the state's 15 riverboat casinos may be allowed to move ashore, offer more games and not pay taxes on all promotional giveaways.

NFL Owners Hear Sports Betting Facts

National Football League owners were given a presentation of the facts on sports betting, as other potential stakeholders continue to prepare for a possible removal of the federal sports betting ban. Kansas has become the latest state to install an “integrity fee” in its legislation that would permit sports betting within the state.

Georgia Group Seeks Horseracing Venue

A study released by the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition indicated a $525 million racino complex with a 300-room hotel and other amenities would have an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion and provide new revenue for health care, education and rural development. Georgia is one of six states with no legalized gambling except a lottery. Rep. Brett Harrell (l.) says he’ll present the study to a House group.

Penn National's Pinnacle Acquisition Progressing

Penn National's $2.8 billion acquisition of Pinnacle Entertainment was approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the West Virginia Lottery Commission, and shareholders from both companies. However, the Federal Trade Commission made a second request for additional information regarding whether the acquisition would violate antitrust laws, even though Pinnacle would sell four properties, including Ameristar St. Charles (l.) in Missouri, to Boyd Gaming.

Wynn Jury Will Hear About Sex Settlement

The judge presiding over the lawsuit filed by Elaine Wynn (l.) contesting her ouster from Wynn Resorts’ board of directors has ruled that a payoff to one of Steve Wynn’s reputed victims is relevant to her case. The trial, slated for next month, also will hear allegations of unauthorized gambling by former executives.

NFL OKs Raiders Stadium Loan

Team owners voted 31-1 to approve a $200 million loan from the league to help fund the Raiders’ Las Vegas stadium. Construction of the $1.8 billion facility, which will seat 65,000 in a domed enclosure, is expected to start this year and be completed in time for the start of the 2020 season.

No N.H. Casino This Year

Once again, the New Hampshire Senate has turned down a chance to legalize casinos in the Granite State. Senator Lou D’Allesandro (l.), who can be said to typify the old saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” says he’s throwing in the towel after twenty years of trying.

Indiana Casino Awaiting Ferry Permits

Ferry permits didn't arrive March 16 as expected, but Full House Resorts Chief Executive Officer Daniel Lee still plans to start the service July 4, to boost attendance and profitability at the Rising Star Casino (l.). The 10-car ferry would cross the Ohio River near Rabbit Hash, Kentucky three times an hour.

Nevada Win Tops $1 Billion—Again

February was the second straight month that Silver State gaming revenue broke the $1 billion barrier. That hasn’t happened since before the recession. The boost was driven by the Las Vegas Strip, which posted an 11.4 percent increase.

Wheeling Removing Video Gambling Café Limit

Trustees in Wheeling, Illinois—with one exception—approved removing the 4-year moratorium on video gambling cafés. Currently Stella's Place holds the village's only three video gambling operations, but 15 other bars and restaurants also offer the games. Video gambling cafés and restaurants with gambling operate under different rules.

Illegal Slots At Risk In Colorado

Internet sweepstakes cafes operate across Colorado, where gambling is legal only in Black Hawk, Cripple Creek (l.) and Central City. But lawmakers are considering House Bill 1234 which would shut down the illegal operations by defining simulated gambling machines as games of both skill and chance and banning cash prizes.

Fremont Street Light Show Headed for $33 Million Upgrade

A massive reinvestment in technology is going to make the five-block-long canopy, Downtown Las Vegas’ principal tourist attraction, a lot brighter and more elaborate. The revamp is expected to be complete in a little over a year.

New York Casino Employees Spotlight Problem Gambling

Employees of Empire Resorts in Monticello, New York received responsible gambling training during Problem Gambling Awareness Month, led by the National Council on Problem Gambling. They also wore red bracelets with the New York State's HOPEline phone number and participated in games based on Empire's Compulsive and Problem Gambling Plan.

Louisiana Governor Supports Casino; Legislature Supports Advantage Players

John Bel Edwards (l.), governor of Louisiana says he would vote for a casino in the parish where he grew up, Tangipahoa. A measure in the legislature would authorize Peninsula Pacific to move a riverboat casino there. In the state legislature, a bill that would protect skilled and advantage players in casinos has advanced.

New Jersey CRDA Sells $570K in Atlantic City Land

The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has sold more than 90 properties in Atlantic City at auction for more than $570,000. The auction included 16 packages, or 84 lots, with developable land and seven packages, or eight lots, of nonconforming lots.

New System Will Regulate Ohio Games of Skill

Ohio’s Casino Control Commission will soon release regulations for games of skill, such as “claw machines” and arcade games that aware tokens. The regulations will include licensing for vendors who deploy the machines.

Horseshoe Baltimore Buying Up Land

Horseshoe Baltimore (l.) is buying up real estate surrounding the casino with the intent to transform the industrial area into a new entertainment district.

TRIBAL GAMING More

Feds Seize $10.1 M from Pojoaque Pueblo Casino

The U.S. Attorney for New Mexico has seized more than $10 million in gaming profits from the Pojoaque Pueblo. The Justice Department says the money is profits from illegal gambling from its the Buffalo Thunder (l.) and Cities of Gold casinos near Santa Fe.

California Tribe Seeks Support to Relocate Casino

A delegation composed of tribal and city council representatives will travel to the nation’s capital to consult with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (l.) to solicit his support for the Tule River Tribe of California who want to relocate their casino near the city of Porterville. The actual decision for putting the land into trust will be made by the Department of the Interior.

Arizona: Land Near Tribal Casinos is Prime for Development

A study commissioned by the Arizona Department of Gaming chronicles the fact that the state’s 24 tribal casinos are engines of economic activity. But they also create millions of dollars of opportunity for collateral economic activity on the outskirts of casinos.

Idaho Initiative Supporters Decry Intimidation

People gathering signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would allow “historical horseracing” say they are being subjected to intimidation tactics by opponents of the machines. A PAC allied with the Coeur d’Alene tribe, which operates a casino (l.), says that what some people call intimidation is simply providing facts on the measure.

Faith-Based Group Opposes Ponca Casino

Open Door Mission of Omaha announced it opposes the Ponca Tribe's proposed casino in Carter Lake, Iowa. The organization operates a homeless shelter one mile from the Ponca casino site. Also, the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa, with three commercial casinos, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Ponca casino.

Election May Recall Tribal Chairman

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians will vote April 3 on whether to recall Tribal Chairman Thurlow "Sam" McClellan. He has been critical of the council's plan to build a $50 million casino hotel, claiming the current tribal casino is losing money. McClellan also was accused of misusing tribal credit cards.

Washington County Sees Benefit From Casino Expansion

Washington’s Tulalip Tribes of Snohomish County are famous locally for being engines of economic activity. The third largest employer in the state, the engine just keeps chugging along, with the newest project being an expansion of an existing casino, the Quil Ceda Casino (l.).

Soaring Eagle Property To Be Renovated

The Green Suites, owned by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, will be renamed the Retreat at Soaring Eagle following a multimillion renovation. Located by the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel (l.), the all-suites facility will incorporate work by tribal artists and photographers. The eight-month project will begin this summer.

Otoe-Missourias Adding Non-Gaming Amenities

To attract families, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe in Red Rock, Oklahoma announced it will add 60 family suites at its hotel, plus new restaurants, an arcade and a 20,000 square foot indoor water park with thrill rides and a lazy river. No changes will be made at the casino since it recently was updated.

LOTTERY More

Australia Considering Ban on Synthetic Lottery Betting

Betting on lotteries would be banned in Australia under a new bill scheduled to introduced to Parliament. The bill would ban betting at sites such as Lottoland, where bets are placed on the outcome of international lotteries. The ban is being proposed to protect traditional lottery distributors in the country.

Mega Millions Climbs Over $500 Million

The Mega Millions jackpot has climbed to over $500 million six years to the day after becoming the first lottery to hit that milestone. The lottery reached $502 million before play on its March 30 drawing began.

Gambling Addict Sues B.C. Lottery Corp.

A man who lost $500,000 playing the British Columbia Lottery is suing the lottery. He says the BCLC should have protected him from himself by making it harder for him to play.

Sci Games Debuts ‘SCiQ’ Lottery Innovation

Scientific Games has debut its patented “SCiQ” instant lottery game retail technology simultaneously in eight states, where SCiQ dispensers are available in select convenience stores.

PEOPLE More

VictoryLand Owner Milton McGregor Dies

Milton McGregor, the colorful owner of VictoryLand casino, greyhound track and hotel in Macon County, Alabama, recently died at age 78. He purchased VictoryLand greyhound track in 1984 and later expanded it to accommodate electronic bingo machines. After the state raided the casino, McGregor closed the operation and fought a long legal battle to reopen it.

Maryland Live! Names Hotel GM

Maryland’s Live! Casino has named Brian Coughlin, a 20-year hotel industry veteran, as general manager of its flagship Live! Hotel, set to open this spring.

Konami Names Sales Directors

Konami Gaming announced the promotions of regional sales directors Casey Whalen (l.) and Jay Bertsch to corporate vice president-level sales positions.

Tan Tee How Promoted at Singapore CRA

Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority has elevated Tan Tee How from deputy chairman to chairman of the agency, succeeding Lee Tzu Yang in the role. He will be active in the role starting April 2.

GOODS & SERVICES More

UNLV Student Invents Edge-Sorting Remedy

A student in a Gambling Innovation class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has invented a new type of card shoe that prevents edge-sorting, which professional gambler Phil Ivey (l.) utilized to win millions of dollars at several casinos.

Everi Partners with bZillions

Everi Holdings, Inc. announced a partnership with independent slot content studio bZillions, under which new games will be developed for Everi’s “mForce” slot game platform.

Resorts Atlantic City Launches IGT ETGs

IGT’s Dynasty Electronic Tables Games blackjack, roulette and baccarat were launched at Resorts Atlantic City last week, the casinos first extensive offering of ETGs.

Investors Bank on HK-Macau Bus Trips

Investors are gambling some HK$170 million (US$22 million) on a not-so-sure bet, running bus lines from Hong Kong to Macau and back on a new bridge linking the cities.

TRADE SHOWS & CONFERENCES More

Novomatic Previews NIGA Lineup

Novomatic Americas has previewed its display for NIGA’s Indian Gaming trade show, planned for April 17-20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

WILD CARD More

California Town Sees Pot Plans Turn to Ashes

An old ghost town on the road to Las Vegas has been the focus of an effort to create a “marijuana resort” that would take advantage of California’s new recreational pot laws. But would be developers of the resort are running into financing problems.

Station Casinos Axes Poker Bad Beat Promotion After Payout

Station Casinos has ended its Jumbo Hold ‘Em Poker Progressive Jackpot promotion after losing a decision before regulators on a disputed jackpot at Red Rock in July. The casino last month lost a ruling that they incorrectly invalidated a bad beat jackpot after a player showed his hole cards before betting was completed. The Nevada Gaming Control Board ruled the action did not change the outcome of the hand.

NUTSHELL More

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