Atlantic City’s Ocean Ousts Operating Partner

Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort Casino (l.)—the former $2.4 billion Revel casino which re-opened in June—was taken over by one of its investors last week. Co-owner Bruce Deifik confirmed the move, saying the new owner plans a significant investment in the property. The announcement comes after a series of signs that the casino was up for sale. Deifik led a group that purchased the casino for $229 million in January 2018.

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WEEKLY FEATURE: Sports Betting Surges in New Year

As legislatures return to session, there is an increasing drive in many states to consider the legalization of sports betting. Already legal in nine states, as many as 24 more could take action in 2019. Most likely candidates include West Virginia, Illinois and Connecticut but New York, Massachusetts and Virginia could also act quickly. The map above, provided by Fantini’s 2019 Legislative Report, notes the legalization possibilities this year.

A Renaissance in Downtown Las Vegas

The Stevens brothers last week announced the name and theme of the first new casino to be built in Downtown Las Vegas. The Circa Casino Resort (l.) will honor the pioneers of Las Vegas while embracing new technology and amenities. Meanwhile, the Downtown Grand is building a new 495-room hotel. Both projects signal a belief among investors that Las Vegas’ venerable gambling core is set for a rebirth.

Osaka Gets Serious

A frontrunner in the race for one of Japan’s first three IR licenses, Osaka has allocated part of its 2019 budget for an operator selection committee. Small businesses in the city are launching their own pro-IR campaigns. A proposed IR by Melco Entertainment at left.

MGM Promises Big Boost to Cash Flow

Investors have been getting restless, and the casino giant has responded with a new corporate strategy aimed at boosting EBITDA by $300 million or more a year. Promoting technology to drive revenues figures prominently in the plan. So do huge labor cuts. Former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (l.) has been named as president of global development as part of the plan.

In Nevada, a New Chief Regulator

Governor Steve Sisolak has appointed Sandra Douglass Morgan to succeed Becky Harris as chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, making her the second woman in the agency’s history to occupy the post. Morgan also holds the distinction of being the first African American in Nevada history to have served as a city attorney.

Icahn Caesars Buy Boosts Stock

Carl Icahn, who has made millions of dollars investing in casino companies, made a splash last week when he invested in Caesars Entertainment stock. The value of Caesars shares, which had declined almost 50 percent in the year, rallied on the Icahn news.

FANTINI’S FINANCE: States Surprises?

The 2019 National Legislative Preview is out and it contains lots of information about where and how gaming legalization will proceed. It pays particular attention to the rapidly growing historical horse racing market and how that will grow in various states.

ASIAN GAMING More

Details on Macau Retender Hard to Come By

Macau officials are still being tight-lipped about details of the upcoming casino license retender, which will kick off in 2020 and continue into 2022. Uncertainty about the process is keeping some investors on edge. Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On (l.) says the government is “studying” how to conduct the process.

Philippine Court: Arrest Okada

A Philippine court has issued an arrest warrant for Japanese casino king Kazuo Okada (l.), charging him with embezzlement. Okada denies claims that he misappropriated millions from his former company, Tiger Resort.

Goa Considers Casino ‘Cluster’

Lawmakers in the Indian state of Goa have drafted a tourism plan that would move offshore casinos from their present location on the Mandovi River (l.) and create a land-based casino cluster.

Cambodia Generous with Casino Licenses

The gaming sector in Cambodia continues to expand, with the government handing out more than 50 licenses in 2018 alone. Casino operators must pay an annual US$40,000 license fee.

IPI Hopes for Successful Year of the Pig

Imperial Pacific International, whose eponymous resort (l.) on Saipan is up and running after a destructive typhoon in October, is looking forward to doing big business during Chinese New Year celebrations in February.

Fire Devastates Cambodian Casino

A fire that reportedly began in the elevator of a high-rise Cambodian casino on January 7 spread through 18 floors of the property and caused several injuries. Genting Crown Casino is located in Poipet.

Guangdong to Open VIP Room at Naga 2

Macau junket operator Guangdong Group will add VIP services to Naga 2 at NagaWorld in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The high-roller operations will start sometime this month, the firm says.

Taipa LRT to Open this Year

A new light rail transit line will open in Macau during the first half of 2019. The 5.8-mile railway connecting Taipa with Cotai is designed to transport mass-market gamblers to the city’s new casinos.

Former Kangwon CEO Sentenced to Prison

The former CEO of South Korean casino Kangwon Land has been sentenced to three years prison for preferential hiring practices. Choi Hung-jib was immediately taken into custody after the ruling.

Hotung v. SJM, Hos

Michael Hotung, nephew of Macau casino titan Stanley Ho, is demanding that SJM Holdings and members of the Ho family pay him HK$2 billion he says was owed to his late mother, Winnie Ho.

Genting Theme Park Will Stoke Growth

Analysts say Genting Malaysia’s planned theme park, expected to open sometime in 2020, will grow visitation by as much as 10 percent, or 2.5 million people per year.

Galaxy Awards Share Options

Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group has offered share options to its executive directions and director associates. The primary beneficiaries include members of the Lui family.

Emperor Adds to Grand Stake

Hong Kong-listed Emperor Entertainment Hotel Ltd. will acquire an additional 5 percent of the British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered company that operates Macau casino venue the Grand Emperor Hotel.

EUROPEAN GAMING More

Azov City Zone Closes

Three years after declaring that Russia’s Azov City casino zone would close, including the Oracle Casino (l.), the government has made good on that pledge. The zone closed at the end of December. A new casino will open in Sochi in 2019.

German State May Withdraw From Gambling Treaty

The German state of Hesse may withdraw from the much-criticized State Treaty on Gambling if the nation's 16 states can't agree on a new regulatory framework. Hesse officials said they want a system that would protect players, comply with European law and award licenses based on applicants' quality, not on the number of licenses allowed.

Ireland Plans Gaming Regulatory Overhaul

This is the year that comprehensive modernization of Ireland’s gaming regulations will happen. That is the pledge of the ruling party, Fine Gael, which has introduced its “Gambling Control Bill.” Minister of State for Equality & Integration David Stanton (l.) says the government has tried to accomplish changes for five years.

UK to Invest in Gambling Addiction Treatment

The UK will include increased funding for gambling addiction in its new 10-year strategy for health spending. The NHS Long Term Plan focuses on investment in mental health services, which will rise to at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24. That includes additional funding and resources to create more services for the treatment of problem gambling.

Four Gaming Operators Sue Andorra

Four gaming operators that lost a bid to operate a casino in the tiny nation of Andorra, have sued to overturn the decision. They claim that the company that won the license, Jocs SA, is unqualified to operate a casino.

GLOBAL GAMING More

Peru Implements New Gambling Taxes

Peru’s Ministry of Economy and Finance has published new rules covering new taxes on the gaming industry. A new tax will be applied to casino games and slot machines. The taxes went into effect January 1.

2018 Alberta Gambling Revenue On Upswing

According to a government report, Alberta, Canada gambling revenue rose by $4 million, after two years of declines. VLTs in 900 locations accounted for most of the growth. Combined 2018 revenue from VLTs, casino slots and electronic bingo increased from a 2017 low of $1.732 to $1.736 billion. The peak was $1.906 billion in 2015.

ONLINE GAMING More

In N.Y., Online Poker Surfaces Once More

There’s a new legalization bill in the Senate, the third in as many years. But with a history of uncertain support, and sports betting the clear priority in the new year, the odds appear stacked against passage. State Senator Joseph Addabbo (l.) is sponsoring both bills.

Dutch Court Rules for PokerStars Player in Tax Case

The winnings of online poker players in the Netherlands on PokerStars.eu are not subject to local taxes, a Dutch court has ruled. The court ruled that Dutch tax collectors cannot tax winnings on the Malta-based site under European Union rules. The Netherlands argued that PokerStars is actually based on the Isle of Man outside of the EU.

Denmark Blocks Illegal Gambling Sites

Danish regulator Spillemyndigheden has ordered local internet service providers to block 18 sites illegal online gambling sites in violation of the Danish Act on Gambling. The move comes after the regulator conducted searches for unlicensed sites. The searches identified nearly 750 problem sites.

Red Rake Receives Supplier License from UK

Red Rake Gaming has secured a remote gambling software license from the UK Gambling Commission and plans to begin introducing content in the market in the coming weeks. The supplier has already certified a group of its games and is moving to get approval on a second group of titles.

William Hill Acquisition of Mr Green Approved by Regulators

William Hill Plc has secured approval of “all necessary authorities across related jurisdictions,” to complete its €270million acquisition of Stockholm-listed MRG Group. The acquisition has been approved by MRG governance and awaits a vote by stockholders.

SPORTS BETTING More

Pennsylvania’s Parx Opens Sports Book

Parx Casino in Bensalem became the fourth casino in Pennsylvania and the second in the Philadelphia area to open a sports book, debuting its Kambi Group-powered book on January 8. Matthew Cullen, Parx senior VP of interactive gaming and sports (l.), demonstrates the casino’s Kambi kiosks.

FanDuel Hurt by Early Payout on Alabama

A decision by FanDuel to pay off bets on the University of Alabama in the National Championship game against Clemson came back to haunt the former DFS site as Clemson rolled the Crimson Tide. The decision reportedly cost the site more than $400,000.

NBC Sports Serves Up Sports Betting Broadcast in D.C.

The first network broadcasts focusing on sports betting will occur in the Washington D.C. area when NBC Sports presents shows focusing on NBA’s Washington Wizards. The show will feature sports betting information for in-play wagering.

UNITED STATES GAMING More

Virginia City Approves Casino Resolution

The city council in Danville, Virginia unanimously approved a resolution supporting legislation allowing casino gambling there and in Bristol and Portsmouth, where similar resolutions already passed. Referendums would be required in the three cities if state lawmakers approve legislation, expected to be introduced by state Senator Bill Carrico (l.) and state Del. Israel O’Quinn.

Legislators Consider Moving Indiana Licenses

In the upcoming legislative session, Indiana lawmakers will revisit allowing one of Majestic Star Casino’s (l.) two licenses to leave Gary if the city moves forward with plans for a transportation hub where the casinos currently are docked. Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Steuben County have been mentioned as possible locations.

Controversy Entangles Arkansas County Casino

In Pope County, Arkansas, controversy continues over the former county judge and Russellville mayor’s letters endorsing Mississippi-based Gulfside Properties’ proposal for a $254 million casino (l.). The new county judge and mayor oppose a casino and could block it for the foreseeable future since the Arkansas Racing Commission recently changed the rules regarding endorsement letters.

Nevada Holds Hearing on Wynn

A hearing in a Nevada court over the suitability of Wynn Resorts following the scandal that ousted founder and former Chairman Steve Wynn (l.) was held last week. The judge maintained a restraining order that prevents evidence gathered by Massachusetts regulators from being aired.

VICI Completes Margaritaville Acquisition

VICI Properties recently announced it has acquired the land and real estate assets of Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana for $261 million in cash. With Penn National Gaming buying the operational assets of the property for $115 million in cash, the total purchase price was $376 million. VICI leased the property to Penn National.

Detroit Casinos' Earnings Break Records

The Michigan Gaming Board reported Detroit's three casinos posted combined revenue of $1.44 billion for 2018, an increase of $20 million over the previous record of $1.42 billion in 2011. The three casinos (MotorCity at left) also reported an overall 3.1 percent increase over 2017, with slots posting $1.17 billion and table games posting $272 million.

Colorado Casinos Proposes Expansion

Triple Crown Casinos (l.) has proposed a $30 million - $40 million casino-hotel in Cripple Creek, Colorado, the second major casino resort project submitted for review by the town’s historic preservation commission within six months. The plan includes a 5-story, 150-room hotel. Full House Resorts previously proposed a $70 million expansion at Bronco Billy’s.

Icahn Settles Deed Issues on Trump Plaza in Atlantic City

Carl Icahn has cleaned up some deed issues on his last remaining Atlantic City casino property that could be a precursor to the sale of the former Trump Plaza casino (l.). Icahn has reportedly purchased the deed for the property and settled a longstanding lease agreement. The Plaza closed in 2014 but Icahn has so far been unable to sell or demolish parts of the former casino.

Texas County Reviews 8-Liner Legislation

In Waco, Texas, the seat of McLennan County, 8-liner gaming machines are allowed if they pay out in prizes or tickets, not cash. Now county commissioners may soon decide if they’ll support state Rep. Richard Raymond’s measure allowing voters to determine locally if they want 8-liner machines to be regulated or banned.

N.M. Governor got Donations From Racino Group

The campaign of newly installed governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham (l.), was the recipient of $25,000 from a group hoping to win a racino license. The state has one license left to award.

North Texas Becomes eSports hub

Several cities in North Texas are grasping for what they believe may be the next brass ring: esports. Stadiums hosting the games are starting to crop up so that one stadium manager argues that the region is turning into an esports hub.

Atlantic City to Get Arena Football Franchise

Atlantic City will see an Arena Football League Franchise call the resort home in the spring, according to reports. An official announcement of the move is scheduled for later this month, but the league’s chairman, Ron Jaworski, confirmed the move. The franchise would play its games at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall (l.).

TRIBAL GAMING More

Easing Way for Third Connecticut Casino

A bill to smooth the process of creating a third tribal-owned casino in Connecticut was introduced by state Senator Catherine A. Osten last week. The bill would remove the requirement that the federal Department of Interior approve the casino and state it isn’t a violation of the tribe’s compact with the state.

Senecas Lose Revenue-Sharing Fight

Two years ago, the tribe stopped paying New York a percentage of its casino slot revenues. That’s a violation of its compact, according to an arbitration panel appointed to settle the dispute. But whether the tribe pays what it owes—around $200 million—that’s another matter.

Three Tribes Sue California in Federal Court

After seven years of gaming tribes threatening to hold the California state government accountable for allowing card clubs to operate “banked” card games, three tribes went to federal court last week. They are the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Viejas and Sycuan Bands of Kumeyaay Indians.

Mashpee Wampanoag Bill Reintroduced

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts is hailing a bill that has been reintroduced in the U.S. Congress to put 321 acres it owns into trust. It would undo an action by the Department of the Interior that reversed its earlier decision to put the land into trust. The bill would allow the tribe to build its $1 billion First Light Casino (l.).

California Tribe Aims at 2020 Casino Opening

A tribe hoping to build a $500 casino in the site of an uncompleted outlet mall in Elk Grove, California, says it plans to open sometime in 2020. “There’s no definitive date yet, but we’re looking at early 2019 to begin this process,” Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock (l.) said last week.

Cowlitz Tribe Ordered to Release Assault Video

A Washington state tribe has been ordered by a superior court in Clark County to turn over a surveillance video showing a man being beaten up on the property of the ilani Casino, which it owns. The tribe unsuccessfully claimed that sovereignty protected it from the state’s open records act.

FireKeepers Opens Gapi Coffee Shop

Gapi is the Potawatomi word for coffee and also the name of the new coffee shop at FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan. The new establishment offers coffee drinks plus soups, sandwiches, pastries, bread and ice cream. The fresh-roasted coffee is provided by a partnership with Five Lakes Coffee.

Morongo Begins Expansion

Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in California’s Riverside County has begun an expansion that will expand the gaming area by 30 percent. It will add 800 slot machines and makeover all the restaurants at that level.

LOTTERY More

Connecticut Lottery Breaks Records

If you ask the Connecticut Lottery, it has a rosy future, after completing a very successful 2018. But it would like to improve the odds by being given a slice of sports betting if it is legalized.

PEOPLE More

AGEM Names Officers

The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers announced the results of its officer election, with IGT’s Luke Orchard becoming the trade organization’s president for a two-year term.

Cooper Named Vice Chair for NJCCC

Alisa Cooper, a member of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, was elevated to vice chair last week. She’s been a member of the commission since 2012.

MGM Names Clinton President at Empire City

Uri Clinton, the face of MGM Resorts during its battle to block a third tribal casino in Connecticut, has ben named the president and COO of Empire City, in Yonkers, New York.

Bet.Works Names Mintas as Chairwoman of Advisory Board

Bet.Works, a U.S. based iGaming and Sportsbook technology platform supplier, announced today the appointment of Dr. Laila Mintas as Chairwoman of the company’s advisory board. Mintas most recently served as Deputy President for Sportradar U.S.

Cyprus Adds First Tourism Minister

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades started the new year by swearing in the country’s first dedicated tourism minister. On January 2, Savvas Perdios (l.) assumed the new role, overseeing the island’s chief industry.

PA Gaming Committee Gains New Leadership

The state House committee that oversees gaming in Pennsylvania has named Rep. Jim Marshall (l.) as its chairman and Rep. Scott Conklin as the committee’s Democratic minority leader.

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Evolution Gaming Partners With Loto-Quebec

Evolution Gaming announced it will provide live online casino offerings—including six tables with French-speaking dealers—for Loto-Quebec, via desktop, tablet and smartphone platforms. Evolution already provides live online casino streaming for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Evolution officials said they will expand their Vancouver- based studio to accommodate anticipated growth.

Aristocrat Enters Washington Tribal Market

Aristocrat Technologies delivered its first four games to casinos in the state of Washington’s Tribal Lottery System, at the Tulalip Resort and the Quil Ceda Creek Casino.

Caesars Signs Anti-Human Trafficking Code

Caesars Entertainment demonstrated its continuing commitment to eliminating human trafficking by signing the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conducts of the international organization End Child Prostitution and Trafficking. Caesars is the first global gaming entertainment firm to sign the code, a joint venture of the tourism and hospitality sectors and ECPAT-USA.

GSL Gaming Group Announces Expansion

GSL Gaming Group has announced a major expansion of the company’s logistics team, a new service division, and the opening of a new logistics office.

TRADE SHOWS & CONFERENCES More

Slane Named Southern Gaming Summit Speaker

Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association, will be a keynote speaker at the 2019 Southern Gaming Conference. Slane managed the AGA's successful campaign to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, leading to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn the federal sports betting ban.

IAGR Calls for Speakers

The International Association of Gaming Regulators is issuing an official call for speakers to participate in its 2019 Annual Conference, to be held in Jamaica next fall.

WILD CARD More

UK Halts House Lottery

A retired couple (l.) hatched a plan to raffle off their £500,000 North Yorkshire home. For £10 each, contestants could enter a drawing, with a winner picked at random. Only it was all too random for the Gambling Commission. They shut it down, saying it amounted to an illegal lottery.

Gunfire over Smoking at Galaxy

Macau’s new smoking rules, which took effect January 1, have already led to a confrontation between smokers and police. On January 3, an officer fired a warning shot after smokers lit up in a no-smoking zone.

NUTSHELL More

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