Timber! Online games falling

January 09, 2001 6:29 AM
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In response to a Nevada Attorney General’s opinion about play-for-free games on the Internet, several Nevada casinos have pulled their games even though they required no money from players.

Within the past four days, the Four Queens, Gold Coast, The Orleans and Barbary Coast have discontinued offering free promotional games, which, in many cases offered credits that could be redeemed for prizes.

One of the operators of the free games sent a letter to a customer stating that the games would no longer be offered "”¦ after January 1, 2001 because of a change in Nevada legislation."

Legal experts point out, however, that the Attorney General’s opinion is not legislation, but that agencies such as the Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board frequently rely on such opinions to help in administering the law.

"I find the opinion inconsistent with the meaning or purpose of gaming law," said Anthony Cabot, a Las Vegas attorney who specializes in gaming and Internet law, adding that it appears Nevada gaming regulators want "jurisdiction over everything done over the Internet."

Cabot said that it’s not likely casinos will challenge the opinion; rather, they would probably seek guidance and certification from governing agencies such as the Gaming Control Board before offering their games on their websites.

Cabot said that legislation and/or rulings that are consistent with the AG’s opinion would put Nevada companies at a disadvantage, because out-of-state firms would be able to offer free games that offered prizes.

What slowdown?

There’ll be plenty more work in a few months for construction crews in Las Vegas.

Plans are in the works for a 41-story hotel on the vacant land across the Strip from the Sahara Hotel.

Sheldon Adelson could be adding a 1,000-room hotel tower to his Venetian property.

The Athena Group wants to build a 350-room non-gaming hotel and luxury condos linked to the Aladdin’s Desert Passage mall.

A group that includes developers of the Strip’s Showcase Mall has assembled a 77-acre tract across the Strip from Mandalay Bay for resort development.

And construction is well along on George Maloof’s Palms, opening late this year across from the Gold Coast and Rio Suites on West Flamingo Road.

Hilton Grand Vacations plans the 41-story, 2,197-room time-share hotel on Sahara Hotel owner Bill Bennett’s vacant parcel, site of the original El Rancho Vegas property. Its application is going through local regulatory agencies before making it to county government offices.

Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Inc. is studying plans for the 1,000-room tower, atop the Venetian’s 10-story parking garage. If financing is arranged, it would give the Venetian a total of 4,036 rooms.

Aladdin Gaming LLC and the Athena Group could complete the sale of a five-acre parcel at the corner of Harmon Avenue and Audrey Lane by this May. That private equity investment firm would develop the five-star non-gaming hotel and an 800,000 square-foot luxury condo project. They would connect directly to the Desert Passage mall.

Biloxi blues

Gulf Coast casinos are due for a two-year cooling-off period, according to a report from Deutsche Bank Securities of New York. It cites a sagging economy, too many hotel rooms, too much casino space and a saturated market. These factors will stop hotel and casino development probably through June of 2002, the analysts figured.

"It is plausible that small operators, like President Casino (Broadwater Resort) and other privately held properties will close," it concluded.

Nonsense, said President’s CEO John Aylsworth." Our casino is operating better than it was three or four years ago." Its revenues increased in the last three months, too.

The analysis suggests the Gulf Coast has enough regulars who drive in, but needs better service from the Southeast’s metro airports.

Jackpot, puh-lease

Atlantic City casinos — and International Game Technology — hope someone hits the Megabucks jackpot there soon.

They decided to end the game (down to 38 machines, from 250 six years ago) as soon as someone hit the jackpot. It stands at $6.4 million now.

Casinos can remove a jackpot in a month if its odds top 1 in 34 million. Megabucks’ is 1 in 49 million. Once this Megabucks hits, it will be replaced by a video version.

Betting ban

The new Congress could take up the ban on college sports betting during the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tourney.

The Associated Press says that’s the earliest it could be considered after the Cabinet confirmation hearings and a February recess. Arizona Sen. John McCain chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which held college sports betting hearings during last year’s NCAA tourney. He’s a key supporter of the proposed ban.

The AP said Nevada’s congressional delegation, which opposes the ban, plans to huddle later this month to discuss strategy.

Sale’s complete

The Gold Dust West Casino in Reno, Nev., has new owners. Black Hawk Gaming & Development Company added the 500-slot casino, acquired for $26.5 million. It includes 106 motel rooms and a restaurant, a few blocks west of downtown.

The new licensee owns the Gilpin Hotel Casino in Black Hawk, Colo., and also owns much of The Lodge Casino there. The 4.6-acre Reno property is zoned for high-rise gaming use.

New system

The Pechanga Band of Mission Indians will install Casino Data Systems’ Oasis casino management system on 2,000 gaming devices at its Temecula, Calif., casino.

It will audit coins, cash and tickets, and support ticketing data from various device manufacturers. Another upgrade, CDS’s PitBOSS, will monitor table games.

CDS said the contract totaled about $3 million.

Expanding

The Beau Rivage may be a new kid on the Biloxi blocks, but its new owners, MGM Mirage, will pump in $22 million before summer to remodel and expand its casino and some of its restaurants.

The buffet will stay open during its expansion. Café Jardin will close, then be moved, re-opening in May. About 250 machines will be added to the casino’s inventory of 2,000 slots. Maggie’s Lounge, a popular Biloxi nightspot, will close until more space becomes available.

Prizes nixed

Those free meals or other prizes on "for fun" Internet casino sites are shrinking fast.

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office opined last week that casinos couldn’t offer prizes based on Internet games — even if the customer never had to bet any cash.

Park Place Entertainment pulled its prize offers from its Flamingo Las Vegas website the next day. The Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas followed last weekend.

The prizes varied — from T-shirts and logo hats to discounted room rates and free buffet meals.

Thumbs down

No way Nevada casino operator Don Laughlin is going to promote a casino owned by his home state of Minnesota. That’s the promise of Sen. Jim Vickerman, chairman of the committee that handles gaming legislation there.

Laughlin’s plan would give 90 percent of the casino profits to the state. Legislators turned a deaf ear to his pitch last year, too.

"I’ll be right up front with you," said Vickerman. "It’s not going to pass the committee I chair”¦ I get no pressure out here where I live for more gambling."

Private casinos are unconstitutional in Minnesota, but the state has 18 tribal casinos.

Record year

Innovative Gaming Corporation of America last year doubled its year-before sales figures. They hit $8.9 million for the year ending Dec. 31, according to a company news release.

Through its operating subsidiary, it develops, makes and distributes "high entertainment" gaming machines

There’s another pedestrian bridge over the Las Vegas Strip. The latest to open, linking the Venetian and the Mirage, helps traffic move better and keeps pedestrians safer. They split the $4 million cost. Other bridges scheduled to be started this year will cross Sands Avenue, Spring Mountain Road, and the Strip north of Sands Avenue.

The Jamaica Lottery Company Ltd has inked a $10.9 million contract with Autotote Lottery Corporation and its Affiuliatem Scientific Games, for 750 terminals, an on-line lottery system and five years of support services. There are three options, each allowing two-year renewals.