Florida court jeopardizes
speedy slots parlor openings

Aug 15, 2006 9:30 PM

Three publicly-traded companies, who were speedily preparing to convert their Florida pari-mutuel facilities into slots parlors, saw their plans threatened last week when a majority three-judge panel sided with opponents to the vote that approved slot machines in Broward County.

Affected by the 2-1 vote of the First District Court of Appeals were Pompano Park harness track, owned by Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE), Gulfstream Park thoroughbred track, owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA), and Dania Jai-Alai, recently acquired by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD). Also affected was privately owned Hollywood Greyhound Track.

Challenging the 51%-49% vote were the Humane Society of the United States and GREY 2K USA who claimed that slot backers submitted thousands of forged signatures including those of at least three dozen dead people in a petition campaign that put the measure on the ballot.

The appeals court decided that there were "technical defects" in the voting procedures that should have been considered at trial. The ruling sent the matter back to Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark of Tallahassee who had tossed out the suit with a finding that the election "cured any improper signature gathering."

Vote postponed

Riviera Holdings Corp. (RIV) shareholders are encountering another delay in determining the future of the company because of a last-minute bid.

Originally, the company had scheduled a vote last Wednesday to determine whether the shareholders favored accepting a $211 million buyout of all existing stock. The bid, submitted by a consortium involving Barry Sternlicht, the founder of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT), and developers Brett Torino and Neil Bluhm, was for $17 per share and was supported by Chairman CEO Bill Westerman.

But just prior to vote, that was going to be opposed by two major shareholding groups that felt the bid was too low, an unexpected bid of $248.6 million or $20 per share, was received from a group called International Gaming and Entertainment. This group called BT Enterprises included Jeffrey Wu, Michael Signorelli and Bagus Tjahjono.

The Riviera directors said it would review the new bid to determine especially whether the group had a "sufficient amount of equity capital to complete the acquisition."

Angry neighbors

Donald Trump and his partners may eventually win one of two slot parlor licenses to be granted for locations in the City of Philadelphia but it won’t be with the support of his neighbors.

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc (TRMP) joined with a couple of heavy hitters in taking a lease on 18 acres in the Philly section known as Nicetown and the bordering East Falls. Their hope is to get a slots license when they are issued and to build a "glitzy gaming complex."

The argument that it will bring jobs to the former blighted neighborhood has been rejected by area leaders. In fact, if the Multi-Community Alliance is successful in working against the project, the land at the intersection of Interstate 76 and Pennsy Route 1 will remain fallow.

Joining Trump in the project are Pat Croce, former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and Brian Tierney, CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings.

THE INSIDER: Bally Technologies Inc. (BYI), formerly known as Alliance Gaming Inc. (ALLY) said Monday it will restate its financial results going back three years to review the timing used to recognize revenue.

The directors of MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) said they have amended the company’s bylaws to delete the board of directors’ executive committee; delete references to the position of vice chairman, and to authorize the CEO to designate persons to serve as senior vice president.

Shuffle Master Inc. (SHFL) announced that Mark Yoseloff, chairman and CEO, plans to sell about 24% of his stock in the company. As of last December, he owned 782,000 SHFL shares.

Corey Johnsen, president of Lone Star Park in Texas, a facility owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA) has had his duties expanded to give him responsibility for another Magna track, Remington Park in Oklahoma.

A judge in Rhode Island has agreed to let the voters of Rhode Island to vote on amending the state constitution to permit the construction of a casino in West Warwick that would be operated as a partnership between Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) and the Narragansett Indians.

Michigan state regulators have approved the construction of a 400-room hotel that will be connected to the Greektown Casino in Detroit.