Eyes of Texas are on gaming

Mar 20, 2007 5:36 AM

Texas-based proponents of legal casinos can be counted on to roll out a new plan for bringing casinos to their state every time a new session of the legislature gets cranked up in Austin.

It’s happened again this year and Harrah’s Senior VP Jan Jones doubts it will be any more successful than it has in past years. Aside from California, no other state sends so much casino business to Las Vegas.

The conservative forces that influence public policy would rather that Texans keep making the trip to Nevada, Louisiana, Oklahoma and other gaming states.

But there is a building wave of irony just over the horizon that may finally reverse this situation. The prospect for change may be a couple of years down the road but it is going to be felt as Harrah’s is bought by two private equity groups, one of them being the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) which has a headquarters office in Fort Worth.

By the way, Texas’ largest energy producer is TXU Corp., which is being bought by a couple of groups that just happen to include TPG, not that one deal has anything to do with another.

I wonder how the tone of those anti-gaming arguments may change when opponents can no longer refer to all the money going to "greedy out of state casino operators."

Makes you wonder which may be seen as the better deal — utility rate increases or a few well-located casinos.

A chippy subject

Nolan Dalla is going to the Gaming Control Board this week with an issue that will get the interest of a lot of people accustomed to passing casino chips around like so much cash.

Dala anticipated no problem when he stepped to the cage at the MGM Grand to redeem a winning sports ticket or two and, oh yes, why not also cash in this $5,000 Bellagio chip while he was at it.

Dala says the chip represented the re-payment of a loan he had made.

So where had the chip originated, where was the gaming activity? The cage clerk quizzed Dalla.

When Dala was unable to refer the clerk to a particular pit or game, the clerk said the chip could not be cashed and, what’s more, it was going to be confiscated.

You’ve got to be kidding me, was the gist of Dalla’s response, which may have involved actual words a bit stronger than this.

The clerk would not relent and Dalla chose not to point out that he is not exactly a stranger in Las Vegas, as a well-known author and media relations executive for the World Series of Poker.

"I did not play that card because I did not see any reason for it."

His desire to cash a chip he had acquired honestly should not require impassioned pleas, he reasoned.

Oh yes, Dalla did get a receipt for the chip which is presumably secure in an MGM vault as he asks the Control Board for help.

Where’s the meat?

You’ve got to like that Barney Frank. Supporters of Internet gaming business are beginning to as well.

The Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the influential House Financial Services Committee, told the Financial Times last week that he is thinking of calling for a repeal of the legislation passed late last year that outlawed the financial transactions that have helped fuel the booming growth of Internet gaming.

That’s what Barney is thinking about, agreed American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf, who has described Frank as something of a libertarian when it comes to the casino business.

"But I think this is a sort of concept at the moment with Barney. He does not appear to have decided how he will do it or when he will try. In other words there is no meat on the bones yet."