Alabama Senate OKs slots at tracks

May 07, 2001 3:47 AM
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South

The Alabama Senate narrowly approved legislation last week that would open the state’s greyhound tracks to video gambling.

The bitterly contested bill passed by one vote and now goes to the House.

The bill attempts to check the spread of illegal gambling machines in arcades and other locations by limiting businesses to four of the slot-type devices, which pay off a maximum of $5 in coupons redeemable for non-cash gifts. Currently, many locations flout the limits by paying out series of winnings.

At the same time the bill attempts to rein in the machines, it permits unlimited video gambling for cash at the state’s dog tracks in Macon, Greene, Jefferson and Mobile counties.

The bill forbids video poker and traditional Las Vegas-style slot machines throughout the state, including the tracks.

Opponents of the measure said it amounts to a legalization of gambling in Alabama and have vowed to carry the fight to the courts.

About 30,000 untaxed, unregulated video gaming machines are in operation at more than 500 locations statewide.

A day after the bill passed the Senate, authorities in Mobile County arrested four people and confiscated 183 illegal machines from businesses operating game arcades.

New hotel

Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis has received permits to begin construction on a 300-room, 14-story hotel.

The $35 million addition is the first new construction at the town’s sole casino since 1992. It will include 10,000 square feet of convention space, a restaurant, gift shops, a spa and swimming pool.

The new tower will bring the resort up to 500 rooms.

Fire in Tunica

No major injuries were reported after a fire broke out Friday at Grand Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Miss., forcing an evacuation of the mammoth resort.

The early-morning blaze was confined to the north entrance of the 140,000-square-foot casino and was brought under control in about 10 minutes.

Three employees were treated for smoke inhalation.

Cheat suspect nabbed

Mississippi gaming authorities arrested the alleged ringleader of a scam at the craps tables that cheated four Gulf Coast casinos out of an estimated $200,000.

Two dealers also were arrested, bringing the number of dealers charged in the case to six.

The man suspected of organizing the ring, a 34-year-old Memphis resident, surrendered to authorities on Friday. He is charged with 10 counts of violating state gaming laws. Bail was set at $180,000.

According to authorities, the man gave the dealers large tips in exchange for payoffs on losing craps bets.

Midwest
Run for Rosemont

The affluent Chicago suburb of Rosemont has hired a former U.S. attorney to defend its claim to the state’s 10th gaming license.

The city, designated as the site for Illinois’ last riverboat license, is concerned about its status after the state Gaming Board revoked the gaming license of Emerald Casino Inc., the company that was planning to develop a Rosemont casino.

Should the board consider moving the license, former U.S. Attorney Daniel K. Webb has been hired to fight any such action on the behalf of the city.

Oddly enough, Webb is best-known for twice prosecuting Rosemont’s politically powerful mayor, Donald Stephens, once for tax evasion and once on fraud charges. Stephens was acquitted both times.

Harrah’s expands

Harrah’s Entertainment is launching a major expansion of the Players Island riverboat casino it acquired last year.

Beginning in September, the company will add a new riverboat, three new restaurants and an entertainment center. When the project is completed, the facility will be given the Harrah’s name.

Mike Crider, vice president and general manager of the casino, said the expansion will boost business 20 percent and double the size of the workforce to 1,400.

A tax bonanza

Missouri collected a record $185 million in casino taxes last year and $47 million in admission fees from customers who boarded the state’s nine riverboat casinos.

More than 23.9 million people visited the casinos in 2000 and spent more than $996 million, according to official figures. More than 85 percent of gaming revenues, and subsequently gaming taxes, come from slot machines.

Reviewing the numbers, the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, Kevin Mullally, said that removing the state’s $500 loss limit would generate another $108 million in tax revenue annually.

Cash for tribes

A disagreement over the number of slot machines permitted California’s Indian casinos won’t hold up $20 million in revenue-sharing payments to the state’s poorest tribes.

The state Gambling Commission is expected to petition the Legislature for permission to distribute the money as early as June while the state and the casinos continue to wrestle over a cap on the lucrative one percent and double the size of the workforce to 1,400.

A tax bonanza

Missouri collected a record $185 million in casino taxes last year and $47 million in admission fees from customers who boarded the state’s nine riverboat casinos.

More than 23.9 million people visited the casinos in 2000 and spent more than $996 million, according to official figures. More than 85 percent of gaming revenues, and subsequently gaming taxes, come from slot machines.

Reviewing the numbers, the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, Kevin Mullally, said that removing the state’s $500 loss limit would generate another $108 million in tax revenue annually.

Cash for tribes

A disagreement over the number of slot machines permitted California’s Indian casinos won’t hold up $20 million in revenue-sharing payments to the state’s poorest tribes.

The state Gambling Commission is expected to petition the Legislature for permission to distribute the money as early as June while the state and the casinos continue to wrestle over a cap on the lucrative one-armed bandits.

Gov. Gray Davis has said the 1999 gaming compacts he signed limit the number of slots to 45,206 statewide. Many gaming tribes argue the number is a lot higher. The disagreement has held up a total of $39.6 million that has accumulated in a revenue-sharing account over the last year.

East
Bye Bye, Bob

It looks like Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione’s days in Atlantic City are numbered, and with them his 20-year dream of building a luxury casino on the Boardwalk.

Reports last week indicate that Guccione is looking to auction two pieces of property that were to be the site of the casino in order to satisfy $28 million in debt. A New York real estate firm has been hired to conduct the auction with a deadline set for June 7.

The properties consist of two acres located along the Boardwalk between Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place and a four-acre parcel at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway in the center of town.

Back in the 1980s Guccione had started to build what was to be a $200 million casino hotel on a Boardwalk site now owned by Donald Trump. But he ran out of cash during construction, leaving a mammoth steel hulk in the middle of town that gathered rust for 10 years before it was finally demolished.

Taj fined

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission has agreed to accept a deal worked out between Trump Taj Mahal and the state Gaming Control Board calling for $65,000 in fines against the casino for three episodes involving underage gambling.

The cases all occurred in 1999 and involved a 19-year-old blackjack player, a 20-year-old at the Caribbean Stud tables and an 18-year-old playing at the slots.


Atlantic City revenues down in April

The news from America’s Playground last week was that April gaming revenues will be down significantly compared to the same month last year.

With the New Jersey Casino Control Commission’s April revenue report still about a month away, The Press of Atlantic City went public with unofficial tallies that show revenues down almost 4 percent at Atlantic City’s 11 casinos. The speculation is that a slowing economy might be taking its toll at the slots and tables.

Casino win is expected to hit $354 million for the month. That’s down $13.7 million compared with April 2000. Slot revenue dropped 1 percent to $258.6 million. Table game revenue fell 10.4 percent to approximately $95 million.

Through March, revenues citywide totaled $1.4 billion, slightly behind where they were at the same time a year ago.

Three casinos bucked the trend. April win at the Sands was up 9.5 percent to $21.6 million. Trump Plaza won $26.9 million, up 2.7 percent. Resorts, recently sold by Sun International to Colony Capital, won $21.5 million, up 2.3 percent over last April.

It looks like Bally’s Park Place will dominate the market again with revenues of $43.7 million in April, but that’s down 11.1 percent from the property’s win in April 2000. Following close behind will be Trump Taj Mahal, down 8.7 percent to $42.2 million.

The rest of the town finished this way: Caesars, $38.1 million, down 0.4 percent; Tropicana, $33.8, down 9.3 percent; Harrah’s, $33.3 million, down 3.4 percent; Showboat, $30.2 million, down 0.4 percent; Atlantic City Hilton, $27.2 million, down 2.5 percent; the Claridge, $14 million, down 8.7 percent.


A tale of gaming wealth and the road not taken

The Colorado cities of Black Hawk and Central City are locked in a running feud over gambling dollars that has gotten pretty ugly recently.

A grand jury earlier this year concluded that Black Hawk officials secretly used public money to sabotage plans for an access road into Central City by buying up mining claims to block the project. Local officials deny it. No charges have been filed.

The battle is being played out in the picturesque Front Range - the foothills of the Rocky Mountains outside Denver. Here the two towns are locked in a tug of war over whether to build an eight-mile, four-lane access road or a two-lane tunnel connecting to busy Interstate 70.

The problem is, Central City hasn’t fared so well since casinos were legalized in 1990. From a high of 17 casinos that year, Central City is now down to six, which generate roughly a combined $30 million a month in revenues. Officials there say the $45 million road is needed to funnel visitors into the town.

The $150 million tunnel, on the other hand, appears to strongly favor Black Hawk, reducing the time drivers spend on a twisting mountain road that leads first to Black Hawk, then to Central City.

Central City claims Black Hawk officials introduced the tunnel proposal only to thwart its economic recovery, which Black Hawk fears will drain gambling business from their thriving little metropolis.

Obviously there’s some bad blood between these two, and it doesn’t all stem from casinos. It dates back to the 19th century when fortunes were made from gold and silver mining and Central City boasted elegant homes and even a grand opera house.

Black Hawk in those days was a hardscrabble Wild West town where raw sewage flowed beneath the wooden sidewalks.

Now Black Hawk blames its down-and-out neighbor for failing to cash in on the casino boom with ordinances in the early ’90s that severely limited large-scale casino construction. Black Hawk, in the meantime, has been booming, with 19 casinos that currently bring in about $665 million a month.