McCain denies probe of Mohegan Sun, Trading Cove

June 19, 2001 4:33 AM
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EAST

Staffers for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said newspaper reports of an investigation into profits at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut were incorrect.

Last week, The Boston Globe singled out Trading Cove Associates, developer of the highly successful Indian casino, as being targeted by McCain for allegedly receiving more profits than federal Indian gaming law allows.

Speaking for McCain, spokeswoman Nancy Ives said, “He was interested in holding a hearing on general Indian gaming issues. But he did not call for a probe of this particular issue in and of itself.”

The Mohegans and Trading Cove, which is controlled by international casino tycoon Sol Kerzner, have denied any impropriety and said the Globe articles were inaccurate and unfair.

McCain is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Casino-free zone?

A Massachusetts state senator is calling for a “casino gambling nonproliferation treaty” between Gov. Jane Swift and New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen to cool off prospects for rapidly expanding gaming in New England.

Reacting to a defeated budget amendment to allow casinos within the state, Sen. Susan Tucker has proposed the two governors get together to declare their states a sort of slot-free zone.

The issue has gained momentum in recent weeks following reports that the Nipmuc Indian Tribe is seeking land on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border for a Las Vegas-size casino.

The tribe is awaiting formal federal recognition, which will allow it to proceed with plans for the casino.

Track plans hotel

Dover Downs racetrack in Delaware plans to bolster its successful slot operation with a 232-room hotel.

The 2,000-slot harness track, which draws 2.4 million players a year, will approach something like a full-scale casino when the hotel opens next February. The hotel will also offer a 118-seat steakhouse.

Room rates are expected to run from $125 to $175 a night. Several suites will be available at higher rates ranging from $195 to $500 a night.

In other news, slot revenue at the state’s three racetracks increased 9 percent to $40.6 million in May, compared with the same period a year ago.

Delaware Park posted a 9.7 percent gain over May 2000 to $20.6 million. Dover Downs experienced a 6.9 percent gain to $12.7 million. Harrington Raceway was up 10.7 percent to $7.3 million.

State sweepstakes

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a new sweepstakes that would subsidize gaming at the state’s dog and horse tracks.

Track owners want the sweepstakes to boost purses, draw first-rate talent and attract enough “live” visitors to keep operating.

Last year, three times as much money was wagered via simulcasts than the amount placed on actual live bets at the tracks.

Booster for Catskills

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says he’s “passionate” about gambling and will use his clout in Washington to speed approval of a proposed Indian casino in the Catskills.

“I’ll be like a blowtorch to try to cut through the bureaucracy,” he said in a recent newspaper report.

Schumer said his seat on the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee gives him leverage with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make the controversial Catskills project happen.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe wants to build a $500 million Las Vegas-size casino on trust land in Sullivan County about 90 miles north of New York City. Las Vegas-based casino giant Park Place Entertainment is the tribe’s development and management partner.

The plan is mired in litigation brought by a former development partner and is also hobbled by a ruling in state Supreme Court earlier this year that said Gov. George Pataki has no authority to approve federally mandated Indian gaming compacts without legislative approval.

WEST
Embattled panel

The California Gambling Control Commission continues to feel the slings and arrows from the state’s tribal casinos.

Last week, tribes successfully lobbied against funding for the fledgling agency. Yesterday, a state senator predicted the agency would fail under interim director Robert Traverso, who was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis.

Tribes have criticized Davis and the agency for acting “overzealously” in trying to regulate tribal casinos. Davis is also under fire for failing to approve any new tribal/state gaming compacts.

Growing in Arizona

The growing gaming industry in Arizona now employs 9,324 people, compared to about 9,700 in the state’s lucrative mining industry.

Total casino revenues are estimated at nearly $900 million a year. Although Indian casinos pay no state taxes, it is estimated that purchases and income from casinos generated $40 million in state and local taxes. Laughlin’s April convention attendance shot up 46 percent in April, offsetting a slight decline in visitor volume for the month, according to figures released by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

Air traffic to the southern Nevada gaming town on the Colorado River almost doubled to 19,432, compared with the same month last year.

Overall, the market remained fairly flat, with total hotel occupancy down 1.4 percent and gross gaming revenue down 0.9 percent.

Year to date, visitor volume is down 1.4 percent to 1.57 million, occupancy is down 0.4 percent and gaming revenues are down 1.1 percent to $203.9 million.

It’s been a good year for conventions so far, with attendance up 24.6 percent, compared with the same period in 2000.

SOUTH
Ailing SunCruz

Gambling cruise ship operator SunCruz said it will likely seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The filing could come within days, said owner Adam Kidan, who said the company will continue operating while it tries to refinance its debt and resolve eight lawsuits filed against it in connection with the $147 million sale of the company to Kidan last year by founder Gus Boulis.

The company has suffered from allegations of fraud and mob connections, which heated up after the shooting death of Boulis in February in what police call a gangland hit.

MIDWEST
Detroit goes video

In response to its players, the MGM Grand Detroit opened the city’s first video keno parlor. The casino installed the machines in an upstairs table game room.

Video keno machines, unlike live keno, which has a very high house advantage, have payoffs similar to reel slot machines.

Despite players’ requests, video keno remains a small percentage ”” less than 2 percent ”” of the total number of machines.

Gaming win up

Gaming revenue in Missouri increased to $94.267 million in May, a 15.4 percent increase over the $81.6 million won in May 2000.

All riverboat casinos except Aztar Caruthersville posted net gains for the month. The highest increases were at St. Joseph Riverboat (41 percent), President St. Louis (29.6 percent) and Ameristar St. Charles (19.5 percent).