Pataki plan for new casinos draws fire

Jul 3, 2001 12:26 AM

New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall said that in the absence of a comprehensive plan for casino gambling, the New York Assembly should reject Gov. George Pataki’s legislation to allow Seneca Indian Nation casinos in Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

An aide to Pataki called McCall’s position “an outrage.”

Pataki flew last week to Niagara Falls to announce an agreement with Seneca leaders for developing casinos in the two cities as a way of boosting Western New York’s sagging economy.

Republican allies who run the state Senate had that chamber quickly approve legislation from the governor that would allow the casino project to go forward, and allow slot machines in the facilities.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly has yet to act on the legislation.

Former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who is battling McCall for the Democratic nomination for governor, said he would want to talk with residents in the region before taking a position on the casino legislation.

Opposition also came from State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Manhattan Democrat said outstanding tribal land claims, along with taxation and employment related issues should be made part of the deal.

The casino agreement also needs to the approval of the federal government and the Seneca tribal members.

Mass extends simulcasts

Massachusetts dog and horse tracks will be able to continue allowing patrons to bet on races from around the country under a bill approved by the State House.

Disagreement between track owners about the details of the bill has twice delayed action on the proposal. Lawmakers were facing a July 1 deadline to approve the measure.

The practice, known as “simulcasting,” allows track patrons to bet on races outside of Massachusetts and watch them on closed circuit television. As track attendance has fallen, simulcasting has become a key source of income for Bay State tracks.

The House amended the bill to return to the tracks $2 million they pay in taxes. The money is intended to help the tracks boost winning purses in an effort to help them attract more customers.

Opponents say the state should not be underwriting a dying industry. The House approved a second amendment that would allow tracks to keep another $1 million in uncollected winnings, which now goes to the state.

Maryland eyes gaming

House Speaker Casper Taylor created a 16-member committee to examine the possible expansion of legalized gambling in Maryland.

Taylor said the committee of House members will study all aspects of gambling in the State, especially the effect slot machines at racetracks in West Virginia and Delaware have on the Maryland horse racing industry.

Gov. Parris Glendening’s adamant opposition to slot machines and his pledge to veto any bill that would allow slots at Maryland tracks put the issue on hold in the legislature in recent years.

Glendening, however, is not eligible to run for another term in next year’s election. The issue could resurface when a new governor takes office in 2003.

Mega welcomed at Falls

Casino Niagara officially welcomed the much-anticipated Megabucks slot machines to its gaming floor.

Megabucks, a famed International Gaming Technology product, has been a favorite in Las Vegas establishments for 15 years. It is a $1 machine that accepts three coins as a maximum bet option.

The Ontario, Canada-based casino has 45 of the reel machines dispersed over three levels of gaming. First introduced in Nevada in 1986, the three-coin $1 dollar games have had record-setting jackpots in American casinos. The largest Megabucks prize ever tallyied was over $34.7 million dollars.

Kinder takeover

Lakes Gaming Inc., of Minneapolis, announced Wednesday that the Coushatta Tribe will take over operations of the popular Indian reservation casino located near the Texas border at Kinder, La.

The tribe will take over management of the Grand Casino Coushatta from Lakes Gaming when the contract expires Jan. 16. The facility, built in the mid-1990s, would be required to change its name by January 2003. Lakes will assist in the transition period up to next January.

As a tribal casino that does not pay state taxes, the Grand Casino is not required to publicly report its revenue figures. Industry analysts have said that the gaming facility is likely one of the biggest winners among Louisiana casinos due to its proximity to Texas.

The five riverboat casinos in Shreveport-Bossier City, which draw from Texas and do not have direct casino competition, won $65.8 million from gamblers in May. The four gambling boats in Lake Charles, within a short drive of Kinder, won $28.7 million in May.

The tribal casinos and Lakes Gaming are not connected with state-licensed casinos in Mississippi, owned by Park Place Entertainment Corp. of Las Vegas and carrying the Grand Casino trade name.

Command shift

Jack Abramoff, a powerful Washington lobbyist, has given up his 35 percent voting rights to the Florida-based SunCruz Casinos to the estate of slain businessman Gus Boulis.

Abramoff’s action should free him from the onslaught of lawsuits brought by the Boulis estate following last year’s $147 million sale of SunCruz, the state’s largest cruise to nowhere empire.

Adam Kidan, managing partner of the Dania Beach company, said that Abramoff called him last week to tell him he had culminated a deal with the Boulis estate.

Sun Cruz, under Kidan’s management, was seeking protection from at least eight lawsuits while it reorganized and refinanced under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Bullish in Biloxi

Three Biloxi casinos along U.S. 90 in Mississippi will be renamed “Casino Row” as part of their marketing strategy.

The Isle of Capri, Grand Casino Biloxi and Casino Magic Biloxi will use the new name to jointly sponsor prize giveaways and other promotions. They expect the partnership to eventually include shared walkways, parking lots, player’s clubs and other collaborations.

The three casinos combined offer 1,748 hotel rooms, more than 63,000 square feet of meeting space, 15 restaurants, golf courses, health clubs, spas, kids’ arcades and gift shops.

The Casino Row plan started when Mirage’s Beau Rivage opened two years ago.

Monopolies reviewed

Nevada gaming regulators plan September hearings to examine rules created to prevent the control of gambling markets by a few companies.

The hearings come on the heels of recently announced casino purchases in Mesquite and South Lake Tahoe, a pair of relatively small casino communities controlled by a few companies.

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Commission allowed Mesquite casino operator Randy Black’s $31 million purchase of Si Redd’s Oasis. The acquisition will give Black control of three of the town’s four largest casinos.

State rules require regulators to consider the impact of consolidation on a national, statewide and local basis, but does not set limits on how much control is too much.

Harrah’s Entertainment’s planned $675 million purchase of Harveys Casino Resorts would give Harrah’s the two biggest casinos in the South Lake Tahoe market.

MGM Grand’s $6.4 billion purchase of Mirage Resorts in May 2000 was approved despite the combined companies’ control of an estimated 50 percent of the Las Vegas high-end gambling market.

Station Casino’s recent purchases of the Santa Fe, Fiesta and The Reserve casinos were also approved, with the control board and commission deciding that the company competes in a broad Clark County market.

California bound

Trump Casino Resorts will proceed with a $60 million expansion of the Spotlight 29 Casino near Coachella, despite concerns from city officials that taxpayers will be stuck with a huge bill for roads and services.

“A lot of concerns that the city officials of Coachella raised were beyond their rights,” said Trump attorney Robert Pickus.

The owners of the California-based casino, the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, said they would proceed with the expansion.

Bullish on Mizzu

Ameristar Casinos Inc. presented the staff of the Missouri Gaming Commission with the master plan for its new casino entertainment facility currently under construction in St. Charles.

“The single casino configuration will serve our guests better with improved circulation on the casino floor,” explained John V. Finamore, Ameristar’s president of Missouri Operations. “It will also allow us to compete with other operators more effectively in the highly competitive Kansas City market.”

The company’s planned St. Charles venture calls for approximately 115,000 square feet of casino space, 70,000 more square feet of casino area than in the current operating facility. The facility was originally planned to measure 70,000 square feet.

The casino is now expected to include approximately 3,000 slot machines and 104 table games, including a 12-table poker room. There would be nearly 3,700 gaming positions created, an increase of 900 from the original proposal. Ameristar had planned 2,400 slot machines and 60 table games, without any poker tables.

In addition to the increased gaming space, Ameristar plans to add both a VIP lounge and a deli on the gaming vessels for the convenience of customers. The company continues to anticipate opening the new facility in mid-2002.

Done deal in KC

The newly-remodeled Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino & Hotel opened last Thursday featuring 500 new slot machines and table games.

The $45 million, 30,000 square foot expansion also included a New Orleans-theme rotunda and casino deck, Italian marble floors and musical fountain with 10-foot tall jazz “musicians.” The slot machines and table games were moved from the North Star casino.

Pow-wow play

Jerry Haney, the principal chief of the Seminole Nation, says his inquiry into the tribe’s gaming proceeds in Wewoka, Okla., led to his suspension.

The chief said trouble started when he asked for financial information from the Seminole Nation Development Authority about the tribe’s gaming operations. The ­­authority is the tribe’s economic development agency and manages, among other ventures, the tribe’s four gaming sites.