Lots of slots were in his plans

Aug 7, 2001 5:58 AM

   WAS IT THE CRYSTAL BALL OR THE OUIJA BOARD? I can’t answer! But, I can tell you about a savvy chief executive officer ”” Ted Arneault. He is in command of MTR Gaming (MNTG). And, whatever he was using to look into the future, it seems to have worked.

   No one, including myself, was more surprised to hear him announce several weeks ago that MTR plans to build a racetrack in Erie, Pa.

   I have nothing against Erie. It was on my escape route from Buffalo to Chicago. But, how will it ever support a racetrack was everyone’s question?

   Not Arneault. Shortly after he told of his Erie plans, a U.S. Representative (a Democrat) and a GOP Senator told of their plans to file bills to install 2000 slot machines at racetracks in the Keystone State.

   One of the pols was heard to say: “I’m tired of seeing cars with Pennsylvania plates going to tracks in Delaware and West Virginia to play the slot machines.”

   Reviewing the Pennsylvania racetrack scene, MNTG would not be the only benefactor if the bill becomes law. It would also greatly boost Penn National Gaming (PENN) owners of Penn National and Pocono Downs racetracks. And ”” lest we forget ”” Magna Entertainment (MIEC), which recently reached out to buy The Meadows near Pittsburgh.

   BELIEVE IT OR NOT! “I don’t believe it,” said a rosebud when she referred to the few names that have been mentioned so far as prospects to succeed Brian Sandoval as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

   “The names in play right now are good guys. But, I don’t think they’ll get the nod. Sen. Mark James (R-Las Vegas) and Scott Scherer, a member of the Gaming Control Board, are unlikely to make it to the finish line for Sandoval’s post,” the rosebud told us.

   Gov. Kenny Guinn, who will make the call, will likely do so before the commission meets Aug. 23 in Carson City.

   The commission’s chairmanship is the state’s top gaming regulatory post. Expect the governor to move quickly.

   NEW PINSTRIPES! Harvey’s Casino in Lake Tahoe is no longer part of the privately held Colony Capital of Los Angeles. It was acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment (HET) when $625 million cash crossed palms. Also, there was the assumption of $50 million balance sheet debt.

   HARRY & PAUL! U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and songwriter/singer Paul Anka will share the stage at the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Greats Awards Dinner Tuesday evening, Oct. 2, at the Rio Hotel. A tip of the hat goes to AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf for dropping these two names in the box of honorees for the association’s first-ever awards dinner and gaming expo (G2E). The dinner takes place during the association’s first-ever (many more will follow) exposition.

   Name-dropping is not our style, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the GamingToday crew will be seated ringside when they honor Harry and Paul. Both are dear friends. Harry was chairman of the Gaming Commission when I came out of left field trying to become the second-ever race wire disseminator in the state of Nevada. Paul Anka is one of the very few performers whose company I value.

   SHHHHH! It’s almost a secret, but Harrah’s New Orleans casino opened its first restaurant (The Manor Room). It seats 50 diners and serves up a limited menu ”” salads, crab, lobster and steak.

   There is no advertising for the eatery. As a matter of fact, several of New Orleans’ famous restaurants never even knew Harrah’s opened its own joint.

   How do you like that for being on the quiet side?

   BOOKIE BASHING! It will soon be open season for bookmakers who hang their hats offshore. The recent ruling in federal court against Jay Cohen has offshore barons of bet reviewing their situation.

   It’s a given that law enforcement agencies will be out in full force now that the court has ruled against betting over the telephone or Internet. There are some wise guys who claim the hunt is for online casino wagering and sports betting, not betting on the ponies. That may be so right now, but rabbits must be aware that when there’s no more doe to bag they could be next.

   Cohen’s defeat in a New York court was something the offshore guys would rather not see.

   ON THE UP ESCALATOR! Advertising tycoon (he certainly qualifies now) Mick Hall added another notch to his belt with the recent acquisition of Quillin Company Advertising.

   “Mick is on a roll,” said an in-the-knowster. “Earlier in the year, Hall Communication bought out Thomas Puckett Advertising.”

   How many buckos did Hall have to spend for either buy?

   “Hall ain’t talking. He has a strong team of 50 under his tent and with Quillin in the fold the agency is gaining new customers. And, that’s exactly what advertising agencies need ”” new client faces.”

   “RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME!” Leave it to a man wearing a white collar to say it best. Case in point ”” Bob and Yvette Maheu went back to Seattle last week to renew their wedding vows of 60 years.

   If I were to stop right here, it would be enough praise for the couple. In today’s era 60 years of marriage is almost unheard of. The Maheus were married at St. Joseph’s church in Seattle July 19, 1941.

   The well-known couple grew up in Waterville, Maine. Bob went to Holy Cross and later Georgetown Law School. All of a sudden the FBI had an opening that caught Bob’s fancy. He spent the next 17 years with the feds before signing on the dotted line with the reclusive Howard Hughes.

   For years Bob Maheu was Howard Hughes’ alter ego. The two were constantly in contact by telephone. Sometimes three and four times a day. But, would you believe that in all those years they never met?

   In the meantime, the Maheus raised a family ”” one daughter and three sons. They have grandchildren and great grandchildren by the numbers.

   And, by the way, Father Stephen Woodland, who officiated at the blessing of the vows, had the best line of all. With tongue in check the good father reminded the Maheus that people return to the scene of the crime and he was happy that they returned to do it again at St. Joseph’s.

   CALIFORNIANS DIG TRIBAL CASINOS! Residents of the Golden State, especially those in the San Diego area where there are more Indian casinos than any other region in the state, are overwhelmingly in favor of growth of Indian gaming.

   From a reliable in-the-knowster: “A recent survey indicates that Californians continue to see Indian-operated gaming as an issue of justice, fairness and a means of creating economic independence for tribal governments.”

   Daniel Tucker, chairman of a 70-tribe association of California Indians, agrees. Tucker is also vice chairman of San Diego’s Sycuan Band.

   According to the survey of 1,200 registered voters, 78% are in favor of what has become California’s fastest booming industry. Although the San Diego area had the highest percent saying yes (80%), results elsewhere throughout the state were also strong.

   SINGERS SHOULD SING! Comedians should tell jokes. And, racetrack operators ”” not politicians ”” should run New York City’s Off Track Betting.

   The privatizing of NYOTB is the right thing to do and Magna Entertainment Corp. (MIEC) figures to be more successful at running betting parlors than politicians.

   Said a pipe: “It’s a berry patch! That’s how I describe legal betting parlors in and around Manhattan.”

   Magna is holding hands with other racetrack operators (Philadelphia Park and Racing Enterprises) in the project. They coughed up $260 million plus a guarantee of a piece of the action annually. The official sign hasn’t been posted yet. That won’t happen until it gets the blessing of the New York State legislature.

   It will!

   DOES IMPERIAL PALACE HAVE AN OVER/UNDER NUMBER ON THIS ONE? Have you heard the campus buzz at the University of North Dakota? Everyone’s wondering whose image will be portrayed on a statue planned near the entrance of a new ice arena currently under construction. Will it be “Fighting Sioux” the school’s mascot and the team’s nickname? Or will it be someone else?

   “Some people think it will be a statue of Las Vegas casino owner Ralph Engelstad since, after all, he’s putting up most of the dough for the new ice arena and he’s been the biggest supporter of the school since he played goalie for the school’s hockey team some four decades ago,” reported our pipe.

   “But, Engelstad may be too controversial since he has also been the most insistent alumnus that the team MUST keep the nickname, Fighting Sioux. Some Indian supporters claim it denigrates the tribe.

   “So far, no one from the administration is talking, except to say that the statue will be unveiled sometime in October. I can’t wait!” the pipe added.