Gaming finally on tap
For Hawaiian Islands?

December 18, 2001 7:39 AM
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A DONNYBROOK IN THE MAKING: Word out of Hawaii is that Gov. Ben Cayetano has suggested the voters be given the opportunity to decide whether they want a state constitutional amendment that would authorize casino gambling. But, he emphasized that the amendment would authorize only one state licensed casino.

ALO — HA!

Can you imagine the infighting should the voters approve just one license?

You can expect just about every major gaming company from the U.S. and beyond lobbying for that license. Bring a lot of coconuts!

A referendum could be a long time away but the lobbying has already started. Reps from companies such as MotorCity Casino in Detroit, run by Mandalay Resorts Group but including the influential Ilitch family, and Sun International Inc., operator of Atlantis Casino on Paradise Island, have already been quoted as suggesting a casino would give a big boost to a sagging economy.

Las Vegas, however, may not be crazy about the idea. Hawaii is second only to California in sending tourists to Southern Nevada.

NO ROOMS IN THE INN, ALREADY?  The word is that, even though Green Valley Ranch Station has barely had time to open, the demand for guest rooms has spurred Stations to begin designing a second tower. No word yet on how many rooms will be added, but no doubt it will be more than the 200 or so included in the original structure.

While Stations still insists Green Valley Ranch is designed for upscale locals, there’s been an onslaught of reservations from guests who presumably want all the creature comforts ”” and Green Valley Ranch has a bunch of them! ”” but don’t want to be in the prison riot atmosphere of the Strip.

IT’S ANCHORS AWAY FOR IGT: Shareholders of International Game Technology and Anchor are expected to approve IGT’s purchase of the Las Vegas gaming company this week. The $1.4 billion acquisition of Anchor moved forward when the Federal Trade Commission terminated its antitrust review without comment. Reno-based IGT controls about 66 percent of the U.S. gambling equipment market and its takeover of Anchor would leave just four sizable competitors: WMS, Shuffle Master, Alliance and Multimedia. Under the deal, each Anchor share will be exchanged for one share of IGT stock. IGT also will assume about $367 million in Anchor debt. What’s not to like! The companies plan to go before the State Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission in special meetings this week for final approvals. If granted, the merger could close by year-end.

HE’S STILL PLAYING HIS GAMES: You’ve got to admire Wall Street mogul Sumner Redstone. He told the Nevada gaming regulators several years ago that his interest in WMS Industries (WMS) was primarily with its “games division” and he is still backing his interest with his money.

The “games division” is now a separate company called Midway Games Inc. (MWY) and Redstone, through personal investments and those of his wholly-owned company, National Amusements, is the largest single stockholder in the maker of such hits as Mortal Kombat.

In a Nov. 9, 2001, filing with the SEC, Redstone reported that he and his company owned 11,354,436 shares of Midway. And since then, he has purchased another 87,800 shares at prices ranging from $13.90 to $15.50.

Obviously, he has confidence in the games people play.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE: When Troop B of the Louisiana State Police in Kenner needed new carpeting for their station house, they found an early Christmas present on their doorstep.

Actually, it was a donation of 120 yards of carpeting donated by the wife of the troop commander, Capt. Brian Etland. But, the carpeting actually came from the Treasure Chest riverboat casino and was the “remnants” from a recent project completed on the boat.

When word got out about the source of the carpeting, all 120 yards were torn up. Although Troop B has no casino oversight responsibility, the gift was still questioned by the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

“If there’s even an appearance of maybe something irregular, we’d rather avoid it,” said Maj. Mel Ryan, area commander.

HE’S BACK IN THE SADDLE: No one can accuse the horse racing industry of failing to give a guy another chance . . . or another . . . or another.

Take the case of Jockey Pat Valenzuela. Considered to be one of the most talented riders in the country, Pval as he is known has been his own worst enemy by permitting substance abuse to blemish his career. And that includes victories in six Breeders’ Cup races as well as a stirring ride on Sunday Silence, winner of the 1989 Kentucky Derby.

Just two years ago, after a long suspension, Valenzuela was on his way to rebuilding his career when he once again fell victim to drugs. It appeared that his riding days were over.

But, with the help of friends, including famed owner-breeder Bob Lewis, Valenzuela has been free of drugs and has been participating in the substance-abuse program provided by the Winner’s Foundation, a backstretch organization in Southern California.

Look for Pval to be back in action come the opening of the Santa Anita meeting on Dec. 26.

AND, ON THE SUBJECT OF CALIFORNIA RACING: Don’t look for a quick resolution to the problems facing the introduction of (telephone and internet) account wagering that has been approved by the state’s lawmakers.

As recent as the Symposium on Racing conducted by the University of Arizona in Tucson earlier this month, there were major differences separating the two principals involved in offering wagering hubs: Magna Entertainment International, owner of  Santa Anita, and TVG, the home betting company that has the support of Churchill Downs Inc., owner of Hollywood Park.

Entering the fray over the weekend was the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) who have the “proprietary rights to the collective image of racing.” In other words, if TOC doesn’t give its OK, the racing signals will go nowhere.

TOC issued a “letter of priorities” that requires, among other things, “fan-friendly access to all California racing on a year-round basis without the necessity of opening multiple wagering accounts.”

So, if there is to be account wagering, the two competing hub operators must come to an agreement of some kind. If that is possible.