Kentucky (finally!) Ready for slots?

January 15, 2002 9:00 AM
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YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS! So, prestigious, uptown racetracks such as Keeneland are getting behind casino gambling, despite earlier opposition.

How come?

It’s all about money, what else? Kentucky is suffering from a budget shortfall of more than $500 million and the sight of their native sons going to Indiana to gamble is not a pretty one.

Kentucky now allows pari-mutuel wagering on horses, the state lottery and charitable gaming such as bingo at churches. Even Keeneland, which hosts all the big swells who gamble, will lobby with lawmakers for slot machines at racetracks or casinos.

But, there is a catch! The tracks insist that they have full control and are not bound by government regulations or horseman groups.

Hmmm.

TIP OF THE HAT to Brian R. Gamache, top gun at WMS Industries (WMS). He and the WMS group landed Steve DuCharme.

For our money, Steve has been there, done that and bringing his expertise to WMS is a big plus.

CONNOISSEURS COME HITHER! If you enjoy first rate gourmet cuisine and top notch vino, check out Gino Ferraro’s Passport to Italy winemaker dinners. If you’ve ever eaten at any of Gino’s restaurants in town, you’ll know what a quality operation he runs, and that his food is among the best Italian cuisine in the city.

Gino’s Passport to Italy cultural wine program is a year-long affair, with the first kicking off Tuesday night at Ferraro’s Summerlin. The initial dinner carries a Tuscan theme.

In addition to great food and wine, patrons will participate in monthly drawings for various prizes, which include stays at five-star hotels, airfare, VIP private wine tours, and special visits to wineries. Grand prize is valued at $10,000 per person (or $20,000 for two) and includes a trip to Italy in 2003.

CREDIT CRUNCHER: Those legislative proposals being bandied about on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., have not fallen on deaf ears. Both Visa and MasterCard have been putting the squeeze on their member banks to put a stop, or at least severely impair, transactions involving Internet gambling.

Some lawmakers have suggested legislation that would put the onus on such credit card issuers to stop offshore gambling companies from utilizing their cards to settle gambling debts.

Not waiting for new laws to be promulgated, Visa and MasterCard have instructed their American member banks to deny all transactions involving online gambling services or face fines starting at $25,000 per violation. The pressure has resulted in as many as 80% of Internet gambling payments to be denied, according to Interactive Gaming News. A poll, the News said, indicated the crackdown has caused revenues to decline by more than 50%.

REDSTONE SHELLED OUT THE GREEN: Rumors that media giant Viacom was going to forego a Christmas party because of tough times were only partially true. The party was held but Viacom didn’t foot the bill”¦ Sumner Redstone did.

In announcing that the holiday bash at Sotheby’s in New York was attended by some 200 people, including some who were not part of the Viacom company, a Redstone spokesman emphasized that the company was spared using corporate funds for the affair.

But considering that Redstone’s billions rank him among the country’s wealthiest, the $200,000 tab was just a drop in the bucket.

ON THE PROWL: Looks like Australian whale Kerry Packer is on the prowl to beef up his gambling empire. Aussie observers noted recently that Packer has restructured his management team, thus splitting his Publishing & Broadcasting empire into two separate ventures. One will deal with his media activities and the other will focus on his emerging gambling empire.

Packer not only operates one of Australia’s most successful gaming facilities in the Crown Casino but recently set about establishing his position with Internet gambling.

Indicating that he plans to expand his gaming operations, Packer recently replaced his television chief executive with the individual who most recently has been CEO of Crown Casino. This was seen as a way for Packer to better capitalize on expansion opportunities.

Reports indicated Packer was taking a strong look at emerging gaming opportunities in such places as Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

MOVE IT UP A NOTCH: Leaders of the thoroughbred racing industry have been so pleased with the growth of futures betting on the Kentucky Derby that they hope to develop a similar program for the Breeders’ Cup events.

Prior to 1999, the only futures bets in racing were those offered by the race books in Las Vegas. But, Churchill Downs developed a system of pari-mutuel wagering with futures bets being made in three separate pools. And, each pool listed 24 betting interests, not necessarily the same in one pool as in the other two pools.

By adapting the futures concept to Breeders’ Cup races, the sponsors hope to have wagering on special events with as many as 200 horses. Also being proposed would be prop bets such as over/under wagering on how many races certain jockeys might win on the entire program.