Penn. House members want more $$$ from racino plan

Jul 15, 2003 6:02 AM

Confusion reigned over the weekend in Pennsylvania where the state’s House members were debating a plan to permit video lottery machines to be installed at horse racetracks.

Already on the table is a bill passed by the Senate that would limit racino operations to the four existing tracks and possibly three others. The plan would raise an estimated $300 million to help balance the state’s operating budget. The plan has the support of Gov. Ed Rendell.

But House members have raised the revenue projections by suggesting that there should be 11 tracks with slots with a goal of raising $1 billion. This would help avoid a 34% projected hike in the state income tax rate. It’s expected that a modified bill will be presented to House members this week for a vote.

The larger number of tracks probably would be enough to kill the measure in the Senate, said leaders of the Republican majority whose efforts were responsible for the passage of the previous legislation.

Publicly traded companies that have a major stake in the slots proposal are Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN), and Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA). Also hoping to benefit is MTR Gaming Group Inc. (MNTG) that expects to receive a racing license for a planned racetrack in Erie.

Major order

Acres Gaming Inc. (AGAM), the bonusing systems specialist that is in the process of being acquired by International Game Technology (IGT), has received a $7.6 million order from the Ho-Chunk Nation. The Indian Tribe operates several gaming establishments in the Midwest.

The order is for several Acres products including Acres Advantage Casino Management System, Acres Cashless Ticket In-Ticket Out systems and Acres Bonusing. Also all of the slot machines involved will feature the Acres NexGen interactive multimedia display.

Commenting on the order, Bud Glisson, Acres’ CEO, remarked, "The Ho-Chunk selection process was extremely thorough and exacting”¦clearly among the most stringent we have faced."

Wisconsin gaming properties involved are Ho-Chunk Casino Hotel and Convention Center located in Wisconsin Dells, Majestic Pines Casino and Bingo in Black River Falls, Rainbow Casino and Bingo in Nekoosa and DeJope Bingo in Madison.

Growth company

Shuffle Master Inc. (SHFL) is being listed as one of America’s 100 Fastest Growing Small Companies by Fortune Small Business magazine, which has listed the companies in their July/August edition.

The magazine said it ranks the companies by weighing the combination of revenue growth, earnings growth and total stock return measure over the past three fiscal years.

Shuffle Master’s performance, according to the article, included three-year average revenue growth of 22.8%, earnings per share growth of 47.3% and total stock return of 56.6%.

Indians promoted

Major management changes are taking place at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in western North Carolina. The property is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians but the tribe has an operating agreement with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET).

Announced last week were seven promotions, all management positions that will be filled by tribal members. The positions include a vice president, an assistant vice president, three directors, an assistant director and a manager.

One of those involved was "Lumpy" Lambert, a former athletic director at Cherokee High School who started working at the casino five years ago. He now is the casino’s newest vice president.

Eastern Band members currently make up 60% of the management and supervisory force at the casino. Each has a college degree.

Earnings season

This is the time of the fiscal year when publicly held companies report their earnings for the second quarter that ended on June 30. Included in the group will be some of the larger gaming companies.

Included in the companies to announce earnings within the next few days are:

International Game Technology (IGT), Thursday, July 17, at 6 a.m. PDT.

MGM Mirage Inc. (MGG), Thursday, July 17, at 8 a.m. PDT.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), Tuesday, July 22, at 6 a.m.

Station Casinos Inc. (STN), Wednesday, July 23, at 8 a.m.

Park Place Entertainment Corp. (PPE), Thursday, July 24, at 8 a.m. PDT.

Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS), Thursday July 24 at 9 a.m. PDT.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA), Monday, July 28, at 3 p.m. PDT.

Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD), Wednesday, July 30, at 1:30 p.m. PDT.

Visitor volume

Fewer visitors to Las Vegas were recorded by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) during the month of May as compared to the same period of a year ago.

The visitor count was listed as 3,048,745 compared to last year’s 3,060,042, or a decline of 0.4%. Contributing to the smaller number was the count of visitors attracted by scheduled conventions. The convention attendance was listed at 398,675. Last year during the month of May there were 411,444 convention visitors.

Hotel room occupancy also was lower this year with a total of 85.7% of the rooms occupied compared to 86.3%. However, total room night occupied was slightly better at 3,391.021, or 0.2% better that last year’s 3,383,130.

Visitor volume in Laughlin showed a modest increase of 2.4% at 366,062 while the number of visitors to Mesquite jumped a whopping 12.2% to 150,953.

Equine program

Revenues generated from slot machines at racetracks will help fund the Equine Health Studies Program at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. The funds were dedicated for the school project as part of a bill recently passed by the Louisiana legislature.

Supporters said the horse industry is an important economic asset of the state, with a total direct impact of over $1 billion annually. This they said helped legislators generate support for the bill.

"The $750,000 of annually recurring funding approved will have a dramatic effect on the EHSP by helping to enhance and sustain the research, educational and service mission of our program, and it will move us that much closer to reaching our goal of becoming one of the premier equine biomedical centers in the nation," said the dean of the school.

Generating the funds will be slots at Delta Downs, operated by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD), and Louisiana Downs, operated by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET).

Texas success

The Lucky Eagle Casino isn’t centrally located but it is the only legal casino in the State of Texas.

And, even though it is just a Class II gaming facility, it still attracts wall-to-wall business. Which prompts leaders of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas to seek the funding needed to build a 100,000 square-foot casino. The Tribe also is looking to upgrade their gaming to a Class III license, something that doesn’t exist in Texas.

Class II gaming permits things such as certain card games, bingo and gaming machines that are called pull-tabs. These machines look like video lottery machines but simulate Lucky 7 tickets.

Until the expanded facility is completed in December, the Tribe said it will not advertise the casino because the existing building cannot handle more customers. "They’re standing in line to play as it is," said an observer.

The reservation is located seven miles southeast of Eagle Pass, Texas, but attracts patrons from San Antonio where daily bus service is provided.

Belterra suit

Fallout from the past management of Belterra riverboat casino in Vevay, Indiana, continues as a former employee filed a sex harassment suit. Sonya C. Skinner, 43, says she was fired from her job as riverboat captain after she refused to allow more passengers on the boat than the license permitted.

Skinner also alleged that the boat management tolerated "repeated adverse sexual comments" to and about her by supervisors. She is seeking $1.5 million in her suit.

The company, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK), has since replaced all of its top leadership.

This is the second sexual harassment suit filed by former employees. Two women said that while the company was importing women to entertain high rollers, they were ordered to use sex to encourage gambling.


Indiana casinos wasted little time in setting up 24-hour gambling on their riverboats following the approval of state regulators.

Starting their 24-hour schedules last weekend were: Belterra Casino, Velvay; Argosy Casino, Lawrenceburg; Caesars Indiana Casino in Elizabeth; Harrah’s Casino in East Chicago; Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, and the two Gary riverboats, Majestic Star Casino and Trump Casino.

Going with different schedules are Blue Chip in Michigan City, Thursday through Saturday nights; Casino Aztar in Evansville, Friday through Sunday nights, and Grand Victoria in Rising Sun, Friday and Saturday nights only.

Not in my backyard

Businessman Sam Katz wants to be mayor of Philadelphia and doesn’t want the city (or the state) to put slot machines in the city or its nearby racetracks.

He was unsuccessful in his first attempt to succeed in the mayoral contest when he lost to incumbent John Street. As to the slots issue, it remains to be seen.

But Katz’s anti-gaming attitude in his hometown has become an issue in northern California where he and his associates and providing the funding for a Vegas-styled casino at the Casino San Pablo, now limited to card games. The casino is owned by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians who have been working since 1997 with Katz for both recognition and for a gaming compact with the state.

Recognition came when Congressman George Miller tacked on a one-paragraph amendment to an existing bill that ordered the federal government to grant recognition and place the card club into trust for the tribe.

Opponents to the expanded casino are calling Katz a carpetbagger whose only interest is to rake in profits from the Indian casino in California while opposing gambling in his hometown.

The Insider

TAlliance Gaming Corp (AGI) announced that its wholly-owned Bally Systems, has completed ticketing and cashless installations at Foxwoods, Borgata, Harrah’s AC, Showboat AC and Tropicana AC.

The Beau Rivage Resort Casino in Biloxi, Miss., has been named Mississippi’s outstanding large business and was presented with the state’s first Governor’s Cup by the Mississippi Economic Development Council.

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority says it has closed on the private placement of $330 million 63/8% senior subordinated notes due in 2009. The proceeds will be used to repurchase notes previously issued with higher interest rates.

A shareholders’ lawsuit has been filed against Riviera Holdings Corp. (RIV) alleging the board of directors had "intentionally thwarted legitimate bids" to take over the company. Specifically identified was the bid made by Fabrizio Boccardi.

Wynn Resorts Limited (WYNN) has sold $200 million aggregate principal amount of 6% convertible subordinated debentures due in 2015 in a private placement transaction.

Iowa’s riverboats and racinos took in a record $980 million during the fiscal year ending on June 30. The amount was about $20 million higher than the previous year.

According to a study done by Penn State University, the Pennsylvania horse industry pumped $1.1 billion into the state’s economy during the calendar year 2001.