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Crucial period for Magna
as several states debate
racetrack slots

Feb 24, 2004 1:07 AM

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA), struggling to reverse recent declines at some of their 11 racetracks, enters a critical phase over the next few weeks as lawmakers in Oklahoma, Maryland and Pennsylvania consider racetrack slots activities.

In Oklahoma, where the survival of Magna’s Remington Park hinges strongly on approval of a bill permitting Class II slot machines, the Senate last week voted 30-18 in favor of the bill and sent it to the House whose members last year defeated a similar proposal.

Despite the urging of Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, slots at Magna’s Laurel and Pimlico racetracks is far from a done deal as more politicians enter the fray with proposals to expand gaming to areas deemed unacceptable.

And in Pennsylvania, where Magna operates a harness track as well as off-track and telephone betting services, the political forces, like those in Maryland, have been unable to find an accommodation that would permit them to approve the expansion of gambling through the introduction of slot machines.

Meanwhile, Magna Entertainment officials have said that they hope to reverse the handle declines at Santa Anita and Golden Gate in California, and the major winter race meeting at Hialeah in Florida with a variety of marketing programs.

Among the programs being considered is the "card system used in Las Vegas casinos," said a company spokesman. Exactly how the card system and the frequency of play would be used has yet to be worked out.

THE INSIDER: Tracy Austin, chief information officer for Mandalay Resort Group (MBG), has been honored by Computerworld magazine as a member of the Premier 100 IT Leaders of the world.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has affirmed the corporate credit rating of Island of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE).

Ryan O’Hara has been appointed chief operating officer of TVG Network by its parent company, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. (GMST). The company said it is continuing a search for a president to replace Mark Wilson who recently resigned.

The N.J. Racing Commission has approved a plan to establish 15 off-track betting parlors around the state. The betting sites will be operated by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority and the Greenwood/Pennwood Racing partnership.

The annual shareholders meeting of International Game Technology (IGT) will be held Tuesday, March 2 at 1:30 p.m. (PST) in the company’s Reno, Nev., headquarters.

American Gaming & Electronics, a subsidiary of Wells-Gardner Electronics (WGA) has received a four-year extension of its supplier’s license by the Illinois Gaming Board.

Las Vegas-based Mikohn Gaming Corporation (MIKN) has entered into an agreement with Star Slots International LLC to develop a new series of games featuring Hispanic legends such as Julio Iglesias and Celia Cruz.

Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR) has withdrawn its bid for a license to build a casino in French Lick, Ind., citing the cost required and the questionable return on investment.

Another effort is being made to remove the gaming cap of $500 imposed on gamblers by Indiana gaming regulators. The removal is seen as a positive for such companies as Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) Argosy Gaming Inc. (AGY), Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) and Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA).

The 14 riverboat casinos and three racinos in Louisiana won a total of $183 million during the month of January.

MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG), which recently completed the sale of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas and the Golden Nugget Laughlin, Nev., announced last week that is has an agreement to sell the hotel and casino its owns in Darwin, Australia, to SKYCITY Entertainment Group Limited for $150 million.

Gaming analysts at Morgan Stanley have reduced their rating of Argosy Gaming Co. (AGY) from "overweight" to "equal-weight."

The Senate in Washington State has approved a bill that would permit that state’s horseplayers to wager over the telephone or on the Internet.

Looking to improve lagging business at its Bally’s New Orleans riverboat, Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CZR) has instituted a new marketing program utilizing "Loose Slot Louie," a character created to emphasize the fact that the company has loosened more than 1,000 slot machines on the boat.