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Station cheers court ruling
invalidating two Harrah’s patents

May 25, 2004 4:34 AM

Two patents owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) were ruled invalid in a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada rendered in a lawsuit filed by the company against Station Casinos Inc. (STN).

In a statement Monday, Station Casinos said that on May 19, the court granted a summary judgment in its favor on Harrah’s claims that it had infringed upon the "National Customer Recognition System and Methods" patents. The patents related to Harrah’s Entertainment’s customer rewards and tracking program.

Station Casinos said that in granting its motion for a summary judgment the court ruled that the National Customer Recognition Patents are "invalid as a matter of law due to indefiniteness and lack of enabling disclosure of the claimed subject matter."

The litigation began on July 13, 2001 when Station Casinos and five of its major operating subsidiaries were named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by Harrah’s alleging that Station and its subsidiaries had infringed on various patents held by Harrah’s.

Still remaining, however, is a patent infringement claim relating to another of Harrah’s patent.

So far, there has been no indication that Harrah’s Entertainment will appeal the court’s ruling.

Maryland debate

Without intervention by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Maryland lawmakers will be unable to resolve their ongoing dispute.

That’s what Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch said last week after two weeks of what was described as shuttle diplomacy between his office and that of Senate President Mike Miller.

Apparently the only way the state’s racetracks are going to get approval for slot machines is through a ballot question in November. This is a procedure that the governor opposes, according to his repeated comments in recent speeches and interviews.

"If he’s not interested in a referendum," said Busch, "I don’t know how you make this happen."

It was Ehrlich that initiated the debate shortly after he took office in 2002. At the time, he felt a slots bill was the way to help meet budgetary needs. However, his efforts have been consistently thwarted by the legislature.

Ehrlich’s aides, seeing the inevitable, said the governor would not commit to a referendum until more details were forthcoming. Of interest, they said, were the method of defining slots venues, the number of machines and the distribution of proceeds.

THE INSIDER: Gaming analysts at the research firm of Legg Mason have initiated coverage of three gaming companies with buy ratings for their shares. The companies are MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG), Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), and Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR).

WMS Gaming Inc. (WMS) reported it has received final regulatory approvals from the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Gaming Laboratories International Inc. for the company’s wide area progressive system.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. (LACO) has revised its first quarter earnings release to recognize certain World Poker Tour revenues in the quarter rather than place the revenues in the second quarter. The results reflect a revenue increase of $200,000.

Boyd Gaming Corporation (BYD) has opened its $190 million acquisition in Louisiana as Sam’s Town Shreveport riverboat casino.

Unlike many other gaming jurisdictions that reported major revenue gains during the month of April, Colorado casinos were down for the month, falling 7.4% from their March levels. Total gross proceeds amounted to $57.3 million.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has appointed Jerry St. Pe’ and Nolen Canon to the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR) has appointed John Unwin as senior vice president for hotel operations at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

Station Casinos Inc. (STN) has appointed Robert E. Lewis to serve on its board of directors. He is head of a family owned business that develops and manages commercial real estate in Nevada and California.

The Virginia Lottery has chosen Oberthur Gaming Technologies Corporation to provide instant lottery tickets for its vending machines. Oberthur will sub-contract the work to GTECH Holdings Corporation (GTK).

Canterbury Park Holding Corp. (ECP) issued a statement acknowledging that its efforts to get legislative approval for 2,000 slot machines have failed for this year, at least.

Midway Games Inc. (MWY) has nominated Shari Redstone and Kenneth Cron as directors of the company. The nominations were requested by Sumner Redstone, the company’s majority stockholder.

Members of the Hopi Nation of American Indians have rejected a plan to build a casino in northeastern Arizona.

Now that Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has signed the bill, state voters will decide in a Nov. 2 referendum whether to allow Class II slot machines at the state’s racetracks.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has appointed Lea County Magistrate Tony Knott to the New Mexico Gaming Control Board.

Plans to give Las Vegas-style themes to some California Lottery games have been dropped from pending legislation.

The Seneca Indian Nation has begun construction on a 600-room hotel next to its Casino Niagara in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The addition includes expansion of the casino gaming floor by 1,000 slot machines and 50 gaming tables.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have downgraded the shares of Alliance Gaming Corp. (AGI) from outperform to in-line.

Holder Hospitality Group has purchase four northern Nevada casinos form Full House Inc. of Las Vegas. The properties are located in Elko, Spring Creek and West Wendover.

Two major developments, involving as much as $1 billion, have been announced for property surrounding Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields racetracks in California owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA).