Will Caesars be licensed to turn on its Internet gaming?

Nov 12, 2013 3:08 AM

Caesars goes for its New Jersey Internet gaming license before that state’s Casino Control Commission on Nov. 20.

This will be the company’s first appearance before a gaming regulatory body since the Massachusetts Gaming Commission issued the report that was widely interpreted as meaning Caesars bosses should not hold their collective breaths waiting for a suitability finding.

The conclusion was not all that surprising, coming from a state where gamblers were being arrested rather than licensed not so long ago. As suitability issues go, the MGC took little bits of nothing special and wove them into something that had people seeing Caesars as a toxic menace.

Turn enough investigators loose on a giant multi-national corporation employing tens of thousands and it is not difficult to find somebody making mistakes somewhere.

But genuine corporate suitability …please!

The problem is personal perspectives do not change as quickly as laws that may take sudden turns toward new conclusions about familiar subjects.

Recreational pot smokers lighting up for the first time in Colorado know what I’m talking about. So do the same sex couples who are now enjoying new freedoms to legalize familiar relationships and show them to the world.

Poets and songwriters have explored such issues for eons. Yes, the heart and mind may walk in separate directions when it comes to difficult issues, casino licensing suitability being just one of many examples.

So it’s a good bet everything associated with the upcoming New Jersey hearing is being carefully thought out, likely questions anticipated and their answers drafted.

But let’s first deal with the question of the moment. Will Caesars be licensed to turn on its Internet gaming engine when Atlantic City casinos get the expected green light Nov. 26?

Answer: Yes.

Of course Caesars will be licensed, not just because Atlantic City needs Internet gaming to be successful and Caesars has four of the casino licenses there. The company will be licensed because after 37-plus years New Jersey’s leading business and political forces are comfortable with the gaming business.

That was not always true.

They understand how much it has changed. Long ago influences have been replaced by executives who were children or babes in arms when Nevada took the first steps toward cleaning up its industry and New Jersey officials were dealing with their difficult early lessons.

Legal gaming has worked its way into New Jersey’s economic and political fabric just as it did in Nevada years before. New Jersey’s early regulators were over-regulating well into the 1980s, years after the 1976 opening of Resorts International when long lines of gamblers waited to get through the doors for their first encounter with a newly legal entertainment experience.

You might think resort company strategists and their teams of big thinkers could not be surprised after several decades of dealing with hostile lawmakers and influences who wished them anything but good luck.

Caesars CEO Gary Loveman may use the Nov. 20 hearing to vent some emotion about the Massachusetts action, anger he shared with financial analysts and the news media during a recent conference call. And we can bet New Jersey officials will point out that they know more than a little about who and what is or isn’t suitable.

As for what the Massachusetts meat grinder is yet to produce, it seems possible unknown political factors may yet make a difference as influential forces do their backroom things.

Perhaps key executives took another look at things, wondering if they really want to shoot themselves in the foot by waving the largest and most capable resort companies in the world through Massachusetts to other jurisdictions.

Maybe to states like New York.

Some industry followers had expected Wynn Resorts to announce after last week’s board of directors meeting that it has decided to put Massachusetts in the rear view mirror and move on to other projects. A similar announcement from MGM would not surprise anyone.

After all, both Wynn and MGM are fully committed to business in Macau, a center of big time gambling with a history of influences that have forced U.S. companies to walk a careful line. But if Wynn and MGM are directed to choose between casinos in Macau and Massachusetts or anywhere else it may take all of several seconds to make that decision.

The irony here is Caesars missed the opportunity to get into business in Macau because Loveman thought the price tag was too steep when he had a chance to buy a sub-concession.

Loveman has been absorbing some very personal lessons about high price tags and missed opportunities.

Hmmm…I wonder if he’ll sell his interest in the Celtics?

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected] .

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