The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will soon equip the Plainridge Park Casino with a program to curb problem gambling.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is taking extra steps to curb problem gambling as two mega-casino resorts are slated to open in the coming years and join the already constructed Plainridge Park Casino.
When then-Governor Deval Patrick (D) signed the Expanded Gaming Act into law in 2011, the state’s gaming authority announced it would take additional measures to prevent an increase in gambling addiction.
Five years and much research later, the MGC is set to roll out its ‘Play My Way’ gaming management system for slot players. The preventative program is a voluntary electronic system that gives gamblers the ability to set budgetary limits before playing.
‘No such system is in use anywhere in the United States,’ MGC Chairman Steve Crosby said in March. ‘This pilot program is one tool in a much broader, comprehensive responsible gaming strategy to provide players with a range of information and education so that they can make informed choices about when to gamble, how much to spend and when to walk away.’
Plainridge Park, the Mass Council on Problem Gambling, and the Harvard Medical School collaborated in developing ‘Play My Way.’ The program is scheduled to hit the Plainridge Park slots parlor during the first week of June.
Under the Expanded Gaming Act, the three licensed commercial casino facilities must implement appropriate safety devices to combat those prone to becoming addicted to gambling. Plainridge, the first license recipient, opened its doors last June and has operated since without adhering to the law’s decree.
MGC officials gave the slots parlor a pass and additional time to realize what problem gambling firewalls it would use. Some 12 months since the first lever was pulled, Penn National, Plainridge’s owner, is finally ready to comply.
‘It’s truly a prevention tool,’ Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling Executive Director Marlene Warner told the Boston Herald. ‘We want people to keep gambling in a way that’s healthy and safe.’
In addition to allowing players to set gaming limits, the ‘Play My Way’ program provides timing alerts and automatic notifications to warn players when they’re approaching their predetermined parameters.
Wynn, MGM Next
MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor aren’t expected to open until 2018 and 2019 respectively, and when they finally do open their casino doors, ‘Play My Way’ will likely already be in the building. Should the problem gambling program be a success at Plainridge, the MGC will provide the system to the two much larger casino resorts.
MGM Springfield is a $950 million venue, and Wynn Boston Harbor is likely to come in around $1.7 billion.
Revenues have been underwhelming at Plainridge in its first full year of operation. Through April, Plainridge has generated $140.2 million in gross gaming revenue, providing $56 million in state taxes and $12.6 million to the Race Horse Development Fund.
Pre-legalization estimates predicted that commercial gambling would provide the state with $300-$500 million annually, and while Plainridge is still going at it alone, it doesn’t appear to be keeping up its end of the so-called bargain for state officials.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to Become Fully Owned by MGM Resorts International
MGM Resorts is paying $900 million to Boyd Gaming for its 50 percent share in the Borgata Hotel Casino, giving the Las Vegas company total ownership of the most popular Atlantic City casino destination. (Image: nbcphiladelphia.com)
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the most prosperous resort in Atlantic City, and the property will soon become fully owned by MGM Resorts International after the company announced an agreement with Boyd Gaming to buy its 50 percent share for $900 million.
MGM and Boyd, both of which are headquartered in Las Vegas, jointly constructed the $1.1 billion Borgata and opened the non-Boardwalk casino resort in 2003 with its equity split 50-50. The marina hotspot has undergone three major renovations in its 13 years.
‘Borgata is the premiere resort in Atlantic City,’ MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in a press release. ‘While the market continues to experience challenges, Borgata has outperformed and differentiated itself as the undisputed leader in the city.’
MGM will, in turn, sell the Borgata to MGM Growth Properties, its real estate trust subsidiary, for $1.175 billion and then lease the property back to MGM Resorts.
Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith said the decision to sell provides significant value for shareholders and allows the company to reduce debt.
The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.
MGM Bets on Northeast
The largest casino company on the Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts appears to be focusing its attention on development outside of Sin City. Betting on anything inside the Atlantic City limits is currently a rather risky wager, even if it is the casino that is nearly doubling the revenues of any other venue in the area.
The Borgata has grossed $220,459,250 year-to-date. Its closest competitor in Atlantic City is also its neighbor, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, which has brought in $114.77 million in 2016.
None of the other six Atlantic City casinos have eclipsed the $100 million mark through the first quarter of the year.
The old business adage that you have to spend money to make money is apparently being realized inside the MGM boardroom. In addition to shelling out $900 million for the Borgata, the MGM is currently in the process of building the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, a $950 million casino resort that is expected to open in 2018.
Atlantic City Status Quo
MGM seems to know something the rest of us don’t. Investing another $900 million in the Borgata and Atlantic City while voters have the option to bring two casinos to northern counties in the state wouldn’t make the most prudent business sense.
The Boyd Gaming buyout might imply that MGM doesn’t think voters will approve the November casino referendum.
In late May, Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed a financial rescue package for Atlantic City that will provide the local government with an influx of money through state loans. In exchange, the city has five months to draft a balanced budget and cut tens of millions of dollars from its annual expenditures.
‘For Atlantic City officials, the final countdown starts today,’ Christie said in a statement on May 27. ‘They know that if they fail to change their tendencies of wasteful spending and mismanagement, my administration will be empowered to immediately step in and do the job for them.’
Las Vegas Sands Ends Six-Year Termination Case After Settling With Former Macau CEO
Las Vegas Sands Corp has finally settled its wrongful dismissal case with former China boss, Steve Jacobs. (Image: Reuters/Steve Marcus)
Las Vegas Sands Corp, the parent of Macau casino giant, Sands China Ltd, has finally settled its wrongful termination case with former CEO, Steve Jacobs. The settlement brings to an end a six-year battle which started with Jacobs losing his job as head of one of the world’s largest gaming firms.
Although Sands themselves have not disclosed the exact amount of the settlement, the Wall Street Journal suggests it is in the region of $75 million.
In a statement released to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Sands China said:
‘On or about May 31, 2016, the parties to the proceedings reached a comprehensive and confidential settlement through which Mr. Jacobs dismissed all claims in the Nevada state and federal cases against our controlling shareholder, Las Vegas Sands Corp., the company, our subsidiary Venetian Macau Ltd., and Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson and released all claims as of that date.’
Jacobs Fired For ‘Whistle-Blowing’
Steve Jacobs served as CEO of Sands China Ltd from 2009 to 2010. However, he was kicked out of his job and took his employers to court for wrongful dismissal. Jacobs claimed that he was fired for bringing to light ‘improprieties’ in the way the Macau business conducted its affairs.
Sheldon Adelson, head of Las Vegas Sands Corp, counter-sued and denied all allegations from the former head of Sands China.
A potentially damaging trial (for Sands and Adelson) was due to start later this month but was put back to September after Sands attempted to have the judge in charge removed from the case.
Sands Hit On All Fronts By Macau Storm
The new Jacobs resolution comes two months after Adelson’s firm agreed to pay $9 million to settle an anti-bribery case brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
While the SEC also investigated Jacobs’ claims against his former employers, it was discovered that Sands COO William Weidner kept inaccurate books and records which largely hid millions of dollars of payments made to a consultant based in Asia. Sands maintained their innocence throughout, and the SEC investigation found no evidence of bribery.
Sands China will hope that the Steve Jacobs settlement draws a line under an affair that has dragged on for six years. The Asian giant can now carry on preparing the opening of its newest Macau casino, Parisian Macao, which, with Wynn Palace, will add over 4,500 rooms to the city. Launching later this year, the Parisian will, like Paris in Las Vegas, feature a replica Eiffel Tower adoring the Macau skyline.
Analysts suggest that the months and months of 20-30 percent gaming revenue declines may be over. Indeed, GGR drops of 10 percent in April and May for Macau compared to a year ago are seen as a bright light in a region slammed by an economic slowdown, anti-corruption moves from the Chinese mainland government, and a general fall-off of VIP gamblers coming to the city.
Gross gaming revenue overall fell 9.6 percent, marking two years of steady decline. Casino revenues in the whole of Macau for May sat at $2.3 billion. Whether Sands’ and other developers’ moves towards targeting tourists and mass-market gamblers pays off remains to be seen.
Philippine Casino Industry Discusses Presidential Election and Country’s Trump-Like Frontrunner
The Donald Trump of Western Pacific politics, Rodrigo Duterte might not have the best interest of the Philippine casino industry should he become the country’s next president. (Image: Lyn Rillon/Philippine Daily Inquirer)
The Philippine casino industry is thriving, and while it’s not presently one of the top gaming markets worldwide, forecasts estimate the country will generate upwards of $6 billion annually by 2018.
If that projection materializes, the Philippines would become one of the top four casino markets in the world behind only China, the United States, and Japan.
Home to 103 million people, the country’s largest revenue contributor after the Tax and Customs Authority comes from its own Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Unlike in the United States where state regulators don’t actively run casinos, PAGCOR works both as a regulatory agency and casino operator. PAGCOR operates a total of 11 casinos in popular tourist destinations in Manila, Luzon, and Visayas-Mindanao.
The Philippine casino industry is currently trying to defend its money laundering safeguards after it was revealed an international bank heist moved cash through two of its resorts.
Three anonymous casino executives recently weighed in on the upcoming presidential election to CalvinAyre.com, and at least one of the sources believes the outspoken frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte would be bad for the gaming industry.
‘If the wrong people gets Duterte’s ears first, he may shoot out a poorly thought out statement and then have issues backtracking once wiser heads have stepped in,’ the informant stated.
Playing the Trump Card
Various parallels between Duterte and Donald Trump have been made in the Filipino media. Both leaders are outspoken and brash, quick to defend their positions, and not afraid to be politically incorrect.
Trump has referenced the size of his hands and their relation to a certain private body part during a Republican debate, mocked the appearance of his challengers, and denounced Sen. John McCain’s (R) time as a prisoner of war by saying, ‘I like people who weren’t captured.’
And perhaps surprising to most Americans, Trump has nothing on Duterte.
The 71-year-old former lawyer and current mayor of Davao City joked in April about a woman who was held hostage and raped in 1989. ‘I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first,’ Duterte said.
When a women’s group filed a complaint against his comments he responded, ‘Go to hell.’
But like Trump, with every seemingly outrageous remark Duterte’s poll numbers increase.
Filipino voters cast their ballots on May 9. The winner of the presidential election will serve one six-year term with no option of reelection.
To grow the Philippine casino industry even more, one executive told CalvinAyre.com that PAGCOR should release its holdings in casinos and mimic gaming enforcement bodies in the United States.
‘PAGCOR should become more of the Nevada Gaming Commission, a regulatory body, and auction off their casinos,’ the source said. ‘They should get out of the casino business, and lower their share so the bigger players get into the Philippines.’
With Macau, the gambling epicenter of the world, currently experiencing an economic slump as China cracks down on VIP junket operators, Manila and the Philippines could become a new go-to gambling destination.
Just a short two-hour flight from Hong Kong to Manila, the unidentified source might be correct in thinking if PAGCOR stepped back, international entertainment companies would quickly swoop in.