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Archive for January 4th, 2019

NYS Gaming Commission Cancels Meeting on MGM’s Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino Purchase

The NYS Gaming Commission was expected to announce its decision on MGM’s Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino acquisition during today’s canceled meeting

The New York State Gaming Commission announced late last night that it has decided to cancel its Thursday meeting. Among other things, state gaming regulators were expected to discuss today MGM Resorts International’s proposal to acquire Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, New York.

The Gaming Commission said in a late Wednesday Facebook post that its meeting “has been postponed until further notice.” It did not provide further detail on why it has decided to cancel it. In an email to local news outlet The Journal News, Commission spokesman Brad Maione said that the decision was due to “issues with a quorum of members.” It is still unknown when the meeting will take place.

As mentioned earlier, the proposed acquisition of the Yonkers Raceway racetrack and the nearby Empire City Casino was on the Gaming Commission’s Thursday agenda. Las Vegas gaming and hospitality company MGM Resorts International announced last May its intention to buy the two facilities as part of its expansion plans. MGM said it would pay $850-million for the racetrack and the nearby casino.

The casino company needs approval from the NYS Gaming Commission in order to be able to complete the deal. That approval was anticipated to be granted at today’s meeting.

Yonkers Raceway first opened doors in 1899. The racetrack has been owned and managed by the Rooney family since 1972. The nearby Empire City Casino currently runs nearly 5,300 video-lottery terminals, but MGM reportedly nurtures hopes to turn that facility into a full-scale casino.

MGM’s Plan for New York

MGM has remained tight-lipped as to what its plans for the racetrack and the nearby gaming facility include. In addition, the Gaming Commission has not released any details of the casino operator’s application, despite criticism from the New York State Committee on Open Government.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said last month that he has met with MGM representatives on a number of occasions since the deal was announced and that he believes the company has plans for a hotel and entertainment venue. The official further noted that while MGM was clearly guarded about its plans for the two facilities, it has promised it has “huge plans.”

Bearing in mind the company’s portfolio of properties, it will probably seek a license for a full-scale, Las Vegas-style casino games. However, under New York’s gambling law, the issuance of such licenses is not set to happen until 2023.

In addition, MGM has shown interest to extend its presence in the lucrative US sports betting market, most recently with gambling partnerships with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.

A bill calling for the legalization of sports betting in New York was filed in mid-December and was referred to the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee to be discussed during the 2019 legislative session, which is set to convene on January 9.

Sen. John Addabbo, the incoming Chairman of the Committee, spearheaded the piece of legislation. Generally speaking, it allows for mobile betting on the state’s territory and includes a payout to professional sports leagues. The bill also requires licensed operators to purchase “official data” from the leagues or third-party partners.

With few exceptions, gambling is prohibited in New York. This means that the state’s current gambling law will have to be amended to allow gambling expansion in order for Sen. Addabbo’s bill to be able to take effect.

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Hellinikon Casino License Tender to Commence within Weeks

Bidding process for €1-billion casino, part of Europe’s largest integrated resort project, to commence within weeks

The start of the bidding process for a casino license for the former Ellinikon International Airport near Athens, Greece is set to begin in the coming weeks, local news outlet Kathimerini reports.

The Greek Finance Ministry and a specially assembled inter-ministerial committee will carry out the casino tender. The Hellenic Gaming Commission was previously tasked with preparing the bidding process. The gambling regulator has selected law firms KLC Law Firm and Ernst & Young as its consultants during the preparation process. The Commission leased in December the virtual room for the casino tender to a British firm, Kathimerini further reported earlier today.

The bidding process was initially expected to be completed by the end of 2018, but hurdles of different nature delayed its start. The eventual launch of the casino tender will mark the official start of the Hellenic Gaming Commission and other competent authorities’ quest for a suitable candidate to build and operate a €1-billion casino as part of a larger integrated resort scheme at the site of Athens’ former international airport.

The airport was shuttered in 2001 to be replaced by the new Athens International Airport. The site of the old airport eventually found a spot in a lengthy list of other assets the Greek government sought to sell as part of its privatization program under its third bailout.

The Hellinikon

Greek real estate development company Lamda Development was selected as the preferred developer of the €8-billion Hellinikon integrated resort at the site of the former airport. The property will include residential communities and hotels, retail centers, venues for family entertainment, a modern business park, and food and beverage facilities, among others.

As mentioned earlier, a €1-billion casino will, too, be part of the massive project. During a consultation period launched by the Hellenic Gaming Commission, a number of international gaming and hospitality companies expressed interest in operating the gaming portion of the resort and approached the gambling regulator with questions and comments on the development scheme.

According to the latest reports from local news outlets, US gaming companies Caesars Entertainment Corp., Hard Rock International, and Mohegan Sun have been considered the favorites for the casino license.

It has also emerged that discussions over the terms of the license have been the reason for the delayed start of the casino tender. The annual rent the preferred casino operator will be paying to Lamda is believed to have been one of the main topics considered by interested gaming companies, regulators, and other stakeholders. According to media reports, Lamda is asking for annual rent of between €20 million and €30 million.

News outlets have also reported that if an interested operator agrees to pay a rent of up to €30 million and to invest up to €1 billion in the Hellenikon casino, it might be exempt from a license fee.

The casino tender is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of the year. If no further delays occur, Lamda is anticipated to break ground on the complex by the end of 2019.

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Cyprus Establishes Tourism Ministry to Oversee Tourism and Combat Seasonality

Cyprus creates dedicated Tourism Ministry as the island nation prepares for launch of first integrated resort with a casino floor

The Republic of Cyprus has finally established a Tourism Ministry that will be assigned the task to oversee and regulate the island nation’s tourism industry, news outlet Neos Kosmos reported earlier today.

Up until recently, the Cypriot tourism industry, which generated revenue of €2.27 billion in the first nine months of 2018, was regulated by a government agency that was also charged with energy and commerce industry regulatory tasks.

The new Deputy Ministry of Tourism was officially established yesterday when Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades sworn in Savvas Perdios, a hospitality industry veteran, as the tiny Mediterranean nation’s first dedicated Deputy Minister for Tourism. Mr. Perdios previously worked as Chief Operating Officer at Louis Hotels, a hotel chain that operates 25 resort properties around Cyprus and Greece.

The new Deputy Minister for Tourism will oversee the sector and will lead Cyprus’ effort to develop and implement a new strategy that will help the country capture more international visitors, encourage higher holiday spending, and combat seasonality.

The newly created Ministry will take over the responsibilities of the state-run Cyprus Tourism Organization. Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told media that the Ministry will have to “implement Cyprus’s national tourism strategy with the necessary horizontal policies, tourism development planning and wider political supervision of the sector.”

Cyprus’ tourism industry accounted for 22.3% of the island nation’s economic input in 2017.

City of Dreams Mediterranean Supports New Deputy Ministry

News about the establishment of a dedicated Tourism Ministry first emerged last summer. The announcement was welcomed by Melco Resorts & Entertainment, the gaming and hospitality company that currently develops the nation’s first integrated resort with a casino.

Melco was licensed to operate the gaming facility at the resort as well as four satellite casinos in the capital Nicosia, Larnaca, Paphos, and Ayia Napa. A temporary casino that will remain operational until the main resort opens doors launched in Limassol last summer. Melco also recently opened satellite facilities in Nicosia and Larnaca.

Commenting on the creation of a Deputy Ministry of Tourism, City of Dreams Mediterranean and Cyprus Casinos President Craig Ballantyne has previously said that the objectives set before the Ministry were aligned with Melco’s strategy to provide “top quality hospitality and entertainment” that would transform Cyprus into a year-round destination.

Melco’s main resort is set to open doors in 2021. The company, led by Hong Kong businessman Lawrence Ho, said recently that it would up its initial investment into the development of the property. Melco and its local partner CNS Group originally planned to pour €550 million into the luxury resort. It is yet unknown how much will eventually be spent on the scheme.

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Caesars Casino REIT Acquires Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City

Caesars REIT completes acquisition of Louisiana’s Margaritaville Resort Casino, leases property to Penn National Gaming

VICI Properties announced Wednesday that it has completed the acquisition of Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana for $261 million in cash. The company has also leased the property to casino operator Penn National Gaming.

VICI is the real estate investment trust that spun off Las Vegas gaming powerhouse Caesars Entertainment Corp. as part of the latter company’s lengthy Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

VICI said yesterday that it has paid approximately $261 million for the land and real estate assets of Margaritaville Resort Casino. The property opened doors in 2013 and is the newest facility in the Bossier/Shreveport gaming market. It occupies 4 acres of fee land and nearly 30 acres of leased land. The fee land features a 26,500-square-foot casino floor with 1,215 slot machines and 50 gaming tables, a 395-room hotel, 6 restaurants and food and beverage facilities, and a 1,000-seat theater, among other amenities. The leased land features a parking with 1,500 spaces.

While VICI acquired the land and real estate assets of the hotel and casino resort, Penn National bought the operational assets of the property for $115 million in cash, bringing the aggregate purchase price to $376 million.

Lease Agreement

With the transaction’s closure, Penn National entered a triple-net lease agreement with VICI. The initial term of the agreement is 15 years, with four five-year renewal options. Penn National is set to pay annual rent of $23.2 million.

Commenting on the recent completion of the deal, VICI President and Chief Operating Officer John Payne said that closing the acquisition in partnership with Penn National was “a meaningful achievement coming within 15 months of the company’s formation.” The official continued that the deal represented the first step of their strategy to diversify their tenant roster with “best-in-class gaming operators.”

VICI said that the purchase of Margaritaville Resort Casino, it has deployed all net proceeds it raised in its initial public offering. The company’s IPO was completed on January 31. It sold 60.5 million shares at a price of $20 per share, raising more than $1.21 billion.

The Margaritaville Resort Casino acquisition was the second transaction VICI has completed over the past two weeks. In late December, the company announced that, together with Caesars, it has completed the purchase of all land and real estate assets of Harrah’s Philadelphia and has leased those back.

Harrah’s Philadelphia is located in Chester, Pennsylvania. The property spreads over 2 million square feet and features 2,450 slot machines and 110 table games, food and beverage facilities and parking garages.

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