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Archive for January 11th, 2019

Two Virginia Lawmakers Launch 2019 Casino Legalization Effort

Two Virginia lawmakers launched a fresh push for the legalization of casino gambling in the state yesterday when this year’s legislative session convened

Delegate Israel O’Quinn and Senator Bill Carrico will be leading this year’s effort for bringing casinos on the territory of Virginia. The two lawmakers filed yesterday companion bills in their respective houses, both calling for the legalization of casino gambling in Virginia and setting the rules under which casinos should be operated.

The two lawmakers hope that their effort will succeed after decades of failed attempts due to the state Legislature’s traditionally firm stance against any proposals for gambling expansion. Del. O’Quinn and Sen. Carrico also pointed out yesterday that their pieces, unlike others previously introduced, aimed to give the people of Virginia the power to decide whether casinos should operate within the state’s borders.

Under House Bill 2536 (and its companion piece in the Senate), local voters will have their say on whether casinos can be built within their cities’ limits via citywide referenda. If the bill gains the necessary support in the Legislature, it will pave the way for the proposed Bristol Resort and Casino, a $250-million project introduced last summer by a group of Bristol businessmen who want to build a gaming and entertainment resort at the site of the vacant Bristol Mall.

Among other things, HB 2536 contains provisions that specify where casinos can open doors. Under the piece of legislation, casino gaming will only be limited to cities where at least 40% of the assessed real estate value is exempt from local property taxes, cities that have unemployment rate at least 4% higher than the average for the state, and cities with a poverty rate of at least one-fifth of its population and a population decrease of at least 20% from a year earlier.

Bearing those requirements in mind, Bristol as well as Danville and Portsmouth will all be eligible to open casinos within their limits as long as their residents vote in favor of that. Officials for all three cities have passed resolutions to support the casino legalization push.

Taxation and Tax Revenue Distribution

The bill reads that any operational casino shall be taxed at 10% on its gaming revenue. Half of the tax revenue generated will be split among the Virginia Public School construction program, a newly established fund for problem gambling treatment and prevention, and the state’s general fund.

The other half would go to a specially created local casino gaming proceeds fund. Of that portion of the casino tax revenue, 25% would go to the host city and 75% would be split among localities that share the same transportation district.

The bill gives the Virginia Lottery the power to license interested casino operators, regulate the state’s industry, and penalize any violations of laws and regulations. It is also important to note that aside from casino operators, gaming equipment suppliers and casino management service providers will, too, have to obtain a license from the state’s regulator.

Under HB 2536, “baccarat, blackjack, twenty-one, poker, craps, dice, slot machines, sports betting, roulette wheels, Klondike tables, punchboards, faro layouts, keno layouts, numbers tickets, push cards, jar tickets, or pull tabs” will all be considered casino gaming.

Casino operators interested to run a casino in Virginia will have to pay a non-refundable $50,000 application fee. Repeated violations of the rules will be penalized with suspension or revocation of a license.

The legislative piece now needs to be referred to a committee where it will be reviewed and voted on. The Virginia General Assembly has traditionally been quite conservative on all matters gambling, so it is to be seen whether the addition of citywide referenda provision would make the big difference this time, as Del. O’Quinn hopes.

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Borgata Casino to Debut $11-Million Sportsbook This Summer

Las Vegas casino giant MGM to premiere $11-million permanent sportsbook at the Borgata this summer

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa just confirmed reports that have been floating around for the past several weeks that it planned to build a new sports betting facility to complement its existing gambling offering.

The popular Atlantic City resort said in a press release from Wednesday that it will begin construction of a new sports betting facility on its gaming floor that will “integrate an entertaining bar experience with sports wagering.”

The property’s owner, Las Vegas casino giant MGM Resorts International, plans to invest $11 million into what would be a permanent sportsbook.

The Borgata became the first Atlantic City casino to offer legal sports betting. Former NBA star and New Jersey resident Julius Erving placed the first wager at the casino’s temporary sportsbook on June 14, 2018, or just a few days after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the state’s sports betting law.

Following the launch of its physical sportsbook last summer, the Borgata also rolled out the playMGM NJ Sports mobile betting app, product of MGM’s partnership with British online gambling giant GVC Holdings.

The casino said yesterday that it expects its sportsbook to become operational this summer, thus replacing the existing temporary facility. The Borgata is yet to reveal more details about what the permanent sports betting will feature. The temporary one has 10 betting windows, a video wall that screens live sports events, 100 seats with individual monitors, and a bar.

How Has the Borgata’s Sportsbook Performed So Far?

As mentioned earlier, the Borgata was the first property on the famed Boardwalk to start offering sports betting, following the legalization of the practice in New Jersey. The casino went live with wagering on sporting events on June 14, 2018 along with Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport. It then launched its digital betting product on August 22, 2018 to boost its offering.

It can be said that the casino’s sports betting operation has performed quite well so far. According to the latest data released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Borgata generated sports wagering revenue of more than $6.17 million in the period between June 14 and November 30, 2018.

The $11-million investment into the property’s permanent sportsbook speaks a lot about MGM’s plans to cement itself in the New Jersey sports betting field. The Las Vegas powerhouse has more than two decades of wagering experience in its domestic market and is looking to take full advantage of last year’s SCOTUS ruling that lifted a federal ban on the activity and bring all of that experience to the East Coast.

Over the span of just a few months, MGM partnered GVC to attempt to claim a leading position in the provision of sports betting in the United States and penned important sponsorship agreements with all but one of the major US professional sports leagues (NBA, NHL, and MLB) and with NFL franchise the New York Jets.

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Ocean Resort Casino Drifting in Choppy Waters, Reports Suggest

The newly launched Boardwalk hotel and casino resort may be facing financial troubles, owner reportedly looks for buyers

Ocean Resort Casino could be tangled in heavy financial woes just six months after its opening, according to reports from multiple local media outlets. The glitzy Boardwalk property launched on June 27 and was hoped to play an important part in Atlantic City’s comeback as a popular seaside gaming and entertainment destination.

However, despite original projections, Ocean has struggled to keep up with the other eight casino properties currently operating in the city in terms of revenue generated from its gambling options. Both its slot machines and table games have underperformed for the past six months, with August being the only exception. The property’s gaming revenue topped the $20 million mark that month.

Prior to its opening, Ocean’s owners said that they expected the property to generate gaming revenue of $384.6 million during its first fiscal year. Yet, the resort has so far lagged the original estimates, reporting just under $80 million during its first several months of operation.

Ocean occupies the building of the former Revel, a $2.4-billion hotel and casino resort that opened doors in 2012 to only survive (and never thrive) for two years. Revel was one of the unfortunate four Boardwalk casino properties to close doors in 2014.

Florida real estate developer Glenn Straub bought the failed resort the following year for $82 million, or just a fraction of what it had originally cost to be built. The businessman was determined to reopen it and succeed in what its previous owners had failed to accomplish – turn it into a profitable business. However, he even failed in reopening Revel, despite his very ambitious plans.

Colorado businessman Bruce Deifik acquired the resort in January 2018 for a reported price of $200 million and invested another $200 million into renovating and preparing it for relaunch. As mentioned earlier, the former Revel reopened its doors for guests and visitors in late June to great fanfare and promises for reimagined gaming and entertainment experience on the Boardwalk.

Overdue Payments, Lawsuits, and Sale Reports

Signals that Ocean might be drifting into choppy waters include reports that AC Ocean Walk LLC, the owner of the casino resort, owes more than $1 million in overdue payments to people who had worked on the property during its renovation.

According to Atlantic City records, there have been two outstanding liens filed by contractors and subcontractors. These demand from the property’s owners well over $1 million. At least four such liens were previously filed but have been discharged later on, records further show.

News emerged in December that a former partner in Ocean’s HQ2 club sued Mr. Deifik in the New York County Supreme Court over fraud and other wrongdoings. Joseph Morrissey, one of the big names in the US nightlife entertainment field, sought $10 million in damages for all counts and causes he listed in his December 6 lawsuit against the Boardwalk property’s owner.

Mr. Morrissey said in his legal motion that he was approached by Mr. Deifik in the spring of 2018 to help the Colorado businessman raise funds for the resort’s renovation. Mr. Morrissey was offered the role of manager of the HQ2 nightclub and was authorized to “take all action … reasonably required to perform the obligations of manager.” He also obtained ownership interest in the entertainment venue.

However, their relationship began to sour after Mr. Morrissey confronted Mr. Deifik over sexual harassment claims made by club employees against the Ocean’s owner. Following their confrontation, Mr. Morrissey was informed his contract was being terminated but that he could keep his job if he agreed to surrender his ownership interest in the club, court papers read.

Mr. Morrissey said that one of the reasons why his contract was terminated was because his ownership interest was not disclosed in a loan agreement between AC Ocean Walk LLC and JP Morgan. The nightclub manager further explained that he had reasons to believe Mr. Deifik was looking to sell Ocean and that he wanted to eliminate anyone with ownership interest who could prevent a future sale of the property from taking place.

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Scott Baumstein Leads 8 into PokerStars Players Championship Finale

Scott Baumstein locks up the chip lead into the final day of the first-ever PokerStars Players Championship

Scott Baumstein entered Day 4 of the inaugural PokerStars Players Championship as the chip leader and after a long day of action he manged to scoop the overnight chip lead for a second consecutive night.

Baumstein led 38 players into Day 4 and will be leading just 8 into the final day of this record-smashing tournament. The inaugural edition of the event drew 1,039 entries, including 320 Platinum Pass holders who won their tickets by participating in different initiatives organized by PokerStars throughout 2018.

The tournament’s massive field generated a prize pool of $26,455,500. The winner will walk away with $5.1 million, and each of the final six players will receive a seven-figure payout from the tournament. Each of the remaining eight players is guaranteed a minimum cash of half a million dollars.

The final day of action will kick off at noon local time. Players will resume their seats at Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas to battle it out for the title and the first-place prize.

As mentioned earlier, Baumstein is in the best position to win the prestigious title coming into the last day of contention. The player bagged and tagged 10.725 million last night.

Who Are the Other Seven Survivors?

Marc Rivera, a cash game player from the Philippines, is trailing closely behind Baumstein on the chip counts chart with 10.35 million in chips. The player is also one of two Platinum Pass winners left in contention.

Julien Martini from France bagged the third largest chip stack last night, good for 8.6 million. Farid Jattin, the PSPC Day 2 chip leader is hot on Martini’s heels with 8.525 million. Spain’s Ramon Colillas is also among the hopefuls still in the hunt for the title with 8.3 million. The player is the other surviving member of the Platinum Pass winners club.

Jason Koonce from the United States bagged 7.125 million last night for the sixth biggest chip stack. Day 1 chip leader Talal Shakerchi is still hunting for the first-place payout. The player scooped a 5.5 million worth in chips last night. Finally, Marc Perrault from Canada will have the difficult task to improve his short stack of 2.275 million when cards get in the air later today.

While the above-mentioned eight players secured their seats into the final day of the tournament, a plenty of other players were less lucky in their bid to win the coveted title and accompanying first-place payout. The likes of Tony Gregg, Marvin Rettenmeier, Mikita Badziakouski, and Kristen Bicknell all busted out before over the course of Day 4.

As mentioned above the final day of the tournament is slated to begin today at noon local time. The eight finalists will play down to a champion who will scoop the $5.1-million first-place payout.

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