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Archive for February 8th, 2019

Kazuo Okada’s Battle to Regain Holding Takes Hit in Tokyo Court

Businessman Kazuo Okada’s crusade to recover holding company from a group led by his son Tomohiro that ousted him in the summer of 2017 has taken another hit

A Tokyo court has ruled that a trust agreement signed by Mr. Okada’s son Tomohiro and daughter Hiromi in the spring of 2017 and later on used to oust Mr. Okada from Universal Entertainment Corp. was legally binding.

Mr. Okada founded Universal Entertainment in the 1960s. The company quickly grew into one of Japan’s largest manufacturers of pachinko, a locally popular pinball-like gambling machine, and other gaming devices. Universal Entertainment is owned by Hong Kong-listed Okada Holdings Limited.

The Japanese businessman was removed from the board of Okada Holdings in June 2017 after he was accused by fellow board members that he had misappropriated millions of dollars. Mr. Okada has kept denying those claims, saying that his ouster was the result from a plot devised by his own son Tomohiro. The family rift resulted in lawsuits piling up over the past two and a half years, with the Japanese gambling mogul seeking to regain control over his companies, one of which runs the Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippine capital.

The Siblings’ Agreement

According to a recent ruling issued by a Tokyo court, two share trust agreements signed between Mr. Okada’s son Tomohiro and daughter Hiromi were legally binding. The documents were later on used for what the Japanese businessman has claimed was his illegal ouster.

The two agreements were signed on March 2 and May 23, 2017. Mr. Okada’s daughter has said before court that her brother took advantage of her emotional state to trick her into signing the papers without providing her with enough information about their contents and their purpose.

Mr. Okada’s legal team said after the Tokyo court delivered its ruling that it would keep on trying to help the businessman recover his companies and punish those responsible for his ouster.

Universal Entertainment’s subsidiary Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. operates the Okada Manila integrated resort. Tiger Resort recently completed its backdoor listing on the Philippine Stock Exchange via the purchase of a controlling stake in the listed Asiabest Group International Inc.

Mr. Okada’s lawyers said in a statement that as the “rightful owner” of Okada Holdings, the businessman needed to be consulted on all matters concerning the investment vehicle and its subsidiaries. The legal team also pointed out that Mr. Okada was not consulted about the transaction and the listing of Tiger Resort and that he would file legal cases against those involved in the process.

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Indiana Betting, Casino Expansion Bill Sweeps Through First Committee

A bill that calls for the legalization of sports betting in Indiana and allows the relocation of two casino licenses survived yesterday its first legislative hurdle

The Indiana Senate Public Policy Committee approved unanimously Senate Bill 552 that allows for the biggest gambling expansion in the state since the legalization of casinos. The bill is authored by Senators Mark Messmer and Jon Ford.

Under provisions in the comprehensive piece of legislation, the state’s casinos will be allowed to offer both in-person and mobile betting on different sports. It will be up to the state Gaming Commission to determine on which professional and college sports and sporting events bettors will be able to place wagers. Betting on high school games and professional eSports will remain strictly prohibited even if SB 552 gets enough traction into the state’s Legislature and takes effect as a law.

Only people aged 21 or over will be able to gamble on sports. As mentioned earlier, the legislation also allows for the provision of mobile wagering services. Gamblers will be able to place wagers via their smartphones from anywhere within the state. However, they will first need to register with a licensed casino.

A $300 Million Boutique Casino Coming to Gary

Among other gaming expansion proposals, SB 552 also allows for the relocation of two riverboat casino licenses held by Gary-based Majestic Star Casino LLC. One of the licenses will allow for a land-based casino to be built in the city of Terre Haute. The other license could be used for a potential new casino just outside Gary.

Gaming company Spectacle Entertainment revealed yesterday plans to build a $300 million casino resort along the Borman Expressway near Gary. The resort will feature a casino and a 200-room hotel. The plan’s materialization depends on the success of SB 552 in the Indiana General Assembly. Spectacle said yesterday that the land-based facility could annually generate revenue of $75 million and create 400 jobs, doubling Majestic Star Casino’s current staff.

Another proposal in SB 552 would allow for the state’s racinos to start offering table games immediately. Under a law passed in 2015, the state’s racetrack casinos would only be able to add games like roulette, craps, and blackjack in 2021. SB 552 aims to fast-track the process in a bid for racinos to be able to draw more customers and generate additional revenue.

SB 552 now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee where its impact on the state’s revenue would be reviewed more closely. If the piece survives a vote in that committee, as well, it will then be referred to the full Senate floor, and finally to the House. If it succeeds in navigating its way through the Legislature, it will come into effect on July 1, 2019.

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NJ Regulator OKs Ocean Resort Casino Ownership Change Deal

New Jersey casino regulators approved the transfer of ownership of the resort to a trust that will manage it while Luxor’s application for casino license is under review

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission approved Wednesday a joint petition for the transfer of ownership of Ocean Resort Casino to New York hedge fund Luxor Capital Group, The Press of Atlantic City reported.

Luxor and the property’s former principal owner, Colorado businessman Bruce Deifik, filed the joint petition on January 28. The three-member Casino Control Commission gave the nod to a complex financial arrangement that will make it possible for the Atlantic City Boardwalk casino resort to continue operating during the ownership transition period.

Luxor does not hold a license to operate casino gambling in the state, but yesterday’s approval by the Casino Control Commission allows for the creation of a special trust that will be controlled by a designated trustee. The trust will manage Ocean Resort Casino, while Luxor’s application for a casino license is under review by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Casino Control Commission.

Eric J. Matejevich, a former Chief Operating Officer at the shuttered Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, was named as the trustee.

Commenting on yesterday’s approval, James Plousis, Chairman of the Casino Control Commission, said that the move would “not only maintain public confidence and trust in the credibility and integrity of the regulatory apparatus, but will advance the economic stability” of Ocean Resort Casino.

Luxor will now need to obtain an interim gaming license. The process could take up to 90 days, during which the Division of Gaming Enforcement will review the company’s license application, and another 30 days for the Casino Control Commission to set a hearing on the matter.

Once Luxor is granted interim authorization, it will be able to operate the hotel and casino resort, while its application for an actual casino license is under review by regulators. That process is much lengthier and more complex.

Ocean Resort Casino Lost $23 Million in Five Months

During yesterday’s hearing, the Casino Control Commission voiced its concern about the future of the Boardwalk property and revealed details about its financial issues. Ocean Resort Casino opened doors in late June, 2018. However, the property never managed to gain foothold in the Atlantic City casino market, lagging behind its Boardwalk rivals.

Casino Control Commission Vice Chairwoman Alisa Cooper said yesterday that she sincerely hopes the divestiture trust agreement would help Ocean Resort Casino survive.

Under the property’s casino license, it had to maintain a daily operating cash balance of at least $10 million, a casino bankroll of at least $11 million, and direct access to capital and debt service reserves of no less than $15 million. It also had to notify the Division of Gaming Enforcement if it fell below the required $36 million threshold.

However, the casino has not been compliant with those requirements since November. In addition, the property recorded operating losses of nearly $23 million between September and the first 24 days of January.

Luxor was one of the two primary lenders to Mr. Deifik, who bought Ocean Resort Casino last January for $229 million. The New York hedge fund is planning to invest $70 million, of which $50 million would be allocated to reduce the principal balance owed to the other lender – J.P. Morgan, and the other $20 million would be used to purchase majority ownership interest of the holding company of AC Ocean Walk, the operator of the Boardwalk property.

Luxor has also revealed plans to add a buffet at Ocean Resort Casino and to finish the 12 uncompleted floors in the middle of the hotel tower.

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Presque Isle Downs & Casino Sports Betting Application Gets PGCB Approval

Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie receives regulatory green light to offer sports betting; sportsbook launch date yet to be announced

Sports betting is coming to Northwestern Pennsylvania after the state Gaming Control Board approved on Wednesday the application of Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie to join the sports gambling field.

Presque Isle filed its application with the regulator in December. During a presentation to the board that took place yesterday, casino officials said that the property’s sportsbook will occupy 1,275 feet of space and will be located right next to its poker room and simulcast area.

In addition, the gambling venue and racetrack will feature 50 self-betting kiosks. Preparations for the launch of sports betting will include the relocation of 69 slot machines, it also became known yesterday. Presque Isle will add 50 large-screen TVs throughout its gaming floor to broadcast different sporting events and odds boards.

Bettors will be able to wager on a number of professional sports, including football, basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, and the Olympics, and on some collegiate sports. The sportsbook area at Presque Isle will be smoke-free, but some of the betting kiosks will be placed at the casino’s Center Bar and Bar 90 where smoking is allowed.

Presque Isle was acquired last month by Churchill Downs Inc. for nearly $180 million. The deal was originally announced in February 2018, but was subject to review by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission.

When Will Presque Isle Open Its Sportsbook?

Now as Presque Isle has received regulatory authorization to provide sports betting, it will have to conduct additional review and two-day public testing before officially opening its sportsbook. Property officials are yet to announce when the testing period will take place.

Presque Isle will initially go live with retail wagering, but it will also be able to offer online and mobile betting at a later stage. Churchill Downs, the property’s new owner, operates sports betting under the BetAmerica brand together with its partner SBTech.

Before giving unanimous approval to Presque Isle, Gaming Control Board commissioners asked the casino officials in attendance to provide a bit more details about the betting kiosks and whether Churchill Downs operates those at any of its other properties.

Cathy Beeding, Senior Counsel and Compliance Officer for the gaming company, told Pennsylvania regulators that kiosks are used at two of its Mississippi properties and have proved particularly popular with bettors. She further pointed out that being able to make a 20-game parlay on a kiosk was “a much more preferable and delightful experience” than trying to relay all the necessary information to a cage cashier.

Pennsylvania was among the states that did not need to pass a sports betting legislation in the wake of the May 2018 SCOTUS ruling that struck down a federal ban on the practice. The state legalized wagering in the fall of 2017 as part of a larger gambling expansion package.

However, first legal sports betting operations commenced in the state in mid-November. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course opened Pennsylvania’s first sportsbook. Rivers Casino and SugarHouse Casino were the other two properties to go live with sports gambling by the end of 2018.

According to Gaming Control Board data, the state’s first three sportsbooks handled $17.5 million in wagers through the end of December and grossed $2.5 million in revenue. January figures are yet to be released by the regulator.

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