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Archive for April 3rd, 2019

MGM Completes MGM Northfield Park Acquisition, Rebrand

MGM acquires Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park’s operating assets to add another gambling property to its ever-growing portfolio

MGM Resorts International announced Monday that it has completed the acquisition of the operating assets of Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park from its real estate investment trust MGM Growth Properties. As part of the transaction, MGM will lease the real property from its REIT.

MGM Growth Properties purchased the Northfield, Ohio-based venue from Milstein Entertainment last year for $1.02 billion. The property continued to be operated by Florida-based gaming and hospitality company Hard Rock International under an agreement with its new owner until it was announced last September that rival MGM would purchase the operating assets of one of Ohio’s busiest gambling facilities.

Under the terms of the recently closed deal, MGM Growth Properties Operating Partnership redeemed approximately 9.4 million of its Operating Partnership units from a MGM subsidiary. The redeemed units represented a purchase price of $275 million. As a result, MGM has obtained an ownership stake in the Operating Partnership of nearly 69%.

MGM also announced Monday that it has officially rebranded the gambling venue as MGM Northfield Park. Located on the Northfield Park grounds, where more than 200 live harness races take place annually, the newly rebranded property features more than 2,300 gambling machines as well as a number of food and beverage options, popular music and comedy events, a concert-style music venue, and retail space, among other amenities.

Cementing as a Market Leader

Commenting on the new addition to MGM’s portfolio, the company’s CEO, Jim Murren, said that they are pleased to welcome MGM Northfield Park’s 950 employees to the MGM family. The executive went on to say that the Las Vegas casino powerhouse has over the years “strategically and thoughtfully” expanded its presence in key US regions where it “can leverage [its] expertise, maximize [its] cross-marketing efforts and drive companywide growth.”

Mr. Murren also pointed out that they are all excited for the future of the newly acquired property as it “further cements itself as a market leader under the MGM brand and Chris Kelley’s leadership.” Mr. Kelley was named President and COO of the Ohio property this past January.

Following the closure of the deal, MGM Northfield Park has been added to the master lease between MGM and MGM Growth Properties. As a result the annual rent was increased by $60 million, the two companies announced Monday.

Commenting on the transaction, MGM Growth Properties CEO James Stewart said that with the “operational experience” of MGM, they expect MGM Northfield Park to continue to grow as the number one “market leading asset in northern Ohio.”

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Puerto Rico Looks to Tap Into Lucrative Sports Betting Field

Puerto Rico is looking to tap into the lucrative sports betting field with a new bill that aims to legalize the practice on the island, news outlet the Caribbean Business reports

The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, announced Monday that a bill calling for the legalization and regulation of in-person and online sports betting has been introduced to the local Legislature.

The piece was authored by Rep. Néstor Alonso Vega, who chairs the House Tourism Committee. It was namely that committee the legislation was introduced to on Monday. In addition to online and in-person sports gambling, the bill, if approved, will also legalize fantasy sports and betting on eSports.

Commenting on Puerto Rico’s push to expand gambling, Gov. Rosselló said Monday that the introduction of the bill was prompted by a recent study by Spectrum Gaming Group, according to which the island could annually collect between $44 million and $66 million in taxes from regulated betting activities.

Addressing concerns that the introduction of new gambling services would cannibalize existing casino revenue, Puerto Rico’s top official said that sports betting has the potential to “capture a different demographic” than the one frequenting local casinos.

Licensing and Taxation

If the newly introduced bill gains traction in the Puerto Rico Legislature, it will result in the legalization and regulation of both in-person and online sports betting. The legislation would create a new Gaming Commission that will be responsible for regulating the newly expanded industry and issuing licenses to interested operators.

It will comprise seven members of the public and of the local private sector. While the Commission will be the regulatory body, it will be the Financial Institutions Commissioner’s Office that will be tasked with the oversight of the re-organized market.

As announced by lawmakers on Monday, the Puerto Rico Treasury will collect revenue from license fees and taxes on the provision of sports gambling services. Sports betting will be taxed at 6% on in-person bets and 11% on digitally placed wagers.

Existing facilities such as casinos and race tracks will, too, be able to apply for sports betting licenses. It was also announced on Monday that horse betting agencies will be offered a 50% discount on their sports betting licenses for a 10-year period.

Tax funds from legalized sports betting will be allocated to programs for preventing and combating problem gambling, promoting youth sports, supplying better equipment to the local police, promoting different educational initiatives as well as to cover costs of the new Gaming Commission, Gov. Rosselló said Monday.

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Casumo Falls Foul of Dutch Gambling Regulator

The Malta-based and licensed online casino has been slapped a hefty fine for targeting Dutch gambling customers without a local license

Casumo has become the latest online gambling operator to be punished by the Netherlands Gambling Authority, Kansspelautoriteit, for servicing Dutch gamblers without a license from the regulator.

The regulatory body announced on Monday that it has slapped a €310,000 fine on the Malta-based company for targeting players located on the territory of the Netherlands. After an investigation, Kansspelautoriteit discovered that Dutch gamblers were able to access and gamble on Casumo’s website for a certain period of time.

Gamblers from the Netherlands were exposed to more than 800 online casino games, including slots, roulette, and blackjack, the Dutch gambling regulator said in a statement issued Monday on its official website. In addition, Casumo offered customer support in Dutch language.

Kansspelautoriteit said in its statement announcing the fine that online gambling operators are not allowed to provide services of this kind to local players without holding a license from the regulator. It also reminded that the Netherlands’ current regulatory system does not provide guidelines for issuing gaming licenses to international companies.

To make it easier for Dutch gamblers to play Casumo’s online casino games, the operator was also found to have offered iDEAL as an available payment method on its website. iDEAL is a locally popular payment services provider and has often been used by international gambling operators.

A Serial Troublemaker

This is the second time Casumo has received a good old regulatory spanking accompanied by a hefty financial penalty in recent months. Back in November, the online gambling company was imposed a behemoth £5.85 million fine by the UK Gambling Commission for risk assessment failures.

The company was found to have failed to deploy appropriate risk assessing practices to detect and prevent its product from being used for money laundering and other financial crimes. An investigation by the UK Gambling Commission also found that Casumo failed to conduct proper due diligence on gamblers and determine the source of their gambling money.

The Dutch Parliament finally approved in February a so-called Remote Gambling Bill that contains provisions for the re-organization of the local market and sets the rules under which interested international operators would be licensed to operate in the soon-to-be-liberalized market.

However, the new gambling legislation requires companies that were found to have been actively operating in the Netherlands without a license to serve a two-year blackout period during which they would not be allowed to apply for a license with Kansspelautoriteit.

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Virgin Pushes Back Hard Rock Las Vegas Transformation

Property officials said they did not want to compete with the disruption of the upcoming presidential election

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels has pushed back the start of the transformation of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas into Virgin Hotel Las Vegas to immediately after next February’s Super Bowl, property officials confirmed Monday.

Mr. Branson’s hotel business bought the property last spring and announced a multi-million remodel project that would fully transform it into a Virgin resort. Virgin Hotels originally announced that it would plough $150 million into the renovation of the complex and the addition of new facilities. The company said Monday that it has raised its investment to $200 million.

Construction work at the property is set to begin on February 4, 2020. It will close during the second quarter of 2020 and will reopen doors for guests and visitors as Virgin Hotel Las Vegas after next year’s presidential election.

The property’s eight-month renovation was expected to begin late this summer or early in the fall. It was planned to be relaunched sometime next spring. However, resort officials explained that they wanted to steer clear of the upcoming presidential campaigns and to focus all their attention on the transformation.

Hard Rock Las Vegas CEO Richard “Boz” Bosworth said Monday that he “didn’t want to compete with the distraction of the campaign, with the state of Nevada and Las Vegas playing a pivotal role in the election.” Mr. Bosworth went on to say that they did not want the new hotel’s opening to get lost in the distraction of the election.

When Is Hard Rock Las Vegas Closing?

Mr. Bosworth said Monday that “significant construction activities remain 10 months away” and the hotel and casino resort will remain open without any disruptions through Super Bowl. As mentioned earlier, the property is expected to go dark for several months from some time in the second quarter of 2020 through its opening in early to mid-November.

The property’s CEO pointed out that the renovation project’s “deadlines were fluid and the scope of the project continued to expand.” Upgrades across the hotel and casino complex will include an expansion of its existing 5-acre pool deck, renovation of all 1,500 hotel rooms, and redesign of Hard Rock’s iconic entertainment venue, The Joint, with new VIP suites and a new major booking partner to be tapped to up the property’s game with superstar residencies. The popular Center Bar will be relocated to open up additional casino space.

McCarthy Building Companies, Klai Juba Wald Architects, Studio Collective, Rockwell Group, and Taylor International Corp. will be among the construction, architect, and design companies Virgin has selected to work on the “evolution” of the property.

While the grand opening of Virgin Hotel Las Vegas is still a year and a half away, the ceremony will certainly be quite the show, particularly given the fact that the property’s new owner has a record of eccentric Las Vegas appearances. Mr. Branson once rode a jet ski in the Bellagio fountains pool to mark the 10th anniversary of Virgin Atlantic Airways, which has been transporting a stream of tourists to Las Vegas, among other destinations, for years.

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