Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity

Casino –
Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity

finland-veikkaus-slot-machine-identity-authenticationFinland is about to make life more difficult (or more responsible, depending on your perspective) for slot machine fans.

Last week, Finland’s state gambling monopoly Veikkaus used the Christmas hubbub to quietly announce plans to require slot machine players to verify their identities in order to use the machines. The changes will reportedly affect over 18k machines located in supermarkets, gas stations and other non-casino facilities.

The changes aren’t expected to fully take effect until 2023, but Veikkaus expects the new identification requirements will begin appearing on machines before then on a piecemeal basis through the natural process of upgrading older machines for new ones with enhanced features.

The precise method by which Finnish slot jockeys will be required to authenticate their identity has yet to be determined, given Veikkaus’ belief that there are likely to be rapid technological advances in this field over the next five years. Accommodations must also be made to ensure that international tourists can play the slots despite their lack of local credentials.

The change is expected to cost Veikkaus between €50m and €100m but the company was reportedly spurred to act following a report by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, which estimated that there were 130k Finns struggling with problem gambling behavior, and which claimed authentication was an effective method of curbing such undesirable activity.

Verification is currently in use on some machines and via Veikkaus’ online offering, but it only allows Veikkaus to track customer activity rather than impose restrictions on their behavior.

Veikkaus’ head of corporate social responsibility Pekka Ilmivalta told Finnish media outlet YLE that it was still too early to say “whether or not the requirement to authenticate will affect all games and all types of gambling.”

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Some table games at Palace Station now feature smartphone charging outlets

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Some table games at Palace Station now feature smartphone charging outlets
With the bevy of major upgrades as part of Palace Station’s $191 modernization project, one smaller addition might be easy to overlook. The Station Casinos property rolled out 32 new gaming tables that include smartphone charging stations equipped with six outlets — one for each ...

The top casino stories of 2017

Casino –
The top casino stories of 2017


The Macau casino market’s tentative return to growth that began in 2016 accelerated dramatically this year, with each month posting strong double-digit year-on-year growth and the full-year total is now projected to come in at least one-fifth higher than the year before.

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of Macau’s resurgence was the fact that it was driven by VIP gambling, despite Beijing’s crackdown on corruption showing no signs of abating, and despite all the talk about Macau’s pivot toward mass market gamblers. Even the once beleaguered junket industry is back to opening new VIP rooms.

The market was buoyed by the first full year’s contribution from new casinos such as Las Vegas Sands’ Parisian (pictured above, behind Sands boss Sheldon Adelson) and even the ban on proxy betting couldn’t dent Macau’s momentum. Some stakeholders are now projecting a return to Macau’s pre-2014 revenue heights.

Ironically, the timing of Macau’s resurgence could actually work against the market’s six casino concessionaires. Macau is gearing up for its planned review of the concessions, the first of which are set to expire in 2020.

Had Macau’s market remained in the dumps, the authorities might have felt the need to tread lightly, banking that continuity was more important that wringing blood from a stone. But with operators back to printing money, Macau is free to consider all options, including opening up the market to other operators.

2016 ended on a sour note for Crown Resorts owner James Packer with the arrest of multiple staffers – including VP Jason O’Connor – for aggressively promoting gambling activity on the Chinese mainland.

2017-year-end-crown-james-packerAs the calendar flipped to 2017 and it became evident that China was serious about prosecuting the Crown employees, Packer accelerated his sell-off of Crown’s stake in the Melco Crown Entertainment (now Melco Resorts & Entertainment) joint venture, ensuring Crown shareholders missed out on the benefits of Macau’s gambling revival.

With Crown’s name tarnished by the China arrests, Packer publicly withdrew his company from the race to win a coveted Japanese casino license. Packer also sold off Crown’s interest in a Las Vegas casino project, and looks set to unload the Crownbet online sports betting operation.

In September, Crown began defending itself in court against allegations that its pokies were misleading gamblers as to their chances of winning. The following month, an Aussie politician set off a firestorm by repeating the allegations of former Crown Melbourne staffers regarding tampering of pokies machines and helping high-rollers avoid federal financial reporting requirements.

Packer was also forced to submit to interviews with Australian federal police at the request of Israeli authorities, who are trying to determine what (if anything) Packer received in return for the generous hospitality he’s shown the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the years.

Packer even found himself indirectly connected to the #MeToo sexual harassment campaign when his former Hollywood production partner, Brett Ratner, was accused of abusive behavior. In April, Packer sold his share in RatPac Entertainment, which produced that star-studded promo film for Melco Crown’s Studio City resort, to Ratner.

It was Ratner who introduced Packer to singer Mariah Carey, with whom Packer reached a multimillion-dollar settlement this year after the pair broke off their engagement. Mariah got to keep the 35-carat diamond ring and, apparently, Packer’s mojo.

By contrast, Melco Resorts & Entertainment CEO Lawrence Ho had a remarkably positive year. Packer’s selloff in Melco Crown gave Ho majority control over the rebranded joint venture, eliminating the need to share the profits from Macau’s resurgence. Ho reshuffled MRE’s senior management in January, and the year’s positive momentum suggests the changes were the right ones.

2017-year-end-melco-lawrence-hoThe Melco Crown/Resorts’ expansion into the Philippines also hit its stride in 2017, to the point that the City of Dreams Manila property now accounts for 15% of MRE’s earnings. MRE could further boost its Philippine presence next year if it wins the auction for the state-run Casino Filipino operations.

Ho’s Melco International also celebrated international gains in 2017 when the company took sole control of its joint venture casino in Cyprus, which will be Europe’s largest integrated resort when its first phase opens in 2019.

Ho likely scored some significant brownie points with Japanese decision makers by vowing to shift MRE’s corporate HQ to Japan if MRE were to win the Japanese casino derby.

If there was one stain on Ho’s 2017, it was his Russian casino Tigre de Cristal, which celebrated its second anniversary in October. The property has struggled to attract mass market gamblers, and the government’s abrupt decision to dramatically hike gambling taxes was apparently the last straw, prompting Ho to sell his stake in the project as the year drew to a close.

There were two mass casualty events at casinos in 2017. In the Philippines, 37 people died when a gunman stormed Resorts World Manila (RWM) casino in June. What originally appeared to be a terrorist attack turned out to be a puzzling tale of an indebted gambler who didn’t appear that interested in shooting anyone.

Jessie Javier Carlos set several fires on RWM’s gaming floor, and the resulting smoke and fumes ended up killing casino guests who’d taken refuge in a narrow hallway. Carlos later shot himself, preventing any further explanation of his actions.

In October, Stephen Paddock opened fire on an open-air concert from the window of his hotel room in MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay casino. A total of 59 individuals died, including Paddock, who took his own life before security could enter his room.

Naturally, in both cases, the issue of the shooters’ gambling history was prime fodder for the media, even if there was little direct connection between their gambling activity and their violent ends.

Rightly or wrongly, RWM’s owner Travelers International Hotel Group and MGM were each accused of negligence in the wake of the attacks, and both markets suffered temporary dips in activity immediately following the incidents. However, both markets have since rebounded amid well-publicized improvements to security protocols, not only in the affected venues or markets, but at casinos across the globe, hopefully lessening the likelihood of such incidents going forward.

The seaside gaming hub managed to go the whole year without closing another casino, which sounds like damning with faint praise, but when you’ve lost five of 12 casinos to mothballs in a short time period, you measure success differently.

2017-year-end-atlantic-city-casinos-aliveThe year got off on the right foot when AC announced its first annual gaming revenue gains in a decade. The surviving casinos showed they’d read their Darwin by getting far more efficient, posting double-digit profit gains despite only modest increases in revenue, and they got a wind-assist from online gambling, which now represents 10% of all monthly gaming revenue.

In March, Florida’s Hard Rock International showed its faith in AC’s rebirth by acquiring the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal and vowing to spend half-a-billion removing the Trump taint before reopening next summer as the music-themed Hard Rock Atlantic City.

Another mothballed property, the $2.4b white elephant that is Revel, also reportedly found a buyer late in the year, although Revel’s reliably loony owner Glenn Straub continues to deny it, even after the alleged new owner – Colorado developer Bruce Deifik – went to the trouble of applying for a New Jersey casino license (something Straub refused to do).

Trouble is, AC’s surviving casinos are worried that the reopening of some closed venues will upset the delicate balance that has allowed them to post those profits and restore the oversupply problems that led to AC’s decade-long decline.

After years of hemming and hawing, Vietnam’s government finally approved plans for a three-year test of allowing local residents to gamble in casinos. (The government also announced a separate pilot program for legal sports betting.)

The locals ban had been cited by numerous international firms as the primary reason for their disinterest in pursuing Vietnamese casino projects. But the increasing likelihood of the government permanently bending on this issue has led to a flurry of casino project announcements.

While undoubtedly welcome news, the locals pilot program remains something of a chimera, in that none of the casinos designated to participate in the test are actually open for business. In fact, some of these casinos have yet to progress beyond the conceptual stage, and may not be ready to welcome gamblers – regardless of their nationality – for years yet.

On the plus side, if none of the specified casinos manage to open by the time the three-year trial is over, that means the potential for negative impact on Vietnamese society will be nil. So, uh, it will be considered a success?

A few years ago, the Canadian province of British Columbia dropped its pretentious official motto, ‘The Best Place on Earth.’ Now, if they’d added “…to Launder Money in Casinos,” they’d have been on to something.

2017-year-end-british-columbia-casino-money-launderingThis spring, BC voters threw out the governing Liberal party after 15 years in power, and the incoming NDP government announced they’d found a year-old report detailing rampant money laundering at BC’s land-based casinos. The situation was so prevalent that the laundering process was known internationally as ‘the Vancouver model.’

The Liberals and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation had long been accused of ignoring shady dealings at BC casinos but the report added flesh to those bones, including tales of Asian high-rollers collecting gym bags full of $20 bills in casino parking lots, then exchanging the cash for chips without too many questions asked. The government even shut down an investigative body that asked too many questions about the shady goings-on.

The release of the report led to police actions against BC-based private lenders, while Canada’s federal financial watchdog announced it was reviewing the allegations, and Great Canadian Gaming Corp – which manages the casino where most of the real shenanigans occurred – was forced into the embarrassing position of publicly declaring that it wasn’t in the money laundering business.

The whole incident added significant weight to the argument that acting as both gaming regulator and operator is a recipe for corruption. Calvin Ayre has predicted that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Cash will eventually make regulators like BCLC redundant but their own greed and incompetence might do the job first.

In July, Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International finally transferred its shopping mall casino’s gaming operations to IPI’s permanent facility, despite the new joint being nowhere near completion, and despite a near-constant deluge of negative attention from international media, US law enforcement, local politicians and the company’s own labor force.

After closing out 2016 denying that its VIP gambling operations were the subject of a probe by US financial watchdogs, monthly VIP turnover at IPI’s temporary casino hit a staggering $5.6b in January – a greater monthly sum than that generated by virtually any casino in Macau. Related or not, a few months later IPI announced it would no longer report its monthly turnover figures.

IPI’s offices were raided by US federal agents in March, in what was initially suspected of being a financial probe. Instead, the raid was linked to IPI’s contractors hiring undocumented Chinese workers (and not always paying them) while dodging workplace safety rules, which may have contributed to the on-site death of a worker.

While IPI’s permanent casino finally opened (dodgy sewage system notwithstanding), the company’s historic aversion to unloading risk on junket operators led analysts to warn that the company could default if it couldn’t collect on its staggeringly vast bad VIP debt total. In the first half of 2017 alone, IPI wrote off $266m in unrecoverable debts.

Meanwhile, Saipan politicians continued to make noise about IPI’s sweetheart deal with the government, which require the company to pay business taxes and license fees but no tax whatsoever on gaming revenue. There may yet come a day in which IPI wishes it had never left the cozy confines of its shopping mall origins.

Spain proved once again that it really isn’t interested in building integrated resort casinos; Baha Mar finally opened in the Bahamas, albeit to an underwhelming response; Phil Ivey’s bid to reclaim his millions in edge-sorting winnings crapped out in the UK Supreme Court; and US authorities fingered North Korea as the culprit behind 2016’s Bangladeshi bank heist that so embarrassed the Philippine casino and junket industries;

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Macau visitor tally up nearly 10pct in November

Macau visitor tally up nearly 10pct in November

Macau’s visitor arrivals for November has increased by 9.4 percent year-on-year to over 2.83 million, a growth that has been mainly driven by a double-digit increase in visitors from the city’s most important source of inbound tourists, mainland China, according to data released on Wednesday by the Statistics and Census Service.

In November, the number of overnight and same-day visitors rose by 10 percent and 8.8 percent year-on-year to 1.51 million and 1.32 million respectively, the statistics bureau’s latest data show. The average length of stay of visitors in November was 1.2 days, on a par with the figure in the previous month as well as in the same month last year.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau in November was slightly above 1.98 million, up by 16.1 percent year-on-year. Among them, 886,093 visitors were travelling under the Individual Visit Scheme, up 12 percent from the prior-year period.

In November, Mainland Chinese visitors came mainly from Guangdong province, Hunan province and Fujian province, according to the statistics bureau. Nearly 1.09 million of the inbound visitors from mainland China last month stayed overnight in the city, an increase of 18.6 percent from a year earlier.

The number of visitors from Hong Kong and Taiwan – the second- and third-most important source markets for Macau respectively – dropped by 6.8 percent and slightly increased by 0.7 percent respectively compared to the prior-year period. The tally of visitors from South Korea increased by 16.9 percent year-on-year to 72,500 in November.

In the first 11 months of 2017, the aggregate number of visitor arrivals to Macau stood at nearly 29.56 million, up 5.1 percent in year-on-year terms. Among them, nearly 15.62 million visitors have stayed overnight in the city, representing an increase of 10.4 percent compared to the prior-year period.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Achieving Immortality: Which Gaming Icons Left Their Mark in 2017 Through Charity, Politics, and Sports
Achieving Immortality: Which Gaming Icons Left Their Mark in 2017 Through Charity, Politics, and Sports

From powermongers like Sheldon Adelson to the billionaire Fertitta brothers, 2017 saw some gutsy and passionate moves by the gaming industry’s most illustrious movers and shakers.

gaming icons Sheldon Adelson Las Vegas

Sheldon Adelson started the conversation of bringing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, just one of 2017’s crowning moments in the gaming industry. But the Sands CEO didn’t get to reap the glory when all was said and done. (Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Whether it was millions of dollars in donations in times of crisis and natural disaster, political influencing in DC through campaign contributions, or multibillion-dollar deals towards professional sports teams, the gaming icons were busy in 2017.

Here’s a look back at some of the legacies these moguls created.

Tragedy at Mandalay Bay

On October 1, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay onto the Route 91 Harvest country music festival crowd below. Some ten minutes later, 58 victims had lost their lives from his heavy artillery fire.

The casino industry quickly stepped up to provide relief. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, through his company Las Vegas Sands and the Adelson Family Foundation, gave $4 million to help victims. MGM Resorts, parent company to Mandalay Bay, gave $3 million.

Stations Casinos, owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, gave $1 million, as did the UFC and Las Vegas-based retailer Zappos, with the latter also offering to cover every victim’s funeral costs.

Fertittas Play Ball

Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who sold the UFC in 2016 for $4.2 billion, gave $10 million to University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV) to help fund a new football training center. Along with Caesars, Sands, MGM, Boyd Gaming, and Konami Gaming, the Fertittas also gave $2.5 million to UNLV to help build Hospitality Hall, a new facility for the school’s top-ranked hospitality program.

Frank and Lorenzo’s third cousin, Tilman Fertitta, also made headlines, but in even richer fashion. The Golden Nugget owner and Texas native announced this fall that he was purchasing the NBA’s Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion.

Friends in High Places

Several Las Vegas gaming moguls got behind Donald Trump, a former casino owner himself, to help his ultimately successful bid for the White House. Adelson gave tens of millions of dollars to the Trump ticket, and is thought to have been the Republican Party’s biggest donor in 2016.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which was partially funded by casino kingpin money, was instrumental in Trump’s first important events as leader of the free world.

Adelson paid $5 million to help cover January’s inauguration costs. Steve Wynn picked up the $729,000 tab for the Make America Great Again! concert, fellow billionaire, friend, and Treasure Island casino owner Phil Ruffin donated over $1 million, and the Fertitta clan again stepped up, giving $707,000.

On the charitable front, this past fall, $3 million from the Presidential Inaugural Committee was used to aid in hurricane recovery relief in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.

Walking His Talk

Adelson usually gets what he wants, but in 2017, he walked away from being permanently involved with the NFL’s Raiders in Las Vegas. Adelson was the man who initiated the push with team owner Mark Davis to bring the franchise from Oakland to Sin City.

The Las Vegas Sands CEO had pledged $650 million of his own money in building a stadium, in what many called his “legacy project.” But earlier this year, Adelson left the building, after he learned that Davis and Clark County had reached a lease agreement without his involvement.

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Key 2017 moments for the Asia Pacific casino industry

Key 2017 moments for the Asia Pacific casino industry

The year 2017 could prove to have been a turning point in the development of Vietnam’s casino industry. In Macau, despite the VIP gambling segment being once again in the driving seat regarding contribution to gross gaming revenues, there was evidence that the right non-gaming offer to customers might have the power to drive some incremental gaming business.

Those are respective views of several commentators in their specialist fields, namely gaming law and financial analysis.

Meanwhile, the announcement in early December that a unit of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd was to be a partner in a planned casino resort on the Philippine holiday destination of Boracay, could prove a pivotal moment for that country’s casino industry. That is provided the investors have good enough air transport links to guarantee a supply of foreign players, says a long-time operator of gaming machines in that market and local agent for major casino technology brands. Until now, most of the Philippines’ world-class casino resorts have been clustered in a district of the capital Manila.

In 2017, the Philippine casino industry was also hit by a tragic event: the Resorts World Manila casino resort in the Philippine capital was attacked on June 2 by a lone gunman, leading to the deaths of 37 people, including the perpetrator Jessie Javier Carlos. Following the incident, the country’s regulator – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) – instructed Resorts World Manila to halt its gaming operations pending investigation of the attack on the property. Gaming operations were eventually resumed at the end of June.

That attack, and the mass shootings near the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada in the United States in October, were mentioned by the Macau government when it announced in mid-October the authorities there would work with the city’s six casino operators on how to cope with simulated “attack” on the sector. More details were given in late November, when Macau’s Secretary for Security said the simulation exercise would happen in the first half of 2018.

In the gaming supplier segment, a leading veteran of the casino technology sector – who asked not to be identified by name – expressed “surprise” to GGRAsia at the continued aggressive expansion in 2017 – via acquisition – of Scientific Games Corp, a specialist in casino gaming machines and systems and lottery equipment and services. But the person found it less surprising that Scientific Games had become a stronger competitor to Australia’s Aristocrat Leisure Ltd in the slot machine business in Asia Pacific and beyond.

Vietnam opportunities

Regarding the Vietnam gaming market, Pedro Cortés, a member of the International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA) and a senior partner at the Macau legal practice Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés, told GGRAsia that a Vietnam government decree in January 2017, that came into force in March and paved the way for a trial period of gambling by economically-qualified locals at selected casino resorts, had helped to put Vietnam “on the regulatory map in the Asia-Pacific region”.

In February, the Vietnam government announced another gaming-related decree that included provisions to enable some citizens of the country aged 21 and over to bet on certain overseas football matches and on horse and dog races. The conditions included that the events must be approved ones as defined by the government. Players would be allowed to wager a maximum of VND1 million (US$44) per product day.

The combination of the potential for opening up of the Vietnam market for local players and the beginnings of some kind of discernible regulatory framework – rather than licences being granted on a case by case basis as previously –“permits Vietnam to have foreign investors, and Macau-based VIP gaming operators are reportedly starting investing in the casino industry of Vietnam,” Mr Cortés noted.

He added: “Due to its proximity to the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam has an enormous potential for the industry.”

There have been reports of some large-scale Vietnam casino resorts possibly being allowed to offer gambling to locals by the turn of the year.

Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, an academic who says he has been advising the government there on liberalising Vietnam’s gaming industry, told a panel moderated by GGRAsia at the MGS Entertainment Show – a casino industry trade exhibition and conference held in November – that two Vietnam properties would be in the first wave of gambling for locals. He said they were a so-called integrated resort at Van Don in northern Vietnam, and one on Phu Quoc Island in the south; with two more – in Ho Tram and at Hoi An – “in limbo”.

The prospect of local play in Vietnam has had major U.S.-based casino firms including Las Vegas Sands Corp and Hard Rock International LLC studying the market.

But there appears to be a high mandated threshold for capital expenditure per resort: it is reportedly US$2 billion currently, rather than US$4 billion as mentioned previously in some provincial government announcements regarding new projects. Such an entry price does not appear to guarantee operators permission for entry of locals, and the locals initiative is at this stage only for a trial period due to run for three years.

“We’re not necessarily in love with the conditions or the three-year test period,” said Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive of potential Vietnam suitor Las Vegas Sands, in comments to investment analysts on the group’s first-quarter 2017 earnings call on April 26.

Against that background, it could be that Chinese entrepreneurs such as Macau junket investor Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, boss of Suncity Group – who is slated for an investment at Hoi An, and who is linked to an entity due to run the gaming at Van Don – have a stronger stomach for risk in the Vietnam market than Western public companies.

During the MGS Entertainment Show in November, Andrew Klebanow, senior partner at business consultancy Global Market Advisors LLC – also known as GMA – told GGRAsia that Vietnam would need to balance its domestic policy expectations regarding what the casino industry could deliver in terms of inward investment, with the commercial needs of the operators. He described the reported US$2-billion capital threshold as an “unrealistic number”.

Macau’s VIP comeback

In 2017, as in previous years since the turn of the century – when the system for exit visas from mainland China was partially liberalised, helping to support the tourism sectors in the special administrative regions of Macau and of Hong Kong – the Macau casino market led Asia Pacific in gross gaming revenue terms (GGR).

In respective notes on December 18, several brokerages said they expected 2017 GGR to have expanded by at least 19 percent year-on-year, or to at least MOP266.24 billion (US$33.06 billion). Full-year 2017 is set to be the first time since 2014 that Macau’s casino industry will report full-year GGR year-on-year growth. In 2014, market-wide GGR declined by 2.6 percent, decreasing further by 34.3 percent and 3.3 percent in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Grant Govertsen, managing director of brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, told GGRAsia in an emailed commentary: “Clearly VIP has re-emerged as the driving force behind what should be approximately 20 percent GGR growth in Macau in 2017.”

It has become a truism of the Macau casino scene that new non-gaming products can sometimes struggle to find a role and a market. Not if the product is right, suggested Mr Govertsen, giving as an example the food and drink offerings of Galaxy Entertainment.

“Simply put the company has instituted significant changes and additions to its F&B [food and beverage] offerings at what feels like a lightning pace,” said the analyst.

“Well-known brands, concepts that mainland [Chinese] visitors enjoy, reasonable price points, and easy access have played a part in driving incremental foot traffic to Galaxy Macau (and to a lesser extent to StarWorld too),” he added, referring first to the casino group’s Cotai flagship, and second to its main Macau peninsula property.

Boracay blue skies?

In the Philippines, Joe Pisano, chief executive and founder of Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies Inc, a Manila-based distributor and operator of casino gaming machines, told GGRAsia regarding the prospects for Galaxy Entertainment’s Boracay project: “Of the local tourists that go to Boracay they are not of the demographic that would frequent casinos: basically they are millennials going to the beach to party.” The latter was a reference to young adults born at the turn of the current century.

“If Galaxy [Entertainment] has an airstrip in their plans and they are able to bring players directly from China then they could make it work,” added Mr Pisano.

Referring to another holiday island destination in the Philippines were several casino resort schemes have been proposed, the gaming entrepreneur added: “The new Cebu properties have a lot of advantages over the Boracay developments – an international airport, local customer base, and several established five-star resorts.”

Galaxy Entertainment has also expressed interest in obtaining a casino licence in Japan, as have many other international casino operators. But the arrival of year-end without the passage in Japan of an anti-gambling addiction bill – a statute seen as a precondition of casino industry legalisation – only pushes the request for proposal stage further down the track, a number of industry commentators have said.

Supplier M&A

In the casino equipment supply sector, 2017 saw a continuation of the merger and acquisition trend that started earlier in the decade. In the latest round, a predominant theme was acquisition – by traditional casino slot machine and electronic table games makers – of new technology firms involved in either so-called social casino games or online sports betting.

In October, Aristocrat announced it had completed the takeover of social gaming company Plarium Global Ltd, for US$500 million, after receiving all relevant regulatory and other approvals.

In late November, the firm also announced a US$990-million cash bid for social casino brand Big Fish Games Inc, a U.S.-based, wholly-owned unit of horse racetrack operator Churchill Downs Inc. Aristocrat said that deal would make its digital business the “second-largest social casino publisher globally by revenue”, citing research from Eilers and Krejcik Gaming LLC.

On December 20, Scientific Games announced the acquisition of Canada-listed sports betting firm NYX Gaming Group Ltd would close on January 5 after being approved “by an overwhelming vote of NYX shareholders”. In September, Scientific Games said it wanted to expand its existing digital gaming and online gambling portfolio by acquiring NYX Gaming for approximately CAD775 million (US$604.3 million), including debt.

At the end of September, Scientific Games had total net debt of US$7.98 billion, according to its third-quarter earnings statement issued on November 1.

‘Aggressive’ expansion

“I was really surprised how aggressive Scientific Games have remained despite high debt; but you have to remember they have a couple of very large shareholders, [a scenario] which always tends to result in more aggressive management,” the casino technology sector industry veteran – who asked not to be identified by name – told GGRAsia. “I see this continuing unless we have a serious economic bump in the road,” the person added.

The industry source said, asserting no commercial interest in the topic: “Aristocrat in particular are being very smart in pursuing acquisitions but not ‘absorbing’ them in the core business. They are running them as virtually independent business which seems to be working very successfully.”

The person further stated: “This worked for them very well with the acquisition of Product Madness and they seem to be continuing that trend.”

Aristocrat acquired Product Madness Inc, an online social casino games developer, in 2012. The consideration involved was not declared at the time.

Referring to the conventional slot games segment for land-based casinos, the industry commentator told us: “For Asia, I don’t think we will see a substantial weakening of Aristocrat as they are looking after their core games and trying to establish and expand the business with a premier portfolio. Yes, compared to 10 years ago, they do have a good competitor in Scientific Games, but this really made sure they didn’t get complacent. Top line growth for Aristocrat [in Asia Pacific] will remain difficult with the market share they [already] possess,” said the person.

At the MGS Entertainment show in November, the Macau regulator revealed that in the city’s casino market, Aristocrat had a market share of 48 percent of the total number of EGMs in the market as of July, while Scientific Games was some way behind, with a market share of 17 percent.

Splendor of the Old: 2017’s Biggest Sports Superstars Were No Spring Chickens
Splendor of the Old: 2017’s Biggest Sports Superstars Were No Spring Chickens

Everyone knows that sports are a young person’s game, especially when it comes to the professional level of competition. But in 2017, we all found ourselves in awe of some veteran athletes who defied their ages to score some of the most impressive victories of the year.

2017 sports superstars

Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor took part in one of the most hyped sporting events in history. (Image: Isaac Brekken/AP)

These men and women may not be truly old, but they’re certainly past the age where we expect our sports heroes to be winning championships.

Tennis Throwbacks

If there’s one sport where age might seem like an insurmountable obstacle, it might be tennis. Singles players must exert themselves for hours at a time with no teammates to rely on, requiring not only immense skill but also all the stamina they can muster.

Nonetheless, a look at the 2017 season might make you think you were looking at the 2007 results instead.

Heading into the year, Roger Federer hadn’t won a Grand Slam tournament in five years, and at age 35, it looked like he never would again. But in January, the Swiss legend won the Australian Open, and followed that up with a win at Wimbledon in July. That gave him 19 Grand Slam titles for his career.

Bookmakers even favored Federer heading into the US Open, where he was a 5-2 favorite. But it was second choice Rafael Nadal who would instead win in New York, giving him his second major title of the year, and 16 Grand Slams for his career. At 31, Nadal is no spring chicken himself, and the dominance he and Fed showed this season in the face of young challengers was a special treat for tennis fans.

But it wasn’t just the men who looked to the past for inspiration this year. Serena Williams won the Australian Open women’s title at the age of 35, a feat made all the more impressive considering she was two months pregnant during the tournament.

Hype of the Century

The most hyped sporting event of the year was undoubtedly the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC superstar Conor McGregor. The fight was something of an odd matchup: Mayweather, 40, was an undefeated 49-0 boxing legend who was a bit past his prime. On the other hand, while McGregor, 29, was a UFC Champion, he did not have a single professional boxing match to his credit.

Most of the public betting was on McGregor, who started as an enormous underdog but was pushed down to around +500 at most sportsbooks before the fight. More money came in on Mayweather, however, as the sharps astutely predicted that the all-time great pugilist might be able to take care of a man who was a great athlete, but essentially an amateur boxer.

Sure enough, after a competitive first few rounds, Mayweather took control of the fight, ultimately winning by technical knockout in the 10th round. The fight was a big win for Vegas bookmakers, who took in about $65 million in bets on the event. As for the fighters themselves, with Mayweather reportedly earning more than $300 million from the bout.

Brady’s Comeback for the Ages

Tom Brady never seems to age, and he remains one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks to this day. The New England Patriots quarterback brought his team into Super Bowl LI as a three-point favorite against the Atlanta Falcons. But the Patriots found themselves losing 28-3 midway through the third quarter, and even the most ardent New England fans had begun to despair.

But New England scrambled back from the brink of defeat, tying the game up with less than a minute left in regulation before a James White touchdown run in overtime gave the Patriots their fifth Super Bowl title in Brady’s tenure.

The team’s winning ways may not be over, either, as New England opened the season as 11-4 favorites to repeat as champions even as their star quarterback turned 40 years old.

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Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Casino –
Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Kentucky lawmakers are now studying proposals that will amend their constitution in a bid to accommodate four casinosacross the Bluegrass State.

Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinosWCPO TV 9 reported that State Reps. Dennis Keene and Rick Rand have pre-filed BR-197, which seeks to legalize casinos and at the same time expand pari-mutuel gambling, in the first week of December.

Kentucky, currently one of the 10 U.S. states that does not have a casino offering, is becoming more receptive to the measure compared to the previous years, according to Keene.

Aside from allowing casinos in the state, Keene’s bill also opened the possibility of allowing sports betting in Kentucky.

The cash-strapped state is now pushing for the legalization of casinos because it needs new revenue streams to straighten its budget and salvage the state pension plan. Kentucky wants to recapture the money that its residents spend in neighboring gambling venues, according to the report.

In the historic coal town of Jenkins, Kentucky, residents are already throwing their support for the opening of casinos in the wake of high unemployment rate, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Meanwhile, lobby group Jobs 4 Kentucky has already gather signatures of Jenkins residents supporting the initiative.

“Responsible gaming is the pride of the modern gaming entertainment industry,” the pro-casino group said in a statement posted on its website. “The Citizens of Kentucky can count on an expanded gaming community to operate responsibly and with care for our people.”

Despite the growing support, several lawmakers believe that BR-197 faces a steep uphill climb in the Congress.

One of the factors why the casino measure has not moved forward in Kentucky is the disagreements over the casinos’ location. Social conservatives are exerting pressure on Congress not to allow gambling expansion in the state, while the Kentucky’s influential horse industry wants casinos confined in the tracks.

There were casino bills that had been filed over the past years, but Keene said these measures met their untimely demise in the Congress because “there’s not been the political courage to pass it.”

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Top Gaming Industry Salaries of 2017: Which Casino Barons Brought Home the Most Bacon
Top Gaming Industry Salaries of 2017: Which Casino Barons Brought Home the Most Bacon

The gaming industry had a dynamic 2017, but for casino operators, there’s only one true way to count success, and that’s by taking a look at their ledger sheets at the end of the year. The top dogs in the business didn’t get there by being faint of heart, and this year, the industry’s notables took risks and faced their antagonists head-on. The result was hefty compensation all around.

Big money casino industry 2017

Good to be king: Las Vegas Sands Corp CEO Sheldon Adelson got a huge raise, but also pulled out of the Las Vegas Raiders stadium deal. (Image: Getty)

Many of the top names in the sector are billionaires, counting themselves among the richest people on the planet.

Here’s a look at a few of the major executives and owners who made the big bucks in 2017.

Adelson Gets Standard 400 Percent Raise

When it comes to the richest of the rich, there are few who have the vast resources of Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands CEO and chairman has a net worth of approximately $32.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and his piles of cash only got deeper in 2017.

Adelson saw his annual salary increase from $1 million to $5 million, and along with performance-based bonuses, his total compensation package could be worth more than $17 million a year.

But his biggest financial move may have been the one he didn’t end up making. The billionaire dropped out of a bid to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, withdrawing his $650 million in funding for a proposed NFL stadium after saying that the Raiders had left him out of discussions over the arena’s lease agreement.

Wynn Takes Stock Payout, Faces Off Against Frenemy

Steve Wynn also had quite the year, with his biggest windfall coming in January. That’s when Wynn Resorts awarded its CEO with a stock package distribution worth $12.5 million. Wynn immediately sold $5.2 million in stock, providing himself with plenty of spending cash to start the new year.

The casino mogul has other big money stock issues pending, though. Former Wynn Resorts board member Kazuo Okada is suing the company over his 2012 dismissal and the forced redemption of his 20 percent stake in the firm, a move that Okada says wasn’t made by the board because it was in the best interests of the company, but rather on orders from Steve Wynn himself.

Murren, MGM Must Deal with Shooting Aftermath

Another CEO to earn a raise in 2017 was MGM Resorts CEO James Murren. The 54-year-old executive received a new contract in October 2016, and while his base pay remained at $2 million a year, his bonuses and stock awards both increased in April, resulting in a total bump of about 25 percent.

Murren may be hard-pressed to get that kind of raise again in 2018, however. Following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, MGM is facing lawsuits from more than 450 victims. While most damages are likely to be paid by insurers, the legal and public relations ramifications from the shooting will extend into 2018 and beyond.

Frissora Leads Caesars Out of Bankruptcy

On the other hand, Caesars Entertainment President and CEO Mark Frissora reportedly took a pay cut in 2016, though his compensation package of $9.5 million was still more than enough to keep him living large.

That could easily change when his 2017 earnings are announced. Frissora helped Caesars emerge from bankruptcy after a three-year effort, and in October, he spoke to investors about the corporation’s plans to grow their operations not only in Las Vegas, but also in other global destinations like Japan, Brazil, and South Korea.

Northeast, Asia Likely Battlegrounds in 2018

So where will the big money players be focused heading into 2018? Increased competition may be the biggest concern to their respective bottom lines, particularly in the northeastern United States, where new casinos in Massachusetts and Connecticut, along with the introduction of online gambling in Pennsylvania, could put a lot of pressure on markets that are already beginning to feel saturated.

High stakes are at play in Asia as well coming into the new year. Not only will Japan likely grant final approval for the nation’s first integrated resorts, but regulators in Macau are also expected to announce the rules that will govern the renewal of gaming license concessions in the Chinese territory.

Both could lead to fierce competition amongst some of the largest gaming firms in the world, each of which wants to be a leader in these lucrative markets. And you know what that means: bigger payouts for the gambling industries biggest moguls in 2018.

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Criminal-Minded: Bad Boys Who Made Gaming’s Naughty List in 2017
Criminal-Minded: Bad Boys Who Made Gaming’s Naughty List in 2017

The concept of “bad actors” has been part and parcel to casino and gaming worlds since their inception, and the fight to keep these industries clean can be an ongoing struggle. In 2017, we saw powerful online gaming executives, rising social media stars, and nefarious gamblers having to pay the piper for their efforts to achieve ill-gotten gains.

Craig “NepentheZ” Douglas, a “bad boy” of gaming in 2017

YouTube star Craig Douglas, aka “NepentheZ,” was one of two people arrested for inviting minors to gamble on videogames. (Image: YouTube)

Underage GamerGate

The successful prosecution of two YouTubers on charges of promoting and facilitating underage gambling with the use of in-game virtual items was a first in 2017. The UK Gambling Commission secured convictions against Craig “NepentheZ” Douglas and Dylan Rigby in January.

The YouTube stars, who also owned the now-defunct FIFA-coin gambling site FUT Galaxy, had a collective following of more than 1.6 million subscribers, many of whom were underage videogame players. The court saw footage of a 12-year-old boy gambling on FUT Galaxy at the encouragement of Douglas and Rigby on YouTube.

The pair was found guilty of violating the UK Gambling Act 2005 and fined a total of £265,000 ($332,000) for their efforts to promote gambling activities through the sale of in-game virtual items.

Billy Walters’ Big Fall

Legendary Vegas sports bettor Billy Walters also found himself in the dock this year, accused of profiting from illegal trades on Dean Foods stock, using information provided by ex-Dean Foods chairman Tom Davis.

In July, the 71-year-old Walters was found guilty of making “at least $43 million” from insider trading in a trial that entangled golf star Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, agreed to repay the $1 million he made on Dean Foods stock after following Walters’ tips.

In September, he was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $25.4 million fine.

Tom Davis, Degenerate Gambling

Davis, who testified against Walters as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, also proved himself to be a bona fide bad boy of gaming.

He admitted he borrowed almost $1 million from Walters under the pretext of investing in a Texas bank, but confessed to the court that he had spent it instead on gambling and hookers, including blowing $200,000 on one hand of blackjack in 2011 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. He lost.

The Dean Foods honcho and chairman of one of America’s biggest milk-processing companies also confessed to embezzling $100,000 from a golf charity for battered women to fund his gambling habits.

Davis told the court that Walters’ requests for information became “more demanding,” after he became indebted to him. In October, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

David Baazov on Trial

David Baazov, founder and ousted CEO of Amaya Gaming, went on trial earlier this month for financial crimes related to his company’s $4.9 billion acquisition of PokerStars in 2014. It was a coup that transformed his company into one of the biggest online gambling firms in the world, and embroiled him in one of the biggest insider trading scandals in Canadian history.

But was it “his” company at all?

Documents released by the Quebec financial regulator AMF as part of its case against Baazov suggested that he was never the majority shareholder of Amaya. Rather, he was a minority shareholder acting as a nominee, holding as much as 75 percent of Amaya on behalf of his brother, Josh, and their long-time business partner Craig Levett.

Thanks to a previous conviction in the US for telemarketing fraud, a black mark that could have jeopardized Amaya’s (and PokerStars’) gambling licenses across the globe, Josh Baazov plausibly had a reason to hide his ownership.

David Baazov, meanwhile, has vowed to vigorously contest all charges against him

Amaya changed its name to The Stars Group this year, partly to distance itself from the charges of securities fraud levelled in 2016 against its former chairman and CEO, who if found guilty will face significant fines and prison time.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Casinos Pay Price for Unusually Stormy Year, as Mother Nature Lets Loose in 2017
Casinos Pay Price for Unusually Stormy Year, as Mother Nature Lets Loose in 2017

Casinos across the US and its territories, as well as in Macau, bore the wrath of Mother Nature over the past 12 months. In the end, it was gambling revenues that took the hit, as numerous Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes and typhoons pummeled both the American and Asian gaming markets in 2017.

mother nature casinos damage Macau

Macau was hit hard by mother nature this past fall, with August’s Typhoon Hato causing severe damage. It was but one of a series of catastrophes that left its mark on the casino industry globally. (Image: Anthony Wallace/Getty)

Casino closures, guest room cancellations, and inaccessibility following storm damage were among the factors that caused the industry to feel the pain at the bottom line this past year.

The Thunder Roared

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was hyperactive, with six major Category 3 or stronger storms hitting the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. Over 420 people died, and final damage estimates are predicted to be close to $200 billion across the board.


The first major hurricane this year to make landfall in the US was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit Texas and the Houston area in late August. While the hurricane devastated much of southeastern Texas, riverboat casinos located in nearby Lake Charles, Louisiana, were spared.

Despite being docked in Galveston, the Jacks or Better casino cruise ship got lucky. Just 50 miles southeast of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico, the company, not necessarily advisedly, resumed providing gambling tours just days after much of the state endured a Category 4 hurricane.


Almost at the exact time that Harvey was doing damage in Houston, over 8,000 miles away in Macau, Typhoon Hato was delivering massive blows to China’s special gaming enclave in August.

The storm was the strongest to hit Macau in 53 years. Ten people died, and Hato caused almost $2 billion in damage in South China. The storm closed casinos and caused delays to the MGM Cotai , which is now expected to open its doors in January.

Executives from the six licensed casino companies in Macau, which will begin seeing permits expire as of 2020, stepped up to help aid in the city’s recovery. Combined, the six operators donated $26.7 million to Macau charities. Las Vegas Sands and its founder Sheldon Adelson led the way, with a $12.3 million pledge. Wynn Resorts gave $3.75 million to Macau, and another $3.75 million to Houston’s Harvey, an altruistic move, considering there are no legal land-based casinos in Texas.

US Takes a Hit


Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that was deemed the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, hit landfall in the US in early September. The storm pummeled towards Florida, but casinos and parimutuel tracks fared well.

Many gambling venues provided electricity and a climate-controlled escape, as power was slow to be restored in the southern part of the steamy and warm Sunshine State.


The final bad weather chapter in 2017 was devastating. Category 5 Maria targeted Puerto Rico, and made landfall on September 20. The storm caused catastrophic damage, and led to a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands went without fresh water, fuel, electricity, phone service, and other vital basic necessities for weeks.

Casino resorts across the island were closed for days after the storm, but began reopening in the weeks following Maria.

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Betting on Asia: Emerging Casino Markets Brought in Major Industry Players in 2017
Betting on Asia: Emerging Casino Markets Brought in Major Industry Players in 2017

For gambling operators, emerging casino markets is Asia has created the most sought-after regional market on Earth today. And over the last 12 months, every major casino industry player in the world jockeyed for position in a race to expand the gaming industry’s presence on the planet’s most populous continent.

Asian casino market Japan

Japan’s National Diet worked behind closed doors all year on its integrated resort bill. Outside the chamber, the world’s biggest gambling companies anxiously awaited details on plans for the newest Asian casino market. (Image: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Getty)

Japanese Import

No country garnered more attention this year than Japan. The country has almost 127 million residents, making for the 10th largest national population, who collectively are some of the wealthiest. Nearly two years ago, Japan decided to legalize commercial gambling to grow its tourism industry. But the Land of the Rising Sun is proceeding with caution, granting only two licenses nationwide. The scarcity and exclusivity made pursuing a license in Japan like a quest for the holy grail among the world’s biggest casino conglomerates, companies such as Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts.

After months of waiting, Japan’s National Diet, the government’s legislative body, finally released its integrated casino resorts bill earlier this month.

The two licenses up for grabs will put an integrated casino resort in Osaka and Yokohama. The regulatory legislation restricts casino floors to 15,000 square meters (161,458 square feet), places an effective tax on mass market gaming at 22 percent and VIP play at 12 percent, and sets the minimum gambling age at 20. In an effort to curb a potential spike in problem gambling, the new law would require Japanese citizens to pay an entrance fee to access the casinos.

The official campaigning and pitches for licensure will begin in 2018. In addition to Sands and MGM, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and Hard Rock are among the hopeful, looking to place a winning bid in front of Japanese officials, with designs on a market that some analysts say could generate $40 billion in annual revenue.

Cold to Russia

Currently, China is still the biggest casino market in Asia, even after Macau saw casino wins slashed after the People’s Republic President Xi Jinping included VIP junket companies as targets in an anti-corruption crusade he launched in 2014. As a result, other Asian nations tried to become the next best thing for Chinese high rollers. And Russia was among them, though their efforts seemed to fall short in 2017.

In 2009, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the closure of all casinos and gambling venues in the motherland. Five years later, he approved four specific gambling zones, including one in Vladivostok, which sits between China and the Sea of Japan.

Russia hoped these regions would become tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign travelers, and provide a spark to the economically challenged locales. But international casino companies have shown little interest in investing.

The exception has been Melco Resorts owner Lawrence Ho. The Chinese billionaire is involved with the Tigre de Cristal casino in the Far East Primorsky Krai. Russia planned that zone to become its version of the Las Vegas Strip, but today Tigre is the only casino to have been built in the area.

Philippines Makeover

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is no fan of gambling. In 2017, he ordered the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the country’s gambling regulator that also happened to operate several of the casinos it oversaw, to sell off its land-based assets.

That created a problem for the federal government, as PAGCOR collects more tax revenue than any other Filipino agency other than the country’s IRS. But when the auction opened, few bidders showed up to buy the PAGCOR casinos.

That’s because while commercial casinos, Solaire and City of Dreams, for instance, pay only a 5 percent tax on VIP play and 15 percent on mass market revenue, the Philippines government said it would make up lost revenue by heavily taxing the former PAGCOR venues.

“The revenue stream will still come,” PAGCOR Chairwoman Andrea Domingo said in July. “The government will still earn the money.”

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

How ‘Non-Gaming’ Became a Casino Industry Buzzword in 2017
How ‘Non-Gaming’ Became a Casino Industry Buzzword in 2017

Casino companies spent a lot of time and effort focused on non-gaming entertainment in 2017, not so much of a surprise after visitor spend on non-gambling activities in 2016, such as hotel stays, dining, dancing, and attending shows, accounted for 55 to 65 percent of casino resort revenues.

non-gaming casino resort Las Vegas Macau

Las Vegas resorts are more committed than ever to their non-gaming features. (Image: Daylight Beach Club/Mandalay Bay)

From Las Vegas to Macau, to regional casinos around the world, non-gaming became a buzzword in the board rooms of numerous gambling and hospitality conglomerates.

Plenty of factors led to gaming bosses deciding to look at non-gaming. Millennials, and their seemingly low interest in playing simple games of chance like slot machines, are one cause. Economic factors, first generated by a worldwide recession in the late 2000s, are also to blame.

But whatever the true root cause, it’s undeniable that in 2017 non-gaming was a key topic in the world of gaming.

Macau Makeover

In Macau, focusing on non-gaming was out of necessity, as resorts sought to become less reliant on high roller play due to People’s Republic President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. After years of gaming revenues growing at exponential rates, topping out at $45 billion in 2013, China began more closely monitoring VIP junket companies that were transporting wealthy mainlanders to the only area of the country where gambling is permitted.

As a result, dozens of junket operators closed shop, and casino companies that had invested billions of dollars in constructing massive five-star luxury resorts downtown and on the Cotai Strip quickly searched for new revenue streams.

Catering to more of the mass market instead of VIPs paid off. “Las Vegasization” became the term referring to resorts overhauling their amenities.

The Las Vegas Sands’ Parisian hotel opened with a water park, shopping center, and half-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower. And the newly opened Wynn Palace gives visitors breathtaking views of the Strip on its “SkyCab” ride.

Mighty Millennial

In the US, the millennial demographic, those born between 1981 and 1997, are beginning to start families and settle down. The 20- and 30-something adult demo has long been a coveted age range for Las Vegas, but the current group isn’t sitting down at the slots at nearly the same rates of their preceding generations.

To keep rooms occupied, restaurants filled, and concert arenas packed, casino resorts have started to look for new gaming concepts. The primary areas include skill-based gaming machines, which combine elements of skill with chance, and esports, also known as competitive video gaming.

Las Vegas has also begun booking younger and hipper residencies. No longer is it just Cher, Celine, and Wayne Newtown gracing Strip marquees, but also millennial-cherished names such as Britney, Mariah, J-Lo, and the Backstreet Boys.

When it comes to bringing new people to Sin City, casinos in Las Vegas were thrown a bone in 2017 through the inclusion of pro sports. The NHL Golden Knights began play at T-Mobile Arena this year, and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders soon will be renamed the Las Vegas Raiders.


The most obvious non-gaming movement came from Las Vegas’ biggest casino operator. In September, MGM released an over-the-top marking campaign titled Welcome to the Show.

The one minute commercial spot makes no reference to actual gambling, instead focusing on MGM’s wide array of nightlife, dining, entertainment, and what they call the “Holy Sh*t Business.”

“The world’s leading producer of OMG,” MGM declared.

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Biggest Sports Scandals of 2017: Football Knees, Golf Clubs, and Baller Bribes
Biggest Sports Scandals of 2017: Football Knees, Golf Clubs, and Baller Bribes

Sports scandals engulfed not only coaches, players, and fans in 2017, but everyone from President Donald Trump and former Wall Street executives, to league front offices and television networks.

sports scandals 2017 NFL kneeling

It divided the players and the country, and the NFL kneeling debate was unquestionably the biggest sports scandal of the year. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

It was a turbulent 12 months, and the stakes were high. The sports world didn’t only revolve around championship games and rivalries, but social injustice, drug addiction, bribery, and more.

Players Take a Knee

Few stories in America made more headlines in 2017 than the NFL kneeling controversy. Protesting social injustices and police brutality against minorities, hundreds of professional football players began refusing to stand for the traditional start-of-game national anthem.

The controversy escalated when President Trump added his Twitter voice to the issue, urging fans to boycott the league and owners to fire players who refused to stand.

Ratings for the NFL subsequently suffered, which also led to a lower handle for Las Vegas oddsmakers, as TV viewer interest began to wane the longer divisiveness over the issue wore on.

Golf Scandals (Seriously)

For a sport where fans typically give a polite clap (save a “mashed potatoes!” yell) after a good shot, golf certainly made its share of shocking headlines in 2017.  The biggest was, of course, Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest.

In May, the 14-time major winner was arrested after he was found asleep at the wheel of his running SUV. Toxicology reports found no alcohol in his system, but a dangerous cocktail of pain medications and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) did show up.

Woods’ absence hurt television ratings, but he did return in late November to competitive golf.

Phil Mickelson also got involved in some bad press through an insider trading scandal. His golf pal Billy Walters, known as the most successful sports bettor in Nevada history, was found guilty of using confidential information provided to him by an indebted gambler to make $43 million in stock profit on Dean Foods.

Lefty had also made about $1 million on the stock tip, but returned the money and was cleared of any wrongdoing.

B-Ball Briber

In September, the FBI brought charges against legendary coach Rick Petino’s Louisville basketball program for its alleged involvement in a “pay to play” bribery scheme with Adidas.

According to federal investigators, an Adidas executive agreed to pay the family of a high school recruit $100,000 and sponsor him once he turned pro, in exchange for his commitment to Louisville. Petino was fired in October, after 16 years with the school.

Speaking of Bribes

Also in September, the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Nuzman, was accused of buying votes for Rio de Janeiro’s successful bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

The accusations, which are still pending, state that Nuzman orchestrated a $2 million payment in 2009 to the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Ultimate Showdown

The fight of the year, or perhaps the decade for casual boxing fans, came in August with the much-hyped Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor spectacle. There was plenty of controversy leading up to the fight, with underdog McGregor accusing Mayweather of having a gambling problem and being unable to pay his tax bills.

More mundane polemics ensued after viewers watching livestreams complained about image quality, after shelling out $99.95 for Showtime’s feed. The premium network later agreed to refund certain purchases made through the Showtime app.

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A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college
UNLV’s latest building gives its world-renowned Harrah’s College of Hospitality a world-class facility. The modern-industrial style interior is designed to feel like you are in one of the properties on the ...

Friday, December 22, 2017

MGM CEO Jim Murren Says Aftermath of Shooting Showed Las Vegas as Strong Community
MGM CEO Jim Murren Says Aftermath of Shooting Showed Las Vegas as Strong Community

The October 1 Las Vegas mass shooting was the city’s most horrific day in its history, but MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren says the valley’s response put its strength, unity, and resiliency on full display.

Jim Murren Las Vegas shooting

Jim Murren says the world came to a better understanding of Las Vegas as a place where real people live and work after the outpouring of support for first responders to the October 1 shooting. (Image: CNBC)

Speaking with CNBC this week, Murren said no one in Las Vegas expected tourists to comprehend that the region isn’t just a wild travel destination informally known as Sin City, but also a hometown community for more than two million.

The Other Vegas

“There’s been a perception of Las Vegas as a transient community or a place where people just visit,” the top executive of Nevada’s largest employer stated. “But I’ve known it now for two decades as a different kind of place. I coach little league, and yes, we have churches, mosques, and synagogues.”

“The outside world didn’t really know that, nor did we expect them to,” Murren continued. “But I do think the world saw that. They saw great acts of kindness, courage, and how the community rallied together.”

The Las Vegas shooting garnered 58 fatalities, and hundreds of wounded, all of whom were attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival,

This week, Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg confirmed what we already knew: that all 58 homicides were the result of gunshot wounds. Twenty-one people were shot in the head, 36 died after being hit in the chest area, and one died by a bullet to the leg.

Shooter Stephen Paddock died by suicide after shooting himself in the mouth, Fudenberg noted in his report.

Getting Back in the Game

Murren said the healing process continues in Las Vegas, but added, “We’ve had a good couple months of recovery of our business.” Gaming and hospitality analysts have expressed the view that the Las Vegas shooting won’t have long-term financial impact on tourism.

Murren believes the addition of professional sports teams will further bring the community together. Having a team to root for, he says, “makes Vegas a hometown.”

The Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion franchise in the NHL, began playing at MGM’s half-owned T-Mobile Arena this fall. The team’s surprisingly strong play has them with the third-best record in the entire league.

The Golden Knights began the season with the longest odds (100-1) of winning the Stanley Cup of the NHL’s 31 teams. But today, that line has shrunk to 7-1 at Nevada sportsbooks.

Las Vegas will get its second professional sports team when the Aces begin play in the WNBA next year. MGM Resorts purchased the San Antonio Stars franchise this fall, but delayed the announcement by several weeks, due to the October 1 shooting.

“Sports is a common language. It certainly feels good that we’re going to have another opportunity to bring the community together,” Murren said, regarding the acquisition.

The soon-to-be-former Oakland Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas for the start of the 2020 NFL season. The team’s $1.9 billion stadium is being constructed west of Mandalay Bay on a 62-acre plot.

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