Rafting, camping, biking ...

Written by Bill Toland on .

... and gambling. Slot machines and table games will be coming to the Laurel Highlands soon:

"Nemacolin defeated three other competitors for the state's second and final resort casino license. The losers included the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino, proposed for a conference center south of Gettysburg; a motel west of Harrisburg; and the Fernwood resort in the Poconos."

So Joe Hardy finally gets his casino license, as one competitor put it. But Gettysburg's loss -- and Fernwood's loss -- was a victory for the casino that's already in the Poconos:

"Mount Airy Casino Resort also can also be considered a winner because it will not see new competition in its backyard. Fernwood Hotel & Resort, in Monroe County's Middle Smithfield Township, just 15 miles east of Mount Airy, was among three hotels that were not awarded the license. ... Mount Airy is already sandwiched by Mohegan Sun, 28 miles to the north near Wilkes-Barre, and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, 39 miles to the south. That competition, and the fact Mount Airy is the only casino in the state not in a major population zone, has helped make it the state's worst performer." (The Morning Call)

... The Gettysburg casino just wasn't in the cards.

... Want to see what a million dollars looks like? There's a pile of cash sitting at Rivers Casino with your name on it -- the Pittsburgh Business Times has a photo. Find out how to win the money here.

... Table games bring in more profit than slot machines; slot machines bring in more tax revenue for the state. So whenever a casino removes slot machines from the floor in order to install more roulette and blackjack tables, the state loses out:

Boosting profit via tables is a game lots of casinos seem eager to join. Since July, when table games debuted in the state, five other casinos, including Parx in Bensalem, Harrah's Chester in Delaware County, and Sands in Bethlehem, have ramped up their numbers while cutting back on the slots.

If the trend persists, gambling critics contend, casino operators will have found a way to skirt the intent of Pennsylvania's Gaming Act.

"Tax relief was the supposed justification for opening these casinos," said Paul Boni, a Philadelphia lawyer and board member for the national anticasino group Stop Predatory Gambling. "But now, we see that the industry does everything possible to avoid paying taxes.

Notes from the border

Construction started yesterday on the new Columbus, Ohio, casino:

"The elephant in the room – how Penn National Gaming Inc. plans to pump water into its Columbus casino and sewage out of it – received only a veiled mention during a groundbreaking ceremony for the $400 million project Monday. 'I've never found it so difficult to spend $400 million, but we still believe in Central Ohio,' Penn National President Tim Wilmott told the assembled crowd, which notably did not include any city or county elected officials. He was alluding to the hassles the Wyomissing, Pa.-based gaming company has faced in advancing its Hollywood Casino Columbus project to the construction stage. That includes getting Ohio voters to approve construction of the Columbus casino and three others in November 2009, convincing them last spring to allow the Columbus casino to be moved from the Arena District to the former Delphi Automotive plant site on the west side, and the company's continuing battle to strike a deal with Columbus to provide water and sewer services to the casino."

... they're building a casino in Cleveland, too, in a building you may recognize.

... across the eastern state line, Atlantic City struggles to rebrand itself:

"The critical task of marketing Atlantic City shifted this week to a new organization created by state laws aimed at salvaging the struggling resort. The Atlantic City Alliance, a nonprofit entity funded and operated by local casinos and their executives, will assume most of the city's marketing duties previously handled by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, which will focus on growing convention business. The changes are driven by the state law that created the city's Tourism District, which launched Tuesday with a vote by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority."

... the much-debated smoking ban in Atlantic City has had little effect on business on casinos. Not necessarily because the smokers have adapted, but because the laws aren't enforced:

"Atlantic City has a partial ban in place for casinos but whether it is enforced can vary a great deal, according to the Press of Atlantic City. Four years after the partial ban was introduced, the Press of Atlantic City reported guests were seen smoking in non-smoking sections of all except three of the city's casinos. Yet there have been only a few smoking violations handed out by the Dept of Health since the ban was introduced, The Press of Atlantic City reported. The expectation is that the casinos will enforce the partial ban, the report explained."

Odds and ends

Kentucky Derby update ... The crackdown on online poker sites continues, and it presents an opening for casinos ... Don't leave kids in the car for hours at a time when gambling! (or ever, really) ... A former Las Vegas Sands exec is accused of extortion in a lawsuit ...

One more crack at a Charm City casino?

"State lottery officials plan to try their luck again at seeking developers to build a casino in Baltimore City, but this time they hope the odds are more in their favor. The Maryland Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission is meeting today to put out a new request to firms interested in building a slot machine facility in South Baltimore. If approved, the commission could send out the request by the end of the week and select a developer by the end of the year."

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