Seven years after Pennsylvania's casino bill became law, and five years after state regulators awarded one of two available Philadelphia casino licenses to Foxwoods, a legislative panel is trying to unbind that would-be operating license from Philadelphia's geographic boundaries:
"A House committee voted today to make it much harder to locate a second casino with slots and table games in Philadelphia. The Gaming Oversight Committee, controlled by Republicans, said the new casino license would be available anywhere in the state, as long as the state gained major gaming revenue from it. The state Gaming Control Board has revoked the stand-alone slots license that it had issued to Foxwoods in Philadelphia in 2006, and state Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester, wants to make that the license available to the highest casino bidder, anywhere in the state." (Post-Gazette)
All along, it was supposed that Philadelphia would be home to two stand-alone casinos. (Pittsburgh was guaranteed one). Back then, when the law was passed, Gov. Rendell, Sen. Vince Fumo and Rep. John Perzel -- all Philadelphia power brokers -- were all in power. Two of the three have since been criminally charged, and Gov. Rendell is no longer in office, having served two terms.
The Philadelphia population might still be judged to be the one best served by this casino license. But the city and its residents have fewer defenders today than they did seven years ago. Republicans hold the House, the Senate and the governor's mansion. Philly's loss could be Gettysburg's gain -- or York's, Allentown's:"The Innovation Group, the New Orleans-based consultant that produced the $44,000 study, identified 11 sites that could support a casino. It ranked them based on the potential revenue the state could net at each location, taking into account the effect of competition from surrounding states and the impact on existing Pennsylvania casinos. The estimates ranged from York, where the consultant said a casino could add $154 million a year to state coffers, to Williamsport, projected at $55 million." (Associated Press)
... The state's fiscal year began in July, meaning we are about three-and-half months in. Here's how Pennsylvania's casinos are doing year-to-date; The Meadows racetrack and casino is averaging $194 million a month in slot machine wagering, with about $15 million a month in gross terminal revenue. Rivers Casino is averaging $288 million a month in slots wagers and $23.7 million in gross terminal revenue. Table games: The Meadows is averaging $3.1 million a month in gross table revenue, while Rivers is averaging $6.25 million.
... the state gets a big chunk of that slots revenue. Bigger, in fact, than any other state, including Nevada -- while the Las Vegas Strip remains the country's No. 1 gaming market (Pittsburgh is No. 19, by comparison), Pennsylvania's tax rate is much higher, meaning more tax revenue:"Just five years after its first casino opened, Pennsylvania now generates more tax revenue from card games and slot machines than any other state in the nation — and it isn't even close. The Keystone State's treasury raked in more than $1.3 billion from its 10 casinos last year, outpacing its closest competitors Indiana and Nevada, which saw $875 million and $835 million, respectively. Louisiana and New York round out the top five." (The Washington Times)
... What the heck is a sweepstakes cafe, anyways?:
"State lawmakers want to close what they say is another loophole in Pennsylvania's gambling law, one that has allowed businesses to offer 'sweepstakes' contests that mimic casino games. ...The businesses sell pre-paid long-distance phone cards or vouchers for internet time that customers can then use to play virtual games on terminals there to win cash. Offering games such as video poker, many of the options are identical to those offered at nearby casinos." (Post-Gazette)
Dispatches from the border
Atlantic City continues to lose gamblers to Pennsylvania -- how to fight that exodus?
"Cruises, posh suites and exclusive box seats at sporting events. Cars, shopping sprees and private parties. Turkeys for Thanksgiving and hams for Easter. And much, much more. In the gambling world, these are the 'comps' that casinos give to their customers to reward them for their business and loyalty. ... The good news for gamblers is that Atlantic City's casinos are becoming even more generous with their giveaways. As gaming competition has grown in Pennsylvania and other surrounding states, the slumping Atlantic City market is increasingly using the power of the comp in the fight for customers." (Press of Atlantic City)
... and from Ohio: "Applicants are moving a step closer to landing work as card dealers at two of Ohio's new casinos, now conducting interviews. The casino coming to Toledo started bringing in hopefuls this week for group interviews even as its website continues to accept applications. The Hollywood Casino Toledo opening next year is looking to hire up to 500 dealers for blackjack and other table games. ... At Casino's Horseshoe Casino, set to open in March, [11,800] people are vying for the 500 jobs. The Plain Dealer reports 4,000 were invited for interview sessions." (AP)
... a profile of the "Faces of Rock Gaming," the company that will own the Cleveland casino. (Cleveland.com)
Odds and ends
Will Cleveland's casino draw new entertainment dollars downtown, or suck it away from existing venues? ... Chicago wants a casino, but the Illinois governor doesn't want gambling at the airports ... Miami wants a casino, too, and says it will be one of the world's biggest (more or less) ... "Metro Detroiters are getting the chance to be lucky in Detroit thanks to Greektown Casino-Hotel's Wallet Drop promotion. Greektown street teams have been hitting everything from ballgame tailgates to lunch-hour spots in Campus Martius covertly 'dropping' wallets containing $50 in Bonu$ Play for the casino and a voucher for a free one-night stay at the hotel for anyone who discovers them."
You think the economies of Greece, Spain, and the like are threatening the euro, and thus the world's big banks? True -- but Deutsche Bank is reeeeeeaaally hoping that the casino market rebounds in Las Vegas, says The Financial Times:
"Deutsche Bank's exposure to 'casino banking' in Las Vegas has reached $4.9 billion, rivalling its exposure to countries affected by the eurozone debt crisis. The bank has become one of the biggest investors and creditors in the US gambling capital. It has a $3.9 billion credit facility with the 3,000-room Cosmopolitan casino – a wholly owned subsidiary which Deutsche built when the developer defaulted on loans from the bank. It also holds $1 billion of debt, and 25 per cent of the equity, in Station Casinos, which owns several casinos in the Las Vegas area. This compares with Deutsche's $5.1 billion exposure in the countries affected by the sovereign debt crisis – Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal."
... and in case you missed it, former Steelers Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier are now pitchmen for Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County.