Park(ing) Places

Written by Bill Toland on .

Will more parking spaces mean more patrons at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County? The casino is banking on it:

A 1,400-space parking garage may not have the razzle-dazzle of the latest slot machines, but for The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, it's the kind of amenity that will help to keep customers coming back. Officials at the Washington County venue opened the $15 million garage Friday morning, hopeful that it will help to boost business in the face of increased competition from Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino and those preparing to open in Ohio.

Sean Sullivan, The Meadows general manager and vice president, said the new garage will help to alleviate a parking crunch at peak times, particularly on weekends, that he believes kept some customers away or forced them to go elsewhere for entertainment. "We are in the business of pleasing our guests. We know that our infrastructure wasn't as good as it could be at peak periods, so I think that we've mitigated that to a great deal," he said.

Is a casino hotel a big deal?  Here's the take of gaming writer Howard Stutz: 

"A 200-room hotel-casino would garner hardly a mention in Las Vegas. It's a little different story in Washington County, Pa. The Meadows Racetrack and Casino outside Pittsburgh, which operated by Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts, announced a $25 million project that will include by 2014 the largest hotel in Washington County, an event and convention center and a retail complex."

... Could the building that now houses the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philadelphia Inquirer (and the Daily News) soon have a new tenant?

"A powerful developer wants to build a casino and entertainment complex near the headquarters for Philadelphia's two largest newspapers, an iconic building that he now owns. Bart Blatstein owns the building that houses The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News on the northern edge of the city's downtown. He said [last week] that he wants to build a casino, entertainment and retail complex on the property, turning the newspaper building into a hotel. That, however, would be contingent on his getting one of the two casino licenses currently slated for Philadelphia. The newspapers are moving their operations to rented space in a former department store downtown later this year." (Story: AP)

... A PG letter-writer (Tim Murray of Pleasant Hills) wants to know if you've even noticed the property tax break that casino revenues were supposed to produce:

"Eight years later, how's that gaming bonanza working out for you? Only in the alternate reality of Harrisburg could, for example, the paltry $123 reduction to North Hills School District homeowners be considered a 'good, significant step on the road to property tax relief.' ... Where's the rest of the money going? Among others, supposedly 'economic development' and 'senior citizens' -- the Gregorian chants of state bureaucrats looking to end the discussion when someone dares to ask 'where's the money going?'"

Dispatches from the border

This isn't, technically, in the Youngstown-New Castle market -- but I'd still have to think every good bit of development news in Ohio is bad news for the developers of the would-be Lawrence County casino:

"Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, reached an agreement to develop a slot machine-only casino at the Northfield Park racetrack in northeastern Ohio. The deal is contingent on Ohio finalizing plans to allow seven of the state's racetracks to operate some 17,500 slot machine-like video lottery terminals. The proposed $275 million Hard Rock project would include a Hard Rock-branded casino, a steakhouse, Hard Rock Cafe and an entertainment venue for live music." (Las Vegas Review Journal)

Northfield track, by the way, is just outside of Cleveland -- about 70 miles from where Valley View Downs would be.

... Earlier this week, Rock Gaming -- the Ohio company that  is building Caesars-branded casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati -- announced that it had acquired 40 percent of Turfway Park, "a struggling Kentucky racetrack." Caesars itself still controls an additional 50 percent of the track. The deal was approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

It's the first thoroughbred track for Rock Gaming. (Kentucky Post)

... In Ohio, they do things a bit differently (read: backward) by awarding the casino licenses first, by way of writing the winners into the referendum, then -- more than two years later -- doing background checks on the winning applicants: "Ohio regulators are planning to review the background of a company slated to open the state's first casino next month, and Cincinnati's casino next year. The Ohio Casino Control Commission meets Wednesday to review a newly completed report on Rock Ohio Caesars. It will include details about the company's financial stability and whether it has any criminal background." (AP)

And what do you suppose happens if they turn up something unsavory?

... In West Virginia, we have a rare convergance of casino news and Marcellus Shale drilling news (which we failed to notice a month ago, when it was first published):

"West Virginia lost out in the battle to attract Shell's multibillion-dollar chemical plant because of the costs involved with relocating a casino that occupies the site, sources told The Associated Press on Thursday. Shell announced plans to build the so-called 'cracker' plant in Monaca, Pa., about 12 miles from the West Virginia border. Two individuals with direct knowledge of the negotiations with Shell, but who were unauthorized to speak publicly about them, said the company's preferred West Virginia location encroached on Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort."

... Pittsburgh -- does this sound familiar? (cough*riverscasino*cough):

Reeling from the economic recession and the loss of gamblers to neighboring states, Atlantic City casinos are telling the tax man they’re not worth as much as he thinks they are. All 12 casinos in the seaside resort have appealed their tax assessments over the past three years, and many have already cashed in millions in property-tax savings.

City officials say they’re losing big, and all the challenges leave their projections of how much they’ll get in revenue about as predictable as a roulette wheel. "The effect, of course, is the loss of revenue, which in turn affects the financial well-being of the city," said Novellette Robinson, Atlantic City’s tax assessor.

... "Do AC!" Doesn't quite have the same mischievous ring as "What Happens in Vegas," but that's the new marketing campaign out of Atlantic City:

"Port Authority bus passengers in New York City were greeted Monday by a station full of ads inviting them to 'Do AC!' Rail commuters in New York City, Long Island and Philadelphia were urged to head to Atlantic City for some fun and relaxation in 'the city that was created to escape the city.' All over the Northeast, from Boston to Washington, D.C., print ads, billboards, TV commercials and radio spots were rolled out Monday as part of the official start of a $20 million publicity campaign to draw more tourists to Atlantic City. The campaign was developed by Euro RSCG Worldwide, a global advertising firm with clients including Kraft Foods, Volvo and Charles Schwab."

Here's the new TV spot (via the Press of Atlantic City):


Odds and ends

Asian operators give Vegas casino titans run for their money ... Will a casino in Toronto damage the fortunes of the existing Windsor, Ontario, casino? ... A report on the political fallout from the push for a sixth casino in Maryland ... In March, Pennsylvania's casinos set an all-time monthly high for gross revenue from table games ... Regarding the proposed casino near the Philly Inquirer building, "right now the odds of a casino on North Broad Street are longer than hitting it big on the penny slot machines." ... Presque Isle's racetrack, near Erie, has new barns and stalls for its horses.

Finally, in political circles, this is known as "gentle arm-twisting":

"A Foxboro selectman in fear for his life has relocated his family after a hatchet-wielding neighbor was arrested on charges of threatening to kill him if he voted against a proposed casino across from Gillette Stadium, according to court documents. 'If you don't change your (expletive) vote ... you're a dead man,' Michael Viscardi, 40, told Selectman Mark Sullivan on Sunday, according to a police report." (Boston Herald)

Further proof that Boston sports fans are, indeed, crazy.

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