Industry News

Casino owners clash over casino smoking ban

Las Vegas gaming revenues up despite drop in visitor numbers

The Nevada Gaming Control Board announced this week that Las Vegas revenues were up in 2017 despite a drop in visitor numbers in the aftermath of the tragic shooting last year that saw 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, use a suite on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel to fire 1,100 rounds into a crowd of 22,000 concert goers across the street, killing 58 people and injuring 851.

The Board said casinos on the Las Vegas Strip pulled in $6.5 billion from players in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 1.3%.

At the same time, the Board announced that off-Strip casinos in downtown Las Vegas earned $631.3 million, an 11.8% increase over last year.

Meanwhile, the number of visitors to Sin City dropped 1.7% to 42.2 million, due to a combination of the tragic mass shooting keeping people away and the fact that fewer rooms were available as a result of the number of ongoing hotel renovations city-wide.

Researchers and casino owners clash over effects of casino smoking ban

The Bureau of Economic Research has reported that the smoking ban in Illinois casinos has not impacted gambling revenues as previously feared.

Illinois became the first state in the US to completely ban smoking in commercial casinos and within 15 feet of entrances in a law that came into force back in 2008. The study, which looked at data from the 10 years before the ban and eight years after and compared it to surrounding states such as Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri, concluded there had been no significant economic consequences of the ban.

Casino owners, however, beg to differ. The states riverboat casinos, which are the core of its gambling industry, are adamant that revenues would have been higher had patrons been allowed to puff and play.

Illinois Casino Gambling Association executive director Tom Swoik pointed Reuters journalists to a 2009 study that concluded the smoking ban caused a 20% drop in gaming revenues in 2008 alone, meaning a loss of $400 million to operators and a $200 million hole in the state’s coffers.

“We do know from other studies that the more time someone spends on the casino floor, they more likely they are to keep playing,” Swoik told reporters. “If they have to go outside to smoke, they’re more likely to light up and then leave.

“We know that secondhand smoke is not beneficial to your health, and at the same time, having a facility where people can smoke at a casino is beneficial for revenue,” he added. “It can be hard to weigh the negative health effects versus the economic numbers.”

Delaware looks to offer casino tax relief

With brick and mortar casinos struggling to meet revenue numbers in the state of Delaware, the First State’s lawmakers are considering a plan to provide casino relief in the form of lower taxes on gambling establishments.

Senate Bill 114 has been put forward to create tax brackets for slots machine revenues and reduce the flat tax on table games from 30% to 15%, as well as eliminating the annual casino licensing fee.

Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment CEO Denis McGlynn told Delaware news station WBOC 16 that relief is needed for the casino to remain viable long-term and protect the 1,500 jobs at Dover Downs. The company chalked up more than $1 million in losses last year according to public filings.

Chairperson of the state’s Joint Finance Committee, Senator Harris McDowell, has written a letter to Governor John Carney asking that his administration get involved in helping craft a solution to the situation and that as chairman of the finance committee he planned to hold up the bill until Mid-March in hopes the governor’s office could craft a better solution.

The proposal, if made into law, would see the state lose more than $20 million per year in tax revenue.

Resorts World Catskills to open this week

The scenic Catskill mountains in southeastern New York state, once the mountain playground for wealthy New Yorkers looking to escape hectic life in the city and inspiration for 19-century landscape painters are hoping to see the good times roll once again with the opening of the Resorts World Catskills hotel and casino.

The $1.2 billion integrated resort is part of an attempt to revive the lagging tourist trade in the Catskills region and bring back the economic prosperity that comes with it. Located 90 miles from New York City, the resort will offer 332 all-suite hotel rooms aimed at VIPs and high-rollers, with private gambling rooms, butlers and self-standing villas with their own private pools.

The complex also aims to cater to wealthy Asian visitors, thanks in part to its deep pocket owner, Empire Resorts, a company controlled by billionaire KT Lim, chairman of Genting Group, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which has been building and operating casinos since its founding in 1965 around the world, including casinos in the Americas, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

When the property opens its doors next week, it will employ some 1,400 people, boasting 2,150 slot machines, some 130 gaming tables, two bars, five gaming areas, and a food court, with fine dining options to open later in the month.

Queensland accepts submissions for a massive integrated casino resort

The Queensland government has said it received 12 registrations by major casino operators to participate in a planned A$1.1 billion integrated resort and casino project in the seaside city of Cairns. The scheme, known as a Global Tourism Hub, includes the construction of a casino complex together with hotels, retail, food and entertainment offerings over a 4-hectare site owned by the state at the city’s port. The government has, however, said any area within a 70 km radius would be acceptable for the development.

After the registration process opened in October 2017, some 12 applicants have been received. For commercial-in-confidence reasons, the government is keeping closed lips on who, exactly, the applicants are, but industry observers believe some of the world’s largest casino owner/operators to have shown interest, including the monolithic Las Vegas-based global giant Caesars Entertainment Corp.

The Global Tourism Hub is part of Queensland’s efforts to boost a tourism industry that is said to be worth A$25 billion and could potentially create up to 200,000 jobs.

The speculation regarding Caesar’s interest stem from reports that Caesars was keen on entering the Queensland casino market as early as last year, via a partnership with ASF Consortium, a group of Chinese backed investors picked by the government to build a new A$3 billion integrated resort on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately for Caesars and the Chinese backed investment firm, the Queensland government later rescinded the offer, citing environmental concerns and complaints by local residents.

Industry observers have also stated that NagaCorp, the operators of the NagaWorld Hotel & Entertainment Complex in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, have also been eyeing the Cairns site as the location for future expansion.

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