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Issue 330
January 8 - January 15, 2007
Volume 7
page 1
 

This Issue

Gaming News

Casino City's January Sweepstakes

Casino City Gaming Stories of the Year

Binion's hosts Poker Author Challenge

Hundreds of Foxwoods employees called in sick

West Virginia gambling debate heating up

Show Time Wayne Newton at Foxwoods

Column Jest for fun by Larry Mak

Check out our entertainment highlights & upcoming tournaments

See the lucky winners

 

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Casino City Gaming Stories of the Year
by Casino City editorial team


It was a remarkable year in the gambling industry. Industry shakeups dominated the fall and winter while other stories developed throughout the year. And several stories look poised to be significant well into the next decade.

The biggest story in 2006 may well turn out to be one of those issues.

1) U.S. prohibits, others regulate Internet gambling

Congress took steps to prohibit Internet gambling in 2006 with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The law doesn't actually ban Internet gambling, but it does prohibit banks and financial institutions from processing transactions to Internet gambling companies. As a result, several large online operations, including PartyPoker, stopped accepting U.S. play in October.

Many in the Europe Union, meanwhile, have taken steps to regulate Internet gambling. The UK, Spain, and Italy all made moves toward regulations while France and Germany took stances similar to the U.S. -- passing legislation to make Internet gambling illegal.

Meanwhile, British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell led a conference of 30 nations that discussed the best way to govern Internet gambling (the U.S. did not participate). There was little agreement from the group, except in determining that prohibitions would do little more than drive the industry underground.

This story is here to stay for a while, and 2007 should provide plenty of interesting developments as the world attempts to cope with Internet gambling.

2) Harrah's sold

On Dec. 19, two private-equity firms purchased Harrah's Entertainment for $17.1 billion -- proving once again that land-based gaming is one of the world's most profitable industries.

While Internet poker struggles through regulation issues, land-based gaming is booming. Most of the major casino companies are expanding. And televised coverage of poker tournaments is at an all-time high, led firmly by the Harrah's owned WSOP.

Harrah's purchase price is worth more than the entire online gaming industry ($12 billion). And Harrah's employs more than 80,000 people in a network of 39 worldwide gaming destinations.

3) Harrah's New Orleans reopens post-Katrina

Harrah's New Orleans reopened on Feb. 20, just in time to welcome back more than 1,500 employees for the tourist-rich Mardi Gras celebrations.

Once a crown jewel of the Harrah's Entertainment operation, the New Orleans casino was forced to close its doors in August of 2005 after flood waters from Hurricane Katrina shut down most of the city.

There was a time when people questioned whether New Orleans could bounce back from the tragedy, but the reopening of employee-heavy venues like Harrah's and the Superdome ended some of the speculation and brought much needed revenue back to the city.

In May, the largest poker room in the South played host to a successful World Series of Poker Circuit Event, proving Harrah's New Orleans and the city itself was back to business as usual.

4) Sands opens online casino

Late in the year, the Las Vegas Sands stunned the international gambling world by announcing it was partnering with Cantor Gaming to open an online casino targeted at the European market.

Already perturbed by the UIGEA, Internet gambling companies are crying foul. While they risk arrest if they take U.S. players, the Sands – a U.S. company – can enter European and Asian markets freely. The Sands online casino will not accept U.S. players when it opens.

Other U.S. brick and mortar casinos have opened online casinos in the past (e.g., the MGM), but they have never found them to be profitable. Clearly, the atmosphere has clearly changed enough for the Sands to believe it's worth another try.

5) Macau

The former Portuguese colony grossed more gaming money than Las Vegas in third quarter, according to Francis Tam, Macau's Secretary of State of the Economy and Finance. It's the first time the tiny Asian territory surpassed in that category. And some experts have Macau beating Las Vegas, making Macau the largest gaming center in the world for that timeframe.

Macau gaming saw more than $6.25 billion in revenue in 2006, and some analysts expect that it will surpass Las Vegas – which drew just over $7 billion in gaming revenue in 2006 – this year.

Macau already has 24-casinos and is expanding rapidly. Construction is already underway for the $975 million MGM Macau. And with major gaming brands like The Sands and the Wynn Casinos focusing on Macau, it may be gambling's top destination for years to come.

6) CEOs gone wild

While many nations were just taking steps to either regulate or ban Internet gambling, France and the U.S. backed up prohibitionist talk by arresting Internet gambling executives. The U.S. nabbed David Carruthers, the former CEO of BetOnSports, and Peter Dicks, the non-executive chairman of Sportingbet. Dicks was later released when New York Governor George Pataki refused to extradite him to Louisiana. Carruthers is still awaiting trial in Missouri. France, meanwhile, arrested the two chief executives of Bwin, Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger. Both CEOs have been released, but are unlikely to return to France anytime soon.

7) Seminole Nation rocks

The Seminole Tribe of Florida in December purchased the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino brand for $965 million.

Included in the deal are four hotels, 124 restaurants and the world's largest collection of rock and roll memorabilia. The Hard Rock brand, one of the largest in the world, spreads the Seminole Nation's interests throughout the U.S. and into Canada, Europe, Australia and Puerto Rico.

More than 3,300 Seminole Americans receive profit sharing from tribe's gaming interests, a large American-dream reversal for a once destitute people.

8) PokerTek tables

PokerTek may have planted the seeds for the future of brick-and-mortar casino poker in 2006, brokering deals with casinos in Michigan, Australia, and even with Carnival Cruise ships. The automated poker tables eliminate the need for a dealer and increase the number of hands per hour by 50 percent, garnering more rake for the casinos and more profit for winning players.

9) Rise of the WSOP brand

The largest World Series in poker history proves the legitimacy of poker as a sport and the viability of the WSOP brand. Attracting massive numbers of players and immense prize pools, WSOP officials crowned their first $12-million champion and ensured profits for their merchandise, television coverage, video games, and circuit tournaments.

The WSOP also cemented poker's standing as an International cultural icon. Players forced higher standards by questioning a discrepancy in the number of chips in play at the 2006 Main Event and Main Event Champion Jamie Gold has been sued for reneging on a deal with professional player Crispin Leyser. Poker moves into a new age, shedding its image as mere gambling and entering the realm of big-business sports.

Finally, the 2006 WSOP embedded the idea of the coveted "gold bracelet" into the consciousness of mainstream Americana. Fanfare has followed Phil Hellmuth's quest for a tenth gold bracelet and poker statistics, such as who has the most gold bracelets and who are the sport's youngest/oldest champions have become important water-cooler topics.

10) Hockey betting scandal

Sure, there were underground gambling rings that were bigger than the February bust of Phoenix Coyote assistant coach Rick Tocchet. But there is no bigger name in hockey than Wayne Gretzky. And while the Great One appears to have stayed clear of the investigation, his wife appears to have placed more than $500,000 in wagers during the period of the investigation, including $75,000 on the Super Bowl.

Here are some of the stories that just missed making the list --

World Poker Tour Lawsuits

The WPT faced two high-profile lawsuits in 2006. The first suit, which is still ongoing, involved star players Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Phil Gordon, Howard Lederer and Annie Duke refusing to play WPT events until the WPT agreed to stop using a player's likeness without compensation. The second lawsuit came when the WPT tried to stop Shana Hiatt from hosting NBC's Poker After Dark. Hiatt filed a lawsuit against the organization and the two sides settled the matter out of court – kind of like making a deal at the final table of an online poker tournament.

Elimination Blackjack

The Ultimate Blackjack Tour and the World Series of Blackjack took tournament blackjack to a new level with an elimination format.

Department of Justice/Sporting News Settlement

Sporting News agreed to a $7.2 million settlement in early 2006 with the Department of Justice to end a messy case about Internet gambling ads. The Sporting News was accused of promoting illegal gambling sites – even after receiving a letter from the Justice Department that said ads promoting sports-betting operations were illegal. The story was the biggest Internet gambling related news of the year until the UIGEA passed in October.

 

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