Issue 235
March 14 - 20, 2005
Volume 5
page 1

This Issue

Gaming News

Seminoles seek higher stakes with expanded casino

THE STRIP: Board backs license for Wynn hotel

No city yet willing to bet on casino

Las Vegas Sands in Deal for Macau Casino

Gaming Corporation Launches Skill Gaming Site

Show Time Jill Scott performs at Foxwoods.

Column Nobody Wants to Play at an Empty Blackjack Table By Fred Renzey

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Seminoles seek higher stakes with expanded casino
As reported by the Tampa Tribune

TAMPA, Florida - The Seminole Tribe of Florida plans to push Gov. Jeb Bush for enhanced Las Vegas-style slot machines at its Tampa casino and five others in the state and may press for blackjack, roulette and other casino games.

The tribe's plan comes a day after Broward County voters approved a referendum that would allow horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai gaming facilities to install slot machines. The referendum was defeated in Miami-Dade County.

The Seminoles already have bingo-style slot machines in their casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. However, with voters' approval in Broward, the Seminoles want to apply a me-too approach to get more advanced machines. Federal law allows American Indians to negotiate with state officials to get the same type of gaming offered in other parts of the state.

"At the minimum, the results of Tuesday's referendum should allow us to offer the Las Vegas-style gaming machines," said Jim Shore, general counsel for the Seminole Tribe. But a broad view of the federal law "would
also allow us to offer blackjack, roulette and other table games."

Paul Sego, executive director of No Casinos, the group that tried to stop the slots referendum from passing, said allowing full casinos in Tampa could cause other noncasino entertainment businesses to fail.

"A dollar spent at local casinos would mean less money spent in local businesses," he said. "It would be detrimental to the entire Bay area."

It is the tribe's broad interpretation of the law that Shore said tribal leaders plan to push with the state. They want to ask Bush in the next few days to begin negotiations for a formal compact. The tribe cannot offer the expanded gambling without the compact.

Bush, who is opposed to gambling and campaigned against the South Florida referendums, said Tuesday that he will not stand in the way of implementing the slot machines in Broward County. He said he also will negotiate in good faith with tribal leaders, including those of the Miccosukee Tribe, which runs a gaming facility in the Miami area.

"The Miccosukee Tribe has asked to begin negotiations, and we have done so in a very preliminary way," Bush said. "We'll follow the law on that as well."

Bush wasn't specific about the type of gaming the state would allow. The Seminole and Miccosukee casinos offer class II slot machines, which look like slot machines but are actually electronic bingo machines. They cannot drop coins and lack some of the bells and whistles of the class III slot machines found in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J. The Seminole and Miccosukee casinos also offer low- stakes poker.

The Seminoles tried to negotiate a compact with the state in the early 1990s, offering a cut of revenue to the state in exchange for expanded gambling. Then-Gov. Lawton Chiles refused, and Bush's opposition to gaming has so far prevented negotiations.

States such as Connecticut and California get up to 25 percent of Indian gaming revenue in exchange for allowing full-style casino games.

Tuesday's referendum means negotiations with the Seminoles likely will occur.

"The referendum strengthens the tribes' position that the state needs to negotiate a compact," said Shawn Pensoneau, a spokesman for the National Indian Gaming Commission. However, Pensoneau said that doesn't mean there is a blanket entitlement for the Seminole Tribe.

Shore, of the Seminole Tribe, said some courts in the western United States have ruled that allowing enhanced slot machines paves the way for other casino games. But he acknowledged there also have been legal opinions that have gone the other way.

THE STRIP: Board backs license for Wynn hotel
As reported by Las Vegas Review-Journal

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - After five years away from the action, Steve Wynn moved a step closer to operating a Strip casino as the Gaming Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend licensing of the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will consider the matter March 24. Wynn has said he plans to open the 2,700-room resort April 28.

Gaming regulators took less than two hours to recommend licensing approval for Wynn, Wynn Resorts Ltd., the resort's management team, and Wynn's business partner, Aruze Corp., a Japanese slot machine manufacturer.

"It's been a while since we've had a project of this size in front of us," control board Chairman Dennis Neilander said. "Mr. Wynn is an innovator, and I'm a regulator. We're very different. I can't even think along the same plane he does.

"But looking at this project from a regulatory perspective, there are no regulatory issues. He has a track record of taking his ideas and executing them very well."

Following the hearing, Wynn said the 60 months he has been away from the day-to-day operation of a casino operating company served as a catharsis, allowing him to focus on the development of the Strip resort, which is marked by a 50-story curved tower.

Wynn said he spent 2 1/2 years to design the property and another 2 1/2 years for construction.

"I was very, very isolated in manner of speaking," Wynn said. "There were other guys in the company who knew what the latest slot machine was or what was the latest piece of software technology. I didn't have to worry about that because I knew my colleagues would.

"I was focused on the more fundamental issues of human aspiration. Would my building somehow be an iteration of the most common things to humanity. Is there something else beyond Bellagio."

He also said the second phase of development for the Wynn Las Vegas site, which will include a second hotel tower, "Is far along in the design stage."

Wynn's team took less than an hour to make their arguments for licensing to the control board.

The only issue of minor consequence was the design of the casino's private gaming salons.

Wynn Las Vegas was seeking approval for three salons, but control board member Bobby Siller said hisreading of the design showed just two locations and he questioned the use of the private dining areas.
Wynn told the regulators he expects to see a large influx of Asian gamblers with large credit lines coming to Las Vegas over the next 15 to 16 months, many of whom will be introduced to Las Vegas through Wynn Resorts' soon-to-open casino in Macau.

Board members also approved Aruze, which had several company officials at the meeting, including Chairman Kazuo Okada, without much discussion.

Last June, gaming regulators grilled representatives from the Japanese company for more than four hours about questionable matters of compliance.

On Wednesday, those same regulators complimented Aruze's management for adhering to their concerns.
Control board members also commended Wynn Resorts for its balance sheet and its financing of the Strip resort, a far cry from the licensing of The Mirage nearly 15 years ago, when much was made about estimates of the resort having to win $1 million a day from gamblers to meet its financial obligations.
Wynn said The Mirage had revenues of $408 million in its first year of operation from the casino and another $410 million in noncasino revenue.

Wynn was critical of the live entertainment tax instituted during the 2003 Legislature. He said he hoped the current legislative session would change the tax.

"Taxing the lounges the same as the showrooms is a mistake," Wynn said. "All you're going to do is take the entertainment away."

During Wynn's 20-minute presentation to control board members, he discussed the building's design, his rationale for hiding much of the property's entertainment aspects behind a man-made mountain, and how the Las Vegas customer has changed.

He gave little insight to the layout and inside attractions of Wynn Las Vegas, saying he wanted the hotel to be the centerpiece that would draw customers inside.

"Our goal was to bring people into the building and turn those tourists into guests," he said. "That is the magic."

Wynn said he hopes the building's design: a curved tower marked by bronze glass, horizontal white stripes and an asymmetrical roof, will be copied.

"A curved building has movement and that movement connotes excitement," Wynn said. "So a curved building was appropriate for Las Vegas. I didn't go out and try and outdo Bellagio. I went somewhere else, to a different idea ... Besides, what's the fun of doing the same thing twice?"

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