MGM Resorts Considering Expanding Its Non-Casino Business in Macau

MGM Resorts International’s Macau subsidiary is looking at diversifying its revenue streams to be less reliant on gambling. MGM China is considering adding more hotel rooms to its properties, as well as a myriad of wellness attractions to entice the average tourist.

Early-stage discussions are reportedly underway with designers and consultants regarding the potential development of a wellness building at the MGM Cotai. It is already in the process of introducing a wellness center and art museum at one of its other properties in the region.

authorities in Macau are encouraging licensees to focus more on non-gaming aspects

The authorities in Macau are encouraging licensees to focus more on non-gaming aspects of their business, especially after introducing strict rules on VIP junkets which resulted in significantly lower high-roller activity.

Out of the six companies licensed to operate resorts in the special administrative region of China, MGM has the fewest hotel rooms available at just 2,000 or so. Despite lagging in this metric, MGM China still accounted for about 17% of the total gaming revenue in the first quarter of this year.

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More NY Bodies Oppose Times Square Casino Citing Sex Trade, Human Trafficking Concerns

Opposition grows

Three more prominent New York organizations have swelled the growing numbers of people joining the No Times Square Casino Coalition, with one of the new bodies raising concerns over the downtown area becoming a “magnet for human trafficking and the sex trade.”

no to the proposed Caesars Palace Times Square casino

The fear was voiced by the National Organization for Women NYC’s (NOW NYC) President Sonia Ossorio on Tuesday. According to amNY.com, Ossorio’s body joined the TDF (formerly the Theatre Development Fund) and the Council of Chelsea Block Associations in saying no to the proposed Caesars Palace Times Square casino build.

Through her role at NOW NYC, Ossorio is focused on safeguarding the vulnerable, which is why the head of the women’s body fears a casino in Times Square will spell trouble.

Ossorio said she knows the casino “on top of Times Square and in close proximity to the Port Authority Bus Terminal area” would make the bustling tourist area a hub for sex workers and human traffickers.

More concerned voices

The New York State Gaming Commission (NYGC) is, at a future date, scheduled to award three highly prized New York casino licenses. The Times Square bid group of Caesars, SL Green, and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation is one of at least nine metro area locations campaigning to be one of the chosen three.

Any negative publicity for one bidder is the others’ gain. In May 2023, Hofstra University filed a lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands in firm opposition to its proposed New York casino near the higher-learning institute. Sands CEO Rob Goldstein in April stated the NY casino license award process was “confusing and disappointing” while talking up gambling opportunities in Thailand instead.

Now, its Caesars turn to handle the increased opposition to its bid. Caesars much-vaunted project would convert an office standing at 1515 Broadway into a full-service, Vegas-style casino. But, according to a No Coalition survey cited by amNY.com, 71% of registered voters residing in or near Times Square don’t want a casino as a neighbor.

Multiple theaters in the area have formed the Broadway League in opposition to a casino. The Broadway League’s Interim President Jason Laks said Times Square was “the heart and home” of Broadway and is concerned the rise in crime and congestion with a casino would make the area “less pleasant” to work or live there.

Council of Chelsea Block Associations’ President Sally Greenspan, meanwhile, thinks a casino would “cannibalize the very essence” of Times Square. She said it made no sense to build a casino in this “unique, thriving commercial district.”

High stakes

While Caesars in December welcomed the support for its bid by the landlords of two major properties surrounding the projected casino site, Tuesday’s negative PR is the last thing the Nevada-based entertainment giant needs in a pressure-cooker licensing race.

Insiders heavily back existing slots parlors run by MGM Resorts International and Genting to land two of the licenses. Among the rest of the big guns in the running, LVS seems distracted, Bally’s is apparently in big trouble over its Chicago casino, and now Caesars is taking fire from all quarters.

The battle for the final license could, therefore, be a two-horse race between Hard Rock International/Steve Cohen’s bid for Citi Field Ballpark, and Wynn Resorts/Related Companies’ Hudson Yards proposal.

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Rhode Island Casino Smoking Opponents Hope to Clear the Air in 2025

Rhode Island is home to the Bally’s Corporation, which holds a monopoly on casino operations in the state. The 2024 legislative session saw the gaming firm dealt winning legislative hands before the General Assembly adjourned for the year last week.

Rhode Island casino smoking Bally's
Rhode Island Rep. Teresa Tanzi in 2022 poses with casino smoking opponents in the Providence capital. The evening before the Rhode Island General Assembly adjourned for 2024, Tanzi’s bill to force Bally’s Lincoln and Tiverton to go smoke-free passed a House committee. (Image: Boston Globe)

Bally’s brass continued to stress that forcing their casino floors to go entirely smoke-free would devastate gaming revenue. That, they claim, would result in job layoffs and less tax money for the state.

Bally’s Twin River Lincoln and Bally’s Tiverton facilitate slot-like video lottery terminals (VLTs) on the Rhode Island Lottery’s behalf. The state collects roughly 60% of the gross income.

Legislation to force the two casinos to extinguish indoor tobacco smoking failed yet again in the Providence capital. But the evening before the state Senate and House of Representatives adjourned for 2024, members of a House committee provided hope for casino smoking opponents that 2025 will finally be the year gaming floors go smoke-free.

Ceremonial Vote

House Bill 7500 was introduced in February by Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-South Kingstown), a former smoker who has been championing efforts in Providence to extend the state’s Public Health and Workplace Safety Act that banned indoor smoking in most businesses and public places to the Bally’s properties. Nine Democrats co-sponsored the partisan measure.

HB 7500 was directed to the House Finance Committee where the statute was considered on May 3. The committee members, despite being controlled 13-2 by Democrats, motioned to hold the bill “for further study” of the economic impacts such an enactment would create for the Lincoln and Tiverton casinos.

While no study was completed, 10 Democratic members of the Finance Committee voted unanimously on the evening of June 13 to pass the measure. The symbolic gesture, Tanzi said, “shows we’re fully aware of everything [casino] workers have been saying.”

The Rhode Island chapter of CEASE — Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects — though disappointed that 2024 repeated history in not forcing the Bally’s casinos to usher smokers outside, acknowledged that the committee vote could provide momentum to get a casino smoking bill over the finish line in 2025.

Bally’s Corp. shareholders in May rejected a proposal from an investor that requested the company conduct a comprehensive review of how business would be impacted if all all of its casinos were to eliminate indoor smoking. Bally’s had encouraged shareholders to vote against the “unwarranted and unreasonable” pitch.

Bally’s Wins

Along with retaining smoking at its two casinos, Bally’s successfully lobbied state lawmakers to allow the Lincoln and Tiverton casinos to extend higher credit lines to VIPs and high rollers. At the request of the casino company, Sen. President Dominick Ruggerio (D-North Providence) led Senate Bill 3040 through the legislature.

The bill would allow Bally’s to issue $100K in cash to qualified players, up from the current $50K cap. The Senate signed off on the measure in early June and the House approved the statute on June 11.

SB 3040 has since been forwarded to Gov. Daniel McKee’s (D) desk. The governor hasn’t yet acted on the casino credit amendment but is expected to allow the measure to become law.

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Bally’s Facing Five Months of Daily Demolition for Chicago Casino

Bally’s (NYSE: BALY) has a lot of work ahead to ready the Freedom Center site to become home to the operator’s permanent Chicago casino hotel.

Bally's Chicago casino Freedom Center Nexstar CW
Chicago’s Freedom Center photographed in April 2022. Bally’s could face five months of work at 12 hours per day, seven days a week to demolish that building. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The regional casino company currently has five demolition permits under consideration by the city of Chicago. Each one pertains to a different structure on the property. Even if the city were to swiftly approve those licenses — arguably a specious prospect — demolition crews would need to work 12 hours per day, seven days a week for five months to get the site ready for casino resort construction.

Freedom Center is currently home to the Chicago Tribune, which is expected to fully vacate the property by the end of July. While there are mounting doubts surrounding Bally’s ability to bring the permanent Chicago gaming venue to fruition — some experts believe it won’t happen — expeditious approval of the aforementioned licenses and demolition is essential to the gaming company’s efforts to meet an Illinois-imposed third-quarter 2026 deadline for opening the casino hotel.

As of yet, none of the needed permits have been issued. Marlene Hopkins, Department of Buildings commissioner, told Melody Mercado of Block Club Chicago that it could take 30 to 45 days to issue those licenses, but that’s merely an estimate.

Environmental Review Could Slow Chicago Casino Construction

Environmental reviews, particularly in large cities and states, can be time-consuming endeavors and that could be exactly what Bally’s is looking at in Chicago because the Freedom Center demolition is deemed by the city to be “environmentally complex.”

For this type of demolition, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) follows a special process to carefully review the demolition’s potential impacts before any work begins. Then we make sure plans are in place to protect the environment and public health during the demolition,” according to the city.

Environmental scrutiny of Bally’s Freedom Center demolition is likely to be high, and the gaming company is expected to undertake painstaking efforts to comply with regulators’ demands.

Those include no use of explosives, imposing a 10-mile-per-hour speed limit on excavators used at the site, and even hand excavation in some circumstances. Additionally, the health department will have staff on-site daily to monitor dust proliferation and those employees are empowered to halt work if needed, according to Block Club Chicago.

Weather Could Be a Wildcard

Even if Bally’s can solve its well-documented financial issues that are potential headwinds to its Chicago plans, and even if the aforementioned demolition licenses are approved in the near term, the Windy City’s notoriously unpredictable weather could factor into the equation.

In a hypothetical example, even if Bally’s could commence demolition of Freedom Center in August — a highly optimistic scenario — the five-month timeline implies some of that work could be stymied by the city’s often harsh winters.

As for construction of the casino hotel, the average timeline for ground-up construction of large hotels is typically measured in several months or up to a year, but that’s assuming cooperative weather, smooth permitting, and no labor issues.

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idPair Announces August Launch of US National Gambling Self-Exclusion Program in Four States

Responsible gambling company idPair has announced that in August, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and Tennessee will be the first four states to launch its National Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program (NVSEP). With NVSEP, individuals can self-exclude themselves from gambling in multiple states all in one shot.

Users will be able to self-exclude from any or all participating states and types of gambling.

Depending on what is offered in each state, people can exclude themselves from online poker, online casino, sports betting, fantasy sports, and brick-and-mortar casinos. Users will be able to self-exclude from any or all participating states and types of gambling. In its Tuesday announcement, idPair emphasized that the states’ own self-exclusion programs will remain as they are, so people can still use state-run processes and nobody’s current self-exclusion status will change with the launch of NVSEP.

“For the first time ever, individuals seeking a wider level of protection can self-exclude from multiple states in a streamlined fashion,” said Jonathan Aiwazian, CEO of idPair. “While today we announce our ability to provide free assistance with self-exclusion in each of these 4 states, more jurisdictions are on the way, as we accelerate toward our goal of removing barriers for people seeking protection across all gambling jurisdictions and products.”

In April, idPair announced that its initial plan was to launch in New England, so those could be the next states to join the program. Future plans for NVSEP include full integration with gaming operators’ and regulators’ Player Account Management (PAM) systems to increase the speed and efficiency of self-exclusion processing.

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Three Men Arrested in Indiana for Participating in “Jackpot Switch” at Bally’s Evansville

Three men have been arrested in Indiana for working a scheme commonly referred to as a “jackpot switch.” According to WEVV, Shinvar Abdullatif, Ali Mohamad, and Delavan Mohammed enacted the plan at Bally’s Evansville Casino & Hotel in April.

Upon investigating a report of the possible jackpot switch, Indiana Gaming Commission agents determined that five times in one day, Abdullatif hit a jackpot on a gambling machine, only to have one of his accomplices take his place to try to claim the prize.

Delavan Mohammed was the swapper in four of the instances, while Ali Mohamad participated in one. Every time, security footage showed Abdullatif either switching seats with an accomplice or leaving the vicinity of the machine immediately upon winning to allow one of the other two men to take his spot.

on Bally’s self-exclusion list and thus not allowed to step foot in the casino

On the surface, a jackpot switch may seem odd, but not all that serious. The problem in this instance, and what seems to qualify it as illegal gambling, is that Shinvar Abdullatif was on Bally’s self-exclusion list and thus not allowed to step foot in the casino for at least a year.

Authorities say that the winnings totaled more than $8,000. Abdullatif said that he thought he wasn’t on the self-exclusion list anymore because he put himself on it when Bally’s Evansville was still a Tropicana casino. In Indiana, individuals stay on the self-exclusion list, even if they were put on a limited-time one, until they file a petition for removal and have it accepted.

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Theater, Women’s Groups Oppose Caesars Times Square Casino

The No Times Square Casino Coalition increased in size on Tuesday with the addition of theater and women’s groups, as well as the Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA).

Times Square Casino
Tourists in New York’s Times Square. Three groups joined the No Times Square Casino Coalition on Tuesday. (Image: Bloomberg)

In a statement, the coalition confirmed TDF (formerly the Theater Development Fund) and the New York City chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) are now among the groups opposing plans to bring a casino hotel to Times Square. The Times Square casino group is led by Caesars, real estate developer SL Green, and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment agency.

CCBA, NOW, and TDF joining the No Times Square Casino Coalition comes about a month after a poll revealed that 71% of those surveyed don’t want a gaming venue in the theater district, and 59% strongly oppose the plan. Other polls indicate some local businesses and residents have positive views on a Caesars casino potentially calling Times Square home.

With CCBA, NOW, and TDF in the fold, the No Times Square Casino Coalition is now comprised of more than two dozen entities, including community groups, restaurants, and a church.

To Some, Times Square Casino Doesn’t Make Sense

Caesars and SL Green have work to do to foster confidence in the casino effort among Times Square locals and politicians. There are concerns that a gaming venue would stoke more crime and be a traffic problem for an already congested area.

New York’s unique attractions define our cultural identity and are the foundations of our economic vitality,” said Sally Greenspan, President of The Council of Chelsea Block Associations, in the statement. “New Yorkers and people from across the country and the world come to enjoy Times Square; our Broadway shows, the lights, the music, the restaurants, the streetscape. What is the rationale to introduce an industry that could cannibalize the very essence of Times Square? Placing a casino in a unique, thriving commercial district like Times Square makes no sense.”

Caesars and SL Green are attempting to allay concerns that a gaming venue in Times Square would cannibalize other businesses in the area. Those opposed to the casino believe it would keep guests inside at the tables and slot machines, reducing their desire to go out within the neighborhood to have dinner and see Broadway shows.

To that end, Caesars promised to link its Caesars Rewards program to some small businesses in Times Square and SL Green estimates that a Times Square casino will drive more than seven million additional meals purchased at local restaurants while boosting Broadway ticket sales by more than $65 million annually.

NOW Has Other Concerns

Developing a new casino hotel is like any other commercial or residential real estate project. It’s all about location and, while there is some merit in attempting to bring a gaming venue to one of the most bustling areas of the biggest city in the US, there may be unintended consequences.

As NOW NYC President Sonia Ossorio pointed out, Times Square is near a major transportation hub, and adding a casino there could spark more sex-related crime.

“I know a casino on top of Times Square and in close proximity to the Port Authority Bus Terminal would be a magnet for human trafficking and the sex trade. I am proud to join the people who live in this community, know it best, and share that same concern,” she said in the statement.

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Dallas Cowboys Partner With Slot Machine Developer Aristocrat Gaming

The Dallas Cowboys are the latest NFL team to partner with the slot machine developer Aristocrat Gaming. The two parties announced a multi-year agreement on Tuesday that will see the Las Vegas-based company post signage around the team’s AT&T Stadium, as well as provide gameday experiences, digital activations, and mid-game promotions.

Dallas Cowboys-themed slot machines will be playable at land-based casinos as a result of the new deal, including at the nearby WinStar Casino & Resort in Oklahoma, the franchise’s official partner.

promised to deliver “innovative experiences to fans”

Talking about the agreement, Aristocrat Gaming CEO Hector Fernandez said that the team is proud to partner with “one of the world’s premier sports and entertainment organizations” and promised to deliver “innovative experiences to fans.”

Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President of Business Operations Chad Estis looks forward to entertaining fans through this new relationship with “a trailblazer in the gaming industry for decades.”

Aristocrat Gaming already has relationships with other NFL teams, including the Las Vegas Raiders and the New England Patriots. It even has an exclusive arrangement with the league itself to create NFL-themed slot machines for land-based casinos around the world.

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Steve Wynn Wins Court Battle Against US Government Over China Dealings

Decision goes Wynn’s way

Former casino kingpin Steve Wynn has finally had a legal ruling go his way. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed a civil lawsuit the Department of Justice filed against him in May 2022.

ending the DOJ’s attempts to compel Wynn to register as a foreign agent

The Circuit rejected the suit on Friday, ending the DOJ’s attempts to compel Wynn to register as a foreign agent. The government body accused him of lobbying ex-President Donald Trump for the extradition of a Chinese billionaire.

Wynn’s attorneys argued that any compulsion the DOJ placed on the ex-Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) expired in October 2017, the month the Feds allege Wynn’s China dealings concluded.

A trio of DC Circuit Judges, namely Cornelia Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Karen Henderson, dismissed the case. The three-judge panel stated that since “Wynn long ago ceased acting as a foreign agent, he has no present obligation to register.”

Welcome ruling for Wynn

The Circuit’s decision to dismiss the suit filed by the DOJ in 2022 was a rare happy day in court for Wynn.

In July, Wynn agreed to pay a $10m settlement and permanently exit the Nevada gaming industry over a sex abuse case. Then earlier this year, the Nevada Supreme Court tossed Wynn’s defamation suit against the Associated Press over the alleged rape of a woman in the 1970s.

The DOJ’s 2022 lawsuit centers on claims going back to 2017 when Wynn notified Trump and members of his administration that China was seeking the extradition of Guo Wengui, a billionaire who had been openly critical of Beijing.

A turning point in Wynn’s defense was the previous ruling by DC District Judge James Boasberg, who dismissed the fed’s suit stating FARA was only applicable to current violations.

On Friday, Wynn’s attorney, Paul Hastings partner Robert Luskin, argued that the three-judge panel must uphold Boasberg’s ruling. According to Lawyer Monthly, Luskin argued Boasberg’s ruling should be upheld “since it was bound by a previous DC Circuit decision on the interpretation of FARA.”

Feds lose argument

The feds tried to fight back, warning that the lower court ruling “could potentially incentivize deceptive tactics by individuals who may choose not to disclose their status as foreign agents.”

Wynn’s case could inspire copycat tactics by individuals

The DOJ argued, ultimately to no avail, that Wynn’s case could inspire copycat tactics by individuals who may see it as a way to avoid any legal comeback “if they cease their activities on behalf of non-American entities.”

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Casinos Not Cure for MTA Funding Says New York Post

After Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) had a surprise change of heart on a congestion tax that would have raised much-needed revenue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the authority is still in need of cash. Some politicians are pitching an accelerated downstate casino approval timeline as the cure for MTA’s funding shortfall, but the New York Post says that’s a bad bet.

Seneca Nation New York gaming compact
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters on June 7, 2023. The New York Post is urging her to not rely on downstate casinos to solve the MTA’s funding needs. (Image: AP)

In an op-ed published Saturday, the Post’s editorial board noted the State Assembly recently passed a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) that, if signed by Hochul, would expedite the process of awarding three New York City-area casino licenses. There’s companion legislation authored by Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) in the State Senate. Application fees, which are expected to be at least $500 million per license, could be helpful to the MTA, but the Post sees it as a bad idea.

The MTA may need cash, but ramming through casino deals to provide it has got to be among the worst ideas yet to come from our legislative overlords — and it has some very stiff competition,” wrote the editorial board.

Lobbyists and gaming industry observers were optimistic that there would be movement on awarding the New York casino licenses at some point this year. But other experts caution it’s likely a 2025 issue, citing bureaucratic delays, among other factors.

Under the bills proposed by Addabbo and Pretlow, decisions on the three winning bidders could be made by the end of the first quarter of 2025 – far better than the current timeline of late 2025 or early the following year.

New York Casino Process ‘Stinks’

Budget experts and climate groups alike were jilted by Hochul reversing her position on the congestion tax. Under that proposal, traditional passenger cars would have paid $15 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street, with fees rising to $24 for small trucks and $36 for large trucks. Motorcycles, rideshare vehicles, and taxis would have been subject to smaller fees.

The proposal was seen as an avenue for raising cash for the MTA while serving the objectives of reducing traffic and air pollution in Manhattan. That would have been a moneymaker for the city and state, but now it’s off the table and there’s no quick fix for the MTA’s capital needs — except maybe speeding up the casino process.

However, the process of awarding the three downstate casino licenses has been consistently delayed and widely panned by gaming industry experts, some of whom have called it a circus. The Post concurs, noting leveraging casinos to raise cash for public transit could be an invitation for corruption.

“First off, the licensing process stinks to high heaven: The heavy wallets of the bidders — for the licenses in question, the minimum expected bid is $500 million on up to heaven knows how much — draw greedy pols like trash draws flies,” opined the editorial board.

Post Sees Other Issues with New York Casinos

The gaming industry’s biggest names are among the 11 groups competing for the three downstate permits. That’s been a boon for the campaign coffers of Hochul and other New York politicians.

Additionally, the new gaming venues are expected to create thousands of permanent and temporary jobs while bolstering local and state collections through a variety of avenues. At least those are the selling points gaming companies and supporters in Albany are banking on.

However, casinos in New York aren’t all sunshine and profits. As the Post pointed out, there are no guarantees the venues will feature the glitz of casinos seen in movies and the venues could be magnets for crime, including drugs and prostitution.

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