Strat Could Be Mirage Closing Winner, Says Analyst

With the Tropicana shuttered in April, and with the Mirage heading for a temporary closure starting July 17, it doesn’t take an expert to figure out that room supply on the Las Vegas Strip is declining.

Golden Entertainment
Golden Entertainment’s Strat Las Vegas. The venue could benefit from the Mirage and Tropicana closures, says an analyst. (Image: Vegas Means Business)

Some experts and analysts have stated the obvious, but the astute ones are identifying potential winners under the scenario of about 4,500 rooms going offline between the Tropicana and Mirage closures. Reduced room supply is a potential positive for MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) and Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR) — the two largest operators on the Strip — but other venues could benefit.

In a new report to clients, CBRE analyst John DeCree highlighted The Strat, which is owned and operated by Golden Entertainment (NASDAQ: GDEN), as a potential beneficiary of the Tropicana and Mirage closures. Citing some fundamental issues, he lowered his price target on Golden to $40 from $47, but reiterated a “buy” rating on the shares.

The Strat is one of Golden’s three Las Vegas casinos, with the other two being a pair of off-Strip Arizona Charlie’s venues that cater to Las Vegas locals.

Strat Not On Strip, but Could Still Benefit

Many visitors to Las Vegas consider the Strat a Strip casino hotel because it’s located on Las Vegas Boulevard, but in reality, it’s situated just north of the Strip, and Clark County doesn’t consider the area in which the venue resides to be part of the Strip. That doesn’t diminish Strat’s status as a potential beneficiary of the Mirage and Tropicana closures.

Most importantly, the closure of The Tropicana Las Vegas in April and the scheduled closure of Mirage later this month could accelerate the occupancy recovery at the Strat and improve overall customer mix and margins,” wrote DeCree.

Golden has taken steps to spruce up the Strat and add new nongaming amenities. And, while the venue typically doesn’t capture a lot of business from the consumers who frequent the Strip’s toniest properties, it could be a compelling alternative for customers who previously enjoyed the Trop.

“With Caesars and MGM (properties) at or near full occupancy on the Strip, we see an opportunity for Golden to potentially pick up more than its fair share of displaced room nights,” according to DeCree. “The Strat midweek occupancy is still 12 points below 2019 levels. And although weekend occupancy at the property hit 96% in the first quarter, there should be more upside from higher rates with fewer rooms available on the Strip going forward.”

Other Potential Catalysts for Golden

DeCree also pointed out that the Strat has been among the Las Vegas casinos that have been hampered by elevated promotional activity among smaller independent rivals — a scenario that’s lasted longer than expected. Elevated labor costs and some softness among cost-conscious guests have also been a drag on Golden.

However, there are potential catalysts for the stock, including the recent additions of some new gaming taverns to Golden’s already expansive portfolio. The company is the largest operator of such venues in the Las Vegas Valley.

DeCree also highlighted the operator’s recently implemented dividend and the fact that the company has $90 million remaining on a previously authorized share repurchase plan. He expects the entirety of that amount will be spent over the next year.

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Bally’s Files Implosion Permit Application to Drop Trop

Bally’s Corporation, which closed the Tropicana Las Vegas last April and has slowly been demolishing it since, filed an application to implode the casino resort’s two 22-story towers on Thursday.

One of the Tropicana’s two main towers stands gutted down to its concrete and steel on July 6. (Image: YouTube/@AmericaJR)

The permit application, filed with Clark County, requests the implosion of the vintage Las Vegas Strip resort’s Tropicana Club and Paradise towers in “a single explosive event.”

Unnamed demolition companies would begin setting up by Sept. 30 at the earliest, and complete the blast before Oct. 8, according to the permit application, which values the cost of the implosion contract at $1.2 million.

This implosion permit application was filed by Bally’s with Clark County on Thursday. (Image: X/Twitter/@seventensuited)

So When Will the Trop Drop?

Representative of the Bally’s Corporation, the operator of the 1950s relic, are keeping mum on all specifics. No doubt, they will try to hide the implosion date from the public, and conduct it in the wee morning hours.

Their only logical goal would be to discourage as many  in-person observers as possible, should anything not proceed as planned.

Clark County approved a demolition permit for the site on April 20. Since then, Bally’s has been slowly deconstructing the Tropicana, which closed on April 2, just shy of its 67th birthday.

The Oakland A’s have expressed their intention to build a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat ballpark on 9 of the site’s 36 acres. According to Bally’s and Gaming & Leisure Properties, which owns the land, the other 27 acres will be developed as a casino resort.

Critics of the project include’s own Vital Vegas blogger Scott Roeben, who has written that “the A’s have shown no signs they have financing for a $1.5 billion anything, including a stadium.”

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Live! Casino Pittsburgh Announces Renovation of Gaming Venue

Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Hempfield at the Westmoreland Mall is undergoing change.

Live! Casino Pittsburgh Pennsylvania gaming
Live! Casino Pittsburgh is undergoing a floor modification and expansion of its high-limit area. Baltimore-based Cordish Companies says the renovation will run about $3 million. (Image: Tripadvisor)

Owned and operated by The Cordish Companies, the Baltimore casino firm that additionally runs Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, a full-scale resort casino in Pennsylvania, renovation work recently began at Live! Pittsburgh. The venue is a mini-casino, or satellite, of the larger destination resort in Philly.

Cordish says it’s investing $3 million to reconfigure the two-story gaming layout in Hempfield. The project is highlighted by relocating the poker room from the second floor to the first level.

The poker facility will continue to feature Texas Hold’em and varying Omaha games in its new 1,050-square-foot home. The previous 1,600-square-foot wood-paneled poker room on the second floor will be converted into a special events space that will complement Venue Live!, which has hosted an array of special casino promotions and private happenings since debuting in 2022. 

Casino Overhaul

Along with moving the poker room down a level, the $3 million project will expand the first-story High Limit Slots room to include three high-limit table games. A bar will also be placed inside the small high roller area.

Sean Sullivan, general manager of Live! Casino Pittsburgh, said the gaming modifications are the result of player feedback. Some gamblers who visited the casino reportedly were unaware of a poker room.

These improvements are a result of the continuous feedback we receive through a robust engagement process with our guests and our dedicated team members,” said Sullivan. “We are proud to continue to reinvest in the facility and serve as a world-class gaming and entertainment destination for Westmoreland County. We think our guests will be delighted with the new offerings.”

Live! Pittsburgh opened in October 2020 as the first satellite casino in the state. Being a Category 4 casino, the gaming floor is limited to a maximum of 750 slot machines and 40 live dealer table games.

Live! has operated at its slot and table cap since late 2021. The casino offers a FanDuel Sportsbook on the first floor and sports betting kiosks throughout the two-story facility.

Casino Success

Live! Casino Pittsburgh replaced what was formerly a Bon-Ton department store. The casino has helped reignite mall traffic and has aided in the Westmoreland Mall’s return to 95% occupancy.

Cordish invested $150 million to transform the Bon-Ton into a commercial casino. Along with its slots, tables, and sports betting, the casino offers three full-service restaurants — Sports & Social, Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen + Bar, and PBR Country Bar.

The second level section of Sports & Social offers social, non-gambling games like foosball, skeeball, arcade basketball, shuffleboard, bowling, and a golf simulator. The arcade games vary in price from about $5 per half hour for shuffleboard and ping pong to $45 an hour for a bowling lane during peak hours.

Pennsylvania is home to four mini-casinos, with Hollywood Casino York, Hollywood Casino Morgantown, and Parx Shippensburg being the other three. Live! Casino Pittsburgh was the top Cat. 4 casino revenue generator last year with gross gaming revenue of $114.7 million. Its FanDuel Sportsbook added another $1.7 million.

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Colorado Tribe Sues State Over Online Sports Betting

Southern Ute to file lawsuit in District Court

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Colorado has taken legal action against Governor Jared Polis and the state gaming division.

The tribe filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Colorado on Tuesday, arguing that they have been unfairly prevented from operating an online sports betting platform in the state.

“The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has been forced to file a lawsuit in federal court against the state of Colorado because the administration refuses to honor express commitments the state made to the tribe,” said Tribal Chairman Melvin J. Baker.

the State is powerless to tax the Tribe or require the Tribe to pay any revenues whatsoever to the State”

The lawsuit, against both Gov. Polis and Colorado Division of Gaming Director Chris Schroder, argues that the dispute comes down to tax revenues, stating that Polis “has improperly sought to exclude the Tribe from the Colorado sport betting market because the State is powerless to tax the Tribe or require the Tribe to pay any revenues whatsoever to the State.”

“Governor Polis has sought to manipulate the market so he can extract the maximum amount of taxes from sport betting activities with no care, concern or respect for the negative economic consequences for Colorado’s Tribal communities.”

Tribe alleges breach of 1995 agreement

A compact dating from 1995 allows tribal nations in Colorado to conduct gaming operations so long as they have similar games and betting limits to other legal options in the state. As a result of the compact, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe opened the Sky Ute Casino Resort, which is otherwise regulated by the tribe themselves rather than the state.

allowing Colorado residents to make off-reservation bets from anywhere in the state.

However, the Southern Ute claim that they were not adequately consulted when Proposition DD was passed by voters in 2019, which allowed legal online sports betting in the state. A Sky Ute sportsbook was established, allowing Colorado residents to make off-reservation bets from anywhere in the state. However, officials argued this should require a state license, which would subject it to a 10% tax rate and potentially clash with federal law concerning tribal gaming.

As a result, the Southern Ute argue that Polis delayed the application until other organizations had flooded the market, unfairly locking them out of the opportunity. The Sky Ute sportsbook closed down in 2023.

Familiar dispute over online sports bets

The dispute over whether online bets placed off reservations are considered to be on tribal land or not is not a new one. The case bears some similarities to a recent dispute involving the Seminole tribe in Florida, who have exclusive rights to online sports betting in the state.

The lawsuit asks the court to consider whether the governor and Colorado Division of Gaming’s decisions have been fully compliant with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and demands an injunction to prevent the “anti-sovereignty approach” to interference in tribal gaming.

“We like to resolve our differences amicably”, continued the statement from Baker. “We have spent years trying to do so, but here we have no choice.”

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Petersburg Casino Details Emerge as Virginia Lottery Approves City for Gambling

New details regarding the Petersburg casino project expected to go before city voters during the November 5 presidential election have emerged from would-be developers The Cordish Companies and Bruce Smith Enterprises.

Petersburg casino Virginia Live!
A rendering of the Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia entertainment complex, with subsequent mixed-use development phases completed. Petersburg voters will likely determine the fate of the proposed $1.4 billion undertaking on November 5. (Image: The Cordish Companies)

Baltimore-based Cordish and Bruce Smith Enterprises, a Virginia firm owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Virginia Tech alum Bruce Smith, are working together in the Virginia city as PPE Casino Resorts Petersburg, LLC. PPE recently divulged specifics regarding its proposed Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia.

The first phase of the development, should city voters back the casino referendum this fall, would include a $142.63 million investment to construct a provisional casino. The casino would commence operations within a year of a successful referendum.

The subsequent development phase would include an investment of $454.22 million and bring a five-star hotel resort with numerous restaurants and amenities, plus a larger permanent casino floor, to the entertainment complex. No timeline for the larger development phase was provided.

PPE wants to build its approximately $597 million casino resort on 92 acres off Wagner Road and Interstate 95.

The final resort, PPE projects, will employ 7,500 people with an average compensation of $70K including benefits and tips. According to the US Census Bureau, Petersburg’s median household income in 2022 was $47K. The city’s unemployment rate remains around 5%, nearly double Virginia’s statewide unemployment rate of just 2.7%.

The developers forecast that the resort will generate an annual economic impact north of $200 million for the City of Petersburg.  

Lottery Approval

The Virginia Lottery, which regulates commercial casino gambling in the commonwealth, this week certified Petersburg as an eligible host casino city pending resident support. Virginia lawmakers and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) earlier this year approved legislation qualifying Petersburg for a casino enterprise after Richmond voters, for a second time, rejected a proposed resort with slot machines, table games, and sports betting.

With the lottery’s blessing, the final step in moving the casino question to the ballot for Petersburg voters is having the City Council obtain a support letter for the referendum from the Petersburg Circuit Court to conduct the election. City councilors on Monday will ask for that judicial endorsement, which is expected to be granted.

Should a simple majority of Petersburg voters back the Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia project, the enterprise would proceed to the licensing phase where lottery officials would conduct background checks of key personnel to determine if all involved are suitable to hold gaming licenses in the state.

Mixed-Use Components

PPE sweetened its casino bid to the Petersburg City Council by pledging to bring mixed-use real estate to the area surrounding the casino in the years after the resort is up and running.

Cordish and Bruce Smith Enterprises plan to invest another $803 million in the subsequent 15 years after the resort opens to develop residential units, office space, an additional hotel, and retail shopping. PPE will retain full equity ownership in the destination.

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Las Vegas Stripper Sued for Committing Relationship Fraud

An Arkansas man is suing a Las Vegas exotic dancer for $38.5 million, claiming that she “hoodwinked [him] into thinking they were in an exclusive, romantic relationship” for 10 years.

Exotic dancers in Las Vegas can make up to $300K per year by only working on the weekends. (Image: Thrillist)

According to KNWA-TV/Fayetteville, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit and broke the story on Wednesday, Fred Brunner claims to have given Melanie Sterling $3.5 million in cash and gifts since 2014 — much of which she turned over to her real boyfriend in Las Vegas — in addition to funding multiple trips and even a home for her.

Brunner’s lawsuit seeks at least $3.5 million in compensatory damages and $35 million in punitive damages.

In his suit, Brunner states that he was going through a divorce when he visited an unnamed Las Vegas gentleman’s club to “smoke a cigar and have a few cocktails.”

While at the club, he met Sterling, whom Brunner’s lawsuit claims earned “a significant amount of money” from him that night. This gave Sterling the impression Brunner was “far wealthier than her normal patrons — wealthy enough to change her life.”

The lawsuit alleges that Sterling communicated with Brunner on the daily for 10 years, creating the charade of a relationship for her own financial gain.

“All along, she had no intention of following through on her representations, doing only that necessary to keep [the] plaintiff from becoming suspicious of her actual intentions,” the lawsuit claims.

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Casino Trade Group Endorses Federal Bill to Expand Human Trafficking Awareness

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the leading trade group in Washington, DC, representing the interests of commercial and tribal casinos across the United States, is supporting federal legislation that seeks to increase human trafficking awareness through education.

casino trade human trafficking AGA
Airport workers at Harry Reid International, Las Vegas’s primary commercial air hub undergo training on combatting human trafficking in January 2023. The American Gaming Association is supporting newly introduced federal legislation that seeks to offer a certificate program through the US Department of Homeland Security to companies that train their workers on how to detect and respond to suspected trafficking. (Image: Harry Reid International Airport)

Congressmen David Valadao (R-California) and Troy Carter (D-Louisiana) this week introduced the “Human Trafficking Awareness Training Recognition Act.” The federal bill seeks to expand the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign to establish an annual certificate program that employers can use to help train employees in human trafficking cognizance.

Employers that provide and complete the annual educational program with their employees will be given a certificate of completion from the US agency that they can display for one year.

“This bipartisan bill recognizes employers who are trained to identify and respond to signs of human trafficking, harnessing the power of industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and transportation, where staff are often the first to spot potential trafficking scenarios,” said Carter. “This initiative honors the commitment of businesses actively working to combat these crimes and encourages more companies to join the cause. We must do everything in our power to prevent the sale and transportation of human lives.”

The Blue Campaign is the DHS’ national public awareness campaign designed to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industries on how to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond.

In June 2020, the AGA deployed its first-ever Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force to increase education, empowerment, and prevention of trafficking at commercial and tribal casinos. The task force worked with the DHS and US Treasury and Justice departments to better educate casino workers and patrons.

Gaming Workers on Trafficking Frontlines

Valadao and Carter’s bill seeks to create a system to honor companies that are diligently working to reduce human trafficking. The AGA is fully supportive of the initiative.

Businesses across hospitality, entertainment, and transportation have a responsibility to bolster the front lines in the fight against human trafficking and the gaming industry is wholly committed to this imperative,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “The AGA thanks Reps. Valadao and Carter for their commitment to combating this detestable crime and for recognizing businesses that share this commitment.”

The lawmakers believe initiating a certificate program will incentivize employers to participate in the DHS Blue Campaign program. While the Blue Campaign offers tools to help combat trafficking, it currently lacks an initiative for recognizing businesses that have trained employees on how to detect and respond to suspected human trafficking.

By the Numbers

Human trafficking, the DHS explains, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain free labor or sexual acts. It’s estimated that millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide each year.

Traffickers often target people who are psychologically or emotionally vulnerable, facing economic hardship, or who lack a support system. DHS officials say many victims suffer so much trauma that they might not identify themselves as a victim or seek help, even when in highly public settings like casinos.

Casinos have long been considered prime exchanges for traffickers, as the gaming floors can be used to launder dirty money received in exchange for a trafficked person. Casinos are also frequented by sex workers who were forced into the industry by their handlers.

DHS arrested more than 2,500 individuals last year on human trafficking allegations and offenses, and rescued more than 700 trafficked persons. Police in Las Vegas in recent months have also ramped up their arresting of suspected prostitutes and their clients.

In January, the AGA teamed up with RG24seven to launch a virtual training program made free to casino companies and their employees. Those who complete the course receive a certificate of completion.

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Caesars Entertainment Opens Booking for Paris Las Vegas’ Balcony Rooms

The first hotel rooms with balconies to open since the Cosmopolitan’s in 2010 are now up for grabs at the Paris Las Vegas website.

This rendering of the finished Versailles tower, left, shows 38 rooms with balconies that face the Bellagio fountains. (Image: Bergman Walls Associates)

Las Vegas visitors can now book the eagerly awaited rooms, in the newly renovated Versailles Tower for nights beginning Monday, July 22.

All 38 balcony rooms measure 445 square feet and feature west-facing views of the Las Vegas Strip — including the Bellagio fountains right across the street — from 55 square-foot terraces.

The flooring of new balconies is attached to the outside of Bellagio-facing rooms in the Versailles Tower at Paris, which in this photo still sports its old Bally’s colors. (Image: Scott Roeben/Vital Vegas)

A one-night stay will run you $246, including a $50 per day resort fee but not taxes. (Be careful when you book, though. The Versailles Tower has 718 other rooms and suites that are balcony-free.)

The balconies are part of a refresh of the tower – its first since 2014 — for which Caesars paid a reported $100 million.

Tower Play

The Versailles is the only example in Las Vegas history of a resort tower transferring between two properties while both were still in business. The Paris annexed it from the adjacent Horseshoe last year. Both properties are operated by Caesars Entertainment.

This is the third rebranding for the 26-story tower, which opened in 1982 as the south tower of the original MGM Grand and became part of Bally’s in 1986. It was renamed the Jubilee Tower in 2013, and then became part of Horseshoe Las Vegas in 2022. (There will be a test!)

A second-floor pedestrian bridge will connect the Versailles Tower to the Paris mainland, eliminating the current need to access the tower through a ground-floor walkway entering the Horseshoe

That bridge is expected to open in time for the second annual F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 21-23, during which Versailles balcony rooms will rent for a lot more than $246 per night.

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MGM Resorts Teams With New York Yankees, VIP Events Forthcoming

MGM Resorts International is the first casino operator in the history of the famed New York Yankees to become a “Proud Partner” of the iconic MLB franchise.

MGM Resorts New York Yankees
The New York Yankees and MGM Resorts International have teamed up to provide MGM Rewards members and baseball fans with exclusive events and promotions. MGM signage will also soon come to the famed ballpark in the Bronx. (Image:

The winningest team in professional baseball history with 27 World Series championships, the Bronx Bombers are partnering with one of the gaming industry’s most recognizable brands in MGM. Through the affiliation, the Bellagio and MGM Grand operator will offer its VIP players enrolled in MGM Rewards exclusive experiences like throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium and taking in batting practice from the warning track.

MGM has owned and operated Empire City Casino and the Yonkers Raceway for the past five years. The company is a front-runner for one of the three downstate casino licenses expected to be issued by the end of 2025.

Empire City can presently only offer slot-like video gaming terminals and electronic table games on behalf of the New York Lottery. A full license would allow MGM to bring Las Vegas-style slots, live dealer table games, and sports betting to the facility located about seven miles north of Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees deal expands MGM’s MLB team sponsorships to five. The casino and BetMGM operator additionally has club deals with the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Washington Nationals.

MGM has a casino in Detroit, in Springfield, Mass., and is soon deploying its BetMGM online sportsbook in the nation’s capital. Los Angeles is a major feeder market for MGM’s casinos in Las Vegas.

Iconic Team, Iconic Brand

Along with offering its highest rewards members exclusive opportunities at Yankee Stadium, MGM Resorts becoming a “Proud Partner of the New York Yankees” gives the casino company significant branding placement opportunities during Yankees’ games.

The MGM logo will be prevalent on LED signs throughout the stadium and will appear on rotating boards along the first and third baselines. MGM’s iconic roaring lion will also appear digitally on the back of the pitcher’s mound during live local television broadcasts of select games.

Empire City will host Yankees-themed fan activities and experiences involving both active and former MLB players.

“We remain committed to investing in the community, while collaborating with the New York Yankees to provide unparalleled experiences for baseball fans,” said Bill Hornbuckle, president and CEO of MGM Resorts. “As we continue working to secure a full commercial casino license at Empire City, this partnership allows us to further develop these properties to their potential, while providing the world-class hospitality guests have come to expect from the MGM Resorts brand.”

Longtime MLB Partner

Just five months after the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on single-game sports betting that had limited such gambling to Nevada, MGM Resorts in November 2018 struck a wide-ranging partnership with Major League Baseball to become its “Official Gaming Partner” and “Official Entertainment Partner.” The company has also been the “Official Partner of MLB Players, Inc.,” since 2022.

MGM was additionally the title sponsor of the league’s 2019 Opening Series played in the Tokyo Dome. MGM is building a multibillion-dollar integrated resort casino in Osaka and has held a significant brand presence in Japan since the country legalized up to three casino resorts in 2018.

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Texas Lottery Blasted Over Loophole That Let Syndicate Win $95M

A Texas legislative commission blames the state lottery for failing to plug a loophole that allowed a New Jersey-based lottery syndicate to walk off with a $95 million jackpot.

Texas Lottery, Rook TX, courier services, Sunset Advisory Committee, Hooked on Montana
The Texas Lottery is under fire for its “passive” reaction to courier services that create a loophole allowing the draw to be mathematically exploitable under certain conditions. (Image: CW39 Houston)

The Sunset Advisory Committee (SAC) is tasked with reviewing the performance of state agencies before recommending how they can be improved or even determining that they should be abolished. In a newly published report, the SAC reserves some harsh words for the Texas Lottery Commission (TLC) and especially its tolerance of “courier companies.”

It was thanks to the courier system that the shadowy New Jersey syndicate, known as Rook TX, was able to purchase 25.8 million tickets for a Texas Lottery draw, which guaranteed that it would win the jackpot and pretty much all of the other prizes as well.

The SAC said the TLC had become “stagnant” and “passive” in its failure to react to the loophole. This created a situation where ordinary Texans who entered that day’s draw were unaware they only had a shot at half the big prize, at best.

Lottery Becomes Exploitable

The April 22, 2023, Texas Lottery draw was one of those rare occasions when the lottery becomes mathematically exploitable, but only if you have the means to buy up all possible combinations of numbers, which just so happens to be 25.8 million.

After 93 rollovers, the jackpot had grown to $95 million. So, the syndicate realized that it would need to risk $25.8 million in $1 lottery tickets to be guaranteed a $95 million jackpot, which would be $57.8 million after state and federal taxes. Even if the syndicate was unlucky enough to share the first prize with another winner, it would still make a small profit.

A three-way split would have been a disaster, but considering the Texas lottery only sells one to two million tickets per draw, it was a very low-risk proposition – and hey, that’s why they call it gambling.

Meanwhile, the syndicate would also vacuum up 289 second prizes for matching five or six numbers, plus all the lower prizes, adding roughly another $2.5 million to the haul.

So, how was the syndicate able to buy 25.8 million tickets when the Lottery normally only sells 2 million on a good day? The answer is lottery couriers.

‘Hooked on Montana’

Lottery courier services are third-party outfits that sell tickets online through mobile apps. They fulfill orders from customers by purchasing tickets in bulk from licensed retailers. Generally, the courier service handles the process of collecting and distributing winnings to their customers.

After the draw, it was announced the winning ticket was sold by an outlet called Lottery Now, based in a shopping mall in Colleyville. But when reporters arrived, they found a business called “Hooked on Montana,” which organized fishing trips for tourists to the Big Sky State.

Nevertheless, Hooked on Montana was licensed to sell lottery tickets. Its owner, Richard Wheeler, told USA Today he had started doing some lottery couriering as a spin-off from his main business. He sold more than 11 million lottery tickets to Rook TX.

Currently, only two states, New York and New Jersey, have legalized and licensed courier businesses, but they are tolerated in many other states – too much so in Texas for the SAC’s liking.

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