New Casino Trends for 2020

With the first month of 2020 almost over, it is important to take a moment to look ahead and examine emerging trends that may influence the casino industry this year. While last year brought about the closure of Resorts Casino Tunica and many other notable casinos, the future is looking very bright with plenty of new planned openings scheduled for this year. It should come as no surprise then too that technology is going to continue to play a major role in the casino industry. Therefore, here are some new openings and technology trends to be on the lookout for in 2020.

New Casinos Opening in 2020

Circa Resort

Las Vegas strip lit up at night

For the first time in more than four decades, an all-new resort is being built on Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Standing at 459 feet tall, this 44-story resort will take up an entire block and be home to 777 rooms. According to owners Derek and Greg Stevens, Circa will have a two-level casino and a nine-story parking garage, known as Garage Mahal, which will be located across the street from the resort. The property is also planning to have the longest outdoor bar to be located on Fremont Street and a six-tiered pool area that includes a 125-foot television screen.

While all of those other amenities are nice, the real showcase of this new resort is the three-story, stadium-style sportsbook. Expected to be the biggest in Las Vegas, Derek Stevens’ has stated that his vision for the sportsbook was inspired by the sportsbooks at Caesars Palace and the Hilton. The Circa’s sportsbook would also include the Vegas Stats & Information Network and is expected to become the center of sports wagering in downtown Las Vegas. If everything goes smoothly, the new resort will be open in December of this year.

Emerald Queen Casino and Resort

ferry outside Tacoma, Washington

While the Puyallup Tribe has been successfully running the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington for the past 15 years, the tribe has only recently been able to make major strides in replacing the former bingo hall into a mega-casino and resort. Construction on this new facility spans over 310,000 square feet with a 110,000-square-foot gaming floor, a 21,000-square-foot event center with 2,000 seats and a 200-room hotel with spa and conference rooms. The casino will incorporate tribal art throughout, a cedar paneling that is evocative of a tribal longhouse and will feature exterior metal panels in a design reminiscent of basket weaving. Drawing comparisons to hotels in Las Vegas, the Emerald Queen Casino and Resort is sure to attract many visitors traveling down I-5. The grand opening is scheduled for next month.

This is just one of many renovation and expansion projects among tribes across the country. These groups are looking to increase profits and 2020 will see the completion of a variety of major improvement projects among Indian owned casinos.

New Legislation, New Opportunities

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Georgia is one of only a handful of states that does not house a land-based casino, but that might change in the near future. Earlier this month the Special Committee on Economic Growth, a committee made up of 15 state representatives, hosted a public hearing to gather input from the local community on possible gambling expansion at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and over 200 residents showed up. However, in order to pass gambling legislation in Georgia, it would require an amendment to the state constitution. This means that a two-thirds majority vote in both the house and senate would need to occur before citizens could even have a chance to vote on it at the ballot box.

If new legislation were to pass, the site of the hearing would be the site of the state’s first casino. Ed Clark, president of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, released plans last year to add a casino, hotel, an indoor and outdoor water park, a concert venue, a nightclub and several other attractions to the racetrack. His plans would turn the speedway into a year-round attraction instead of just during the NASCAR season.

This would not be the first speedway in the country to renovate their facilities with casinos. Both Kansas Motor Speedway and Delaware’s Dover International Speedway each have casinos attached to them.

Pamunkey Indian Tribe and the City of Norfolk

Docks at Norfolk, Virginia

Earlier this month, the city of Norfolk, Virginia, signed a $10 million agreement with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe for the purchase of 13.4 acres of land for the development of a waterside resort casino. The signing comes after over a year of negotiation between the City Council and the tribe.

The proposed Pamunkey Resort and Casino would include a four-diamond, full-service convention hotel, several onsite restaurants, an entertainment venue, a luxury spa, and both indoor and outdoor swimming pools. While construction has not even started yet, it is projected to create thousands of full-time jobs and attract millions of new visitors to the city each year.

However, while 2020 is an exciting time for Norfolk and the Pamunkey Tribe, there is a minor speed bump before any construction can even begin. According to a provision in the agreement, the tribe cannot fully purchase the land until they are given the right to conduct commercial gaming. Since commercial gaming is not yet legal in Virginia, the General Assembly would need to first legalize commercial gaming before any party could begin to reap the benefits of this new project. The state did adopt legislation last year that specifically would allow casinos in five cities, including Richmond and Norfolk, but the legislation would need to be passed again this year to become law.

The tribe has modified its development plans in an attempt to be more actively involved in current General Assembly deliberations regarding possible casinos in Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. With the possibility of the federal process for a tribal casino taking years, by the time the tribe’s project would be ready to proceed, other casinos would likely already be operating.

As the year 2020 continues to unfold, we are expecting more big news in the worlds of casinos, gambling and gaming. Visit Casino Schedule Ease to learn more about how management software is helping casinos meet modern demands and to stay up-to-date with the latest news happenings through our blog.

A Brief History of Slot Machines

Since their creation back in the 19th century, slot machines have remained one of the most popular casino games in the world. Internationally, slot machines are known by different names. Whether it is “fruit machines”  in England or “pokies” in Australia, they have grown in popularity throughout the years and are now a huge hit on a global level. Step into a casino and you will almost immediately understand why these machines are so popular. That is why we are taking a closer look into the history of these gaming machines, their evolution, and what the future holds. 

Before we discuss the invention of slot machines, it is important that it is made clear that most dates mentioned are going to be approximations. This is due to the fact that this is quite a controversial subject and many people claim to have been the first to invent the machine. 

The Creation of Slots

Old style slot machine

Nevertheless, the very beginnings of slot machines date back to the late 19th century. It is believed that Sitmann and Pitt, from Brooklyn, New York, developed the first gambling machine in the early 1890s. A precursor to the slot machine, this gambling machine used cards as symbols and was based on poker.

Soon after its introduction, this machine proved to be extremely popular and could be found in many bars across the city. When a player inserted a nickel and pulled the lever, the drums would spin and random cards would show up. Rather than having automatic rewards, this machine would give out prizes such as free drinks or free cigars.

A few years later, Charles Fey is created with the first slot machine. Dubbed the Liberty Bell, this machine only had three reels but had the ability to trigger payouts automatically. The popularity and success of the Liberty Bell set the standard for the modern slot machine and while his design was eventually copied and sold by other competitors, the three-reel model can still be found in some slot machines today. 

The Electromechanical Slot Machine

In 1963, Bally Manufacturing developed the first fully electromagnetic slot machine called Money Honey. This machine featured electronic reels that were activated when the patron pulled the side lever. Interestingly, the electromechanical approach allowed Money Honey to be the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper and automatic payment of up to 500 coins. For those unfamiliar with the term hopper, it is a mechanical device that rotates coins into the coin tray when a player collects credits/coins. Later on, after gaining more popularity, the lever was removed from the machine and replaced with a button.

The Introduction of Video Slots

Video slots with two screens

Around 15 years after the introduction of Money Honey, the first electronic slot (aka video slot) was developed by the Las Vegas-based company Fortune Coin Company. Using a modified 19-inch Sony Trinitron color receiver for the display and logic boards for the slot machine functions, this prototype was mounted within a full size show-ready slot machine cabinet.

The first of these video slot machine was placed at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. However, it did not find initial success like its predecessors. It is believed that since players were unable to actually see the reels rotating, they did not believe they were slot machines. That all changed within a year. By 1978, International Game Technology (IGT) bought Fortune Coin Company and made modifications to the video slot machines. Once modifications were made, these machines started gaining widespread popularity across the Las Vegas Strip. Very quickly, video slots could be spotted in almost every casino in Vegas. 

The next big year for slots came in 1994. Two big milestones occurred for slots that year. First, the very first online casino introduced video slots. Online video slots provide a convenient gaming experience for millions of people around the world, without the hassle of going to a casino. Today, they are classified as a huge success within the gaming industry.

The second milestone was the unveiling of the first electronic slot machine with two screens. This occurred in Australia in 1994 and made its way to America two years later. With two screens, players were able to experience changing displays and the ability to claim a potential bonus. If a player activated a bonus round, a new screen will appear with a chance to win a bonus game. According to the Nevada Gaming Almanac, these new machines currently generate over 70% of the incomes for casinos in Las Vegas. 

3D and the Future of Slots

Modern slot machines

Casinos are constantly trying to find new ways to entice audiences and keep them coming back. In the slot industry, that’s currently happening with 3D slot machines. While the machines themselves are not a holographic 3D piece of machinery from the future, they are created to make the video screen as much 3D as possible. Available both online and in casinos, 3D slots do not require any special glasses. The designers of these machines specifically created the symbols and characters to be as lifelike as possible.

If you really concentrate, sometimes the art on the slot machines look so real that it can feel like they’re popping out at you. These 3D slot games are pretty similar to video slots except for the extremely high-quality graphics which they contain. Right now, they are seen as the latest evolution of slot machines and a good indicator that the slot industry is continuing to grow. 

After taking a look at the evolution of slot machines, it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come, and how they continue to progress. With technology continuing to evolve, there’s no telling what could be introduced next. It’s amazing how such a simple machine has become huge in the entertainment industry.

To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

The History of the Bellagio

Las Vegas Bellagio

Walk down the Las Vegas Strip and it would be almost impossible to miss the Bellagio and its famed dancing fountains. Celebrating its 20th birthday last year, the elaborate and eye-catching Bellagio has redefined the Las Vegas experience. With its world-renowned restaurants, exclusive poker rooms, conservatory and botanical gardens, gallery of fine art, and a Cirque du Soleil production, it is no wonder the Bellagio is listed as one of the top hotels in the world. That is why we are going to take a closer look at the history of Bellagio, the many attractions that it provides and what the future holds for this famous hotel and casino.

The Grand Opening

Inspired and named after a resort town on the shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy, the Bellagio was opened on October 15, 1998. The brainchild of Steve Wynn, then head of Mirage Resorts, the resort had an original design and construction cost of $1.6 billion dollars; making it the most expensive building in the world upon completion. 

The Bellagio reportedly spent $88 million on its opening night ceremony. It all began around 11 p.m. with Steve Wynn giving a 40-minute welcome speech and then processed by Cirque du Soleil’s aquatic show, “O”. There was a fireworks show reportedly scheduled, but it had to be canceled due to high winds. By 1:00 am, the casino and other public areas around the Bellagio were packed with an estimated 15,000 people. Just a few VIP celebrities that were present at the opening night included Michael Jordan, Clint Eastwood, Drew Barrymore, George Lucas, and Nevada Governor Bob Miller. All VIPs present were highly encouraged to donate to The Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Famous Bellagio Poker Room

Famous Bellagio Poker Room

The Bellagio is partners with the World Poker Tour and has hosted the annual Five Diamond World Poker Classic since its inception in 2002. Due to the high table limits, it is very common to see professional poker players at the Bellagio poker room. Many, in fact, call it their home base or the “Office”. The very high-stakes games at the Bellagio are played in “Bobby’s Room“, named after famed professional poker player Bobby Baldwin. It is reported that stakes at these games can range up to $8,000 and that the total pots exceed $1 million dollars. 

Non-Casino Attractions

The Fountains at Bellagio

Since the beginning, the Bellagio has made efforts to entice tourists with amenities that extend beyond the casino. Step outside the main doors and look upon the Fountains of Bellagio to find such an effort. Set in an 8-acre manmade lake, the Fountains is a choreographed water feature with performances set to light and music. While the performances take place in front of the Bellagio, there are numerous vantage points on the Las Vegas Strip where people can watch the show.

Typically, the show takes place in the afternoon every 30 minutes, and from 8 pm to midnight they occur every 15 minutes. If you look at the hotel tower around two minutes before a show starts, you will see the lights beginning to change. The color of the lights indicates the type of show (i.e red, white, and blue are used for Independence Day). While the resort tries to do shows every day, they do cancel shows unexpectedly if there are high winds or if there is a planned event. For VIP guests taking part in special occasions, such as weddings, the Bellagio offers the chance to choose the music for that day’s fountain performances. Interestingly, from 1998 to 2010, the Fountains of Bellagio was the largest fountain in the world. It has since been surpassed by the Dubai Bay fountain and Okada Manila.  

Besides the Fountains, the Bellagio is home to various works of art. When the property was first built, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art displayed the personal art collection of Steve Wynn. After the hotel was sold to MGM in 2000, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art became a rotating exhibition space that displays artwork on loan from numerous museums and private collections from around the world.

Popular Culture References

Ocean's Eleven Movie Poster

Just three years after opening its doors, the Bellagio served as the central setting for one of the highest-grossing films of 2001; Ocean’s Eleven. In the film, a group of thieves conspires to rob the vault inside the Bellagio. The antagonist in the Ocean’s Trilogy, Terry Benedict, is also loosely based on Steve Wynn. In addition to owning and developing two of the same casinos as Wynn (The Mirage and the Bellagio), Benedict also has an extensive art collection. In the film’s 2007 sequel, Ocean’s Thirteen, two of the characters stand in front of Bellagio, reminiscing about Dunes Resort and Casino, which had previously occupied the site.

Additionally, the Bellagio Fountains make multiple appearances in pop culture. Artists such as Britney Spears, Drake, and Bruno Mars have all used the Bellagio Fountains as a backdrop for some of their most popular music videos. In 2008, the fountains made a brief appearance in the Disney animated film Bolt.  

Looking Ahead 

With major casinos on the Las Vegas strip undergoing renovations and new properties being built every year, there is increased pressure to cater to new audiences and increase revenue numbers.  Just last month it was announced that MGM Resorts would be selling the Bellagio to The Blackstone Group for $4.25 billion. Per the agreement of the deal, The Blackstone Group would hold ownership of the property, but MGM Resorts would lease the space and continue to operate the Bellagio for an estimated annual rent of $245 million dollars. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of this year. Since the Bellagio was one of the first in Las Vegas to showcase major attractions alongside their casinos, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

October Gambling News Round-Up

Georgia Pushes to Legalize Casino Gambling

georgia-pushes-to-legalize-gambling.jpg

Historically, Georgia has not been a gambling friendly state and efforts to pass legislation to legalize gambling have been shut down. Despite this, Ed Clark, the President of the Atlanta Motor Speedway is hoping that a $1 billion proposal for a casino resort will change minds. Clark is advertising the casino as a way to continue to grow Georgia’s economy and bring 3,000 construction jobs and up to 5,000 other casino jobs to the area.  

The proposal comes at a time when the state is experiencing a dip in tax revenue and government agencies are being ordered to reduce spending. Clark is hoping that these economic circumstances will help him make his case and help make gambling a more attractive option than it has been in the past. 

Clark has already released a rendering of the potential casino and resort complex. This massive project could include hotels, restaurants, concert venues, indoor and outdoor waterparks, theme park and an interactive golf driving range. It would be located just 29 miles from downtown Atlanta and within easy driving distance of 8.5 million people who live in and around Atlanta. 

It remains to be seen whether the state legislation will be sold on the idea and if local residents will welcome gambling in the state. A vote within the next year should decide the matter at least temporarily. Even if the gambling remains illegal, there is sure to be a continued push for a change in the laws from entrepreneurs looking to make money.

Football Fuels Sports Betting

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With both college and NFL games being played across the country, sports betting is bringing in big revenue for participating states. In Mississippi, one of the first states to offer sports betting once it became legal, September was a lucrative month with $37.9 million in bets. That is twice as much as the previous month. Mississippi has a 12% tax rate on casino revenue, which has resulted in $675,790 going back to the state and various municipalities where casinos are located.  

Iowa was also an early adpoter of sports betting and has also been seeing big numbers early in the football season. Unlike Mississippi where betting is only allowed on casino grounds, Iowans can take advantage of mobile betting right from their smartphone. As a result, 56% of all bets were made through a mobile device. With football season in full swing both states are expected to rake in significant profits that will be funneled back into the communities.

Debates Continue over the Chicago Casino

Debates-Continue-over-the-Chicago-Casino.jpg

For months, we have been following developments in Illinois as lawmakers and developers work to bring a major casino into Chicago. So far, it has been difficult to come to an agreement about the exact location and now Mayor Lori Lightfoot is campaigning to have the casino run as a state-owned business. The Mayor wants to leverage the casino to help address the city’s $1.3 billion in debt and try to make up for a budget shortfall.  

However, the legislation is reluctant to revisit a bill that has caused a lot of uproar and controversy across the state. The entire project continues to be stalled by disagreements and lawmakers argue that making additional changes to the project would only reignite debates and lead to further delays and unnecessary conflicts. 

The delays are due to a tax structure that is scaring away investors. Currently, the owners of the casino would end up paying a tax rate of 72% on the gross gaming revenue (GGR), making it far and away the most heavily taxed casino in the country. If operating costs reach 30% of the GGR, which is quite likely, the casino would be in the red on day one. Understandably, investors don’t want to take on that risk.

If Mayor Lightfoot is unable to convince lawmakers to make the casino a state-owned venture, then she is calling for changes to the tax structure so that the project can actually attract funding from private sources. The next option would be to raise property taxes in order to bring in additional revenue, but this is a move that both the mayor and city residents would rather avoid. At this point, it is up to the legislature to decide how to move the casino project forward and it looks like they aren’t in a hurry to resolve the issue.

Facial Recognition Technology May Be Coming to Casinos

Konami Gaming is looking to replace rewards cards with facial recognition technology at slot machines and other games. Gamblers would simply have to share a photo of themselves at the casino rewards desk and eliminate the need to carry around a card. The technology would also be used to increase security, target customers with different offers and collect data on users’ behavior.

However, many argue that this technology violates privacy rights. While guests can choose not to use the facial recognition and ask to have their information deleted, many see this tool as problematic. Konami and participating casinos may have to iron out usage policies before the technology goes live so that they can avoid any lawsuits. 

Biggest Casino Headlines of September

It has been another exciting month in the casino industry. From major deals and new casinos to stalled projects, there is a lot to catch up on. Learn more about some of the biggest happenings across the country and what they could mean for the future.

Change of Leadership in New Jersey

new-jersey-shoreline-buildings

In August, Kevin Ortzman suddenly resigned as the Regional President of Caesars Atlantic City and the President of the Casino Association of New Jersey. An internal investigation was launched after Jocelyn Agnellini-Allison filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. She had reported that Ortzman was seen kissing a subordinate employee. Not long after reporting the incident, she was terminated. In her lawsuit, she claims that she was retaliated against by her superiors and then fired without cause. Amid these allegations, Ortzman stepped down from his position.

While Caesars continues to deal with the lawsuit and leadership changes, the Casino Association of New Jersey has just named a new president. Steve Callender, who has over forty years of experience in the casino industry, will take over the association. He is now in charge of advocating for all nine Atlantic City casinos and working to represent their best interests. Looking forward, Callender will have to help casinos navigate increased competition as gambling becomes legal in more states. He will oversee the expansion of sports betting and online gambling while also dealing with mandates from lawmakers. For example, new laws require employees to carry emergency devices and Callender is responsible for ensuring compliance. The change in leadership was abrupt and unexpected, but hopefully it will be a positive thing for Atlantic City.

Norfolk Votes to Build Casino

norfolk-virginia

Competition along the east coast continues to increase and Norfolk, Virginia, is now slated for its own casino. On September 24th, the city council voted 7-1 to move forward with a deal to sell land to a local tribe that will build a $700 million resort, casino and spa on the site. The complex will include restaurants, a luxury hotel and hundreds of gaming tables.

In recent months, the council and the town manager have been extensively researching the potential impact of the casino. While there are still some unanswered questions, the council clearly feels comfortable taking the next steps in getting the casino built. There has been some resistance from the public and they have the chance to submit a petition that would then put the issue back before the council and provide the opportunity to amend or repeal the project. It remains to be seen whether opponents of the project will pursue this course of action. In all likelihood, the council’s vote will stand.

Chicago Casino Project Stalled

chicago-illinois

All summer, there has been excitement about the prospect of Chicago’s first urban casino, but the project seems to be stalled. Part of the problem has to do with the city’s tax rate. As the law stands now, casino developers would pay a 72% tax rate and additional fees. Existing riverboat casinos pay tax rates of 15% to 50%.

For investors, developers and financiers, this simply isn’t a viable business deal. The Gaming Board is turning to the state lawmakers and asking them to make changes to the tax laws that would provide casino operators with more profits and attract investors so that the project can move forward.

The city is also having trouble deciding on a location. Most of the proposed locations have been on the southside and westside of Chicago. These options are also turning away potential investors because they don’t think that tourists will venture to these areas of the city.

The Chicago casino was a part of a more expansive gambling bill that cleared the way for additional casinos to be built throughout the state of Illinois. While the Chicago project is dealing with major obstacles, other casino projects are moving forward more smoothly.

Caesars Looks to Sell Properties

The resignation of Kevin Ortzman couldn’t have come at a less inopportune time. Caesars is in the middle of finalizing a deal with Eldorado Resorts to sell their properties for a total of $17.3 billion. While the properties will retain the Caesars name, the future of these properties is uncertain.

In Las Vegas, the Rio Las Vegas, which is owned by Caesars and located off the strip, has recently been sold to the real estate firm Imperial Companies for $516.3 million. As part of the deal, Caesars will operate the casino and pay $90 million in rent. Since Imperial doesn’t have much experience in the casino industry, many are speculating the property will be repurposed once the lease agreement is over. The future of the Rio may not involve gaming at all.

Movie Goer Wins Big

case-of-money

This is exactly the kind of story that keeps people going to casinos, playing the lotto and hoping to win big. On September 21st, a local man was visiting the theater inside the Aliante Casino and Hotel to catch a movie. To kill some time, he put $20 into the Wheel of Fortune slot machine and a few minutes later a $1.25 bet had resulted in a $935,176 jackpot. A simple trip to the movies netted this man a huge payout. Luck was definitely on his side.

Be sure to keep visiting Casino Schedule Ease to stay up-to-date on all the latest industry news and be the first to know about breaking headlines.

A Brief History of Atlantic City

In past posts, we have taken a closer look at the origins of the Las Vegas strip, how the city as evolved and its contributions to art and architecture. For this post, we are turning to America’s other famous gambling hub and diving into the history of Atlantic City. While gambling in the city wasn’t legalized until 1976, the city has a rich history that has helped shape the town we now know. Taking a look at the past may also provide some insights into the future of the city.

Prime Real Estate

Atlantic-city-boardwalk-crowd

In 1853, when Las Vegas was still a desolate stretch of desert, developers were recognizing the potential of Atlantic City. The city sits along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded by islands, making it the perfect place to build a resort town. The Belloe House was the first hotel to be built and within a year, the town had been incorporated and began receiving trains. Soon, nearly 500,000 visitors were heading to the city to escape New York City and enjoy the supposed health benefits of ocean water and clean air.

Much of the city’s PR and branding was spearheaded by Dr. Jonathan Pitney, who came to be know as the “Father of Atlantic City.” By touting the town as a health resort, he was able to boost tourism. In fact, he was responsible for the construction of the United States Hotel, which boasted 600 rooms and 14 acres of ground, making it the largest hotel in the country at the time.

By 1870, the first boardwalk was installed. While the boardwalk would eventually become a permanent feature and an iconic part of the city, these early versions were torn down at the end of the season. Their main purpose was to help keep sand out of hotel lobbies.

As the century came to an end, the city continued to gain in popularity. Eventually a toll road and second railroad were added to accommodate the influx of traffic. Smaller boarding houses began to be built. Despite all the construction, the city maintained a sense of luxury that attracted the rich and influential.

The Heyday of Atlantic City

Atlantic City has gone through several periods of revival, but the biggest boom time occurred at the turn of the century. Dozens of new hotels, including the famous Marlborough-Blenheim and Traymore Hotels were built and the 24 story Claridge hotel became known as the “Skyscraper by the Sea.”

hiding-alcohol-during-prohibition

During Prohibition, when other cities were cracking down on alcohol, the Atlantic City police and local officials turned a blind eye as liquor was smuggled into the city. Visitors could easily visit restaurants and nightclubs and grab a drink. Organized crime became such a big part of the city that they actually held a national conference there in 1929. It was also around this time that the city served as the inspiration for the first version of Monopoly, which still features the street and railroad names of the city.

New Challenges

After Prohibition, the nightclub scene flourished, but the city as a whole began to decline. More people owned automobiles and were able to come for a few days without having to stay for a week or more at a time. This new found mobility also meant that tourists could easily explore other cities along the coast and around the country without having to rely on the railroad. Commercial airlines also made travel easier and had people flying to tropical destinations like the Bahamas instead of hopping the train to Atlantic City. Finally, the emergence of suburbia and a healthy middle class meant that more families were building luxurious homes with swimming pools. This afforded people to enjoy the summer at home rather than spending money on an ocean side resort.

By the end of the 1960s, the city was trying to find new uses for hotels that weren’t in demand. These once popular and luxurious buildings were converted into nursing homes and apartments or simply demolished. In 1974, the city voted on a referendum to legalize gambling, but it failed. By 1976, residents had changed their collective mind and decided that gambling might just be the key to breathing new life into a crumbling city. Eventually, a total of 11 casinos were built and these locations began hosting big name boxing matches that brought in national attention.

empty-boxing-ring

Unfortunately, the Great Recession, which hit the US in the late 2000s, put a stop to a list of major construction projects that were already in the works and expected to bring even more business and big names like Steve Wynn into the area. Even as the rest of the country began to recover from the economic downturn, Atlantic City struggled to find funding for half finished projects and the state continued to lose revenue from gambling. Governor Chris Christie went against public sentiment in 2010 and offered Revel Entertainment Group $261 million in tax credits to finish building the revel casino. Within just ten months of opening the casino was forced to file for bankruptcy.

A New Resurgence

While Atlantic City continues to feel increased pressure as more surrounding states legalize gambling, the city has been making major strides. They were one of the first states to legalize sports gambling, giving them a leg up on the competition. Major casinos have also undergone renovations in order to cater to a new audience and revenue numbers are up almost across the board. There are more family friendly attractions, helping to revive the resort feel that once made the city a destination. With new projects on the horizon, the future is looking bright and Atlantic City could experience another historic and definitive resurgence. To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

August Casino News Round-Up

August has been a busy month in the casino industry. From Indiana to New Jersey and Nevada, there have been some big shake ups that have made the news. Keep reading to get caught up on what has been happening across the country and get a preview of what to expect this fall.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Closes

Hard-rock-hotel-and-casino

In March of 2018, Sir Richard Branson, the head of Virgin, announced the purchase of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. At the time, the plan was to temporarily close the hotel so that it could be re-branded and renovated. Construction was expected to be completed by the end of 2018, but a series of delays have pushed back the project.

Virgin has finally completed construction plans and announced a timeline. The location will shut down in February after the Super Bowl and reopen some time between October 2020 and January 2021. This is quite a deviation from the original plan that was expected to take just four months. Apparently, a more thorough audit of the building revealed the need for additional changes that have significantly expanded the scope of the project. Expected changes include a larger casino floor, more spacious conference center, new restaurants and a five-acre pool deck. In addition, all 1,500 rooms will be upgraded.

While the project is exciting news for some, it has put the casino’s 1,650 workers in a precarious position. The company has offered a retention bonus and employees won’t have to re-interview if they want to return to their position once the casino opens. However, it remains to be seen how many employees will stay on board after at least eight months of closure.

The Sahara is Undergoing a Facelift

The SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino is in the middle of a major facelift that could also include some rebranding and a return to its original and recognizable name, The Sahara. The project most notably includes the addition of the “Infinity” gaming floor, which will cater to high-rollers who like to make big bets. This section of the gaming floor will feature rich decor, specialty cocktails and elite gaming opportunities. The casino’s new owners are hoping to restore some of the luster that has been such an important part of the history of The Sahara.

Tiverton Casino and Hotel Earns Community Support

Open-24-hours

Any time a new casino opens, there is bound to be push back from the community and differing opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of building a casino. However, the Tiverton Casino and Hotel has received continuing support from local residents and government officials, which recently culminated in a permanent license to operate on a 24-hour basis.

The casino opened in September of 2018 and has performed well since then. For the first year of operation, the casino was granted a pilot license that would allow them to stay open 24-hours, but also allow the community to review this plan and make adjustments after a trial period. After 12 months, a hearing was held to evaluate the impact of the casino and decide how to move forward. Fortunately, there have been few issues. The only request for changes came from the fire and police departments who asked for better communication tools to aid first responders. The casino immediately committed to installing new equipment to make the necessary improvements.

The only local resident to speak out at the public hearing had nothing but nice things to say about the casino and how the business is fitting into the community. Hopefully, the Tiverton Casino and Hotel can continue to experience success and support. Moving forward, their biggest challenge may be increased competition from the recently opened Boston Harbor Encore Casino located just down the road.

Indiana Opens Doors to More Gambling Opportunities

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In April, Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb signed a massive gambling expansion into law. Not only is sports betting now legal in the state, two riverboats, which have operated on Lake Michigan, now have permission to move inland and set up shop on dry land. Spectacle Entertainment, which owns the boats, has made a deal with Hard Rock to build a $400 million facility that will include a live music venue.

The move to expand is in direct response to a bill passed in Illinois that is also working to bring more casinos to the state, including one in Chicago. Indiana has already experienced a 30% drop in gambling revenue over the last ten years and they aren’t about to concede more business to Illinois without a fight. The expansion is meant to keep Indiana residents in the state and try to maintain business from Illinois customers. The upcoming Hard Rock casino will be located just 18 miles from one of the proposed Chicago casinos sites. Indiana is hoping that it’s close enough to draw in visitors.

Currently, Indiana casinos have shuttle locations in Illinois that make it easy for people across state lines to make the trip. However, it will be hard to compete once there are several casino options right in and around Chicago. Illinois Casino Gaming Association Executive Director, Tom Swoik fears that all the construction and expansion will create a market that is saturated. With so much competition in close proximity, casinos will really have to ramp up amenities to draw in customers. Based on this new law, it is clear that Indiana isn’t willing to let Illinois take over the market without making some aggressive moves.

Looking Forward

This year has seen major changes in gambling laws and regulations across the country and there is every indication that the industry will continue to move at a rapid pace. For casinos, the real challenge will be delivering the same level of service as they focus on expanding. That means taking advantage of tools and technology, including software like Casino Schedule Ease, to help streamline processes. This will ensure that quality isn’t sacrificed in the name of building bigger and better facilities.

Keep visiting our blog to stay up-to-date with the latest happenings in the world of gambling and casinos.

The History of Neon Signs and Las Vegas

It is impossible to talk about the history of Las Vegas without mentioning the city’s famous neon signs. These elaborate and eye-catching signs were works of art that help put the city on the map. When neon lights first became popular, they were a symbol of a new and modern age and there was nothing quite as modern as a city rising out of the desert and offering glitz, glamour, freedom and a whole new level of entertainment. That is why we are going to take a closer look at the history of neon signs, how they helped shaped Las Vegas and what role they play now.

The Discovery of Neon

The Scottish chemist, Sir William Ramsay, is credited with discovering neon, xenon, argon, krypton and isolating helium and radon during the 1890s. These six gases are known as the noble gases because they don’t like to bond with other atoms. Ramsay was determined to discover the rare gases that are a part of air and was able to successfully identify new gases. During his experiments, he took these invisible gases, placed them in sealed gas tubes and charged them with electricity. The result was a colorful spectrum of light that glowed in ways that had never been seen. Ramsay went on to win the Nobel Prize for his efforts and discoveries.

Over the next decade, scientists around the world toiled away trying to create an efficient and practical way to light homes and businesses. Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulbs were promising, but they didn’t last long enough. Daniel McFarlan Moore thought that gas tubes Ramsay has experimented with were the answer and opened his own lighting company. His products were more efficient than the current bulbs, but they were still prohibitively expensive and prone to leaks. In 1910, tungsten filaments were placed in bulbs, making them more efficient than ever and basically eliminating any interest in tube lamps.

However, that didn’t stop the engineer Georges Claude, from continuing to experiment with electrifying tubes filled with nobles gases. Eventually, he was able to create 20 foot tubes that would safely operate for up to 1,200 hours. Claude recognized that neon light wasn’t ideal for lighting homes, but he clearly saw the potential for neon to transform advertising. In 1912, the first neon sign was installed outside a barbershop in Paris to attract customers. It worked like a charm and neon had begun its ascent.

Neon Lights Come to the States

While neon lights are practically synonymous with Las Vegas, Los Angeles was actually the first city to be illuminated by these new lights in the 1920s. At that time, Las Vegas was still just a blip in the desert, but LA was a thriving city being fueled by modern businesses selling new technology. The first neon signs in the US were installed outside California’s first Packard dealership. The signs were an instant hit and even caused traffic jams as drivers stopped to marvel at the glowing lights.

From there, neon signs spread like wildfire. Businesses of all kinds started investing in the signs and trade schools opened so that craftsman could learn the skill of making elaborate glass tubes. Creating signs became a true art form and innovators were constantly pushing the limits of design. Over time, designers were able to achieve over 40 color combinations by playing with the gas mixture and tinting the tubes. Eventually, neon signs included moving parts for even more spectacular displays of art and engineering.

Las Vegas Embraces Neon


Neon signs had proven that they could draw in people, so when Las Vegas was looking for a way to get people to the city, neon signs seemed like the perfect solution. One of the city’s first neon signs was installed at Fremont East’s Boulder Club in 1936. As the city continued to grow and showcase experimental architecture that simply wasn’t being practiced anywhere else in the world, neon signs became their own form of decoration. They weren’t just signs, but essential parts of some of Las Vegas’s most iconic buildings, including Lady Luck, The Mint and the Golden Nugget.

Over the next few decades, competition drove casinos to build more luxurious buildings and cover them in even more creative and jaw-dropping neon signs. The neon lights served as great advertising tools and they helped to light up the streets of Las Vegas and gamblers continued well into the morning hours. The 1960s were the heyday of neon signs in Vegas and the city was practically a shrine to neon. It was home to five of the world’s tallest electric signs. By the late 60s, plastic signs were all the rage because they offered a cheaper alternative and the city was looking for new and creative ways to market itself. New developers looked at neon as a sign of the past and they were looking towards the future and more modern design aesthetics.

Preserving Vegas’s Neon History

While elaborate neon signs may no longer define the strip, these lights have played an important role in the history of the city. That is why many are working to preserve and repair iconic neon signs and put them on display for the public. In 1996, the Neon Museum was founded and it now hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The collection showcases design trends and technological advances through time and allows visitors to experience famous signs. In fact, the visitor center is actually a restored version of the lobby from the La Concha Motel. From there, visitors can wander the 2.62 acres of outdoor displays or register for a guided tour. It is the perfect place to learn about the history of Las Vegas and get up close to some truly impressive signs that helped to shape the city.

Today, Las Vegas continues to push the limits of design and technology. It is truly an innovation hub where big dreams are turned into reality in order to attract and impress customers. The best in everything from architecture, software and design are on full display in the city. Casino Schedule Ease is happy to be a part of the city by providing casinos with the latest in scheduling software that simplifies even the most complex scheduling needs that involve a constant cycle of hundreds of employees.

July Casino News Round-Up

Casinos, sports betting and gambling recently entered a new era that is defined by growth and expansion. Laws that once restricted gambling are being lifted and more states are embracing casinos, increasing the number and gambling licenses and doing their best to get in on a lucrative industry. At the same time, technology is influencing the way people game and a robust economy means that more people are spending their disposable income on traveling to casinos and resorts. This month’s casino news round-up highlights all this along with the month’s biggest stories so that you can stay on top of what is happening in the industry.

Chicago Works to Build First Casino

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At the beginning of June, Illinois passed a massive bill that expands gambling in the state and opens the door for up to six new casinos across the state, including one in Chicago. This bill is unprecedented in its scope. It not only legalizes sports gambling and allows existing casinos to increase their games by 70%, it also clears the way for slot machines to be installed in airports. But perhaps most significant is that fact that the bill authorizes a casino in one of the nation’s largest cities.

Now that the legislation has passed, Chicago is faced with the challenge of finding a location. Currently, feasibility studies are being conducted and 5 potential locations have been proposed although two of these locations were rejected by the alderman who don’t want a casino in their territory. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is hoping that the construction process can be well underway in 12-18 months, but that timeline depends on being able to find a suitable location within the next few months. It remains to be seen just how smoothly this project will go, but it is now inevitable that Chicago will be home to a casino within the next couple years.

Strong Opposition to Napa Valley Casino


While cities across the country are welcoming gambling expansions, there is a battle brewing in California’s Napa Valley. The Mishewal Wappoo Tribe, who are native to the Napa Valley, are fighting to regain their federal recognition. If they succeed, they would be able to build a casino without having to get approval from the community. Local vineyards are not happy about the prospect of large scale developments in one of the nation’s most famous, fertile and lucrative agricultural areas.

As it stands, Napa Valley is zoned in a way that promotes land use for agricultural purposes and works to limit traffic and pollution in order to protect the ecosystem. However, the tribe argues that the vineyards actually cause significant water pollution, so while a casino might put additional stress on the area, the vineyards aren’t without their own problems. The potential for a casino in Napa Valley is certainly a contentious issue, but it remains a big question mark. The tribe will first have to be recognized by the federal government and their petition has been stuck in court since 2009.

Two Las Vegas Casinos Score Big with Visitors

The travel website TripAdvisor crunched their data and came up with rankings for the top 50 casinos in the United States. Encore and The Wynn Las Vegas took top honors because approximately 75% of their ratings were five-star ratings. That means that most customers give the casinos a perfect score. Customers were asked to provide feedback on cleanliness, location, value and service and these two Vegas staples performed well in all categories.

The list included other hotels and casinos from the strip and Atlantic City, but other locations and tribal casinos also fared well. The Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi came in third and the WinStar, which is operated by the Chicksaw Nation earned a fourth place spot. This is good news for gamblers across the country who are looking for a venue a little closer to home. While Las Vegas has plenty of great resorts and casinos, some of the best might also be right in your backyard.

Oklahoma Tries to Renegotiate Tribal Gaming Contracts

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt is taking on the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA), which consist of 38 tribes that run a total of 130 casinos. Under the current contract, tribes pay 4%-6% or their slot revenue and 10% of table game revenue to the state. Stitt argues that these rates, which were established 15 years ago, are way too low and don’t reflect the current market.

The OIGA is hoping that a united front will prevent the Governor from being able to force a renegotiation. As it stands now, it is unclear whether Stitt actually has the power to prevent the current contracts from renewing as is, but the tribes aren’t going to take any chances. However, the OIGA Chairman has made it clear that the tribes may be open to talks if the state is willing to discuss sports betting and how that might play in to a larger deal that could be lucrative for the tribes.

Technology Powers Expansion of Casino Industry

There has clearly been a cultural shift in the way people and governments view gambling. This has led to new laws that lift restrictions, but the rapid expansion of gambling around the US wouldn’t be possible without the introduction of new technology based solutions. Sports betting, especially on a large scale, is a complex undertaking and new software is making it possible for casinos to quickly enter the market as soon as it becomes legal in their state. Learn more about emerging sports betting technology.

Technology is also making it possible for casinos to quickly scale up and manage large staffs that include hundreds of dealers, cashiers, bartenders and other employees and operate on a 24/7 cycle. Casino Schedule Ease is helping casinos across the country more efficiently handle complex scheduling challenges, maximize employee productivity and reduce the workload on managers. These types of tools are making it possible for casinos to take full advantage of changes in the laws and leverage them to increase revenue.

Casino News Takeaway

The momentum is steadily growing as more states change their laws regarding gambling. This will continue in the coming months and may result in some battles as communities resist development and states enter profit sharing negotiations with organizations. At the same time, these changes are opening the door for entrepreneurs and programmers to offer new solutions to meet a changing market. Keep visiting our blog to stay up-to-date on all the latest casino news.

The Status of Online and Sports Gambling in the U.S.

For decades, laws regarding gambling in the U.S. remained strict compared to other countries and few changes were made to expand the industry. However, there has been a major shift in the past few years and things are rapidly evolving as more states legalize sports betting, expand online gambling and increase the number of casino licenses. To help you stay up-to-date, we have put together a list of the latest changes and how they may affect your state and surrounding areas. 

New Hampshire Legalizes Sports Betting

Perhaps the most significant change to gambling in the U.S. has been recent legalization of sports betting by the federal government. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, states have been scrambling to decide not only whether they want to take advantage of this opportunity, but also the best way to do so. Some states already had legislation in place so that they could be prepared for the final ruling. Others have taken a wait and watch approach so that they could perhaps learn from other states and transition more smoothly into the world of sports gambling.

On July 12th, New Hampshire officially became the 9th state to legalize sports gambling. The state joins Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Arkansas to create a largely east coast contingent of states supporting sports gambling. New Hampshire residents will be able to gamble through a select number of online companies and retail locations. The legislation also specifies that a new Division of Sports Wagering will be established and gamblers will not be able to wager on any college teams or games from within the state. Residents can expect additional adjustments as these laws and regulations are put to the test and evaluated.

The Future of Sports Betting

It looks like North Carolina may be the next state to officially legalize sports betting. Lawmakers were unable to pass a budget on time, which means that there will be more time and opportunity for gambling bills to make headway. At this point, it is practically inevitable that sports betting will be classified as a Class III game, which is permitted on Indian owned casino locations. Unless there is a drastic change, gamblers will be able to make sports wagers at NC casinos within the next year.

Pennsylvania Casinos Lost Suit Against State Lottery

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A battle between state sanctioned casinos and the state lottery has been brewing in Pennsylvania for the past few months. Seven casinos filed a lawsuit against the state claiming that the new online casino inspired games were too close to the real thing and would result in a loss of revenue. Part of the problem was that online games were available to residents 18 and over while casino games could only be played by those 21 and over. The casinos saw this as a clear and unfair advantage. Casinos also tried to make the argument that any loss in revenue would hurt the residents of PA since a portion of their profits goes directly back into tax collection and community projects.

While the judge acknowledged that the casinos had a valid argument, it turns out that the state’s gambling laws are ambiguous enough to allow for both the lottery and the casinos to operate without conflict. With so much money at stake, neither side is calling it quits and you can expect more appeals and suits to follow before the matter is finally put to rest.

Sports Betting Goes Live in NY

New York State has been proactive about not only legalizing sports gambling, but launching programs as soon as possible. On Tuesday, July 16th, the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady had its ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open its sports betting lounge that spans 5,000 square feet and offers enough room 80 people. There is also a VIP section that can accommodate up to 18 people along with 14 kiosks and six betting windows.

In the coming year, an additional three upstate locations will open sports betting facilities. While some are happy with this rate of expansion, others have argued that the state should have also allowed mobile locations. As it stands now, NYC residents will have to travel several hours to visit New York locations or take a shorter drive and spend their money in New Jersey, which was one of the first states to adopt sports betting. New York based casinos are hoping that residents and those from neighboring states will visit their locations for the beautiful accommodations. Only time will tell whether NY gamblers opt for better proximity and spend their dollars in NJ, or stay loyal to their home state.

With advances in technology improving the security of online gambling and easing fears around issues of identity verification, it is likely that this type of gaming will continue to expand. To keep up with when laws are changing and how technology and software solutions, such as Casino Schedule Ease, are transforming the industry, be sure to keep up with our blog. You can rely on us to keep you up to date and on top of the latest trends.