June Casino News Round-Up

Casino Coronavirus Update

As of early June, casinos in nine major US gaming jurisdictions, including Nevada and Pennsylvania, have begun to open back up. As more casinos open their doors, state officials are imposing limitations to ensure the safety of visitors. The most notable limitations include restricted occupancy levels, additional safety measures, and available gaming capacity. These limitations could impact Las Vegas’s push to reopen all of their hotels, restaurants, casinos and shops in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

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Besides the implementation of current safety measures, the main focus for casino owners is what economic recovery will look like. Many analysts are warning that recovery for the gaming industry will not be the V-shaped recovery that many are hopeful for. Instead, casinos have been told to expect the recovery to stretch out over the next three years. This forecast is based roughly on the expectation that reopenings will be slowed by economic headwinds and travel restraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, destination spots, such as Las Vegas and Macau, will have the slowest recovery in comparison to more regional casinos. This is due to destination spots having a greater reliance on tourism, air travel, and convention whereas regional spots can advertise as being a local, drive-in location.

For some states, implementing safety measures are not enough for government officials to grant casinos the ability to reopen. No reopening date has been set for Atlantic City’s nine casinos. Many are pointing at New Jersey as having the second-highest number of virus cases in the nation as the reason for the delayed reopening. While the casinos may still be closed, many establishments have taken advantage of Governor Murphy’s recent easing of virus restrictions and are offering outdoor dining. The Golden Nugget Atlantic City and the Landshark Bar & Grill at Resorts Casino Hotel have opened their outdoor deck for food and drinks. 

Tribal Casino Reopening News

As Native American tribes start to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, many tribal casinos are trying to figure out the best way to welcome back guests while also protecting everyone. Earlier this month, the Cherokee Nation announced that they would welcome back guests to its 10 casino properties throughout northeast Oklahoma. Based on the success of these 10 openings, the remaining 7 properties in the state will open. All properties will operate at a reduced capacity with enhanced health and safety protocols in place. Those protocols include physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, facemask requirement, and noninvasive temperature screenings for both team members and guests. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 F will not be permitted to enter the building. Furthermore, each casino floor will be closed to the public from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. everyday to accommodate deep cleaning and sanitization.

In comparison to the Cherokee, the Navajo Nation has decided to wait until July to reopen their casino operations in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. In preparation for their opening next month, the Navajo have taken additional steps to ensure the safety of all visitors and workers. This includes deep cleaning and sanitizing all of their properties. These additional steps not only apply to their casinos but were implemented across their entire reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Sports Betting Debate

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As casinos and gaming establishments attempt to recover from the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, one mode of gambling may show some promising results. Globally, sports betting is seen as an engine for economic recovery this year. 

In the United States, sport betting is now available in a number of new states. DraftKings, a sports betting and gaming provider that operates in at least nine states, has expanded into more networks. In early June, they announced a partnership with Bay Mills Resort & Casino in Michigan to enter into a new market access deal that will hopefully bring the U.S’s number one-rated mobile sportsbook to sports fans across the state. According to recent announcements, Michigan presents a number of gaming opportunities for DraftKings and they plan to collaborate with Bay Mills to provide residents with the best-in-class experience. As sports across the United States return, DraftKings aims to provide consumers with an innovative, immersive, and entertaining gaming experience. In addition to mobile and online sportsbook access, the partnership will allow Michigan sports fans to place sports bets in person at a retail betting location at Bay Mills Resort & Casino. 

In Brazil, sports betting has recently been increasingly seen as an avenue for economic growth. This hasn’t always been the case though. Brazil has traditionally resisted most forms of gambling expansion, including sports betting. However, momentum has been building towards legalizing commercial casinos in recent months. In May, Brazil’s Federal Deputy called for casinos as a way to revitalize the Brazilian economy. However, even with this recent policy change, combined with the pandemic and the realities of any bidding process, the implementation of sports betting in Brazil is expected to be delayed and most officials believe that 2021 will be a more realistic goal for making this available in Brazil. 

Updating Your Security

update casino security and administrative practices

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Reopening Plans of U.S. Casinos

Casinos have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Places such as Las Vegas, San Diego, and coastal Louisiana, which normally rely on tourism, conventions, and other mass gatherings to drive foot-traffic, have seen their sources of revenue completely disappear. Many major casino operators – such as Caesar, Wynn Resorts, and even MGM Resorts International – have had to find alternative revenue for the past two months. For many, that has involved opening up their restaurants to serve local residents via delivery and takeout options.

Hope is on the horizon though. As the national infection rate begins to slow down, many states, and casinos, are starting to reopen again. To discover what reopening will look like within the casino industry, we have decided to look into the reopening plans for the major casino operators in Las Vegas. Let’s briefly examine a couple of the casinos that have already opened this month, and touch on the closing of some casinos due to the coronavirus. 

Las Vegas’s Reopening Plan

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All across Las Vegas, casinos are trying to figure out the best solution for their guests’ safety. Earlier this month, MGM Resorts International unveiled a “seven-point safety plan” to reopen its Las Vegas casinos and hotels. This safety plan included the closure of all buffet-style meals, the new additions of plexiglass barriers and handwashing stations, and enforced physical distancing at slot machines and card tables. One other aspect of MGM Resorts’ plan includes the implementation of touchless ticketing for entertainment shows and virtual check-in and check-out for their hotels.

It is important to mention how the current proposed reopening protocols mostly address the safety needs of employees and guests, and do not directly address how the Las Vegas casino will protect entertainers who perform on its stages. Many casinos are expecting guests and hotel employees to screen themselves for coronavirus symptoms before entering. Once inside, employees will be required to wear protective masks and gloves. 

Along with rivals Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts is using their Macau casinos as a reopening model and implementing strict coronavirus screening and social distancing protocols. In all of the Wynn casinos, there will be strict rules regarding how many players can play at the same time. They will be removing some seats in the casinos, rearranging machines, or even turning some off. In addition, hand sanitizer will be offered to players at table games. 

It is predicted that many of the casinos in Las Vegas will struggle to make money under these conditions. While it is not a return to normal, it is a baby step toward that. In theory, this will help many of the major casino operators cut their losses and bring back some customers. It will however be a long road back to normalcy. 

Some Casinos Have Already Opened 

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While casinos in Las Vegas finalize their reopening plans, many casinos elsewhere in the United States have already started reopening this month. In Louisiana, state casinos were permitted to reopen their doors beginning May 18th. This marked the largest reopening so far among U.S. casino markets hampered by the coronavirus shutdown. Casinos will be limited to 25% occupancy for the time being and the games must be spaced appropriately to abide by social distancing guidelines. Louisiana’s reopening is important for another reason. Most of its gaming venues are considered regional properties, the type that is expected to rebound quicker in comparison to destination markets such as Las Vegas. Additionally, Louisiana has a history of luring customers and tourists from Texas, where there are no traditional casinos.

In addition to Louisiana, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos in North Carolina has begun a gradual reopening. As North Carolina begins to lay out a framework for easing restrictions relating to the pandemic, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and its casinos are looking forward to a return to operation, but with extensive health and safety precautions in place for the safety of employees and guests. Areas where social distancing can be practiced, such as the gaming floor, hotel and some restaurants, were the first to open.

Areas where social distancing is not possible, such as the spa, valet, poker, buffet and concerts, will remain closed until it is appropriate to reopen. Furthermore, access to the casinos is going to initially be by invitation only. During this initial phase, only invited guests will be able to make hotel reservations, or access the properties. It is expected that the number of invitations will increase over time.

Casinos Closed Permanently

COVID-19 casino closings

While most casinos in Louisiana and the United States are coming up with their reopening plans, there is at least one casino that has decided to shut its doors for good. The DiamondJacks casino in Bossier City announced earlier this month that they would permanently stay closed due to the economic devastation brought forth by the coronavirus. Officials with DiamondJacks have stated that there are currently no plans for it to switch owners or for a new investor to reopen the casino. DiamondJacks is at least the second US casino to announce its permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced all US tribal and commercial casinos to shut down as federal and local governments sought to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Lakeside Inn in Nevada announced its permanent closure in April. Only time will tell if more casinos will follow the path of MGM International and Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos or fall victim to the coronavirus and join the ranks of DiamondJacks and Lakeside Inn in permanently closing.

While we may not yet know whether there will be a second wave of the coronavirus, we are able to track the casino industry’s response and future plans. As more and more U.S. casinos continue to open, many are eagerly awaiting to see what the new normal will look like in these entertainment meccas. To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

Coronavirus Update on Las Vegas Casinos

As some states begin to flatten their coronavirus infection curve, there have been increasing calls for quarantine and social distancing rules to be relaxed. What impact that will have on the spread of the virus is uncertain at this time, but what is known is that this is a public health crisis forcing many local economies to take a nosedive. Few places were hit harder than Las Vegas, where a full one-third of the local economy is in the leisure and hospitality industry – more than in any other major metropolitan area in the country. Most of those jobs cannot be done from home. As governors and mayors across the country wrestle with the question of when and how to reopen their economies, Las Vegas faces particular pressure because of its dependence on tourism and hospitality. To discover just how hard it will be for Las Vegas to reopen, we have decided to take a closer look into the current impact the coronavirus is having on Las Vegas and the government and casino industry’s responses to reopening. 

Impact on Las Vegas

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Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all casinos and gaming facilities to close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus starting in mid-March, and has extended the order until at least the beginning of May. Since then, Las Vegas’ casinos and industry workers have been struggling to cope in this uncertain time. Across the state of Nevada, gaming companies have reported a nearly 40 percent drop in gaming revenue since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.  In Las Vegas, specifically, that number is closer to 46 percent. Nevada’s casinos reported more than $600 million in revenues in the month of April, a significant decrease compared to last year’s data. This number is expected to fall even further in May.

Nearly 350,000 Nevadans have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic, and the jobless rate in Las Vegas is a reflection of the pandemic’s impact on the casino industry. More than 98 percent of the nearly 307,000 employees represented by the Unite Here Local 226 Culinary Workers Union, which represents casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno, are currently unemployed due to the crisis. Applied Analytics, a Las Vegas-based economic research firm, has reported that the jobless rate in the city is close to 25 percent, nearly double the rate during the height of the Great Recession. Prior to March, the state had reported its lowest unemployment rate in history, 3.6 percent in February.

Government Response to Reopening

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While the coronavirus’ impact on the gaming industry in Las Vegas has been substantial, many agree that the city’s casinos should be reopened. Solutions from state and local officials, however, have been divided on how to properly respond to the crisis. Gov. Steve Sisolak announced earlier this week that decisions for reopening casinos and other nonessential businesses would be determined by the state public health standards. Specifically, the governor stated that Nevada would have to see a sustained decline in confirmed cases of the coronavirus in order to consider reopening the gaming industry.

At the same time, the mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, publicly called for casinos to reopen operations immediately and begin to formulate their own preventative measures for enforcing proper sanitation procedures and social distancing guidelines. On April 21, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released a six-page memorandum detailing procedures that the state’s gaming facilities must follow in order to reopen properly. These procedures include a formal announcement of the date and time of their planned reopening, guidelines for registering laid-off employees, as well as a detailed plan by casinos on how they plan to properly ensure the health and safety of their visitors. There is no word on whether the reopening of Las Vegas’ casinos will apply to the rescheduling of major sporting events, concerts, and shows.

Casino Responses to Reopening

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Las Vegas’ major casinos are also making their own preparations in order to safely reopen their facilities to visitors and tourists. In mid-April, the CEO of Wynn Resorts wrote an opinion article arguing that Nevada should reopen its gaming facilities, citing the state’s flailing economy and the fact that health officials in the state have noted that they have begun to flatten the curve of new coronavirus infections. Las Vegas Sands, which owns both the Venetian and Palazzo casinos on The Strip, announced that, upon reopening, it would be screening guests as they entered the hotel with thermal cameras in order to check if guests are running high temperatures, a major symptom of the coronavirus. Las Vegas’ Treasure Island casino announced earlier this week that it has begun to take guest reservations at its resort starting on May 15. For many of the casinos, their primary concern in reopening their facilities is to drive-markets in states like California, which represented roughly 23 percent of the city’s total visitation in 2018.

Looking to the Post Coronavirus Future

While we may not know when this public health crisis will be under control, we are able to track its impact on the economy and the entertainment industry. Although the governor’s last formal extension of Nevada’s stay-at-home order was extended to April 30, it is likely that Gov. Sisolak will extend the order until at least the first or second week of May. Even as almost all of the U.S. commercial and tribal casinos in the country have been temporarily closed, many are wondering what it might look like for casinos to bounce back after this pandemic is over. Hope is not lost however, as some casinos are still paying their workers or are setting up food banks for their employees and customers to take advantage of. To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

Closure of All U.S. Casinos Due to Coronavirus

With the number of infected people in the United States continuing to rise, the coronavirus has effectively changed the way that the country operates. This public health crisis is forcing the economy to a crawl and is upending entire industries — from sports to travel to entertainment. As a $261-billion-a-year industry, the casino and gambling industry have been hit hard by the coronavirus. To discover just how hard of an impact it may have, we have decided to take a closer look into the recent closure of almost all U.S. commercial and tribal casinos in the country, and what it might look like for casinos to bounce back after this pandemic is over. 

Decline in Tourism 

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https://www.cardplayer.com/poker-news/22660-las-vegas-baccarat-tables-see-460m-increase-in-wagers-last-month

In February, amid the United States’ implementation of international travel bans because of the coronavirus, some cities started to see their tourism numbers begin to drop. Las Vegas, even without all of their international clients, still had tourists flock to take pictures in front of the Fountains of Bellagio and the replica Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Inside these establishments, gamblers were still rolling dice and collecting chips and people could be seen dancing in the multistory nightclubs. 

However, this would not last long as the effects of the pandemic started to grip Sin City. Major conventions, like the National Association of Broadcasters, which draws in over 90,000 attendees each year, canceled. By the end of the second week of March, almost all conventions held in Las Vegas through May had been postponed or cancelled. 

Casinos Start to Close Their Doors

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Due to the intensifying coronavirus outbreak, and its unprecedented economic fallout, huge shutdowns within the casino industry have occurred. In total, 95 percent of all commercial casinos have announced that they will close starting this week. For example, the Wynn Resorts, a major casino operator, announced it would close its Wynn Las Vegas and Encore properties. They have also announced that all full-time employees would be paid through the temporary closures. MGM Resorts International, another major entertainment company, announced the temporary closure of all of its domestic hotels and casino operations. They will also not be accepting any reservations before the beginning of May. 

In addition to the closure of commercial casinos, the American Gambling Association (AGA) announced that at least 97 percent of the country’s 524 tribal gaming properties are closed. Those that remain open are mostly Native American convenience stores that feature gaming machines. It is important to note that while states lack the authority to force tribal casinos to shutter their operations, as the venues are on sovereign territory, almost all tribal nations that operate gaming are closing their casinos in a nationwide effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With many of the nation’s biggest attractions — from Disney World to March Madness — closing or suspending service because of the pandemic, it is unclear how long the casino gambling industry, which supports 1.8 million jobs, can last during a shutdown. 

Impact of Sweeping Coronavirus Closures

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Casinos were already feeling pinched as patrons shy away from handling chips, cash, slot machines and playing cards. Not only has consumer spending plummeted as more and more people avoid restaurants, shopping centers, and large public gatherings, but it has also sparked layoffs to occur all across the country. A prolonged shutdown of this magnitude into the summer could have shattering effects in gambling meccas such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The industry in these cities are a big regional employer and one of the top economic engines for both of these states. 

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, in 2018 about 37.6 percent of the workforce in southern Nevada were supported by tourism. The impact of the sweeping closures was felt immediately with over three times as many people filing for unemployment than normally. In an attempt to help out their workers and not have food spoil, many casino restaurants across the country have been transformed into makeshift food banks. In Las Vegas, card dealers, servers, bartenders, housekeepers and others normally keep the revelry running for over 40 million visitors a year. However, by last week, barricades were placed outside casino doors. All of the cash machines were emptied. The slot machine screens were turned off and all of the tables had been wiped down and bar stools stored away. 

Bouncing Back from the Coronavirus

However, even after the pandemic is contained, it’s hard to say how quickly casinos will be able to bounce back. For many casinos, simply opening the doors will not be enough. According to financial service company, Standard & Poor’s, even after the coronavirus is under control, casinos should expect further financial hurt as states continue to implement social distancing and travel restrictions. Nevertheless, there is more hope for regional gaming markets compared to destination markets such as Las Vegas as customers are more able to drive to local properties, rather than fly or travel long distances.  

While we may not know when this public health crisis will be under control, we are able to track its impact on the economy and the entertainment industry. Even as almost all of the U.S. commercial and tribal casinos in the country have been temporarily closed, many are wondering what it might look like for casinos to bounce back after this pandemic is over. Hope is not lost however, as some casinos are still paying their workers or are setting up food banks for their employees and customers to take advantage of. To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

How the Coronavirus is Impacting Casinos in Macau

Seven times larger than Las Vegas, Macau is dependent on the millions of tourists that come from the mainland every week. The beginning of the year is especially profitable for Macau as tourists arrive to spend the Lunar New Year holiday at the city’s baccarat tables and Michelin-starred restaurants. However, this year has not been full of guests and celebrations. Casino operators in Macau are taking a beating as fear of a new threat, the coronavirus, has caused a surge in trip cancellations to the casino hub. As a major player in the casino world, it is no wonder we have decided to take a closer look into the history of Macau, how the coronavirus is affecting this city, and what the future holds.

History of Macau

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Human settlements within the Macau region started forming around six thousand years ago. The region was settled during the Han dynasty, but it did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. The initially small population of Portuguese merchants rapidly became a growing city, and around the late 1500s, a government was formed to handle municipal affairs. Macau entered a period of decline in the 1640s following trade routes with Japan and Portugal being severed and the Portuguese revolution against Spain. For the next 300 years, it would switch between being a Chinese and Portuguese colony. 

During the mid-1900s, refugees from mainland China swelled the population of Macau as they fled from the Chinese Civil War. Access to a large workforce enabled Macau’s economy to grow. As the colony expanded, so did the textile manufacturing industry and tourism industry in Macau. This was also the period in which casino gambling became legalized in Macau. Following deadly riots in 1974, Portugal formally relinquished Macau as an overseas province. 

Returning to Chinese control in 1999, Macau became the only part of China to allow casino gambling. Almost overnight, Macau rapidly urbanized and constructed large-scale infrastructure projects, including Macau International Airport and transformed it into a thriving hub for entertainment and fine dining. In 2002, the government allowed open bidding for casino licenses to attract foreign investors. Along with an easing of travel restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors, this triggered a period of further economic growth. Gambling companies built vast casinos that now illuminate the skyline. Often compared to Las Vegas, Macau offers everything, from a miniature Eiffel Tower to a gilded-dragon cable car that floats past dancing water fountains at the Wynn Palace. 

Impact of Coronavirus

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A respiratory virus that originated in China and has already spread to more than 35 countries, the coronavirus is leaving many experts fearing a pandemic may be on the way. In Macau, authorities have already identified numerous individuals that have been sickened by this illness, among them a hotel employee at Galaxy Casino, one of the city’s busiest gambling establishments. Authorities have suspended basic public services and have urged residents not to leave their homes except to get food. To combat this virus from further spreading in the region, officials in Macau also asked its 41 casinos in early February to close for half a month. This move not only shut down the world’s largest gambling city but was also a big financial hit towards American casino operators like Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands as well as the local companies that sustain the territory’s economy. 

Since gambling accounts for four-fifths of the Macau government’s revenue, closing all casinos for 15 days is going to drastically impact yearly financial performance. It’s like closing the Las Vegas strip for 15 days, but six times over. According to some reports, the Wynn Resorts in Macau was losing as much as $2.6 million per day during the closure. Furthermore, the drop in casino revenue comes after a particularly challenging year for the companies in Macau. Slowing economic growth in both China and across the world has some worrying about reduced gambling activity this year.  

Looking Ahead

It should be noted that some analysts have downplayed the potential for the coronavirus to financially affect Macau’s casinos’ long term, pointing to how quickly gambling revenue rebounded following the SARS outbreak in 2002. However, SJM Holdings was the only major casino operator in Macau at the time and it did not have the competition from Galaxy Entertainment or Las Vegas Sands like it does today. Furthermore, there are currently no signs of when a bounce-back might come. New instances of coronavirus are still being discovered every day and the disease’s global reach is growing.

Entering this year, the consensus view among Macau casino operators was that the first half of the year would be slow before a rebounded materialized in the back half. But that outlook did not account for the coronavirus. The outbreak has now caused analysts to believe that it’s nearly impossible to project any financial projections for 2020. At the very best, the two-week closure could shave 5 to 15 percent off Macau’s gaming revenue this year. 

After taking a look at the history of Macau, it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come, but seeing how they will continue to progress in the future still remains a mystery. While most of China remains shut down by the coronavirus, the global economic outlook, the fortunes of major casinos, and the jobs of workers around the world depend on how quickly China, and Macau, is able to come back. To stay on top of the latest casino and gambling news, be sure to keep visiting the Casino Schedule Ease blog.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.