Casino Watch

3 October 2002
Number of Visitors to Vegas on the Rise

Many Strip operators view the Internet as a way to get their brands in front of customers who are back home and away from Las Vegas.

If the equation also entails getting your brand in front of consumers while they are visiting the Strip, projections from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will have operators smiling.

The LVCVA projects an increase of 8.5 percent from September to December of this year compared to the same time frame in 2001. The rise would end nearly a year in declines for the industry, triggered by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Not all British Keen on Gambling Expansion Plans

With initiatives to regulate online casinos and reform the way land-based casinos operate under strong consideration, the U.K. government's intention to overhaul England's gambling laws isn't sitting well with all residents.

Felixstowe, an English town that's prepared to welcome Las Vegas-style casinos, is hearing from a number of groups opposed to casino gambling.

Church and community leaders, residents, businesses and shops have objected to a £3.2 million plan to transform the Palace bingo and cinema complex into a casino.

The Suffolk Coastal council said it has received nearly 140 letters of protest and petitions signed by more than 100 people.

Church leaders fear the new entertainment complex--which will include a 57-bedroom hotel, a casino, a cinema, arcades, bars, a restaurant, a conference suite and a fitness center--will tempt children into gambling via its arcades.

The proposed center will be across the street from the Level 2 Youth Center, which, among other things, provides counseling to children suffering from addiction.

Aussie Government Comes under Fire for Treatment of Gambling Strategy

Accusations that the federal government has watered down a national gambling strategy could end with the resignation of the committee members who crafted the plan.

The government-appointed members have accused the Family Services Minister, Amanda Vanstone, of pandering to the gambling industry in the development of a draft action plan to help problem gamblers.

They have accused industry representatives of delaying approval of the committee's draft national harm minimization strategy on problem gambling, which they said had already been agreed to.

The federal government established the committee in April 2001, following the release of the Productivity Commission's report on gambling. The draft strategy would extend existing NSW harm minimization measures and, if the industry agreed, pressure the states, which are primarily responsible for legislating gambling policy.

Motor City Casinos Oppose Tracks Plans

Three Detroit casinos are closely following developments within Michigan's legislature that would expand gambling offered at the state's horseracing tracks.

Three bills in the legislature would allow the state's seven tracks to add Vegas-style electronic gambling machines, off-track betting, telephone wagering and poker, among other things.

Detroit's casinos, which plan to spend more than $1 billion to add hotels and numerous amenities to their facilities, worry the legislation could threaten their status.

Last year was the latest in a string of down years for Michigan's race tracks. Attendance was 1.4 million, 7 percent lower than 1.5 million attendance figure reached in 2000. Gamblers bet $374.5 million in 2001, 6 percent less than the $399.3 million wagered the year before.

International Operators Watch UK Developments Closely

Probably to the dismay of residents of Felixstowe, many international casino and hotel operators have indicated that if the United Kingdom proceeds with deregulating the casino industry as planned, they will attempt to enter the British market. The deregulation process was outlined earlier this year in the white paper, "A Safe Bet for Success - Modernizing Britain's Gambling."

Sun International, which operates 24 land-based casinos worldwide as well as an online casino based in the Isle of Man, has earmarked the United Kingdom as an "extremely attractive proposition" for expansion.

Worldwide development director Mark Comley hinted that the company is looking at a number of opportunities, including destination gaming at Blackpool.

Park Place Entertainment Corporation, meanwhile, said that on completion of deregulation, it would "take action accordingly." Additionally, International gaming operator MGM Mirage said that although it has no plans at present for a casino development in England, it is always on the look out for new opportunities.