Casino Watch - February 2004

3 February 2004
GoldenPalace Streaker hits Super Bowl

Mark Roberts made his American debut by streaking onto the field right before the second half was about to begin for Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Roberts, who makes a living streaking at various European sporting events, from the French Open to EUFA Cup matches, often does so with a slogan or the URL for popular online casino written across is back and/or chest.

The site used similar antics last summer when a busty blonde bared all at the U.S. Open golf tournament, but the Super Bowl marked Roberts' trademark entrance into a major event in the United States.

Prior to kickoff, Roberts rushed onto the field dressed in a referee outfit. He ran up near the ball and promptly peeled off his specially made uniform and was left standing there with nothing on expect his shoes and socks and a small g-string which had a plastic football strategically placed, and of course the Golden Palace URL emblazoned on his back.

He danced around on the field, while many in the crowd laughed and TV cameras stayed focused on the commentators in the booth while they filled the time.

Isle of Capri Calls for Reduction in UK Gaming Taxes

Add Isle of Capri to the growing list of U.S.-based casino operators who are calling for a reduction in taxes in the United Kingdom.

The company's president and CEO, Tim Hinkley, said the British government shouldn't assume the liberalization of gambling law in the United Kingdom will automatically lead to an influx of U.S. investment money.

British casinos are taxed at a clip of about 40 percent, and many U.S. companies want to see that figure closer to 15 percent before they move forward with any plans to expand their business in the United Kingdom.

The government hopes that gaming deregulation will create upwards of 100,000 jobs, while economists believe liberalized gaming policy could boost public finance contributions by £3 billion a year and attract £5 billion of inward investment.

Hinkley warned against repeating the mistakes of some U.S. states, where high taxes killed off development and job creation. Most new investment had flowed into those states with the lowest taxes, such as Nevada, he said.

MGM Mirage has pushed for a lower tax rate in England as well.

Mexico Could Reauthorize Casinos

It is routine for the Mexican government to revisit the idea of reauthorizing casinos on an annual basis.

But after 70-years of prohibition, some analysts say the country is closer than ever to doing so.

Still, first-year deputies in the lower chamber of Mexico's legislature may be politically motivated stumbling blocks, following in the path of their recalcitrant immediate predecessors. There are early signs that opposition party deputies in particular will drag their feet on many legislative proposals with the goal of gaining partisan advantages in the 2006 presidential and congressional elections.

Then again, with respect to gambling and games of chance, a forthcoming government action could get leaders, despite their position on casino gambling, to do something.

Draft legislation, to replace the obsolete Federal Gambling and Raffles Law of 1947, was marked up in 2002 only to be stalled by the Chamber of Deputies.

The initiative, now identified as the Federal Betting Games, Raffles and Casinos Law, includes more than 100 articles that seek to regulate all gaming in Mexico, and to thus do away with the country's many clandestine betting operations , including illegal casinos.

Aussies Like Offshore Casinos

New research from Hitwise indicates that nine of the 10 sites keeping Australian gamblers online the longest are based overseas. Hitwise reports that about 40 percent of hits by Australians gambling on the Internet are at illegal, overseas casinos and sports betting sites.

The average gambling visit lasts only about 11 minutes, but some sites regularly have punters playing for more than two hours.

The federal Interactive Gambling Act 2001 makes it illegal to provide or advertise interactive gambling sites in Australia, with fines of up to $220,000 a day for individuals and $1.1 million a day for corporations. But it is difficult to police because many sites are based overseas, and it does not apply to individuals using the sites.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority, which investigates complaints about illegal online gambling, has only identified 11 illegal Web sites it says should be filtered out by Internet service providers.

Illinois Could Become First US State to Own a Casino

Illinois will become the first U.S. state to own a casino if a radical new plan proposed by Penn National is adopted. The plan, backed by Illinos Gov. Rod Blagojevich, would put the state in the unprecedented position of regulating and owning a gambling hall.

Penn National and minority investors are proposing to build a $255 million casino, sell it to Illinois for $1, and then manage it for the state, said Cezar Froelich, a lawyer for the company.

If the gaming board accepts the bid, Illinois would own 80 percent of the casino and private investors would own the rest, he said.

In exchange, Penn National would manage the casino for 20 years and receive 10 percent of its gross revenue. Penn National expects to earn between $40 million and $50 million annually, Froelich said.

The casino would operate under Illinois' last remaining casino license, which is up for grabs. Seven companies, meanwhile, have bid for the license.

Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley have in the recent past expressed interest in the idea of having publicly owned casinos run by hired management firms.

Addiction on the Rise in Scotland, Online Casinos the culprit

Officials with Gamblers Anonymous in Scotland say participation in their meetings has doubled over the last year with many of the new addicts claiming they got hooked because of Internet gambling.

Most of the increase has been attributed to a huge growth in online gambling, with Edinburgh's relatively affluent, computer-literate population seen as particularly susceptible to the craze.

Ready availability of credit cards and relaxed banking rules allowing people to easily transfer huge sums of money into special Internet gambling accounts have also been blamed.

Battle Brewing in California

California is heading for a ferocious political showdown between the state's influential, well heeled gambling interests--the racetracks and card clubs that for decades had an exclusive hold on the business of accepting legal bets, and the Indian tribes that were granted sole rights to offer Las Vegas-style casino games nearly four years ago.

The winner of the showdown could be decided by competing initiatives being drafted for the November ballot. Regardless of the outcome, gambling is expected to grow in California.

Indian gambling alone generates an estimated annual revenue of between $4 billion and $6 billion. The total money bet at California racetracks in 2002 was $4 billion, and track officials have complained for years that they are struggling with declining revenue and participation.

This week, the state attorney general is expected to approve for circulation an initiative sponsored by 11 California card clubs and five racetracks that would require all 53 gambling tribes to pay 25 percent of their gross slot machine revenue to the state.

If one of the tribes refuses, the card clubs and racetracks will be allowed to install slot machines in their sites--a move that would break the Indian tribes' exclusive rights to offer casino-style gambling.