Casino Watch - September 2003

27 August 2003 Takes over Sponsorship of Irish Winter Festival

Leading European poker Web site has announced a sponsorship agreement with the Irish Winter Festival, to take place in Dublin in late October.

The four-day event, which will now be known as the " Irish Winter Festival," will see some of the best poker players from around the world battle it out at the Merrion Casino Club for a share of the EU200,000 prize pool, with prize money added by Ladbrokes for the first time.

Ladbrokes players can qualify for the event online through online tournaments. Each day, one online players will win a seat in a 10-player final table.

The winner of the final table will win an all expenses-paid trip to Dublin to participate in the main event, with the EU1,000 entry fee, accommodations, flights and spending money included in the package.

Over 27 million hands have been dealt through since it launched in May 2002. Ladbrokes' service is now the biggest in Europe, with up to $3 million a day staked across its tables.

Ladbrokes Poker hosts 3,000 players per day. During peak times, the site deals upwards of 10,000 hands per hour on more than 100 virtual tables.

DCMS Announces Plans for New Casinos

Portions of the gambling bill expected to go before British Parliament within the next couple of years were released earlier this month. The publicized excerpts address amended regulations for land-based casinos.

In a bid to stop proliferation of casinos on every street corner, the Department for Culture Media and Sport has proposed that any new casinos in a deregulated gambling environment must have a minimum table gaming area of 5,000 sq. ft.

The DCMS suggests two categories of casinos--small (5,000-10,000 sq. ft.) and large (more than 10,000 sq. ft.)--although any existing casinos smaller than 5,000 sq. ft. can continue to operate as "small" casinos.

The DCMS also recommends a 3-1 machine-table ratio in small casinos; the use of linked gaming machines, but not cross-site progressive jackpots; and regional planning bodies to determine the best sites for resort casinos.

Gaming Tribes Could Be Key in Upcoming California Election

Indian gaming tribes in California, as some of the state's top political donors, are poised to play a key role in the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis. California tribes have spent more money on state political campaigns than any other interest group since 1998, in excess of $120 million, and are expected to donate generously during the remaining six weeks of the recall race.

The governor who assumes office will be responsible for negotiating gaming compacts with tribes, thereby determining how much gambling will expand and how much revenue tribes will have to share.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante appears to be gaming tribes' best bet in the recall race. Bustamante has suggested that casino-owning tribes already pay a fair share of revenue to the state and that they should be allowed to operate as many slot machines as the market demands.

Harrah's Files Suit against Former Employee

Harrah's Reno filed a lawsuit alleging that a former employee stole trade secrets and passed them on to her new employer.

Harrah's claims that former employee, Kitty Chiu, printed out hundreds of computer pages containing personal information about important Harrah's clients before she left her job to assume a new marketing position at Thunder Valley Casino in the Sacramento area.

In April, Harrah's began to receive numerous reports from clients who had been solicited by mail to visit the new Thunder Valley Casino, owned by the United Auburn Indian Community and operated by Station Casinos.

Harrah's contends that Chiu breached an employment contract that prohibited her from duplicating confidential information and disclosing it to a third party and that Station Casinos knew or should have known that Chiu had acquired and used the trade secrets.

Compulsive Gambler Sues Casino

A compulsive gambler filed a $3 million lawsuit this month against the Canadian province of Ontario, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., and the company that operates Casino Niagara for encouraging him to gamble and fall further into debt and despair. After a big loss at the baccarat tables in May 2001, Gabe Macaluso remarked, "What's the sense of living?"

As a result, Casino Niagara banned Macaluso and reported him to the police suicide squad. Only two-and-a-half months after the incident, Macaluso received a phone call from an account manager at Casino Niagara inviting him back to gamble.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing," Macaluso told the Associated Press. "She said, 'Gabe, we've got good news for you: You're welcome back.'" Macaluso "went back with a vengeance" and lost more than $1 million leading to another suicidal episode, personal bankruptcy and a humiliating public scandal that ultimately lost him his job.

Macaluso filed a claim seeking $1 million in damages and $2 million in compensation from the defendants for "negligence and unlawful interference" because of economic interests.

The lawsuit is one of several that have sprung up in Ontario and Quebec in the past year designed to force governments to defend the social costs of their lucrative gambling policies.

Slot Tournaments Prove Valuable

While poker tournaments are getting all the TV coverage, slot tournaments remain incredibly popular in casinos across the United States.

The weekly Slingo Slot Tournament at Bally's in Atlantic City draws about 600 eager competitors. During the five-minute competitions, players whack the buttons and spin the reels as fast as they can in an effort to achieve the top score and $2,500 prize.

"It's all fixed," says tournament player Melvin Gonzalez. "It's the human against the microchip. You can have brains and it doesn't matter." Yet Gonzalez continues to participate, week after week.

Man U teams up with MGM Mirage

Although star player David Beckham chose to leave Manchester United in favor of Real Madrid, the English football club is proving that life will go on even without the star.

The team announced a partnership with MGM Mirage during its recent late July tour of the United States. The two companies held detailed talks on a Man U-themed casino venture, with the proposals predicated on forthcoming reforms of U.K. gaming legislation.

Grand Casino World Gets License in Lithuania

Grand Casino World, a Canadian-Lithuanian company was issued a gambling license to operate a business in Lithuania.

Company officials announced that plans are on schedule to open a new casino and leisure center on Gediminas Avenue in central Vilnius in Lithuania in early September.

The new facility will accommodate more than 20 card tables and over 100 gaming machines.