Industry notes: Macau casinos under the microscope
It used to be that public figures and companies with something to hide used to dread getting a phone call from Mike Wallace, looking for an interview for "60 Minutes." Now the incursions come from out of the blue, via Internet hackers or probers who can get access with a just a few mouse clicks.
So it was hardly a surprise when a newly-launched website (casinoleaks-macau.com) announced that it will soon begin to look into the casino industry in Macau, and suspected ties between operators and organized crime in particular. The site says that it plans to look into the shady relationship between Macau properties and junket operators, where pseudo travel agencies on the Chinese mainland recruit high rollers and guide them toward specific casinos.
Whether the website can become the WikiLeaks of Macau is anyone’s guess. A deeper look into the site’s motivations shows that it is funded, at least in part, by the Washington D.C.-based International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents heavy equipment operators, mechanics, surveyors etc. - in other words, the type of workers needed to build the type of immense hotel-casinos we see in Macau.
And it’s worth noting that two heavy hitters in Macau are Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, companies headed by notoriously anti-union bosses Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson. Much of the profit from those companies comes from their Macau interests. Adelson’s Sands has been under scrutiny after allegations of bribery involving junket operators.
Calls to casinoleaks-macau.com and the International Union of Operating Engineers were not immediately returned.
Native American tribes skeptical about legalization of online gambling
Don’t expect Native American tribes to enthusiastically support online gambling anytime soon. At last week’s iGaming North America Conference, tribal leaders confirmed the commonly-held belief that they want to tap the brakes on progress toward legalization of Internet wagering until they determine just how it would impact their interests.
Leslie Lohse of the California Tribal Business Alliance says that the rush to legalize shouldn’t mean that Native Americans get short-changed. Tribal gambling interests run deep in states coast to coast, and some have pointed out that in a state as large as California, there is competition even among separate tribes, making online legalization even more difficult.
Borgata announces major retooling of hotel rooms
As the Revel gets set for its April opening, the venerable Borgata is taking steps to make sure that Atlantic City’s other five-star property isn’t overcome by tumbleweeds. Less than nine years after its opening, the Borgata recently announced that it has embarked on a $50-million overhaul.
The property says that it will undertake improvements in all of its 1,560 guest rooms, and management is clearly hoping that upscale visitors won’t abandon the Borgata once the ribbon is cut on the Revel. Also in AC, Hard Rock International is asking regulators for a six-month extension before starting work on a new modest-sized boutique hotel. The problem, says the parent Seminole Indian tribe out of Florida, is that there have been delays in obtaining permits for the operation.
Chinese New Year boosts January revenue in Nevada
Suits in Nevada are feeling better these days after reports that gambling revenue exceeded $1 billion this past January, a whopping 18.4 percent increase over the first month of 2011. It was the first plus-$1 billion since September 2008, when the economy was cratering. Much of the take apparently stemmed from high rollers playing baccarat. Big money from China flooded the Strip to celebrate Chinese New Year (in 2011 it was celebrated in February).
Caesars dims lights to raise climate change awareness
Caesars Entertainment, which owns a good portion of center Strip in Las Vegas, has announced that it will turn off all non-essential lighting at its 40 properties world-wide between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time on March 31 to participate in the World Wildlife Federation’s Earth Hour. Each year millions of people turn off their lights for an hour to call attention to the need for action on climate change.
Virgin Islands seeks permission to build casinos
Tourism is down in the United States Virgin Islands, and locals there are pushing for the United States Senate to approve the building of casinos to jump-start their sagging economy. A Senate committee is studying the proposal, which would allow private companies to build two or three casinos on islands. Opening casinos would help level the playing field with Caribbean neighbors which do offer casino gambling at their resorts.
State conference asks Congress to stall on online play
With many states heading inexorably toward legalization of online poker and other casino games, federal efforts have taken a back seat. Just to pour a little more cold water on federal legalization, the National Conference of State Legislators has asked Congress to do nothing. Fortunately, Congressmen are experts in doing nothing, so the state politicians don’t have much to worry about.