Category Archives: Casino

The saga continues: Elaine Wynn sues Wynn Resorts


This really shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone. Ahead of Wynn Resorts’ annual general meeting, scheduled to be held this month, Elaine Wynn has decided to sue the company for not releasing its shareholder records.

The saga continues: Elaine Wynn sues Wynn ResortsWynn, who became the largest shareholder after her ex-husband, Steve Wynn, resigned from the company, filed the suit in Nevada. She is hoping to get the courts to obligate the company to release all shareholder material to which she is legally entitled. The suit also requests that the annual meeting be postponed until the lawsuit is settled.

According to Nevada law, Elaine Wynn is entitled to see the names, contact information and number of shares owned by each common stock owner of the company, provided the individual has authorized the release of the information. A representative for Wynn stated, “Providing the NOBO [non-objecting beneficial owner] list is standard practice under Delaware law and both federal and state courts have ruled that shareholders of a Nevada corporation are entitled to the list.”

The representative added, “Ms [sic] Wynn believes that the requested NOBO list is in the company’s possession and would not require the company to expend additional time or cost to produce. Moreover, she believes that the company is actively using this very list to communicate directly with Wynn Resorts’ shareholders—something Ms [sic] Wynn is unable to do, even though she is the company’s largest shareholder.”

Elaine Wynn recently started a campaign to have the current company’s director, John J Hagenbuch, removed at the end of his term this month. She sent a letter to all shareholders, requesting that they join her “Withhold the vote” campaign, in an effort to remove some of the “legacy directors from the board.

About Hagenbuch, Wynn stated in the letter, “He was on the compensation committee when Mr [sic] Wynn’s pay was called into question in 2015,” adding that, “The company did not hold a say-on-pay vote in 2015 or 2016 and at last year’s annual meeting, the say-on-pay proposal received only 59% support. This puts the company in the lowest 10% of Russell 3000 companies holding say-on-pay votes in 2017.”

There’s no love lost between Elaine Wynn and the current board of directors. The disdain on both sides of the table is evident; however, as a majority shareholder, she has a strong chance of being able to get her way. The ongoing saga continues, so stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode.

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Wynn Resorts strips Wynn name from Boston Harbor project


wynn-resorts-encore-boston-harbor-casinoCasino operator Wynn Resorts is renaming its half-finished Massachusetts casino project to further distance itself from its former chairman’s sexual harassment allegations.

On Friday, Wynn CEO Steve Maddox met with members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to discuss removing Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn’s name from the gaming license of the $2.4b Wynn Boston Harbor resort casino project in Everett, just north of Boston, which is scheduled to open in June 2019.

Wynn Resorts suggested in March that a rebrand of the property was likely. At Friday’s hearing, Maddox announced that the property would now be known as Encore Boston Harbor. Encore is the name of a resort property that opened in 2008 as the second phase of the Wynn Las Vegas resort.

Maddox told the MGC members that while “the Wynn brand is strong,’ he also understood “the cultural sensitivity” surrounding the numerous harassment allegations brought against Steve Wynn this year by female staff members.

Steve resigned in February and has sold off his entire holdings in the casino company. Maddox told the MGC that the company now had “no business association with Steve Wynn,” yet this separation, whether in terms of business and branding, may not be enough to ensure the company retains control over the Everett project.

The MGC hope to make a ruling on removing Steve’s name from the gaming license next week, but that’s a separate issue from the ongoing probe the MGC is conducting into how much Wynn’s senior management knew about the allegations against their former leader. Should the MGC not like what its probe uncovers, it could declare Wynn Resorts unsuitable to operate gaming in Massachusetts.

Should that worst-case scenario play out, it’s unknown who might take over the unfinished Everett project. On Thursday, rival MGM Resorts, which is opening its own Massachusetts casino this August, played down reports that it was planning on swapping projects, insisting it was committed to its own MGM Springfield project.

The Mohegan Tribe, whose casino properties include the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and which unsuccessfully vied for the sole Boston-area casino license that Wynn received, told The Day that it remained interested in setting up shop in Boston, should that sole license go back on the market.

However, the MMCT Joint Venture between the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation that is building a casino in northern Connecticut close to MGM Springfield, shot down media reports that it would be interested in taking over the Springfield property should MGM take over the Everett project. An MMCT spokesperson called such reports “rumor mill trash.”

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Japanese regulators lower casino chip exchange reporting requirements


Governments around the globe have taken a serious interest in trying to curtail the amount of money laundering that is supposedly plaguing the gaming industry. Canada and British Columbia have been busily enacting legislation to prevent repeats of the negative publicity surrounding questionable activity at the River Rock Casino, and the U.S., the UK and Australia have also been exploring changes in policies to help clean up the system. Japan is now joining the fight, and recently ordered changes in reporting guidelines at casinos in the country.

Japanese regulators lower casino chip exchange reporting requirementsOperators of future casinos in Japan will be obligated to report customers who exchange chips worth $9,500 (¥1 million) or more. Regulators are responding to concerns that the casinos will be havens for the exchange of “dirty money” that is used for money laundering or financing terrorism. The new casinos are slated to be opened in integrated resorts in an effort to bring in more international tourism to the island nation.

Anyone who buys or cashes chips worth $9,500 or more will have to provide their name, address and birth date to casino operators. This information will then be turned over to a casino management committee, which will be created at a later date by the government. That entity will catalog the data and investigate any instances that raise flags, such as repeated high-dollar exchanges.

Japan isn’t the first country to introduce these money-laundering countermeasures. In the U.S., Nevada regulators require that casinos follow the same guidelines, and in Singapore the amount is less, at roughly $7,600. Macau has also placed restrictions on exchanges, with Large-Amount Transaction Reports being required for exchanges by junkets of more than around $62,000. Suspicious Transaction Reports are more vague, and are required for any transaction that is thought to be associated with money laundering.

Money laundering is big business. In 2012, a report by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that money-laundering activities amounted to as much as $3.6 trillion per year. That report brought about changes to multiple industries, including gambling, corporate reporting and banking.

Japan is set to re-enter the gambling market with the new casinos. Almost all forms of gambling, except pachinko and horseracing, have been prohibited. However, a change of heart by the Japanese parliament has opened the doors for casinos to enter the country. If everything goes according to plan, Japan anticipates an increase in tourism that jumps by 16 million visitors by the year 2020, up from the 24 million recorded in 2016.

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Resorts World Catskills moves up launch date; del Lago downgrade


resorts-world-catskills-casinoNew York state’s newest casino Resorts World Catskills is moving up its launch date to coincide with the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration.

On Thursday, Montreign Operating Co LLC, a subsidiary of Empire Resorts Inc, which is itself controlled by Malaysian conglomerate Genting, announced it was moving up the grand opening of Resorts World Catskills from March 1 to February 8 (pending regulatory approval).

The casino has decided it wants to time its opening with the arrival of the Chinese Year of the Dog, which officially gets underway on February 16. The Catskills venue is located 90 miles north of New York City, and the venue evidently hopes to lure many of the Big Apple’s Chinese ex-pat community as well as any high-rolling international guests who may land at JFK.

The property’s Lunar New Year plans include a traditional dragon dance and what Resorts World Catskills CEO Ryan Eller called “red envelope surprises,’ while the 100k-square-foot casino floor will devote at least 30% of its space to Asian-centric table games.

If you still had doubts as to what type of clientele the casino hopes to attract, the casino also announced that is official address would be 888 Resorts World Drive. The company noted that, in certain cultures (ahem), three eights symbolize good fortune and prosperity, and the new address is intended to “signify the resort’s anticipated good luck of its future patrons.”

MOODY’S BEARISH ON DEL LAGO’S FUTURE
Resorts World Catskills will be the fourth commercial casino launched since New York approved new non-tribal casinos in 2015. So far, these properties have performed far below their original revenue projections, leading to concerns of market saturation.

Making matters worse, the Oneida Nation plans to open its third gaming venue on March 1, which will bring the state’s total complement of casinos and racinos to 19. The Oneida’s new 65k-square-foot Point Place Casino near Syracuse will feature 500 slots and 20 gaming tables, in addition to restaurant and bar options.

Last week, Moody’s Investors Service cut the outlook of the new del Lago Resort Casino in Finger Lakes to ‘negative,’ based on the $100m shortfall in the venue’s projected first-year revenue.

While Moody’s said it was confident that del Lago could continue to pay the interest on its bank loans for a while longer, “without a substantial improvement in revenue, del Lago will not be able to achieve a level of performance that can support its existing debt capital structure.”

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PAGCOR 2017 gaming revenue close to $1.19B


Gross revenue of state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) grew by 7 percent in 2017 on the back of a strong performance by the casino sector.

PAGCOR 2017 gaming revenue close to $1.19BPAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo announced that the state regulator pocketed “close to PHP60 billion (US$1.19 billion)” in 2017, which was slightly below the target. Nevertheless, last year’s sum was higher than the PHP55.06 billion ($1.09 billion) PAGCOR posted in 2016.

The chunk of PAGCOR’s 2017 gaming revenue came from its 46 casino properties, which raked in PHP22.44 billion ($444.6 million). PAGCOR-licensed casino fees contributed another PHP19.27 billion ($382.5 million).

Traditional bingo and e-bingo licensees gave PAGCOR PHP9.45 billion ($187.58 million), while the state regulator’s share from other gaming licensees such as e-games, poker, junket operations was at PHP5.50 billion ($109.17 million).

Internationally licensed online gambling operators contributed PHP3.14 billion ($62.32 million).

“Although the biggest chunk in the agency’s revenues still comes from PAGCOR-operated casinos, the licensed casinos also contributed significantly,” Domingo told CalvinAyre.com in an e-mail.

On Thursday, PAGCOR held a celebratory cocktails and dinner soirée for its licensees and paid tribute to their social and economic contributions to the country. Among those who graced the occasion were Filipino casino mogul Enrique Razon and neophyte casino operator Dennis Uy, whose company plans to build a $341 million casino on the island of Cebu.

The Philippine News Agency reported that President Rodrigo Duterte reminded the operators in attendance that they may expand their business in the country as long as they shun graft and corruption.

Acknowledging that corruption remains a perennial problem in the country, Duterte encouraged gambling operators to report all cases of corruption directly to him, to his officials, or through the Citizens’ Complaint Hotline.

“Please do not give them [government officials] the luxury of extortion. All you have to do is just you can call anybody in government… And I will take care of it,” he said, according to the news outlet. “All I have to do is for you to cooperate and I said do not give in to extortionist. Be it the police, the BIR, Customs. If I learn that you engage in corruption, I’ll make it hard for you.”

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VIP, premium mass drive Macau’s gaming revenue up 23% in November


November marks the 16th consecutive month of growth for the world’s gambling hub of Macau.

VIP, premium mass drive Macau’s gaming revenue up 23% in NovemberCasino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in the city state grew 22.6 percent year-on-year in November to reach MOP23 billion (US$2.9 billion), according to data released by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ). The November GGR result beat analysts’ growth estimates of 19 percent.

The latest figures brings Macau’s market tally for the first 11 months of 2017 to MOP243.04 billion, up 19.5 percent compared to the same period last year, government data showed. The 11-month total has also surpassed the MOP223.2 billion GGR that the city state’s casinos recorded for the full 2016.

High end visitors—VIPs and premium mass—are driving Macau’s growth, according to analysts who have observed “higher quality visitors replacing lower quality visitors” in the gambling hub.

“Based on our recent on-the-ground conversations with those in the VIP space we believe that VIP could likely be a 20%+ grower in 2018. With mass likely to be a 10%+ grower in 2018, the market is shaping up to see mid-teens growth next year,” Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen said in a note.

Cheap, but high quality rooms are helping bring “better quality gaming customers” to Macau, even though the city state itself isn’t “materially busier” in the tourist areas, according to the analyst.

“Ultimately, having a greater number of hotel rooms available to marketing teams that can then be allocated to high quality players is a significant factor in the broader swapping of lower quality customers for higher quality customers,” said Govertsen.

December is expected to bring even better number for the gambling enclave. Aside from historically being a seasonally stronger month than November, this year’s December also comes with one additional Sunday. Because of this, Union Gaming analysts forecast 23 percent growth for the month, bringing the GGR to upwards of 20 percent for the full year.

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Connecticut, two tribes go to war vs. fed gov’t over casino delay


zinke-sued-connecticut-gaming-tribes-casinoConnecticut’s two gaming tribes have joined the state in suing the federal government over delays in approving a new casino project.

On Wednesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the filing of a lawsuit in US District Court in Washington, DC against the US Department of Interior and Secretary Ryan Zinke (pictured).

The suit is intended to give a swift kick to the backside of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which has been slow-rolling approval of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ joint venture casino project in East Windsor.

At issue is whether the new casino would violate the tribes’ existing gaming compacts with the state, which guarantee the tribes’ slot exclusivity and prohibit the authorization of any new commercial casino project.

With the backing of the tribes, who individually operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, the state approved legislation this summer to amend the compacts and approve the new casino, which is to be built off tribal land near the state’s border with Massachusetts. However, the legislation was conditional on receiving the BIA’s approval of the amended compacts.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) requires the BIA to either approve or disapprove the amended compacts within 45 days but Zinke has so far refused to issue a final ruling. In September, a BIA official said the bureau saw no reason to weigh in on a commercial casino project. The state’s lawsuit asks the court to order Zinke to publish a notice of approval of the amended compacts.

The tribes, who have argued that the BIA’s inability to reach a decision is a variation on ‘silence = consent,’ announced earlier this month that they planned to commence construction on the project by the end of the year.

The new casino is intended as a hedge to keep Connecticut gamblers from flocking across the border to MGM Springfield, the flashy $960m MGM Resorts property that will open in Massachusetts next September.

MGM has fought against approval of the new tribal casino and MGM legal counsel Uri Clinton told Hartford Business that the tribes were mistaken regarding Zinke having violated IGRA’s edicts.

According to Clinton, Zinke’s inaction maintains the status quo, and “approving a new, third casino is the opposite of maintaining the status quo … No lawsuit, not even one backed by the governor, changes those basic facts.”

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Bloomberry set for record year as mass market buoys Solaire’s Q3


bloomberry-resorts-solaire-casino-razonPhilippine casino operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp reported Q3 profits rising nearly one-third based on a thriving mass market business at its flagship Manila integrated resort.

On Thursday, Bloomberry released its Q3 earnings report, which showed revenue of P9.6b (US $187.2m) in the three months ending September 30, a 22.3% rise over the same period last year. Earnings were up 33% to P3.4b, while net profits rose 31% to P1.85b.

Business was booming at Bloomberry’s Solare Resort & Casino in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming district. Mass table drop was up 22% year-on-year to P9.7b, a new quarterly record, while mass electronic gaming machine (EGM) coin-in shot up 38% to P49.7b, also a record.

Solaire’s VIP gaming turnover declined 13% but VIP revenue improved 14% to P5.4b based on Q3 2016 having endured a pitifully low 2.16% VIP win rate, which rebounded to 2.83% in the most recent quarter. And while turnover and revenue were both down from Q2, the VIP turnover figure still ranked third-best since Solaire opened in 2013.

Jeju Sun Hotel & Casino, Bloomberry’s South Korean property, reported its first ever positive quarterly earnings since Bloomberry acquired the property in 2015. Jeju Sun’s gross gaming revenue was up a whopping 436% to P151m, as the property was wholly preoccupied last year with its ultimately aborted sale to a Macau junket operator.

Bloomberry boss Enrique Razon Jr. (pictured) hailed his company’s ongoing growth and held out hope that this “uptrend” would persist through the remainder of 2017. “Our top line and bottom lines are positive and, despite some minor hiccups, I am confident that 2017 will be a banner year.”

Year-to-date figures are rosy indeed, with revenue up 28% to P28b, earnings up 30% to P10.2b and profits jumping 275% to just under P6b.

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Brazil police raid Winfil casino for offering real-money gambling


brazil-police-raid-winfil-casinoA Brazilian brick-and-mortar casino operator’s impetuousness has brought down the long arm of the law.

Last week, Grupo Pefaco opened its Winfil casino in Porto Alegre, but its 460 slot machines were restricted to ‘demonstration’ mode, i.e. free-play gambling only, due to Brazil having yet to explicitly authorize real-money casino gambling.

But Saturday saw the casino commence real-money gambling based on a court injunction barring local law enforcement from seizing any of Winfil’s gaming machines. However, the judge who issued that injunction told local media on Monday that her injunction applied only if the machines were still in demonstration mode and had offered no comment regarding the illegality of casino gambling.

As one might expect, the authorities didn’t tolerate Winfil’s boldness for long. Brazilian affiliate Games Magazine Brasil reported that officers from the Civil Police and the state Prosecutor’s Office rolled up in “dozens” of vehicles to disrupt the goings-on, much to the dismay of the casino’s patrons, who chanted ‘we just want to play.’ (See video at bottom of page, which includes said chanting as well as the furious but ultimately futile arguments of Winfil’s lawyers.)

The authorities reportedly took no chances of clashing with the injunction barring them from seizing gaming machines by producing warrants referencing “objects directly related to the exploitation of games of chance.”

In practice, this meant the cops left the machines where they stood but seized the money inside the machines as well as their controller boards, effectively leaving Winfil with row after row of mute cabinets and monitors.

Winfil executives were reportedly detained and taken to the local booking facility where they were required to sign documents acknowledging their wicked, wicked ways.

Brazil is currently in the process of approving sweeping gambling reforms, which will reportedly include the authorization of multiple casinos across the country. There are two competing gaming bills in each house of the bicameral legislature, and the Chamber of Deputies has promised to bring its version to the floor for a vote in November.