Massachusetts Casinos Blame Poker’s Absence on Dealer Shortage

Encore Boston Harbor Casino
There is a shortage of poker dealers in the Massachusetts casinos.

This was revealed by a casino executive during a Thursday hearing by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The issue was raised after the commission had received complaints from customers demanding the reintroduction of poker games at Massachusetts’ casinos.

Encore Boston and MGM Springfield, the two casinos in the state, resumed mostly normal operations last May after a difficult 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But since their full reopening, the two casinos have not brought back poker games and the commission started to notice after receiving customer complaints.

Although the two casinos said that they will make a decision on poker before the end of the year, they also insisted that they have not abandoned poker games and are currently adjusting their services based on the client demand and the capacity of their manpowe.

Said Encore Boston Harbor vice-president and general counsel Jaqui Krum to the commission:

“To be clear, we did not say never to poker. We have said just not at this time. We’re constantly readjusting our offerings based on guest demand. Throughout this difficult time, we have really tried to be agile and responsive. However, we do have limited space, and the former poker area is currently occupied by some of our highest-performing slot machines.”

“Simply Cannot Find Enough Dealers”

Krum said that reopening poker tables would cause the closure of other table games. She said that the casino just doesn’t have the staff to operate both right now. According to Krum, Encore “simply cannot find enough dealers” or other workers and has been running dealer schools almost non-stop.

The Encore executive also told commissioners that the casino has a standing offer to all of its poker dealers that the casino will pay for dealer school if they need to be trained to deal a different game in the casino. She also emphasized that Encore is not trying to cut jobs but rather to fit its offerings around the staff that it has available.

Increasing Customer Complaints

Investigations and Enforcement Bureau assistant director Bruce Band told the Commission during Thursday’s hearing that his office has received an increasing number of customer complaints. According to Band, the complaints about the lack of Poker games at Encore have grown from 4 to 5 per month to 40-50 per month in its most recent tally.

Despite that, the Commission decided that it would not take action related to poker just yet with commissioners saying that they want to give the casino operator deference to run the facility in a way that will maximize tax revenue to the state while preserving jobs that come with poker games. The commission however, asked for regular updated of the situation from Encore.

City Council Approves ONE Casino + Resort Project in Richmond

Richmond Virginia
The proposed ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond passed the City Council on a vote of 8-1 on Monday, taking it to the city’s November 2 ballot for the approval of voters.

If passed, it will become the first casino in the United States under Black ownership.

The Richmond casino is a project of Urban One Inc., a Maryland-based African-American owned media conglomerate with over 55 radio and TV stations owned including the TV One cable network, and Peninsula Pacific Network, the owner of the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium franchise and the Colonial Downs Group.

Said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in a statement on Monday:

“ONE Casino + Resort is a $562.5 million project that will create 1,300 well-paying jobs with benefits in South Richmond, and every Richmond resident will benefit from the new revenue created by the project. City Council’s vote tonight paves the way for every voting Richmond resident to have their voice heard on this important project.”

According to the office of the City Mayor, the city will now submit the preferred operator and site to the Virginia Lottery Board for pre-certification. They will also make the petition to the Richmond Circuit Court to hold the November 2 referendum.

A $562.5M Project

It is slated to be built at the former Philip Morris building off Walmsley Boulevard in the city’s South Side, near interstate 95, which is an economically deprived area in the city.

The $562.5M project includes a sportsbook, 250 hotel rooms, a 3,000 seat theater, 12 bards, a restaurant and 100,000 square feet of gaming area.

Six Richmond casino proposals were received last January but a city-appointed advisory committee recommended the ONE Casino + Resort plan to be approved by the city council after narrowing down the field.

Catalyst to the South Side

Urban One’s Richmond casino proposal is being hailed as a “catalyst to the south side” which lawmakers agree need significant infrastructure and economic development. Aside from that, it is seen as an amazing opportunity for the city overall.

According to Urban One, its Richmond casino project will create an estimated 1,300 permanent jobs which would pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour. The company will also pay an upfront $25M to the city and is expected to generate a $5.7B economic impact over its first decade of operations.

As such, the transformational project will generate millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue that can be used by the city for schools, affordable housing, development of workforce, infrastructure, and other city projects.

Eastern Band of Cherokees to Appeal Federal Ruling that Allowed Construction of Catawba Casino

North Carolina Flag
The Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indiana made an appeal last Friday contesting a federal ruling that allowed the Rock Hill-based Catawba Indian Nation to build a North Carolina casino.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Principal Chief Richard Sneed said that the tribe continues to believe that the U.S. Department of Interior violated the law in approving the Catawba casino. According to Sneed, the appeal is just “the next step in the process to ensure that justice is done”.

The Catawbas have started constructing a temporary gaming facility on the site and it is expected to open this fall. Eventually, the $273M Two Kings Casino resort will be build in the property and it is expected to create 2,600 jobs and bring an estimated $308M in economic activity.

The Cherokees’ Argument

The Cherokee have argued that there is no precedent for the federal government to take land into trust that isn’t connected to and is located across the state lines from existing tribal lands. Meanwhile, both the Cherokee and Catawba claimed that the property in question is located one their ancestral lands and that the other tribe has no claim over it.

In its case to state and federal representatives, the Cherokee Bank of Indians also stated that the planned Catawba casino would strike a big blow to their thriving casino business. The Cherokees estimated that the new Catawba casino would lead to a potential revenue loss of $100M per year.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are a federally-recognized Indian tribe based in West North Carolina. They own the only other casinos permitted by the state, with both casinos located in the North Carolina Mountains.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino operates west of Asheville, near Maggie Valley which is three hours west of Charlotte. Meanwhile, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino is near Georgia and Tennessee and is a four-hour drive from Charlotte.

South Dakota Gaming Commission Approves Deadwood Sports Betting Rules

Two Attractions Near Deadwood South Dakota

The South Dakota Gaming commission approved on Tuesday the revised rules for the legalization of sports betting in Deadwood beginning July 1st.

The new guidelines will now head to the state Legislature’s Interim Rules Review Committee for a June hearing before it becomes active. According to Deadwood Gaming Commission attorney Douglas Abraham, applications will be available on the Commission’s website by Friday but they will not be approved until July 1.

Said commission attorney Mike Shaw:

“The commission will need additional rules before sports wagering can start sometime after July 1. We’re on track to get sports wagering rolling as quickly as we can.”

New Rules

Among the new rules created on Tuesday was a $5,000 application fee for Deadwood sports betting service providers. Another prohibits associated equipment licensees and sports betting providers or licensees hired by sports betting providers from placing bets on sporting events. The rules also added sports betting to the list of legal gaming in Deadwood.

A third addition was the monitoring of Deadwood sports betting areas via closed-circuit surveillance systems during operating hours. Another amendment offered during the discussion was to define how the adjusted gross revenue for Deadwood sports betting would be computed. The change was made to clarify that “free play” rewards and excise tax would be deducted from revenue figures.

Senate Bill 44

In November 2020, South Dakota voters approved Constitutional Amendment B, which authorized the Legislature to enact a law that would legalize Deadwood sports betting. The amendment also extends to Native American casinos in the state, as provided by law.

Following the will of the voting public, The Legislature passed Senate Bill 44 which was supported by the Department of Revenue in consultation with the Deadwood Gaming Association. Gov. Kristi Noem signed the bill into a law last March 18, to take effect on the 1st of July this year.

Gun Lake Casino in Michigan Unveils $300M Expansion

Man With Spyglass and a Gun Lake Casino Image
The Gun Lake Tribe announced on Monday a $300M expansion plan that will transform its property in Wayland, Michigan to a resort casino.

Gun Lake Casino is set to add 250,000 square feet of gaming that will extend the property west toward US – 131. The project is expected to begin after its current project is expected to complete late this summer.

Said Gun Lake Tribe chairman Bob Peters in a statement:

“We are proud of the continued growth of Gun Lake Casino which is directly connected to the outstanding effort of our team members. The tribe remains steadfastly committed to reinvest in our collective future, for the benefit of tribal citizens, team members and the local community. This will provide even more employment opportunities and enhance Gun Lake Casino’s position as a tourism driver for western Michigan.”

Biggest Expansion Ever

The Gun Lake Casino has undergone several expansions since it opened in 2011. The current $100M expansion that kicked off in 2019 involves a 72,000 square foot area where 450 additional slot machines, 12 new table games, and a larger non-smoking area inside the casino. However, the planned $300M expansion will be its largest ever.

The $300M expansion is expected to include a 250 room hotel with luxury suites, dining options, and a full service spa. The casino is also planning to recreate its version of a year-round island oasis with a glass-domed pool. Guests will be able to rent private cabanas by the pool during the day. At night, the place will have a night life public entertainment space with DJs, live music, and dancing.

Contributions to the Economy

According to a report released by the Tribe last February, the Gun Lake Casino has contributed more than $2.8B for the economy of the Wolverine State since its opening on February 20, 2011. In that report, the tribe says that they have already inverted a total of $415M in the casino while directly pays $502M in employee wages.

Nearby towns and cities also benefit from the operation of the Gun Lake Casino through revenue sharing which totaled $35M in the past decade that it has operated. Last December, it distributed a total of $5.7M to state and local governments, despite shutting down for three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legends Bay Casino in Sparks Has Broken Ground

Pennsylvania Casinos

Olympia Gaming announced on Wednesday that the long-planned Legends Bay Casino in Sparks has broken ground.

The Sparks casino, located adjacent to I-80 at Sparks Boulevard in The Outlets and Legends shopping center, approximately 15 minutes from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, is the first casino built from the ground up in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan in the last 26 years. Construction is expected to be completed in 2022.

Said Olympia Gaming Chief Operating Officer DeCourcy Graham in a statement:

“This project is 14 years in the making. After successfully completing the first phase of this project with the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton and the Residence Inn by Marriott, we are now in a position to begin the next phase of development. We thank the City of Sparks and RED Development for helping bring this project to reality. We plan to build a project that the community will be proud to call their own.”

Part of the Original Plan

The Sparks casino was part of the original plan of the shopping complex that opened in 2009 but construction was put on hold due to the recession and the decline in casino revenues in the Reno-Sparks area due to competition from tribal casinos in Northern California.

Since then, it has taken more than a decade of planning. In October 2020, Olympia Gaming received an approval to change its original floor plan of the exterior of the Legends Bay Casino. The ongoing pandemic held back construction plans for the Sparks casino. But with the state of Nevada slowly easing restrictions, the project has finally broken ground.

Integrated to The Outlets at Legends

The 80,000 square foot property will include a a casino equipped with new slot machine technologies, a variety of table games, multiple dining options, a handful of bars, a sportsbook, plus large space and valet parking.

Olympia Gaming officials said that the planned casino will be seamlessly integrated to The Outlets at Legends shopping mall to provide its guests with retail and entertainment options aside from enjoying its casino games. According to Graham, having a casino experience at the heart of the shopping center is a big “opportunity” for the company.

Stardust Casino to Be Launched in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Old Photo of the Stardust Sign in Las Vegas

The legendary gaming brand Stardust Casino will be resurrected as an online gaming option in Pennsylvania.

This was announced on Monday by a group led by Boyd Gaming and FanDuel. Pending regulatory approvals, the consortium plans to launch its online platform in April. At the same time, it was also announced that FanDuel’s Betfair Casino in New Jersey will be rebranded to the Stardust name.

A single Stardust App will be used for both states. This will be available via IOS, Google Play, and the website stardustcasino.com It will feature a wide range of slots and table games, including a live dealer version of those.

Said Keith Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Gaming:

“For nearly 50 years, the Stardust was one of the most famous casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. And while the resort has been gone for more than a decade, the Stardust brand is still as well-known and popular as ever. We are excited to work with our partners at FanDuel to launch our first real-money online casinos and are confident this legendary brand will give us a significant advantage in connecting with players looking for a distinctive online gaming experience.”

15th iGaming Platform in Pennsylvania

If no other iGaming platform launches between now and April, the Stardust online casino will be the 15th of its kind in Pennsylvania after BetMGM launched its Borgata brand last month.

Boyd Gaming owns the Valley Forge Casino Resort in Pennsylvania through which FanDuel operates an online platform that accommodates sports betting and casino games. That FanDuel site is expected to be retained while the Stardust online casino, which will operate without a sportsbook, uses a second iCasino skin belonging to Boyd Gaming.

Boyd’s First Venture in Online Gaming Industry

Founded in 1975, Boyd Gaming has a total of 28 gambling properties across 10 U.S. states. But despite its casino operations being geographically diversified, the Stardust Online casino is Boyd Gaming’s first venture in the online gaming industry.

Boyd Gaming owns 5% equity in the FanDuel Group so there was no surprise why it picked the sportsbetting operator as partner for this new endeavor. FanDuel’s proprietary front-end, apps, and player management system will be used in the Stardust project and those will be linked to Boyd’s B Connected player loyalty program.

One of Las Vegas’ Most Iconic Casinos

The Stardust was one of Las Vegas’ most iconic casinos and it played a big part in Las Vegas being branded as “Sin City”. Conceived by Italian-born businessman Tony Cornero who was a gambling entrepreneur during the 1920s to 1950s, Stardust began construction in 1954. After Cornero died in 1954, the unfinished casino changed ownership several times before Rella Factor acquired the resort and finished the project. The Stardust finally opened in 1958.

In 1985, the Strip property was bought by Boyd Gaming and kept ownership until 2006 when the Stardust was closed. Boyd revealed plans to build a $4.8B resort called Echelon Place on the former Stardust site but the Great Recession ended its ambitions. The former Stardust site remained a vacant lot until it was bought by the Genting Group in 2013 as the site of its Resort World Las Vegas property.

Alabama Gambling Bill Expected to be Debated in Senate This Week

Alabama State Seal With a Casino Background

Alabama Gambling Bill Expected to be Debated in Senate This Week

Republican senator Del Marsh expects that the senate will debate on his Alabama gambling bill next week. The discussion is aimed at pushing casino gaming and sports betting before the voters for the first time in 22 years.

The senate debate, which is expected to happen on Tuesday, is the bill’s first major test.

Said Marsh:

“I do believe we will have a bill that will get out of the Senate this week. Then we’ll just work it in the House.”

Establishment of Lottery and Casino Games

The bill, which was filed by Sen. Del Marsh earlier this month, would allow Alabamians to vote on he establishment of a lottery and the expansion of gaming in the state. It proposes the establishment of an education lottery that would generate revenues for scholarships. A gaming trust fund is also to be created to receive gaming funds and commissions and regulate gaming activities within Alabama.

It also seeks to limit gaming to five locations: a new site in Jackson or Dekalb counties, Birmingham Race Course, Victoryland in Shorter, Greenetrack in Eutaw, and Mobile Greyhound Park. The locations would be allowed to conduct “casino-style games” including slot machines and table games. Sports wagering could also be allowed in the five locations, subject to a compact, on land held in trust for the Poarch Bank of Creek Indians.

Sen. Marsh’s Focus on Gambling Bill

Marsh stepped down as president pro tem of the senate to focus on legislation, particularly the Alabama gambling bill. In order for Marsh’s proposal to pass, it needs to be approved by a three-fifths majority of each chamber of the Alabama legislature and then by a majority of voters in a statewide ballot.

Alabama is just one of five states in the U.S. that does not operate a state lottery. Alabamians last voted on gambling in 1999 when they rejected a proposal by then Gov. Don Siegelman. Since then, gambling bills have come up short due to a conservative opposition to gambling and a turf war on which entities could operate casino games or electronic bingo machines.

Tennessee Lottery Approves Two More Sports Betting Operators

Two Laptops Showing Sports in Front of a Pile of Money
The online-only Tennessee sports betting industry just got bigger last week with the addition of two more online gambling operators.

In an announcement made last Friday, the Tennessee Lottery’s Sports Wagering Committee has approved licenses for two more Tennessee sports betting online operators, bringing the total number of online sports betting options in the Volunteer state to seven.

Lottery CEO Rebecca Hargrove revealed that Willian Hill and Wynn Sports have been granted permission by the Commission to commence Tennessee sports betting activities. However, Hargrove added that the two new players and Churchill Downs won’t have their sportsbooks live when the NFL plays it championship game next weekend at Super Bowl LV. DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Tennessee Action 24/7 are the four sportsbooks ready to accept Super Bowl bets in the Volunteer State.

Affected by Christmas Day Explosion

A reason why one of the new Tennessee sports betting company won’t be able to go live on February 7th is the fact that its server was affected by the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville. The blast injured a dozen people and saw several buildings damaged. While the operator was not identified, the issue with its Nashville server isn’t expected to be resolved in time for SuperBowl Sunday.

Meanwhile, Churchill Downs received approval in early January. It will operate under a BetAmerica sportsbook that is being rebranded as TwinSpires but the company has not set a launch date. WynnBET Tennessee has likewise not announced when it will go live while William Hill is expected to commence operations next month.

$180M December Handle

Tennessee passed the United States’ first online-only legal sports betting law in 2019 with Republican Governor Bill Lee allowing the bill to pass without his signature. The law took effect that summer with the Lottery tasked to administer Tennessee sports betting. Online sports betting began last November for people 21 and over who are physically in the boundaries of the Volunteer state.

Last Tuesday, the Tennessee Lottery reported a December 2020 betting handle of $180.9M which represented a 37.7% increase from the state’s $131.4M haul in its debut month last November. Gross payouts in December were recorded at $167M which was a significant 41% increase from the previous month’s $118.2M. The state received a privilege tax of $3.1M for December 2020, a 29.2% increase from November’s $2.4M figures.

Rhode Island Casinos Reopen After Three-Week Closure

Casino Floor In Michigan

With Rhode Island’s three-week shutdown over, Bally’s Corporation has reopened its two casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton effective Monday, December 21, 2020.

Table games, slot machines, stadium gaming, and virtual table games are now open at the Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln and the Tiverton Casino Hotel property. But while the racebook in Lincoln is also now operational, the one at Tiverton is still closed. Lincoln’s poker room will remain closed and the same also goes for the two hotels, Event Center in Lincoln, Valet, Entertainment offerings, and some restaurants.

Both properties will be operating from from 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. from Sundays to Thursdays and 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. during Fridays and Saturdays.

Said Marc Crisafulli, Executive Vice president of Bally’s Corporation and president of its Rhode Island casinos:

“We are incredibly excited to welcome back our guests to both of our Rhode Island casinos and to do so in a safe manner. The health and safety of our customers and employees continues to be our priority and we wish to underscore that all safety and health protocols remain in place.”

Reopening Protocols

With Rhode Island still having one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Bally’s Corporation has established reopening protocols to protect their guests and employees. These include temperature checking, the mandatory wearing of facemasks inside the properties.

If a guest does not have a face mask, the Rhode Island casino will provide one for him/her. Temperature checking will be done via non-invasive thermal cameras or temporal thermometer. Guests or employees who have a temperature of above 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to enter the casino premises. As for employees Twin River employees will be screened daily and those who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to work on that particular day.

Social Distancing Measures

Likewise, the Rhode Island casinos are implementing strict social distancing measures. Guests are not permitted to be within less than six feet from other guests not belonging to their party. The same distance must be maintained while standing in lines, using ATMS, elevators, kiosks, or moving around the casino floor.

Slot machines are also separated six feet apart as are stadium gaming, or virtual table games. The food court will be open but it will also have limited seating capacity. Meanwhile, beverages will be served using disposable cups. Plexiglass barriers also separate players.