Posts Tagged ‘casino expansion’

Maine Looks to Legalize Blackjack

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

In the last couple years, many states have looked at adding blackjack tables and other table games to their slots casinos. Now Maine is the latest to join in on the action. Earlier this month, the governor signed a bill that would allow table games if the voters approve. Now politicians, casinos and lobbyists are working to convince the public that it is a good idea.

This week a new special interest group formed calling itself the Prenobscot County for Table Games and Jobs Coalition. They are launching a campaign calling for blackjack, roulette and  other table games to be allowed at the Hollywood Slots casino in Bangor, Maine. The group says adding blackjack tables would increase traffic to the casino, increase jobs and increase revenue for the government.

Currently table games are banned by state law. However, the bill signed by Governor Paul LePage placed the question of amending the law to allow table games on the November ballot. Voters will then decide on the referendum and if it is approved, the law will be amended and blackjack will come to the state of Maine. The general manager of Hollywood Slots, John Osborne, is hoping the voters approve table games. If so, he predicts that it will add 100 jobs.

Referendums like this have a good success rate. Since the casino is already there offering slot machines, there isn’t much reason to turn down its ability to offer more games, even if you are against gambling. If the referendum is approved, Maine could have its first blackjack tables in 2013.

Rhode Island looks into adding blackjack

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Rhode Island’s two casinos currently only allow slot machines, but there has been a push to bring blackjack and other table games to the slot parlors. There is currently a bill in the state legislature that would allow expanded gambling options at one of those slot parlors, which could be big for the casino.

Representative William San Bento, who is chairman of the General Assembly’s Lottery Oversight Committee, introduced a bill that would allow the Twin River slot parlor in Lincoln, Rhode Island to add blackjack, roulette, poker and other table games. No mention is made of Newport Grand, the other slot parlor in the state.

Owners of the Twin River slot parlor are hopeful that the bill will pass, but I imagine their competitors at Newport Grand, who would be at a disadvantage, are not enthused. If they add blackjack and other table games, the casino could bring in additional $100 million in tax revenue for the state.

Several states recently have expanded their casinos to allow table games, including Pennsylvania and Florida, which only allows gambling at tribal casinos. In both states, the casinos saw big increases in attendance and earnings after adding the table games.

If the bill passes, it will create a public referendum, which would be placed on the November 2012 ballot. If the voters approve of adding table games to the casino, it would be signed into law and by 2013, the casino could begin adding blackjack and other high-draw casino games. It is unknown at this time how much support the bill has in the legislature.

Atlantic City to Add Smaller Casinos?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

As business in Atlantic City’s casinos is down, some lawmakers want to add more casinos to the mix in what would be the biggest gambling expansion in the city since gambling was legalized 32 years ago. On Monday, a state law allowing the expansion could hit the floor. It is already facing stiff opposition, though.

Proponents of expansion say that adding more casinos to the market would increase demand and give people who haven’t been to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in a while a new reason to visit. Opponents say that adding more casinos would dilute the market and take business away from the established casinos in the city. On that note, the main opponents of this bill are the current casinos and their unions.

There is also another variable to consider: casino size. Currently, state law requires that casinos have a minimum of 500 rooms, with many having well over 1,000. The result is that all of the casinos are large, fancy establishments that you would expect from fine Atlantic City resorts. Under the proposed bill, the room minimum would be dropped to 200.

Proponents of the bill say that allowing smaller casinos will bring more variety to Atlantic City, which would help them compete with the smaller casinos in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The current casinos, however, disagree and say that it will do two things: 1) take business away from the existing casinos, and 2) lower the standard of the casinos in the city. They equate it to having a bad neighbor moving a trailer into their high-class luxury community. Adding smaller, cheaper casinos to the mix would change the image of Atlantic City from being one of only first-class establishments.

Bob McDevitt, president of one of those unions (Unite-HERE), says that if the bill is passed they would be “cheapening the billions and billions of dollars already invested in Atlantic City, and changing the definition of what gaming in New Jersey is.” He also said that anyone who wants to enter the nation’s second-largest gambling market (to Las Vegas), “better be able to pony up the money to do a first-class facility. Otherwise, you have no business being here.”

Proponents of gambling expansion say that adding smaller casinos will bring more people to the city, which will help all businesses, even those not related to gambling. Adding new attractions to an area is a proven way to make money, but the question about lowering the standards is a valid one. A reason given for lowering the size standards is an attempt to match the standards in competing areas in Philadelphia and Delaware, where new casinos can be added for considerably cheaper.

There’s also a question of how much money business owners are willing to pay out in advance. State Senator James Whelan, a former mayor of Atlantic City who will introduce the legislation, says that times have changed and in order to compete they need to allow smaller casinos. He says that in Philadelphia and Delaware “you can get in for tens of millions of dollars. In Atlantic City, 500 rooms costs you $800 million, minimum, and nobody’s writing checks for $800 million or $1 billion nowadays.”

Therein lies the main debate at issue. In the middle of a recession where the Atlantic City casino industry is hurting, would it be good or bad for the economy to add new, smaller casinos? Would the added variety bring new people to the area or would it make current Atlantic City customers think that their scene is no longer better than the competition? If Whelan is right, the legislation could revive a struggling economy. If he’s wrong, however, he could further hinder an economy that is already in had shape.