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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Round-Up

17 February 2003

ATLANTIC CITY -- If the State of New Jersey wants to place slot machines at racetracks, it must first ask voters to change the constitution.

That's the opinion of retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Robert Clifford, who researched the matter for Atlantic City casino operators. The casinos are fighting even the idea, proposed by Gov. James E. McGreevey, of placing video- lottery terminals at the tracks, located in a key feeder market of Atlantic City gamblers.

Clifford is now counsel to a Morristown, N.J., law firm and also a board member of Atlantic City's oldest casino, Resorts Atlantic City.

Clifford said VLTs do not fit the constitution's definition of a lottery, which "has been defined as a chance to win a prize determined by a drawing of lots," he wrote in his opinion.

The Casino Association hailed the opinion, saying it proves that neither McGreevey nor the legislature can put slots at tracks. Association President Dennis Gomes predicted that voters would reject racetrack slots once they learned of the economic harm it would cause Atlantic City casinos.

Clifford, however, failed to research a third type of VLT now used by Indian casinos in Washington and intended to be used at New York racetracks. Their VLTs use a central computer that has a fixed pool of prizes, according to two companies -- IGT and Bally -- contracted to supply New York tracks with their gaming devices

Meanwhile, the governorís new VLT commission met for the first time Friday in Trenton. Attorney General Peter Harvey said he believes that the state law would have to changed or even repealed if the governor wants VLTs.

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An influential state senator who fiercely protects the Atlantic City casino industry said McGreevey's proposed gaming taxes were doomed.

"Every one of the governor's proposals will not pass," state Sen. Bill Gormley told investors on a conference call arranged by Deutsche Bank Securities gaming analysts.

McGreevey wants to hike the gross-gaming revenue tax to 10 percent from 8 percent, impose the 6 percent state sales tax on casino complimentaries, and create a 7 percent hotel occupancy tax.

"His position is so weak on the taxes, he basically had to concede them the day after he made them," Gormley said, referring to calls McGreevey made to casino executives four days later.

The Casino Association of New Jersey, meanwhile, is making plans for television ads opposing the taxes and for editorial-board meetings with newspapers.

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The Supreme Court of New Jersey dismissed the lawsuit brought by a recovering alcoholic who claimed that Harrahís Atlantic City served him the wrong drink.

Lawrence Lemming, 65, said he was traumatized and thrown back into counseling because Harrahís served him a rum-and-Coke instead of the diet Coke he ordered.

A Harrah's lawyer said he was surprised that Lemming's case made it as far as it did.

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The price tag of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa going up, but officials say itís not because of cost overruns. They said "scope changes" and "upgrades" could add another $27.5 million to the $1.0 billion budget.

The extras include coinless slots, a racebook, poker room, employee parking garage and surface parking lot, CEO Bob Boughner said. Borgata was scheduled to open under budget without those extras, said Ellis Landau, chief financial officer of Borgata developer/operator Boyd Gaming.

Meanwhile, nearly 40,000 have applied to work at Borgata, which opens this summer.

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The Casino Control Commission added three more names to the Exclusion List, which prohibits named individuals from setting foot anywhere inside an Atlantic City casino hotel. The list now has 161 names.

Those excluded last week:

* Pete Cosoleto, also known as Petey Boxcars, a soldier in the Bonanno crime family who has an extensive criminal record over 30-plus years.

* Joseph Ligambi, alleged leader of the Philadelphia organized crime family.

* Larry Milton Mays of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., who has a history of arrests for theft, trespassing, burglary and possession of hypodermic syringes.

The commission declined to exclude Richard Juliano, whom authorities have identified as a soldier in the Gambino organized crime family. He's also been convicted of, or pled guilty to, several gambling offenses.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement asked the commission to temporarily place him in the Exclusion List last summer, but commissioners said the agency didn't present enough evidence. The DGE tried again last week, but the commission granted his request for a hearing before considering exclusion.

(Joe Weinert covers the gaming industry for The Press of Atlantic City. He can be reached at jweinert@pressofac.com.)