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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Roundup

23 March 2004

ATLANTIC CITY -- Against the odds with which they are so familiar, dealers at Bally's, Caesars and Hilton in Atlantic City are attempting to unionize.

Dealers at three Caesars Entertainment casinos are handing out pledge cards to join Teamsters Local 331, which has failed in past attempts to unionize Atlantic City dealers and which has a rocky relationship with Caesars.

"As (Caesars) takes over other casinos and gets larger, they became more ruthless. They can change the rules and take away benefits any time they want. We have no protection," said a longtime Bally's dealer.

Caesars Entertainment employs 3,000 dealers in Atlantic City. Spokesman Robert Stewart said his company "stands on our record as an employer."

"Caesars Entertainment clearly recognizes the right of its employees to organize. However, we think that given the nature of the relationship we have with our dealers, we think we're better off dealing with each other than by injecting a third party," Stewart said.

Local 331 President Joseph Yeoman said he wants at least half of the dealers to sign pledge cards before he petitions for a vote. He would not say how many have signed.

"I think it's been going pretty good," Yeoman said.

Local 331 in 1996 lost by two votes a bid to organize Tropicana dealers. The local also staged an unsuccessful strike among Caesars Atlantic City slot attendants in 2001.

On a national level, the Teamsters in 2002 staged a four-week boycott against all Caesars casinos over the company's labor practices in Atlantic City.

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The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has an "active investigation" regarding underpayment of certain dollar craps wagers in the Atlantic City casino industry.

The DGE is following through on a player's allegations earlier this month that Caesars and other casinos paid only 1:1 on dollar place bets that were piggybacked on regular wagers for use as dealer tips.

Dollar place bets are required to pay out either $1.17, $1.40 or $1.80. Casinos do not use chip values of less than a dollar, and some casinos rounded down instead of up.

"A casino licensee must either reject such $1 wagers or, if it elects to accept them, uniformly round the payouts up to $2," Casino Control Commission compliance director Richard Franz said in a letter to all casino general counsels.

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Resorts Atlantic City, a Colony Capital affiliate, received regulatory approval for a $40 million financing that will be used to buy 10 adjacent acres.

The company remained quiet on what it plans to do with the land. Resorts Vice Chairman Nicholas Ribis two months ago told of "exciting" plans that will be disclosed by July. The speculation is that it's a Hard Rock casino hotel.

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Robert Boughner, who made a major impact on Atlantic City with his vision for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, now gets a chance to have an impact statewide as a member of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey appointed Boughner to the powerful agency, which uses 1.25 percent of gross gambling revenue to fund redevelopment projects in Atlantic City and throughout the state.

"With his decades of leadership at Boyd Gaming, Robert Boughner fully understands the important role that the casino industry plays in the economic development of the state. He will be an invaluable asset to CRDA," McGreevey said.

The CRDA has 15 board members, including two from the casino industry who serve two-year terms.

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The brass at Donald Trump's casino company began talks with bondholders in a bid to renegotiate terms of the company's debilitating debt.

A major investor, who asked that his name and firm be withheld, described the initial sitdown as pleasant and "informational." No negotiating took place, the investor said.

Bondholders and their advisers visited Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza two days later.

If bondholders acquiesce to Trump's demand that they accept less for their holdings, Credit Suisse First Boston would make a $400 million equity investment into Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. The company's three Atlantic City casinos are years behind their competitors in expansion and upkeep.

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Atlantic City's closest competitors also reported robust February business, helped by an easy comparison to last year's snowed-under results.

In Connecticut, the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun combined for slot revenue of $137.4 million, up 19 percent.

In Delaware, the three racetracks reported slot revenue of $53.7 million for the five-week February reporting period, up 27 percent based on a comparison of daily averages to the similar four-week period last year.

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Boyd Gaming will empty the executive suite at its Las Vegas headquarters late next month and head east for its annual shareholders meeting on April 30. The company will stage the event at its Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the $1.1 billion trophy that opened last summer.

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