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Atlantic City Weekly Round- Up

24 December 2001

by Joe Weinert

ATLANTIC CITY -- Cashless gaming finally made it to Atlantic City, when Bally's turned on 54 slot machines equipped with the EZ Pay Ticket System.

The system, already available in other gaming jurisdictions, allows gamblers to cash out their credits with a bar-coded voucher that can be redeemed for cash, inserted into another EZ Pay machine or kept for a future visit.

"I think the idea is great. I love the coins coming out, but they're so heavy to carry," said Barbara Briscoe, a Bally's patron from Chester, Pa.

Bally's will operate the EZ Pay slots under a 60- to 270-day test period monitored by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. If it passes regulatory muster, parent company Park Place Entertainment plans to install EZ Pay slots at its Caesars, Claridge and Hilton casino hotels as well.

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Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts began its courtship of bondholders with the aim of convincing them to restructure $1.3 billion in high-interest debt.

About 50 bondholders and their representatives stayed at Trump Taj Mahal last Tuesday night. The next day, Donald Trump and Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown spoke to them and gave them tours of the Taj and Trump Plaza casino hotels.

No negotiations took place; the purpose of the visit was for bondholders to assess the physical condition and operations of the casinos and to establish a rapport with Trump Hotels management.

Formal negotiations are scheduled to begin in January.

"The meeting went well," Brown said.

Cash-strapped Trump Hotels said it needs bondholder concessions, such as lower interest rates and extended maturities, to free up cash to meet the future threat of New York casinos.

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Atlantic City officials are investigating the discovery of 43 secret hotel rooms at the Trump Taj Mahal complex. The rooms are located in an older building that's attached to the Taj, which opened in 1990.

Trump officials said the rooms were never sold. They've been used on an as-needed basis to house visiting entertainment crews or needy employees, they said.

A city official said the casino would have to pay mercantile fees if it's found that Trump ever sold any of the rooms.

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The New Jersey Assembly voted to ease regulations that would allow most gaming regulators to work for casinos just one year after leaving their jobs.

The current post-employment restriction for regulators is two years. For members of the Casino Control Commission, it's four years; it would be cut to two years under the proposed legislation.

A key state senator who represents Atlantic City, however, opposes the bill. He effectively killed the bill without a Senate vote, but proponents vowed to resurrect the measure next year.

Critics charge that weakening the current restriction could lead to quid-pro-quo rulings and erode the public's confidence in gaming regulation.

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Alliance Gaming Corp. of Las Vegas agreed to buy an innovative competitor based just outside of Atlantic City.

It will pay $14.6 million for Advanced Casino Systems Corp., whose insolvent owner, Greate Bay Casino Corp., is selling to satisfy debts owed to sister company Hollywood Casino Corp.

ACSC created several "firsts" in slot-management systems, including the first player card in Atlantic City.

Greate Bay owes Hollywood $63.5 million. Both companies are or have been controlled by the Pratt family of Dallas. Greate Bay plans to complete the ACSC sale and debt payments through a prepackaged bankruptcy by March 31.

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The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement filed complaints seeking to revoke two slot jackpots won by underage gamblers in August.

The unnamed minors, both gambling at Resorts Atlantic City, won jackpots of $2,000 and $375. The DGE is asking Resorts to relinquish the amounts; half the funds would be given to problem-gambling programs.

Underage gambling is a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.

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Atlantic City's closest casino competitor, the three racetrack slot operations in Delaware, reported a 13.1 percent gain in revenue for the four-week November reporting period.

Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway won a combined $40.9 million from gamblers. They have a combined 5,200 slots.

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