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Joe Weinert

Atlantic City Roundup

15 December 2003

ATLANTIC CITY -- New Jersey gaming regulators are examining MGM Mirage's decision to restart a New York City slot-machine casino even though its partner there is under federal indictment.

U.S. attorneys announced the indictment against the New York Racing Association, which has an agreement with MGM Mirage for a $100 million, 4,500-slot racino at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens.

MGM Mirage had suspended work on the project in August, citing the possibility NYRA could be indicted. But when the indictment was actually unsealed, MGM Mirage and NYRA announced the project was back on track to open late next year.

MGM Mirage evidently believes regulators in New Jersey and other states in which it operates casinos won't have a problem with the company partnering with an indicted firm. New Jersey regulators frown upon such arrangements.

"The division has been closely monitoring the developments in this case and has been, and is currently, engaged in discussions with MGM over this matter," said Tom Auriemma, Division of Gaming Enforcement director.

An MGM Mirage spokesman declined comment.

MGM Mirage co-owns the $1.1 billion Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City and is considering plans for a wholly owned casino hotel next door.

In an agreement with prosecutors, NYRA admitted that it covered up a scheme in which track tellers created fake shortages to avoid income taxes. If NYRA stays clean for 18 months, the charges will be dropped.


The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will look into a billboard in which Resorts Atlantic City boasts "Loosest Overall Slots!"

The ad makes no mention that the claim is based on 2002 data. Resorts' 2,400 slots this year have been only the fifth-loosest among the city's dozen casinos and have not been the loosest in any month, according to Casino Control Commission.

"That is definitely something we would be concerned about and would address," DGE spokeswoman Kerry Hand said.

A Resorts executive said the ad is valid because it's based on a magazine's annual awards, which were published in April. "The 11th annual awards are not published until April 2004, and until that time Resorts retains the magazine's 'Loosest Slots' crown," Vice President Trish Gilbert said.


Once again the new Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was good for the Atlantic City gaming industry as a whole but not for most casinos individually.

Citywide gambling revenue grew 9.1 percent, to $379.2 million, in November, giving the industry its best back-to-back performance in almost eight years. Revenue grew 9.2 percent in October.

The November revenue at the 11 casinos open a year ago, however, declined 3.6 percent.

"Ths month's solid results were driven by a strong entertainment lineup in A.C., which included Chris Rock, Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, among others. Favorable weather also helped," Fulcrum Global Partners analyst Joseph Greff said.

Bally's maintained its position as the highest-grossing casino at $52.8 million, down 1.6 percent. Borgata held second at $44 million; it ranked first in table-games revenue and sixth in slots.

Revenue declined 19.4 percent, to $25.7 million, at Tropicana, in the wake of the Oct. 30 garage collapse that killed four construction workers and injured 20 others. Motorists still have to use an alternate entrance to the existing Tropicana garage and bus customers have to use a temporary shelter.

"Results for the company (Tropicana) were better than our expectations," Goldman Sachs analyst John Kempf said.


Trump Taj Mahal abandoned plans to use a beverage push cart in its high-limit slot room after cocktail waitresses complained.

The Taj stocked the cart with select drinks with the hope of improving service in its Sultan's Palace area. Waitresses, though, said it resulted in lower employment and tips for them, duplicate drink orders and difficulty in watching how much gamblers drink.

After an extraordinary meeting of more than 50 waitresses, bartenders, union officials and casino executives, Taj management said it agreed with the waitresses' concerns and scrapped the idea.


Influential state Sen. Vincent Fumo, a Philadelphia Democrat, is drafting a gambling-expansion bill that would allow 13 casinos in Pennsylvania.

Six "Class A" licenses would go to racetracks, two "Class B" licenses would go to Indian tribes and five "Class C" licenses would go to other applicants, including two designated for Philadelphia and one for Pittsburgh.

(Joe Weinert covers the gaming industry for The Press of Atlantic City. He can be reached at