Online operators attempting to challenge Kentucky’s Web gambling ban from afar were frustrated last month by the state Supreme Court, which said the owners of the sites must appear in court if they wish to fight the state’s seizure of their Internet domain names.

The state wants to shut down some 141 online gambling domains which allegedly are taking bets illegally from Kentuckians. Lawyers acting on behalf of the sites - but through groups such as the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association and the Interactive Gaming Council, not by the owners of the sites, who remain anonymous - went to court to stop the seizure and own in the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

The state then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that the organizations representing the domain names had no legal standing to do so.

The court, in a 6-0 opinion, agreed, sending the case back to the Court of Appeals with a ruling that the associations must disclose the companies they represent.

The appeals court could allow the case to move forward if one of the domain owners comes forward to establish legal standing.

Significantly, the high court did not address the key legal point at issue, which is whether the state has the authority to seize domain names run by out-of-state entities. Still, Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown said the state was pleased with the ruling “in that it allows us to continue our efforts to curb illegal Internet gambling.”

Web gambling advocates characterize the case as one of Internet freedom against censorship and say the state is overreaching its authority. The state contends that the sites are operating illegal gambling in Kentucky and therefore are breaking state law.



BAY STATERS POLLED SUPPORT CASINOS

A phone survey conducted by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth found most respondents support a proposal to legalize two resort-scale casinos and permit slots at four Massachusetts racetracks.

Fifty-three percent of the 604 residents surveyed last month said they support the plan, which is being advanced by House Speaker Robert DeLeo. That number improves to 58 percent when the results are narrowed down to 449 respondents who said they were familiar with DeLeo’s proposal. Twenty-five percent said they oppose the plan. The remainder were undecided.

The findings closely resemble those of UMass-Dartmouth polls conducted in the past, although this was the first time resort casinos and racinos were put as one question.

“My expectation was that the support might have declined when you combined the two together,” said Clyde Barrow, director of the center. “We’ve been doing variations of this poll for five years, and the numbers are locked in tight. People have made up their minds, for the most part.”

With DeLeo’s support, the odds of legalization in some form appear to be the best they’ve been in years, although Gov. Deval Patrick is resisting a call to add slots at the tracks, preferring instead to focus on larger projects.



INDIANA MOVES UP IN REVENUE RANKINGS, MISSISSIPPI SLIPS

Indiana passed Mississippi as the third-largest commercial casino destination in the United States last year, posting $2.58 billion in gambling revenues against $2.46 billion won in Mississippi, which slipped to fourth place nationwide.

Though Indiana has far fewer casinos, 13 to Mississippi’s 30, it has a much larger demographic base to pull from, with cities like Chicago and Indianapolis within driving distance of its properties.

Indiana also had two new casinos open in 2008, and in 2009 Penn National Gaming replaced its Argosy Casino, which opened in 1996, with a new $335 million Hollywood Casino.

Mississippi officials believe the real reason Indiana moved up had little to do with new casinos and more to do with outside factors affecting their competition, particularly a statewide smoking ban in Illinois.

“There’s a lot more population in that part of the country,” said Rep. Bobby Moak, who chairs the Gaming Committee of the Mississippi House of Representatives. “I was a little bit concerned about it, looking at it, wondering what we did wrong. There was nothing in our control. There was nothing in the control of Indiana.”

Nevada and New Jersey kept the top spots in 2009, reporting $9.76 billion and $3.9 billion, respectively. But industry watchers think other states, particularly Pennsylvania, may be poised to move up in the rankings.



THUNDERBIRD SELLS PANAMA CASINOS TO CODERE GROUP

 

Thunderbird has entered into agreements to sell its 63 percent stake in its six Panama casinos to two affiliates of Spanish gaming giant Codere, which also has holdings in Panama.

The sale is subject to certain conditions, including the approval of a number of applicable government entities, among them the Panama Gaming Control Board and the local anti-trust authority.

Completion of the sale would provide Thunderbird with an opportunity to repay certain Panamanian-sourced debts and improve the group’s balance sheet.

Thunderbird’s Panama casinos, operated under the Fiesta brand, came under effective control of the Panamanian government earlier this year in response to financial difficulties reported at parent company Thunderbird Resort. Earlier this year the Panama Gambling Control Committee appointed a new board of directors, including a president, treasurer and secretary, for the Panamanian subsidiary.

Fiesta Casino started operating in Panama in 1998. Venues are located in Hotel El Panamá and Hotel Soloy in Panama City, in the interior of the country in the Hotel Decameron and Hotel Guayacanes in Chitré, in the Hotel Nacional in David and the Hotel Washington in Colón.

The monetary value of the deal was not disclosed.



Going for the green:It's no gamble

In casinos these days it’s not just the money that’s green.

Big-time resorts like The Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas and Harrah’s Rincon near San Diego are stepping into the forefront of environmental awareness.

Harrah’s Rincon, operated by Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment and owned by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, announced last month that its massive air-conditioning system - the casino alone covers 59,000 square feet and features 1,750 slot machines - is now powered primarily by the sun, an initiative that was launched in January.

The tribe’s $8 million, 1-megawatt solar farm is the largest solar power system on a local Indian reservation and is part of an overhaul of the resort’s entire cooling system. This has involved dismantling the conventional electric AC units on the roof and replacing them with a central system that uses cold water pumped throughout the building.

It’s only one example of the casino’s commitment to the environment.

The pool is now heated with sunlight captured by photovoltaic panels. Refrigerators in the 650 hotel rooms are normally off and are turned on only when a guest wants to cool something. The hotel has replaced 10,000 light bulbs with more-efficient versions. In the hotel lobby, overhead fixtures that used to draw 90 watts now shed the same amount of light with 13.

And 300 miles away, in the depths of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas Sands Corp. has unveiled a companywide energy-saving and conservation program embracing more than 17 million square feet of space in and around the Las Vegas Strip.

The Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo have come together on what is titled in-house as Sands Eco 360º, a program covering green purchasing, refuse recycling and water and energy conservation.

As reported recently by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, LVS now employs 14 people full-time to sort through refuse, an initiative that has increased recycling at the properties by 50 percent in the last four months.

Most discarded food waste (about 75 percent) is now being sent to a pig farm in North Las Vegas, where it is used as animal feed or compost.

Water conservation efforts are saving nearly 100 million gallons a year, the company says. Energy consumption has been reduced by an amount sufficient to power 6,500 households a year.

The effort also is being extended to the company’s extensive operations in Asia. The Venetian Macao has implemented an environmental awareness program to educate employees. The multibillion-dollar Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, scheduled to open this month, is being built to achieve that country’s version of LEED platinum certification, the highest designation that can be awarded by the U.S. Green Buildings Council. A $25 million management system is being implemented to control all lighting, heating and water supply functions at the resort. Its rooftop will have a green designation and include 250 trees and plants. Rainwater will be collected and recycled in its washroom flushing system.

The Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo are all LEED-certified. The Palazzo has been awarded LEED silver certification for new construction, the first Strip resort to achieve that designation. The Sands Expo, which opened in 1990, and The Venetian, which opened in 1999, have received gold certifications for existing buildings.