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Two Canadian provinces are out in front as the Great White North takes the lead in online gambling regulation in North America.

British Columbia last month launched the continent’s first officially sanctioned online casino, PlayNow.com, operated by the British Columbia Lottery Association.

According to BCLC estimates, PlayNow, which offers a full menu of casino games, plus bingo and a sports lottery (poker will be added next year), will generate C$30 million to $40 million annually on top of the more than $30 million a year generated by an online lottery that launched on the same site in 2004.

Only B.C. residents can access PlayNow, and they must be 19 or older. Verified registrants are restricted to $9,999 in wagers per week. Other safeguards include GameSense reminders on screen, easy access to odds and factual game information, a session log displaying the amount of time players have spent online and a player pre-set deposit limit.

The site’s launch was less than smooth, however. It crashed within hours of going live. This may have been the result of unexpectedly high traffic. Or it’s possible the site was hacked. It wasn’t clear at press time. It was acknowledged, though, that some player data was leaked in the process.

In Quebec, meanwhile, Loto-Québec is pushing ahead, with government endorsement, with plans to open an online casino in the fall.

The company “intends to bring its online games of chance project to fruition with all of its well-known rigor and integrity” said Loto-Québec President and CEO Alain Cousineau.

He emphasized, “We will be offering Québecers a choice of entertaining games like poker, various table games and sports betting within a controlled circuit and in a secure environment whose integrity will be beyond question.”

Poker will be offered on a common platform with BCLC and Atlantic Lottery Corp.

The platform, hosted in Montreal, will be provided by GTECH subsidiary G2, with customer account management software designed by OpenBet, which will also supply some of the table games.



NEW OWNERS APPROVED FOR TRUMP CASINOS

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The New Jersey Casino Control Commission has approved a group of bondholders led by New York-based Avenue Capital Management to own Trump Entertainment Resorts.

The decision primed the company to emerge from its third bankruptcy.

Avenue Capital, which will be the largest equity holder at 21.7 percent, said the plan will reduce the company’s debt from $1.75 billion to $334 million. Avenue Capital will put $225 million into the company, of which $125 million will go to paying debt.

 A U.S. Bankruptcy judge ruled in April in favor of a restructuring plan submitted by Trump Entertainment, the bondholders and Donald Trump, allowing the group to maintain control of the company and thwarting a takeover proposed by billionaire financier Carl Icahn. But Trump is limited to a 10 percent stake. He currently holds 5 percent.

The company is expected to put its Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City back on the selling block, a process that was halted when it filed for Chapter 11 protection in February 2009.

The company owns two other A.C. casinos, the Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza.



CALIENTE, CORDERE REALIGN IN MEXICO

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Grupo Caliente, owner of eight companies with gaming licenses in Mexico, has reached an agreement with Codere Mexico granting participation in three of the companies and obtaining participation in two of Codere’s companies.

Pending government approval, the agreement calls for the restructuring of approximately US$121 million of debt through the acquisition by Codere of 67 percent of 46 licenses belonging to Caliente. Caliente will acquire 33 percent of the shares of Codere’s Promojuegos and Mio Games entities.

Caliente will retain 100 percent of its five remaining operating companies.

The agreement also calls for preservation of the popular Caliente brand.

Caliente, one of Mexico’s largest gaming operates, owns the Agua Caliente resort casino in Tijuana and provides live greyhound racing at its Caliente Racetrack in the border city. The company also operates a network of simulcast thoroughbred racing OTB parlors, sports book centers, bingo halls and slot machine casinos.



PEQUOT TRIBE HALTS PER CAPITA PAYMENTS

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council is eliminating per capita payments to tribal members as part of efforts to restructure more than $2 billion in debt.

The tribal government, owners of Foxwoods Casino Resort in Connecticut, has informed some 450 members that their monthly distributions - said to range between $7,500 and $10,000 as recently as a year ago - will cease December 31.

According to local news reports, it is not clear whether the council is ending the payments by choice or whether it’s been forced to do so by its senior lenders, which includes Kien Huat, the Malaysian group that bankrolled the construction of Foxwoods, and a Bank of America-led syndicate that provided a $700 million credit line.

Under a revenue-distribution system referred to as a “waterfall,” all net revenue from the operation of Foxwoods - after expenses and payments to the state are deducted - flows into bank accounts from which the tribe’s creditors are paid in accordance with a specified order of priority. After Kien Huat and the banks, creditors include holders of various bonds and short-term notes. What’s left goes to the tribe, which uses it to fund tribal government and the per capita payments.



A WIN FOR WYNN IN NEVADA BATTLE OVER TIP-SHARING

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Steve Wynn’s controversial policy of splitting casino dealers’ tips with their immediate supervisors doesn’t violate state law, according to a ruling issued last month by Nevada Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek.

The decision, which comes after months of deliberation and weeks of public hearings, was a blow to dealers at Wynn Las Vegas who have been fighting the tip policy for the last four years. The ruling also applies to dealers at Wynn’s Encore.

Dealers, who say the ruling may have wide-ranging implications for other tip-earners in Nevada by opening the door to efforts by employers to pool line workers’ tips with supervisors, said they will appeal in state court.

Tanchek’s decision, which relied heavily on previous court rulings that allow employers to dictate how tips are pooled among employees, follows a 1999 decision by then-Labor Commissioner Gail Maxwell, who determined that a small casino in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin could force dealers to share tips with supervisors.

Attorney Gregory Kamer, who represented Wynn in the dispute, said the ruling was thorough and will be difficult to win on appeal.



GAMBLING SPEND, PROFIT DOWN IN NOVA SCOTIA

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Gamblers spent less in Nova Scotia during 2009-10.

Wagers totaled C$1.43 billion compared with $1.47 billion a year earlier, according to an annual report of the Canadian province’s Department of Labour and Workforce Development. The result was a decrease in profit for the province, which operates casinos, VLTs and a lottery through Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. Profit was down from $153 million to $146 million.

The company blamed the results on the weak economy and said they will likely continue.

VLTs, which make up almost half of all betting in the province, collected $688.5 million compared with $708.4 million a year earlier, a drop of about 2.8 percent. Atlantic Lottery Corp.’s ticket sales were $199.6 million, down from $203.6 million a year earlier. The two casinos posted profit of $29.5 million, down from $31 million. Bingo handle was down about $6.6 million.