The Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City




United Auto Workers had reached a tentative contract agreement with Atlantic City’s Tropicana Casino & Resort late last month to represent table game dealers.

The historic agreement, reported by The Press of Atlantic City, comes after two years of negotiations and will be a first for dealers in the 32-year history of casino gambling at the seaside resort.

“We’ve reached a tentative agreement with the UAW and the UAW is proceeding with ratification,” Mary Tindall, Tropicana vice president of marketing, told The Press.

More than 680 Tropicana dealers are members of the union. Terms of the tentative deal had not been made public, as of this writing.

The Trop’s former owners, hotel giant Columbia Sussex, were stripped of their New Jersey gaming license in late 2007 after reports of declining finances and customer complaints. Carl Icahn took over as owner earlier this year in an auction.

With gaming revenues in the city in their fourth year of declines, the union and the casino must work closely together to survive, said Rutgers University Professor Philip Harvey, a specialist in economics and organized labor.

“If there’s any union in the country that understands what can happen when an industry identified with a particular city goes into decline, it’s the UAW,” he told The Press, referring to Detroit’s embattled auto industry. “I would expect them to be very responsible and pro-active in developing a relationship with [the gaming] industry.”

The UAW reached a milestone earlier this year when dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut ratified their first contract, with most of the 2,500 dealers voting in favor. That contract reportedly allowed for a 12 percent salary increase over two years and a 24-table “smoke-free pit” shielding dealers from secondhand smoke.

Dealers at Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino also have voted to unionize with the UAW, but contract negotiations have not followed while the properties fight to have the votes nullified.





GILBERT ACQUIRES LAND FOR CLEVELAND CASINO



Consumer loan magnate and Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert has reached a deal to buy the land where he wants to build a $700 million Cleveland casino in partnership with Harrah’s Entertainment.

Gilbert has concluded agreements with Forest City Enterprises to purchase 16 acres downtown for the casino, which will have an entrance near the Quicken Loans Arena where the National Basketball Association Cavaliers play. Financial terms were not released, according to press reports.

Gilbert and Forest City also reached a multi-year deal for Gilbert to rent space for a temporary casino that could open as early as next year.                 

Last November, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment that resulted in Gilbert getting the right to build casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati and publicly traded Penn National Gaming in Columbus and Toledo. Land agreements for the other cities have been completed and construction is under way in Toledo. The other casinos are expected to open in 2012.

Harrah’s, in the meantime, has agreed to buy Thistledown racetrack in North Randall, Ohio, for $43 million, and Gilbert has a contingency agreement to buy a piece of that investment.

Ohio lawmakers are debating whether to allow slot machines gambling at the state’s seven horse tracks. If slots are approved, they could be installed within months.



EXPERTS QUESTION CANADA'S RUSH TO THE INTERNET



The spread of officially sanctioned online gambling in Canada is raising concerns among experts who question whether provincially run sites will be able to compete against private, loosely regulated, minimally taxed offshore sites and prevent crime and protect players at the same time.

Both Ontario and British Columbia have said they plan to join the Atlantic Provinces in expanding their gambling operations to the Internet. Quebec has indicated it will soon offer online poker. Saskatchewan has hinted it may join the fray as well. The potential windfall - B.C. says it loses C$100 million a year to offshore gambling sites, while Ontario says it loses $400 million - will help support schools, hospitals and new infrastructure.

Skeptics contend that the ability to play from home and around the clock will likely create a new crop of addicted gamblers. And they say there’s nothing to suggest that these domestic sites will be any less vulnerable to cheating, hacking, money laundering and cyber-extortion.

Robert Williams, a health sciences professor at the University of Lethbridge and coordinator of the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, questions the dollar figures officials assign to offshore sites, calling them a “wild guess”.

And he argues there’s no certainty that provincial gaming sites will be able to steer Canadians away from those same offshore sites.

“This is a fairly saturated and mature market for new online companies to try to break into,” he told the Montreal Gazette. “Existing offshore jurisdictions will always retain a strong competitive advantage.”

He added that people who had previously hesitated about gambling online might be enticed to try out the government-run sites because they see it as a government-sanctioned activity, and once they get comfortable playing online it is not likely they will restrict themselves to playing on the government-run sites.

John McMullan, a professor of sociology and criminology at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, is concerned about cheating, money-laundering and other cyber-crimes and has said that research into this area is an “urgent priority”.



GENTING UNVEILS GRAND PLANS FOR AQUEDUCT RACINO



Genting Malaysia, the winner of a bid to operate 4,500 video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack, said it plans to invest $1.3 billion to fully develop New York City’s first racino.

Genting New York, the operating subsidiary, will pay a licensing fee to the state of $380 million, above the minimum $300 million required by the state. The company intends to spend up to another $350 million to develop the facility - Resorts World New York, it will be called - which upon full completion will span 413,000 square feet.

Plans call for several restaurants, water features, an outdoor terrace connected to the racetrack and parking for 2,200 vehicles.

Genting wants to complete the entire development within 12 months from the date it obtains formal approval from the state to proceed.

Over the longer term the company is proposing to add three hotels, shopping, recreation, a spa and other resort-style facilities at a cost of $650 million.



GREEKTOWN LAUNCHES APP FOR iPHONE, iPod



Greektown Casino-Hotel has launched a free customer application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The application, developed by slot giant Bally Technologies and the first for a Michigan casino, was demonstrated to 250 of the casino’s top players, each of whom received a free iPod Touch at a VIP party last month.

The application, which eventually will be available to other smart phone brands, includes a detailed map of the property, information about restaurants and other on-site amenities and access to players club accounts, giving members the ability to check comps, points, tickets and cash-back balances.

Other features will be added in the months ahead, including one that will enable guests to determine if their favorite slot machines are occupied or immediately available for play. Other features will enable players to monitor progressive-jackpot amounts, promotional reminders and coupons and make restaurant reservations.

The app is integrated with Bally’s SDS slot management and accounting system, CMP player-tracking system, iVIEW player user interface network and Business Intelligence solutions, all of which are deployed at Greektown.