Casino Aztar

Letting go

Columbia Sussex sells Casino Aztar to Eldorado Resorts

Columbia Sussex, already forced to have to shed its Tropicana Atlantic City property earlier this year, has sold its Casino Aztar property in Evansville Indiana in lieu of battling what would have been a tenuous relicensing with the Indiana Gaming Commission.

The company agreed to sell the southern Indiana riverboat casino to Eldorado Resorts LLC for up to $245 million. According to a press release, the sale price consists of $190 million in cash, a $30 million note and $25 million in potential incentives linked to the operating performance of the property.

Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Ernie Yelton noted that Columbia Sussex turned over operations of the property to a trustee in the interim while the sale goes through the approval process.

“Columbia Sussex voluntarily signed an agreement, giving control of operations to Tom Dingman,” Yelton told ABC News affiliate WHET 25 in Evansville. “Therefore, no action needed to be taken on their gaming license. It was neither renewed nor revoked.”

Columbia Sussex’s operating practices at Casino Aztar were called into question by civic leaders after the company laid off more than 80 employees last year. Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel launched an investigation of the company and its practices soon after. There were expectations that the company would have difficulty renewing its gaming license in the state.

“The long nightmare is over, and we are excited about the potential of a new owner and a new operator,” Weinzapfel said of the decision to sell to Eldorado Resorts, adding that he had spoken to Eldorado Resort’s owners, the Carano family.

“They assured me that they treat employees like family, which is good news, and I think good news to employees at Casino Aztar,” he said. “What we want to see is that there is an adequate level of employment that’s necessary for a successful casino.”

Eldorado Resorts, which operates a downtown Reno hotel-casino and a Shreveport, La. riverboat casino under the Eldorado brands, said it would immediately begin investing money into the Evansville property, including a $20 million upgrade of the casino floor.

For Columbia Sussex, proceeds from the sale will go toward paying down its $2.7 billion in debt and avoiding bankruptcy. The company also reportedly has a buyer in place for its Horizon Vicksburg Casino in Vicksburg, Miss. Columbia lost control of its Atlantic City property following missteps in operations and procedural issues with New Jersey regulators. The company’s license there was revoked, and it was forced to sell.

-Andy Holtmann

Slim and none

Kentucky governor: little chance for casino proposal to pass current legislative session

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in April that the drive to legalize casino gambling in his state appeared to be dead - at least for now - as a current proposal stood little chance of passing with lawmakers.

The Democrat governor had been one of the proposal’s strongest backers, arguing that legalized casino gaming in the state could have generated up to $600 million a year in revenues for the state. The proposal on the books would have put the issue to the state’s voters, letting them decide in a referendum whether they wanted to allow casinos. But Beshear said opposition to that move made it difficult to pass during this legislative session.

“For this session, it is dead,” Beshear told reporters at a press conference. “We agree that we do not have the votes necessary to pass the gaming amendment in the House, and we see no prospect of getting that number of votes with the little time remaining.”

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, however, said the issue was definitely one that would be put back on the table at a later time.

“Certainly, we will come back in the future and try to get the votes,” he told the Associated Press.

Beshear said he would make one last push with House legislators to approve the current proposal. It would need to net 60 votes there before it could go to the state Senate for consideration. Yet, gambling opponents have already claimed victory through Beshear’s pessimism about the measure’s chances.

“The governor admitted the obvious,” said John-Mark Hack, head of the group Say No To  Casinos. “There’s no cause for celebration because the tragedy is we’ve lost an opportunity to address very important issues that our state faces.”

Hack and other opponents said that the state has wasted time and effort in pushing the casino issue. Casinos, opponents said, would be little more than a quick fix, and create far too many social problems among Kentucky residents.

Proponents of the measure, however, noted that Kentuckians are already spending in excess of $1 billion annually gambling in casinos in adjacent states like Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and West Virginia.

-Andy Holtmann

Seeking damages

Critical data from Global Cash Access’s 2005 IPO was false or misleading, lawsuit claims

Las Vegas-based Global Cash Access is facing the potential wrath of some of its shareholders as a class-action lawsuit was filed against the company in federal court unspecified damages related to its 2005 prospectus for a $225 million initial public offering.

New York-based law firm Abraham, Fruchter & Twersky filed the suit on behalf of a number of Global Cash Access shareholders. The suit claims that the prospectus for the automated teller and cash access product company was false or misleading. Other claims included: the company was unable to accurately calculate the amount of commissions owed to customers, improper calculations of commissions and understated company expenses.

Kirk Sanford, the company’s former chief executive officer, was named as a defendant. Also named as defendants were co-founders Karim Maskatiya and Robert Cucinotta; Summit Partners, a large Global Access shareholder; and two investment banks, Goldman Sach & Co. and J.P. Morgan Securities.

“The company is in receipt of the complaint, and we intend to vigorously defend against it,” Katie Lever, general counsel of Global Cash Access, said in a statement.

An investigation by Global Cash Access’s audit committee in December “did not uncover any further issues relating to GCA’s interpretation of contract clauses related to the calculation of commission,” the company said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that Sanford retired as the company’s CEO in November of last year. He became a special advisor for Xyience, a privately-held energy drink company that is currently undergoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Sanford recently left Xyience as well.

Scott Betts replaced Sanford at Global Cash Access.

-Andy Holtmann

‘Raving' about tables

Cutting-Edge Table Games Conference set for September

In an industry where most gaming markets are seeing flat or declining margins and operators are searching for revenue driving solutions, Reno-based Raving Consulting Company has announced its long-awaited Cutting-Edge Table Games Conference, Sept. 14-16 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Raving will explore how to drive returns in challenged markets through table games marketing and operational “remodeling.” Raving’s “gaming savvy” stable of experts will share unique insight and vision into this table game segment that is seeing renewed interest and advanced technology.

This two-and-a-half day conference, open to casino marketing and operations executives alike, will tackle such critical issues as: changing customer demographics (seniors versus generations X and Y) - and what games they prefer; employee issues, including unionization and the “traditional” dealer roles changing to have them become business builders and entertainers; a candid look at advantage players and their threat to profits and positive public relations.; integrated table game promotions; the high investment and potential profits of new technology; and cutting edge table game customer service.

The event will kick off in the evening of Sept. 14 at Raving’s signature Welcome Reception, where a select group of exhibitors will be participating in the Best New Table Games of 2008 Contest. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to win a trip to Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, an industry table game leader, after sampling each new game and voting on which ones have the best chance to crack the current game mix of table game operators.

Raving Consulting and its partners are the known industry leaders for education and consulting work with gaming facilities in the United States, Canada and international markets. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is the perfect host property for this special event and will also be conducting a special back-of-the-house tour exclusive to attendees.

To register or find out more about this solution driving event, please call Christine Faria at (775) 329-7864 or e-mail her For more information, please visit

Facts and figures

Casino City Press releases new Global Gaming Almanac

Casino City Press has released its 2008 edition ofCasino City’s Global Gaming Almanac, which provides more than 500 pages of comprehensive, up-to-date market summaries, statistics and profiles of properties, owners and regulators for every gaming jurisdiction in the world.

Industry analysts consult the Almanac for world market data to support business plans, analyze local and foreign competitors, and monitor global trends.

Casino City’s Global Gaming Almanaccovers 259 world gaming jurisdictions in 168 countries with market summaries and statistics for each segment of the gaming industry, including casino and card room gaming, lotteries, race and sports wagering, charitable gaming and online gaming. Recent revenue statistics are provided along with counts and distribution of gaming properties, devices and tables along with an overview of the current and historical regulatory environment, pending legislation and major trends. Detailed profiles are provided for 3,862 gaming properties, 659 gaming property owners, 679 agencies and commissions, and 2,390 agency and commission executive contacts.

The almanac is also available on CD with unique analysis tools allowing the creation of custom gaming property and market reports by geographic area and type of gaming facility. The CD also includes the entire contents of the print edition in PDF format along with 246 annual reports of international gaming property owners, a world gaming property map, and data files including agencies and commissions and their executive contacts.

To find out more aboutCasino City’s Global Gaming Almanacand CD, visitwww.CasinoCityPress.comor call (800) 490-1715.