Proponents of casino gaming and pari-mutuel wagering in Georgia join forces

2017 may be the year that the state of Georgia finally legalizes casino gaming and pari-mutuel racing. Proponents of both activities are now working together in the hopes of pushing legislation into reality.

The Georgia Horse Racing Coalition has been trying for several years to see a decision in regard to pari-mutuel betting appear on the ballot for voters to decide if the activity should be allowed in the state. The new legislative session started on January 9, and a new attempt at legislation will be made – this time with as many as five casinos to be allowed in the state along with a racino.

In the past, pari-mutuel wagering legalization attempts have stressed the connection between horse racing and agriculture. Proponents feel that breeding and training facilities would help the state, a fact that they hope will push opponents to their side. Georgia Horse Racing Coalition Executive Director Steven Crane stated that the group feels that on its own, horse racing does not provide enough tax revenues but with resort style gaming, enough is created where an uptick would be seen across the state.

The Hope scholarship of the state, a program that once funded 100% of tuition for college students who qualified, now only covers 70% of tuition due to low funding. The scholarships are completely funded by the state lottery but there is not enough to cover the full price now, like the state would like to do again.

For 2017, legislative proposals for the state include one that would place a constitutional amendment before voters next year to see new forms of gambling legalized. If the amendment is approved, the local governments would need to be approved by local voters on the next ballot to be able to operate a casino or racetrack. Once settled locally, the county or city would then need to apply for a license, one of six that would be available in the state.

A separate bill would be created to outline the licenses available, where the venues could be located, and minimum investment needed by the operator. Looking at the broad terms, the state would allow as many as five casinos and one racetrack. A resort style casino could be located within a 25-mile radius of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport of Atlanta with no less than $1 billion invested in the property.

Four secondary licenses would be allowed but they could not operate within a 50-mile radius of the primary licensed casinos. $250 million or more must be invested in the properties. A license for a horse track would require an investment of at least $150 million.

As far as Crane is concerned, a racetrack would be created in the Atlanta area. Crane says that pari-mutuel group has envisioned a world-class facility with elevated walkways around the track, residential areas and entertainment areas, innovative infield space and more.

Proponents of casino gaming and pari-mutuel wagering in Georgia join forces was last modified: January 10th, 2017 by Marie Kelley


Britain’s Chelmsford racecourse approved for city’s first casino

Thoroughbred horse racing venue, Chelmsford City Racecourse, located in Essex, England, has been given the green light to open an all-night casino, according to EssexLive.

The venue, located near Chelmsford was approved on Friday, January 6 by the Chelmsford City Council, making it the city’s first ever casino. The Council also approved the racing venue for ten open-air concerts this year.

The casino will be situated in a yet to be constructed five-floor grandstand building and occupy approximately 3,000 square meters on one floor of the new housing, and will also feature a bar. Approximately two-thirds of the area inside the track will be utilized for the open-air concerts. Implementation of the two proposals will coincide with that of the new showground center at the racecourse, which will have a fitness area and terrace seating to accommodate 7,000 spectators.

The new casino and concerts were approved by the Council despite local parish councils’, including Black Notley, Felsted and Great Notley, concerns regarding noise pollution, parking, increased traffic, and operating hours. However, in a report, David Green, Chelmsford council’s Director of Sustainable Communities, addressed the concerns stating that due to the location and distance of the venue from residential properties, that there is “no reason to limit the hours of use of the casino.”

Green also confirmed in his report that live music would not be permitted past 11:30pm, but that no restriction would be placed on when concerts can be held. Regarding the councils’ parking and traffic concerns, Green said in his report, “Essex County Council Highway Authority are content that the vehicular access and parking areas are safe and sufficient to serve the site as an outdoor concert venue, but have advised that additional information is required in relation to the management of traffic at each event,” according to the news agency.

Originally known as Great Leighs Racecourse, the racecourse is owned by UK-based bookmaker Betfred, who has said previously that the project is expected to create upwards of 100 jobs, according to the report.

Britain’s Chelmsford racecourse approved for city’s first casino was last modified: January 10th, 2017 by K Morrison


Motives of Hialeah’s new horsemen’s group questioned

The recognition of a new horseman’s group at Hialeah Park by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is being challenged and a trial is set to begin today in a Tallahassee courtroom. Those in the know regarding horseman’s issues in Florida say that the trial could have far-reaching implications.

The group replacing the American Quarter Horse Association (Racing) (AQHA), which has represented horsemen since 2010, was created by the management of Hialeah and a racing application has been submitted by Hialeah listing the new horseman’s group. The Division has recognized the newly created horseman’s group and while it has yet to be assembled, has issued Hialeah its 2017 racing permit. The original six-year purse agreement between AQHA and Hialeah expired last year.

The president of the Florida Horsemen’s Protective and Benevolent Association, William P. White, says that the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is not willing to serve as a referee in determining the legitimacy of the new group and whether or not it constitutes a new majority, according to Sunshine State News. White, who is scheduled to testify before Administrative Law Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson at the trial today, claims that the Division is evolving into a regulating body that does not arbitrate/referee. White said , “With no racing commission, there is no governmental body to appeal to other than the courts,” and, “So every time we bring some sort of issue to the Division, they say, ‘oh, it’s not for us to decide,’ we’ll get the courts to do it,” according to the news agency.

However, some say that the issue shouldn’t have to be arbitrated. They say that “signed cards” are supposed to be on file indicating that a member has made a choice to affiliate with that group. Instead, they say, the Division has simply decided to look the other way, according to the news agency.

Thoroughbreds and other breed races are allowed under a Quarter Horse permit so long as Quarter Horses comprise half the races. The speculation is that the new group is an attempt by Hialeah to legitimize a bogus group, which would be accepted at face value by the Division for the purpose of being issued a permit. Hialeah benefits from the move by enabling it to run an abbreviated racing schedule next summer, as well as reducing or cutting slot revenue to purses due to the fact that they can negotiate with the group that they themselves created. White said, “In essence, Hialeah can fill out a purse contract any way they want and they are now, in all practicality, decoupled without legislation,” adding, “I believe the danger to us is Calder. When the tri-party agreement expires in four years, Churchill Downs again takes over the running of Calder,” he said. “Churchill could try to do something similar to what Hialeah is doing.”

White’s testimony will involve the requirement by law that a legitimate horsemen’s group represents the trainers and owners, according to the news agency.

Motives of Hialeah’s new horsemen’s group questioned was last modified: October 25th, 2016 by K Morrison


Assemblyman Ralph Caputo continues push to get video lottery terminals into New Jersey racetracks

The referendum to move casinos outside of Atlantic City goes to vote in November but Assemblyman Ralph Caputo is not waiting for the official results as a number of polls have already shown that New Jersey residents are not in favor of developing casinos outside of Atlantic City. Proponents of the referendum will have to wait another two years before they can campaign once again.

However, Caputo is not going to wait for so long as the former casino worker and northern New Jersey Democrat has decided to amend two bills that he introduced in Jan 2016 that will allow video lottery terminals to be hosted by racetracks in New Jersey. The two bills will allow racetracks such as the Monmouth Park in Oceanport and the Meadowlands in East Rutherford to host these video lottery terminals which are similar to slot machines.

Trenton’s Bad Bet, the group that campaigned against the November referendum was not happy with Caputo’s decision. In a statement, Bill Cortese, executive director of Trenton’s Bad Bet said “What is shocking is that he has decided to completely ignore the will of the people, which will be expressed on election day as New Jersey voters support or oppose the casino expansion referendum.”

This is not the first that a move to get slot machines into New Jersey racetracks has been made. Back in 2003 when an attempt was made, the state government asked Atlantic City casinos to pay the horseracing industry in the state $30 million each year for not permitting slot machines. Republican Gov. Chris Christie put a stop to those payments in 2011 and redirected those funds to the Atlantic City Alliance, which promoted Atlantic City’s casino industry throughout the country.

The horseracing industry in New Jersey wants to be able to have slot machines as it will enable their racetracks to compete with the racinos in neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. Caputo plans to support the amendment on his two bills by using the 1982 opinion given by the state Attorney General Irwin Kimmelman at that time who stated that video lottery terminals did not require the state constitution to be amended as the current law only permits gambling in Atlantic City.

Republican Gov. Tom Kean banned the state lottery from using video lottery terminals in 1983 and Caputo’s two bills will have to overturn this decision. The current office of the State Attorney’s General stated that it would not comment on conflicting matters that go back to 1982. Caputo went on to say that he will amend his two bills and take out the requirement for a new referendum which will speed up the process and make it easier to get back into the game.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo continues push to get video lottery terminals into New Jersey racetracks was last modified: October 18th, 2016 by Renee Kingsley


Melbourne Cup organizers tread carefully in China after Crown crisis

Organizers of the Melbourne Cup, the Victoria Racing Club, are treading lightly as they prepare the first big marketing push into China on the heels of the recent Crown arrests, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Sina Weibo, the online social media giant, is the venue through which nearly 20 million Chinese viewers will be able to watch the races. The micro blogging site, which is owned by the SINA Corporation, pays for the rights to broadcast the race.

In order to circumvent the gambling ban in China, Lisa Patroni, the head of international tourism and government for Victoria Racing, said that joint promotion with Crown Hotels for the Melbourne Cup was done so as a fashion event, according to the local news agency. Just like gambling in casinos is illegal in China, so is betting on horse races.

Patroni said, “The Chinese government is conscious of the sorts of money leaving the country, but there is more sensitivity around gaming and casinos,” according to the news agency. She added that the club was “watching” carefully. “We’ve always been very careful in our positioning. That’s why we dialled up the fashion. The government will shut your website and memes down. We don’t talk gambling at all, but softly educate them on racing, and dial up the history and heritage of the Melbourne Cup,” explained Patroni.

An increase from last years 5,000, approximately 7,000 Chinese visitors have purchased tickets to this year’s Melbourne Cup.

On the weekend of the 15th, 18 employees of Crown Resorts Ltd were detained by the Chinese authorities. Among those detained were three Australians accused of trying to lure gamblers in China to their gaming venues. Until the reasons for the arrests become clearer, all marketing in China by Crown Hotels will cease. In addition to sponsoring Australia Week in China, Crown Hotels has previously run partnerships with Tourism Victoria, Austrade, and Tourism Australia. Crown has insisted that it only promotes its resorts on the mainland, not its casinos, according to the news agency.

Recently, Crown Resorts indicated that it intends to offload more of its international holdings.

Melbourne Cup organizers tread carefully in China after Crown crisis was last modified: October 31st, 2016 by K Morrison


Horse Racing industry in New Jersey confirms major partnership on eve of casino vote

New Jersey residents will vote today on the North Jersey referendum which seeks to allow two casinos outside of Atlantic City. A deal was confirmed Monday evening that will improve the quality of horse racing in the state and help the industry balance its books.

Jeff Gural, owner of the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, is in favor of the North Jersey referendum and was one of the main financial backers of the ‘Our Turn NJ’ campaign as he has plans to develop a casino in partnership with the Hard Rock International. Monmouth Park is the only thoroughbred race track in New Jersey. Gural and Dennis Drazin who runs the Ocean Port race track have reached an agreement wherein purses will be subsidized up to $15 million each breed. Gural would also provide up to $5 million annually to assist with operating costs.

 

Drazin and Gural were at loggerheads earlier this year and as a result Drazin did not throw his full support behind the North Jersey referendum. However the new agreement appears to have satisfied Drazin who called on the horse racing industry on Monday to vote ‘Yes’ and support the referendum. The North Jersey Gaming Advocates group which wants casinos to be developed outside of Atlantic City was happy to see the horse racing industry throw its full support behind the referendum.

In a statement, Ron Simoncini, a representative for the Advocates group said “This should affirm for the voters that the prospect of new casinos in North Jersey will bring significant benefits to the state. This is a complex moment in New Jersey’s history, but one that has many sincere interests working to create equity across the board”.

Gural has also agreed to spend an additional $2 million each year to develop his track and make both his dirt and turf tracks ready for thoroughbred racing. Legislators who prepared the referendum had included a horse racing purse supplement but the formula used would result in the horse racing industry receiving less than one percent of the $600 million in revenues that the two new casinos are expected to generate.

Both Gural and Fireman decided to withdraw their financial support from the ‘Our Turn NJ’ campaign after internal polls showed that voters in New Jersey were not in favor of the referendum. While the support from the horse racing industry is definitely important to the referendum, it might have come at a time that is a bit too late for it to have much of an impact on the result of the vote. The latest polls show that between 55 to 71 percent of New Jersey voters will vote for Atlantic City to continue its 40 year monopoly on the gambling industry in the state.

Horse Racing industry in New Jersey confirms major partnership on eve of casino vote was last modified: November 8th, 2016 by Renee Kingsley


Antigua And Barbuda issues deadline in long-running iGaming dispute

The twin-island nation of Antigua And Barbuda has threatened to launch a website offering royalty-free downloads of United States intellectual property including books, films, television programs and music unless its giant counterpart complies with an order from the World Trade Organization by the end of the year.

Yesterday saw Antigua And Barbuda make the threat as part of a formal presentation to the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body regarding a twelve-year-old ruling that the United States’ trade policies regarding online gambling and sportsbetting were a violation of obligations under the General Agreement On Trade And Services.

The matter can trace its roots back to 1997 when United States law enforcement officials began charging individuals including several Antiguans for offering online betting services to their American consumers. These indictments were subsequently backed up by efforts to prevent local operators from using financial tools such as credit cards.

Antigua And Barbuda felt that the move was protectionist as the United States permitted its domestic horseracing industry to offer interstate online betting services and subsequently brought the matter before the World Trade Organization. The international trade body agreed with the small Caribbean nation and in 2003 ordered the United States to pay $21 million a year until it either scrapped its domestic Internet sportsbetting industry or allowed Antigua-licensed sites access to its market. This penalty has now reportedly reached over $250 million without one penny ever being handed over.

“In this instance, the United States has never complied with the judgment in our favor,” read a statement from Harold Lovell, the former Finance, Economy And Public Administration Minister for Antigua And Barbuda. “Further, years of patient negotiating have resulted in nothing but frustration. American officials have stepped up efforts to enforce the very laws ruled invalid by the World Trade Organization. The industry that once employed some 4,000 Antiguan people now employs just a couple of hundred.”

Anticipating intransigence by the United States, the ruling from the World Trade Organization gave Antigua And Barbuda the right to employ alternative means as a way of collecting these penalty funds including offering a service that provided for the royalty-free downloads.

“Even after obtaining the authorization, the government of Antigua And Barbuda continued to seek middle ground with the United States, sending delegations on numerous occasions in hopes of reaching a settlement,” read the 2013 statement from Lovell. “These efforts have failed. Just as in the United States, in Antigua the government owes a duty to its citizens to protect and enforce their rights. We have reluctantly decided to suspend intellectual property rights protections for American firms and products. Hopefully, the remedy will work as designed and American business interests can convince the Obama administration to follow international law.”

Seen as a last ditch effort, the move from the government of Antigua And Barbuda could result in the “Megavideo” domain launching as soon as January if “an appropriate and beneficial settlement is not reached with the United States by year-end”.

“For why should, for example, the United States motion picture industry suffer just so the federal government can continue to protect the monopolies of the big American gambling interests,” asked Lovell in his statement.

Antigua And Barbuda issues deadline in long-running iGaming dispute was last modified: November 29th, 2016 by Adam Morgan


Mile High Racing & Entertainment to offer state regulated Fantasy Sports in Colorado

December 5, 2016 –Aurora, Colorado

Mile High Racing & Entertainment (MHRE) announced today that the Colorado Racing Commission has approved the activity allowing MHRE to offer fantasy sports contests in nine Colorado locations. Operating as Mile High Fantasy Sports, the contests will include professional football, basketball, hockey, baseball and other daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests. Las Vegas based USFantasy Sports is providing the content.

“This is a significant step forward for USFantasy Sports and we are excited about the Colorado market and our potential for growth within the state,” said Vic Salerno, president of USFantasy Sports. “We look forward to continuing our expansion across the United States.”

USFantasy Sports is a skill-based daily fantasy contest platform combining elements of the traditional regulated pari-mutuel systems with traditional DFS contests, creating a fair, easy and transparent environment for all contestants. The contest selection process is simple with manageable entries in each category and entry fees as low as $1. Just like in DFS, players score points based on their performance in a live game. Contestants can enter contests for athletes to Win, Place or Show among other multi-selection contests.

“We selected USFantasy Sports to provide our contests because of its skill based content which met the commission’s requirements,” said K. Bruce Seymore, general manager of Mile High Racing & Entertainment. “We are thrilled to offer the next generation of daily fantasy sports to the citizens of Colorado, and we look forward to the opportunities that USFantasy Sports contests will bring to our current and future clientele.”

Mile High Fantasy Sports contests are available in the following locations: Havana Park in Aurora; Red & Jerry’s in Sheridan, Colorado; Sundance Steak House and Saloon in Fort Collins, Colorado; Big D’s OTB in Greely, Colorado; Post Time in Colorado Springs, Colorado; The 8 Track at Bank 8 Billiards in Grand Junction, Colorado; Southern Colorado Gaming and Event Center in Pueblo, Colorado; and Softball Country and El Patrón Sports Bar in Denver.

Mile High Racing & Entertainment to offer state regulated Fantasy Sports in Colorado was last modified: December 5th, 2016 by Lars Jones


Idaho horse racing on the rocks, racing commission with no spending authority

A legislative audit earlier this week stated that the Idaho Racing Commission ran afoul of the law when it disbursed funds from the now shuttered Les Bois Park’s historical/instant racing machines. The race track, Idaho’s only commercial racing facility, went dark in March after Gov. Butch Otter failed to deliver his veto on time to quash a bill repealing a law that allowed the slot-like devices.

The money in question went to two breeding associations in late 2015, after the machines were made illegal, leaving the commission no authority to distribute the funds. The commission still has over $140,000 in its budget, but no legal authority to dole it out. The IRC still owes public schools more than $72 million. Previous to a repeal of the law authorizing the devices, the IRC was mandated to distribute funds to the breeding associations, the Idaho Horse Council Youth Programs Account, and public schools.

Idaho lawmakers failed to craft language in the 2016 legislative session giving the commission spending authority, but new legislation slated for 2017 is expected to remedy that.

Smaller horse racing venues such as at county fairs depended on proceeds from the commercial racetrack for purses and breeders depended on the money for their industry. Les Bois Park and two off-track betting venues hosted about 250 racing machines with other venues waiting for the legal fight to settle before investing.

Les Bois Park closed for a year previous to the machines coming onto the scene but otherwise had been open for 40 years.

“We’ll never have another Gary Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey from right here in Boise,” said Myron Amsden of the Idaho Horse Council in an interview with a local television station in March. “The dreams of the youth, that’s gone, it’s never coming back.”

The legislature’s decision to repeal a law they had already passed, and the governor’s failure to legally veto the repeal directly affected the horse tracks ability to stay in business, costing the small state over 500 jobs – about half of them full time at Les Bois Park, nearly $10 million in wages including fringe benefits, $5 million in interest, rent, taxes, and profits, and about $35 million in increased sales of goods and services – according to an economic impact study performed by Boise State University.

In October 2015, Idaho’s governor called for plans to reinstate the racing machines with more government oversight. The idea fell flat with most lawmakers.

Without Les Bois Park, the IRC is slated to receive about $80,000 for FY2017 to service the needs of the nine remaining race tracks in the state. Some reports indicate that funding is not even enough to pay part-time veterinarians. More money is needed to hire investigators and stewards to check for illegal activities, watch out for animal cruelty, and other duties.

Without enough money to fund purses no Idaho tracks are expected to draw top horses, trainers, and jockeys and attendance at the sporadic events is not expected to increase.

Similar to other states, Idaho’s horse racing industry has been on the decline for decades due to reduced interest in animal sports and competition from other forms of gambling.

Idaho horse racing on the rocks, racing commission with no spending authority was last modified: December 15th, 2016 by Lars Jones


Genting funded campaign promises to continue its efforts to stop expanded gaming in New Jersey

New Jersey legislators wanted to pass a referendum in November that would break Atlantic City’s monopoly on the gambling industry and allow two new casinos to be developed in North Jersey. The casino industry in New Jersey has witnessed a significant decline in gross gaming revenue (GGR) over the years and five casinos have closed since 2014. Legislators believed that in order to compete with the casino industry in neighboring states, it was important to expand casino gambling in New Jersey.

Newark-based Trenton’s Bad Bet has campaigned hard this year to prevent expanded gambling in the state and spent millions of dollars in its efforts to educate New Jersey voters on the cons of developing casino resorts outside of Atlantic City. The group has opposed expanded gambling due to the fact that it believes it would be detrimental to Atlantic City’s struggling casino industry and would further reduce GGR for Atlantic City’s casinos.

Trenton’s Bad Bet chief financial backer is the Genting Group which operates the Resorts World Casino in New York. The campaign against expanded gambling proved to be successful as New Jersey voters decided against moving casinos outside of Atlantic City. Legislators need to wait for atleast two years before they can renew their efforts to place the bill on the ballot yet again.

However Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex has introduced a new bill that looks to allow online gambling and the introduction of video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in East Rutherford and Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport.  The move to introduce online gambling and VLTs at these facilities is yet another attempt to boost gambling revenues in New Jersey.

Trenton’s Bad Bet has promised to continue their efforts to stop expanded gambling in the state. In a statement, Bill Cortese, executive director of Trenton’s Bad Bet said “This continued effort to expand gaming outside of Atlantic City after such a significant defeat at the ballot box is a slap in the face to New Jersey voters and reinforces the case that special interests will stop at nothing to get their way”.

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission stated that close to $24.6 million was spent in the lead up to the November referendum by proponents and opponents of the referendum, making it the highest spending campaign to have been recorded in New Jersey.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University reveals that the majority of voters in New Jersey do not believe that the casino industry is good for the state. The poll results also show that 79 percent are against expanded gambling in the state. This is an increase based on the poll numbers gathered in November during the Question One ballot.

 

 

 

Genting funded campaign promises to continue its efforts to stop expanded gaming in New Jersey was last modified: December 20th, 2016 by Renee Kingsley