Santa Anita Park records improved opening-day business

In California, horseracing track operator Stronach Group has reported year-on-year increases in attendance and handle for the beginning of the winter-spring session at its Santa Anita Park.

According to a report from the Daily Racing Form newspaper, the suburban Los Angeles thoroughbred facility saw on-track attendance of 46,514 for Monday’s opening day of its winter-spring session, which represented a gain of 3.5% year-on-year, while handle rose by a similar amount to top $3.63 million.

In addition, the Arcadia-based track also reported all-sources handle, which includes its horseracing simulcast and account wagering services, had swelled by 5.5% year-on-year to reach in excess of $18.36 million.

The newspaper reported that track officials are hoping this success will continue when racing resumes later today with a five-day meet that is to run through to Monday. Thursday’s eight-race program will include two carryovers in the $2 pick-six with a $115,062 in the main pool and a $24,656 in the single-ticket jackpot pool, which is paid only when there is a single winning ticket.

The Daily Racing Form moreover reported that there are to be four graded stakes over the coming weekend at Santa Anita Park including the $300,000 American Oaks for three-year-old fillies on Saturday while Sunday’s program is to be led by the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes, which is expected to include the winner of last month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic event.

Santa Anita Park records improved opening-day business was last modified: December 29th, 2016 by Adam Morgan

Businessman announces plan for new Pennsylvania casino

In Pennsylvania, a local businessman has reportedly announced that he intends to apply for the state’s last remaining harness racing license and open a track near the town of Gettysburg before applying for permission to inaugurate a casino on the site.

According to a report from local television broadcaster WHTM-TV, David LeVan wants to construct his Mason-Dixon Downs facility on a site in Adams County bordering the famous demarcation line of 1767 and approximately 2.5 miles south-east of the Eisenhower Hotel And Conference Center, where he had hoped to construct a similar facility in 2011.

“I think it would be tremendous,” LeVan, who owns area motorcycle dealership Battlefield Harley-Davidson, told WHTM-TV. “The economic impact [and] the jobs impact; it would be absolutely phenomenal.”

Levan reportedly told the television broadcaster that concerns expressed by earlier opponents to a casino that gaming would bring increased levels of crime and traffic have not come to fruition while other Pennsylvania communities are benefiting from thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in grants from the gaming industry.

Mason-Dixon Downs would be located about 3.2 miles from Gettysburg National Military Park and WHTM-TV reported that this has prompted protests from some historians and traditionalists. But, LeVan declared that Pennsylvania already has casinos that sit far closer to national historic sites such as Valley Forge Casino Resort, which is across the street from Valley Forge National Park in the town of King Of Prussia. In addition, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and Liberty Bell are less than two miles from SugarHouse Casino while Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin is only three miles from the Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Fayette County.

Levan reportedly proclaimed that his development would promote the history of the Civil War battlefield site, bring jobs to the area and attract more visitors, which would lead to millions of dollars for local businesses.

One of these, Hanover Shoe Farms, is about ten miles from the proposed site for Mason-Dixon Downs, which would be around 45 miles south of the state capital of Harrisburg and approximately 53 miles from Baltimore, Maryland, and breeds horses for harness racing. Co-owner Jim Simpson reportedly has pregnant mares at his facility that are due to give birth in three to four months and explained that these animals would be able to race at Mason-Dixon Downs.

“It would be great,” Simpson told WHTM-TV. “It would be great for the industry and great for this farm.”

In order to make Mason-Dixon Downs a reality, WHTM-TV reported that LeVan will need zoning approval and obtain millions of dollars in capital before securing the harness racing and casino licenses.

Businessman announces plan for new Pennsylvania casino was last modified: January 17th, 2017 by Adam Morgan

Project plans revealed for Gettysburg-area casino and harness racetrack

Developers of a new project that includes a harness racetrack and casino facility in Pennsylvania have revealed plans of what the project will entail, including a new hotel and dining venues.

Back in January, David LeVan, a local entrepreneur made the announcement that he was applying for casino licensing in Pennsylvania that was reserved for harness racing tracks. This was the only available license and LeVan had plans to create a casino and track, which would be known as Mason-Dixon Downs. The venue would be located off Route 15 on a piece of land located in the Freedom Township.

By February, representatives of the project asked the officials of the Freedom Township to begin considering a change to the zoning ordinance. LeVan had a purchase agreement for 700 acres of land, with some of the land being considered as mixed-use which means that it would not specifically be allowed for harness racing or a casino.

Last Wednesday, the representatives of Mason-Dixon Downs along with LeVan presented their plans for the project, to the members of the planning commission as well as the public. The presentation included proposed amendments the group hope to see changed in regards to the zoning issue. According to a report by The Evening Sun, the amendments would see changes such as the minimum required lot area to be 500 acres, the main buildings (including the racetrack) be at least 500 feet from public roads that exist during the time frame of the application and that 60% of the land for the project will remain as open space.

The amendments also included the fact that a hotel and restaurants must be included in the design of the site and not in a remote location away from the racing/gaming venue. Parking, wastewater systems, water, building height and several other aspects were also covered during the presentation to give the public and commission insight into the full plans of the company.

The addition of a hotel, conference center and restaurants to the plans were made due to a recent market study solicited by LeVan. According to study, it was suggested that adding a 200 guest room hotel, a conference center and restaurants would result in an enhancement of revenues.

This is not the first time that LeVan has tried to bring a casino to the area. In 2005 and 2006, he worked on a plan that failed along with an attempt in 2010 when he saw contention against plans to create a venue that proponents felt would encroach on the Gettysburg National Military Park.

As far as this recent project is concerned, over 100 individuals were at the meeting last week to show support as well as protest the plans. The members of the planning commission voted to table the discussion and review the plans further.


Project plans revealed for Gettysburg-area casino and harness racetrack was last modified: April 11th, 2017 by Marie Kelley

Banner year for West Virginia racetrack and casino

Last year reportedly saw the Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races in West Virginia set a number of all-time individual highs including record all-sources handle per race of $116,184 alongside its largest individual event export handle at $110,623.

According to a report from The Journal newspaper, 2016 with its 1,375 events marked the second consecutive year the Jefferson County facility has broken its wagering per race record as the $116,184 figure was 4.05% higher than the previous year’s $111,664 while it moreover set all-time monthly handle highs in August, September, October, November, and December.

Owned by Gaming And Leisure Properties Incorporated and operated by Penn National Gaming Incorporated, Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races sits a little over seven miles from West Virginia’s eastern borders with Virginia and Maryland and each dollar it paid out in 2016 purses reportedly produced $6.51 in parimutuel handle, which easily topped the previous record of $5.90 set in 2012.

Since 2009, Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races reportedly revealed that the parimutuel handle it has produced for each dollar in purses paid has risen by 55% while handle per race has swelled by 37.7%.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the Charles Town racetrack and casino paid out the largest West Virginia Breeders Classics handle at $1.75 million while April 23 saw it award record Exacta and Pick 4 pools of $359,868 and $292,563 respectively.

“To set another record for wagering volume per race in the face of some obstacles speaks volumes about the quality and dedication of our entire team here at [Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races],” Erich Zimny, Racing Operations Vice-President for Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races, told the newspaper. “We’d also like to thank both our business partners for their contributions to our operations in 2016 and the horseplayers whose interest in our racing has helped in spurring on our success. We look forward to the challenge of trying to top it all in 2017.”

Banner year for West Virginia racetrack and casino was last modified: January 2nd, 2017 by Adam Morgan

Arrogate wins showcase main event at inaugural Pegasus World Cup

Horse racetrack operator The Stronach Group held the inaugural edition of its Pegasus World Cup thoroughbred race last month at its Gulfstream Park Racing And Casino and the event reportedly saw more than 16,000 people cram into the Florida facility and wager in excess of $40 million.

According to a report from local radio broadcaster WFSU-FM, the January 28 event saw dozens of horses take part although Juddmonte Farms-owned Arrogate overcame fellow favorite California Chrome to win the showcase 1 1/8-mile main event with spectators that had paid the minimum $100 entrance fee comprising many local celebrities and politicians.

“The real intention of this race was to try to drag out the thoroughbred season for a champion horse,” Tim Ritvo, President for Gulf Stream Park Racing And Casino and Chief Operating Officer for Ontario firm The Stronach Group, told WFSU-TV. “So the idea [is] that horses [are] usually retired to stud because they’re so valuable. If we could put together a schedule of races where you have a $7 million Breeders Cup, a $10 million Dubai World Cup, a $12 million Pegasus Cup [and] maybe another, horses may race an extra year and maybe become stallions at five and six rather than [at] three or four. Fans could create more heroes as time goes by.”

One of North America’s largest thoroughbred horseracing firms in terms of revenues and holdings, The Stronach Group also owns California’s Santa Anita Park as well as Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore with Ritvo explaining that the Pegasus World Cup helped to pour money into the local Hallandale Beach economy as hotels filled up and race-goers ate at local restaurants.

“We came all the way here to see California Chrome because we love him,” race fan Laurie Robinson, who had traveled more than 1,000 miles from her home in Oklahoma to witness the race, told WFSU-TV. “He’s a wonderful horse. Win or lose whatever. He’s great.”

To enter the showcase final race, The Stronach Group revealed that each horse had been required to pay a $1 million entry fee with California Chrome eventually finishing in ninth after being pulled up by his jockey while Shamans Ghost, which had been bred at its very own Adena Stables, took second spot.

Arrogate wins showcase main event at inaugural Pegasus World Cup was last modified: February 10th, 2017 by Adam Morgan

OLG to award lucrative Toronto gaming market to 1 of 3 final contenders

After surviving an elimination round that saw at least three other highly qualified contenders pack up and leave the fight, it appears as if Malaysia’s Genting Group, Caesars Entertainment, and Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, LP are the last concerns in the running to take control of the Ontario, Canada gaming market. Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management gave up a bid in 2014 to buy the former Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City after winning a preliminary $110 million bid on the property that cost $2.4 billion to open just two years earlier.

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG) is preparing to turn over casino properties and operations in the lucrative Ontario gaming market to one of the companies and give them exclusive rights to four casinos for the next 22 years. The winner will earn a minimum of CAD72 million (US$57.43 million) annually for the 22 year-long deal term, and as much as 70 per cent of gambling revenue. Reports indicate that casinos in the Greater Toronto Area alone took in almost $1 billion in revenues in 2016.

Earlier reporting in trade media suggested that the OLG was considering handing over operations at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack, Ajax Downs, and the Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry to one of six potential suitors. That list also included Great Canadian Gaming, a B.C. based company that already won OLG’s “east” bundle; the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority who own and operate Mohegan Sun in Connecticut; and Penn National Gaming. Also mentioned earlier but not in later reports was Falls Management, operators of two casinos in Niagra.

In addition to an “aggressive” marketing campaign required of the winning bidder to increase revenues at the existing facilities, the winner will be allowed to open a fourth casino in the Toronto area if they can find a willing host community.

However, Woodbine, if approved by the city council, would likely be the focus of most redevelopment, including a full casino to replace the current slot parlor at the racetrack. The facility is located close to Canada’s busiest airport, the Toronto Pearson International Airport and operators could possibly add table gaming and thousands of slot machines along with other visitor amenities to increase footfall and revenues.

“The OLG’s modernization plan is the catalyst for Woodbine Entertainment to unlock the value of the Woodbine lands to sustain horse racing on our 680-acre site and bring real economic development to Rexdale,” Woodbine spokesman John Siscos said.

Labor issues would eventually need to be resolved as more than 400 workers at Woodbine have picketed saying they were locked out of the facilities in July after a collective bargaining agreement failed to materialize.

According to Sunday’s Globe and Mail report, the OLG has been on a mission to increase revenues and profitability and has sold off almost half of its casinos to private operators over the last couple of years in an effort to modernize operations. Slots at Kawartha Downs in Fraserville and Casino Thousand Islands in Gananoque were sold for $46.9 million in late 2015, but sales prices for slot machines and casinos sold in other areas have not been revealed, according to the report.

Taxes aside, the OLG is largest economic engine churning money for the Ontario government with more than $2.3 billion in profits for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Once the outsourcing process is completed, the OLG plans to generate an additional $900 million each year beginning in 2021.

OLG to award lucrative Toronto gaming market to 1 of 3 final contenders was last modified: July 25th, 2017 by Lars Jones

Governor urged to re-privatize the New York Racing Association

Representatives from the New York horseracing industry and residents of the city of Saratoga Springs reportedly used a committee meeting on Tuesday to urge state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo to return control of the New York Racing Association to a private board.

According to a report from the Daily Racing Form newspaper, Cuomo used special enabling legislation to place the New York Racing Association, which operates a trio of thoroughbred horseracing tracks encompassing Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, under state control in 2012 at the same time as pursuing a policy of expanded casino gambling in the eastern state. Although this unique arrangement was due to end in 2015, the Democrat has since signed a pair of extensions at the same time as overseeing the licensing of three new upstate Class III casinos in Waterloo’s Del Lago Resort And Casino, The Rivers Casino And Resort At Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady and Sullivan County’s Montreign Resort Casino.

The newspaper reported that the New York Senate Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee heard from five speakers during the hour-long meeting in Albany with every one testifying that the state should immediately end its control of the non-profit New York Racing Association.

One of these, Joe McMahon, who owns McMahon Thoroughbreds Of Saratoga, reportedly declared that the state’s horse-breeding industry was being prevented from growing due to “uncertainty” concerning the state’s political motivations.

“There is a lingering concern that politics is threatening what is becoming a vibrant industry in our state,” said McMahon. “They don’t feel the state government is a trustworthy partner.”

The newspaper reported that New York State Senator Kathleen Marchione, who is a Republican that represents part of Saratoga County, stated that she would call on Cuomo to immediately relinquish state control of the New York Racing Association as the current arrangement is weakening the operator’s ability to plan for the future.

“New York has to make good on its promise to return the New York Racing Association to a private corporation,” said Marchione. “The reality is that key long-term decisions on important issues and critical multi-million investments are being delayed until the New York Racing Association is re-privatized as a private non-profit. It is doing real harm.”

In addition, Cuomo’s moves were criticized by New York State Senator John Bonacic with the Sullivan County Republican proclaiming that he was looking forward to seeing Cuomo’s plan for the re-privatization of the New York Racing Association.

“I’m not here to beat the governor up but why am I bringing these things up,” said Bonacic. “It shows in my mind what is a priority for this governor. What’s important? What is he saying with his priorities?”

In written testimony submitted to the New York Senate Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee, Chris Kay, President and Chief Executive Officer for the New York Racing Association, explained that his group has had “productive dialogue” with Cuomo’s office over the past several months and that he looks forward to “working with the legislature and all stakeholders in efforts to pass the [the governor’s] proposal”.

The New York Senate Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee moreover reportedly heard criticism regarding a maneuver last year that saw Malaysian gaming giant Genting Group, which runs the slots-friendly Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack, receive approval to relocate some 460 of its machine to a new 1,000-slot facility in nearby Nassau County operated by Nassau County Off-Track Betting Corporation.

The Daily Racing Form reported that horseracing industry representatives are angry that the decision allegedly resulted in Genting Group moving its highest-grossing slots from the Queens track to Nassau County. As the statutory revenue-sharing requirements are lower for the relocated machines, Richard Violette, President for the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, told those in attendance that the sport was being short-changed to the tune of as much as $12 million a year.

Violette called the move “outrageous” and was joined by Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director for New York Thoroughbred Breeders, in urging lawmakers to pass legislation to address the situation.

“There is nothing equitable, there is nothing fair about this whole setup,” said Violette.

Governor urged to re-privatize the New York Racing Association was last modified: January 18th, 2017 by Adam Morgan

New California online poker bill AB 1677 Introduced

After over a decade of attempts, California is making yet another effort to pass online poker legislation that will bring legal and regulated ipoker to the Golden State.  On Friday, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer introduced the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act, aka AB 1677.

The bill would “establish a framework to authorize intrastate Internet poker …” and “authorize eligible entities to apply for a 7-year license to operate an authorized poker Web site offering the play of authorized Internet poker games to registered players within California.”

Similar to other bills introduced in the past ten years relating to online poker in California, AB 1677 will only allow state card rooms and tribal gaming operators to apply for a license to offer online poker to residents of the state.  A $12.5 million fee will be charged to successful applicants, while the license will cover seven years of operations. The upfront fee will be credited against future tax fees.

Online poker operators will pay taxation according to the revenue they generate over the period of a year from their ipoker platforms. Should these operators earn less than $150 million, they will charged a fee of 8.8%, while those who earn between $150 million and $250 million, will need to pay a higher rate of 10% tax. Annual revenue of between $250 million and $350 million earns the state 12.5% in tax, and any operator that earns over $350 million will be required to pay 15% tax.

The controversial ‘bribe’ to California’s horse racing industry, introduced in predecessors of AB 1677, has been carried through to the current bill. Essentially, the clause states that 95% of the first $60 million earned by the government from online poker revenue will be diverted to the horse racing industry. In return, the industry will not demand to be allowed to apply for online poker licenses.

Opponents to the bill point out that there is a very small chance that California will even make more than $60 million from online poker per year, and therefore there is no logical reason to push for AB 1677.

A thorn in the side of any previous attempts to pass online poker legislation has been the question of ‘bad actors’ (those gaming sites that served Californian residents after the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006).  This all boils down to the issue of whether or not to allow the PokerStars brand to operate in a legalized Californian market.  AB 1677 has gracefully stepped away from answering this question by leaving it up to state gaming regulators to decide what constitutes a bad actor.

In the past, bills have died over the bad actor clause. Some parties, mainly certain tribes, argue that PokerStars does not deserve to be part of a regulated industry, while others, such as some California card room operators, believe that its past actions remain in the past, and a new era for the company began following its acquisition by Amaya Inc. in 2014.

New California online poker bill AB 1677 Introduced was last modified: February 21st, 2017 by Renee Kingsley

Southern Maine to hold public hearing over controversial new casino

A public hearing date has been set for this week to allow the public to have their say on a proposal to construct a new casino in southern Maine. The well-funded proposal has been criticized by many parties, including Maine Governor Paul LePage and the No More Casinos Maine political action committee. The proposal is set to appear on this November’s ballot if authorities clear the signatures gathered.

The campaign to build a new casino in southern Maine was started, and is being financed, by a group called Horseracing Jobs Fairness, which is run by Lisa Scott. The controversial side of the proposal comes from the fact that Lisa Scott is sister to gambling impresario Shawn Scott, who sold his $51 million stake in Bangor Raceway ten years ago. Since then, the Scotts have sunk over $4 million into the Horseracing Jobs Fairness campaign to build the southern Maine casino.  The proposal only allows for a York County casino or slot machine operator license for Shawn Scott.

Sixteen years ago, Scott won voter approval for Maine’s first gambling facility in Bangor. Around the time that Scott sold his stake in Bangor Raceway, he was also denied gambling licenses in other states after authorities raised questions about his background and alleged shady business dealings.

Last year, the lobbying group submitted thousands of signatures to authorities to get the question of a southern Maine casino on the 2016 ballots. However, election officials rejected over 50% of the signatures, citing irregularities. The group then used the 35,000 approved signatures and added them to thousands of others to get the question onto this year’s ballot.

Gambling officials and lawmakers have expressed their opposition to the proposal, simply because it is written in such a way that would only benefit Shawn Scott.

“Since the beginning of this referendum process, it’s been wrought with fraud,” noted Democratic Rep. Louis Luchini.


Southern Maine to hold public hearing over controversial new casino was last modified: March 27th, 2017 by Renee Kingsley