Third Connecticut Casino Announcement Has All Ears Piqued in Northeast

Third Connecticut Casino Announcement Has All Ears Piqued in Northeast

A planned Connecticut casino will reveal its targeted location for construction in the coming days, and the impending announcement has the ears of all vested gaming interests operating in the northeast.

MGM Springfield in Massachusetts is causing quite a stir, as another Connecticut casino is in the works to offset the impact of the megaresort.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Native American tribes are working together to bring the Constitution State a third casino venue. The joint venture is in response to MGM Springfield, the $950 million resort currently under construction in southern Massachusetts.

State lawmakers permitted the two tribal groups to build a third casino off their sovereign lands in order to keep gambling revenue in the state and protect jobs.

The Mashantucket and Mohegan people are considering building in the northern part of the state in the towns of Windsor Locks or East Windsor. That would place the Connecticut casino just 15 miles from MGM Springfield.

With MGM, state lawmakers, and residents anxiously waiting, the tribes say the official announcement of the casino will be revealed in the coming days. ‘We’re days, not weeks or months . . . from announcing a decision,’ Mohegan Chairman Kevin Brown said this week.

MGM States the Obvious

Once the Native American coalition pinpoints its gaming location, the state legislature will need to sign off on the construction. The facility is expected to cost around $300 million.

During a General Assembly Public Safety and Security Committee hearing this week, MGM officials opined that they believe the third casino should be placed in the southwestern part of the state. The gaming company based in Las Vegas told the committee that a gambling venue near the New York border would be an ideal spot for the facility.

Governor Dannel Malloy (D) was quick to respond with a bit of sarcasm, ‘I’m shocked that MGM would say that based on their investment.’

The Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos are both located in the eastern part of the state.

Foxwoods President Felix Rappaport told the committee that MGM is ‘one of the best in the business.’ Though he had nothing but praise for MGM, the gaming executive cited a study that found the Springfield resort will cause the two Connecticut casinos to lose $702 million in revenue in the first three years after it opens.

Tribes in Control

Connecticut is the third-smallest state in terms of land area, and when it comes to potential suitors for its third casino, its options are also very small. That’s because the state will have a hard time justifying taking bids from other gaming entities other than the two tribes due to their compacts.

Under their current agreements, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun share their slot revenue with the state in exchange for gaming exclusivity. That equates to about $200 million being delivered to Hartford each year.

If Connecticut were to allow another tribe or gambling party to build, the compact would be annulled and the $200 million would disappear. MGM says a robust casino resort in southern Connecticut would more than offset the loss.

The odds seem to favor the legislature approving the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan project. It’s likely a quicker, easier solution to keeping gambling money inside state borders and out of MGM Springfield.

Scott Tom, Absolute Poker Founder and Fugitive, Plays His Hand in Federal Court at Last

Black Friday fugitive Scott Tom, the founder of Absolute Poker (AP), pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday to charges of violating internet gambling laws and conspiracy.

Back in its pre-Black Friday glory days, Absolute Poker was a popular online site. Can founder Scott Tom escape a prison sentence now that he’s returned stateside after a decade on the lam? (Image: Dave M. Benett/Getty)

The 37-year-old had been at large since he was indicted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2011, but turned himself in yesterday, arriving back in New York from his home in Barbados, according to Reuters.

Six years ago, the DOJ shut down the three largest online poker sites serving the US market: Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker’s CEREUS network, on the grounds that they were tricking banks into processing billions of online transactions in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

Tom was indicted along with 11 others, including his step-brother Brent Beckley, who received 14 months in prison in 2012. It’s not known why Tom, who was the last of the 11 to face the music besides PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, has chosen to turn himself in now, after so much time on the lam.

He was released on a $500,000 bond. His lawyer, James Henderson, said in court he expected a plea deal soon.

Players Still Owed Millions

AP collapsed shortly after Black Friday, owing players millions. Because it had failed to segregate player funds from its operating costs, it couldn’t pay up. AP’s assets were liquidated by the DOJ to cover debts to suppliers, but those players have never been paid, and it’s unlikely they ever will be. By some estimates they are owed as much as $60 million.

Many former customers would no doubt like to see Tom questioned over the AP cheating scandal. In 2007, a player on the TwoPlusTwo forums suspected that someone using an AP account called ‘Potripper’ was somehow able to see his cards.

The player emailed AP support to request his hand history for a tournament he had lost heads up to Potripper in improbable circumstances. Instead, he received, presumably from a whistleblower within AP, a document that included the hand histories of everyone involved in the tournament, as well their IPs, and the IPs of observers.

The document confirmed beyond a doubt the existence of a super-user account, which had been able to see all the cards and which was advising Potripper.

How It Went Down

TwoPlusTwo members suspected an observer, named ‘#363,’ of being the super-user, and traced the IP to an AP server hosted by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. That oversight organization in turn cross-referenced to a cable modem in Costa Rica, owned by Tom.

The Potripper account was owned by A.J. Green, a former director of operations at AP, as well as reportedly Tom’s best friend.

In the wake of the scandal, the official line from AP was that the accounts were hacked by a disgruntled employee.

Tom is not standing trial for the AP cheating scandal, of course, and any evidence of his involvement is merely circumstantial. But a decade on, those wronged by his poker site are still demanding answers.

Las Vegas Convention Center Puts Its Money on Expansion to Attract More Visitors

For a town where big, glitzy productions are the norm, even the Las Vegas Convention Center’s expansion plans are impressive.

Members of the Oversight Panel for Convention Facilities got their first glimpse of the vision officials at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) have for free spins pokies updating the buildings on Thursday.

The Las Vegas Convention Center is in the planning stages of a $1.4 billion renovation that would make it the second-largest facility of its type in the U.S. (Image: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority)

This was the first of three meetings by the board, and if all goes well, the construction plan will be approved in May. Thursday’s meeting was to view reports and plans. The next meeting, scheduled for March, will address budget, scheduling, and financing, and the group will look at design and construction in April.

If ratified, the remodel would begin as soon as possible, with a goal of completion by 2022. The cost of the project is estimated at $1.4 billion. Funding is provided by the same hotel tax legislation that would pay for a proposed NFL stadium for the anticipated Oakland Raiders move.

Tourists Targeted

The strategy behind the renovations is to bring more people and companies into Las Vegas, and to continue courting longstanding conventions to stay in the city.

There had been rumblings that the outdated structures and rumors were pushing some organizations to take their shows to other cities, such as Orlando or Chicago. The city also faced smaller competing convention space venues locally, such as Mandalay Bay and the Sands.

Fortunately, attendance has increased significantly year-to-year, with an uptick of 14.4 percent in 2016, according to the LVCVA figures.

Tourists numbers have also risen, per the report, as have hotel occupancy rates and gambling revenue. A targeting of Asian gamblers with a direct flight from Beijing to Las Vegas, as well as the new themed casino resort Lucky Dragon, have added to that growth.

Ambitious Plan

LVCVA executives are aiming for a 30 percent growth spike in tourism by 2022, a move that would take its current market share of 16 percent up another 14 percent in less than a decade. Improving the Convention Center is one viable means to achieve that objective.

The transformation calls for an increase in space from 1.9 million square feet to 2.5 million square feet in five years. That would make it the second-largest ConVis, with Chicago’s McCormick Place first at 2.6 million square feet.

The work would be done in stages and would not interfere with any current trade exhibitions held at the facility. The first section would be the planned new hall being built, followed by the Central Hall. The North Hall would be next and lastly the South Hall.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval(R) appointed the panel to oversee the project and has long been a proponent of it. ‘The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expansion is critical to the longevity of Nevada’s tourism industry,’ he said in a statement.

Marijuana Ban Enforcement Could Be Back on, says Sean Spicer. Will Online Gambling Be Next?

The Trump administration’s preparedness to crackdown on recreational marijuana use could have ominous overtones for regulated online gambling in the US.

Sean Spicer expects ‘greater enforcement’ of the federal ban on recreational marijuana usage, a stance that may also have uneasy repercussions for the regulated online gambling sector in the US. (Image: WH.gov live stream)

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer fired a warning shot to the eight states that have decriminalized the use of the drug recreationally, emphasizing that they shouldn’t expect the leniency exercised by the previous government.

‘There’s a big difference between the medical marijuana and recreational marijuana… When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming around so many states, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,’ Spicer told reporters. ‘There is still a federal law we need to abide by in terms of when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.’

Pot Laws Relaxed

While a federal prohibition does indeed remain in place, the Obama administration issued an administrative policy ending federal raids related to marijuana usage in states with ‘robust regulation.’ Then, in 2014, it prohibited the DEA from using federal funds to pursue medical marijuana operations that exist legally under state laws.

The relaxation of the enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana emboldened numerous states to legalize the medical and recreational usage of the drug.

Similarly, the Obama administration’s 2011 opinion that the Federal Wire Act prohibits online sports betting alone, paved the way for New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware to legalize and regulate online poker and casino gaming.

Asked whether the marijuana states could be the target of renewed federal enforcement, Spicer said it’s a question for the DOJ, but added: ‘I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement.’

Smoking Sessions

Trump’s controversial attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had made his stance on marijuana clear. ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana,’ he has said. He has also allegedly said he used to think the KKK were OK until he learned they smoked marijuana, later clarifying that this was ‘a joke.’

Sessions has also professed himself to be ‘shocked’ on the 2011 Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act, when quizzed about it during his confirmation hearing.

Asked whether he would revisit the opinion, he said he would. ‘I will make a decision on it based on careful study,’ he added pragmatically. ‘I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.’

It’s hard to know how far the new administration would go to provoke the states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Spicer recently said the government is pro states’ rights when it comes to ending the Obama administration’s federal protection of transgender people’s right to use facilities based on gender identity.

This championing of states’ rights doesn’t appear to extend to recreational marijuana, and whether or not it extends to online gambling is still unclear.