Racinos lap casinos in Ohio; “Golden Knights” kiboshed

Ohio‘s four main casinos performed weakly last month, with Dan Gilbert‘s Jack Cleveland ($16 million, -4%) and Jack Cincinnati ($15 million, -7%) still not validating their new brand. Ironically, the once-superfluous Thistledown Racino is saving Jack’s danielgilbertbacon, up 13% to $9 million. The Penn National Gaming-managed duo wasn’t doing a whole lot better. Hollywood Toledo was flat at $14.5 million, while Hollywood Columbus was 4% down, to $17 million. The racinos were an entirely different story, with Hard Rock Rocksino leading the pack at just over $17 million (up 6%). Only Scioto Downs, slipping 2.5% to $11 million was a revenue-negative track last month. Independent Miami Valley Gaming was up 11% to $11 million. Belterra Park gained 7%, to $6 million, while Penn/GLPI‘s Hollywood Dayton was up 6% ($7 million) and Hollywood Austintown was up 6%, to $8 million. At $264 in slot win per day, it is surely the second-most productive property under the Penn banner, the little racino that could.

* Atlantic City got some love from MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren, who took advantage of an imminent casino opening near Washington, D.C., to address the National Press Club. Murren said that long-deferred plans for developing MGM-held land near Borgata will now move forward and that Atlantic City’s worst days were behind it. (Tell that to Mayor Don Guardian [R], newly disempowered by the state.) “We’re going to see gradual improvement,” said Murren, who added that the city’s recent travails were “heartbreaking.” However, “I would not have just invested additionally another $800 million [buying Boyd Gaming out of Borgata] if I did not believe it could move forward.” From your mouth to God‘s ear, we hope.

* While Maryland‘s casino tax rates are the nation’s most onerous, the opening of MGM National Harbor is about to provide relief to Maryland Live and Horseshoe Baltimore. A little-publicized tax break, passed several years ago, will cut the levy on slot Maryland-Live-Casinorevenues at Maryland Live from 59% to 51%, while Horseshoe’s will go from 61% to 54%. That’s still too high but it’s a step in the right direction. Seems like National Harbor is a win-win for the industry overall. Maryland casinos did well overall last month, marking a full year of gains. Horseshoe was the headline, leaping 16% to $28.5 million. Some of that may have come at the expense of Maryland Live, down 3% but still banking $50 million. Hollywood Perryville continues to sink like a stone, down 7% to $5.5 million. Golden Entertainment gained 6% at Rocky Gap Casino, which grossed $4 million, as did slots-only Ocean Downs, off 2%.

* In Arizona, the Tohono O’odham tribe is keeping Gov. Doug Ducey (R) guessing as to whether it will sign onto his new Phoenix-area gaming compact or not. One columnist speculates that the tribe is studying the compact to find any potential trapdoors whereby Ducey might grant Class III gaming to Desert Diamond Casino, then find a pretext to shut it down. Considering that Ducey has been playing a losing hand to date, the T-Os have him right where they want him.

* In another tribal-state wrangle, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) met with Hard Rock International CEO James Allen and other representatives of the Seminole Tribe. The governor had little to say afterward beyond indicating he would defer to the Legislature’s wishes regarding a new Seminole compact. It is difficult to say who is being more unrealistic, Scott or Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran, who says any new compact would have to “have a reduction in gaming.” That horse has long since fled the barn, Mr. Speaker.

* Will Las Vegas‘ new hockey team be the Golden Knights or not? Scarcely was the new name unveiled than the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office nixed it, citing a conflict with the College of St. Rose, in New York, as well as an excessive number of similarities between the two trademarks — even though St. Rose does not have a hockey team. The league was unfazed by the denial. “We consider this a routine matter and it is not our intention to reconsider the name or logo of this franchise,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner William Daly. He said the league would rely upon being registered “in co-existence” with St. Rose’s team names, as is often the case in professional sports. The league has already worked out a co-existence pact with Clarkson University, also in New York State, which *does* have a hockey team. May the best Knights win.

* Casino gambling has been legalized by the lower house of Japan‘s parliament. It now moves to the upper chamber of the Diet. Celebration is premature but it’s a promising start.

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