Shawn The Sham; Cal-Neva in limbo

“They got the signatures to put it on the ballot and they are going to be spending millions of dollars on advertising, probably six weeks prior to this Election Day in November, to convince people to vote for it. It will be slick advertising just like their whole approach to this was slick.” That was Maine state Sen. Ron Collins (R), before he stormed out of hearing on Shawn Scott‘s latest sleazy attempt to get himself a casino. Under the masquerade of “Horseracing Jobs Fairness,” Scott raised enough signatures to get a referendum placed on November’s ballot — a question craftily worded so that Scott and Scott alone could benefit from a “yes” vote. As the Portland Press Herald reported, “lawmakers pointed out that the proposal would exempt the company from having to build or operate a horse track.”

Scott’s last-minute lobbyist, Dan Riley, said his client had tried to buy Scarborough Downs but it went to another bidder. Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott, shelled out $4 million on this latest ballot drive. While it looks at first blush like Scott is trying to redeem a shady image (he was run out of the ex-Speedway Casino for accounting practices that Nevada regulators termed “smoke and mirrors”), there’s a significant chance he will flip the track for a quick payday. He’s already done it with the Bangor horse track (Penn National Gaming was the pigeon), earning a $48 million windfall.

It appears unlikely that the leopard has changed his spots. A Laos casino linked to Scott’s offshore Bridge Capital was recently taken over by the government. This prompted state Sen. Garrett Mason (R) to say, “The governments in Laos and Malaysia have shut down properties that are linked to this capital company. I have serious concerns about letting a company like this operate a casino in our state.” At the moment, it looks like Scott has the upper hand, though, and will see a big payday one way or another,

* Reopening of Frank Sinatra‘s old Cal-Neva Lodge & Casino continues to be scheduled for the twelfth of never. It’s languishing in bankruptcy, although an Incline Village emissary, Kristina Hill, says there is frequent “interest” in the property. The last owner of record, Criswell Radovan, has done an abysmal job of meeting its deadlines for reopening the Cal-Neva and, ominously, workers were seeing emptying the property last week. The case is very much pending in bankruptcy court so stay tuned.

* Despite the defection of Lippo Ltd., a Caesars Entertainment spokesman says the company’s $700 million South Korea casino, sited near Incheon International Airport, is very much a happening thing and construction will begin next month. In other Caesars news, CEO Mark Frissora has named top lieutenant Christian Stuart executive vice president of gaming and interactive entertainment. Stuart’s brief is to “pursue a gaming development road map that creates new products, greater customer engagement and more interactive experiences.” This is a forward-looking move that is to be applauded, as Frissora continues his stated mission to reinvent the gaming experience. Stuart’s resumé is certainly cosmopolitan: He’s had postings in South Africa, Egypt and the United Kingdom. Now, in Frissora’s words, “As technology continues to evolve, our gaming and entertainment offerings must also grow to meet the needs and expectations of our customers,” and Stuart will be his point man on that front. We wish him the best of luck.

* Making it definitive, North Dakota lawmakers stomped on the heart of Rep. Al Carlson and ground it into little pieces. By a 28-63 margin, they ashcanned his proposal for six, privately owned casinos. Tribal opposition was cited as a heavy factor in the defeat. Barring (knock on wood) some massive economic setback, we’ve probably heard the last of this idea for a while.

* It’s a Monaco-and-Macao hookup. Galaxy Entertainment has announced it will join forces with Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Étrangers à Monaco to pursue a casino concession in Japan. The two said they were pursuing “entertainment businesses including integrated resort projects in the Asia‑Pacific region,” but let’s not kid ourselves. Japan is the big enchilada (sushi roll?) in all this. As they stated, “With the recent passage of the Integrated Resort Promotion Bill in Japan in December 2016, both companies look forward to the possibility of collaborative efforts to design, develop and operate an integrated resort in Japan.” Galaxy is already a minority shareholder in SMB, so it makes sense to bring it on board. With Galaxy also on the hunt for a Nipponese partner, the tub’s going to get pretty crowded. Japanese politicians are thought to be averse to simply importing Macanese operators, but SBM’s portfolio of European properties creates the prospect of harvesting customers from the far side of the globe: not an unattractive thought.

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