Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | January 2008 44 Briefs International Briefs Nevada, A.C. Casino Revenues Decline Nevada casinos won US$981.1 million from gamblers in Novem- ber, a 14% decrease from the same month a year earlier, according to figures released by Nevada’s Gaming Control Board.The drop was the largest year-on-year decline since January 2002. The take for casinos along the Las Vegas Strip—the heart of Ne- vada’s casino industry—fell by a steeper 19.1% to a total of US$519.7 million for the month. UBS analyst Robin Farley called the results“less than encouraging,” while noting that they follow a robust 20% increase for Strip proper- ties in October and a high base of comparison set by November 2006 growth of 22%. “Regardless of potential mitigating factors, this decline in Novem- ber will likely pressure the Las Vegas-focused stocks and place more emphasis on December Las Vegas results and the 2008 outlook when gaming operators begin reporting fourth-quarter 2007 results in sev- eral weeks,”Farley said. Meanwhile, casinos in Atlantic City won US$371.2 million in De- cember, a 10.6% year-on-year decline. The 11 casinos in the second-largest U.S. gambling market collect- ed $251.1 million at slot machines and another $120.2 million at table games, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission said. Slot revenue dropped 14.4% to US$251.1million,while table game winnings fell 1.4% to US$120.2 million. Atlantic City casinos are trying to transform the oceanside resort into an entertainment destination like Las Vegas but have faced com- petition from new video lottery terminals in nearby Pennsylvania and NewYork. Several casino companies,includingHarrah’s Entertainment,Trump Entertainment Resorts, and a joint venture between MGM Mirage and Boyd Gaming Corp, are upgrading properties in the city. Israel’s First Casino Coming TourismMinistry officials have recently closed a deal with the Israel Land Administration to apportion 12 acres of land on Eilat’s northern shore for Israel’s first legal casino. Hotels, commercial trading centers and other tourism venues are expected to be established in the area. Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch expressed his faith in the project and said further casinos could open in Israel following the first one at Eilat. “A casino in Eilat is one of our main objectives for 2008 and its success will lead to the establishment of additional casinos throughout the country. As a former law enforcement official, I can tell those who oppose the idea that a casinowould downsize the extent of the illegal gambling operations in Israel as well as the related criminal activities,” said Aharonovitch, putting the number of illegal gambling facilities in Israel in the hundreds. “Another important goal is promoting tourism in Eilat, which is losing tourists to neighboring cities like Aqaba, Taba and Sharm el- Sheikh, which have casinos. There is no doubt that building a casino in Eilat will bring economic growth and give a serious boost to the city’s tourism,”he added. US Urges Antigua to Delay WTO Sanctions The US urged Antigua to hold off on imposing sanctions autho- rized by the WTO in a dispute over online gambling, saying Washing- ton was revising its WTO commitments. US Trade Representative (USTR) spokesman Sean Spicer advised Antigua to delay any action after an arbitrator for the Geneva-based World Trade Organization allowed the Caribbean nation to impose sanctions worth US$21 million a year. Spicer said Washington has initiated a formal process at the WTO to revise its commitments and is in talks with Antigua and six other WTO members that have claimed to be affected. “We would expect that Antigua would not suspend its WTO commitments to the United States while that process is under- way,” Spicer said. “Once the process of clarifying the US schedule of commit- ments is complete, any issues in our bilateral dispute with Antigua will be moot, and there will no longer be any basis for suspending WTO commitments.” The action marked the latest twist in a dispute with Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny Caribbean nation that complained in 2003 that the US ban on Internet gambling violatedWTO rules. Antigua has prevailed in its bid at theWTO to have the US ban de- clared improper. But US officials said earlier this year that Washington was not bound to change its laws to open its borders to the Internet gambling industry because of an “oversight” in a decade-old trade agreement. Antigua had asked for sanctions worth US$3.4 billion, whileWash- ington argued this was“patently excessive”and more than three times the size of the Antiguan economy. Antigua, with a population of about 70,000, is a centre for offshore Internet gaming operations and attracts large numbers of US residents to its online casino-style games and betting services. In December, US officials said Washington would widen access to some of its services to compensate the European Union, Japan and Canada to settle the WTO dispute on Internet gambling with those members. Atlantic City to See Huge Investment At least four companies are investing a combined US$9 billion to help Atlantic City catch up with Las Vegas as a place to come—and stay—for more than just gambling. In early November, Revel Entertainment Group unveiled drawings of its new US$2 billion casino-resort, to be called simply Revel. Due to open in the second half of 2010, at 710 feet, it will be the tallest build- A. C. 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