Mission146
Posted by Mission146
Aug 29, 2016

Playtech is Killing It!

As a result of amazing revenues for the first half of 2016, Playtech has approved a dividend of 150 million pounds, almost 170 million USD, to be paid to investors in the form of dividends.  This dividend is a, ‘Special,’ dividend and Playtech, based on its projections, has also decided to raise its interim dividend by 15%.

In other words, Playtech is a strong company and, given these actions, one can assume that it is growing ever stronger.  In addition to the promising revenue reports for the first half of the year, the company also points out that they have new contracts with seven of their top ten current licensees and that each contract has at least three years remaining.  

Playtech software is used in a wide range of online casinos, including such names as, Betfair, Betfred, Ladbrokes and many others.  Established in 1999, Playtech is also one of the first casino software companies out there and has a long history of success.  They also have a history of acquiring many other smaller casino companies and appear to be poised to continue to do so if they see a good buy...they certainly have the cash.

While the bingo and poker divisions of Playtech were down compared to the first half of last year, compared to the casino and sports side of the operation, those divisions are minor and the losses in those areas were positively dwarfed by gains in every other area, including land-based casinos.  One of the primary sources of land-based revenues for Playtech came from their acquisition of Aristocrat Lotteries, which was fully completed just under two years ago.  (It will be two years in just a few days)

For those of you inclined to invest in a company that deals primarily in online casinos, but also one that is intelligent enough to diversify and seems to make good buys in virtually everything it does, Playtech might be a good stock buy for you.  Don’t take my advice, though, as I know little except for what the immediate data would seem to indicate, do your own research and then make a decision.

Revel No More...Again?

In light of the announced closure of the Trump Taj Mahal, one would think that Atlantic City and New Jersey gaming regulatory authorities would be in a hurry to get the Revel back up and running, but according to Florida investor and owner Glenn Straub, that hasn’t been the case.

Glenn Straub’s position is essentially that there have been several issues with the state and city that have prevented him from getting the adequate licensing in order to undertake some construction on the property, much less actually open it.  The developer claims that he is losing about a million dollars per month just keeping the Revel in its current state as he prepares to open the property.

Earlier this year, Straub claimed that he would have part of the hotel operating by June, but of course, that month has come and gone and Revel remains completely shuttered.  Some agencies have reported that he plans to have some parts of the property running by October, while others have said his goals are more in line with early next year.

Straub’s official line is something in between: He actually states that the property will have a, ‘Soft,’ opening on October 1st and he plans to have the property fully functional by the end of the year.  He claims to have already hired both hotel and casino management to handle those aspects of the property.  

In any case, it is difficult to imagine that Revel will operate profitably during the off-season, regardless of what Straub does with it.  However, the few months of operation prior to the high demand season might give the property the ability to work out some kinks and potentially reconnect with people who used to visit the property on weekends, even during the off-season.  

One thing that remains certain is that Straub, or the management companies that handle the Casino Formerly Known as Revel, will have to take business where they can get it, including day-trippers and locals, two categories of customer that former Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis made expressly clear he had no interest in.  

Another aspect that remains as something of a question mark for the property is what potential impacts a vote to authorize casinos in Northern New Jersey, which comes up on the ballot in just over two months, might have on his plans for reopening.  Thus far, he hasn’t really mentioned any of his plans as being contingent on a, ‘No,’ vote, but at the same time, the bulk of his plans have not really seemed to center on casino operations and have instead included a wide variety of physical activities.  

It is also difficult to ascertain what the effect of the Revel reopening could be on other area casinos.  The Trump Taj Mahal, for example, would have been likely to close (even if not for the ongoing labor strike) if the vote for the casinos in North New Jersey results in a, ‘Yes,’ and there is a short list of other casinos (namely Resorts, Tropicana, Bally’s and Golden Nugget--probably in that order) that would be at risk of closure if revenues took a dive.  Those casinos might well be threatened by an active Revel, as well, so Straub may have a point as there could theoretically be other forces behind the scenes keeping these delays going.

I’m starting to get tired of saying this at relates the Revel, but all we can do is wait and see.

The Strike, ‘Worked’

Apparently, the strike at Trump Taj Mahal orchestrated by Unite Here 53 accomplished its intended purpose.  Looking at the revenue numbers for Atlantic City casinos for July as opposed to June:

Shows that the Trump Taj Mahal took in 17.338 million in casino win in June as opposed to 17.548 million in July, while that means there were gains in June over July, those gains were well under 1.5% whereas the other Atlantic City casinos enjoyed gaming win increases as high as nearly 45% (looking at you, Borgata) while other casinos ran largely in the 20-30% range with exception to Resorts which had July over June casino win gains of a little under 20%.

Compared to last year, in which the Trump Taj Mahal had a 15.321 million casino win in June as opposed to a 19.120 casino win in July for a gain of nearly 25% (right about this year’s average difference for all of Atlantic City, taking Taj out of consideration, for one month against another) the gain of 1.5% in casino win looks truly awful.  

Interestingly, the Taj was also one of only two casinos to have a greater gambling win in June of 2016 than they did in June of 2015 (the other was Resorts) so while it is probably not strictly accurate to say things were looking up for the property, they were certainly starting to look a little better.  

That will all be for naught, though, unless The Taj comes to terms with a labor agreement that they cannot possibly afford, and even if they did, would result in them closing in the near future anyway.  In terms of the public perception, even if they did come to an agreement, the damage has probably already been done for the remainder of this year.  

In any case, the strike worked, and it appears ever more likely that the Trump Taj Mahal will close in early October, as announced.  

DraftKings and FanDuel Still Working on Nevada

In one of the greater gambling news ironies over the last few months, DraftKings and FanDuel find themselves still working to become regulated in the State of Nevada.  What makes it ironic is their patently legal (and regulated) status in several other states, including such states as Tennessee and Virginia, who do not have the most gambling-friendly Legislative histories.

Nevada finds itself in something of a tough spot, because it is difficult to speculate how many actual jobs the presence of these companies would create in the state, and that is certainly something that the legalized commercial casinos accomplish.  Furthermore, one can expect that there may be some pushback from the casinos who might prefer that their long-standing sportsbooks not need to compete with DFS sites.  

Furthermore, for the price of $10,000, the two sites propose that the State of Nevada create a, ‘Daily Fantasy License,’ which would be an entirely new category of gambling license.

But, is it really that ironic?

The fact is that there is gambling now, there has always been gambling and there will always be gambling.  Nevada is not famous for being the Wild West of gambling, quite the opposite, in fact, Nevada is the state that brought legalized and regulated gambling in first with one of the key intents being to ensure that the end users (the gamblers) got a good product in the sense that everything is fundamentally fair, and minimum returns adhered to.  Given the relatively low tax on revenues imposed upon casinos in the State of Nevada, that also gives casinos the ability to offer games with reasonably good returns, at least, compared to other areas of the country.

DFS, in the view of the State, might be looked upon as a patently unfair enterprise that the state would just as soon as not touch, especially if there do not appear to be any concrete reasons why it would benefit either the state or the citizens thereof to do so.  That doesn’t mean that Nevada is necessarily intent on maintaining the status quo, in fact, they recently broke a little bit of mold with their legalization and regulation of sports entity wagering, it simply means that anything gambling-related is going to have to have a positive expected return for the citizens and visitors of Nevada...not just for the operators of the games.

The State of Alabama Really Hates Money

The article above says it all, another Legislative session, another lottery bill struck down by Alabama lawmakers.  This one would have allowed for Video Lottery Terminals at the state’s dog tracks.  Apparently, animal cruelty really isn’t much of an issue, but someone hitting a button on a machine and getting an electronic result...can’t have that!

Fortunately, there was a similar bill that was to come to vote just a few days ago, last Friday and…

http://www.wtok.com/content/news/Alabama-lottery-bill-nears-final-passage-391420801.html

Oh.

That’s it for the 2016 Legislative session, ladies and gentlemen.  No lottery for Alabama, because they really, really hate money.  

People often wonder why the deep south often has a bad reputation, words like, “Backwards rednecks,” have often been used, but I’m not the one using them.  

Here’s some fun reading, the 2016 budget report for Alabama:

“Governor Robert Bentley signed Alabama's fiscal year 2016 budget on September 17, 2015. This signing ended a budget stalemate only two weeks before the fiscal year was to begin (October 1, 2015). The budget cut general fund spending by about 4.5 percent from the previous year. Medicaid, prison, mental health, human resources and state court system spending remained about equal to spending in fiscal year 2015, but many other programs and agencies saw cuts of about 5.5 percent. These cuts were made in order to prevent tax increases. Governor Bentley sought to avoid program cuts through increases in taxes, but was met with opposition in the legislature.[11]

Additionally, the new budget moved about $80 million in tax revenue from the state's education trust fund to the general fund. New taxes on pharmaceuticals and nursing homes were also created to increase revenue for Medicaid.”


I’m mostly interested in, “These cuts were made in order to prevent tax increases,” and, “The new budget moved about $80 million in tax revenue from the state’s education trust fund to the general fund.”  That’s fantastic!  For just a moment there, I was concerned that Alabama might not want to drop to the bottom five in the country in education:

But, fortunately, it looks like they are perfectly fine with it.  

How do you raise the tax rates without actually raising the tax rates?  The answer is simple: A tax on the willing.  Hell, if it helps the Legislators sleep at night, don’t think of it as a tax at all, but rather a donation.  Imagine that: letting the public do what they want to do and actually garnering some revenue in the process.  

I’m starting to think I go on this rant, or some rant like this, on a bi-monthly basis.  Just when I think it is over and the subject can be dropped for a bit, yet another piece of stupidity hits the news and a State like Alabama refrains from taking advantage of what is only, perhaps, the easiest possible source of revenue for the state.  People want to play the lottery, it’s stupid, but they do.  Some of these people are even travelling to other states, states with Legislators who are at least more intelligent in this regard, and improving the revenues of those states.  It’s a really simple equation: Money = Good, No Money = Bad.  

Back-to-Back

Congratulations to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh:

For being recognized as one of the, ‘Top Workplaces,’ in Pittsburgh for the second consecutive year as well as ranking as one of the best in employee, ‘Appreciation.’  

The thing about Rivers is that there free play has been a joke, in my experience, but I’ve spoken with many employees both on and off the property, (Tom’s Diner, located in the borough of Dormont, is a popular after work spot for the middle shift) and it seems like the results of the surveys leading to such an award have not been inflated.  I’ve honestly never experienced any of the employees at Rivers say anything negative about the place.

In addition to a reportedly strong benefits package, employees are also taken care of around the holidays with free hams and turkeys.  Among other perks, they also have Kennywood (popular Pittsburgh amusement park, almost to the extent of being historic) days.  I’ve spoken to dealers, bartenders and security guys, again, both on and off the property, and they have had nothing but positive things to say about the compensation, benefits and general work environment.  

Again, kudos to Rivers Casino Pittsburgh!

1.7 Million Jackpot at Jackpot Junction?

Actually, that should read, “1.7 million jackpot for Jackpot Junction,” a casino in Morton, Minnesota that unknowingly found itself the beneficiary of 1.7 million dollars embezzled from the company, AgQuest Financial Services, by former employee of fifteen years, Diane M. Eiler:

Eiler will receive three and a half years in prison and will be expected to make restitution (how?) on her crime which spanned several years and more than 250 fraudulently written checks.  The cliff notes version of the crime in the above article has her simply making out fraudulent checks to herself and then covering it up in the accounting by showing that the checks were paid out to customers.  

Apparently, she didn’t own the place, so I cannot help but find it amazing that it took her over 250 checks to get caught!  Authorities found that the fraudulent check writing spanned a period of over eight years and reportedly amounted in some $17,000 a month in fraudulent checks cashed.  

As always, I cannot help but find myself amazed by stories like these because, it occurs to me, how can these people ever hope to get back to even?  In Eiler’s case, I’m not even sure it would have mattered because it isn’t like she could simply put the money back given that she created a record of payouts to other people to go along with the checks.

I can’t help but be interested in what would compel someone to write the first check.  I understand the 32nd check, I understand the 145th check, even though I would never do anything along those lines...the person is apparently getting away with it, but that first check?  I also find it amazing that what the above article (in my opinion) very generously calls a, ‘Scheme,’ could go on for so long, all it takes is for just one person to request a copy of the cancelled check from the bank and, boom, busted!  This lady probably roughly tripled to quadrupled her salary, on top of her actual salary, for nearly eight years until she was finally caught. 

Some places you can barely get away with walking out with a pen that you, out of habit, tucked behind your ear.  I’m just saying.

Sticky Palms Theft

I’m sorry to essentially copy this headline.

But, it’s too good to pass up.  

Getting sticky in Singapore was all the rage for a trio including Zhou Haiming and Luo Jianguo, who were both arrested, while Huang Xiaomei remains at large.  

Just like the theft mentioned above, this is another one that is so comically simple as to border on the absurd.  Basically, two of the individuals would distract a player who had played a large bet as well as the dealer while the third simply stuck their palm, laced with double-sided tape, to one of the chips and walk off with it.

Yes, that really was the entire plan.

The news outlet reports that, after nearly three hundred individual attempts at pulling off the heists, the trio were successful an astounding 284 times totalling over $100,000 in chips.  

For those of you who might notice the arrest and original findings of guilt are old news, this made the news again because the judge recently decided to increase the sentence in order to serve as a deterrent to future Singapore visitors who might otherwise try the same thing.

And...For Smaller Amounts

Here comes yet another intelligent gambling-related crime out of Florida:

Allegedly, Jayrol Abrego is yet another person who is seemingly impervious to the existence of cameras and what they are used for.  Mr. Abrego allegedly stole over $5,000 from his employer’s credit card via ATM withdrawals at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.  In fact, the seven unauthorized charges spanned a period of only three days, and Abrego was found out when a Capital One representative contacted the owner of the company and told him where the transactions had taken place.

Abrego apparently confessed his crime to the police upon his August 24th arrest, in addition to the fact that he had the physical card, surveillance video (unsurprisingly) shows Abrego using the card to withdraw the cash from the casino’s ATMs.  

Once again, how in the hell does anyone expect to get away with this?  Maybe he was going to go the, ‘My card was stolen route,’ like previous individuals to find themselves in similar positions have, but even then, who in their right mind believes that the casinos don’t have an eye on the ATMs?  How anyone hopes to get away with crimes of this nature is beyond me.

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