Author: Casino Connection Staff

The Largest Indoor/Outdoor Beachfront Waterpark in the US Opens This Summer in Atlantic City

Billed as year-round, family-friendly entertainment, the Island Waterpark at the Showboat Hotel will feature 11 slides, lazy rivers and a surf simulator machine.

A glass roof, retractable in summer, will cover the waterpark to make it a year-round attraction. The waterpark complex also will include restaurants, retail, and party rooms.

Target opening is June of 2023.

Philadelphian Bart Blatstein, CEO of Tower Investments, is owner of Showboat and developer of the new waterpark.

Single Session Tickets on Sale for 2023 MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships

Single session tickets are now on sale for the 2023 Hercules Tires Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships at historic Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey from March 7-11.

Ticket prices for individual sessions range from $12 to $42 for a single session on the women’s side and $17 to $52 for a single session on the men’s side, while single session tickets for students are $8. All tickets can be purchased by visiting or by visiting

Don’t miss out on a chance to witness the MAAC championship and see who earns the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Last season’s MAAC men’s tournament yielded one of March Madness’ most successful Cinderella stories ever, as the Saint Peter’s Peacocks strutted their way into NCAA history by becoming the first ever No. 15 seeded team and first ever MAAC program – men or women – to advance to the Elite Eight.

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall has served as the host venue for the MAAC Basketball Championships for four consecutive years dating back to 2020. The five-day event will feature the league’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball championships, Esports Spring championships, and MAAC ancillary events such as the MAAC Bounce to Boardwalk Hall, MAAC Band Jam, MAAC ‘n Cheese Fest, Spirit Squad Showcase and MAAC Mascot Game.

On the men’s side, Siena College sits atop of the league standings with a 6-1 conference mark, while holding a 12-6 overall record. The Saints are 7-1 over their last seven games and have been near-perfect at home in MVP Arena, holding a 5-1 record in Albany with the only lost coming in overtime.

For the women, Iona University leads the pack, boasting a league-best 6-1 MAAC record and 11-5 overall mark. The Gaels are riding a five game winning streak and are a perfect 4-0 during the 2023 calendar year.

The 2022-23 campaign culminates with the 2023 Hercules Tires MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships from March 7-11 at Atlantic City’s Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for the fourth consecutive year. For all information regarding the 2023 Hercules Tires MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, please visit and by following @MAACHoops and #MAACHoops on Twitter.

Podcast with Joe Lupo

When Hard Rock International bought the Mirage Casino Hotel from MGM last year, they needed someone with Hard Rock and Las Vegas experience. They got it when Joe Lupo was named to lead the transition from the Mirage to Hard Rock Las Vegas.

Lupo spent the formative years of his career in Las Vegas working for Boyd Gaming before heading to Atlantic City to help run the Borgata. When Boyd exited its relationship with MGM over the Borgata, Lupo signed on with Hard Rock, where he led their most successful casino in Tampa and then came to Atlantic City to open the new Hard Rock on the Boardwalk.

He spoke with Casino Connection Publisher Roger Gros at the Hard Rock offices in Las Vegas in December.
(Listen to audio above or view video below).

AC Hard Rock Names Goldhoff President, Sampson GM

George Goldhoff has been named president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City effective Jan. 30, 2023, pending regulatory approval. Goldhoff reports directly to Jim Allen, Chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming.

Mike Sampson, who has been serving as interim general manager of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, has been promoted to general manager effective Jan. 30, pending regulatory approval. He will report to Goldhoff.

Goldhoff replaces Joe Lupo, who moved from president of Hard Rock AC to assume the role of president of The Mirage, which will soon be the Hard Rock Las Vegas. Sampson had served as interim GM since the November departure of Anthony Faranca.

In his new role of president, Goldhoff will focus on financial performance, market share growth, team member engagement and development, guest experience and support of the greater Atlantic City community.

“I’m confident George will continue to build on the incredible success we have achieved at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City,” said Allen. “In just three years of rebranding our property in Cincinnati, he was able to make that casino the leader in the market and I have every reason to believe he will lead our Atlantic City team into the next era with great success.”

“I look forward to working closely with the leadership team and team members to capitalize on the opportunities ahead and usher in Hard Rock Atlantic City’s next era of growth and success,” said Goldhoff. “I have a deep appreciation for what the current executives and team members have accomplished over the past five years, and I look forward to contributing to further Hard Rock Atlantic City’s iconic brand and supporting the greater Atlantic City community.”

Goldhoff comes to Atlantic City from Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, where he was president for the past three years and worked to rebrand the casino as a Hard Rock. The casino is currently the market share leader in southwest Ohio. Goldhoff also engaged with local community organizations in Cincinnati and orchestrated charitable donations of more than $1.4 million.

A national search is already under way to identify the next president of Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati.

Before his work in Cincinnati, Goldhoff oversaw four properties as president and CEO of PURE Canadian Gaming in Western Canada. He also assisted in opening Bellagio Las Vegas and was general manager of Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi.

Sampson will oversee multiple areas of operation and administration at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. He has 32 years of experience in the casino industry and has been with Hard Rock Atlantic City since 2018, when he was a member of the Hard Rock Atlantic City pre-opening team.

Sampson graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and began his gaming industry career as a player’s club representative at Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City. He also worked with Tropicana, Trump Entertainment and Seneca Gaming.

Sampson serves on the New Jersey Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and strives to create awareness and remove the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health.

Sampson was born in Atlantic City and grew up in nearby Galloway, New Jersey.

Atlantic City Culinary Union Opposes Smoking Ban

UNITE HERE Local 54, the largest union representing casino workers in Atlantic City, is opposing moves to establish a ban on smoking in local casinos that is favored by state legislatures and Governor Phil Murphy, citing the lost business to Pennsylvania, where smoking is permitted.

Atlantic City casinos were exempted from New Jersey’s 2006 Smokefree Air Act, which bans smoking in any public indoor spaces. A grassroots Atlantic City employee group, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, has been joined by national anti-smoking advocates in a drive to overturn that exemption. A bill to eliminate the exemption has been endorsed by a majority of bipartisan lawmakers, and Murphy has pledged to sign any bill that reaches his desk to impose a full ban.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt told the NJ Spotlight News that such a move would result in business lost to Pennsylvania.

“If people opt not to go (to Atlantic City casinos), that means they’re not staying in the hotel, that means there’s no reason to have them make the hotel beds. It won’t just have an effect on folks who are dealers, and folks who are bartenders,” McDevitt said. “If you take away the option to smoke, and you allow it in Pennsylvania, there’s going to be a net drop in gaming in New Jersey.”

The employee group disagrees, citing data from other casinos where smoking was banned. “(Players) went outside like they do everywhere else, and then they came back in and played,” group co-founder Lamont White told the website. “The gamblers will swim through a moat of alligators to get back to a blackjack table.”

In a separate recent survey, New Jersey citizens leaned more toward McDevitt’s position—57 percent said smoking should continue to be allowed in its current limited capacity (25 percent of the floor), with another 12 percent saying smoking should be permitted on an unlimited basis in New Jersey casinos. Only 29 percent were in favor of a total smoking ban.

Valentine’s Group Vow Renewal at Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse is hosting its annual “Evening of Romance & Renewal” on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 11th!

Couples are invited to take part in a group Vow Renewal ceremony by a non-denominational minister in the Keeper’s Cottage at 6 p.m., followed by a champagne toast of congratulations and romantic dancing to the beautiful sounds of classic love songs and standards, presented by local DJ Jack Fahey.  

What better way to set the mood for a romantic dinner out in Atlantic City afterward?  A donation minimum of $40 per couple includes the ceremony, tower climb, live music & dancing, and champagne toast, but couples are asked to “give from the heart,” as this is a fundraising event. 

Doors open at 5:30pm – the event concludes at 7:00pm.  You are invited to make a reservation by calling the lighthouse at 609-449-1360. 

DeLIGHTful Date days:  Saturday & Sunday, FEBRUARY 11 & 12:  YOU AND YOUR DATE CLIMB FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! 

Absecon Lighthouse is a state-owned historic property administered by the non-profit Inlet Public/Private Association. Located at 31 So. Rhode Island Avenue in Atlantic City, it is open to visitors Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Absecon Lighthouse received a general operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State, and the New Jersey Arts & Culture Renewal Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation. 

For more information about Absecon Lighthouse and its programs call (609) 449-1360 or visit us on the web at


Four States See Gaming Legalization Efforts

As state legislatures begin to convene for the 2023 session, the new year has presented new opportunities for gaming legalization in large untapped markets around the U.S., with Texas, South Carolina, Hawaii and Georgia being the most prominent examples.

Gaming in Texas became a possibility when, during his recent re-election campaign, Governor Greg Abbott said he would considering signing a bill that legalized gaming in Texas. And just last week House Speaker Dade Phelan agreed, showing that Texas Republicans might be willing to pass such a measure. While Phelan agrees with Abbott in that he doesn’t want to “walk into every convenience store and see … slot machines.”

Texas has some of the strictest gambling bans in the nation, and the change the laws it would require two-thirds of the state legislature to approve a statewide referendum.

While Phelan might be receptive to gaming, major hurdles remain in the state Senate. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, a longtime opponent of gaming, controls the Senate and doesn’t see the bill advancing there, although state Senator Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, has filed legislation to open the state to casinos and sports betting.

“I want to see destination-style casinos that are high-quality and that create jobs, and that improve the lifestyles of those communities,” he said.

In South Carolina, state Rep. Todd Rutherford introduced a bill that wouldn’t actually legalize gaming but it would give the state legislature more leeway in making those decisions. If the bill would pass, it would allow the legislature to add to the state constitution new passages. But any constitutional amendment in South Carolina would have to be approved by two-thirds of state voters. Rutherford introduced a bill in 2022 that would have legalized sports betting, horse racing, card games, dice games, and electronic game devices in the state.

While Governor Henry McMaster is solidly opposed to gaming, this won’t go away soon as South Carolina is a hotbed of grey area slot machine parlors, seemingly flaunting the state’s gaming laws.

Hawaii is one of two states in the country that has no form of gambling, but it might soon be saying aloha to sports betting if a state legislator gets his way.

Rep. John Mizuno told reporters his sponsored bill that he introduced January 2 would allow for a retail location in Oahu that would offer sports wagering and a card room.

The license would be good for 10 years. Mizuno said in a release before a press conference announcing his legislation that it would be beneficial to Hawaiians.

“With Hawaii residents dropping a billion dollars to Las Vegas, Nevada, every year, I think a sports and card gaming bill warrants at least a discussion,” Mizuno said “If crime is associated with gambling, why is gaming legal in forty-eight states and why are so many Hawaii residents going to Las Vegas, with many taking multiple trips?

Hawaii residents vacationing and gambling in Las Vegas is well chronicled. Casinos such as the California in downtown Las Vegas cater to those from the islands. In 2011, Civil Beat wrote a story that said Boyd Gaming, which owns the California and other properties, earned approximately $600 million from Hawaiian tourists annually.

This is not the first sports betting bill Mizuno has tried to get passed in the legislature. In February 2022, Mizuno sponsored House Bill 1815. He said then that in addition to going to Las Vegas, many residents were using illegal offshore sportsbooks. He would rather the money stay in Hawaii.

“Hawaii residents take over 500,000 visits a year to Las Vegas, with many visiting two or three times per year,” Mizuno said. “They are spending and gambling $400 to $800 million a year in Nevada. Our job is to keep a portion of that money for our local economy and our local people.”

Hawaii has resisted any form of gambling since becoming a state in 1959. They are one of two states, Utah the other, that has no form of gambling whatsoever.

Down south, legislators in Georgia are working on trying to get sports betting legalized in the state, but it is a difficult process that requires support from both parties.

Supporters say it would bring revenue to support higher education, while opponents worry it could lead to addiction and financial issues.

Sports betting has been a hot topic in Georgia for years but opponents have been able to keep it away from the Peach State thus far. That mindset, however, might be yielding to popular sentiment.

State Rep. Ron Stephens, who is chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, said Georgia is missing out on millions in tax revenue every year.

“We walk away from $100 million every year in sports gambling, and other states, and places like Antigua, get that money from people here in Georgia,” Stephens told the Current. “Let’s regulate it, tax it, and put the money in Hope (Scholarship) and pre-K.”

11Alive, a local television station, went around to local residents and asked them what they thought about passing sports betting.

“I definitely support the legislation for sports betting as long as the state of Georgia does right by the community and invests some of the profits into some of the areas where it’s needed,” said Monica Robinson.

“A lot of people are addicted to a lot of things,” Ejriece Robinson said. “Gambling would just happen to be one. Of course, there would be rules and regulations to it which would keep people in check and keep people from going overboard in gambling, I feel.”

Not everyone is a fan of sports betting. Mike Griffin, who is with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, told Georgia Public Broadcasting that he was worried about the precedent sports gambling could set.

“There’s a lot of things people are doing that we don’t want to make legal, and if we continue to follow this kind of rationale, we’re going to have legalized marijuana, recreational marijuana, and one day we’re going to see legalized prostitution,” Griffin said.

In order to get the subject before voters, Stephens said two bills would have to be approved. The first would require a constitutional amendment to allow sports gambling, horse racing, and casinos. The second piece of legislation would provide specifics on how the revenue would be spent, as well as the tax rate they would levy against sportsbook and casino operators.

Stephens has supported legislation in the past but it has never gotten to the voters of Georgia. He is confident this year could be different.

“The make-up of the people (voters) who send us here is why we need this,” Stephens told the Current. “We have 3.6 million families that have been touched with Hope (Scholarship) and pre-K and they want the opportunity to continue to support Hope and pre- K.”

Cohen Solicits Community Feedback for Casino Development

Steve Cohen knows what he wants—you don’t become a billionaire without that tenacity. And what he wants is a casino not far from Citi Field where his beloved Mets play baseball.

The land where the casino would go is mostly asphalt, used for fairs and other events, but otherwise vacant. Just to gauge what the community thinks, Cohen and his team held a couple of what they call “visionings” in Queens on January 7. Residents packed each session.

The billionaire hedge funder and his team met with more than 500 neighborhood residents at the ballpark and talked about how to turn the adjacent, long dormant Willets Point area into a year-round, all-weather entertainment destination.

Cohen soft-pedaled the casino idea, slipping it in there as “an option.”

“We don’t expect everyone to support all our ideas, but that’s what this discussion is about,” said Cohen, who’s seriously considering bidding for one of three downstate casino licenses that are currently up for grabs.

He also mentioned construction of a park with better access to the World’s Fair Marina and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Some speakers favored an amphitheater and building more community recreational space.

“I’d rather not have a casino,” said Jeannine Williams of Flushing. “I’d like to see more greenspace, a link to the marina. I’m a biker. I want to see something pretty.”

What Cohen wants is a $780 million mixed-use development project: a 25,000-seat stadium for the New York City Football Club, a hotel, and 2,500 units of affordable housing on other land next to Citi Field.

The empty space in Willets Point has served as overflow parking for Citi Field and more since the 1939 World’s Fair. It was also the site of Shea Stadium.

The two “visioning” sessions come as the state’s Gaming Facilities Location Board gets ready to accept casino applications for the downstate licenses, with the bidding set to start at a cool $500 million.

“We believe that Steve Cohen is trying to create a perception of public support for a vague concept of an ‘entertainment venue’ — but that he may later misrepresent that as support for a casino to be built on the parkland,” Bayside community activist Jena Lanzetta said. “He’s soliciting public opinion, without disclosing that his plans impact public parkland, or that his true ambition is a casino. We will expose such deceptions every step of the way.”

“The land surrounding Citi Field is public parkland,” said Richard Hellenbrecht, a founder and officer of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy. “Yes, it’s paved over and sometimes used as parking spaces for events at Citi Field. But the fact that it’s paved makes it perfectly suitable for the numerous concerts, circuses, festivals, marathons and other popular public events that are held year-round on that very parkland. For Cohen to imply that ‘vacant asphalt’ is all it is, or that it is unused as parkland, is deceptive and misleading — and plain wrong.”

Civic leaders are adept at stopping development. A lawsuit against a 1.4 million square-foot mall in 2017 succeeded in halting the development on the same site.

“Our message to state legislators is our parkland is irreplaceable. It is not for sale. Contrary to what would-be casino owners may say, public parkland is not ‘developable property,’ and it must never be viewed as such,” Queens Civic Congress President Warren Schreiber said. “Why is Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — which this planned ‘entertainment center’ and casino has been proposed in — over decades consistently targeted by commercial schemes when other parks throughout the city are not? Can you imagine a Manhattan developer holding a ‘visioning session’ to consider repurposing the portion of Central Park between 59th and 61st streets? If it’s outrageous to do that in Manhattan, then it’s just as outrageous to do it in Queens.”

Any additional year-round attraction would also generate even more traffic — further congesting roadways such as the Van Wyck Expressway and the Whitestone Expressway, they say, adding that a casino at the location would draw a “bad element” to that part of Queens.

Team Cohen maintains that the area has never been a park “in the truest sense,” and instead it represents a century of waste, mismanagement and neglect.

“For almost 100 years, the area around Citi Field has been 50 acres of empty asphalt and wasted opportunity that isn’t serving the community to its full potential,” a Cohen spokesperson said. “Steve Cohen and his team have been listening to the local community who keep telling us there is more they want from the area around the ballpark. We are currently hosting a series of community visioning sessions to hear directly from those who live and work in the community to help us reimagine the space around Citi Field.”

“Cohen is committed to creating a space that people can come to every day of the year to hang out by the waterfront, enjoy green space, listen to live music, and have plenty of options to eat and drink,” the spokesperson added.

Community Board 7 member John Park, a Flushing resident with a business in Jackson Heights, has attended two recent meetings.

“I agree traffic congestion is a concern in the area, but for 37 years I take the 7 train to work and I see all of the unused space in the parking lot and I think what a waste,” Park said. “I’ve seen their plans and they have green spaces and bike routes, it looks like it would be something cool for the community.”

“I look at the parking lot and I see it’s not meeting its highest and best use, especially when it comes to all that asphalt which leads to runoff and environmental issues,” Costa Constantinides told QNS. He added that he is a big baseball enthusiast who has visited 19 of the ballparks with his son.

“I look around these ballparks and I see what they’ve constructed like the beautiful park they built in Cincinnati and I say to myself that this is what Queens needs and deserves,” he said. “I’ve listened to the Cohens and they’re enthusiastic about talking about the future and that’s what I want to be a part of.”

MGM Solar Grid Downed Temporarily by Apparent Terror Attack

Sometime in the late afternoon on Tuesday, January 3, 34-year-old Mohammed Mesmarian drove a Toyota Camry through the gate of MGM’s Mega Solar Array complex northeast of Las Vegas and set the car on fire, causing the facility to shut down temporarily.

Employees at the complex discovered the smoldering vehicle the next day, and authorities responded to the scene at approximately 11:30 a.m. January 4.

The incident is being investigated by both the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI, as it has been flagged as a potential terror attack.

According to court records, Mesmarian, who is a dentist in Colorado, was eventually arrested January 5 in a motorhome in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area not far from Boulder Beach Campground. Records did not indicate how he made it to the campground from the solar compound.

His arrest report did say, however, that he proclaimed to officers that the attack was intended to send a message about the adoption of clean energy. The report quoted Mesmarian as saying that “ he did it for the big message, larger picture, greater good.”

Mesmarian faces numerous felony charges, including two counts of both arson and destruction of property, escape by a prisoner and committing acts of terrorism. He is expected to undergo competency exams to establish whether or not he is fit to stand trial.

The complex is owned and operated by Invenergy, which is based in Chicago and oversees a total of 49 solar complexes across the U.S. The company sent the following statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“Following an incident at the Mega Solar Array facility, on-site personnel immediately notified authorities and shut down the plant’s operations as a precaution in accordance with industry-standard safety protocols. No one was injured, and the facility is expected to be fully operational this week.”

The monetary value of the damages have not yet been released.

The complex, which features over 300,000 panels and spans more than 600 acres, produces some 90 percent of the daytime power for MGM’s 13 Las Vegas properties. It is considered to be the largest direct renewable energy source in the hospitality industry worldwide.

MGM did not comment on the attack, and did not say how it managed to supplement the lost power during the outage.

Attacks on power grids have spiked across the country in recent months, and in a bulletin from November, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that the country “remains in a heightened threat environment.”

On Christmas Day, four stations were attacked in Washington state, causing outages for 14,000 residents. North Carolina has reported multiple incidents since the beginning of November, with some resulting from vandalism and others from inclement weather.

New York Officially Solicits Casino Bids

The New York Gaming Facility Board last week officially released its request for applications for three downstate casinos in the New York City region. The board has set the license fee, due within 30 days of the award of the license, at a minimum of $500 million.

The reason why that figure is presented as a minimum is that the board is allowing applicants to propose a higher license fee with their applications, creating a type of back-door bidding war.

According to the board’s announcement, initial casino licenses will run from 10 years to 30 years, based on the investment of the winning bidder.

The category of “economic activity and business development factors” will account for 70 percent of the score of the proposals. That includes capital investment, “maximizing state and local revenues,” providing the most jobs and creating the “highest caliber” casino with an array of amenities.

Workforce development and diversity will account for a combined 20 percent of the overall score and local siting issues that include mitigating impacts on surrounding neighborhoods accounts for the remaining 10 percent.

Applicants also are required to obtain approvals from local governments on zoning and land use, as well as approval of a local community advisory committee, before any application is submitted. That factor will govern when the licenses are eventually rewarded, but according to a report in the New York Post, insiders expect the awards to be made by the end of 2023.

A consortium proposing a casino for Coney Island immediately released a statement saying it will submit a bid for one of the licenses. The group includes Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation and Legends—the entertainment firm co-owned by the Yankees. The group has plugged its casino project as an economic boost for southern Brooklyn that will create permanent local jobs.

“For more than a generation, Coney Island has been waiting for a year-round economy that creates not just jobs, but careers,” said the statement from the Coney Island consortium. “Our partnership is unique, combining unrivaled gaming expertise, an unsurpassed track record in entertainment, and a commitment to serving the local community like no other. We look forward to submitting our bid and setting a new standard in economic revitalization and resiliency for New York.”

Real estate giant SL Green Realty Corporation and Caesars Entertainment are floating plans for a Times Square casino with strong feelings on both sides of that equation.

The owners of the existing slots parlors at the Resorts World New York at Aqueduct racetrack in Ozone Park, Queens, and MGM Resorts’ Empire City in Yonkers are expected to submit bids to expand their offerings to include table games. Most observers expect those two facilities to be granted licenses because they have already invested more than $1 billion in each.

Baseball’s New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is considering a casino project near the team’s Citi Field stadium in Queens, but he hasn’t indicated a casino partner.

Others floating bids include the Steve Ross-Related Companies/Wynn Resorts partnership for Hudson Yards in Manhattan adjacent to the Javits convention center, and Las Vegas Sands for an undetermined site on Long Island. Belmont Park racetrack and land near the former Nassau Coliseum are being considered, according to LVS.

Nevada Officials Approve New Cybersecurity Regulations for Operators

On December 22, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) approved new regulations regarding gaming operators’ cybersecurity systems, which came into effect at the start of the new year.

As part of the approved changes, casinos were required to run an independent evaluation of their existing systems by the end of the year in order to ascertain what additional safeguards needed to be implemented, if any. Additionally, operators will be required to notify the NGC of any breaches of player or employee data in the future.

These guidelines apply to all gaming entities, including those with unrestricted licenses, race and sportsbook licenses or iGaming licenses.

Cybersecurity has been a huge topic of interest for the gaming industry for the last two-plus years, beginning with a slew of ransomware attacks against tribal operators over the course of 2020 and 2021; the FBI has since estimated that those attacks resulted in millions of dollars in damages. In Nevada specifically, the Dotty’s bar franchise and Binion’s were also hit by hackers.

Not only that, but several high-profile sports betting operators have reported data breaches over the past year, including DraftKings and BetMGM—in fact, the NGC’s ruling came just one day after BetMGM announced that a trove of customer data, such as Social Security numbers and banking information, was compromised in a recent attack.

These issues were at the forefront of the NGC’s recent meeting, which took less than a half hour to complete.

As reported by CDC Gaming Reports, Edward Magaw, Nevada’s senior deputy attorney general, told regulators that the final version of the legislation had changed significantly since it was originally introduced over the summer, following input from operators.

According to Magaw, flexibility is paramount, as operators won’t be subject to a blanket set of procedures with regards to investigating and overseeing cybersecurity risks as established by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Instead, that responsibility will be placed on licensees themselves.

Magaw said that “based on comments received from the industry,” the guidelines were updated so that “an affiliate or third party may be used to perform the assessment and monitoring,” as reported by CDC Gaming Reports.

With regards to notifying regulators after an attack has taken place, Magaw said that operators will not be obligated to share any specific information; rather, they will release information as requested, which, as he asserted, was changed for security reasons.

All attacks must be followed by a thorough investigation as well as a report that must be made accessible to regulators, which was to be expected. Based on the report, operators must consult with a third-party cybersecurity expert in order to implement whatever changes are required, and this review process must be done on an annual basis thereafter.

As far as the 72-hour window is concerned, that timetable is congruent to other industries such as banking, according to Dan Reaser, an attorney representing the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM).

According to CDC, Magaw said that the window “doesn’t mean (operators) can wait 72 hours to respond or react to the cyberattack, but to notify us. We felt that was limited enough time that the Board, if there were risks to the industry as a whole, could take necessary measures to mitigate damage to other participants in the industry.”

He also mentioned, however, that the language regarding reporting was left intentionally broad to accommodate for special circumstances, such as when operators work with the FBI or other government agencies.

Seminoles Break Ground On Florida Casino-Hotel

The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Gaming recently broke ground on the new Seminole Casino Hotel Brighton, to be built on the Brighton Seminole Reservation northwest of Lake Okeechobee.

The new facility will replace the existing Seminole Brighton Casino, opened in 1980 and located about three miles north of the future casino site, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from the popular Treasure Coast.

In a statement, Seminole Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., said, “Breaking ground for the new Seminole Casino Hotel Brighton represents a major economic step forward for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the entire Lake Okeechobee region. We’re excited to bring a new level of gaming, dining and entertainment to the area and we look forward to welcoming our current and future guests.”

Officials said the new entertainment complex, expected to open late 2024, will include a 38,000-square-foot casino with 623 slot machines and 18 table games, including a smoke-free gaming space with 101 slot machines and a high-limit area with 42 slots and four table games.

Dining options will include a 24-hour, 124-seat restaurant, a 60-seat steakhouse and a fast-service/carryout café. There also will be a 900-seat indoor event space, plus an outdoor concert stage accommodating an audience of 3,000. In addition, a 72,000-square-foot, 4-story hotel will offer 100 guest rooms and a fitness center. Also located on the property will be a 10-acre lake and parking for 1,000 vehicles.

The property will be the first Seminole Casino to include a bowling alley; the 8,400-square-foot venue will have eight lanes and 32 seats for dining or events. It also will offer a 1,500-square-foot pool and a 12,500-square-foot pool deck.

The existing 27,000-square-foot casino offers around 400 slots and eight table games, plus a full-service restaurant and lounge.

Resorts World Hudson Valley Debuts at New York Shopping Mall

New York’s first casino in a shopping mall opened on December 28 in the upstate New York town of Newburgh. The Resorts World Hudson Valley Casino debuted in the Newburgh Mall a little more than 60 miles from New York City.

Meghan Taylor, vice president of Resorts World New York, told reporters that she was thrilled for the mall, which has seen numerous store closings.

“We are so excited about this property and delivering the product to the community that we committed to back when we first started talking about this,” Taylor said.

She added that more than $50 million had been invested in the 90,000 square-foot casino and added 250 jobs. The casino features more than 1,200 slot machines and electronic table games, two full bars and sports betting.

“Here at Resorts World Hudson Valley, it is truly a local destination and really a convenience play almost,” Taylor said. “So, our location, being right at the intersection of (Highways) 84 and 87 makes the facility extremely accessible.”

Town of Newburgh Supervisor Gilbert Piaquadio told reporters the casino will be a great addition to the town.

“People that work local, tend to buy local, granted we all buy on the internet anymore, too, but overall, you’re still gonna spend your money in the local restaurants,” Piaquadio said.

According to Piaquadio, the town will receive $3 million annually from the casino as a part of a host agreement. He said tourism will also be beneficial to the area.

“Whenever hotels start getting more guests, again, it increases the economy all the way for the town and the community,” Piaquadio said.

Pennsylvania was the first state in the U.S. to have casinos in shopping malls. It was a way to give a boost to a sector of the economy that had seen hard times in recent years.

That was certainly the case at the Newburgh Mall. Sears, one of the store’s anchors, had closed, and there were an increasing number of empty stores.

One item the casino doesn’t have is dining, but if the approximately 1,000 people who waited outside to be the first inside on opening day is any indication, restaurants will soon be looking for space at the mall.

“Now that you have the customer base, there will be the restaurants, and maybe shops, jewelry stores, that type of thing that usually follows a casino,” Piaquadio said. “That will really help the owner of the mall stay above water.”

Arkansas Casino License Pulled

In Arkansas, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled last week that Legends Resort & Casino that was awarded the casino license for Pope County, was granted the license unconstitutionally, granting the motion by Gulfside Casino Partnership, which has challenged Legends’ right to the license. Both sides have said they would immediately appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Mississippi-based Gulfside challenged the Arkansas Racing Commission’s award of the license to Legends in November 2021. Gulfside claims it was the only license applicant that met the state’s requirements. Legends has partnered with the Cherokee Nation in obtaining the license. Legends was granted the license by a narrow 3-2 vote by the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Legends, however, said Gulfside’s claims stemmed from an “erroneous interpretation” of the state constitution, which voters amended in 2018 to allow casino gambling at four locations around the state. Casinos already are operating in West Memphis, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff. The Racing Commission also is asking that the appeal be dismissed.

Fox also granted a motion by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, which previously applied for the Pope County license, to join with Gulfside to challenge Legends’ license.

Meanwhile, Legends attorney, former state attorney general Dustin McDaniel, filed a complaint against Fox. The details haven’t been made public but it supposedly addresses the slow pace of the case.

In a statement, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission said it “acknowledges that a complaint has been filed against Judge Timothy Fox and the issues contained therein. An investigation is pending in front of a JDDC Investigation Panel. The judge has full due process rights, and the case will proceed pursuant to the Rules of Procedure of the Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission. No additional public information is available at this time.”

MSGE Reportedly Mulling Tao Group Sale to Fund Sphere Project

Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE), which is developing the $2.17 billion MSG Sphere entertainment venue on the Las Vegas Strip, has reportedly enlisted the help of Goldman Sachs to pursue the sale of its 67 percent stake in hospitality giant Tao Group, with the idea of using the funds to help finance the Sphere project after costs have ballooned over the last year.

The potential sale was first reported by the New York Post, which estimated the value of the holdings to be in the neighborhood of $275 million.

Tao Group operates restaurants, clubs and lounges in Dubai, London, Singapore, New York City and Las Vegas. The company’s Las Vegas portfolio includes the Venetian’s Tao Nightclub and Asian Bistro, MGM Grand’s Hakkasan nightclub and the Cosmopolitan’s Beauty & Essex restaurant.

Representatives from MSGE declined comment to the Post.

Paul Golding, an entertainment analyst for Macquarie Securities, said in a note to investors that he agrees with the thought that “if Tao is up for sale, this may be motivated by capital needs to complete the Sphere.”

Golding added, however, that if the sale does happen and MSGE parts with one of its biggest assets, it “puts a lot of pressure on the project” to deliver a good return, and quickly.

On paper, the numbers make sense, as the venue’s costs have grown by some $300 million, around the same value as the Tao stake. The original price was estimated at $1.8 billion in 2021, but has grown substantially due to supply chain hiccups, technical difficulties in construction and more recently, inflation.

Upon completion, the Sphere is expected to feature an exterior LED screen spanning 585,000 square feet and an interior screen spanning 160,000 square feet. The company plans to use the exterior screen for advertising purposes during off times.

The venue will have a seating capacity of 17,500, and will be used for concerts, performances and select sporting events such as combat sports.

Virginia Casino Showdown Intensifies

In Virginia, the 2023 General Assembly recently convened. One of the issues lawmakers are sure to consider is the Richmond versus Petersburg casino battle. In the latest skirmish, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney sent a letter to the city’s legislative delegation urging them to block any measure that “constricts the rights of Richmond” to have the casino resort.

In November 2021, Richmond voters narrowly defeated a proposal for a $565 million casino hotel, to be developed by Urban One and in partnership with Churchill Downs, which bought Peninsula Pacific Entertainment last fall. But Stoney said the defeat was due to misinformation about the project and intense opposition from areas outside the district where the casino was proposed.

Soon after the vote, the Richmond city council began its push for a do-over referendum. But state Senator Joe Morrissey, who represents Petersburg, convinced General Assembly budget negotiators to block a second Richmond casino referendum until the completion of a legislative study on the financial viability of Petersburg casino. The Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission indicated although Petersburg would be a good casino host city, having casinos in both Petersburg and Richmond—23 miles apart—would generate even greater economic benefit. That study said a Petersburg casino alone would produce 18 percent of net gambling revenue for the state, but also having a casino in Richmond would increase gaming revenue to 29 percent.

Morrissey and state Del. Kim Taylor have filed bills that would replace Richmond with Petersburg as the fifth and final city to have a casino resort.

Their legislation, Senate Bill 780 and House Bill 1373, also would block Richmond from holding a second referendum until after a referendum is held in Petersburg on a proposed $1.4 billion casino resort proposed by the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies; officials there said if the General Assembly opts for casinos in both cities, the company would pull out of the project. Morrissey’s and Taylor’s measures also would prevent Richmond from developing a casino for at least five years.

Morrissey compared Stoney’s letter to former President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election. He said, “Let me remind the mayor, once again, that he LOST the casino referendum in 2021 when RVA voted ‘NO’ to the casino referendum. So, I would tell the mayor to stop acting like a petulant child, move out of the way and allow the citizens of Petersburg to vote yea or nay on a casino referendum.”

Meanwhile, Stoney said in a statement, “I remain committed to ensuring Richmonders have a fair chance of truly expressing their support for a referendum on this topic in 2023.” But several members of Richmond’s General Assembly delegation said they are focusing on other issues this session. For example, state Del. Jeff Bourne said, “I’ve been trying to focus on the city’s other priorities,” such as affordable housing and increased public school funding.

But state Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and a close ally of Stoney, said he supports the mayor and the council’s stance on a Richmond casino. He said, “Personally, I’d like to see the General Assembly do nothing and let the localities figure it out. If they do nothing, Richmond gets another bite at the apple and the people get to speak.”

U.S. Sports Betting Jumps 70 percent in 2022

Sports betting wagers in the U.S. rose 70 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. In dollars, the total jumped from $44 billion to $74 billion.

Is anyone surprised by these figures from Sportsbook Review? The law of averages alone can explain the growth. Add more states to the list permitting legalized wagering, the numbers go up.

As far as the last five years are concerned, New Jersey, the state which filed the lawsuit and led the opposition to the sports betting ban, topped the list with a handle of $31 billion since 2018. Nevada finished second with $27 billion, while Pennsylvania captured third with $17 billion since legalizing sports betting in 2019.

The rest of the top 10 consisted of Illinois in fourth, $16 billion wagered; New York next at $15 billion; Indiana sixth with $10 billion; Colorado $9 billion for seventh; Michigan totalled $8 billion for eighth; Virginia brought in $7 billion; Tennessee was 10th, with $6 billion wagered.

“Sports betting has seen a huge increase since some states have legalized it within the last four years,” a spokesperson for the publication said.

Still, legalized sportsbooks brought in $9 billion in the initial post-Supreme Court year. The U.S. total in 2022 grew 744 percent. That’s pretty darned dazzling.

“It’s clear that as sports betting becomes more accessible across America, the money wagered could increase exponentially, too,” the spokesperson said. “This is good for governments as they can tax it and utilize Americans’ love of betting to build and improve the nation at local and national levels.”

Missouri Lawmakers File Sports Betting Bills

In Missouri, legalized sports betting could become a reality under bills filed by Republican state Reps. Phil Christofanelli and Dan Houx.

Christofanelli, sponsor of HB 581, said, “It’s just simply been too long for our legislature to fail to act on this issue that’s so important to many of our constituents.” Houx, sponsor of HB 556, stated, “With geofencing today we can see people going across the Missouri River and the Mississippi River in St. Louis to Illinois. They have a red light on, it goes green, they turn around on the next exit and drive home.”

Both bills propose taxing sports betting revenue at 10 percent and include funds for problem gambling services. The measures do not include regulating video lottery terminals, as proposed in SB 1, a sports wagering bill filed by state Senator Denny Hoskins.

Houx said, “It’s always been my belief video lottery and sports gambling are two separate bills so it’s just a sports gambling bill all on its own.” His measure also prohibits prop bets.

Houx said he’s optimistic about the legislation’s chances. “We’re back at it. We’re going to keep going and working hard at it. I believe it’s going to be one of the top 10 bills coming out of the House this year,” he said.

Analysts have estimated sports betting would generate $15 million to $20 million in annual revenue.

Regarding regulating video lottery terminals, as proposed in Hoskins’ measure, new House Speaker Dean Plocher said he’s willing to consider it.

“If there’s something that can be fixed to protect Missouri’s consumers, I’m open to that. I would support what’s best for the consumer and as this legislation goes through the process, as the testimony comes forward regarding those machines, we’ll take that under advisement and see what we can do,” Plocher said.

He added, “The Missouri consumer is important. They don’t need to be misled. We need to have continuity of laws. I think we need to have responsible legislation that manages the products that Missourians are buying.”

Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who was appointed by Governor Mike Parson to replace Eric Schmitt, now a U.S. Senator, said overseeing video lottery terminals is “an issue that’s up to local law enforcement investigators and local prosecutors.”

Video lottery terminal operators claim the machines are not gambling devices. Measures to regulate them have failed for several years due to stalemates over any gambling legislation, plus heavy lobbying by Torch Electronics. The largest operator of video lottery terminals in Missouri, Torch employs Strategic Capitol Consulting, led by former Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley.

FanDuel Combines Horse Racing, Sports Betting Into Single Account

Rejoice, race fans! FanDuel has become the first sportsbook in the U.S. to offer sports and horse racing on the same account. Before this move, track aficionados needed a separate racing account through TVG, which happens to be run by FanDuel.

With its latest transformation, FanDuel sees a path to reach a new generation unaccustomed to horse racing. They can also receive horse racing along with other sports in a single account.

FanDuel TV broadcasts racing at the following tracks:

  • Churchill Downs
  • Del Mar
  • Gulfstream Park
  • Keeneland
  • Santa Anita

FanDuel users will also be able to bet on the Kentucky Derby for the first time on the platform in 2023.

The merged accounts and wallets make it somewhat easier to place bets. The new FanDuel app can be found in:

  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  •    Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

The sportsbook will add Iowa and other states in 2023.

“Horse racing is a big part of our DNA. This is a significant opportunity to expose a broader, engaged audience to the sport in a familiar environment,” said Amy Howe, CEO of FanDuel Group.

FanDuel rebranded its TGV network into FanDuel TV earlier in 2022 bringing its clients horse racing as well as other sports.

Live horse racing in West Virginia can be found at:

  • Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, & Resort from May through December, with simulcast racing available year-round;
  • The Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, the largest in the state features year-round along with simulcasts for horse and dog racing;
  • The Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Charleston offers live greyhound racing; and
  • Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack also offers greyhound races. Racing, like Mardi Gras, runs year round.

Oklahoma State Rep. Luttrell Introduces Sports Betting Bill

Last year, State Rep. Ken Luttrell introduced legislation to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma. It failed to come up for a vote. He just pre-filed a House bill he hopes will garner a better reception. If signed into law, the legislation would allow sports betting in tribal casinos and racetracks in the state, according to PlayUSA.

One difference this year is Governor Kevin Stitt is more open to sports betting in Oklahoma in general and Lutrell’s proposal in particular.

Stitt Tweeted he is open to sports betting in Oklahoma, as long as it is “fair, transparent, and the state can maximize revenue potential to invest in top priorities, like education.”

Luttrell said: “Hopefully, I can reassure him that the percentages that are in this bill, on the fees are fair, fair to the tribes, and fair to all Oklahomans.”

House Bill 1027 could receive its initial reading on February 6. The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association hasn’t commented yet.

Matthew L. Morgan, the chairman of the Association, told KOCO 5:

“We are currently reviewing the bill and will be meeting with association member tribes to discuss. As in the past, we will proceed accordingly with the consensus of our members.”