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Michigan Man Exploits Gamblers, Stealing More Than $100k

A Michigan Man has pleaded guilty in federal court after conducting an elaborate fraud scheme that allowed him to withdraw more than $100,000 at various casinos. The man used prosthetic face masks to change his appearance, and created a number of false identification cards, as he took thousands from numerous unsuspecting gamblers at casinos across two states. In addition to the prosthetic face masks, the man utilized hats, glasses, and surgical masks to disguise himself at each of the locations he visited. Through a calculated series of moves, he was able to exploit casino rewards programs, stealing the identity of customers and withdrawing cash in their names.

The Guilty Party

John Christopher Colletti, 56, officially pleaded guilty to wire and identity fraud on Tuesday. Colletti, with his various disguises, was able to take more than $125,000 from gamblers. His elaborate plan has now earned him up to a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and two years for identity fraud. Colletti will be officially sentenced later this summer.

Colletti used a face mask to make him look like an older white male before visiting casino kiosks to take out thousands of dollars in cash. After amassing more than $100,000, the FBI became involved, eventually identifying Colletti. Timothy Waters, a special agent from the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, shared that Colletti’s actions impacted many innocent gamblers and that the FBI needed to ensure that these actions of identity theft were addressed, and the guilty party was held accountable.

Casino Security Challenges

In order to operate casino kiosks, gamblers must present their driver’s license and enter the last four digits of their Social Security Number and telephone number. Colletti specifically targeted VIP Preferred Program casino patrons. VIP customers typically have access to features that make it easier for them to withdraw and deposit, and in Colletti’s case this gave him access to withdraw larger sums. The system is designed to keep customers safe by having them provide their personal information first, but Colletti managed to purchase the personal information of his victims off the internet, allowing him to create fraudulent driver’s licenses made in their names.

Colletti was first flagged after withdrawing large sums from kiosks at numerous casinos. Thanks to security cameras, investigators were able to catch Colletti in the act, despite the fact that he used many different disguises. He first gained the attention of authorities after 10 instances of identity theft were found at MGM Grand Casino Detroit in May of 2019. From these 10 cases, Colletti was able to withdraw $98,840. In a single instance, Colletti was identified as wearing a prosthetic mask to disguise his appearance, and he went on to make 15 transactions totaling $30,000 at various kiosks in the casino. From there, security surveillance was able to track Colletti to his next destination, where he removed his disguise and made off with his cash.

Paying the Damages

Colletti was not arrested until Mach 12, 2020, at the Prairie Band Casino. In this instance he was wearing a straw hat and glasses while using a mobility walker. On this day, Colletti withdrew $20,000, which required him to present his Social Security number. When approached by security, Colletti retreated to the restroom removing his disguise and fleeing the casino. Security found the disguise left in the restroom with cash, driver’s licenses, and a Nissan car key. After Colletti was arrested, a search warrant was obtained and police eventually discovered face masks, flash drives, 83 driver’s licenses, 14 insurance cards, and 19 players cards from various casinos like the MGM Grand.

The lucrative scheme reveals the real dangers of identity theft and the importance of protecting personal information. Thanks to the security systems in place at the casinos that Colletti visited, the customers whose information was compromised will be paid back in full for their losses. Global Payments Gaming Services, the manufacturer of the casino kiosks that Colletti withdrew from, will be paying back the customers who were affected. Colletti will eventually pay the full $125,740 back to GPGS.

Newburgh Gambling Hall Begins Approval Process

Resorts World Catskills has identified the Town of Newburgh in New York as the potential site for a gambling hall that could include 1,300 gaming and video lottery terminals. Resort World believes that the struggling Newburgh Mall could benefit from a revival in the form of a new casino project, and the gaming company has offered $3 million annually in host-community payments as part of its proposal. Such a price tag may entice officials, as retail stores continue to struggle amidst the pandemic.

A Reputable Operator

Resorts World is owned by the Genting Group, a Malaysia-based company, and already operates casinos in Sullivan County and Queens, and previously had plans to open a video gaming parlor in Woodbury. With the prospect of the Newburgh Mall project on the horizon, the Woodbury plans have fallen to the wayside. The company was authorized by the state in 2019 to open a facility in Orange County to house the electronic slot machines that were previously licensed at Monticello Raceway. Now, Resorts World is trying to double down on this authorization to create a gambling hall in Newburgh Mall.

A formal pitch from Resorts World to Newburgh’s Town Board came about a month ago. In order for the plan to move forward, the zoning for building would have to be amended. Now it looks like the approval process is ready to move forward.

Struggling Retailers

Newburgh Mall is one of the many retail locations throughout the world that find themselves struggling in a world that has become increasingly dependent on online shopping. This fact has been amplified by the ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic. The mall already has 17 vacant store spaces, as many others continue to struggle.

Resorts World aims to sign a 65-year lease with the mall owners to add lottery and gaming terminals to the existing building. The gambling hall would not replace the building, but simply revitalize some of the areas that have are not being used, such as a vacant Bon-Ton department store. The proposed gambling hall would not have any restaurants or shopping, and the gaming operators believe that this would lead to gamblers streaming out into the mall for food or shopping whenever the visit.

Crunching the Numbers

In February, representatives for the casino operator presented their plans to the Newburgh Town Board. Their proposal stated that the new operation could employ up to 225 full-time workers. During the construction of the project, roughly 200 construction workers would also be hired to help construct the $32 million project. The end goal would be to transform a 68,877-square-foot section of the indoor mall into a new gambling hall called Resorts World Hudson Valley. Once built, Resorts World would give preference to local residents when hiring employees for the gambling hall, with an average salary worth about $72,000 a year.

As part of the $3 million in annual host-community payments, Resorts World will pay $1million for any municipal purposes, $500,000 a year for public safety and $1.5 million for community projects. Each of these payments would increase by 5% every 10 years. In addition to these numbers, Resorts World estimates that the new project could generate $65.6 million a year in revenue that would directly support New York Public schools.

Positive Signs

Resorts World believe that the revitalization project is one that they and the Newburgh Mall could mutually benefit from. In a press release, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus called the project “an investment in jobs, in growth and the future of Orange County.” The revitalization project could provide a beacon of hope as well, as restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic loosen, and retailers work to get back on track. So far, talks between Resorts World and officials have been positive and progressive, in a state that didn’t even allow Vegas-style gambling halls and casinos until 2013. Now officials and residents will wait to see if and when the gambling hall can become a reality.

Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Partner for Richmond Casino Project

Urban One, a Black-owned Washington media company, is working with Peninsula Pacific to propose a $517 million casino resort project. The proposed casino resort and live music theater would be built on property in South Richmond that is currently owned by Philip Morris USA, one of the city’s largest employers. The project was made possible, after the state legalized casinos for the first time last year. Now Urban One is trying to build the first casino with African American ownership in the state.

A New Contender

Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the owner of Colonial Downs Group, are hoping to capitalize on a potential casino that has been in the works since the legalization of casinos in the state of Virginia. Urban One owns more than 50 radio stations in over a dozen markets along the east coast. Tin Richmond, they own four radio stations, which are known for having a predominantly African American audience. Urban One already has a 7% stake in MGM National Harbor casino resort in Maryland, but this new proposal reflects a new focus on creating economic opportunities for minorities in Virginia. Despite their relative lack of experience in the industry, Urban One made a smart choice by selecting a worthy partner.

Alfred Liggins, Urban One CEO, confirmed that the media company would be the majority investor in the potential casino resort project. In a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Liggins shared that the group was excited to submit a proposal that includes a unique gaming, dining, and live music destination that would be the only black owned casino in the state. Minority ownership has been a major focus of the latest casino legislation adopted by the General Assembly, and Urban One hopes that they will soon become the proud owners of the ambitious project they have proposed.

Details of the Project

Liggins promises that the proposal will be an appropriate reflection of the community they have proudly been a part of since 1999. The ultimate goal is to produce a final product that reflects the local flavor of Richmond while uplifting the community.

The proposed $517 million casino resort and live music theater be built on 100 acres owned by Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris USA. Altria has offered no comment on the real estate transaction that would be necessary to make this project a reality, but they have acknowledged the area, which is located just south of a major cigarette manufacturing complex, could benefit from further development. Steve Callahan, a spokesman from Altria, shared that any decisions made about the land should involve the Richmond community.

The proposed casino resort project would include nearly 90,000 square feet dedicated to casino games, 150-room hotel, as many as a dozen restaurants and lounges, and 3,000-seat entertainment venue. A number of other outdoor recreational features could also be included. The venue, which could host up to 200 live music events a year, would make an ideal casino resort destination for people throughout the United States.

Virginia’s First Casinos

Virginia passed a state law last year that allows legal casino gambling for the first time. Previously, Virginia’s gambling laws were relatively strict, banning casinos and greyhound racing specifically. The state does allow betting on games of chance in private residences and the Commonwealth runs a statewide lottery.

The new legislation opens the door for casinos in five different cities, after voters approved them in local referendums. Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol have all approved casino projects; Richmond is still waiting, but they will get their chance next November. Last week the city announced that an evaluation panel including two City Council members and seven administration officials will review all Richmond casino proposal, while seeking additional support from an outside consulting firm. After reviewing the proposals, the panel will make recommendations to Mayor Levar Stoney and work to vote on a recommended operator and location.

Urban One and Peninsula Pacific have to wait and see how far their proposal can go. Their primary competition will come from the Pamunkey Tribe, who already has secured a project for a casino in Norfolk.

Hawaii Gambling Bills Delayed

Three gaming bills were turned down by the House on Wednesday, stalling any chance for legalized gambling in the state of Hawaii. After a year full of economic hardships, state lawmakers in Hawaii were considering a serious gaming overhaul in hopes of bringing some relief to those suffering in the state. The state is facing huge budget deficits, after the COVID-19 pandemic left the state scraping to make up for the lack of revenue generated from tourism. Officials were hoping that the proposed gambling-related bills could help account for some of the glaring issues facing the state, but it appears that lawmakers feel that the time just isn’t right for gaming expansion.

Details of the Proposed Bills

The three bills proposed would have legalized commercial gambling in the state of Hawaii, which is just one of two states with no form of legal gambling in the country. One bill would have created a state poker commission to oversee live poker rooms. Another would have allowed a casino on the Hawai’i Convention Center. Under this bill, players would have been required to stay in an Oahu hotel in order to play at the casino. The final bill pushed for a pilot program for digital sports betting platforms.

Rep. Sean Quinlan, chairman of the House Economic Development Committee, deferred all three bills, leaving little to no hope for immediate change to gambling laws in the rainbow state. This is in addition to Quinlan’s decision last week to defer on another bill that would allow the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to build a casino near Kapolei. That bill would have given a 40-year gaming license for an integrated resort and casino that would be built by the DHHL in parcel zoned lands for commercial use, located west of Ko Olina. The belief is that the proposed casino resort could generate millions of dollars in annual tax revenue. The revenue would be funneled toward a program that gets Hawaiians off of a wait list and onto their ancestral lands and into homes. The bill could have helped clear a backlog of more than 28,000 DHHL beneficiaries, who have been left waiting for homes and land.

Existing Gambling Laws in Hawaii

The proposed legislation could have brought gambling to a state that has traditionally outlawed almost all forms of gambling. In Hawaii, residents are prohibited from wagering on horse or dog races. Gambling aboard ships or casinos is also prohibited. Hawaii does not even have a state lottery, unlike many of the continental United States. Other than Utah, Hawaii is the only state that prohibits all forms of legalized gambling.

The only form of gambling that is legal in Hawaii is social gambling, but that’s only if the act is committed somewhere other than a hotel, motel, bar, nightclub, or any business establishment or public place.

Reality Check

Despite the sweeping denial of clear-cut gambling legislation, the Senate Education Committee did vote to approve another bill that would create a state lottery. The only issue is that committee Chairwoman Michelle Kidani amended the bill to delay the creation of the lottery until January 1, 2023, putting tangible gaming in the distant future. The Senate will also be hearing a version of the DHHL casino proposal before the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

Hawaiian residents, however, should not get their hopes up. State Rep. John Mizuno has made it clear that the breaking of the prohibition on any legalized gambling in the state could still be a far way off. Mizuno, who is the vice speaker of the house, was responsible for the bill that would have brought a casino to the Hawai’i Convention Center and has since said that the House seems to be firmly against legalizing gambling, regardless of the economic troubles residents are facing.

While the gambling bills can technically be resurrected in the house, the reality of that happening is a stretch. Mizuno believes that time is the only great equalizer in moving this gaming expansion forward, and gambling in Hawaii still has a number of hurdles to jump before its time has come.

Georgia Lawmakers Introduce Gambling Legislation Once More

The state of Georgia has been mulling over gambling legislation for years, without any tangible results. On Tuesday, lawmakers introduced a constitutional amendment to the Georgia House of Representatives that would introduce gambling in the form of casino resorts across the state. Those in favor of new legislation hope that the expansion can finally be passed, after previous efforts fell short.

The Latest Expansion Proposal

The effort for gambling expansion has been mounting for nearly 30 years in the state of Georgia. The latest proposal comes from Republican state Rep. Ron Stephens of Savannah, Alan Powell of Hartwell, and Democratic Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, who have all ben longtime supporters of legalizing casinos. The Georgia House of Representatives made the proposal as the entire country works to recover from the ongoing pandemic.

The proposed legislation that would open the door for a limited number of casino resorts, would provide the state with revenue that could benefit a number of important programs. The amendment channels these revenues toward tuition and grant programs like the HOPE Scholarship, supporting public and private colleges and universities throughout the state. Additional revenue would be directed toward covering the casino’s operating costs, while also funding gambling addiction programs.

 

The Rising Tide

In order to pass the latest legislation, the amendment must receive a two-thirds majority vote in the state House and Senate. As Georgians know, this is no small task, as countless predecessors have failed to stave off opposition mounted by religious conservatives. The proposed casino expansion is the second gambling proposal in the 2021 calendar year. The other proposal came earlier this month and would legalize online sports betting throughout the state.

Georgia’s last gambling expansion came in 1992, when the Peach State’s voters chose to approve the lottery. Since then, all other forms of gambling have been illegal in the state, leaving residents feeling stuck in the past. Late in 2020, a House panel passed a resolution that would allow casino gambling, horse racing, and sports betting. Unfortunately, the proposal never advanced, and the pandemic brought all other discussions about gambling expansion to a screeching halt. Now, Georgians hope to capitalize on what could be a very important revenue stream.

Potential Outcomes

Religious groups have vehemently spoken out against the new legislation, citing crime and addiction as major concerns. That being said, the expansion has a number of big names in the private sector fighting for the expansion to go through. Officials at Atlanta Motor Speedway already presented a plan last year to build a $1 billion casino resort near its racetrack in Hampton. The developers responsible for the entertainment development that includes the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park have also shared renderings of proposed casino resorts. If the amendment passes, the renderings for casino resorts on the Chattahoochee River, Lake Hartwell, and in Midway could become a reality in the near future.

Those in favor of the gambling legislation believe that the industry could bring thousands of jobs to the state, while raking in millions of dollars for important funds like the aforementioned HOPE Scholarship. Another idea being thrown around by lawmakers is to take the potential funds and direct them toward the state’s health care system.

While the support for the amendment is clear, the two-thirds hurdle still looms large. In the next few months Georgia will see whether or not it will be able to approve its first gambling expansion since 1992.

Massachusetts Slots Parlor and Racetrack Unveils New Safety Protocols

The Plainridge Park Casino opened its doors on Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. for the first time since closing due to the coronavirus pandemic. States throughout the country have already begun reopening casinos, including neighboring Rhode Island and Connecticut. Taking a look at the successful safety practices put in place at these facilities, Plainridge and the state of Massachusetts hope to successfully relaunch the industry in their state.

Gambling in Massachusetts

Residents in the state of Massachusetts have come to know a wide variety of legal betting options outside of the state’s lottery; however, these options became extremely limited once brick-and-mortar locations were forced to close their doors in March, due to fears surrounding the spread of COVID-19.

Within the state, residents have had the pleasure of wagering on licensed horse and dog racing, doing so at a number of tracks and pari-mutuels. Plainridge Racecourse is one of two active racetracks within the state, making it a large attraction for those interested in wagering on harness racing. Massachusetts is also home to a number of commercial and tribal casinos, where residents can enjoy slots, table games, and a number of other casino staples. Plainridge itself does not offer table games but is home to roughly 1,500 slot machines. These enticing gaming options were completely wiped out three months ago, when businesses throughout the United States were forced to suddenly close their doors, dealing a serious blow to the gaming industry. Now, as states begin reopening businesses, facilities like Plainridge are hoping to get back on track.

New Safety Accommodations

Like many casinos reopening around the country, Plainridge has taken into consideration a great number of safety precautions to ensure that patrons could return to play without forcing another closure. In order to achieve this goal, Plainridge has minimized contact between customers, established regular cleaning protocol, and rolled out a number of rules to help enforce social distancing. Some of these changes are immediately apparent to anyone who is returning to the casino for the first time in four months.

At the public entrance to the slots parlor and horse track, guests are greeted with rope stanchions to ensure that they are maintaining appropriate social distance when entering the premises. All guests are required to wear masks and the casino will be using kiosks to monitor the temperature of those who are entering the building. Throughout the casino, a number of plexiglass partitions have been erected to place a divider between players, and between players and casino employees. The partitions are a result of the guidance provided by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The commission also had Plainridge close about half of their 1,500 slot machines in order to keep customers six feet apart. In the dining area, tables have been spread out to accommodate for the recommended six-foot space deemed appropriate for social distancing. While these changes are noticeable, casino workers hope that they will not negatively impact the customer experience.

Before closing due to the pandemic, Plainridge was operating 24 hours a day seven days a week; Under the current circumstances, the casino plans to run on reduced weekday hours, from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.. On Fridays and Saturdays, Plainridge will be open for the full 24 hours. Plainridge also expects to resume harness racing as early as next week.

Leading the Vanguard

Lance George, the general manager of Plainridge, expressed his relief in the fact that the casino’s employees can finally return to work. Due to the sudden closure, employees at the facility were laid off or furloughed over the past few months. The unexpected cuts saw the casino’s workforce drop from 450 to just 20 over the three-month period. While there is no guarantee that the casino industry will be booming upon reopening, George is hopeful that Plainridge will bring in enough business to get back on track and help some of his employees get back to work.

Plainridge Park Casino was the first to open its doors in the state, but other casinos hope this is the start of the industry getting back to business. The gambling and hospitality industry throughout the country has suffered during this period, but now casinos and resorts are preparing to reopen under new safety guidelines like the ones that Plainridge have put in place. Since Plainridge’s reopening, both Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield have announced their decision to open early next week, presumably under similar safety guidelines. Just across state lines in Rhode Island, Lincoln and Tiverton casinos have been open since last month, while Connecticut casinos opened a few weeks ago. As Massachusetts begins to reopen their own casinos, officials throughout the state hope that the industry can continue to trend in the right direction.

Senators Eyeing Large Video Gaming Terminal Expansion in Pa.

Republican senators have been working tirelessly on an effort to bring a sweeping gambling expansion to the state of Pennsylvania before lawmakers break for the summer. The proposal, led by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, would bring an influx of video gaming terminals (VGTs) to the state. The majority of the effort was worked on behind closed doors, and now as the details of the bill have been shared, many are raising concerns about the proposal. Now officials are scrambling in an attempt to direct their efforts toward a resolution that will help push this bill before the summer holiday begins.

Details of Proposal

The new proposal is the result of a collaboration between Republican senators and lobbyists for large video gaming companies. The two have paired up in an attempt to bring VGTs to thousands of bars, taverns, social clubs, and other establishments holding a liquor license. A draft copy of the bill states that VGTs would be allowed at the majority of nearly 15,000 establishments currently holding a liquor license in the state. Each establishment could have up to five terminals, which could mean nearly 50,000 VGTs would become available if the bill is passed. Similar VGTs are currently operational at truck stops throughout the state, but these machines are not regulated and taxed, which is part of the reason why Republicans have brought the latest proposal to the table.

The Republican Senators in favor of the bill see it as an opportunity to capitalize on untapped revenue, as well as a way to offer safe and regulated VGTs to residents. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman stated that the proposal was not necessarily about a sweeping gambling expansion, but rather a way to control and regulate the existing skill game terminals that are operating throughout the state. Many officials have questioned the legality of these terminals, some even calling for their removal. The latest proposal would regulate these terminals, while ensuring that the state benefits from the revenue produced.

Corman estimates that the proposal could raise up to $250 million annually. Under the current circumstances, this revenue could be directed toward mitigating the damage dealt from the coronavirus pandemic. In the future, the goal would be to direct this revenue to help freeze property taxes for senior citizens.

Many Officials Have Reservations

Since the behind-the-scenes campaign has come to the fore, many have found flaws in the plan and are questioning the timing of the proposal. The mounting challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have forced many of the businesses in which these VGTs would be placed to close their doors for some time. Although businesses throughout the country are slowly beginning to reopen, the threat of the virus spreading remains and the safety of these terminals has come into question.

Additionally, many of the large gaming companies involved in the push for the new proposal were responsible for the funding of Scarnati’s campaign, leading many to question the integrity of the new proposal. Pennsylvania’s casinos have also weighed in, arguing that a gaming expansion this large could infringe upon their revenue, which has already taken a major hit from closures caused by the pandemic.

Timeline for the Proposal

The Senators pushing the bill have been optimistic about the expansion, but the mounting concerns and lack of support from Republicans and Democrats alike suggest that there is still a long way to go before these terminals become a reality. As of Tuesday, there were not enough votes from the Republicans to move the proposal forward, yet leaders were still hopeful that a vote could take place this week. If they fail to do so, it will be a race against the clock, as the legislature will break for summer at the end of the month, and they will not return again until September.

Vegas Casinos Reopen After 78-Day Shut-Down

Casinos, hotels, and resorts were forced to close their doors in March as the threat of Covid-19 rapidly spread throughout the country. The unprecedented closure of these businesses raised many concerns and questions surrounding the possibility of reopening in a world that has been changed significantly by the looming threat of the infectious disease. Now, after months of businesses being closed, stay-at-home orders, and increased health safety measures, casinos throughout Las Vegas are reopening their doors to welcome back customers. The reopening effort includes a number of new rules and regulations to help monitor and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as businesses try and weigh the pros and cons of reopening.

Reopening in the “New Normal”

Throughout the country, states have slowly seen a decrease in the number of new coronavirus cases, which has resulted in a push for businesses to reopen. Unexpected closures have led to some of the highest unemployment rates the country has ever seen, as well as a loss of millions of dollars in revenue for businesses who have been forced to close. For Sin City, this means that its greatest source of revenue has been M.I.A. for 78 days. Now, with number of new coronavirus cases on the decline, these businesses are launching a plan to welcome back customers in a safe environment.

In early June, casinos on the Strip reopened their doors and welcomed large crowds with a water show at the Bellagio Hotel and a new motto for visitors: Think dirty thoughts but keep your hands clean. Guests returned to a number of significant changes put in place at their favorite casinos. Table dealers are separated from players by Plexiglas, dice are rinsed in sanitizer after every throw at a craps table, guests are required to have a mandatory temperature check before entering, and customers are strongly encouraged to wear face masks. Officials believe that these measures will help them get back to business as usual, while ensuring the safety of the guests that come play at their casinos.

A number of other unexpected changes were part of the reopening process as well. Many casino resorts decided to waive parking fees and may continue to waive these fees for the rest of the year. Customers are also being greeted with goodie bags, which may include face masks, sanitizer, and a tool they can use to open doors and pus elevator buttons without having to touch the surfaces directly. Other attempts to create a contactless customer experience include scannable QR code menus and mobile app hotel check-in.

Governor Steve Sisolak has expressed his confidence that the city is taking every precaution possible during this reopening process. Sisolak was quoted in the New York Times saying, “I don’t think you’ll find a safer place than Las Vegas,” which has proven to be more than enough encouragement based on the wave of visitors the city has seen since reopening their doors.

Impressive Crowds

The reopening seemed to be a welcome escape for people who have been living under strict social distancing guidelines for the past couple months. Hotels and casinos were busier than expected, which has led businesses to accelerate their reopening plans in the coming weeks.

Although the large crowds may be a welcome sight for business owners, it could mean danger for customers in terms of an increase in coronavirus cases. Casino floors were full of customers who were not wearing face coverings or practicing proper social distancing; two things that are included in the guidelines for reopening but have proven to be a difficult rule to reinforce. Despite Sisolak’s initial optimism about the reopening, he does plan to reverse the reopening if it appears that the state has seen a steep increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

Over the next few weeks officials will be able to analyze whether or not the reopening has led to the spread of coronavirus. If so, businesses may have to introduce additional safety precautions to protect customers, or potentially close their doors once more. It seems as though all parties are willing to do everything they can to keep the doors open; time will tell whether or not the current safety measures will be enough.

Slot Revenue Protects Maryland Residents from Eviction and Foreclosure

In Maryland, Anne Arundel County is rolling out an innovative Eviction Protection Program to help people throughout the community overcome the financial hardships that the coronavirus has brought. As the pandemic has forced millions into unemployment, rent and mortgage payments have been put on hold, but the possibility of foreclosure and eviction still looms for when payments resume in the future. Anne Arundel’s progressive program relies on the revenues of video slot machines at Live! Casino to help for citizens struggling to make ends meet.

Coronavirus Initial Impact

The country has taken drastic measures to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus, changing the daily lives of every American. The need for immediate social distancing and sanitary practices that limit social interaction has led to a change in the American workforce that has left many without work. Virtually overnight, those working the service industry, such as retail employees, restaurant workers, or casino employees, found themselves completely without work.

Unemployment rates throughout the country have reached an all-time high, leaving millions of Americans without work and struggling to make ends meet as the country has shut down to counteract the spread of the coronavirus. In response, Anne Arundel County, like many other areas throughout the United States, has suspended evictions and foreclosures. This temporary suspension of payments is a small comfort, considering that the missed payments for tenants, landlords, and homeowners will continue to add up over time. At some point, payments will have to be made, and for those who have lost work during this pandemic, those payments pose a serious threat to their financial security.

Slots as a Solution

Arundel Community Development Services Policy and Development Coordinator Erin Karpewicz noted that many people in the county spend more than 50% of their income on housing. For those who have found themselves recently unemployed due to the pandemic, this means that the potential loss of income could lead to homelessness if they are unable to pay for their housing once the suspension of payments is lifted. Anne Arundel officials have recognized the immediate concerns for these groups and are prepared to roll out their Eviction Prevention Program early next week.

The program will turn to the proceeds generated from video slot machines at Live! Casino, to help benefit households that financially qualify. In order to qualify for the program, residents must be earning 80% or less of the area median income. This figure is adjusted for household size; for example, the threshold for a family of four would be $75,500. If a household does qualify financially, they are responsible for providing a letter stating that their rent has fallen behind, due to a disruption of income from the coronavirus. This household must also provide a form of documentation for the household’s income. The Eviction Prevention Program officially opens on April 20, and Anne Arundel County officials are urging residents to take advantage of financial counseling through Arundel Community Development services.

Hope in Trying Times

The Eviction Prevention Program is a result of the efforts of the Local Development Council. The LDC is a state-mandated group responsible for determining how a video lottery terminal facility affects the surrounding community, and what community needs can be met through the spending of proceeds produced from these machines. Anne Arundel receives 4.51% of revenues from the video lottery terminals at Live!, which will directly benefit affected residents in the three zip codes surrounding the casino. Additional money from the county’s general fund will benefit the remaining residents in other zip codes throughout the county.

In the 2020 calendar year, Live! Has already made $91.5 million from video lottery terminals alone. This revenue resulted in the $500,000 made available through the Eviction Prevention Program and will be paired with $500,000 from the county’s general fund. Officials noted their decision was easy, due to the clear immediate need for the county workforce, which is largely made up of retail and hospitality workers.

Anne Arundel officials are making a clear effort to use the revenue generated from local casinos to help benefit and support their community. The combination of this financial support, as well as their financial counseling resources, provide a safety net for at-risk citizens, hopefully easing some of the concerns that the coronavirus has caused. The development of such a program could act as a blueprint for counties throughout the country, who are looking to provide support to residents who need it most.

Covid-19 Puts Penn National Gaming Operations on Hold

As the spread of Covid-19 forces businesses to close throughout the country, Penn National Gaming finds themselves not only closing their doors but also halting all future projects. The rapidly spreading pandemic has forced businesses across the globe to close for the foreseeable future, and tourism and casino businesses appear to be taking the hardest hit. As Penn National operations come screeching to a halt, their stock continues to plummet, and the future of their operations hang in the balance. Now, the company is looking to rely on credit or a potential stimulus package to help them in these trying times.

Immediate Impact

Penn National has been forced to suspend operation at all of their Nevada locations, including Tropicana Las Vegas, The M Resort, and Cactus Petes for at least 30 days; with the rate at which Covid-19 is spreading, it is possible that these locations could be closed for even longer. The closure of these Nevada locations will immediately impact the 3,200 employees who work there. Throughout the entire country, Penn National has closed 34 total properties. The closures are the result of mandatory orders from various state governors who have called for the suspension of all nonessential businesses to help stop the spread of the virus. In the month of March in 2019 Penn National brought in more than $46.9 million from just two casinos in the state of Pennsylvania. Now the company is thinking of ways to combat this loss of revenue for the month of March in 2020.

The closing of nonessential businesses has also forced Penn National to stop construction on two casino projects in Pennsylvania. The $110 million Hollywood Casino Morgantown and $120 million Hollywood Casino York were both slated to open by the end of 2020, but now their future is in question amidst work-stoppages related to Covid-19. After a record-breaking month in the stock market in February, Penn National has since seen an 80% drop in shares, dropping nearly 45% in a single day last Monday.

President and CEO of Penn National Gaming, Jay Snowden, has stated his support of Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s decision to close nonessential businesses in the state. Along the same lines, he recognizes that under these circumstances it is necessary for Penn National to do what they can to keep themselves from going under in dire circumstances.

Plan for Recovery

In the immediate future, Penn National is planning to fall back on a $430 million credit. It’s unclear how they plan to use this credit, and company officials have stated that the fluid circumstances of the ever-evolving pandemic make it difficult to determine exactly the best use for their existing funds. The immediate concern is the thousands of workers who are suddenly finding themselves without work, and the absence of millions of dollars in revenue for the foreseeable future.

The effects of these closures have impacted casinos and gaming companies throughout the country, as more and more businesses are forced into these unexpected closures. The entire industry has seen a 51.3% decline in stocks, as millions are left without work and millions of dollars in revenue is being lost. The American Gaming Association, who bears the responsibility of representing casinos throughout the country, has called for a stimulus package that could help save the industry. In a statement to the U.S. government, the AGA noted the obvious impact that the pandemic has had on these businesses.

Like many other people throughout the world, Penn National will have to wait and see what the future holds for their business and its employees, as the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 continue to evolve.