Resorts AC: Back From The Dead, And With PokerStars On The Way?

Once-struggling Resorts AC is now one of the hottest properties in Atlantic City, and could get even hotter if PokerStars makes its way into New Jersey.

Resorts AC — once on the brink of disaster — is now one of the hottest properties in Atlantic City, and could get even hotter if PokerStars makes its way into New Jersey.

From the ashes, Resorts rises

An Associated Press story detailed the fall — and subsequent rise — of Resorts Casino. Under the leadership of the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut, in the past five years Resorts has gone from cautionary tale to an example of how Atlantic City might turn things around.

From the AP:

On Wednesday, Resorts opened a $9.4 million expansion of its meeting and conference space to take advantage of a pressing need in the struggling gambling resort. It also served as a celebration of how far the casino has come against some daunting odds.

“It was dead, and it has been brought back to life,” said Resorts President Mark Giannantonio. “The year I started here three years ago, this place lost $12 million. Last year we made $2.5 million. And this year we will do far better than that.”

The story related the story that in 2009, the former owners had nearly given up on the casino and were about to default on their loans. But since then, things have gone amazingly well for the once struggling casino.

What’s gone right at Resorts?

The biggest positive factor in the Resorts turnaround has clearly been Mohegan’s involvement. Back in 2012, Resorts and Mohegan announced a partnership that would put the Connecticut tribe in charge of operations.

The changes and success have been nothing short of extraordinary. And analysts saw the turnaround coming, as soon as the partnership was inked. From the Press of Atlantic City, three years ago:

In choosing Mohegan Sun as his new partner,Resorts Casino Hotel owner Morris Bailey has established an alliance with one of the top casino operators in the country, analysts say.

Other Atlantic City casinos that had grown accustomed to Resorts being a pushover will now face a more formidable competitor — one that can tap the Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania for new customers.

“It’s not good news for the competitors,” Greg Roselli, a casino analyst for UBS Securities, said of the Resorts-Mohegan Sun deal. “Atlantic City is still a very challenged market. Before, you had a property that was not much of a competitor, but is now taking a big step to expand its customer base.”

Growing online casinos, too

The brick-and-mortar operation isn’t the only good part about Resorts. It also now features two different online gambling sites in New Jersey: one under its own brand, and one under the Mohegan Sun brand.

Resorts got a late start in offering online casino games, but it has managed to carve out meaningful marketshare, which only adds to the gains it has made on the land-based side.

Resorts has seen revenue grow from its online operation every month since launching in February.

And Resorts isn’t done there

The “piece de resistance” for Resorts might still be to come. Resorts AC is the land-based partner of PokerStars, which has had its sights set on entering the regulated New Jersey online poker market.

Just this past week, Resorts’ owner said that the final disposition of PokerStars’ online gambling license would be known “in weeks, not months.” That would mean PokerStars could be operation in New Jersey as soon as September. The brand awareness that comes with PokerStars could make its online poker offering relevant almost immediately.

If PokerStars ends up getting its license via Resorts, that’s yet another gamechanger for the AC casino. And that means it has the chance to go from nearly closing its doors permanently to becoming one of the most vibrant properties on the boardwalk.

Photo by Magnus Manske used under license CC BY-SA 3.0

Atlantic City Won’t Be Allowed To Bulldoze Man’s Home, For Now

New Jersey authorities wanted to seize a man’s Atlantic City home near Revel Casino, but a judge in the state is putting a stop to that, at least for now.

New Jersey authorities wanted to take a man’s Atlantic City home near Revel Casino through eminent domain, but a judge in the state is putting a stop to that, at least for now.

No soup for you, New Jersey

In a case that has garnered some national intention, a superior court judge in New Jersey has ruled that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority cannot take the home of Charlie Birnbaum, a 68-year-old piano tuner, who runs his business out of his residence.

His home is near the now-closed Revel Casino Hotel, so that the state needed to take someone’s home who didn’t really want to leave seemed like a stretch. And Judge Julio Mendez agreed. The CRDA cannot take the home unless it comes up with a “concrete plan” for redevelopment of the land where Birnbaum’s home sits.

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Last November, Mendez said the state’s intention — folding the land into a tourism district in the wingspan of the now-closed Revel Casino Hotel _ was enough to warrant the seizure. But after hearing the 68-year-old Birnbaum express his desire to stay and his protests over the state’s lack of specific plans, Mendez changed his mind.

“The court shares Birnbaum’s concern about the uncertainty of the various plans for Atlantic City’s recovery and the ability of the CRDA to implement the plan that justifies the taking of the Birnbaum property,” Mendez wrote in his opinion. “The court lacks confidence that the plans as presented here will be effectuated in light of the uncertainty surrounding Atlantic City, the economic conditions of Atlantic City, and the pending legislation.”

Kicking out residents from AC?

Mendez went even further, pointing out the hypocrisy of Atlantic City trying to displace someone who was willing to stay in the city, which has fallen on tough economic times. Birnbaum’s attorney, Robert McNamara, picked up on that theme after the decision. again:

“Certainly with the current state of Atlantic City, it seems like the last thing you would want to do is drive out a property owner who loves his property,” McNamara said. “And if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that Atlantic City needs more people who love it, not fewer.”

The house has been in Birnbaum’s family since 1969.

Waiting on Christie

Part of the reason why there’s no plan for the home? According to the CRDA, it is waiting on Gov. Chris Christie to pass a package of legislation meant to help Atlantic City.

Those bills, however, have been on Christie’s desk for nearly two months. while the governor is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Associated Press reported that “the agency will review whether to move forward with the project after Christie decides what to do with the legislation on his desk and its future funding is sorted out. Depending on those changes, he said, the agency also will consider appealing Mendez’s ruling.”

The status of the Revel casino, which was bought four months ago, still remains very much up in the air, regardless of the prospects of the relief package aimed at AC.

Ballot Measure Allowing Northern New Jersey Casinos Likely In 2016

New Jersey may make a push to allow casinos in the northern part of the state, outside of Atlantic City, according to a story at Politico.

New Jersey may make a push to allow casinos outside of Atlantic City, according to a story at Politico.

Casinos in northern New Jersey?

Politico reporter Matt Friedman talked with politicians and gaming interests about the possibility of a referendum allowing casinos in northern New Jersey. Senate President Steve Sweeney had tried to get a measure on the ballot for this November, but that didn’t happen.

Politico reports that a referendum is far more likely next year, and Friedman reports that “backers of building casinos in northern New Jersey are planning to spend $10 million to $15 million on advertising to convince a skeptical public to side with them.”

The reason that much money would need to be spent? Because there isn’t much support for more casinos in New Jersey. A majority of New Jersey residents do not favor casino expansion, and under 40 percent favor it. More from Politico:

“From what I see when we do polling, if you simply ask the question, ‘Are you in favor of expanding gambling?’—the immediate reaction is no. Why would we expand gambling because Atlantic City is doing bad? Why add casinos?”Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural said. “But when we say, ‘Would you be in favor at the Meadowlands if we give the state $500 million a year and some of that money would go to help Atlantic City recover and rebuild?’—then it would be a positive.

“The key to us to get the referendum passed is to get the message out,” Gural said. “If we can’t get the message out, it will lose.”

Other stumbling blocks

The polling numbers aren’t the only issue with a possible casino ballot measure in New Jersey:

  • Gural also noted that a measure in 2015 likely would have had a better chance of success than in 2016, because the message and advertising wouldn’t be competing against the presidential election.
  • Politicians in and around Atlantic City aren’t in favor of casino expansion. While a potential measure promises to help the region, legislators and interests in southern N.J. worry that cannibalization of A.C. revenue could occur.

But is NJ losing gaming revenue by not expanding?

Taking revenue away from Atlantic City may be only a secondary concern. Residents of New Jersey have fairly easy access to several casinos in Pennsylvania, including Parx and Sugarhhouse in Philadelphia, in addition to Mohegan Sun Pocono, Mt. Airy Casino Resort and Sands Bethlehem.

For instance, Sands is actively trying to lure players away from the state, and Atlantic City. Losing revenue to its neighbor to the west may be a driving factor in trying to build casinos elsewhere in New Jersey.

Atlantic City is also in danger of seeing more casinos fail, without a stimulus package that is sitting on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. At the same time, gaming revenue in Atlantic City was up in July’s recently released figures.

The question New Jersey will have to ask itself is this: Is blocking the possibility of casino expansion worth trying to save an Atlantic City economy that may not succeed in the long term anyway?

Attacks On New Jersey Online Gambling Sites Weren’t ‘Hacking’

A cyber-attack against New Jersey online gambling sites this week has been characterized as “hacking” in the mainstream media.

A cyber-attack against New Jersey online gambling sites this week has been characterized as “hacking” in the mainstream media, which is not necessarily an accurate assessment of what happened.

What actually happened in New Jersey?

The Associated Press characterized the attacks in this way in the lede of its story:

A hacker shut down four New Jersey Internet gambling sites for half an hour last week and threatened more cyberattacks over the holiday weekend unless a ransom was paid using the online currency Bitcoin, authorities said Tuesday.

The sites that were attacked were not identified.

While the person who coordinated the attacks might indeed be a “hacker,” what he or she did was not really “hacking.”

The attacks were “distributed denial of service attacks,” according to New Jersey authorities, which is generally different from “hacking.” In a DDoS attack, someone tries to flood a website or network with traffic so that it can no longer function. When “hacking” occurs, it is generally taken to mean that the network or system has been infiltrated by the attacker.

Hacking or DDoS, does it matter?

While calling something a hack or a DDoS attack might seem like a moot point, to the average person, they conjure up different images. Online Poker Report’s Chris Grove explains:

Outright hacking rarely happens to established online gambling sites with security measures in place. As Grove notes, DDoS attempts can happen and are often temporary.

The difference? DDoS attacks to New Jersey online gambling sites mean you might not be able to play there for a period of time, if you are a customer. But they do not cause your accounts or any money associated with them to be in danger.

DDoS attacks are still a threat

That doesn’t mean that DDoS attacks should be ignored. They are capable of crippling sites for periods of time.

As a story at notes, another attack could “negatively impact the targeted casinos, but also all business in Atlantic City who share the same internet service provider.”

But the current threat of attack doesn’t have a huge impact on the end consumer, other than affecting their ability to play at a site.

Photo by Colin used under license CC-BY-SA 4.0

WSOP Announces 2015-16 Circuit Schedule

The 2015-2016 World Series of Poker Circuit will be the largest in the tour’s history. The upcoming season will feature 25 total stops, 19 in the United States and six internationally.

Big changes for next season

This year’s circuit season will have a few changes. For starters, the domestic tour has a new stop in Bally’s Las Vegas. This gives Las Vegas two Circuit stops in the upcoming season.

The WSOP National Championship has been renamed the WSOP Global Casino Championship and will include qualifiers from international stops. In addition, for the first time ever Circuit ring holders who do not qualify for the championship will be able to buy-in directly for $10,000.

Several stops convenient to New Jersey residents

New Jersey residents will have access to several stops. The Foxwoods stop kicks off the circuit season in August, followed by the Horseshoe Baltimore Stop. The circuit will return to Atlantic City in March of 2016, followed by a second Baltimore stop in early April.

WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart spoke on the upcoming season, stating, “We know not everyone can make it out to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, and this is our way of bringing the flavor and feel of the WSOP to regional markets,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. “The WSOP Circuit continues to be a great success, both at getting new players to the game and creating tomorrow’s stars and we’re excited to kick off the twelfth season August 6.”

How to qualify for the Global Championship

Remember that players can qualify for the global championship in one of three ways. Each stop has a Main Event tournament that awards the winner a seat in the championship. The player of the series award at each stop, also known as the Casino Championship, also awards one seat. Finally, an at-large system will award 50 seats based on points earned in events.

Below is a complete schedule of events for both the domestic tour and the international circuit:

World Series of Poker 2015-2016 Circuit U.S. Domestic Tour schedule

1. August 6-17, 2015 Foxwoods Resort Casino (Connecticut) August 15-17
2. August 20-31, 2015 Horseshoe Baltimore (Maryland) August 28-30
3. September 17-28, 2015 Palm Beach Kennel Club (Florida) September 26-28
4. October 1-12, 2015 Horseshoe Southern Indiana October 9-12
5. October 15-26, 2015 Horseshoe Hammond (Chicago) October 23-26
6. October 29 – Nov. 9, 2015 Harveys Lake Tahoe (Nevada) November 6-9
7. November 12-23, 2015 Planet Hollywood (Las Vegas Strip) November 20-23
8. Nov. 26 – December 7, 2015 Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina) December 4-7
9. December 3-14, 2015 The Bicycle Casino (Los Angeles) December 12-14
10. January 7-18, 2016 Choctaw Durant (Dallas/Oklahoma) January 15-18
11. January 21 – Feb. 1, 2016 Horseshoe Tunica (Mississippi) Jan. 29-Feb. 1
12. February 4-15, 2016 Palm Beach Kennel Club (Florida) February 12-15
13. February 25 – March 7, 2016 Bally’s (Las Vegas) *new stop March 4-7
14. March 15-26, 2016 Harrah’s Atlantic City (New Jersey) March 24-26
15. March 19-30, 2016 The Bicycle Casino (Los Angeles) March 27-30
16. March 24 – April 4, 2016 Horseshoe Baltimore (Baltimore) April 2-4
17. March 31 – April 11, 2016 Horseshoe Council Bluffs (Omaha/Iowa) April 8-11
18. April 14-25, 2016 Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina) April 22-25
19. May 12-23, 2016 Harrah’s New Orleans (Louisiana) May 20-23
  TBD WSOP Global Casino Championship TBD

World Series of Poker 2015-2016 International Circuit schedule

1. September 16-30, 2015 Casino de Campione (Campione, Italy)
2. TBA, 2015 TBA
3.  November 1-8, 2015 King’s Casino (Rozvadov, Czech Republic)
4. TBA, 2016 Jubilee Casino Monterrey (Mexico)
5. March, 2016 TBA

Revel Nightclub Could Reopen in July – Straub Talks Selling Property

Even though the Revel is empty, it is still making headlines. The chief engineer quit, Straub may be shopping the Revel, and the night club may reopen soon.

It’s been a busy news week regarding the shuttered Revel casino in Atlantic City. The building’s chief engineer has called it quits and there are rumors that one portion of the property could reopen in July. Finally, Straub could already be in the market to sell the Revel but only if he can more than double his money on the deal.

Chief Engineer is “Revel’d Out”

John Lezenby, the executive director of facilities and engineering at Revel, resigned from his position on Tuesday. Lezenby stated that he was “Revel’d out” and that “It wasn’t fun babysitting an empty building. I want to be in a building that has customers.”

Lezenby had been an employee of the company since day one but moves on to greener pastures. Prior to his stint at Revel, he served as executive director of facilities at Resorts and the director of construction with Trump Entertainment.

While Lezenby’s loss is huge, it will not be catastrophic. Nine engineers remain employed by the company as well as four security guards. Lezenby claims that the remaining employees “will protect that building with their life.”

Straub Interested in Selling Revel?

Glenn Straub has only owned the Revel less than two months but is already contemplating a sale of the property, but only if the price is right. Straub told the Press of Atlantic City that the Revel was not for sale but he might be swayed if someone came up with an offer in the $200 million range.

He said, “I’ll go and sell it to international people. That’s what we need.” Straub insists that his strategy to revive the Revel hinges on high-rollers being flown or ferried into Atlantic City. With gambling venues such as Macau drying up, high rollers could be swayed to try AC if the right action was available.

Straub may already have a buyer lined up. According to a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal regarding the issues between ACR Energy and the Revel, Polo North has a “contractual… relation” with Vincent Crandon, an investor that has expressed interest in buying the property in the past.

HQ to Possibly Reopen

Also mentioned in the Press of AC article is the possibility that the HQ nightclub could reopen sometime in July. According to the report, Polo North and IDEA Boardwalk are in mediation to reopen the property. If you remember, a bankruptcy judge allowed Straub to purchase the Revel free and clear from tenant obligations and it appears that he is willing to deal.

IDEA Boardwalk, the parent company for HQ, is one of those that were suing for tenant rights to block the sale. It is estimated that around $16 million in improvements have been made by various tenants, including HQ.

The opening HQ would be a step in the right direction for the property. It has been shuttered since summer of 2014 and originally it was estimated that it may be the fall before any part of the casino could be reopened. An official date has not been mentioned and is subject to the results of mediation.