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By Daniel Michaels, May 20th 2005
Players can now earn and redeem frequent-gambler points among the three Park Place Entertainment casinos in Atlantic City, 17 months after the company began a similar program at its Las Vegas casinos.

The Connection Card enables gamblers at Bally's, Caesars and Hilton to accumulate points based on slot-machine wagers and redeem the "comp dollars" for meals, entertainment, merchandise and rooms at any of the three casinos.

Later this year, the program will tally table-games points, too.

The Connection Card's Atlantic City points are confined to Atlantic City for now. "Eventually," the company said, the points can be earned and redeemed at any domestic Park Place casino.

Harrah's Entertainment began its nationwide frequent-gambler program in 1997. Atlantic City's other multicasino operator, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, is discussing such a program, a Trump official said.

Pa. racetrack slot vote

looks less certain now

A vote to legalize racetrack slots in Pennsylvania is not the sure thing it seemed to be just a month ago.

Three factors have complicated the picture:

1. Pennsylvania expects to receive $900 million in federal funds, helping to shrink the state's budget gap.

2. Some legislators want to consider auctioning the slot licenses or charging a license fee of $50 million to $125 million. Another idea is to allow eight riverboat casinos.

3. Two Oklahoma-based Indian tribes want to reclaim 315 acres in Northeast Pennsylvania for the purpose of building a casino.

Still, legislators could vote on a slots proposal - though nobody seems sure exactly what will be introduced - as early as this week. The legislature recesses on June 30.

The state has four operating tracks, with two others approved and potentially two more available.

Sands planning more

ads on gaming tables

A year ago, Sands Casino Hotel said it would remove blackjack layouts that advertised Remy Martin cognac because any such ads "diminish the worth of our brand."

Today, those Remy Martin ads remain on the felt layouts in Sands' high-end pit.

"I think there's a lot of retail opportunity we need to take advantage of," said Sands President Tom Davis, part of the casino's new management team. "It's not as if we're using the name of a bad liquor - we're using a product which is a cut above and people like to associate themselves with that."

Sands receives the layouts free of charge from a third-party marketing firm. Sands will revisit the arrangement when it changes its logo later this year, Davis said.

Sands plans to add two more retail brands, this time in form of shops: a Boardwalk Peanut Shoppe in July or August and a Starbucks in August, Davis said.

Net gaming restrictions

again delayed in House

The U.S. House of Representatives again postponed a vote, last scheduled for three days ago, to ban the use of credit cards and wire transfers to pay for Internet gambling debts.

The bill could resurface this week, although fighting over the bill's exemptions could further delay a vote. Indian tribes want the right to operate online gambling on their reservations.

Analysts' viewpoints

Nothing like a 70 percent casino tax to whip up the normally dispassionate analysts on Wall Street.

Some choice comments after the Illinois legislature approved Gov. Rod Blagojevich's call for a graduated casino-revenue tax capped at 70 percent:

"Instead of Red China in 1948, Illinois' gaming industry is becoming life in Stalinist Russia in the 1950s." - Larry Klatzkin, Jefferies & Co.

"Unfortunately, we think those who will really pay for the governor's/legislature's ill-thought-out tax policies are the companies that operate in the state, their employees and their shareholders." - Marc Falcone, Deutsch Bank Securities.

"Apparently, pockets of socialism exist in the U.S." - Jacques Cornet, CIBC World Markets.

Gaming-linked suicides

to be tracked in Canada

In an effort to measure a social consequence of gambling, coroners across Canada have agreed to record whenever gambling is cited as a factor in suicides, the Canadian Press reported.

The wire service said tracking methods have varied until now, with provinces such as Ontario listing gambling problems only when it's an obvious primary cause of self-inflicted death. As a result, Ontario has logged fewer gambling-related suicides than Alberta, Nova Scotia or Quebec, where links have been more thoroughly probed and reported.

Coroners agreed to note each case where "gambling was a potential or possible contributing stressor - implying something that tipped the person over the edge," Siman Avis, chief medical examiner for Newfoundland, told CP.

Gaming elsewhere

Maryland: House Speaker Michael Busch said he will consider letting the state, instead of racetracks, own and operate slot-machine casinos to produce more revenue for the state and reduce the chance of corruption, the Washington Post reported.

New York: Park Place Entertainment said the Catskills casino that it plans to build and manage for the St. Regis Mohawk tribe will be called the Mohawk Mountain Casino Resort.

Slot maker IGT plans

stock split, dividend

Slot king International Game Technology announced a four-for-one stock split, effective June 18. The Reno company also announced a quarterly cash dividend on post-split shares of 71/2 cents per share, first payable on July 28.

Shares of IGT, which traded at $60 a year ago, closed Friday at $91.50.

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