Big Gaming having gotten into bed with one ultra-despotic regime (Red China), why not go for broke? That’s the impression left by the widely reported news that the United Arab Emirates has rolled out its first-ever General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority, inevitably to be followed by the promulgation of casino and lottery regulations themselves. By all appearances, the Emirates are serious about doing it right. They’ve tapped former Gaming Labs International counsel Kevin Mullally to be CEO of the new authority. In addition to 39 years of legal and PR experience overall, Mullally can boast of three decades in the gaming industry, including leading Missouri to its first self-exclusion program for problem gamblers whilst executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Backstopping Mullally as chairman of the new regulatory regime is former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren. The latter has had quite an eventful career since being pushed from MGM, including rescuing profligate Cirque du Soleil. Now he’ll be going to work in a region where profligacy is a way of life. A former Wall Street securities analyst, Murren will know how to read a casino company’s balance sheet, a skill not to be taken for granted in gaming regulation. Murren’s and Mullally’s remit is not entirely regulatory. According to Arabian Business it is to “streamline regulatory efforts, oversee national licensing, and promote the responsible and sustainable growth of the commercial gaming sector, unlocking its full economic potential.”
Murren made his bones with the UAE during the pandemic. That’s when he “headed Nevada’s Covid-19 response and tried to pitch the state on using UAE-donated, Chinese-made testing kits. U.S. diplomats and security officials privately warned the state of Nevada not to use the Chinese-made coronavirus test kits over concerns about patient privacy, test accuracy and Chinese government involvement,” according to Fox 5 TV in Las Vegas. Incidentally, casinos are seen as one way for the emirates to woo Chinese gamblers to its shores, another subject in which Murren is well-versed.
The probable Job One for the M&M lads will be Ras Al Khaimah, where Wynn Resorts is throwing $3.9 billion into a megaresort on Al Marjan Island. Unlike Nevada, where casino licenses are granted essentially as the first customers are entering the facility, Wynn’s Al Marjan go-ahead is expected “imminently,” according to company CEO Craig Billings. The resort itself won’t open for another three years. Meanwhile, MGM and Caesars Entertainment have non-gaming footholds in Dubai that they are surely prepared to flip to casinos should local laws change. (The mothballed Queen Elizabeth II is also gambling-ready.) And if Las Vegas Sands isn’t kicking the tires on the UAE we’d be shocked.
New York City‘s snail-propelled casino process continues to creep forward. Last Wednesday, under cloak of darkness, answers to initial requests for information were snuck out. Don’t get excited. The 11 known applicants can’t bid for licenses until a second round of RFIs are asked and answered, punting the issue into early next year most likely. Also, the answers to Round One of questions to the state were noncommittal and hedging in the extreme. Nor is the choice of a casino solely up to the state, as many Community Advisory Committees will have a say-so in the matter, much to the delight of NIMBYs all over Gotham.
What’s more, zoning considerations may trump everything in the casino-selection process. No rezoning, no casino. The one chance would-be operators have to put their thumb on Gov. Kathy Hochul‘s scales would be to substantially overbid that $500 million application fee. Amidst the maddening opacity of New York State‘s responses, that one shines like a beacon, albeit of the pay-to-play variety.
Pivoting from its long-running stalemate with Station Casinos, the Culinary Union is opening a battlefront on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s looking to unionize restaurants that aren’t already in the fold, starting with high-profile Eataly at Park MGM. (If you want to support union workers with your dinner tab, go to someplace listed with UnionEats.org.) Why Eatly? “Non-union workers have dedicated years of their life to ensure the success of Eataly Las Vegas, but the success of Eataly Las Vegas has not trickled down to workers” said Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge. Also, the presentation to Culinary officials of a six-foot-long petition signed by 80 employees seems to have had an effect.
Now the Culinary is putting the arm on MGM to fall into line. A Culinary-conduct survey of Eatly workers found that the majority are just getting by. Given the amount of money sloshing around in corporate coffers since the pandemic, there is no excuse for a full-time Eataly (or comparable restaurant) employee to have to take on a second or third job. It’s unpardonable.
Jottings: According to website Slots of Vegas, the U.S.’ top two casinos are MGM Grand and Bellagio. Actually, Las Vegas made a rather poor showing, with only four casinos in the top 10, including The Venetian (#5) and decrepit Gold Coast (#10), a surprise contender … Malta tends to be synonymous with dodgy Internet gambling, so it’s no surprise that it would pass a law that makes its gaming businesses immune from liability. The news went over like a lead balloon in the rest of Europe … Opponents of The Coney, a tacky casino proposed for Coney Island, have been extremely vocal. But backer Thor Equitites managed to scare up signatures from 10,000 Brooklyn residents in favor of the project … Fallout from the Crown Resorts scandal continues. Crown Sydney has closed a VIP room in the wake of emaciated Asian customer flow … Mohegan Pennsylvania, the state’s oldest casino, is shedding 120 slot machines in the name of efficiency. This dwarfs all other pending slot-reduction requests across the state, which total 49 machines.