In a new kind of September 11 attack, MGM Resorts International was felled by a massive cybersecurity breach. From disabling digital room keys to kneecapping credit card systems (forcing transactions to be made in cash), it sent MGM back to the mid-20th century. The company Web site had to be taken offline, internal communications were disrupted and—worst of all for some—slot machines were silenced by the thousands. The higher the tech, the worse the vulnerability. For once, nostalgia for Olde Vegas was justified. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was spared because it hasn’t been fully integrated into MGM’s master systems yet.
And it wasn’t just an assault on the Las Vegas Strip, where MGM’s exposure is greatest. CDC Gaming Reports fielded dispatches of slots going offline at Borgata and MGM Northfield Park, just for starters Not only were guests locked out of their rooms, they couldn’t pay their restaurant bills, thanks to inoperable ATMs. BetMGM was in a cyber-funk. The only safe harbor, ironically, was Macao. MGM stock even took a hit, falling to $42.70 a share.
As in the case of the cyber assault that kneecapped Las Vegas Sands several years ago, one looks to the Mideast for the likely perpetrators. After all, Iran was the source point for a previous MGM depradation that exposed data on as many as 200,000,000 customers, as well as of the 2014 Sands sabotage. MGM has designs on the United Arab Emirates, so one might look on this as a preemptive strike.
If you relish irony, MGM was urging customers to book rooms directly by phone (ah, the good old days) rather than over the computer—as though anyone in their right mind would stay at an MGM resort this week. Scott Roeben of Vital Vegas—whose reporting exceeded that of the Las Vegas Review-Journal—even found a silver lining, writing that the MGM shutdown is a good thing “because it means those systems weren’t necessarily compromised, they were taken offline as a precautionary measure.” Yeah, but that’s one helluva big precaution.
Whereas our instinct is to rock the casbah, Roeben theorizes it’s a ransomware raid, citing a similar, top-hush attack on Caesars Entertainment last week. Thank God for the SEC, which mandates disclosure when one’s corporate database is sapped. This is a developing story, which is a nice way of saying that the full ramifications have yet to be known. Even so, it’s a powerful argument for passing up present-day slots in favor of good, old-fashioned table games. It’s hard to disable a throw of the dice.
While Barstool Sports may represent the nadir of sports betting, that’s not for occasional lack of trying by DraftKings. We don’t know CEO Jason Robins‘ shoe size but his company can really stick its foot in its mouth, right up to the elbow. It has succeeded this week in enraging 9/11 survivors with a tasteless, multi-leg parlay entitled “Never forget.” What shouldn’t you forget? Apparently to put down money on the New York Mets, New York Yankees and New York Jets to go a combined 3-0. (The Mets lost, rendering the parlay moot.) Claimed the company, after getting caught in a PR bear trap, “We respect the significance of this day for our country and especially for the families of those who were directly affected.” No they don’t. Why else would they have thought to cash in on a national day of mourning?
In DraftKings’ defense, there have been worse efforts to cash in on September 11, including by AT&T and Walmart. So the sports betting giant can console itself that it is in good [sic] company. That being said, what were Robins’ people thinking? You don’t need an advance degree to see the backlash coming. The nicest thing anybody had to say was Covers.com‘s “Maybe a well-meaning and over-zealous intern made a mistake.” Could be. But we doubt it. Overzealous, yes. Well-meaning? Not in the slightest. As Geoff Zochodne observed, DraftKings will have to wear this until the end of time. Which may be a salutary reminder for everyone else.
Congratulations to Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania. It has been named to USA Today‘s top 1o casino hotels in the country, based on reader input. While these write-in-voting schemes are always to be taken cum grano salis, it could be argued that Mount Airy is in a position to offer a boutique experience that one-size-fits-all casinos cannot. “We are honored and humbled to be listed among the industry’s elite and are grateful to our employees and valued guests for their support,” said owner Lisa DeNaples. Mount Airy finds itself in august company, albeit in September.
Heading the honor roll was Mohegan Sun, followed in descending order by 2) Ocean Casino Resort, 3) Beau Rivage, 4) Hard Rock Atlantic City, Mount Airy, 6) Borgata, 7) Harrah’s Gulf Coast, 8) Caesars Atlantic City, 9) Seminole Hard Rock [Hollywood, Florida] and 10) Bellagio. That’s a poor showing by Las Vegas and a hefty East Coast bias. The preponderance of Sin City casinos probably diluted the voting for that market, while the strong showing by its Biloxi property must give Caesars Entertainment a happy surprise.
“When one asks why there is smoking in casinos, the answer is quite simple—there is money in it,” begins an examination by Richard Schuetz of those two intertwined morbidities: smoking and problem gambling. The industry says its is opposed to the latter, so why does it continue to enable the former? If a disproportionate number of disordered gamblers light up, isn’t Big Gaming knowingly exploiting them by defending smoking in casinos until the last dog is hung? As Schuetz says, “If the casino industry seriously desires to address the issues that surround problem gambling, it needs to become more honest and morally anchored.” We encourage you to read his piece in full.
Speaking of a sound mind in a sound body, MGM China boss Pansy Ho wants the company to get heavily into health tourism in order to fulfill its mandate to economically diversify. We can think of many places we’d go in the interest of our health (even a couple of casino resorts) but muggy, polluted Macao is not one of them.