Charles A. Lightbody’s possible profits from the Wynn Everett casino site has created a wave of problems for the operator. (Image: WBZ-TV)
More intrigue in the battle for Massachusetts’ remaining casino license, as it appears that one of the owners of the land on which the proposed $1.3 billion Wynn resort would be built is refusing to play ball, raising a few eyebrows in the process. Anthony Gattineri co-owner of the former industrial site in Everett on the outskirts of Boston earmarked for the development has declined to sign a pledge stating that no secret owners would stand to profit from the sale of the land, thus throwing the entire project into jeopardy.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has insisted it will not give the go-ahead for a casino in Everett if there is any chance that a convicted felon might profit from the project.
Daniel W Doherty, Gattineri’s attorney, explained that his client has been advised not to sign after consultation from his legal counsel, fueling speculation that a convicted criminal might be secretly involved in the deal. Gattineri and his company, FBT Everett Realty, have already gotten into hot water for allegedly misleading the gaming commission on the role that a certain Charles A. Lightbody has played in the company.
Lightbody has served prison time for assault with a dangerous weapon, and has a previous conviction for organizing an identity theft ring. One partner in FBT Everett Realty has confessed to falsifying documents to make it look as though Lightbody left the company prior to Wynn’s offer to purchase the land in late 2012. Speculation is that Lightbody may still be involved in the company, albeit indirectly, as a secret or beneficial partner.
Gaming Commission investigators have discovered that Lightbody paid over $1 million of the $8 million it originally cost to buy the land in 2009, which would give him a 12.5 percent share of the $75 million Wynn Resorts initially offered for it. Lightbody ignored a gaming subpoena to answer questions about the deal, while Gattineri has refused to testify under oath to Gaming Commission investigators.
Lightbody’s lawyer, Timothy Flaherty, has said he has no idea why Gattineri has declined to sign the pledge: ‘It has nothing to do with any hidden interest that anybody believes Mr. Lightbody has because he doesn’t have one,’ Flaherty said.
One thing the Gaming Commission is sure of, however, is that Wynn Resorts had no idea that a criminal was involved in the company that owned the land until July 2013, after which it cut its offer by 50 percent. And Wynn still remains upbeat it can seal the deal.
‘We are confident that we will resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the commission prior to them making a decision and that it will not jeopardize our license approval,’ said spokesman for the company, Michael Weaver.
However, it would be hugely controversial for the Gambling Commission to grant Wynn Resorts a license without the signed pledge, especially in the light of recent developments in the casinos’ battle for the Massachusetts license. Caesars Entertainment pulled out of the process last year following a $100m campaign, and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Gambling Commission amid unsubstantiated claims of links to organized crime in Russia.
Meanwhile, the big winners in all this is likely the Mohegan Sun, which seeks to develop a casino on 42 acres of land at the Suffolk Downs Racetrack in Revere, and has squabbled with Wynn in recent months over each candidate’s suitability. State officials recently ordered the Mohegan Sun to prepare an extensive report on the environmental impact of its proposal.
NCLGS President James Waldman has written to his fellow Congressmen, asking them to step back from a federal online gambling ban. (Image: browardbeat.com)
When it comes to the gaming industry, some states have more experience and more at stake than others. That’s one of the reasons why the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) exists: to give state lawmakers a way to meet and discuss gaming issues and help shape policy on the issue. When the NCLGS makes a statement on a major gaming issue, it carries the weight of lawmakers from states where gambling is highly important.
That’s why it was big news recently when the NCLGS came out against the efforts to reinterpret the Wire Act and effectively ban most forms of online gambling. In a letter written by NCLGS President James Waldman a Democratic state representative in Florida to Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), as well as Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and John Conyers (D-MI), the organization laid out their reasons for opposing S.2159: ‘The Restoration of America’s Wire Act.’
‘It is our strong conviction…that states are the most appropriate entity to decide upon, and oversee, what kind of gaming should exist and what should not within their borders,’ the letter states.
The NCLGS called for allowing states to regulate the gaming industry on their own.
‘States have the expertise, developed over many years of experience, to oversee gaming for the best outcomes to the states and their consumers,’ Waldman wrote. He added the Congress had previously made similar statements in bills such as the Interstate Horse Racing Act.
While the NCLGS clearly stated their opposition to the bill currently before Congress, they stopped short of calling for the widespread regulation or legalization of online gambling.
‘To be clear, NCLS does not support or oppose legalization of Internet gaming and realizes that the technological advances in gaming Internet or otherwise present multiple social and economic policy issues to be considered,’ the letter states, 888 casino bonus code pointing out that several states have either regulated or banned Internet gambling on their own already.
While the NCLGS may have made a strong statement against an online gaming ban, they weren’t the only group to take a position on the bill. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) a group that advocates for the interests of convenience store owners has expressed its support for the legislation.
In letters to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the NACS opposed allowing states to regulate online gambling without federal oversight.
‘The Internet is poised to be the Wild West of gambling with individual states allowing gambling businesses of all kinds to set up shop online and prey upon vulnerable Americans without any federal check of consistency,’ wrote NACS senior vice president Lyle Beckwith.
The NACS support for the bills currently before Congress may largely be due to one of the most important revenues streams for many convenience stores: lottery tickets. If such tickets were widely sold online, it could potentially take away revenue from such stores.
‘Convenience stores depend upon lottery ticket sales to get foot traffic,’ Beckwith wrote. ‘Now is not the time to put brick-and-mortar small businesses in jeopardy by closing our eyes to a coming explosion of gambling on the Internet.’
Atlantic City’s Borgata continues to be the leader in New Jersey’s regulated online gambling market.Image: (Martin Photography)
Atlantic City casinos aren’t exactly breaking the bank yet when it comes to regulated online gambling in New Jersey. But every month has been an improvement over the one before it, and March once again saw steady and solid growth for the state’s burgeoning industry.
In March, New Jersey’s regulated online gambling sites generated a total of nearly $11.9 million in revenue. That’s about $1.6 million more than the Internet casinos and poker rooms took in during February, good for a 15 percent increase month-over-month.
Most of that growth came from casino games rather than online poker. Casino sites brought in nearly $8.7 million, compared to just $7.2 million in the previous month. In comparison, poker was basically flat, bringing in just over $3.2 million compared to $3.1 million in February. When accounting for the fact that March was a longer month, the per-day revenue actually dropped slightly for the poker sites.
Overall, the Borgata remains the market leader. Their sites operated with the help of partner bwin.party brought in just under $4.4 million in revenue, up 8 percent from February. That gave them about 37 percent of the total market, and made them the number one site both in terms of poker (51 percent) and other casino games (32 percent).
‘We continue to see solid growth in online casino gaming, and are working to further strengthen our poker business,’ said Keith Smith, chief executive at Boyd Gaming (which owns 50 percent of the Borgata). ‘Expanding payment processing options for our customers is one of our highest priorities, and we are making good progress in this regard.’
Close behind them is Caesars Interactive. They made $3.7 million in March, up 11 percent over their February haul. They account for about $2.25 million of the casino games market, as well as $1.46 million in poker revenues about 46 percent of that market.
Obviously, that doesn’t leave very much market share for the other Atlantic City competitors with poker offerings. Between Caesars and Borgata, the two companies control about 97 percent of the New Jersey regulated online poker marketplace, with Trump Taj Mahal’s $100,289 in revenue making up most of the final three percent. The Trump Plaza also reported poker revenue, but it’s more of an amusing footnote than anything else: the casino took in a paltry $25 from its poker room last month.
But while the poker market may be consolidating around the two largest companies, the Internet casino battle seems to be getting more competitive.
All six companies that reported online gambling revenue saw at least some growth this month, but a couple of numbers stand out from the pack. The Golden Nugget saw their revenues rise 47 percent to $677,746, the largest percentage increase of any firm. The Tropicana was also up 41 percent to nearly $1.9 million. Both of these numbers came entirely from casino games, as neither company runs a poker site in New Jersey.
Overall, New Jersey’s Internet gambling sites brought in $31.6 million in revenue over the first quarter of 2014. Online poker accounted for 31 percent of all revenues.