The 14th annual East Coast Gaming Congress, which took place Tuesday at the Atlantic City Convention Center, was a day-long affair featuring some of the most important players in the gaming industry, including Gary Loveman, the Harrah's Entertainment Inc. overlord perhaps best-known for his responsible-gaming TV commercials. Below are some of the highlights
***Arguably the biggest news to come out of the confab was New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney's declaration of intent to fight the continued mandatory subsidization of the state's horse racing industry by Atlantic City's 11 casinos.
"The tracks should stand on their own," insisted the Gloucester County Democrat. "We shouldn't be spending $30 million (annually) on horse racing. It should be spent promoting Atlantic City."
Sweeney displayed a similar amount of love for the concept of video lottery terminals (industry-speak for video slot machines) at The Meadowlands in North Jersey. Pointing out the obvious rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul aspect of state-sanctioned gambling outside of AyCee, he promised that "As long as I'm senate president,we will not tear apart" Atlantic City.
***Kevin DeSanctis, CEO and guiding light of the currently-in-limbo Revel project used his 30 minutes to promote the "big picture" aspect of his planned mega-resort. Rather than brag about his complex's many planned amenities, DeSanctis, using a visual presentation,discussed how a completed Revel will revitalize the surrounding South Inlet neighborhood with such very un-casino-like elements as affordable housing, plenty of landscaped public spaces (including the creation of a park around the historic Absecon Lighthouse) and even a restaurant district.
After his presentation, DeSanctis conducted a brief, impromptu Q-and-A session with a few reporters, during which he announced he is trying to put together the funds to buy Revel from current owner Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street firm that wants out of the project. And, he insisted, the casino-hotel will ultimately be completed.
***On the other hand, Seminole Gaming Inc. CEO Jim Allen used most of his time describing the glories of the company's Hard Rock brand. It is assumed he did this to help spur the passage of a pending bill that would allow "botique" casinos considerably smaller than those already built in Atlantic City. Allen, a former Trump organization exec, has signaled his desire to build such a property should Trenton give its blessing to the law change.
***Loveman's keynote program was a slick, video-enhanced spiel titled "The Hangover." Using clips from the hit 2009 film comedy of the same name, he equated the gaming industry's Great Recession ills to the effects of a night of alcohol-induced revelry.
His prescription: Forget about ultra-luxe, supersize-priced uber-resorts that will never see a return on the investments they demand, and adapt to a smaller, leaner model.
Loveman definitely had the best line of the day when lamenting the exorbitant taxes levied by states as they approve legal casinos as revenue generators. Referring to Maryland's whopping 67 percent vig on the slot machines state legislators have decreed, he said, "If Chairman Mao were alive today, he'd be running the Maryland gaming Commission."