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Eastern Casino Fun

Eastern Casino Fun

Welcome to “Frankly Speaking,” also known as “The Column With That Cartoon Mustache Guy With The Enormous Head.” We couldn’t fit that across the top of the page, so we called it Frankly Speaking.

If you regularly read this trade journal as your primary source of gaming industry information—and hey, who doesn’t?—you know that this space is reserved for opinion, delivered with a certain l’humour malades (literally, “French words”). However, once in a while—brace yourself for a shock—I don’t have an opinion.

Whenever that happens, I look to the casino news of the day, and I am usually able to extract a certain bit of hilarity, or at least angst, which I can hopefully use to generate a bit of hilarity, through the use of a device we gaming humor columnists call “targeted sarcasm.” That’s also the name of my band.

Incidentally, there are only three gaming humor columnists, as far as I know—myself, Max Rubin and Barney Vinson. Some day, we’ll form a union. Amalgamated Confederation of Gaming Humorists, Local 1, AFL/CIO, LS/MFT. Anyway, on to the news:

Our favorite Harley dealer and former railroad boss from Gettysburg, David LeVan, is not giving up on the idea of a casino in his home town. His casino company, Mason Dixon Resorts—currently, the operator of exactly no casinos—is appealing the decision of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to grant the only available resort casino license to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Mason Dixon’s appeal claims the board was arbitrary and capricious in awarding the license to Nemacolin, and that board members ignored the potential benefits of LeVan’s proposed casino at the current Eisenhower Inn, also known as “Your Gettysburg Address.” (Seriously.) Most gauge the appeal’s chances for success as roughly equal to those of Pickett’s Charge.

Yes, I only brought up this subject so I could squeeze out one more Civil War joke. Seriously, though, which do you think has more of a chance of happening? A casino at Gettysburg, or a theme park at Omaha Beach? Yeah, that’s a close call.

In other Pennsylvania news, the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem sold two and a half acres for $1 to a local nonprofit group, for the development of an arts and cultural campus. The deed, however, stipulates that the land cannot be used for labor union organization activities, or any activities that would promote a theme that “a reasonable casino operator” would consider “offensive.” The clause has raised quite a ruckus, particularly since the former Bethlehem Steel Works, the historic site on which the casino and the donated land sit, was one of the first union shops in the country.

The union part didn’t surprise me. While union labor was used to build Sands Bethlehem, LV Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson isn’t exactly Joe Hill. I don’t think he owns one Woody Guthrie record. But the “offensive theme” thing has me a bit confused. Aside from the obvious free-speech arguments, what the heck did they think an arts and cultural center was going to put up that is “offensive to casino operators?” The Card-Counting Museum? A photo montage of whacked mob bosses? A display of the tax code from the state of Maryland?

Speaking of Maryland (gotta love segues), that state is ready to go begging once again for a developer on which to unload the casino license for the Rocky Gap Lodge. This will be the third call for bids to be “awarded” the license for Rocky Gap. There were no qualified bidders on the first two tries, so the state has lowered the revenue tax for Rocky Gap to an astonishingly low 50 percent. Well, astonishing for Maryland, where other casinos give the state 67 percent of slot revenues, plus millions in licensing fees. (I think casino owners have to wash the cars of state lawmakers, too.)

But they couldn’t sweeten one aspect of the Rocky Gap license: They kept it in the same place—two hours from nowhere. Along with the slot license, the licensee has to buy the lodge, which, if results were any worse, would actually be paying people to stay there.

State officials, though, say there are actually several developers expressing interest in the lodge and the slot license. “We’re going to have a successful casino here,” one official said. “And Gettysburg is going to get a casino, the Cubs are going to win the World Series, and Mr. Magoo is going to be elected president of the United States.”

By the way, the name of my band isn’t really Targeted Sarcasm. It’s Voodoo Weasel. (Yes, “Voodoo Weasel.”) We’re playing Rocky Gap next week.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.