The Casino City Times, one of the sources we use for daily news on the Casino Industry has posted their list of news stories of the year. Clearly, it was a big year for the gaming industry.
1) U.S. prohibits, others regulate Internet gambling
Congress took steps to prohibit Internet gambling in 2006 with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The law doesn't actually ban Internet gambling, but it does prohibit banks and financial institutions from processing transactions to Internet gambling companies. As a result, several large online operations, including PartyPoker, stopped accepting U.S. play in October.
Many in the Europe Union, meanwhile, have taken steps to regulate Internet gambling. The UK, Spain, and Italy all made moves toward regulations while France and Germany took stances similar to the U.S. -- passing legislation to make Internet gambling illegal.
Meanwhile, British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell led a conference of 30 nations that discussed the best way to govern Internet gambling (the U.S. did not participate). There was little agreement from the group, except in determining that prohibitions would do little more than drive the industry underground.
This story is here to stay for a while, and 2007 should provide plenty of interesting developments as the world attempts to cope with Internet gambling.
2) Harrah's sold
On Dec. 19, two private-equity firms purchased Harrah's Entertainment for $17.1 billion -- proving once again that land-based gaming is one of the world's most profitable industries.
While Internet poker struggles through regulation issues, land-based gaming is booming. Most of the major casino companies are expanding. And televised coverage of poker tournaments is at an all-time high, led firmly by the Harrah's owned WSOP.
Harrah's purchase price is worth more than the entire online gaming industry ($12 billion). And Harrah's employs more than 80,000 people in a network of 39 worldwide gaming destinations.
3) Harrah's New Orleans reopens post-Katrina
Harrah's New Orleans reopened on Feb. 20, just in time to welcome back more than 1,500 employees for the tourist-rich Mardi Gras celebrations.
Once a crown jewel of the Harrah's Entertainment operation, the New Orleans casino was forced to close its doors in August of 2005 after flood waters from Hurricane Katrina shut down most of the city.
There was a time when people questioned whether New Orleans could bounce back from the tragedy, but the reopening of employee-heavy venues like Harrah's and the Superdome ended some of the speculation and brought much needed revenue back to the city.
In May, the largest poker room in the South played host to a successful World Series of Poker Circuit Event, proving Harrah's New Orleans and the city itself was back to business as usual.
4) Sands opens online casino
Late in the year, the Las Vegas Sands stunned the international gambling world by announcing it was partnering with Cantor Gaming to open an online casino targeted at the European market.
Already perturbed by the UIGEA, Internet gambling companies are crying foul. While they risk arrest if they take U.S. players, the Sands – a U.S. company – can enter European and Asian markets freely. The Sands online casino will not accept U.S. players when it opens.
Other U.S. brick and mortar casinos have opened online casinos in the past (e.g., the MGM), but they have never found them to be profitable. Clearly, the atmosphere has clearly changed enough for the Sands to believe it's worth another try.
The former Portuguese colony grossed more gaming money than Las Vegas in third quarter, according to Francis Tam, Macau's Secretary of State of the Economy and Finance. It's the first time the tiny Asian territory surpassed in that category. And some experts have Macau beating Las Vegas, making Macau the largest gaming center in the world for that timeframe.
Macau gaming saw more than $6.25 billion in revenue in 2006, and some analysts expect that it will surpass Las Vegas – which drew just over $7 billion in gaming revenue in 2006 – this year.
Macau already has 24-casinos and is expanding rapidly. Construction is already underway for the $975 million MGM Macau. And with major gaming brands like The Sands and the Wynn Casinos focusing on Macau, it may be gambling's top destination for years to come.