Christie’s big bet; New Hampshire’s big blunder; Nevada’s big bully

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is banking on $180 million in Internet casino revenue to make his budget work. That might be a little off — if by “little” you mean 80%. Online wagering could bring in a comparatively scant $30 million … not surprising given the difficulty that some of the major players are having getting onto the field. Christie’s wagering $650 million in budget discrepancies with the Office of Legislative Services, betting his reelection on whoever’s numbers are closer to the mark. Standard & Poor’s is betting against Christie’s “structurally imbalanced” budget, citing his inability to meet revenue projections in the previous fiscal year. (S&P, Deutsche Bank and Bloomberg Industries are all skeptical of Christie’s bullish figures.) His administration certainly isn’t backing off its $180 million benchmark for Internet wagering, though. (It needs some good news after Revel turned turtle.) It’s even doubling down by calling for a 10% tax cut.

He’d better not look for help from Atlantic City, where operating profits have fallen 64% in the first quarter. At least some of the smaller analyst firms are in Christie’s corner, waxing optimistic during the East Coast Gaming Congress, even calling e-wagering “the big savior.” In the Garden State’s favor is a wider repertory of games than Nevada‘s. On the downside, many of its players are expected to be existing casino customers. Still, for his sake, Christie better hope that prognostications of Robert Heller and his ilk hold true.

Suicide in New Hampshire. Holding true to form, New Hampshire legislators pulled the pin from an economic grenade and fell on it. Despite the reality of competition in Maine and imminence of it in Massachusetts, the Granite State’s House of Representatives voted against casino legalization on a bipartisan basis. Hell, even a GOP-dominated state Senate supported it, as did Gov. Maggie Hassan (D, left). But some people just don’t know a good thing when they see it. So now lawmakers get to bitch and moan about where are they going to find the $80 million they could have raised from casino-licensing fees. They’ll be yelping a lot louder once Massachusetts casinos start sucking discretionary dollars out of New Hampshire’s back pocket.

It’s all his. Now that he controls 97% of the stock in Greektown Casino-Hotel, new owner Dan Gilbert can move swiftly to mop up those last few, small-scale shareholders, who are now obligated to sell. Gilbert and #2 man Matt Cullen say they are performing “due diligence,” which probably translates as ‘desperately looking for a way to turn over management to Caesars Entertainment,’ even though the latter owns a rival property within direct eyeshot, across the border in Windsor. Gilbert will think of something, I’m confident.

Looking out for Number One. The Nevada Legislature is expected to close the loophole which has enabled the fast-growing Dotty’s chain to split the difference between slot routes and casinos, encumbering it with financially onerous rules, in an effort to curb the spread of these gray-market, hole-in-the-wall casinos, which have been skirting tax laws (among others) with impunity. Now it’s about to drop the hammer, on Big Gaming’s behalf, on another minor irritation. (The Las Vegas Sun‘s J. Patrick Coolican nicely sorts out the various and sundy hypocrisies involved.)

Stand-alone kiosks in bars are bad for the public but sports-betting kiosks in casinos are perfectly good, say members of the casino industry. (Sports betting has been heavily outsourced since the Great Recession.) Nevada Resort Association flacks — acting as sock puppets for Station Casinos, some contend — argue that 1 kiosk = a sportsbook. Some of us would deem that a crock of crap but the state Senate found the argument highly persuasive and voted overwhelmingly in the NRA’s favor. With kiosks representing $600K out of $170 million won on sports in Nevada last year, it’s as though the casino industry is using a forklift to pick up a penny … but it has always regarded the $1 still in your wallet as more real and desirable than the $99 you just put in its till.

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