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A Look At Unemployment Options For Casino Workers In NV, NJ & MS

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The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the workforce around the globe, and the US gaming industry is no exception.

According to statistics from the Department of Labor, roughly 6.65 million people nationwide have filed for unemployment. With thousands of casino employees suddenly out of work, it’s essential to know the unemployment options that are out there.

With all 465 commercial casinos in the US temporarily closed, gaming markets in the eastern, southern and western parts of the country are highly vulnerable due to the number of people they employ.

In Mississippi, Nevada and New Jersey, the pandemic has affected more than 251,000 gaming employees and 268 casinos:

  • Mississippi: 19,000 workers, 26 casinos
  • New Jersey: 26,000 workers, 23 casinos
  • Nevada: 206,000 workers, 219 casinos

General unemployment application process information

When filing for unemployment, you will need to provide basic information, no matter which state you call home.

First, you might be wondering if you qualify for unemployment. Simply, if your job in the gaming industry was affected by the coronavirus pandemic in any way, shape or form, you are eligible.

However, how much you are eligible for and how long those benefits will last are different questions. Those answers will vary state by state, depending on several factors. So, whether you were a full- or part-time worker, and when and for how long you were employed.

You might need to provide the following information to begin the unemployment process in any state:

  • Valid email
  • State ID or driver’s license
  • Name of employer or company
  • Hire date and last day of work
  • Reason for unemployment

Some state employment departments might ask for additional information.

Unemployment info for Mississippi casino workers

As of writing, at least 31,000 residents in Mississippi have filed for unemployment, with a bulk of applicants coming from the casino gaming industry.

Those in the gaming world who are out of work and looking to file for unemployment should visit the MS Department of Employment Security website to begin the process.

Website: MDES.gov

Applicants will need to share a few bits of general information, which includes their current address, date of birth and Social Security number.

Residents are also encouraged to be patient; there is a high volume of filings in MS and across the US.

Unemployment info for New Jersey casino workers

More than 371,000 people have filed for unemployment in New Jersey, with at least 26,000 coming from the casino industry. According to NorthJersey.com, the state is asking applicants to visit the website at a specific time, depending on the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Website: MyUnemployment.NJ.gov

Applicants should have all their relevant information ready.

Unemployment info for Nevada casino workers

The gaming industry in Nevada was perhaps hit the hardest. Laid off or furloughed workers in the Silver State should head to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) website to get started.

Website: DETR.NV.gov

Due to the high volume of claims, the DETR is reportedly increasing its staff to provide assistance better.

“We greatly empathize and apologize for the volume and are hoping the increase in hours, staffing, technology support, the webform and other vehicles under (the) process that the issue will be mitigated,” said Tiffany Tyler-Garner, director of the DETR.

Major casino closures could extend into May, so the sooner you file, the better. In times such as these, it’s hard to remain optimistic. But the world will come around and, along with it, the gaming industry.

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The Biggest US Online Casino Winners

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If you’re looking for the chance at a five or six-figure payout, perhaps even a chance at becoming a millionaire, then look no further than the ever-popular Chumba Casino.

The popular online social casino is seeing quite a few payouts in 2020. So if you’re in the mood for free online slots, video blackjack, video poker, and bingo, with the chance to win real cash prizes then you have come to the right place.

Free Sweeps Coins right now

Chumba Casino is offering a pretty sweet bonus if you sign up right now. Not only are they offering two free Sweeps Coins, but players will also be able to pay $10 for their $20 Gold Coins package.

Chumba uses a sweepstakes model, much like Monopoly at McDonald’s.

Past Chumba Casino winners include:

#1 Donnalyn K. — $1.88 million

The first million-dollar honor goes to Donnalyn, a Hawaiian mother of three. After over three years of playing Chumba Casino games, the outcome of a small 0.50 Sweeps Coins bet, resulted in a million-dollar cash prize!

Donnalyn made her mark on Stampede Fury which is part of Chumba Casino’s progressive jackpot, the popular Fireshot Jackpot. Other games that make up the progressive slot winnings include:

  • Reelin N’ Rockin
  • Wild Roads
  • Triple Double Fever
  • Long Zhi Bao Zang
  • Vikings Of The North
  • The Big GoREELa
  • Duskmoon Faire Jackpot

#2 Cindy B. — $1.12 million

Becoming the second Chumba Casino millionaire, Cindy also made her winnings from the Fireshot Jackpot progressive slots.

For those that need a refresher, progressive jackpot slots take each bet a player makes and feeds it into a pool that builds and builds. Once the jackpot is won, the amount resets to a predetermined amount and begins to build once more.

#3 Maria A. — $1.17 million

Another Stampede Fury player, Maria from California, became the third Chumba Casino millionaire while she was getting ready for work. Maria used her winnings to retire and get a business set up for her son.

These are but a few of the compelling stories from Chumba Casino winners. Even if you don’t win the big money, Chumba has had multiple winners and several slot games payout more than $10,000.

Some of those games include:

  • Aztec Wealth
  • Triple Double Golden Eagles
  • Gem Huntress
  • Garden Princess
  • Bombshell Jackpots
  • Hansel and Gretel’s Fortune

With eight progressive jackpot slots, there are a number of opportunities for players to become the next millionaire. All players need to do is sign-up, collect a bonus and spin.

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The Biggest US Online Casino Winners

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If you’re looking for the chance at a five or six-figure payout, perhaps even a chance at becoming a millionaire, then look no further than the ever-popular Chumba Casino.

The popular online social casino is seeing quite a few payouts in 2020. So if you’re in the mood for free online slots, video blackjack, video poker, and bingo, with the chance to win real cash prizes then you have come to the right place.

Free Sweeps Coins right now

Chumba Casino is offering a pretty sweet bonus if you sign up right now. Not only are they offering two free Sweeps Coins, but players will also be able to pay $10 for their $20 Gold Coins package.

Chumba uses a sweepstakes model, much like Monopoly at McDonald’s.

Past Chumba Casino winners include:

#1 Donnalyn K. — $1.88 million

The first million-dollar honor goes to Donnalyn, a Hawaiian mother of three. After over three years of playing Chumba Casino games, the outcome of a small 0.50 Sweeps Coins bet, resulted in a million-dollar cash prize!

Donnalyn made her mark on Stampede Fury which is part of Chumba Casino’s progressive jackpot, the popular Fireshot Jackpot. Other games that make up the progressive slot winnings include:

  • Reelin N’ Rockin
  • Wild Roads
  • Triple Double Fever
  • Long Zhi Bao Zang
  • Vikings Of The North
  • The Big GoREELa
  • Duskmoon Faire Jackpot

#2 Cindy B. — $1.12 million

Becoming the second Chumba Casino millionaire, Cindy also made her winnings from the Fireshot Jackpot progressive slots.

For those that need a refresher, progressive jackpot slots take each bet a player makes and feeds it into a pool that builds and builds. Once the jackpot is won, the amount resets to a predetermined amount and begins to build once more.

#3 Maria A. — $1.17 million

Another Stampede Fury player, Maria from California, became the third Chumba Casino millionaire while she was getting ready for work. Maria used her winnings to retire and get a business set up for her son.

These are but a few of the compelling stories from Chumba Casino winners. Even if you don’t win the big money, Chumba has had multiple winners and several slot games payout more than $10,000.

Some of those games include:

  • Aztec Wealth
  • Triple Double Golden Eagles
  • Gem Huntress
  • Garden Princess
  • Bombshell Jackpots
  • Hansel and Gretel’s Fortune

With eight progressive jackpot slots, there are a number of opportunities for players to become the next millionaire. All players need to do is sign-up, collect a bonus and spin.

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The Latest Updates On Every US Casino Closed Due To Coronavirus

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This is an ongoing story and will be updated regularly 

The uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 has brought the casino industry to a grinding halt. Across the country, properties are beginning to close their doors to casual and experts bettors in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Though many gamblers will turn to horse betting, online casinos and online poker, our staff at PlayUSA wants to keep you up to date with a list of casino properties that have suspended operations in the wake of this global pandemic.

Nevada casinos

State leaders have not exactly called for a full shutdown of Nevada casinos. Rather, Gov. Steve Sisolak provided strong support for “any decision our properties make … whether or not to close.”

Wynn Las Vegas and its attached sister property Encore elected to suspend operations for at least two weeks, beginning March 17 at 6 p.m.

MGM Resorts will also close its nine Vegas casinos on March 17 “until further notice.” Those properties include:

  • MGM Grand
  • Mandalay Bay
  • Luxor
  • Excalibur
  • New-New York
  • Aria and Vdara at CityCenter
  • Park MGM
  • Bellagio
  • The Mirage

For properties remaining open, the Nevada Gaming Control Board on March 16 issued “Restrictions on Operations during COVID-19 Outbreak” to all of the state’s gaming licensees.

The board emphasized that it will enforce the following restrictions, which will remain in place until further notice:

  • There may be no more than three chairs at each table game.
  • Each gaming machine must be cleaned and sanitized at least once every two hours.
  • Patrons may not serve themselves from buffets that remain open. Similarly, employees may not
    serve themselves in employee dining areas.
  • The gaming floor and other public areas of a licensee’s property must operate under the latest
    social distancing guidance from Nevada’s medical advisory team.

For those wishing to stay home, Nevada offers online poker via the World Series of Poker website and WSOP app.

Pennsylvania casinos

As of March 16, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has provided a list of Pennsylvania casino operators that have temporarily closed their doors. (Keep in mind that PA online casinos are fully operational.) The PGCB notes, casinos not on the list remain open but may have restrictions.

This announcement will most likely affect all PA sports betting operations as well. Currently, the four major pillars of sports, NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL have suspended all play for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the NCAA, NASCAR and several other major sports leagues have all suspended operations for the time being.

Casinos and racetracks closed:

  • Oak Sports and Turf Club
  • Valley Forge Casino Resort
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino
  • Rivers Philadelphia Casino
  • Rivers Pittsburgh Casino
  • Parx Casino
  • South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook
  • Wind Creek Bethlehem
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • Mount Airy Casino Resort
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • Lady Luck Nemacolin
  • Meadows Casino and Racetrack
  • Presque Isle Racetrack and Casino

Online casino and online poker remain up and running in PA and could see higher than normal player traffic. Here is a list of PA Casinos and their online partners:

  • SugarHouse Casino — PlaySugarhouse
  • Hollywood Casino — Hollywood Casino
  • Rivers Casino — BetRivers Casino
  • Valley Forge Casino — FanDuel Casino
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono — Unibet Casino
  • Mount Airy Casino — The Stars Group
  • Parx Casino — GAN (only Android available)

Illinois casinos

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced Monday, the entire gambling industry must suspend operations for 14 days. This includes all Illinois casinos, all video gaming operations, and all Illinois sports betting. There are 35,483 video gaming terminals in the state operating at 7,307 bars, restaurants and truckstops.

Gov. JB Pritzker also announced all dine-in service will be suspended at all bars and restaurants across the state.

Casinos and racetracks closed:

  • Argosy Casino Alton
  • Casino Queen
  • Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel
  • Grand Victoria Casino
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet
  • Rivers Casino
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
  • Harrah’s Metropolis Casino & Hotel
  • Jumer’s Casino & Hotel
  • Fairmont Park
  • Hawthorne Casino and Race Course

Louisiana casinos

Effective March 16 at midnight, the shutdown of the Lousiana casino industry will commence. Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, announced that state police will be working to help implement the shutdown process.

“In an effort to protect the health and wellbeing of [casino] employees and guest, the board is in the process of preparing a formal order directing the closure of the gaming operations at all 20 casinos in the state for a period of 14 days, subject to extension,” Jones said.

Casinos closed:

  • Boomtown Bossier
  • Eldorado Resort
  • Horseshoe
  • Diamond Jacks
  • Sam’s Town
  • Margaritaville
  • Isle Lake Charles
  • L’auberge Lake Charles
  • Golden Nugget Lake Charles
  • Amelia Belle
  • Boomtown New Orleans
  • Treasure Chest
  • Belle of Baton Rouge
  • Hollywood Baton Rouge
  • L’auberge Baton Rouge
  • Harrah’s New Orleans Casino
  • Delta Downs
  • Harrah’s LA Downs
  • Evangeline Downs
  • Fair Grounds

Washington casinos

The state of Washington has seemingly become a hotbed for the virus.

As such, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a prohibition of events featuring more than 250 people, as well as ordering the closure of restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreational activities.

The order itself does not apply to Washington casinos as they reside on tribal land. Many properties are adjusting hours of operation, but only a select few are closing – in their own ways.

For example, 12 Tribes Resort Casino temporarily closed for cleaning “until further notice.”

Meanwhile, Coulee Dam Casino and Mill Bay Casino remain open but will shut its doors twice a week for cleaning.

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Coronavirus Slamming Major Vegas, Macau Casino Stocks

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The country has quickly fallen into a panic as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Shoppers are cleaning out stores while wrapped head to toe in plastic; schools and businesses are shutting down. Even the future of the Olympics and March Madness has come into question.

Pro leagues have issued memos to franchises with ideal ways to interact with fans, such as fist bumps instead of high fives and not taking pens directly from fans when signing autographs.

Even the casino industry has suffered. Particularly in Las Vegas.

On to the Rewind:

Coronavirus delivers hit to casino stocks

Around the world, countries are ailing from the coronavirus in more ways than one. From a business standpoint, travel restrictions in China, for example, come back to affect Vegas. Fear surrounding the toll it takes on Sin City has grown, especially after learning that Macau, Asia’s gambling capital, closed casinos for two weeks after the coronavirus outbreak.

After all, about 4% of international visitors to Vegas in 2018 hailed from China. Additionally, California residents made up about 21% of domestic visitors in 2018. California recently declared a state of emergency following its first coronavirus-related death.

All told, casino companies such as MGM Resorts InternationalWynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have warned investors that travel restrictions, both internationally and domestically, could hurt Vegas.

Indeed, casino stocks took a sharp downturn last week, dropping as much as 14% around the same time Nevada health officials announced an individual tested positive for coronavirus. Among the companies taking hits (stats are as of March 5):

  • Red Rock Resort: down 13.86%
  • MGM Resorts: down 11.5%
  • Wynn Resorts: down 9.5%
  • Boyd Gaming: down 9.3%
  • Caesars Entertainment: down 5.69%
  • Las Vegas Sands: down 4.14%

Unfortunately, analysts and experts are predicting that this trend will continue so long as the number of new cases continues to rise. For now, playing online casinos may be as close of a gambling experience as people want to have.

FanDuel Sportsbook on its way to Michigan

Once again, the Michigan sports betting landscape has expanded.

Just in time for March Madness, FanDuel Sportsbook announced market access it acquired courtesy of a partnership with MotorCity Casino in Detroit.

The deal allows FanDuel to operate the property’s retail sportsbook as well as launch an online betting app later on. While the mobile solution will likely have to wait until next year, FanDuel could potentially open a retail sportsbook much sooner.

Brick-and-mortar betting could happen as soon as March 11 at some locations, nearly a week ahead of March Madness.

MotorCity was the last of three Detroit commercial casinos to land a sports betting partner. MGM Resorts will leverage Roar Digital (a joint venture with GVC), while Greektown Casino-Hotel will benefit from its owner Penn National.

FanDuel becomes the latest brand-name bookmaker to gain entry to Michigan, joining the likes of William Hill, PointsBet, Fox Bet and Scientific Games.

Could Maryland sports betting be on the way?

On the threshold of soaring through the Senate: a bill to legalize sports betting in Maryland.

Not only is it legislation to regulate wagering, but it’s also a proposal that appears more inclusive than past drafts.

Changes to S 4 in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee allows for six casinos to acquire sports betting permits as well as three racetracks and a stadium for the Washington Redskins.

Sen. Craig Zucker, who amended the bill, expressed his confidence to Legal Sports Report that the legislation would pass.

As LSR detailed, the original bill called for casinos to receive sports betting exclusivity and features some of the highest fees and tax rates in the country: $2.5 million for initial licensing, 20% taxation.

While the tax rate remains the same, licensing fees have been tiered, from $2.5 million for casinos with 1,000 or more video lottery terminals down to $1.5 million for casinos with less than 1,000. The Redskins’ stadium would obtain a license for the higher amount.

Should S 4 pass through the Senate, it would need to succeed in the House and then receive a signature from the governor. After these steps, the legislation would go to the voters in November. Legalizing sports betting requires voter approval of a constitutional amendment.”

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Illinois Sports Betting Kicks Off March 9 At This Casino Sportsbook

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The moment many thought would never come is finally arriving: Illinois sports betting has a start date.

Rivers Casino in Des Plaines announced the BetRivers Sportsbook will open Monday, March 9 at noon. This will mark the first brick-and-mortar sportsbook in the state following a long and rocky path to legalization.

“The BetRivers Sportsbook will take March Madness out of the office pool and into an exciting, elevated live sports wagering experience,” said Corey Wise, senior vice president and general manager of Rivers Casino. “We are grateful to the Illinois Gaming Board staff for their work approving our sportsbook in time for the college basketball tournament—one of the greatest sports events of the year.”

Greg Carlin, CEO and co-founder of Rush Street Gaming, Rivers parent company had this to say:

“Whether you are a seasoned sportsbook player or a casual sports fan interested in this new entertainment option, we’re dedicated to an environment where all customers will enjoy themselves in this great venue within our premier casino.”

What to expect at BetRivers Sportsbook

According to the release, the sportsbook will feature a number of amenities including:

  • 4,840 square foot sports bar
  • 47-foot-wide Ultra HD LED video wall
  • 10 86-inch HD televisions
  • 4 75-inch HD television
  • 5 betting windows
  • 30 sportsbook kiosk
  • 1 full-service island bar with 32 seats
  • 26 bar-top video poker machines
  • 29 leather lounge chairs with additional table seating

“BetRivers Sportsbook meets the high bar established by the team at Rivers Casino Des Plaines as one of the most successful and unique regional gaming destinations in the country,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated, the racing, online wagering and gaming entertainment company which co-owns Rivers. “We’re excited to add this top-flight amenity to what is already a premier destination.”

What about mobile wagering and who’s next?

Unfortunately for those traveling outside the Chicago land area, mobile sports betting will not be available until later this year.

Many experts anticipated the start of the NCAA Basketball tournament would be the defacto launch date. With Rivers launching Monday, March Madness betting will be in full swing.

Additionally, the Illinois Gaming Board has announced a number of temporary permits in the past few days so there are several properties that might follow Rivers lead.

Argosy Casino Alton, owned by Penn National Gaming and Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, owned by Eldorado, are the most likely to launch next.

Other casinos receiving temporary permits are:

  • Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in Peoria

For those looking for alternative options traveling from the southern part of Illinois, Horseshoe Casino and Ameristar Casino in Hammond, Indiana, each have full-service sportsbooks.

Expect fierce competition for gambling dollars between Illinois and Indiana once the Prairie State is completely up and running. Also, don’t forget about the Wolverine State which recently announced Michigan sports betting will commence on Wednesday, March 11.

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Betting News For Oscars & West Virginia, Plus Casino Responds To OJ’s Lawsuit

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What a time it is to be alive.

It’s the week of Super Bowl LIV, and legalized sports betting permeates the country.

A week after that, the Academy Awards takes place.

Of course, not everyone can celebrate as much as we do. Just ask OJ Simpson. More on that in a minute.

First, let’s get to the PlayUSA Rewind.

Oscar betting comes to Indiana

For the second straight year, New Jersey regulators gave the go-ahead for sports betting providers to accept wagers on the 2020 Academy Awards.

Now, a second state has done the same.

Despite only operating for a few months, Indiana has launched markets for Oscars betting. The Indiana Gaming Commission signed off on the wagering expansion. Since then, DraftKings Sportsbook has introduced odds for all 24 categories it currently offers in New Jersey.

It would seem appropriate for FanDuel Sportsbook also to integrate Oscars betting, and it appears it will do so as FanDuel has petitioned the IGC for approval.

All this said, Sara Tait, executive director of the IGC, told The Times of Northwest Indiana that the commission can opt “to change course” should “circumstances arise that undermine the integrity of certain activities.”

Original West Virginia online sports betting provider could return

West Virginia became one of the pioneering states to launch legal online sports betting in the US.

Yet the two casinos that were at the forefront have not offered regulated wagering since March 2019. Soon, though, both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras could come back online.

As West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, both properties “have some target dates” to relaunch sports betting operations. “Our understanding is it’s going to happen a lot sooner than it has been.”

Recall in late-2018 when Delaware North, owner of the two casinos, introduced to West Virginia the BetLucky sports betting app, developed alongside tech providers Miomni and EnterG.

Mere months after going live with the wagering platform, however, BetLucky was shelved. A dispute stemming from pricing and intellectual property ultimately led to the shutdown, which resulted in retail books at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras also closing their doors.

Delaware North has since cut ties with Miomni and is searching for a new sports betting partner. The gaming company aims to rejoin the online wagering market in West Virginia, potentially joining FanDuel SportsbookDraftKings Sportsbook and BetMGM.

OJ Simpson too tarnished to defame

The man known as “Juice” has long been in the spotlight, from his football career to his fall from grace with that whole “trial of the century” thing. Oh, and the “robbery at gunpoint” thing.

Now, all that time spent in courtrooms and prison has made it impossible to defame Pro Football Hall of Fame running back OJ Simpson, according to attorneys for a Las Vegas casino.

The former Heisman Trophy winner sued The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas after being escorted off the property in 2017. His legal team argues that hotel staff then spread rumors that Simpson was prohibited from returning to the Cosmo and that he was publicly intoxicated.

However, attorneys for the Cosmo told a judge that OJ Simpson could not have his reputation defamed by said accounts because it was already tarnished.

Simpson, obviously, was involved in one of the most high-profile homicide investigations and trials in history, which involved the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend in 1994. Later, Simpson was jailed following an armed robbery case in 2007.

Attorneys for the Cosmo argue that Simpson “is a well-known public figure” and that reports of the former running back’s behavior at the Cosmo could not have led to “tangible damage to his reputation.”

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Big 2019 Betting Numbers, Movement In Kentucky, NV Casino Updates

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The first full year of legalized sports betting outside of Nevada is in the books.

And, according to the figures, it did not disappoint.

While Pennsylvania and New Jersey bask in the glow of titanic state-sanctioned industries, other states are continuing to find ways to integrate legalized wagering. The latest effort comes from Kentucky. Surely, more will follow.

Once again, so much to unpack, so let’s get to the Rewind.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey sports betting took off in 2019

What a year for legalized sports betting. Particularly, there were two states we expected to do well but really kicked it into high gear.

The Pennsylvania sports betting market, particularly after the advent of online wagering, shined in 2019. In December alone, the PA industry took in a state monthly record of $342.6 million in wagers. Nearly 87% of that total came via mobile sportsbooks.

Last year, Pennsylvania saw regulated online sports betting come to life and expand to eight sportsbooks. And as Play Pennsylvania detailed, monthly handle via betting apps has spiked 477% since going live in July.

In 2019 alone, bettors in Pennsylvania laid down nearly $1.5 billion with legal books. However, Pennsylvania still looks up at New Jersey.

With a whopping $557.7 million wagered in December, the Garden State wrapped up 2019 with an astounding $4.5 billion in handle.

Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey has watched online betting quickly take hold. In December, nearly 90% of all bets went through an online sportsbook.

Both states were expected to rise to prominence after the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA. Both have answered the call to this point. Now we’ll see how they can improve and escalate even higher in 2020.

Is Kentucky sports betting on the horizon?

Gov. Andy Beshear provided some fodder during his State of the Commonwealth address.

He emphasized the need to “create the new revenue to meet the growing needs” of Kentucky. He noted how the state is “watching more than $500 million in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.”

Then, Beshear announced that Rep. Adam Koenig has filed a bill to legalize sports betting. It has the governor’s full support.

After multiple bills arose and fell short in 2019, both Beshear and Koenig express optimism about the latest filing, which removed the previously proposed stipulation that no bets can be placed on Kentucky-based teams and events.

On top of it all, Koenig’s bill would legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports. While online casinos remain out of the picture, Beshear said there could be more conversations down the road:

“I hope that isn’t the end of the conversation, because right now all of our neighboring states — all of them — most of them Republican-led, have embraced expanded gaming while we are being left behind.”

The bill received a unanimous 18-0 vote in the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee and is expected to get approval soon on the House floor.

Nevada casinos get new owners

A new team has taken over Las Vegas real estate occupied by MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

MGM Growth Properties LLC and Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. have entered into an agreement to form a joint venture and acquire the real estate assets of the two properties for $4.6 billion. MGM Growth Properties will own 50.1% of the venture, while Blackstone will possess the remainder.

Once the deal is closed, MGM Resorts International will continue to manage and operate both MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. The deal is expected to finalize in the first quarter of 2020. With both casinos spanning some 226 acres on the Strip, MGM Resorts’ annual rent will stand at $292 million.

Blackstone continues to add Strip properties; recently the group acquired the Bellagio for $4.25 billion.

Up north, Harrah’s Reno will soon have new ownership. Caesars Entertainment confirmed that a CAI Investments affiliate will acquire the property for $50 million.

Caesars has leased Harrah’s via VICI Properties, which will split the sale’s proceeds with Caesars.

Over the first half of the year, Harrah’s will continue to be part of the Caesars Rewards network. Then, new ownership – Reno City Center LLC – will take over and the property will transition into a “mixed-use, non-gaming property.”

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Earn Points & Rewards Online With These Top US Casino Loyalty Cards

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The top casino loyalty programs in the US let you earn and redeem various points, credits and comps at a variety of casino-resort locations all over the country.

The best of the best even let you do it online.

That’s right; some of the biggest casino companies in America run legal online casinos in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where you can earn the same loyalty club points, credits and comps you do at the organization’s brick-and-mortar casinos.

Here’s a look at the top three land-based casino loyalty programs in the US that let you earn online:

Caesars Rewards card

Caesars Entertainment’s Caesars Rewards, previously known as Total Rewards, is the largest casino loyalty program in the country.

It is currently available at nearly 40 Caesars Rewards destinations across the nation. Plus, that number will grow to 60 casino properties across 16 states when the Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment merger closes in the first half of 2020.

Caesars Rewards members can earn the same tier and reward credits they do at brick-and-mortar casinos for wagering at Caesars Casino & Sportsbook and HarrahsCasino.com in New Jersey.

Just join Caesars Rewards, if you haven’t already, and connect your accounts online. Caesars Rewards accounts are updated within 72 hours to reflect any online earnings.

Caesars Casino & Sportsbook gives players one tier credit and one online reward credit for every $10 wagered on slots and $100 bet on all other games.

Harrah’s Online Casino gives players one tier credit and one online reward credit for every $20 wagered on any game.

M life Rewards card

MGM Resorts International’s M life Rewards program allows members to earn and redeem various points and comps at more Las Vegas Strip properties than any other casino loyalty program in the country. There are 11, plus, the program boasts another eight M life Rewards properties all across the US.

MGM-run New Jersey online casinos like BetMGM and BorgataCasino.com have iRewards casino loyalty program for online play.

However, players who take part in the online loyalty programs can earn M life Rewards tier credits online. Plus, they can also turn online iRewards points into express comps for use at MGM Resorts destinations nationwide.

Players earn M Life tier credits and iRewards points with every bet at table games, slots and contribution to the pot in poker games. However, BetMGM does not award iRewards points for sports betting.

mychoice Loyalty Rewards card

Penn National Gaming’s mychoice Loyalty Rewards program is in 34 mychoice properties in 15 states across the country. The list of mychoice properties is filled with mostly regional casinos, including familiar brands like Ameristar, Boomtown and Hollywood Casinos.

Penn National Gaming’s HollywoodCasino.com began offering real-money online gaming in Pennsylvania in 2019. Plus, it brought the mychoice Loyalty Rewards program online with it.

Hollywood Online Casino players with mychoice accounts now earn one tier point for every $12 coin-in on slots. Additionally, mychoice awards one tier point for every $25 bet at table games and $60 coin-in on video poker.

Players must link their Hollywood Online Casino and mychoice accounts. Those who do will also earn comps every time they make a deposit online.

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Gambling News

What It’s Like To Bet At Two Indiana Casino Sportsbooks

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“I had my own problems and most of them had to do with gambling.”Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Generation of Swine)

Despite all the myths, you can’t lose your sanity by spending all day in a sportsbook. But you can come awfully close.

Roughly 20 minutes south of Chicago in Hammond, Indiana are two casinos right next to Lake Michigan. Separated by two miles, each property has embraced Indiana sports betting in its own unique way. However, the casinos are not only separated by distance, but they are also separated by $5 million in retail sports betting handle.

These days, anyone of legal age can place a wager on a phone or computer. But I decided to strip the mobile equation out of the picture. I wanted to experience what it would be like to spend an entire day inside a sportsbook. I wanted to sit next to the casual bettor and experience absolute loathing or the excitement of triumph.

The idea of hunkering down by the bar, monitoring my surroundings and trying to figure out why people do this, came to me in September when sports betting became legal in Indiana.

In those three short months, Horseshoe Casino, a Caesars property, has been the leader in retail sports betting. In November, the property recorded $13 million in handle, according to figures from the state gaming commission.

Its neighbor, Ameristar Casino, a Penn National property, cleans up on the mobile wagering side due to its partnership with DraftKings. But when it comes to retail wagering, it only recorded $8 million in handle for November.

November Indiana sports betting numbers for Horseshoe & Ameristar:

  • Ameristar Casino/DraftKings/Penn National
    $64.1 million = mobile handle (DraftKings): 1st
    $7,987,097  = retail handle: 3rd
    $4.3 million in taxable adjusted gross revenue
  • Horseshoe Hammond/Caesars
    $0 = mobile handle (no mobile app)
    $12,964,573 = retail handle: 1st
    $671,826 in taxable adjusted gross revenue

Each property offers the same product — but why the difference in money? I suppose some of it comes down to preference, loyalty, atmosphere. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something. My curiosity led me to check things out for myself.

A menu of games inside Horseshoe Casino and one misguided Buckeye fan

On a foggy Saturday morning during college football rivalry week, I traveled to Horseshoe, which is the closest to the Illinois border. What better day to experience all sports betting had to offer? That morning, the appetizer games were Ohio State vs. Michigan and Clemson vs. South Carolina, the entree was Alabama vs. Auburn. The nightcap was one of my favorite games to watch, Florida State vs. Florida.

The Book at Horseshoe Hammond is a 5,300 square-foot space located on the casino’s main floor. The focal point is a grid of TV screens: 12 total, six-screens long, and two high. In the center of the sportsbook were rows and rows of recliners, all facing the TV screens and complete with wooden tables and drink holders.

I arrived around 8:30 AM and hunkered down at a table next to the bar about five feet from the closest slot machine. From my vantage point, I could survey everything. Already there were dozens of people filling the space and another hundred or so waiting in line to place bets at the service desk.

Sitting behind me was a group of 20-somethings already loading up on pitchers of beer and wearing Ohio State scarlet and grey. Midway through that game, I overheard one of the fans talking about the electric JK Dobbins, OSU’s high-profile running back.

The fan said Dobbins was probably the best back in OSU history. I immediately questioned two things. One, his knowledge of OSU history and two, how many Buckeye running backs he’d seen in person.

“I mean there is Archie, Hershel, and Zeke, but Dobbins is right there with them,” the misguided fan said.

In a swift reflex motion, I instantly turned around and corrected his mistake.

Hershel played for Georgia, I said. And Chris “Beanie” Wells, Eddie George, and Carlos Hyde all performed equal to or better than Dobbins.

If there is one thing worse than Ohio State, it’s Ohio State fans.

Why this Indiana sportsbook and not that one?

By noon, the betting line all but disappeared. Sitting to my right was a group of three men casually talking parlay bets and discussing betting strategies for the rest of the day.

One of them, Zachary Bujaki, 32, from Highland, Indiana, said he prefers the seating of Horseshoe but is not a fan of waiting in line for extended amounts of time.

“I enjoy the atmosphere of the sportsbook and watching the game here in person,” he said. “But I spent an hour waiting in line to place my bet.”

Bujaki, a stalky young man and casual better, was enjoying a few drinks with his father and a friend. He was patiently waiting to see if his three-team parlay bet was a winner — it wasn’t.

Bujaki said he enjoys watching a game at Horseshoe but prefers the kiosks provided by Ameristar.

“I like the betting kiosks. A good [sports]book would be a combination of both [Horseshoe and Ameristar].”

A few other casual bettors I spoke with confirmed the same thing. Shane, 23, from Sugar Grove, Illinois, who preferred not to have his last name mentioned, said Horseshoe is easy to get to.

“It’s right off the skyway so I can stay for a couple of games, then hop right on the highway and head out,” he said.

I asked Shane and Bujaki their opinions about the DraftKings mobile app and if there was anything I should know about Ameristar when I visit.

“I use the William Hill app, and I prefer it,” Shane said. “If this place had an app, I would use it.”

Bujaki was a bit more hesitant about mobile wagering.

“DraftKings asks too many questions, so I decided not to do it,” he said. “And try the steak burrito at Ameristar — it’s the best.”

By the end of the Florida State game, I was exhausted. Maybe it was the sound of a thousand slot machines going off behind me or perhaps the piss poor performance of FSU. Regardless, I left with my sanity intact, and a new outlook on spending the day in a sportsbook, something I would most likely never do again.

A restless morning inside Ameristar Casino

After the Christmas break, I decided to set up arrangments to watch the NFL Wild Card games from the comfort of the Ameristar property. I took a 7:20 AM Amtrak train from Chicago’s Union Station, a short 29-minute trip that cost me $9. I was dropped off at the Hammond train stop, and from there, I took a quick Uber to the casino front door.

The sportsbook is easy to find, up the escalader and to the right. But when I arrived, the space felt different. Not in a bad way, just different. Instead of being mixed with the chaos of the casino floor like its Caesars neighbor, the sportsbook was secluded from everything else. Except for a few table games and a small eatery, the seclusion made the sports betting experience more intimate.

The Sportsbook at Ameristar is small. It’s a tiny nook carved into the corner on the second floor with a service counter and four betting kiosks. Over at the Stadium Sports Bar, which is adjacent to the sportsbook, there are another three betting kiosks. The bar has several high tables, an abundance of TV screens, but at 9 AM on wild card weekend, only eight people were visible. Roughly two hours later, I counted at least 60 people waiting to place bets. A majority of them were waiting at the betting kiosks with a small handful of people waiting at the service counter.

Much of the criticism about Horseshoe and Ameristar from the people I spoke with seemed accurate. It appeared that the lines were moving at a substantially quicker pace at Ameristar, but unlike Horsehoe, the seating arrangments provided no extra benefit. Unfortunately, due to communication errors, I was banned from speaking with anyone at Horseshoe until I met with the head of marketing. So I waited patiently for six hours.

Pre-game talk with an Ameristar executive

Around 2 PM, shortly before the Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans game, I sat down with Jamie Williams, vice president of marketing for Ameristar, to try and discover what made this sportsbook special.

Williams said the feedback from customers so far had been great. “[Sports betting] has brought a whole new crowd to us, which is a little bit different from our typical casino customers. Our process at the sportsbook is quick and easy — with the kiosks — its a great location. Guests can come in, place their bets quick and easy, have a drink and watch the game,” she said.

“I think kiosks provide convenience,” Williams said. “People know what they want to bet, and we have several of them across the property. In today’s world, everything is technology-based, and our customers also have the ability to go on our website, select their bets, come to the property and scan a QR-code and make them very quickly.”

In terms of people occupancy, Williams said he sees no favoritism when it comes to college football Saturdays or NFL Sundays.

“Weekends are a good balance. Our weekends have been jam-packed, you probably wouldn’t be able to see a lot of difference between Saturday and Sunday, it’s just busy all the time,” she said.

A bus trip to the south side

After my sitdown with Williams, I wondered around the casino a bit, grabbed a quick lunch, and watched the first half of the Bills-Texans game. I had had enough of sports betting for the day, so I decided to leave. Much like all casinos, Ameristar provides a shuttle back to Chicago. The bus so happened to drop off right next to Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, and a short walk to my apartment.

During the trip home on a bus filled with gamblers, I reflected on the 21 total hours I spent inside the sportsbooks and why one property was better than the other. Much like Dr. Thompson said, I had several problems floating around my head and most had to do with gambling. Thirty minutes later, the bus pulled to the curb, and I exited into the bitter cold of Chicago’s southside. I was still formulating my answer by the time I arrived home and thought, best not to burn any bridges. My teams may not have performed their best during these particular games, but I secretly couldn’t ignore my nagging anticipation to go back to either sportsbook, place my bet and watch the action unfold.

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