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Commentaries

Some end of the year commentary from Howard Stutz

By Howard Stutz, Special to CDC Gaming Reports

The gaming industry wasn’t lacking for news in 2016.

The ongoing Caesars bankruptcy proceedings, MGM Resorts International’s REIT spin-off, the company’s opening of the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor in Maryland, Atlantic City’s continued economic woes and the recovery of the Macau gaming market toward end of the year – fueled by openings of Wynn Palace and The Parisian – filled the headlines.

The election of former Atlantic City casino owner Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. President can’t be ignored.

However, the gaming industry’s biggest story came as the Christmas decorations were being removed and New Year’s plans were being prepared.

On Dec. 29, the American Gaming Association announced the IRS was dropping its proposed regulations changes that would have burdened casino operators and customers by lowering slot machine jackpot thresholds. The IRS also dropped plans to use player tracking cards for tax reporting purposes. AGA leadership strongly opposed the ideas, which were proposed in 2015 and the trade group was backed by 13,000 people who signed a petition in opposition to the changes.

As for Las Vegas, the Strip’s No. 1 story of 2016 was the proposed $1.9 billion domed football stadium. Initially, the idea had one gaming industry backer – Sheldon Adelson. Other than Adelson, the gaming industry was lukewarm to the project, balking at the cost to the public, location and overall concept.

By summer, the Strip’s casino community fell in line, all agreeing to raise the hotel room tax rate by 0.88 of a percentage point to fund $750 million of the project. The Adelson family said it will kick in $650 million toward the cost. The Legislature and the governor quickly signed off on the plans during a special session in October.

If the Oakland Raiders do follow through and move to Las Vegas, then the stadium truly is a game changer for the city and the gaming industry. But it’s a big “IF.” The Raiders need 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners to approve the move and the City of Oakland – a much larger media market – is still making efforts to keep the team.

We’ll know the outcome sometime in 2017