Brian Gannon / email@example.com
(EAST BOSTON, MASS, August 14, 2012).— With Suffolk Downs now officially in the running for one of three casino licenses that will be awarded statewide, the review process for the racetrack and its development partner, Caesars Entertainment, begins. Gaming officials ensure that this review process will be a thorough, careful analysis of each developer’s financial viability and business practices. Upon investigating Caesars, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission should reject Suffolk Downs’ application to build a casino.
On the surface, Caesars may seem like a top-performing, admirable corporation in a booming industry. But when you pull back the diamond-studded curtain, one finds a debt-saddled company that mistreats its employees, preys on the vulnerability of problem gamblers, shirks its tax responsibility, and secretly knows the casino market is saturated and in decline. In Caesars, Suffolk Downs bringing a Trojan horse into a family-oriented, tight-knit neighborhood. We urge the racetrack to sever ties with Caesars. We urge the City of Boston to stand against dangerous businesses preying on its residents. (Note: We have still received no acknowledgement of our letter to Mayor Menino asking him to apply the same scrutiny to Caesars as he recently did to Chick-fil-A) And we ask the Gaming Commission to reject outright any casino application with Caesars’ name on it. Consider:
Caesars is Financially Unviable
Caesars is underwater financially and flailing wildly for even the most unlikely source of rescue. Its debt ($19.9 billion) dwarfs the next most indebted casino operator, MGM ($13.4 billion). Since its stock debuted in January, Caesars’ stock has since plummeted 42 percent to below its initial public offering.[i] Moody’s Investor Services has downgraded Caesars’ credit rating and warned investors that the company’s debt is “eating its cash” and threatens its competitive position in the market.[ii] Caesars industry-leading debt and low credit rating have resulted in the company being forced to pay an interest rate of 15 percent — close to 70 percent higher than the gambling industry average of 9 percent.[iii] To earn cash, the company has been selling off several of its properties[iv], and in what some analysts say is its biggest gamble yet for its long-term future, Caesars has recently invested heavily in online gaming companies that try to hook young people through sites like Facebook.[v]
Caesars Targets Problem Gamblers with Predatory Marketing, Frequency Casinos
Over the last decade or so, CEO Gary Loveman has built Caesars into the biggest casino company in the world by accessing gamblers’ personal financial information and using it to target those who are most likely to come back again and again. (called “frequency players”) Caesars’ “Total Rewards Program” provides free meals, alcohol, hotel rooms, and entertainment tickets to people who visit the casino an average of three to five times a week. The owner of a Bethlehem, Pa., casino admitted in 2010 that many of these frequency guests live within 15 minutes of the casino, “give [the casino] $25, $30 five times a week … grab a hot dog or maybe a chicken sandwich,” gamble three hours, “then go home and sleep in their own bed.”[vi] Pressured financially, Caesars will resort to even more invasive and predatory practices to keep current customers, woo new ones, and increase its bottom line.
Caesars’ casino at Suffolk Downs will not be a destination resort, but a frequency market, the centerpiece being the 4,000-5,000 slot machines (by comparison, Foxwoods – one of the world’s largest casinos – has 6,000 slot machines). With just 350 hotel rooms planned for the facility, it’s easy to see that Caesars will be primarily targeting the potential repeat players who live in the surrounding communities.
Here’s the scary thing: They won’t stop at preying on legal gamblers; they’ll be after our teenagers too. Just a few weeks ago, Caesars agreed to pay the Nevada gaming regulators a fine of $100,000 to settle multiple charges that dozens of Caesars employees allowed underage teenagers to drink and gamble at several of its Las Vegas casinos.[vii]
Caesars Mistreats its Employees
Suffolk Downs and Caesars are promising thousands of good-paying permanent jobs once a casino is built. On average, they say, casino workers will earn $42,000 per year. But that number factors in a handful of positions that pay many multiples of the salary they cite, including executive and manager salaries. By looking at other Caesars locations around the country, we know the “jobs” reality is much more sobering. Recently, it was reported that within a few weeks of the grand opening of Cleveland’s celebrated Horseshoe Casino, “lots of people” were already quitting their jobs. Cashiers reported working 11-hour days; slot attendants earn $6 per hour plus tips (which have been nonexistent); and some workers cried after seeing their paychecks.[viii] And for the last five years, Caesars has battled union dealers at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas over a labor contract, even asking dealers to share what little they earn in tips with management. Dealers at Caesars Palace earn “little more than minimum wage” and “receive as much as 90 percent of their incomes from tips.”[ix]
Caesars Skips Out on its Property Taxes
In exchange for permission to operate, casinos promise governments a big cut of the profits in the form of tax revenue. But in Atlantic City, Caesars has exploited unfair loopholes to pay less in property taxes, resulting in city budget shortfalls. Caesars opted to have its properties reassessed factoring in declining revenues – an option not afforded to independent homeowners – forcing Atlantic City to retroactively pay Caesars $27 million in refunds for a lower assessment between 2009 and 2011.[x] In St. Louis, Caesars is fighting the county assessor in court after its Harrah’s location there was asked to pay more property taxes.[xi] The company is employing the same tax-avoiding scheme at its Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.[xii]
The people of Boston want to know that the business entities in their midst are good neighbors. Suffolk Downs and the state’s Gaming Commission need assurance that a casino developer is financially sound and trustworthy. Caesars Entertainment will be none of these things. Like the people of Foxboro did with Steve Wynn, we will tell the truth about Gary Loveman and Caesars, and they will be sent on their way.
The ball is in the Gaming Commission’s court. It must stop Caesars Entertainment from developing at Suffolk Downs or anywhere in Massachusetts. It will simply be too costly to do otherwise.
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