Caesars has bad week in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ireland

caesars-entertainment-angers-irishCaesars Entertainment‘s rumored acquisition of Atlantic City’s Revel casino isn’t sitting well with New Jersey state Sen. Jim Whelan. Caesars already operates four of AC’s eleven casinos (there used to be a dozen, but Caesars and the Tropicana bought the Atlantic Club in December for the express purpose of shutting it down to reduce competition) and state law frowns on “undue economic concentration” of its gambling industry.

Whelan told the Associated Press that Caesars acquiring Revel “would be against the law and I don’t think it would be good” to have AC’s casino market “dependent on the rise or fall of one particular company.” Whelan’s concerns are underscored by the fact that Caesars’ $24b debt load has prompted no shortage of speculation as to how much longer it can limp on as a going concern. Whelan suggested it would better to “open the door” to other buyers who don’t already have operations in AC. Florida-based Hard Rock International is reportedly also mulling a bid for the troubled Revel, which has continued to struggle to turn a profit since emerging from bankruptcy protection last year.

A little further up the coast in Massachusetts, Caesars’ failed pursuit of a Boston casino license shows no sign of fading into memory. In December, Caesars filed suit against Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby, alleging that Crosby had deliberately made false statements about Caesars’ suitability to obtain a state gaming license in order to favor a bid by rival Wynn Resorts that would financially benefit a Crosby pal on whose land Wynn wants to build its casino. Wynn boss Steve Wynn has called Caesars’ suit a “shameless, desperate attempt … to deflect attention from the serious issues raised in their investigation, including [Caesars] current financial condition.”

On Thursday, Crosby filed papers of his own, calling Caesars’ claims “inflammatory, but ultimately groundless.” Crosby’s motion to dismiss the suit says Caesars’ filing is “long on unfounded allegations … but wholly deficient in viable claims for relief.” Caesars’ suit alleged that Spectrum Gaming Group, the company charged with vetting Caesars’ suitability, had submitted a favorable judgment that Crosby chose to ignore, but Spectrum has denied arriving at a conclusion one way or the other.

Over in Pennsylvania, the future of Caesars’ casino in suburban Philadelphia is in jeopardy after state gaming regulators ordered the casino’s adjoining racetrack closed. The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission said Harrah’s Philadelphia had failed to address concerns that the track’s condition posed safety threats to horses and riders. The casino is required to keep its racetrack operational as a condition of its license. The track’s racing season is scheduled to commence on March 8 and Caesars senior VP Jan Jones says the issue “will be resolved.”

The Commission said it had been forced to act after Caesars repeatedly failed to outline its plans to address concerns over the track’s condition, despite a serious incident in November in which a harness race driver was thrown from his sulky and trampled by another horse. The family of Anthony Colletta, who suffered permanent brain damage from the accident, plans to sue Caesars over the incident. On Thursday, Colletta’s attorneys won court permission to conduct a forensic investigation of the track surface.

This week also saw Caesars announce a new name for one of its properties in Las Vegas. The boutique casino originally opened in 1979 under the name Barbary Coast Hotel & Casino, but was renamed Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall after Harrah’s acquired the property from Boyd Gaming in 2007. The joint shut down for refurbishment a year ago and was supposed to reopen under the moniker Gansevoort Las Vegas, but this was scrapped after Caesars terminated its relationship with the Gansevoort Hotel Group in October. The two parties parted ways due to the aforementioned kerfuffle in Massachusetts, in which a Gansevoort investor was accused of having Russian mob ties.

This week, Caesars announced that the property would begin taking reservations later this month under the name The Cromwell. How and why Caesars’ brain trust arrived at this name is something of a mystery, as the name evokes memories of a historical figure who would have viewed a casino as something fit only for burning. In addition to waging a genocidal campaign that has rendered his name a curse word in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell was the enemy of pretty much everything the gambling industry holds dear. Is it really too late to call up the printer and cancel the business cards in favor of something less inflammatory, like Pol Pot Palace or Heartbreak of Psoriasis Hotel?