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Quicktakes - The month's trends in a glance - March 2004

15 June 2004

The economy in March produced the same set of mixed reports and results that have characterized at least the last year, if not the entire period since September 11, 2001. The stock market indexes, Dow, NASDAQ and S & P, were all down, but only about 2 percent. However, for the first time this year job growth was significant, just in time to join the presidential debate; within a week of the news, Bush was promising more of the same, Kerry 10 million new jobs.

Unexpected good news on the jobs front: Non-farm payrolls climbed 308,000 in March, the strongest month since April 2000. Job growth increased across all sectors, with construction and retail sales seeing the largest gains, according to the government report. Stephen Taub, CFO Magazine, 4-5-04

There is some not so good news that, if the trend continues, is bound to impact the gaming industry as well as the rest of economy. Gas prices continue at record levels; OPEC recently voted to reduce supplies further and therefore we can look forward to a summer driving season of record prices; in some areas, such as California, probably approaching three dollars a gallon. Increased prices will reduce travel, but of equal importance, the higher prices are predicted to hit every segment of the economy with increased prices and reduced disposable income. The first sign of the impact was the price increases and then price decreases announced by national airlines.

U.S. retail gasoline prices rose to their highest level on record Tuesday, spelling pain at the pumps for the nation's 200 million motorists, the American Automobile Association said on Tuesday. The average price for regular gasoline struck $1.738 per gallon, up a tenth of a cent from the previous record hit in late summer 2003, according to the motorist group's survey of more than 60,000 stations. …The U.S. government on Monday predicted prices would average a record $1.83 per gallon in April and May during the run-up to the summer driving season when Americans typically take to the roads. Richard Valdmanis, Reuters, Yahoo Finance!, 3-23-04

US airlines said they would reverse course on a days-old decision to raise ticket prices amid rocketing energy costs because they want to remain "competitive." "We reversed out decision the night before last night (Monday March 29)," a spokeswoman for Continental Airlines told AFP, adding the reversal had come about "because of competitive reasons." Low-cost airlines have not raised their fares in response to the spike in fuel costs. American Airlines has also reportedly scrapped plans for ticket hikes. The two carriers join rivals who ditched the planned price hikes, which were agreed to prior to the weekend. AFP, Yahoo! Business, 3-31-04

There was very good news for the gaming industry with the February results; gaming across the country had a great month, probably the best overall growth the industry has seen this century. The trend has certainly been toward very low, if any, growth in most markets. Depending on the month, the weather, special events, the general economy and the competition, every market has experienced months of growth and months of declining revenues. It was nice to see a month reminiscent of the go-go times of the early 1990s.

February looks like a blowout for the gaming industry. February casino revenues have all been released, with the exception of Nevada. February saw an aggregate 17 percent year-over-year increase in revenue across the regional markets (Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and New Jersey). Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3-28-04

Nevada's 347 casinos won $876 million from gamblers in February, the third best monthly haul in history and up 15.9 percent compared with the $756.1 million won in February 2003, the state Gaming Control Board reported this morning. Jeff Simpson, Las Vegas Sun

The Internet is still a challenging place for gaming operators. Just when it seems the future of gaming has finally arrived, something happens to indicate it will take a couple of more weeks at least. In the United States the pressure from the federal government continues to shape the landscape and influence how Internet gambling is conducted.

Federal prosecutors have begun a wide-ranging effort to curb the growing popularity of online gambling in the United States by quietly threatening legal action against American companies that do business with Internet casinos and sports betting operations based outside the country, lawyers and industry executives say. The investigation into the activities of media, public relations and technology companies relies on a controversial legal concept that holds that the American businesses, by providing advertising and other services that support Internet gambling, are "aiding and abetting" online casinos. That gives prosecutors an indirect way to attack the overseas enterprises, whose operations are illegal here but fall outside their jurisdiction. Matt Richtel, New York News, 3-15-04

Web search engines Yahoo and Google will stop running online gambling ads on their U.S. Web sites, the New York Times reported Monday. Google also will pull the ads from its Web sites in other countries. The change is scheduled to take place by the end of April and could hurt the Internet gambling industry. Search engine Lycos also said it had decided in recent months to stop running the ads but did not specify when or why it had pulled the advertisements. UPI, Washington Times, 4-5-04

The federal government is not the only government that thinks it has jurisdiction over Internet gambling. Antigua, for example believes it has the power to license Internet casinos and wagering, and due to the American pressure, Antigua took its case to the World Trade Organization and won. Undoubtedly that will not be the last word on the subject, but it does serve to cloud the issue even more.

The World Trade Organization has ruled that the hard line taken by the US on Internet gambling is in breach of world trade rules. The tiny Caribbean state of Antigua had complained that the moralistic stance of the US was seriously damaging its economy. The decision, which is only a preliminary ruling, came after Antigua and Barbuda complained to the WTO last year that US prohibitions against Internet gambling are discriminatory and in breach of international trade agreements that require the US to allow foreign Internet companies to offer their services to US citizens. Antigua and Barbuda, with a population of less than 70,000, has an economy largely dependent on tourism, but with a growing market in Internet gambling. According to a report on Caribbean Net News.com, the country has lost around US$30 million since the US began its attempts to restrict Americans' access to on-line gambling services. Out-Law, 3.26-04

In the war over the Internet, governments are not the only ones that that have the power to shape the future. In an ironic twist reminiscent of the Mafia in the United States, extortionists, probably Russian, have found a way to make a buck from gambling on the Internet and intimidate a few people along the way.

Online gambling sites are betting on tighter security after a recent wave of computer attacks from cyber extortionists plunged several into darkness. Shadowy hackers demand $20,000 to $50,000 for protection from distributed denial-of-service attacks, which flood a Web site with data so that it is overloaded. BetWWTS.com in Antigua was forced to pay $30,000 when hackers shuttered its site and thousands of its customers couldn't place wagers worth an estimated $5 million, CEO Simon Noble says. It's one of the lucky ones. Since the attacks started a few months ago, a handful of smaller operations have gone out of business or abandoned Web sites in favor of phones to avoid the problem. …Gangs of computer crooks allegedly operating out of Eastern Europe have collected protection money from 10% to 15% of the companies they have threatened, says DK Matai, executive chairman of security company MI2G. Most issue ultimatums in e-mail messages in the days leading to major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl. Often, threats are issued after an attack, demanding that American currency be sent to a Western Union office. Jon Swartz, USA Today, 3-10-04

Meanwhile, American gaming companies continue to explore ways to make a profit using the Internet and in the process establish a presence that might at some time in the future be leveraged into a gambling site.

Caesars Entertainment will up the ante in its competition with major Internet providers today when it launches its new "Best Rate Plus Guarantee" program. If a customer finds a lower Internet rate for a room at one of the company's resorts, Caesars will match that price, then beat it by offering an extra 25 percent discount on its own rooms. The program was designed to offer guests more incentives to book rooms at the company's 18 domestic casino resorts directly through the company's Web sites. Vegas.com Senior Marketing Director Bryan Allison said such programs are becoming common in the lodging industry although the gambling industry in Las Vegas is just now discovering them. Rod Smith, Gaming Wire, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3-15-04

The National College Athletic Association is having its annual championship tournament. Nevada, as the only state with legalized sports betting, has a horse in the race. This year for two rounds it had a couple other entries in the race also -- UNLV women and UNR men both gave local betters a sentimental place to put their money. The NCAA has never been a friend of Nevada gambling and often not of Nevada sports, just ask ex-UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. The NCAA has tried numerous times to find a way to stop Nevada sports books from taking wagering on NCAA sports. This year they sent a spy to Nevada to gather more information on Nevada sports betting, thinking, I am thinking, that they would overhear conversations between bookies and players about throwing games.

An executive with the NCAA who was a spectator in several Las Vegas sports books during the opening rounds of the NIT and NCAA basketball tournaments last week says his colleagues probably will be surprised to learn how many different ways there are to bet on a basketball game. But Bill Saum, the NCAA's director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities, said what struck him most during his 2 1/2 days of observations of the sports books was how little people actually cared about who won the games -- as long as they were on the right side of the point spread or chose the "over" or "under" correctly. …Asked if he also was looking for any copyright or game telecast matters similar to those complained about by the National Football League prior to last month's Super Bowl game, Saum said he observed three things that he plans to take back to the NCAA's legal staff for review. "My primary reason for being there was to be observant of the issues related to the sports book and to become better educated," he said. "But if I see infringement issues, I noted them. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't really tell anything for sure about whether there were any problems." Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas Sun, 3-22-04

As he sat watching nothing happened, surprise, except of course people wagered money on the outcomes of games. Much as they do in every office in the United States, or can you believe, on the Internet. Still basketball is good business for Nevada.

Nothing brings out the gambler more than March Madness. This month, $80 million in college basketball wagers will be made in Nevada, where sports betting is legal. Online casinos will take in $1.6 billion. But the bulk of the total $3.5 billion in bets the FBI estimates will be gambled is in the millions of office pools across the country. Those office pool bets translate into $1.5 billion in lost productivity, business outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates. This includes time on the Internet, time to discuss bets and time to recollect everybody's upsets. Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3-28-04

The NCAA has other states on its "bad boy" list. Oregon, where the lottery once offered sports betting, is still paying the price. The NCAA much like any playground bully got mad and took its ball and went home, leaving poor Oregon standing on the sidelines. However, regardless of how angry the rest of us may get, it is their ball.

The governing body refuses to allow the state to host the top college basketball event because it sanctions sports gambling. In 1983, coach Jim Valvano led his underdog North Carolina State team on a tightrope walk through the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Wolfpack's unlikely title culminated in Valvano's famous, frenzied search around the court for someone to hug. That championship run began with two games at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, where N.C. State beat Pepperdine in double overtime and rallied from 12 points down to upset UNLV. The Division I men's basketball tournament has not visited Oregon since. And as baskets swished in Denver, Seattle and six other cities last weekend, Portland remained hopelessly hoopless, as far as ever from playing host to the grandest tournament in sports. "It has everything in place to do it in a top-notch manner," said Bill Moos, athletic director at the University of Oregon. "And it's a crying shame that we're not being considered." Rachel Bachman, Oregonian, 3-22-04

Illinois is bent on providing the gaming industry with a considerable amount of entertainment and an equal amount of anxiety. Last year the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, decided to take a major step towards nationalizing casinos with a tax rate that makes the state the majority owner of all the state's casinos. The tax rate has changed the way the casinos operate and the way Wall Street views those casinos. Still there are those companies that look at the Chicago market, drool and believe that regardless of the tax rate, there is money to be made in the environs of Chicago.

The enabling casino legislation limited the number of licenses in the state to ten; nine have been granted and are operating. One license originally awarded for the Chicago suburb of Rosemont has been in limbo for years. The state gaming authorities refused to license the original operators and that forced the company and the license into the hands of the bankruptcy courts. In March after years of ups and downs the state regulators held an auction for the license. They awarded the license to Isle of Capri for Rosemont; each bidder was coupled with a community and they supported each other in the process.

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. officials announced today that the company has been selected by the Illinois Gaming Board as the successful bidder for the 10th Illinois gaming license. …The company's project includes constructing a single level 40,000 square foot casino, with 1,200 gaming positions, four of its signature restaurants, a 12,000 square foot entertainment venue, and 7,500 square feet of retail space. Isle of Capri will own 80 percent of its Rosemont subsidiary, with the remaining 20 percent to be owned by qualified minority investors, as required by statute. PRNewswire-FirstCall, Yahoo Business, 3-16-04

Shares of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. rose 11 percent on Tuesday, the day after it won the right to build a casino on the outskirts of Chicago in an auction by the state gaming board. Reuters, Yahoo Business, 3-16-04

There are more for hoops for Isle to successfully jump through before the doors of any casino open. The bankruptcy court has to approve and then the gaming board has to license the company and key individuals to operate a casino. The auction awarded the remaining license, but not a license to operate. Confused yet?

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Thursday set a May 17 confirmation hearing date for a plan that would allow Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. to build a Chicago-area gambling hall and take over the license from bankrupt Emerald Casino, Inc., an attorney for Emerald said. If the court agrees to the plan, Isle of Capri still must pass a suitability investigation by the Illinois Gaming Board before obtaining the license, according to Joe Schorer, the attorney. The gaming board had anticipated the court would hold the hearing around April 1, more than month earlier than the date set by the court. Reuters, Yahoo Business, 3-18-04

So far the process appears to be idiosyncratic, convoluted, slow and maybe a little political, but nothing more. Here is where anxiety over taxes and refused licenses turns to entertainment for almost everyone except Isle of Capri stockholders and the citizens of Rosemont. Immediately after the license was awarded to Isle the governor and attorney general decided the process was flawed, if not corrupt, and called for reviews, legal action, resignations and everything short of an execution.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Tuesday called on the state gaming board to explain what she called the "surprising" decision to choose Isle of Capri Casinos…said she wanted more information since the regulator's staff had recommended another bidder, there were concerns about the site, and a top Isle executive had been disciplined by the Illinois Gaming Board in the past. Reuters, Yahoo Business, 3-16-04

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan laid out her case Thursday that the taint of organized crime has sullied Rosemont, putting pressure on the state's Gaming Board to reject the northwest suburb as a casino site. Chris Fusco/ Art Golab/ Dave Mckinney, Chicago Sun Times, 3-26-04

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday called on the state's gaming board to conduct a full, open and public review of their choice of Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. to operate a casino in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont. Reuters, Yahoo Business, 3-17-04

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday will name a former deputy U.S. attorney general as special investigator to look into the Illinois Gaming Board's decision to give a casino license to Rosemont and Isle of Capri Casinos, according to a source close to the administration. Eric Holder, Jr., who was a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration with extensive experience in prosecuting public corruption, will review the "suitability" of the board's choice of Isle of Capri, based in Biloxi, Miss., the source said. Chicago Tribune, 3-24-04

Irate over the Illinois Gaming Board's selection of Rosemont for the state's last casino license, Senate President Emil Jones kept his promise Wednesday to go after the board itself. A Jones amendment approved by the Senate Executive Committee dismisses current gaming board members and allows Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the five seats with new members. The amendment now heads to the full Senate, followed by the House. Blagojevich could appoint new members to the gaming board within seven days of signing the bill. His selections would come back to the Senate for confirmation. Kristen McQueary, Chicago Daily Southtown, 3-25-04

As one might imagine, the gaming board members are not terribly excited by the developments, nor are the executives of Isle of Capri.

The only member of the Illinois Gaming Board who was opposed to putting a casino in Rosemont is criticizing Gov. Rod Blagojevich's call for an investigation into the board's 4-to-1 vote. …But board member Gary Peterlin says the investigation sends the wrong message. "The Gaming Board staff, which is independent, competent and very well respected, must be allowed to adequately do their job without interference," Peterlin said in a written statement Friday. "It is very important that they have, in addition to being able to remain independent, the appearance of remaining independent." Associated Press, Suburban Chicago News, 3-22-04

Isle of Capri Casinos, the company that plans to build a casino in Rosemont, denied comments by a former gaming board administrator that the casino's owner left Illinois in 1993 with the understanding that he would not return. …Mort Friedman, the gaming board administrator at the time, told The Chicago Tribune he believed the settlement precluded Goldstein from returning to Illinois gaming. …In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday, Isle of Capri President Timothy Hinkley vehemently denied any such deal. "Bernie never agreed to forgo any opportunity to again hold a license in Illinois. There's nothing in writing or orally," Hinkley said. "I'm surprised that a gaming board or any government entity would make that kind of decision verbally. It would certainly be in writing, and there is nothing in writing that the gaming board approved." Art Golab, Chicago Sun Times, 3-22-04

Makes one wonder if the license is worth all of the effort. In fact, some observers say Isle bid too much and developing a profitable casino under the circumstances may not be possible and that is without all of the hassle from the governor, legislators and attorney general.

Argosy Gaming chairman Bill Cellini claims the sought-after 10th riverboat casino license is no "slam dunk" for the winner because the final bids were overpriced. "The bids were extraordinarily high, and I think that investors will find that the return is not going to be a great return," Cellini said. "This is not the great deal that others think that it is. It still is going to be very risky for the investors." …Cellini, 69, said the license auction, which went late into the night, led to "substantial overbidding by everybody." …"I believe the people went into those biddings, and as sometimes happens in auctions, you become too emotional and sometimes you overbid," said Cellini. "I don't think anybody expected it to go to that extent." Mary Massingale, Copley News Service, Suburban Chicago News, 3-22-04

Making a profit with unreasonably high taxes and an overpriced license are not the state's problem. The state succeeds if the check clears the bank and the taxes are paid, even if only for a relatively short time. After the late night poker game between the bidders, Harrah's, Midwest Gaming and Isle of Capri, the Illinois license is worth a half billion dollars. Before the ink was dry on the decision, lawmakers in other states began to think about the auction and the "real" value of a casino license in their state. And of course in Illinois there are lawmakers suggesting expanding gaming to allow for two more licenses.

But this week some state [Pennsylvania] lawmakers were again raising the issue of auctions. Senate Republicans discussed the idea in caucus this week. House Republicans have been considering it since they got a Feb. 27 memo from the conservative Commonwealth Foundation promoting auctioning. "Look at the stock of the company that bought the license," said Sen. Gibson Armstrong, a Republican from Lancaster. Armstrong is a gambling opponent, who raised the issue in the caucus after the Illinois sale. "Apparently their stockholders think it's a good value." Associated Press, Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter, 3-22-04

State lawmakers are not the only people who have trouble finding the right value to place on a casino license or a casino operation for that matter. Even longtime operators can get confused, after all neither Harrah's and Isle of Capri are casino novices, and yet by some estimates they got excited and bid the price up a little too much. The poster child for bidding up a casino's value is the Donald; not that he spends more than anyone else, rather he has more with debt that others. Donald Trump is still struggling with some 1990's debt and even if he is not wondering if he overdid it, there are others that are wondering just that.

Shares of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts fell 11 percent Tuesday on news of auditors' concerns that, barring a bailout, the company might not be able to continue as a ``going concern.'' In a letter to the company's board of directors, auditors for Ernst & Young LLP said that the debt-laden company, which runs three Atlantic City casinos, is struggling under stiff competition, recurring operating losses and had a working capital deficit as of Dec. 31, 2003, the auditors said. John Curran, Associated Press, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 3-31-04

Scott Butera, executive vice president of Trump Hotels, said the company would be able to make a $73 million interest payment on the notes due May 1, although the company may use a 30-day grace period to do so. …"What we've been saying to the market is we have high leverage and we have fairly high interest rates relative to our competitors in Atlantic City. Most of our cash flow goes to pay debt service. As a result, we haven't had the opportunity to invest in our properties as our competitors have.'' John Curran, Associated Press, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 3-31-04

The Donald does not appear to be worried; after all, he is a television star. He is considering copyrighting "you're fired" and marketing his own line of "you're fired" merchandise. And while he is fascinated with his imagine on television, the gaming regulators in New Jersey are not as fascinated. They want to make certain he is not violating any gaming regulations.

Now, the Division of Gaming Enforcement is looking into whether the Trump Taj Mahal, the crown jewel of Trump's casino empire, got all the approvals it needed before the taping of a recent "Apprentice" episode there. Trump officials confirmed yesterday the division asked for a tape of the show to review. But they denied the show, which aired last Thursday on NBC, violated any state gambling regulations. Judy Dehaven, New Jersey Star-Ledger, 3-30-04

Too much debt, regulators sniffing around, not to worry, Trump is going to have his own Visa card, a trump card; I wonder if he can transfer his outstanding balance to his new card. On a final Trump note, seems he didn't mean it when he said there wasn't room for another casino near his Trump 29 casino. "Just kidding, guys; there is always room for one more casino run by the friends of my friends."

Today, consumers can have a new "trump" card in their wallets. Trump and Bank One launched the Trump Rewards Visa* card enabling cardmembers to earn rewards that can be used at select Trump entertainment locations. PRNewswire-FirstCall, Yahoo! Finance, 3-31-04

Casino developer Donald Trump backed off his earlier claim that the gaming market around Trump 29 Casino in Coachella was already saturated. Trump said he changed his mind because he didn't know the tribal owners of Trump 29 Casino were "friendly" with a tribe that wants to build another casino nearby. "I think it could work very nicely. I think it could be a very positive thing for the area," said Trump of the proposed second casino. Brian Joseph, Palm Springs Desert Sun

Trump, Harrah's and the Isle are not the only ones who can be a bit too anxious to get into the casino business, or in this case into a casino. This poor man was willing to risk everything for a roll of the dice.

A man was impaled on a fence outside Brisbane's casino today after falling during a bid to get inside. Police said the man fell from the first floor as he scaled the outside of…Treasury Casino…He had earlier been refused entry. The 29-year-old was taken from the scene with part of the fence still piercing his buttocks and groin after being cut free of the rest of the fence by emergency workers. Australian, 4-3-04

Be patient. If you can't get to or into a casino, just wait. The Internet will get here some day and while you wait television may be willing to fill in. Poker and lately blackjack have become television spectator favorites. BingoTV would like to be your interactive viewing choice.

Since February, millions of television viewers nationwide have had a chance to play bingo from their living room sofas rather than heading to a casino. BingoTV is a live bingo game that broadcasts every Wednesday evening on the Dish Network satellite service. Viewers participate in the game by using free game cards and can win prizes ranging from television sets to golf clubs. Dish Network's Denver-based parent EchoStar Communications Corp. announced the program Thursday after calling the experiment a success. "Today you can sit at home and get every question on 'Jeopardy' right and only win the admiration of your spouse, " BingoTV President Ira Bahr said. "This is the first time anyone can sit home and win something from a TV show." Liz Benston, Las Vegas Sun, 3-19-04

New job growth, higher gas prices, lower stock prices made the headlines, while great revenue growth in February set the tone for the gaming industry. The Donald's casinos are struggling, but he is a star. The Isle of Capri won the lottery in Illinois and won the wrath of the governor, attorney general and some legislators in the process. However, winter is over and we are all ready for the summer season, aren't we?

Ken Adams

Ken Adams is the principal in the gaming consulting firm, Ken Adams and Associates. Formed in 1990, Ken Adams and Associates specializes in information, analysis, and strategic planning for Indian tribes, casino operations and gaming manufacturers.

Ken spent over 20 years in the hotel-casino industry, prior to founding Ken Adams and Associates. He held the positions of: Director of Casino Operations, Casino Manager, and Keno Department Manager. During this time, he developed numerous innovative marketing and customer development programs and systems for evaluating casino performance. Some of those programs, such as slot clubs and tournaments, have become industry standards.

Ken is also actively involved in gathering and disseminating information that is important to the gaming industry. He is editor and publisher of and the Adams' Report, a monthly newsletter specializing in identifying trends in casino gaming, regulation and manufacturing, the Adams Daily Report, an electronic newsletter that provides electronic links to the key gaming stories of the day, and the Adams Review, a special report distributed by Compton Dancer Consulting that provides editorial commentary on gaming trends.
Ken Adams
Ken Adams is the principal in the gaming consulting firm, Ken Adams and Associates. Formed in 1990, Ken Adams and Associates specializes in information, analysis, and strategic planning for Indian tribes, casino operations and gaming manufacturers.

Ken spent over 20 years in the hotel-casino industry, prior to founding Ken Adams and Associates. He held the positions of: Director of Casino Operations, Casino Manager, and Keno Department Manager. During this time, he developed numerous innovative marketing and customer development programs and systems for evaluating casino performance. Some of those programs, such as slot clubs and tournaments, have become industry standards.

Ken is also actively involved in gathering and disseminating information that is important to the gaming industry. He is editor and publisher of and the Adams' Report, a monthly newsletter specializing in identifying trends in casino gaming, regulation and manufacturing, the Adams Daily Report, an electronic newsletter that provides electronic links to the key gaming stories of the day, and the Adams Review, a special report distributed by Compton Dancer Consulting that provides editorial commentary on gaming trends.