Racetrack and gaming giant Churchill Downs Incorporated has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pennsylvania with an eye on entering Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market. Churchill Downs has also inked a separate purchase agreement to acquire Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Both properties are currently owned by Reno, Nevada’s Eldorado Resorts, Inc. Eldorado Resorts owns and operates 20 casino properties in ten states, including Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington, PA. Churchill Downs will pay approximately $229.5 million in cash combined for both Presque Isle Downs and Lady Luck Casino Vicksburg. The purchase of Presque Isle Downs is dependent on certain closing conditions. These include Churchill Downs securing a gaming license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Plus, according to Churchill Downs, the deal is also dependent on the company being granted a racing license. The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission is responsible for issuing racing licenses in Pennsylvania. According to a Churchill Downs press release, the Presque Isle Downs transaction will close in the fourth quarter of 2018. However, it is also dependent on the closing of the Lady Luck Vicksburg deal. That transaction requires Churchill Downs to secure a gaming license from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. It will close in the second quarter of 2018. Presque Isle racetrack and casino Presque Isle Downs opened in February 2007. It operates approximately 1,600 slots, 32 table games, and a poker room. Additionally, there is live thoroughbred racing on approximately 100 dates per year on the property. Churchill Downs Chief Executive Officer Bill Carstanjen said the opportunity to enter Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market may be what interests the company most: Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling bill in October 2017 authorizing the issue of online gambling licenses in categories including slots, table, game, and poker. The regulatory and licensing process is just in the beginning stages. However, existing casino license holders will have the first opportunity to claim the licenses. Churchill Downs calls Louisville, Kentucky home. Accordingly, the company has interests in gaming and racing across the country, including its flagship Churchill Downs Racetrack, home of the iconic Kentucky Derby horse race. Additionally, Churchill Downs owns the TwinSpires online horse racing wagering service. Calling itself the country’s premier online wagering company, TwinSpires.com allows players to bet on just about every thoroughbred, harness, and quarter horse race from venues across the globe. Photo by Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

Four thousand fake dollars later, a dealer and gambler are awaiting their fate. Lieu Khang David Bui, 21, of Philadelphia and Long Vu Tong, 34, of Souderton, were arrested this past November for engaging in a counterfeit money scam that took place on Nov. 7 at Valley Forge Casino. Police filed charges against the duo last month. According to arrest records obtained by the Times Herald, the two men are awaiting preliminary hearings scheduled for Mar. 7 in Montgomery County District Court. Bui passed $4,000 in fake bills to Tong The gag was a simple one that started before Bui even set foot in Valley Forge on Nov. 7. According to the Times Herald, Bui called Tong and told him he was coming to the Pennsylvania casino that night and would sit at Tong’s Spanish 21 table. He would then pass Tong $4,000 in counterfeit bills. Tong would trade those bills for chips. Tong said he told authorities that he thought Bui was kidding. But, when Bui showed up, sat down at Tong’s table and laid down the first of two stacks of counterfeit bills, Tong was quoted as saying he “let it slide,” taking the bills and slipping them into a deposit box just like he would with real money. According to reports, the shenanigans started when Bui put $2,500 down on Tong’s table. Verifying the legitimacy of the bills was certainly not on Tong’s mind as he exchanged them for chips. Bui wasn’t in the mood to play; he left the table shortly after the exchange. He returned later and ran the same gag. This time, he passed $1,500 to Bui. Assuming his brilliant plan was complete, Bui went to the cash cage and traded out his chips for legitimate bills and left the casino. Within two weeks, the Secret Service confirmed that the bills Bui used were fake. They lacked some of the basic security measures found on most bills. Tong was then interviewed by state police on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, at which point he told authorities how the plan unfolded. Hollywood Casino fell victim to separate dealer-friend hoodwink In May 2017, Penn Live reported that a dealer and his friend took Hollywood Casino for $11,000. This particular crime took place at the casino’s Sic Bo table, a game that combines Roulette and Craps. According to sources, the game’s dealer would give his friend a verbal signal when he wanted him to bet, then would reveal winning numbers that happened to match the numbers upon which the cheating chum placed his bet. The fraudulent player, Nathaniel Shaquille Stazewski, 23, of Lower Paxton Township, faced 15 different counts of criminal activity, Penn Live stated:
12 counts of fraud
Two counts of conspiracy
One count of theft

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved Penn National Gaming‘s takeover of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino gaming license this week. The board approved the transfer of the license from Pinnacle Entertainment to Penn National at its March 21 meeting. Pinnacle has held the license since September 2016. Penn National Gaming, Inc., is a publicly traded company based in Wyomissing. It owns and operates dozens of casinos and racetracks across the country. Its list of gaming properties includes Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville. Penn National acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment Penn National announced in December 2017 it was acquiring gaming-industry competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth approximately $2.8 billion. Rumors of the deal first surfaced in October 2017 when the Wall Street Journal reported ongoing discussions. According to reports, Penn National Gaming will operate a combined 41 casino and gaming properties once the deal is finalized, including The Meadows. In order to meet regulatory requirements, Penn National was forced to sell four Pinnacle casino properties that were part of the deal to Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp. for $575 million. These casinos include:
Ameristar Kansas City
Ameristar St. Charles
Belterra Park
Belterra Casino Resort Penn National Gaming corporate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties originally bought The Meadows from Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts for $465 million in 2014. However, Pinnacle signed a $138 million deal with the company to operate the Pennsylvania casino in 2016. Gaming and Leisure will continue to own the real estate and lease the casino and racetrack to Penn National as a part of the Pinnacle acquisition. However, Penn National will have to cough up a $3.75 million control fee to PGCB. The Meadows Racetrack and Casino The racetrack at The Meadows first opened near Pittsburgh in June 1963. The Meadows takes its name from part-owner and Pennsylvania horse racing industry legend Delvin Miller‘s nearby Meadow Lands Farm. The track traded hands a few times over the years. However, racetrack giant Magna Entertainment Corporation held ownership when Pennsylvania first started considering authorizing the operation of slots at racetracks. Las Vegas gaming operator Cannery Casino Resorts bought the property at that time. A temporary casino with more than 1,700 slot machines opened at The Meadows in June 2007. That same year, Australian billionaire James Packer bought a minority interest in the property. A permanent casino with 350,000 square feet of gaming space took its place in April 2009. Plus, the casino added table games a year later in accordance with a change in Pennsylvania gambling laws.

The suitors are lining up. In January, Stadium Casino LLC won the second of 10 satellite casino licenses the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) auctioned off as part of the state’s gambling expansion package passed in Oct. 2017. The group is about to start the demo at the property upon which it will build Philly Live! casino. It also designated a 15-mile circle within Westmoreland County as the site of its satellite casino. Now, according to several news outlets, towns are lining up to woo the county’s first satellite casino. The communities in the running for the casino are, according to Trib Live:
Salem Towns hoping for satellite benefits A satellite casino is smaller than existing brick-and-mortar casinos. There is a limit of 750 slots and 40 table games. Nonetheless, it still represents a tremendous revenue opportunity for the townships that end up with them. A satellite casino means increased traffic, which means more revenue for:
Gas stations
Shopping areas
Hotels and motels Local leaders are aware of the economic benefits of a satellite casino and, as one township supervisor commented, “they all want it.” Hempfield is of particular interest because the town commercial development has “declined by about 40 percent over the last three years.” Local residents were quick to point out via Facebook comments that a new casino also has its distinct disadvantages. One alleged resident of Hempfield was worried that a new casino would pull people away from local bingo games that raise money for community services. Another commenter whose hometown was listed as Greensburg scoffed at his city officials’ claims that the town lacks the infrastructure. One trip down Route 136 will prove that the infrastructure isn’t quite where it needs to be, implying that the road’s poor condition belies officials’ claims. Strategy is the name of the satellite game Satellite casino locations are almost as important as the satellite themselves. Casinos jockey for locations that allow satellites (some counties opted out) and are close to big populations. Place a satellite between a casino and its commuters and you’re bound to earn the business of gamblers who don’t want to drive farther away to their favorite casino floor. Stadium Casino LLC’s selection of Westmoreland County is an advantageous one. It captures westbound traffic heading into Pittsburgh, the second-largest city in the state. Meanwhile, Mount Airy, winner of the state’s third satellite auction, selected Lawrence County. The location is north of Pittsburgh and captures the wager-hungry living in the surprisingly populated Youngstown, OH area. The city’s urban area is home to more than 500,000 people. Pittsburgh’s lone casino, Rivers, will most likely lose customers from the Youngstown area as well as from the less-populated counties to the east of the city. Little about the PGCB’s satellite license auctions has been predictable. Still, it may be a foregone conclusion that Rivers will win one of the remaining six licenses in order to shore up the customer base. The PGCB satellite auctions continue until all 10 licenses have a buyer or there are no bidders. Should any licenses remain, the board will open up the auction to Valley Forge and Lady Luck. These Category 2 properties are not allowed to bid during the initial round of auctions, per the rules of the state’s gambling expansion bill.

February was a win for Pennsylvania casinos’ table games. According to the February revenue report from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, PA table games brought in $73,757,805, which was an 11.24-percent increase over revenue numbers from February 2017. Those big gains were needed, though, considering that the same PGCB report noted that gross slots revenue was down for the month. Valley Forge leads the way Of the state’s 12 casinos, eight posted year-on-year gains in table games revenue. Here’s a list of what those gains were:
55.10%: Valley Forge Casino Resort
37.98%: Rivers Casino
30.75%: SugarHouse Casino
23.15%: The Meadows Casino
20.48%: Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin
18.21%: Parx Casino
4.84%: Hollywood Casino and Penn National Race Course
2.23%: Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem Parx, SugarHouse, and Rivers anchored the upswing this year, as the three casinos are they were the second, third and fourth-biggest revenue earners for table games. Rivers’ big gains help them jump Harrah’s for the fourth spot. The Pittsburgh casino was more than $1 million behind the Philly casino in Feb. 2017. Sands is the state’s biggest table games earner, bringing in more than $18 million in February and outpacing Parx by nearly 40 percent. The casino had the lowest gross revenue increases of the eight casinos that posted positive numbers. Mount Airy suffers biggest loss Of the four casinos who posted losses in February as compared to the previous year, Mount Airy felt the sting the most:
-28.53%: Mount Airy Casino Resort
-5.86%: Harrah’s Philadelphia
-2.07%: Presque Isle Downs and Casino
-1.55%: Mohegan Sun Pocono In terms of overall revenue, the losses these four casinos suffered weren’t as damaging as they could have been because Mount Airy and Presque Isle had a combined revenue of less than $4 million, which means their losses were quite as damaging. Big table-games gains offset slots losses According to the PGCB’s release, slots revenue was down in February but the 11.67 percent gain from table games was able to offset those losses: “The increase in table games revenue coupled with the earlier reported 1.67 percent decrease in slots revenue for February resulted in an overall gaming revenue increase for the month of 1.64 percent.” Overall, total gaming revenue in Feb. 2018 was $262,813,999, whereas revenue from Feb. 2017 was $258,571,759. Other revenue streams set to launch this year From the state’s perspective, the decrease in overall gambling revenue means less money in their coffers. Fortunately for Harrisburg, 2018 could prove to be an incredibly profitable one for the state’s budget as well as for Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos. Applications for iGaming suppliers and manufacturers are live and will be submitted starting April 1. Several casinos in the state have announced partnerships with online operators. There’s no telling how long a roll-out of online casinos will take but, considering PA lawmakers are pushing to pay off the state’s debts, the sooner they can put the 2017 gambling expansion bill into action, the sooner they’ll get increased tax revenue. Also of note is the Pennsylvania Lottery’s recent announcement that they’ll be launching online scratchers draw games and Keno this May.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. With that in mind, the Pennsylvania Lottery has some strong words for those who may be descending into compulsive gambling behaviors. In a press release published on Mar. 1, the lottery’s executive director, Drew Svitko, said that, many gamblers can buy lottery products without becoming addicted. Nonetheless, everyone should play responsibly. “As part of our commitment to be socially responsible, we ask every player to always play responsibly. That means playing within your financial means and only for entertainment.” Svitko said. “Most adults can play lottery games without issue, but anyone who may be struggling with gambling addiction should not play at all.” He went on to point out that parents should never give their kids gambling games. Moreover, you have to be at least 18 years old to play. If you aren’t, you’re breaking the law. The announcement is certainly relevant to PA residents, whose appetite for lottery games produced $4.14 billion in 2017. that number equates to about $323 per resident. Pennsylvania group focuses on signs of problem gambling It’s the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) who spearheads the nationwide awareness campaign. However, it is the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania (CCGP) is the organization who does the year-round work of helping the state’s problem gamblers and those whom they affect. The organization’s gambling hotline number is 800-848-1880. The hotline is open 24 hours a day. Here’s the organization’s definition of problem gambling: Identifying problem gambling can be difficult. There tends to be some mechanism for hiding the addiction but, per the CCGP, the following signs could be an indication there is a gambling problem:
Gambling more frequently or for longer than intended
Lying about where money goes
Declining work or school performance
Borrowing money in order to gamble
Increasing preoccupation with gambling
Distancing or isolating from family or friends
Unable to pay bills or cover expenses
Chasing losses, or returning the next day to win back what was lost
Have you committed or considered committing a crime to finance your gambling?
Have you made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop your gambling? According to the group, 1-4 percent of Americans are either pathological gamblers or problem gamblers. What causes problem gambling and are casinos to blame? The CCGP’s explanations for problem-gambling and whether or not casinos play a role in it are pulled from the NCPG’s curriculum and are, presumably, the standard national explanations. According to both organizations, a variety of factors ranging from genetics to circumstances can cause problem gambling. A job loss and other stress could drive people to gamble — there really is no single type of person who gambles. “Many people who develop problems have been viewed as responsible and strong by those who care about them. Precipitating factors often lead to a change in behavior, such as retirement or job-related stress,” the organizations say. Both groups noted that casinos and lotteries aren’t to blame for problem gambling because the addiction is something that emanates from the individual’s “inability to control the gambling”. The CCGP has a chat line available for those who need help, the 24-hour hotline listed earlier and a page for finding Gamblers Anonymous meetings in your area.

The Pennsylvania PGCB Gaming Control Board announced this week it will begin accepting applications for interactive gaming platforms on June 4. This Despite the fact the interactive gaming platform providers aren’t sure exactly what they will be applying for just yet. Interactive gaming platform providers are not online casino operators. Instead, these are the companies that provide technology and software platforms for online casinos. Companies like Gamesys, GVC Holdings, NYX Gaming Group, and GAN have been providing software platforms for New Jersey online gaming sites since online gambling launched there in 2013. Clearly, these tech companies will be applying for the right to provide software platforms for online casinos in Pennsylvania. It’s how many sites PA online casino license holders will be able to operate using these software platforms that are still in question. PGCB approves online gaming regulations The gaming board approved two sets of regulations related to PA online casinos and dewapoker last week. Missing was any language addressing whether or not there will be a limit on the number of online gambling websites licensees can launch. Multiple websites operating under a single license holder are referred to as skins. New Jersey limits the number of skins allowed to operate under a single online gambling licensee to five. Experts say this has helped maximize both operator and state revenue from online gambling. However, representatives from Parx Casino and Racing and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course have told the board it wants it to limit the number of skins in PA to as little as one. This appears to be a misguided effort to prevent the online gambling market in PA from cannibalizing the existing land-based casino industry. Misguided because most industry insiders agree that allowing multiple skins will be good for the entire industry and help revenue growth across the board. Two PA lawmakers, Reps. Rosita Youngblood and Jason Ortitay, recently said legislators never had any intent on placing a limit on skins. Skins question remains PA casinos have been invited to apply for online gambling licenses beginning April 16. But with the licenses for online slots, table games, and poker costing $10 million for all three or $4 million separately, the casinos will want to know where the state officially stands on the issue of skins before applying. The interactive gaming platform licenses come with a $1 million licensing fee attached. So, clearly online gambling software platform providers want an answer on skins sooner rather than later as well. The board is planning to approve the third set of online gambling regulations at its next meeting on April 2. It is expected the skins issue will be addressed in these new regulations. Key players in the fledgling PA online gambling industry certainly hope so. Gaming platform application a lengthy process In the meantime, there’s time to pour over the extensive 59-page interactive gaming platform application. It’s currently available on the board’s website. A document that size, and steps like fingerprinting and background checks to follow, suggest the process will be a long one. The licensing process for online gambling operators will likely run into September. As a result, it initially appeared online gambling sites could launch in PA by the fourth quarter. However, this June 4 deadline for interactive gaming platform licenses and the lengthy process to follow may change things. In fact, it may even push the state’s online gambling launch into 2019.

Revenue from table games inside Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos dipped slightly in January. According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGB) in February, table game revenues were down 2.2 percent from January of last year. The board also reported a 1.4 percent decrease in slots revenue earlier in the month. As a result, overall gaming revenue decreased approximately 1.6 percent compared to the same month last year. January 2018 table games revenue was $71,032,273 compared to $72,610,202 in January 2017. January 2018 slot machine revenue was $177,795,12 compared to $180,304,670 in the same month last year. Plus, statewide total gaming revenue reached $248,827,400 in January 2018 compared to $252,914,872 in January 2018. Total tax revenue generated at table games throughout the month was $11,421,189. For slots it hit $92,644,953. That means the state raked in a total of $104,066,142 in total tax revenue from casino operations in January of this year. Parx holds total gaming revenue lead Bensalem’s Parx Casino continued to lead the state in total gaming revenue with $45,598,476. Of course, this number was down a little over 2 percent from the $46,532,228 in total gaming revenue Parx posted in the same month last year. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem continued to lead the state in table game revenue as well, with $18,125,762. This helped Sands maintain its position as the runner-up in total gaming revenue with $41,130,613. Sands Bethlehem is home to 200 table games, including a 30-table poker room. No other casino in the state posted more than $30 million in total gaming revenue in January. Valley Forge posts biggest increase Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia just outside Philadelphia hosts just 50 of the state’s 1,267 table games in operation last month. However, the Category 3 resort casino posted the biggest increase in table game revenue throughout the month. In fact, Valley Forge posted $3,689,303 in table game revenue in January, compared to $2,530,463 in the same month last year. This represents a 45.8 percent increase. There has been one major change at Valley Forge in recent months that could explain the uptick. In November 2017, the casino paid a $1 million fee to remove the requirement that limited casino customers to hotel guests, membership holders and patrons of other resort amenities. Valley Forge Casino Resort also posted the largest increase in total gaming revenue throughout the month of January. Its $10,419,955 in total gaming revenue represented a 13.91 percent increase over the $9,147,869 the operation posted in the same month last year. The Meadows Casino about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh saw the largest drop in table game revenue throughout the month. Meadows posted $1,518,994 in table game revenue compared to $2,633,807 in January 2017. This represents a 42.33 percent decrease. The Meadows hosts 65 table games and a 14-table poker room. The Meadows Casino also posted the largest drop in total gaming revenue. The property posted $16,372,497 in total gaming revenue throughout the month, compared to $19,088,024 in January 2017. This represents a 14.23 decrease.

Yes, Pennsylvania, you’re getting closer to the day when you can go online, gamble, and play daily fantasy sports. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board met earlier this month to discuss temporary regulations for online casino-style gambling and daily fantasy sports, two forms of gambling borne from the Oct. 2017 gambling expansion bill.

Details of the board’s discussions are not available.

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The meeting is seen as another step toward the launch of the state’s online gambling industry. When the state’s landmark gambling expansion bill passed in October, there weren’t any concrete deadlines for the launch of online gambling.

Regulatory considerations, partnerships, and the practical side of how to launch online gambling were, at that point, conceptual and anecdotal. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware operated online gambling industries at the time the bill passed.

Each state’s nuances and regulations were no doubt a conglomerate template from which the PGCB’s regulators could work. However, the exact timeline and framework of their iGaming plan is still a mystery.

What we do know is that the board, along with casino operators and the lottery, have each hinted at launch dates, controversial interpretations of PA gambling law and upcoming regulatory application deadlines: A timeline of gambling regulation Over the past four months, the PGCB has taken the following actions, all of which are steps toward a launch. March: Temporary regulation meeting, launch of applications for iGaming March has been the busiest month, it seems, for the PGCB.

Aside from the meeting held on Mar. 9, the board launched the website through which iGaming service providers, manufacturers and suppliers could apply to participate in the state’s online gambling and VGT industry. The application includes 60 pages of documentation.

Carties can submit them starting April 1. February: Parx sends letter to PGCB asking for single skins; 888.com responds In February, Parx Casino sent a letter to the PGCB’s chief and senior counsel defending asking the board to limit the number of “skins”, which refers to the number online casinos a brick-and-mortar casino can operate under one online casino license. 888.com, the international online gambling operator, sent a letter earlier this month asking the opposite: that regulators allow casinos to launch multiple sites under one license.

One of those online casinos would bear the B&M casino’s name, while the others would bear the name and branding of operators like 888. January: PA Lottery hints they’ll launch their online platform in the spring Following suit with six other states, Pennsylvania lawmakers included an online lottery in their gambling bill. At the beginning of this year, a PGCB spokesperson said that online lottery games could be available as early as this spring.

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The state stands to earn more than $200 million in online lottery revenue in the first five years of operation.

However, there is no word yet on an exact launch date.

Pennsylvania casinos can apply for the state’s first online gambling licenses beginning April 16. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced Wednesday it will allow licensed Pennsylvania casinos to petition the board for Interactive Gaming Certificates for a period of 120 days beginning in Mid-April. After obtaining the certificate, the casinos will be authorized to offer online gambling in three different categories. The categories include:
Peer-to-peer interactive games where players compete against other players, including online poker.
Non-peer-to-peer interactive games where players compete against dealers, including online blackjack and other table games.
Non-peer-to-peer interactive games which simulate slot machines online. In the first 90 days, beginning April 16, existing Pennsylvania casinos can petition the board for an Interactive Gaming Certificates covering all three online gambling categories. These come with an authorization fee of $10 million. From the 91st day until the 120-day licensing period is over, existing Pennsylvania casinos can petition the board for an Interactive Gaming Certificates covering one or more separate online gambling categories. The authorization fee for each is set at $4 million. Qualified gaming entities next Once the 120-day licensing period is over, other qualified gaming entities may apply for any remaining Interactive Gaming Certificates. However, each qualified gaming entity must be deemed suitable by the board first. Pennsylvania law allows for the issuance of a total of 13 Interactive Gaming Certificates for each online gambling category. That makes for a total of 39 certificates. The board’s Executive Director Kevin O’Toole addressed PA online gambling’s timeline during a recent House budget hearing. He said the board is in the process of crafting temporary regulations which will govern online gambling operations in the state. The licensing process isn’t likely to conclude until September. Add that to the ongoing crafting of temporary regulations and it appears the first online gambling sites in the state won’t be up and running until the fourth quarter of 2018. Who wants a PA online gambling license? However, which existing PA casino operations are interested in offering online gambling in all three categories will be clear by July. Plus, it will be clear if existing casinos intend to snatch up all available licenses. Or, if outside entities will be allowed to enter the online gambling market in the state at all. Most experts agree the state’s casinos are likely to apply for most, if not all, available licenses. However, the state has yet to clarify whether it will limit the number of branded websites, or skins, online gambling operators can possess under each license. A decision on the skins issue could have a significant impact on the number of casinos applying for licenses. The board will meet again March 21 with the skins issue still unresolved.