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VOL. 7 | NO. 14 | Saturday, March 29, 2014

Daily Digest

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Harrah’s Tunica Casino Will Close in June

Harrah’s Tunica casino will close June 2, according to an announcement Wednesday, March 26, by Caesars Entertainment, the parent company of Harrah’s

The casino at 13615 Old Highway 61 North in Tunica includes a hotel.

“The difficult decision to close the property follows persistent declines in business and increased competition,” the written announcement reads.

Caesar’s Entertainment, the parent company of Harrah’s still has the Horseshoe Casino and the Tunica Roadhouse Casino and Hotel in Tunica County.

Employees at Harrah’s Tunica were told of the closing Wednesday, March 26, hours before the formal announcement.

“After exploring every other viable alternative, we have come to the difficult but necessary conclusion to close Harrah’s Tunica,” said John Payne, president of central markets and partnership development for Caesars, in the written statement.

Payne also cited the need to “ensure the long term viability of our remaining operations in the vicinity.”

Caesars added that it is working to identify new uses for the site and that Harrah’s employees in Tunica will be given preference in available jobs at other Caesar’s properties including the two other Tunica operations.

Caesar’s reported a seven percent drop in casino revenues across its operations in 2013, compared to 2012. That included a 5.1 percent drop in casino revenues for the fourth quarter of 2013.

In its year end earnings report to analysts in March, Caesar’s executives attributed the drop in casino revenues to “the continued impact of increased regional competition and continued softness in the domestic gaming market in certain U.S. regional markets outside of Nevada,” according to a company press release.

In February, Caesar’s closed its Golden Nugget casino in England.

And March 1, Caeasar’s announced it was selling four U.S. properties, including Bally’s Las Vegas and Harrah’s New Orleans to Caesar’s Growth Partners LLC.

Caesar’s Growth Partners is described by the company as an asset and entertainment company known for its use of interactive technology and online and mobile gaming.

Meals on Wheels Makes 20 Millionth Delivery

The 20 millionth meal from MIFA Meals on Wheels program is set to be delivered Friday, March 28, to Midtown senior Fred Deckard.

Started in 1976, Meals on Wheels is one of MIFA’s five senior programs designed to promote health, companionship, and keep people independent and living in their homes.

Meals on Wheels serves 1,200 local seniors five days a week by delivering hot meals to homebound elderly and to congregate sites. The program’s clients are nutritionally at risk due to illness or disability.

Nearly 3,700 older adults in Shelby County are food-insecure, according to a recent study conducted by the Plough Foundation, and one in 10 Tennessee seniors is-food insecure. This means they have limited physical and economic access to sufficient safe, nutritious food to fulfill their dietary needs

PDS Names Hancock New Headmaster

Steven E. Hancock will take the reins in August as the new headmaster of Presbyterian Day School.

Hancock’s selection by the PDS board was announced Wednesday, March 26, to succeed Lee Burns, who is leaving the East Memphis private school for boys to become head of school at The McCallie School in Chattanooga.

Hancock comes to Memphis from being assistant head of school for academic leadership and head of the middle school at Princeton Day School in New Jersey. Before that, he was performing arts department chair for nine years at Westminster School in Atlanta. While at Westminster, Hancock was founding director of the Odyssey Atlanta program, a privately funded program that works with kindergarten through 12th-grade students in Atlanta’s public schools.

Princeton Day School and Westminster School are both independent, private, co-educational schools.

Hancock comes to a campus that includes similar work across school-system boundaries: The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence, which is housed on the PDS campus, is a nonprofit professional development organization whose programs are open to teachers in public and private school systems in the region.

Hancock was selected from a field of more than 80 applicants.

Online Auction Raises $70,000 for UTHSC

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center grossed more than $70,000 from an online auction of more than 300 works by internationally known Memphis artist Paul Penczner.

The sale, which opened March 4 and finished with a rolling auction, drew 158 bidders. The works are part of a 400-piece collection the artist’s widow, Jolanda Penczner, donated to the UTHSC College of Medicine after his death in 2010 to establish an endowment in the Department of Physiology.

All proceeds go to cardiovascular research at UTHSC.

Cotton Museum to Host Scrabble Tournament

The Cotton Museum will host the Word Domination Scrabble Tournament to benefit the Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter School Sunday, March 30, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 pm.

Players will compete in three rounds of Scrabble, with prizes awarded to the three top-scoring teams. Registration for a team of up to four people is $100, or individuals can sign up for $25 and be assigned to a team. The museum will provide Scrabble supplies, brunch cocktails and treats.

For additional small donations, teams may enlist the help of Scrabble experts, sneak a peek at the official Scrabble dictionary, or play an expert.

Registration, sponsorship and donation information can be found on The Cotton Museum’s website, memphiscottonmuseum.org.

Coleman Resigns as County Corrections Head

Shelby County Corrections Division director James Coleman has resigned effective immediately, citing “personal reasons.”

Coleman resigned Tuesday, with Shelby County government announcing his resignation Wednesday, March 26.

Coleman, a veteran corrections expert, was appointed director of the corrections division in 2010 by then-Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. He also served as chief jailer during current county Mayor Mark Luttrell’s tenure as Shelby County Sheriff.

Luttrell is preparing to appoint an interim replacement. Until he does, county chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy will be in charge of the division directly.

Tunica CVB Unveils Redesigned Website

The Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau has launched a new destination website.

The redesigned site remains at TunicaTravel.com, and visitors to the site will notice enhancements to the overall design, navigation and comprehensive information related to Tunica. The official destination blog, Down the Road, and video channel, TunicaTV, also are part of the new site.

The site includes responsive design features that will learn user preferences to tailor the site for delivering content across all platforms. It was developed by the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau in conjunction with Memphis-based agencies Sullivan Branding and Vanick Digital.

University of Memphis Signs Licensing Deal

The University of Memphis has signed an exclusive agreement with Licensing Resource Group, a trademark management company specializing in collegiate licensing and branding, allowing LRG to represent the university and its domestic licensing program.

LRG has been hired to help maximize exposure opportunities for Memphis products and to assist in the day-to-day management of the university’s trademark licensing program. LRG will manage this program regionally from Winston-Salem.

Contracts to Buy Homes Fell in Feb.

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell for the eighth straight month in February, a sign that real estate sales will likely slow over the next few months.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 0.8 percent to 93.9.

The index has fallen 10.5 percent over the past 12 months.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.

Higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a limited supply of homes have slowed sales since the index peaked in June. Snowstorms appear to have crimped purchases in the Northeast during February.

Most economists expect sales to rebound as the weather improves and the spring buying season begins. But 2014 has started at a far weaker pace than last year. The higher prices and loan rates appear to have made homes unaffordable for some would-be buyers.

The Realtors said last week that sales declined 0.4 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million. It was the sixth decline in seven months. The trade group forecasts that sales will slip to 5 million this year from 5.1 million in 2013.

EPE Files Permit for Studio Near Graceland

Elvis Presley Enterprises has filed a $670,000 permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to build a new studio building on land north of Graceland.

The permit, which lists Flintco Inc. as the general contractor, comes about four months after New York-based Authentic Brands Group – the company that owns Elvis Presley’s intellectual property and the rights to operate Graceland – announced plans for upgrades around the mansion.

The property at 3674 Elvis Presley Blvd., which served as a car lot in the past, is among several parcels Elvis Presley Enterprises bought in 2006, just before the onset of the national economic downturn.

Several apartment complexes on both sides of Elvis Presley Boulevard were also purchased and the units later demolished as CKX Inc., which at that time owned 85 percent of EPE, announced plans for a $250 million overhaul that would leave the mansion intact but create a resort-style area of entertainment, hotels and restaurants around it.

That plan stalled, and CKX sold its majority ownership of Elvis Presley Enterprises to Apollo Global Management, which rebranded its efforts as CORE Media.

Authentic Brands Group bought the assets in November, and executives immediately announced general plans for the area around the mansion similar to the CKX plan.

The scale of the plan still isn’t known, with Authentic Brands executives saying they could release more details in August.

Bank of Bartlett Launches New Site

Bank of Bartlett has launched a new website at bankofbartlett.com that aims to provide a seamless and responsive banking experience across smartphones, tablets and computers.

New features including online applications for opening an account, educational modules that explain things such as the differences in mortgage loans, and a glossary with simple definitions of mortgage terminology. The site also provides access to personal accounts, up-to-date interest rates and bank branch information, among other things.

Bailey Files for Circuit Court Return

Former Shelby County Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey filed his qualifying petition Wednesday, March 26, to run for Circuit Court Judge Division 3 in the August judicial elections.

Bailey filed one week before the April 3 deadline for candidates in those nonpartisan races and as well as the state and federal primaries on the ballot. He also had pulled a petition to possibly run for judge of Circuit Court Division 1.

But Division 1 and Division 5 of the court would be abolished under a bill sponsored by state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown that’s still moving in the Tennessee Legislature

Bailey is one of 10 possible candidates who pulled petitions to run in Division 3, but the first to file for the office, according to the Shelby County Election Commission tally.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen filed for re-election Monday, according to election commission records.

And with the restructuring of the Shelby County Schools board to nine members effective with the August elections, two incumbent board members, Chris Caldwell and Billy Orgel, in Districts 1 and 8 respectively, filed for re-election Monday. Seven of the nine school board positions are on the August ballot as nonpartisan elections. The District 2 and 4 seats are up for election in two years.

Revenue Drops at River Casinos

Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos won a bit more from gamblers in February but that increase couldn’t overcome bigger revenue declines at casinos along the Mississippi River.

Mississippi Department of Revenue figures show statewide casino revenue to $182 million in February, down fell 3 percent from 2013’s second month.

Revenue has fallen in 18 of the last 20 months.

The 12 coastal casinos won $89.4 million, up less than 1 percent from February 2013. The 18 river casinos won $93 million, down 6 percent from a year earlier.

The numbers exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which aren’t required to report winnings to the state.

Millions Could Get Health Sign-Up Extension

Millions of Americans could get extra time to enroll for taxpayer-subsidized coverage this year under President Barack Obama’s health care law, allowing the administration to boost sign-ups and the political fortunes of Democrats under attack over the program’s troubles.

The Health and Human Services Department Wednesday posted two documents that detail “special enrollment periods” for broad groups of people to access the new health insurance markets.

Those who’ve started an application, but weren’t able to finish before the March 31 open enrollment deadline, will get a limited amount of time to sign up for coverage that would take effect May 1.

Additionally, people in 10 general categories of special circumstances would also get additional time to apply – generally a 60-day period.

Paragon Bank Gets New Chairman

Paragon National Bank chairman Napoleon Cassibry III has stepped down, effective March 19, after serving as board chair since the bank’s inception in January 2005.

Replacing him as chairman is Craig Weiss, also one of the bank’s original board members. Cassibry is a senior vice president of Vining Sparks IBG LP, where he’s worked since 1983, and he’ll continue to serve as a Paragon board member and as chairman of the asset/liability committee.

The move will allow him to focus more on his travels and other personal endeavors, the bank said.

Ogle Appointed County Historian

The Shelby County Commission has appointed Jimmy Ogle, chairman of the Shelby County Historical Commission, as the new county historian.

Ogle, who is also general manager of Beale Street Landing and the Riverfront Development Corp., serves a six-year term in the unpaid position.

Ogle was selected Monday, March 24, in a process in which University of Memphis history professor Charles Crawford and Faith Christian Academy teacher Lauren Beaupre, who has also been a fellow at the Tennessee Center for Historic Preservation, were nominated.

Ogle, who succeeds the late Ed Williams, is only the third person to hold the position of county historian and the first to serve with a specific term of office.

In other action Monday, commissioners accepted two federal grant contracts through the Tennessee Department of Transportation for two road repaving projects.

The first grant is $187,500 to be used for the repaving of Raleigh Lagrange Road from Macon to Appling roads. The project will also use $62,500 in state gas tax funding.

The second grant is $225,000 for repaving Macon Road between Houston Levee and Pisgah roads, with another $75,000 in state gas tax funding also allocated for the project.

The commission also approved a $1.4 million contract with CS3 Inc. for two boiler replacements in the Criminal Justice Center and the Shelby County Courthouse.

ServiceMaster Files for IPO

ServiceMaster Global Holdings Inc., the parent company of The ServiceMaster Co., announced Monday, March 24, it has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering of its common stock.

ServiceMaster Global is an indirect parent company of the residential and commercial services provider headquartered in Memphis and it plans to use proceeds from the offering to repay its indebtedness.

JPMorgan Securities LLC, Credit Suisse Securities LLC, Goldman Sachs and Co. and Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC are the joint book-running managers and representatives of the underwriters.

ServiceMaster’s SEC filing says the company intends to apply to list the stock under symbol SERV, but it does not list an exchange.

The offer is being made through a prospectus only.

Food Truck Fridays Returning to Dixon

April 4 marks the return of Food Truck Fridays at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.

Each Friday from April through September, Memphis mobile restaurants will serve food there, and menu items will be offered at regular prices, with beverages also available to purchase.

Admission to the gardens will be free during food truck hours, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and shaded outdoor seating is available.

US New-Home Sales Drop in February

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell in February to a five-month low, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Sales fell 3.3 percent nationally to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000 units, the lowest level since September. New-home sales fell 1.1 percent compared with February 2013. The median price of a new home last month fell 1.2 percent from February 2013, the biggest drop since June 2012.

Home sales for November and December were revised up by 14,000, offsetting January’s drop.

The harsh winter weather played a role in the slowdown, especially in the Northeast, where sales dropped 32.4 percent. Sales fell 1.5 percent in the South, which was hit by unusually cold weather, increased 36.7 percent in the Midwest and fell 15.9 percent in the West.

Effort to Rewrite Tenn. Whiskey Law Fails

State lawmakers on Tuesday decided not to rewrite the legal definition of Tennessee whiskey this session, meaning the rules supported by Jack Daniel’s will govern other distillers in the state for at least another year.

House and Senate committees voted Tuesday to consider efforts to rewrite or repeal the law in summer study panels after the legislative session ends.

Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett, who has heavily lobbied lawmakers to uphold the current law, welcomed the decision to put off suggested changes such as removing a requirement to age whiskey in unused oak barrels.

“We stand behind last year’s law. We truly believe it’s best for Tennessee whiskey all over the world,” Arnett said. “And for the players who’ve located in the state of Tennessee, we need to uphold these quality standards.”

The debate has pitched two global liquor giants against each other. Jack Daniel’s, which is owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman Corp., first proposed the establishment of a Tennessee whiskey law last year. George Dickel is owned by British conglomerate Diageo PLC, which led this year’s attempts to dismantle that law.

Diageo vice president Guy L. Smith IV said he hopes the study committee gives serious consideration to changing the law.

“Rather than having one company dictate for everyone, we can do this the right way and come together in an open forum to discuss how to create the best standards for Tennessee whiskey,” Smith said in a release.

Moore Appeals to Chancery for Place on Ballot

Former Shelby County Commissioner Edith Ann Moore is taking her quest for a place on the May county primary ballot to Shelby County Chancery Court.

Attorneys for Moore filed suit in court late last week against the Shelby County Election Commission seeking to restore her name to the Democratic primary for Shelby County Commission District 6.

Moore’s name was first approved for the ballot by the Election Commission despite questions about whether she lives in the district. But last week the commission reconsidered and disqualified her from running after five residents of the street where she owns a house said she did not live there. Early voting in advance of the May 6 election day begins April 16.

Las Vegas Company to Buy Tunica Casino

Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts has agreed to buy Fitzgerald’s Casino in Tunica, Miss., from Majestic Star Casino LLC.

The purchase price is $62 million, exclusive of working capital and other adjustments, fees and expenses as of the closing date. The agreement is subject to Full House obtaining financing for the acquisition within 90 days of its execution, obtaining regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions.

Full House said in a news release Monday that it expects to close the deal during the third quarter of 2014.

“This property fits our acquisition strategy perfectly,” Andre M. Hilliou, chairman and chief executive officer of Full House said in a statement.

“The property has historically been well run and maintained under the current management team; however, we believe that we can leverage our knowledge and proven track record of managing properties catering to local customers in competitive environments to further improve the profitability of the Fitz Casino,” Hilliou said.

The Fitz Casino has 38,000 square feet of gambling space with 1,100 slot and video poker machines and 20 table games. The property includes a 506-room hotel with 68 suites, a fine dining restaurant, buffet, quick service restaurant, two casino bars and an 8,100-square-foot multi-purpose event center.

Full House Resorts is a regional casino company that owns, develops and manages gambling facilities.

Full House owns the Rising Star Casino Resort in Rising Sun, Ind., the Silver Slipper Casino in Hancock County, Miss., and Stockman’s Casino in Fallon, Nev. Full House also operates the Grand Lodge Casino at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Village, Nev., under a lease agreement, and has a management agreement with the Pueblo of Pojoaque for the operations of the Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort in Santa Fe, N.M., along with the Pueblo’s Cities of Gold casino facilities.

Crowdfunding on Tap for Local Filmmakers

Since August, retired financial executives from the Memphis chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) have been working in partnership with leaders from the Memphis-Shelby County Film and Television Commission to start an educational program for filmmakers.

The goal is to launch a program that guides local filmmakers in a new way to raise capital for film related to President Barack Obama’s jobs bills, thanks to which online investing in films will be possible early next year through equity crowdfunding.

Matt Heiter of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC is keeping the group up to speed on new developments in crowdfunding regulations. SCORE’s crowdfunding co-directors will lead a financial workshop in early 2015 designed to prepare filmmakers for the equity crowdfunding experience. Those co-directors are Reese Austin, formerly managing director of institutional equity with Morgan Keegan & Co Inc., and Ramkrishna Kasargod, formerly managing director of equity research with Morgan Keegan.

SCORE board member Jack Gibson will discuss film business plans and producer Mike Ryan – whose films include “40 Shades of Blue” – will discuss film budgeting. For a fee, the workshop will be open to Shelby County residents.

PROPERTY SALES 97 418 8,253
MORTGAGES 112 508 9,293
BUILDING PERMITS 194 1,059 18,126
BANKRUPTCIES 46 208 5,367