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Skip the logic lesson, Spock, hand me a quarter

Attention “Star Trek” nerds: engage at warp speed or beam yourselves to Harrah’s Entertainment casinos in Las Vegas. The company is rolling out “Star Trek”-themed slot machines built by WMS Industries.

The equipment manufacturer unveiled the games at last month’s Global Gaming Expo. The machines are based on the iconic 1960s television series and feature video snippets from the original 79 episodes.

The placement, estimated at 120 machines, was a significant step for WMS.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Bill Lerner, however, thought the move might signal a loosening of Harrah’s opposition to participation games, which have casino operators share gaming revenues with the slot machine manufacturers.

Harrah’s removed hundreds of participation slot machines from its Las Vegas casinos his year, including “Wheel of Fortune” games operated with International Game Technology. Harrah’s executives wanted to change the revenue share percentages with slot makers.

“It is our view that unique gaming technology and content will find a way onto casino floors irrespective of economic environment,” Lerner said.

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Gaming revenues generated by regional casino operators have been hammered in 2008 because the poor economy has affected casino customers’ discretionary spending. But one state bucks the trend.

Pennsylvania’s seven gambling sites recorded gaming revenues of $131 million in November, a 29 percent increase from last year. Racinos and slot parlors operated 16,793 slot machines last month, 32 percent more than a year ago.

Despite the tough economy, Pennsylvania, which passed gaming laws allowing for up 65,000 slot machines in the state, continues to expand.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs opened a $210 million expansion in July, adding 1,300 games. The Meadows racetrack is adding a $160 million permanent casino in early spring with 3,000 slots.

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Travel Times was less than impressed by The Venetian Macau, opened by Las Vegas Sands Corp. in August 2007 for $2.4 billion. A recent trip to the 3,000-room hotel-casino that anchors Macau’s Cotai Strip left the reviewer somewhat underwhelmed. The travel item ran in The Miami Herald last week.

The reviewer observed that more than half of 560,000-square-foot casino’s gaming tables were empty. Making a hotel reservation took more than 20 minutes because the clerk spoke little English.

The 1,803-square-foot suite was not impressive.

“The bedroom, with its French drapes over the head of the bed, resembled the setting for a Las Vegas bacchanalia,” the reviewer wrote.

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. E-mail him at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or call 702-477-3871.

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