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December was a good month for casinos

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff


December was a good month for casinos

The Omicron surge apparently did little to deter gamblers from hitting the slots and tables at the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett last month. New figures reported by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission show that the casino had its second-best month ever, in terms of gambling revenue, since opening in mid-2019. Owner Wynn Resorts reported $62.4 million in gross gaming revenue for the month, second only to the $62.8 million reported for October. However, in October, the sales numbers were lifted in part by the fact there were five weekends, an anomaly that did not recur in December. The revenue last month translates to $15.6 million in state taxes, based on the state’s 25 percent tax rate. Encore’s slots revenue was particularly slow after it opened in 2019 but the casino operators readjusted layouts and payouts to draw more gamblers; the latest monthly numbers indicate that those efforts are paying off. The state’s other full-service casino, MGM Springfield, also reported a strong month, with $22.2 million in gross gambling revenue. That meant December was its fifth best month since opening in mid-2018. Meanwhile, the Plainridge Park Casino, a slot machine parlor, reported $11 million in slots revenue for the month, making it the slowest month since February 2021 for that facility. — JON CHESTO



Head of State Street Global Advisors to retire

State Street Corp. said that Cyrus Taraporevala, president and chief executive of State Street Global Advisors, will retire this year. Taraporevala, who joined State Street’s investment-management arm in 2016 and has been in his current roles since 2017, will stay on until the Boston-based firm finds a successor, according to a statement Wednesday. State Street Global Advisors is known for its exchange-traded funds, including the $430 billion SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust. During Taraporevala’s tenure, State Street’s investment-management pretax earnings grew by 67 percent, the company said. Before becoming CEO of the unit, he held a variety of senior leadership roles, including heading up the global institutional client, product, and marketing teams. State Street Global Advisors had $4.1 trillion in assets under management as of Dec. 31. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Construction ticked up in December

New US home construction unexpectedly strengthened in December to the fastest pace in nine months, led by apartment projects and suggesting builders found some success navigating shortages of materials and labor. Residential starts rose 1.4 percent to a 1.70 million annualized rate from a 1.68 million pace in November, according to government data released Wednesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for a 1.65 million pace. Applications to build, a proxy for future construction, jumped 9.1 percent to an annualized 1.87 million units in December, the highest since January of last year. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


UnitedHealth’s profit jumps as it expands into care

UnitedHealth Group’s fourth-quarter profit soared as the nation’s largest health insurance provider branched deeper into offering care as well as covering the bills. The health care giant said Wednesday that operating earnings from its Optum division grew nearly 10 percent to $3.4 billion in the quarter. Optum runs one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits managers and provides care through its OptumHealth network of doctors, clinic, and surgery centers. That segment served 100 million people last year and saw its revenue per customer increase by a third. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Chase teams up with Instacart on new credit card

JPMorgan Chase will introduce a credit card with Instacart later this year, the first foray into grocery for the country’s largest co-brand credit-card issuer. The card will operate on Mastercard Inc.’s network, all three companies said Wednesday in a statement. The firms didn’t disclose what rewards would be offered. Activity on Instacart boomed during the pandemic’s widespread lockdowns, as consumers looked to the grocery-delivery startup for help with stocking up on everyday items. The app is among brands looking to make a foray into co-brand credit cards. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Sony takes a hit on news of Microsoft’s blockbuster acquisition

Sony shares fell 13 percent in Tokyo on Wednesday, their biggest drop since October 2008, after PlayStation rival Microsoft announced a $69 billion deal to acquire games publisher Activision Blizzard. The blockbuster acquisition escalates Microsoft’s spending spree to secure intellectual property assets for its Xbox Game Pass service, wiping $20 billion off Sony’s valuation in a day. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Higher prices don’t hurt Procter & Gamble’s bottom line

Shoppers shrugged off rising prices last year on products like Pampers diapers and Charmin toilet paper, the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble said Wednesday in announcing a jump in its second-quarter earnings. The company reported that price increases helped drive strong revenue for products like Crest toothpaste and Tide detergent, pushing earnings up 9 percent to $4.2 billion in the October-to-December quarter from a year earlier. — NEW YORK TIMES


Florida’s orange crop expected to be smallest in decades

Florida is on pace to produce the smallest crop of oranges in more than 75 years, according to a forecast released this month. The Sunshine State is on pace to produce 44.5 million 90-pound boxes of oranges during the current season, according to a forecast released last week by the US Department of Agriculture. That is a 1.5 million box reduction from the previous forecast in December. If the current forecast holds true through the rest of the citrus growing season, it will be the smallest orange crop since the 1944-1945 season when the state produced 42.3 million boxes of oranges. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Philanthropies to spend millions to boost news coverage in Houston

Five philanthropies plan to spend more than $20 million to bolster news coverage in Houston and create what they say will be one of the largest local nonprofit news organizations in the country. The newsroom is anticipated to launch later this year or early 2023 on multiple platforms, the donors said Wednesday in a news release. The goal, they said, is to “elevate the voices of Houstonians” and address information needs identified through focus groups, community listening sessions and multi-language surveys conducted with local residents. Ann Stern, president and CEO of the Houston Endowment, said her organization teamed up with Houston-based Kinder Foundation and Arnold Ventures about two years ago to commission the research from the American Journalism Project, which is giving $1.5 million in seed funding towards the project and supporting similar initiatives across the country. The Houston Endowment and Kinder are each pitching in $7.5 million, according to Stern. Meanwhile, Arnold Ventures, the philanthropic investment fund backed by billionaires Laura and John Arnold, and the journalism funder Knight Foundation are giving $4 million and $250,000, respectively, she said. — ASSOCIATED PRESS