Issue 250
June 27- July 03, 2005
Volume 5
page 1
 

This Issue

Gaming News

First Casino is Planned for Country

Casino deal tentatively approved

Tabcorp Joins in on Singapore Casino Bid

Irish Rehab Lotteries to Launch on Parlay Bingo through NMLS

Isle of Capri Casinos to celebrate opening of Biloxi, Miss., hotel tower

Show Time Jay Leno performs at Harrahs Atlantic City..

Column Global Gaming Epo to be Bigger than Ever By David Waddell.

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First Casino in Country is Planned

As Reported by Virgin Island Daily News

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Big-time gambling is about to come to this Idaho-sized Caribbean nation of about 740,000 people.

That's the word from Manzoor Nadir, 49, Guyana's minister of tourism, industry and commerce, who mentioned it at a briefing here in the nation's capital.

He said this English-speaking nation would have its "first casino within three years and a 320-room hotel close by the Pegasus Hotel. The contract was signed a few weeks ago. It's a significant investment."

He added that China's government was building a new convention center and a new cricket stadium just east of the city and that Canadian investors were building a 150-room hotel "a stone's throw" from the convention center.

Nadir wouldn't name the investors or amount of investment in the new casino and hotel - it'll be the country's first casino and by far the biggest hotel. But he said they were New Yorkers who did work at Kennedy Airport and had a good reputation in construction.

Pascal Mongeau, general manager of the Meridien chain's 132-room Pegasus Hotel, confirmed that a New York contracting-engineering firm would be building the new casino and hotel on a site just west of the Pegasus, where the Caribbean Sea and the Demarara River join. Mongeau, a Canadian who's been managing the Pegasus just over seven months, added that the worldwide Meridien chain was negotiating to run the new hotel.

Nadir, at his briefing, also said the international airport 26 miles outside Georgetown was being expanded, with the road improved to cut travel time to the airport to 45 minutes. He added that Guyana, in its search for tourists, also was pushing for more yachts and small cruise ships.

For years Guyana has been trying to promote what it calls "eco-tourism," meaning the natural wonders in the huge tropical forest that covers most of this 83,000-square-mile nation. This includes Kaieteur, at 741 feet the world's largest single-drop waterfall, and hiking paths laden with parrots, butterflies and geckos (lizards) in jungles at overnight stops on the Essequibo River and other waterways.

But nothing has really worked. Though the Guyanese government has been pushing tourism more than 15 years the airport has only about 125,000 arrivals yearly, according to Nadir, and of those "only about 5,000 are first-time visitors."

One reason for this is Guyana's excellent education system. Schooling is compulsory through age 15, and 98.8 percent of the population is literate. Many young Guyanese go on to Guyana University or colleges outside the country, get higher degrees and migrate to other English-speaking nations or islands.

Nadir said there were 200,000 Guyanese in Canada alone, which is why Universal Airlines and Air Canada are expanding or starting flights here from Canada. The Guyanese like to come home to see family.

Current population estimates of Guyana vary from 706,000 to 765,000, but no one denies that there's been a Guyanese "diaspora" in the last 30 to 40 years.

Most Guyanese live on a narrow stretch of Caribbean coast, the only exception being many of the nation's 60,000 Amerindians. Georgetown has close to 250,000 people and is the nation's only real city.

The Pegasus, opened in 1982 and taken over by Meridien shortly before the turn of the century, is the country's largest hotel. There are smaller hotels - guest houses might be a more appropriate word - but there are fewer than 600 hotel rooms in all Guyana.

This could change with the opening of a major casino-hotel operation.

English-speaking Trinidad and well-to-do Barbados are nearby and some U.S. and Canadian citizens might be interested in exploring a new country. Manzoor Nadir is hopeful.



Casino deal tentatively approved
As reported by the The Courier-Journal

FRENCH LICK , Indiana - State regulators gave conditional approval yesterday to an investment group led by Bloomington philanthropist Bill Cook to build the state's 11th and final riverboat casino in French Lick.

The Indiana Gaming Commission unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the agency's staff to complete an agreement in the next two months with the group, known as Blue Sky Casino LLC.

Blue Sky includes the Cook Group Inc., a medical device manufacturer owned by Bill Cook, and the Lauth Group Inc., an Indianapolis real-estate development company. The casino will be operated by Majestic Star Casino of Gary.

Blue Sky -- the only applicant for the venture -- has proposed a $70 million casino with 1,000 slot machines in a three-acre lake beside the French Lick Springs Resort Hotel.
It also intends to sink nearly $150 million into restoring the historic French Lick hotel and another at nearby West Baden.

The Blue Sky casino and 200 renovated rooms in the French Lick hotel could be open by fall 2006.
But regulators announced yesterday -- to loud groans from Orange County residents in a packed ballroom at the French Lick resort -- that before giving the project final approval they need to review documents outlining the financing for the venture.

They also lack other key contracts, including the casino management agreement between Majestic Star and Blue Sky.

Once all the documents are submitted, probably by mid-August, the state will start negotiations on an operating contract, said Ernest Yelton, the gaming commission's executive director.
Orange County supporters -- dressed in blue T-shirts -- responded with loud applause when the commission voted.

After the meeting, Butch Cox, a self-employed concrete contractor, said he was excited and relieved by the vote.

"This is what the (area) needs," he said. "It's been such a long wait."

Although gambling regulators say they're confident about Blue Sky's financial ability to invest such a large amount in the economically depressed county, some gaming commission members expressed skepticism yesterday about the venture's revenue forecast.

Donald Vowels, an Evansville lawyer who has served on the commission since its inception 10 years ago, asked why annual projections had grown from $60 million for a casino proposed last year by Donald Trump's company to Blue Sky's $115.8 million.

Vowels also noted that a gaming-market analysis by The Innovation Group of New Orleans projected that nearly 80 percent of the patrons would be people who live within 50 miles of the casino and come for a day trip, not an overnight stay.

Given that other Ohio River casinos draw from the same region, he asked, "Isn't that counterproductive to what we're trying to do here?"

He added, "Your marketing area will overlap significantly with the other casinos."

Robert Lauth, president of the Lauth Group, defended the projections. He said Blue Sky believes that the two resorts and the state's smallest casino can draw from a larger area, attracting gamblers from communities up to 200 miles away.

As for the increase in revenues, Lauth said Blue Sky expects to sell French Lick and West Baden as a unique destination resort for groups and conventioneers.

Blue Sky representatives conceded that overcoming the casino's remote location, at least 30 miles from the nearest interstate highway, will require a savvy marketing and promotional strategy.

Cash promotions, car giveaways and an aggressive approach to building a player database will form their core approach, said Christina Felts, corporate director of marketing for Majestic Star.

Commission member Ann Marie Bochnowski said residents shouldn't take the commission members' questions about the project as criticism.

She said the commission was making an honest effort to ensure the community gets the best contractor for the project.

"A year ago, we thought we were making your dream come true," she said. "Hopefully, today will be the beginning of the real dream."

Vowels added in a brief interview after the meeting that he raised the questions publicly because he has real concerns about Blue Sky's projections.

Nonetheless, he said, all the competitors for the existing five Ohio River casino licenses clearly understood that the state originally envisioned 11 riverboats -- six in Southern Indiana and five on Lake Michigan.
So their revenue forecasts should have taken into account the planned 11th casino in rural Southern Indiana.

Orange County's leaders have worked since 1991, two years before casino gambling was legalized in Indiana, to bring gambling back to the French Lick area.

Illegal gambling thrived in the early 20th century when the Springs Valley lured the rich and famous to high-end resorts and healing mineral springs.

Several residents reminded the commission yesterday that they were beginning to wonder if their casino would ever become a reality. The plans derailed last year after the state gaming commission chose Trump to develop a $110 million project.

The company's bankruptcy filing last fall left it unable to meet deadlines, and Trump eventually withdrew under pressure from gambling regulators.

Yelton said yesterday he has no concerns about Blue Sky's ability to line up the financing quickly and get started on the project.

"The financing is not going to be an issue," he said.

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