Issue 259
August 29 - September 4, 2005
Volume 5
page 1
 

This Issue

Gaming News

California Indian tribe pitches a new casino

George Clooney Making a Side Bet in Vegas

Casino Closure Order Issued

Defunct Casino Princesa sold

West Ham FC Online Casino Launch Nears

Show Time The Spin Doctors appear at Foxwoods.

Column You got to know when to hold'em By Mark Pilarski.

Check out our entertainment highlights & upcoming tournaments

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California Indian tribe pitches a new casino
As reported by The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif

California - A lawyer for the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians said Monday the tribe hopes to relocate its major gaming operation from reservation land near San Jacinto to west of Hemet.

The tribe has preliminary plans to build a casino, a 400-room hotel, restaurants and entertainment venues on the 128-acre site near Diamond Valley Lake that it stands to gain from a 2003 lawsuit settlement, Karl Johnson, the tribe's attorney, said at a meeting.

He said the tribe would relocate its gaming operations but would keep the existing casino as a "small operation," possibly making it a bingo hall.

The tribe's announcement came at a town hall meeting organized by the city of Hemet on Monday night where the public heard about a proposed settlement between the tribe and city concerning issues, such as police and fire protection that would be provided to a new casino.

Also detailed were the tribe's plans for the proposed new casino and the conditions city officials' want met before endorsing federal legislation that is required for the tribe to acquire the land for the casino. The Hemet City Council attended the meeting Monday but did not make any decisions. The council will consider the proposed agreement at a meeting at 7 p.m. today.

About 150 people attended Monday's two-hour meeting. About 10 expressed concerns about the proposed agreement between the tribe and city.

About a half dozen residents of Winchester, an unincorporated area near the site of the proposed casino, were angry that Hemet officials did not include them when negotiating with the tribe over the 128-acre settlement. Others disputed the economic benefits the tribe said the casino would bring.

Supporters of the proposed agreement said the new casino would create jobs and provide other economic benefits. An economic analysis done by the tribe showed the new casino would create and additional $235 million in economic activity per year and an additional 1,130 jobs.

The Soboba tribe stands to acquire 128 acres at the intersection of Domenigoni Parkway and Winchester Road as part of a settlement proposed in 2003 to resolve a longtime dispute with local water districts.

The tribe hopes to make the site part of its reservation, which is about 12 miles away. That would give the tribe legal standing to build a casino there. The tribe, however, needs an act of Congress to open a casino on the land. The congressional representatives who represent the Soboba Reservation, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, and Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, have said they will not introduce legislation until all involved parties, including the city of Hemet, come to terms with the tribe.

Lake Hemet, Eastern Municipal and Metropolitan water districts and the city of San Jacinto are also those involved.

Hemet officials say the development would bring traffic and safety problems near the city.

The city will consider dropping its opposition if the tribe agrees to help pay millions of dollars for several projects to minimize the effects of the casino on the city.

Projects include widening Domenigoni Parkway and Sanderson Bridge and paying for three police officers and half the cost of operating a fire station.


George Clooney Making a Side Bet in Vegas
As reported by thh Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - In the film "Ocean's Eleven," George Clooney robbed a casino. Now he's going to build one.Clooney, nightclub owner Rande Gerber and two Las Vegas real estate companies today will announce plans to construct a casino, boutique hotel and sprawling condominium project on Harmon Avenue, just blocks from the Strip, in an area that has become one of the town's hottest development corners.

This won't be a resort for the tank top, shorts and fanny-pack crowd that plies the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard to gape at the volcano, pirate ships and lions that are used to lure visitors to the Strip casinos, the actor said.

"We have this romantic notion of a place where you put on a jacket or a dress to go to dinner," said Clooney, 44. "We will have some sort of dress code so that it will feel like you are walking into a more formal Las Vegas of a different age or a classic Monte Carlo casino."

Although Clooney will be working with joint-venture partners Related Las Vegas and Centra Properties, both experienced developers, he acknowledged that he had no true expertise in developing sophisticated hotels. But the actor noted that over the years he had stayed in some posh properties and that he owned a villa on Lake Como in Italy.

"I may be the novice of this group," Clooney said, "but I have a good idea of what I like in Las Vegas, and it is all about class."

The 300-room hotel will be the centerpiece of a $3-billion, 25-acre project on Harmon Avenue just west of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Spanish-themed Las Ramblas development will take shape on a section of Harmon that is about to be transformed by massive investment in high-profile projects.

Last week, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and developer Edge Resorts announced plans to build a $1.7-billion hotel and condominium complex on a 21-acre Harmon parcel just west of Las Ramblas. To the east, Hard Rock plans $1.2 billion of construction, including 800 condominium-hotel units, 400 residential units, dozens of bungalows, restaurants and shops.

Nearby on Harmon, MGM Mirage and Turnberry Associates are in the middle of a $1-billion venture building 1,727 condo-hotel units. And where Harmon intersects the Strip, MGM Mirage plans its $4.7-billion Project CityCenter, with a 4,000-room casino-resort, three smaller hotels, a 550,000-square-foot shopping complex and 1,650 condo units.

"We are seeing the development of a perpendicular Strip," said Reagan Silber, one of Edge Resorts' partners. "There is easily more than $10 billion of development planned for this area."

Whether the so-called Harmon Avenue Corridor east of Interstate 15 develops into a full-fledged "Striplet" is a matter of debate among Vegas cognoscenti. But what is clear, said veteran developer Steve Molasky, is that the traditional Strip is bulging east and west.

"Everything in this area is going to turn over for development," said Molasky, who is completing plans to build a hotelcasino resort on Flamingo Road that will back up to several of the Harmon Avenue projects.

That has sent property values along the side streets close to the Strip soaring to levels seen for prime Las Vegas Boulevard real estate as recently as two years ago, said James Stuart, co-founder of Centra. His group, for example, paid $83.7 million - or $3.3 million an acre - to assemble the Las Ramblas parcel in March. Edge Resorts assembled the Starwood development parcel from December to March, paying $108.2 million, or about $5.1 million an acre, for the real estate.

The announcement of the Las Ramblas project, which will include the hotel, 1,326 condo-hotel units and 2,764 residential condos when it is built out, comes amid a boom in high-rise condominium construction in Las Vegas. The hotel will be built as part of one of the condo towers. That building and three additional towers at Las Ramblas are scheduled to open in 2008.

Although several developers in town have cut sweetheart deals with Hollywood celebrities for units in their high-rise condo projects, Clooney and Gerber say they are "significant investors" in the Las Ramblas development. Stuart said their commitment would run to "tens of millions of dollars," but none of the parties provided more details. Moreover, the pair is taking an active role in design and business decisions, Stuart said.

The idea of actually owning a casino came out of conversations between Clooney and Gerber when the actor was staying at the Bellagio filming "Ocean's Eleven," which came out in 2001. Clooney said the friends thought it would be "cool" to own something like the Bellagio, although much smaller and tailored to their own tastes.

The friends prepared a presentation and talked with Las Vegas Sands Corp., owner of the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, and a second, unnamed casino company.

"Everyone was interested, but it seemed like our hotel would end up as just an amenity in a 4,000-room resort. It wouldn't really be ours," said Gerber, who with his brother, Scott, developed the Whiskey Bar chain of nightspots.

Gerber, however, knew some of the Related executives because they worked in the Time Warner Center in New York, where he owned the Stone Rose bar.

"They would come into the bar, so I just called them up," said Gerber, husband of model Cindy Crawford.

It turned out that Related was trolling for Las Vegas projects, and after months of negotiations signed Clooney and Gerber to the deal. The two believed that the Related-Centra venture would give them more freedom to shape their vision of what a five-star Las Vegas hotel and casino should look like.

"I don't know that I will make a dime on any of this. I could lose my shirt," Clooney said. "But it will be a big adventure."

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