Issue 271
November 21 - November 27, 2005
Volume 5
page 2
 

Foxwoods Planning 'Lifestyle' Expansion
As reported by The Hartford Courant

MASHANTUCKET, Connecticut - Looking to a bright gambling future, Foxwoods Resort Casino last Tuesday launched a $700 million expansion project in which slot machines are just part of the entertainment package.

With competition in neighboring states years away, Foxwoods said it would expand its resort to attract more conventions, trade shows and patrons who might have very little interest in gambling the night away.

"Our goal is to build out to what the market can stand and do it in a way ... that complements the region," said Kenneth Reels, vice chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribal council.

At groundbreaking ceremonies under a circus tent, guests were treated to live music, a buffet and promises of more jobs and revenue for the state.

The latest Foxwoods development will add 2 million square feet to the casino complex, including a 29-story hotel tower, a 4,000-seat performing arts theater, restaurants and shopping. It also will include 1,500 additional slots and 45 table games.

"The casino is only one of a number of components driving this project," Foxwoods CEO William Sherlock said. "It really puts us in the hotel convention market."

With two new golf courses, spas, exotic restaurants, Broadway shows and thousands of acres available for additional expansion, Foxwoods is now competing as a "lifestyle destination resort," said Robert DeSalvio, the executive director of marketing. "This is big for Connecticut. We want to be able to reach everyone."

Proof of the robust Connecticut gambling market wasn't just in the gold-plated shovels Mashantucket tribal members pushed into the earth. The neighboring casino resort, Mohegan Sun, released figures Tuesday showing record gambling revenue of $1.2 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an increase of nearly 7 percent over the previous year.

Meanwhile, slot revenue for October, also released Tuesday, showed that patrons gambled about $1.67 billion during the month at the two casinos, about the same as a year ago. Revenue the casinos keep after paying out winnings grew slightly, to $141.6 million for the month.

Although the two casino resorts pay no property taxes, the state receives 25 percent of all revenue from slots, and leading politicians and their representatives were on hand Tuesday to lead a chorus of appreciation for the Mashantucket tribal leaders gathered in the parking lot where the expanded resort will rise over the next three years.

"What you are doing today means so much to the state of Connecticut and the people of this state," said state Comptroller Nancy Wyman, who suggested that Foxwoods should add another 500 slot machines to the project.

The casino celebration was not without its ironic moments. Representatives from the offices of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman were on hand to praise the casino expansion effusively. All four helped to lead the recent bitter fight to defeat the recognition bids of the Eastern Pequots and the Schaghticokes, who had hoped to open their own casinos.

When the expansion is completed in 2008, Foxwoods said, it will add 2,300 jobs, most of them full time. Foxwoods now employs 11,131 workers, including 9,303 in full-time positions. Mohegan Sun also has 9,000 full-time employees.

Laughing Woman, the Mashantucket spiritual leader who offered a blessing at Tuesday's gala, said the tribe's modern success stands in contrast to the "many who said we no longer existed."

"We need to give thanks for all of this, for truly this nation is really blessed," she said, telling the audience assembled at the groundbreaking ceremony that "money is not our god."

 

 

 


Casinos target Asian Americans

As reported by North County Times

CALIFORNIA - Business is booming for California's tribal casinos. National Indian Gaming Commission figures show that revenue for California tribal casinos ---- there are now 55 in the state ---- doubled between 2001 and 2004 to more than $5 billion a year.

Hoping to add more oomph to that boom, officials with several local casinos are trying to attract even more business by targeting particular ethnic groups when marketing their casinos. First on the list for many marketers: finding a way to maintain and boost the large population of Asian Americans who gamble at their tables.

Asian-American customers make up some 50 percent of the clientele at Pechanga Resort & Casino, a large casino near the Riverside and San Diego county lines, according to an official there. And officials at two other area casinos, while hesitant to specify how big a chunk of their business comes from Asian Americans, acknowledge that Asian Americans do make up a large part of their clientele.

"It's no secret in the casino business Asians' love for gambling and so we all have our own ways for going after that market," said Pechanga VIP host Richard Slack, who while not Asian American speaks fluent Mandarin.

To attract those coveted Asian-American customers, Pechanga and at least two other area casinos are doing everything from advertising in ethnic publications and hiring multilingual hosts, to offering Asian-American entertainment and in one case, redesigning parts of the casino with Asian themes.

Maximizing chi
Pechanga Vice President of Marketing Michelle Schilder said last week that when the casino recently embarked on a major upgrade of its high-stakes room, it brought in a master of the Chinese art of feng shui to oversee the project. Feng shui means "wind and water," and the ancient Chinese philosophy holds that the placement of certain objects in a room and the way the space is laid out can improve the flow of positive energy or "chi."

"We definitely wanted to be sure that we were right on the dos and don'ts: the certain colors that mean bad luck and the placement of certain things that are no-nos," Schilder said of the $4 million redesign project.

The entrance to the 14,000-square-foot, high-stakes room is guarded by pairs of fu dog statues, which many Chinese believe to be powerful, protective forces that bring good fortune. Earth tones dominate the room, table edges are all rounded and a waterfall provides a soothing soundscape to those who are betting a minimum of $100 a hand on games like pai gow poker or blackjack.

Slack said he regularly gives sensitivity lessons to casino employees on Asian cultures, even teaching them a few key expressions in Mandarin and other Asian languages.

"The customers really appreciate it," Slack said.

One of the cultural customs employees have learned about is the Chinese custom of tapping one's fingers on the table as a way of saying thank you to servers.

Pechanga also regularly features pop music stars and other artists from Asian countries. Filipino pop star Gary V, for example, recently performed to a packed house at the casino's 1,200-capacity theater, said Ciara Coyle, public relations manager.

Competition fierce
Other local casinos also target Asian-American guests with their entertainment choices.

On Nov. 6, Harrah's Rincon Casino & Resort in Valley Center had a Vietnamese show titled "Paris by Night." The casino has been holding shows with Vietnamese artists for the past couple of years and a Chinese concert is scheduled for the coming weeks, said casino public relations manager Sheryl Sebastian.

She added that in the past year, casino officials have even started setting up prize wheels at Asian street fairs and festivals around Southern California, giving away prizes to winners and providing promotional information on the casino.

Asked what percentage of the casino's business is made up of Asian Americans, she said: "That is proprietary information and we can't really share that."

She acknowledged however, that Asian Americans are the one group for which the casino has a specific marketing strategy.

"They definitely are an important target audience," Sebastian said.

Harrah's has a dedicated Asian host team with members who are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese. The casino also runs advertisements in Asian-American publications, she said.

Pala Casino Spa Resort's Chief Executive Officer Jerry Turk on Friday called the Asian-American market an important one for his business, although he declined to say how big a portion of the casino's business Asian Americans represent.

He said that Pala also advertises in Asian-American newspapers and has billboards in Asian-American communities in the Los Angeles area. The casino also has a team of bilingual hosts and often features Asian entertainers, he added.

Pechanga, Rincon and Pala casinos also all have business arrangements with tourist agencies in the region that bus Asian Americans to their casinos.

Problem gamblers
Although Asian Americans are great for casino business, studies show that gambling is a widespread problem for Asian-American communities throughout the state, one that some health experts say may be growing due to the easy access of casinos and their marketing efforts to reach that audience.

Several studies in recent years appear to show a high incidence of problem gambling within Asian-American communities in California. A 1997 study by the NICOS Chinese Health Coalition in San Francisco found that as much as 21 percent of the Chinese community in that city could be identified as pathological gamblers, and that 16 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as pathological gamblers.

Another study by the same organization conducted in the same year surveyed 1,808 Chinese American adults in San Francisco. Respondents were asked to list what they thought were the greatest problems facing their community. At the top of the list was gambling, with 69.6 percent of respondents identifying gambling as a problem in the community.

An official with Chinese-American social-service organization Chinatown Service Center, based in Los Angeles, said Friday that early each morning, charter buses begin lining up along Garvey Avenue in the city of Monterey Park in the San Gabriel Valley, a city where Asian Americans make up 64 percent of the population. As soon as they fill up with passengers, the buses depart for casinos in Riverside and San Diego counties, he said.

And while the easy access to casinos does put more people at risk of problem gambling behavior, Chinatown Service Center Executive Director Lawrence J. Lue said it would be a mistake to blame casinos for simply following good business practices.

The solution lies in finding the resources to educate people about problem gambling, and "supporting them in correcting the problem," Lue said.

UCLA's Gambling Studies Program is currently conducting a survey of about 500 randomly selected adults in Asian-American communities in greater Los Angeles to try and measure the extent of problem gambling among members of those communities. The study is expected to be completed by June, said program co-director and psychiatrist Timothy Fong.

On Thursday, the program held a symposium on the issue with health care professionals, local community leaders and journalists.

In his presentation, Fong said that as a result of the increasing availability of legalized gambling in the state, "there is an increasing number of problem and pathological gamblers that have come to the attention of mental health professionals and community service providers."

He went on to say that Asians and Pacific Islanders make up one of the most vulnerable groups for developing problems related to gambling.

"If you have more access (to casinos), then more pathological gamblers are the natural result," Fong said Friday.

He stressed, however, that he doesn't blame casinos for trying to attract more Asians, since casinos are simply going where the market is.

"It's (about) personal responsibility; we all have the ability to say 'Yes' or 'No,' " Fong said, so he would not favor penalizing or trying to restrict casinos in any way.

Instead, as a society, we need to focus on prevention and treatment, and "raise awareness of problem gambling's signs, symptoms and consequences," Fong said.

Pocono Manor casino-hotel in play
As reported by The Morning Call

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania - A 25-story hotel and casino is the centerpiece of a proposed $1.2 billion entertainment and gambling complex at the Pocono Manor resort in Monroe County, the project developer said Wednesday.

If built, the 750-room glass-enclosed facility would be the tallest building in the Poconos.

Jim Cahill, a vice president of Matzel Development of Oakhurst, N.J., detailed plans during a Tobyhanna Township hearing on ordinance changes to allow construction of the 1-million-square-foot gambling resort. The 370-acre site is on Pocono Manor property adjoining Interstate 380 and Route 940.

Matzel Development, which filed the petition under Pocono Manor Investors L.P., is seeking changes in, among other things, height restrictions, signs and parking before the Dec. 28 deadline to submit applications to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

"We have to submit a comprehensive application which requires that zoning be in place," said Marc Wolfe, a Stroudsburg attorney representing Matzel. At 25 stories, the proposed hotel/casino is taller than the Foxwoods Resort in Massachusetts, said Cahill, and would dwarf every building in the four-county Pocono region.

The announcement comes a day after Aztar Corp. revealed plans for a $525 million gambling and entertainment complex in east Allentown. Five projects in all, three in the Poconos and two in the Lehigh Valley, are vying for the two stand-alone slots licenses available under the state's new gaming legislation. Stand-alone licenses allow for 3,000 to 5,000 slot machines.

The Monroe County proposals, including a $200 million hotel/casino at Mount Airy Lodge near Mount Pocono and a $300 million project at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, will compete with the Aztar plan for Allentown and Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s BethWorks Now proposal for an $879 million complex at the former Bethlehem Steel site in south Bethlehem.

Originally announced as a $3 billion project, the first phase of Matzel Development's plan will cost $1.2 billion and include the hotel and casino, a 300,000-square-foot retail and restaurant plaza, a 50,000-square-foot convention center, a 20,000-square-foot spa, an 1,800-seat indoor theater and an 18-hole golf course all wrapped around a 12-acre lake. Plans for a water park have been eliminated.

The project, which is estimated to create 4,000 permanent jobs, eventually also could include an intermodal center to allow for passenger rail service to New York City. No service currently exists, though an active freight rail line cuts across Pocono Manor property. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are negotiating a $300 million plan to expand New Jersey Transit rail service through the Poconos.

Pocono Manor, built in 1902, is a National Historic Landmark. More than 3,000 wooded acres surround the 257-room resort.

Matzel eventually plans a second phase solely dependent on the Legislature approving table games. Currently, there are no plans before the Legislature to go beyond slot-machine gambling. Phase 2 development would include another hotel, convention center, condominiums and single-family homes.

Tobyhanna solicitor Emanuel Kapelsohn did not announce a date for a supervisors' vote on the proposed ordinance changes, but several residents voiced concerns about the plan, particularly the height of the casino/hotel and the impact on local traffic.

But township supervisors and Planning Commission members favor the plan, Kapelsohn said, especially because financial projections indicate an annual $5.7 million windfall for the township. In addition, Monroe County could receive as much as $8.7 million per year, while the Pocono Mountain School District could reap $16 million. The complex could generate an additional $115 million annually for the state, Cahill said.

The proposal depends on the purchase of the Pocono Manor property, which was described as "imminent."

"With the sale of a large commercial property, you have to make sure you dot your I's and cross your T's," Wolfe said.

Matzel Development President Greg Matzel said last week that the plan depends on winning a stand-alone slots license.

Matzel hired Dennis Gomes, a gaming industry veteran, to help secure a license and manage the facility. Gomes previously served as president of several casinos, including the Tropicana and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.


LeAnn Rimes

Phil Vassar Phil

Las Vegas Hilton: Grammy and Country Music award-winning singing sensation, LeAnn Rimes, will appear with Billboard Country's chart-topper Phil Vassar for 3 nights at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, December 5-7.

Date: December 5-7, 2005

Time: 10:30 pm

Ticket Price: $50 - $65

For more information: 1-800-222-5361

 
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