Issue 234
March 07 - 13, 2005
Volume 5
page 1

This Issue

Gaming News

Casino City's March Sweepstakes

Trump bails out of casino plan for French Lick

State Regulators Voice Concerns: MGM-Mandalay Deal Ok'd

Lake's Entertainment, Inc. Announces Gaming Site Approval in Vicksburg, Mississippi

First Slot Licenses Could Be By December

Show Time Kenny Chesney performs at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Column The Rules of the Casino Gambling Road
By Frank Schoblete

Check out our entertainment highlights & upcoming tournaments

See the lucky winners


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  • Trump bails out of casino plan for French Lick

    As Reported by

    Indiana- A Donald Trump's casino company promised Orange County residents they would get a $108 million casino, complete with marble floors, carved stairway banisters and sparkling chandeliers.
    But the financially troubled company couldn't deliver.

    On Wednesday, six months after awarding Indiana's 11th casino to Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, state gambling regulators announced they must find another company to build the French Lick casino. Trump did not meet a state-imposed deadline.

    "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure your dream comes true," Ernest Yelton, the new executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, told residents at a meeting in French Lick on Wednesday.
    And Yelton assured the audience -- many wearing orange shirts promoting the casino -- that they would get one.

    "There has never been any hint that this boat will move from Orange County," he said.
    Residents of Orange County, an area plagued by high unemployment but blessed with two historic hotels, are counting on a casino to bring jobs and money to their towns of French Lick and West Baden Springs.

    On Wednesday, Trump officials said they had to back out because Indiana's gambling market could change -- including the prospect of more competition.

    Scott C. Butera, the company's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement that Indiana's tax climate for casinos has become "more onerous." He also said the prospect of additional gambling in Indiana "appears imminent."

    More gambling facilities -- such as the possibility of slot machines at the state's two horse racing tracks -- could cut into Trump's profits.

    Another development since Trump got its approval -- one that Butera didn't mention -- is the company's filing for bankruptcy protection in New Jersey.

    Yelton said the Gaming Commission could decide to reopen the bidding process or narrow it to the groups that lost last year. Two companies that lost to Trump say they're still interested in building the casino.

    Orange County Development, affiliated with basketball legend and French Lick native Larry Bird, still is interested and is searching for a new casino partner, said spokesman Lu Meis. And Bird still is interested, Meis added.

    Lauth Property Group attorney Vernon Back, whose company was the runner-up to Trump, said Lauth is prepared "to move very quickly to bring this casino to Orange County." The company would have been a partner in the Lost River Development casino project in French Lick.

    Negotiations between the state and Trump began to unravel Feb. 17, when gambling regulators delivered a list of demands to the company. The state wanted complete details on how the project would be funded and a strict timeline for approval.

    Yelton, with the blessing of Gov. Mitch Daniels, hired a bankruptcy lawyer and casino expert to help review the deal and craft the list of demands.

    Trump told gaming officials Monday it couldn't meet the demands and needed more time. Yelton wouldn't extend the deadline.

    Greg Hahn, an Indianapolis attorney for Trump, said the company is considering reapplying for the French Lick project.

    However, members of the local historic commission charged with recommending a company to the state say they'll be hard-pressed to recommend Trump again.

    Adina Cloud, chairwoman of the Historic Hotel Preservation Commission, said her panel recommended Trump last year because it promised the most for Orange County.

    But, she said her commission -- which didn't have access to Trump's detailed financial information -- relied on the Indiana Gaming Commission to make sure the company had the money to do the project.

    In July, the Gaming Commission voted 4-2 to award the project to Trump, which had the most ambitious proposal. Trump's casino company proposed a bigger facility with more gambling revenue than the two competing bids.

    The commission awarded the project to Trump even though the company was involved in a financial reorganization as it tried to get out from under $1.8 billion in debt. In addition, Trump provided no specifics as to how it would pay for the project.

    Much of the commission that approved the Trump bid is gone; four of the seven seats are open.
    Less than a month after the project was awarded, the company said its ability to follow through on the project was "uncertain," according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Compounding problems for Trump was an April decision of the Indiana Tax Court -- one later upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court -- ordering the state's 10 riverboats to pay back taxes owed. The issue involved whether riverboats could deduct wagering taxes from their income tax bills. Trump, which operates a riverboat in Gary, owes an estimated $20.9 million.

    In a disclosure statement filed last month with the New Jersey bankruptcy court, Trump acknowledged it had an offer from an unidentified party to buy the Gary riverboat and was considering the offer.

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