Issue 267
October 24 - October 30, 2005
Volume 5
page 1

This Issue

Gaming News

Palace gets more palatial

Planned Pyramid Highway casino going Western

Boardwalk runs out

Check n Raise moves to "The Ongame Network" (formerly The Poker Network) to Improve Player Experience

Dixon answers questions about track

Show Time The Commodores perform at MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

Column Blue Ribbon Hoops Book; Killer Sports NBA Annual Hot Arrivals By Howard Schwartz..

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Palace gets more palatial
As reported by The Fresno Bee, Calif.

LEMOORE, California - The Tachi Yokut tribe near Lemoore introduced the expansion of its casino Tuesday with burning sage, drums giving cadence to chanting voices and a new name -- The Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino.

"We're turning a new page here in the Valley as well as for the tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria," General Manager Adam Gonzales said. "This is a great way to start this off."

The addition -- which includes 200 new slot machines, a 1,200-seat bingo hall, table games, the Coyote Grille and Sunset Lounge -- is part of a $125million expansion. A 255-room hotel, which accounts for about 60 percent of the project's cost, is targeted to open in late May, Gonzales said.

Gonzales, whose great-great-grandfather once owned the land under the new casino, said that moving into the more modern facility symbolizes another step in the tribe's self-sufficiency and emerging identity.

Tuesday's ceremony and the name change (abandoning Palace Indian Gaming Center) speak to the tribe's identity. Cultural touches are evident in the expansion, too: traditional basket designs painted on the walls and carpet with tule reed designs, for example.

The tribe's ongoing progress toward self-sufficiency includes economic diversification, according to tribal members.

Already, the tribe has stakes in the Central Valley Coyotes, an arena football team; the Sequoia Inn in Hanford; and other real estate in the Kings County area, said Elmer Thomas, tribal vice chairman.

In addition, the tribe plans to build an indoor event center and parking structure at the casino within five years, Thomas said.

Chairman Clarence Atwell said the tribe has considered opening an outlet mall and has been approached about building a recycling plant that could create 50 to 60 jobs.

For tribal members who knew what it was like before the bingo parlor opened in 1983, the expansion brought back memories.

Treasurer Dena Baga was a teenage mother on welfare then. At one time, her family of eight lived in the garage of her grandmother's house.

And, "We weren't the only family who lived in a garage," she said.

Baga said the casino (electronic slot machines came to the Palace in 1994) supports cultural and educational programs on the reservation. The money also goes toward paying for the 765 tribal members' health insurance and other needs.

"I know a lot of people think the tribe is making a lot of money and rolling in it," she said. "If they had any idea of who we were and who we used to be, they'd think twice about judging us."

She estimates that 40 percent of members still abuse drugs and alcohol -- that's dropped from 90 percent before the bingo hall opened.

Dena's sister Anita Baga is taking advantage of an educational program and taking classes at the University of Phoenix.

"There's nothing you can't accomplish living on the reservation today," Anita Baga said. In strong contrast from when she grew up, being Indian is no longer something she wants to hide from. Looking out past the table games and rows of slot machines beeping, spinning and blinking, she said: "It's good to be Indian today."

Planned Pyramid Highway casino going Western

As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal

Nevada - A hotel, casino, spa and movie theater project planned for Pyramid Highway has been redesigned to look like an old ranch house, based on feedback from the public, developers said.

The $100 million project by Peppermill Casinos and lobbyist Harvey Whittemore is under review from Sparks planners, who could make recommendations for changes, officials said.

Planners could not provide a timetable for the Lazy 8 project -- north of Lazy 5 Regional Park -- because of various approvals needed. If the city's planners are happy with the design, it will go to the Planning Commission for approval and then to the Sparks City Council.

"It is not a Peppermill -- it is a totally new design with a very ranch- and farmlike feel," said Carlos Vasquez, CEO of Art Associates Advertising and spokesman for Peppermill and Whittemore. "We would like to get started as soon as possible."

Many nearby residents have spoken against the project, and John Ascuaga's Nugget hotel-casino funded a Web site opposing it.

The Lazy 8 plans call for an 18,000-square-foot casino, about the size of Gold Dust West in downtown Reno, larger than Tamarack Junction in south Reno.

"We've listened to everything we've been told, been to all the public meetings, watched the public surveys," Vasquez said. "We realized we had the wrong product for the public out there. We redesigned it to what you see now. It fits in better with the environment and the community."

Whittemore brought plans for the hotel-casino to a Spanish Springs Citizen's Advisory Board meeting in September 2004 and was grilled by nearby residents who opposed a casino in their neighborhood.

The project was estimated at $35 million to $45 million then, making the new proposal a substantially larger project. Casino opponents said the plan changes wouldn't stop their efforts to defeat the project.

"It's still non-restricted gaming within 50 yards of homes," said Roy Adams of Spanish Springs, who has spearheaded a petition with more than 5,000 signatures. "It's still non-restricted gaming within 200 yards of a park and library. People are still opposed to it."

Shirley Bertschinger of Sparks, another vocal opponent, agreed.

"This is a ruse by Mr. Whittemore to get around the opposition to him," Bertschinger said. "The opposition isn't against him. It's against the casino."

Vasquez said the new project is designed so that people walking in the front doors from the two-story, partially underground parking complex off Pyramid will not see the casino unless they look for it.

"There are separate entrances for every entity, the buffet, coffee shop, arcade and movie theater," he said.
"Families can come right into the family areas and not ever see gaming."

The 200-room hotel will include 20 suites, he said. Additionally, the 20.5-acre project will include a day spa open to the public, some small retail, restaurants, and a roughly $1 million police substation donated to the community, he said.

The casino, theater and hotel will be 90 feet tall, with other buildings limited to 35 feet.

"Take the gaming aside, we've got excellent amenities for the region," Vasquez said.

Whittemore plans to use an entitlement for a casino at his Red Hawk development for the Lazy 8 casino.

Whittemore plans to sell the land, which he owns in private partnership with one of Peppermill owners, to the company. He will have a 10 to 20 percent interest in the operations, he said, which will be donated to the University of Nevada, Reno.

"All the proceeds will go to UNR," Whittemore said.

Whittemore also has a casino license obtained from the now-closed Old Reno Casino, the use of which he said was unclear.

Reporter Alex Newman of the Reno Gazette-Journal contributed to this story.

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