Issue 111
October 28 - November 3, 2002
Volume 3
page 1
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Gaming News
California Tribe Breaks Ground On $150 Million Casino

Gambling Expansion Promoted Worldwide: MGM MIRAGE Seeks Partner in Thailand

Industry Insiders: Elections Could be Turning Point for Gaming

Borgata Launches Website for Job Seekers

Harrah’s Upgrades St. Louis Property

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California Tribe Breaks Ground
On $150 Million Casino

MADERA, CA - County, state and federal officials will converge in the Madera County foothills on October 29 to mark the birth of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino.

Leaders of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians expect to open their $150 million, 296,000-square-foot casino and hotel on June 24, 2003, tribal chairwoman Dixie Jackson said.

For the past two weeks, workers on the 48.5-acre site near Highway 41 and Road 417 have been clearing trees, blasting rocks and leveling land.

The tribe must complete the casino within one year of the groundbreaking or risk losing a state license for its planned 1,600 slot machines.

"It's realistic now that we can see this actually happening," Jackson said.

Though the tribe didn't need Madera County's blessing to set its plans into motion, tribal leaders earlier told the Board of Supervisors they want to be good neighbors. The county expects the casino to provide a fully equipped fire station and enough money to hire five more sheriff's deputies to keep the casino and its patrons safe.

County Supervisor Gary Gilbert said he plans to attend Tuesday's groundbreaking. He expects to be joined by state Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco; state Gambling Commission Chairman John Hensley; and officials from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A direct-access road off Highway 41 is expected to replace Road 417 as the primary route to the casino site.

Also in the tribe's plans are a 200-room hotel, a bar-entertainment lounge, three restaurants, a 1,000-seat special events room and administrative areas. Parking will accommodate 1,800 automobiles, six buses and 39 recreational vehicles.

Ancestors of the Chukchansi occupied the Sierra foothills from the Fresno to Kern rivers, dating back at least to the year 800 B.C., anthropologists have told Picayune Rancheria officials.

Gambling Expansion Promoted Worldwide
MGM MIRAGE Seeks Partner in Thailand

/Las Vegas Sun/ - MGM MIRAGE, the second-largest U.S. casino operator, is seeking a Thai partner to set up casinos in the Southeast Asian nation, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's office said in a statement.

Thanksin met MGM MIRAGE Chief Executive Terrence Lanni Tuesday. MGM MIRAGE's interest may stem from Thaksin's statement in August supporting a move to legalize casinos to boost revenue and cut the government's budget deficit and debt.

Thailand has run a budget deficit for the past five years, with the gap between spending and revenue expected to be about 140 billion baht (U.S. $3.2 billion) for the financial year that ended Sept. 30.

For Las Vegas-based MGM MIRAGE, a venture would allow the company to tap business from Thais and overseas tourists in Thailand, which had 10 million overseas visitors last year. The company in February missed out on obtaining one of three casino licenses offered by Macau after the former Portuguese colony ended a four-decade gambling monopoly of tycoon Stanley Ho.

The Thai government said it must rally public support before allowing casinos to operate legally. Religious groups have protested when previous administrations raised the idea. The only legal forms of gambling in Thailand are horse-race betting and a state-run lottery.

Casinos in neighboring Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar draw Thai tourists who can't gamble legally at home. Legalizing casino gambling may also help the government reduce corruption, a Thaksin campaign pledge.

Separately, the publication Corporate Mexico reported a new federal gaming law may be approved in December to allow legitimate casinos to tap a big gambling market now served by hundreds or even 1,000 clandestine casinos now operating in Mexico.

"The casinos will also be aimed at contributing to economic and social development in the regions and are expected to help tourism expand, bring in more foreign currency and create jobs," the publication said.

And in Japan, some 500 local officials, Diet members and television personalities joined Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara at a one-day mock casino last week to promote the metropolitan government's plan for introducing gambling establishments, the Nikkei business news service reported.

For the city-hall casino, Tokyo had Konami Co. fly in 39 slot machines from Las Vegas and Australia. The giant Japanese video game company is Japan's leader in the casino business and has been licensed to produce and sell slot machines in Nevada since 2000.

The idea that started in Tokyo is now making its way out into the Japanese heartland, Nikkei reported. The city of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture set up a joint government/private-sector council in July to try and attract casinos.

The Akita Prefectural Government has established a similar body. Nearly 10 local governments, including those in Miyazaki Prefecture, which is looking for ways to use facilities at the failed Seagaia resort, and Okinawa Prefecture, have voiced interest in casinos. A group of Diet members promoting casinos has also formed within the Liberal Democratic Party.

Despite many challenges, including changes needed to existing legislation, expectations are growing that government-led efforts will make the introduction of casinos in Japan a reality, Nikkei said.

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