Issue 291
April 10 - April 16, 2006
Volume 6
page 1

This Issue

Gaming News

Casino City's April Sweepstakes

Governor Bush ends talks with Seminoles on gaming

Poker players fight online gambling ban

Packer, Ho lure Dream-catchers

Italy blocks Malta betting websites 

Show Time Reba McEntire performs at The Las Vegas Hilton Theater.

Column Florida Should Listen to the Experts By I. Nelson Rose

Check out our entertainment highlights & upcoming tournaments

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MGM bets big on Detroit: $765 million, 1,000 new jobs
As Reported by Detroit Free Press

DETROIT - MGM Grand Detroit Casino's permanent complex has a $765-million price tag, making it Michigan's largest current construction project and dwarfing the price tags of both of Detroit's new pro sports stadiums and Compuware's downtown headquarters.

The permanent casino complex will combine modern elements like a golden glass hotel tower with an art deco façade on the main building, according to a rendering the casino released Thursday. It gives the first glimpse of what will result from the busy construction on 25 acres at Bagley and the Lodge Freeway.

MGM Grand spokesman Bob Berg said the 17-story casino complex would create an additional 1,000 permanent jobs for workers in the hotel, restaurants and retail stores that are expected to be part of the development. The casino already employs 2,500 workers.

The new building will include a 100,000-square-foot casino, spa, shops, restaurants and other amenities.

Greektown Casino, which has revised its plans several times, is in the midst of getting city approvals to build its permanent facilities. On Thursday, it presented its plans for a 33- to 35-story garage and hotel tower in the heart of Greektown to the City Planning Commission as part of its rezoning request.

The commission expects to vote on the proposal by May 4.

Greektown still needs other city approvals to begin construction.

MGM's decision to increase spending on the casino complex by $190 million reflects the company's confidence that the region has a strong market to support it, Berg said.

"Clearly this will be the pre-eminent facility in the region," Berg said, noting that MGM is spending more than the other two casinos combined.

The $765-million price tag surpasses the $275 million MotorCity Casino plans to spend to build a hotel tower and add on to its temporary casino, as well as the $200 million Greektown Casino expects it will pay to build a hotel tower and garage.

By comparison, Ford Field cost $500 million, Comerica Park cost about $360 million, and Compuware's headquarters cost $550 million.

Annual revenues in 2005 for the three casinos were $460.7 million for MGM, $335.6 million for Greektown and $432.2 million for MotorCity.

Berg said MGM's original plans for the hotel, casino and a 5,000-space parking garage remain intact. But it will spend more on amenities and upgrades, he said. He would not provide any details, citing competition from the region's three other casinos, including Casino Windsor.

The art deco style building of steel, stone and glass evokes Hollywood's heyday of the 1920s and 1930s.

"The goal is something distinctive, but that fits in with its surroundings," Berg said.

A spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said Thursday that MGM's massive investment is exactly what the city needs as it tries to rebuild itself.

"MGM recognizes that the city of Detroit is on the verge of being a destination location," said spokesman Jamaine Dickens. "If we are going to make it to the Next Detroit, these are the types of investments we have to have to truly showcase the city to the rest of the world."

Not only will the city benefit financially from the three new casinos, he said, but the additional hotel and conference rooms also will put the city in a better position to lure major conventions and events.

"Development such as what MGM is bringing in is the type of thing people talk about when they leave the city," he said. "It gives people another reason to come here."

Greektown Casino, which has revised its proposals several times, now plans to combine a 3,100-space parking garage topped with 20 to 22 stories of hotel rooms. The structure would go up at St. Antoine and Monroe on the site of a parking deck the casino plans to buy from the city for $32 million.

The Detroit City Council plans a vote on the land sale today.

The hotel and parking garage structure would connect to the casino on the other side of Monroe by elevated moving sidewalks.

Greektown Casino originally planned to build a $450-million casino and hotel complex on seven acres at Gratiot and I-375. In September, the casino announced it was in negotiations to buy parcels in Greektown for the hotel and parking structures.

Once all approvals are obtained, Greektown expects to begin demolishing the garage and an adjacent apartment building it already purchased. If all goes as planned, the parking garage could be built late next year with the hotel completed by mid-2008.

Greektown plans to add 25,000 square feet of new gaming space with an addition to stretch over half of Lafayette Boulevard. The plans also call for a spa and a 1,200-seat theater.

Detroit's third casino, MotorCity Casino, started work on its casino hotel and conference center last fall. The complex, near the Lodge Freeway and Grand River, is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete. The 17-story, 400-room hotel will rise on a surface parking lot adjacent to the casino's parking deck and should be up by late 2007.

MGM Grand expects its hotel to be ready in 2008.

Governor Bush ends talks with Seminoles on gaming
As Reported by Sun-Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE, Florida - Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday pulled the plug on negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida over their desire to have at least the same type of gaming rights that Broward County voters approved last year.

"We gave it our best shot," Bush said. "We reached the point where it was very clear to me we weren't going to have a compact."

A compact agreement with the state would have allowed the tribe to offer more high-stakes gambling at its casinos in return for some state regulation and giving the state a share of the take.

The Seminoles are now likely to pursue approval from the federal government. If granted, the state would get nothing.

Bush, who has opposed any expansion of gambling in Florida, opened talks with the tribe last summer only after the Seminoles made a formal request following Broward voters' support of slots.

In January, he promised to "get more engaged" in discussions with the Seminoles after signing a bill allowing Broward County's four pari-mutuel operators to install Las Vegas-style slot machines.

Talks reportedly have been intermittent over the last several months. On Friday, neither side would reveal why an agreement remained elusive.

"The reach was just too much for me," Bush said. When asked what the major stumbling block was, he added, "I don't know if I'm even allowed to say. This is all driven by federal law, so I probably ought to keep my trap shut."

Bush's general counsel, Raquel Rodriguez, wrote a letter to the tribe Friday officially terminating the discussions but adding, "Our door is always open."

Tribe attorney Jim Shore replied, "We are certainly open to further discussions."

Currently, the tribe offers only poker, bingo and video terminals that calculate odds in the same manner as bingo. From its Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, and other gaming operations around the state, the Seminoles last year were expected to make more than $250 million in profit on revenues of about $1 billion.

The Seminoles argued that when state voters in 2004 allowed Broward and Miami-Dade to decide whether they want local slot machines, the door opened for the tribe to offer full slot machines and other games that have higher payouts and are more attractive to customers.

Miami-Dade voters rejected the measure, while Broward approved it.

Federal courts have ruled that Indian tribes are entitled to the same level of gaming that is permitted within a state.

States that permit gambling are required to "negotiate in good faith" with the tribes on a compact that sets parameters and gives a chunk of the profits back to the state.

If states don't negotiate, tribes can appeal to the U.S. secretary of the Interior, who can overrule the state and award full gaming -- without the state seeing a penny of the profit.

The Seminoles already have a federal appeal pending that they filed in 2000. The tribe repeatedly has said it has no plans of dropping it unless a compact is reached.

Tribal chairman Mitchell Cypress, who could not be reached for comment Friday, told Bush the state had no choice but to negotiate after state and then local voters approved slots.

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