Illinois appointees give quick OK to Harrah’s expansion

Apr 5, 2005 7:27 AM

If it means jobs, it will get immediate action from the newly appointed majority of the Illinois Gaming Board.

That was the message sent out to the gaming community last week when three members of the board, described as anti-gambling types when appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, met for the first time with their two remaining counterparts to address a plan submitted by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) regarding the company’s casino in Metropolis.

The Harrah’s plan, on hold for months because the board lacked sufficient numbers of members to take official action, involves a $62 million expansion of the existing facility. The new seven-story, 258-room hotel and adjacent entertainment complex is expected to create some 300 construction jobs and an additional 115 permanent property jobs. The addition also will generate about $1.2 million in additional property taxes for the community and county.

As part of the new construction, Harrah’s agreed to build a $4 million electric substation to supply electricity to the new facility.

Just how quickly the board, which will change again in July when the terms of two existing members expire and they are replaced by another two Blagojevich appointees, will address such plans as the acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group by MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) and the Argosy Gaming Inc. (AGY) acquisition by Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN), was unknown.

Mandalay owns a major interest in the Grand Victoria Casino. Under a prior agreement, the partner, Hyatt Corp., takes over the operation of the Grand Victoria, Illinios’ largest revenue producing riverboat, should the acquisition go forward. Based on this arrangement, speculators have suggested that MGM MIRAGE might prefer selling their interest in the riverboat rather than go forward with the necessary Illinois licensing procedure.

NEW CBS SYSTEM

American Wagering Inc. (BETM) has announced the completion of the first CBS race/sports software using the Hewlett-Packard AlphaServer computer hardware platform. The installation was made at the Aladdin Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Computerized Bookmaking Systems Inc., the company that has provided the majority of race and sports books in Nevada with the software and hardware used to issue wagering tickets on horse races and sporting events, is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Wagering.

The new AlphaServer system offers a 64-bit processor that substantially increases the speed of the transaction, thus reducing the amount of time required to perform administrative functions such as game analysis and report generation.

CASINO SOLD

If and when Phil Ruffin moves forward with his ideas to build a new multi-million dollar casino complex on the site of his New Frontier Hotel/Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, he’ll have a few extra million to pay for the project. According to published reports, Ruffin has finally completed plans to sell his Bahamas resort for $150 million.

Reportedly, he expects to close the deal on his Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino and the Nassau Beach Hotel by the middle of May. The buyer was identified as the Baha Mar Development Co. Ltd.

Involved with the Baha Mar development team are a pair of former Las Vegas executives: Michael Sansbury, who at one time was involved in the administration of the Mirage Resort, and John Kristich, a veteran of the Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo properties.

The report indicated that Baha Mar plans to construct a $1.2 billion resort at Cable Beach in Nassau.

NEW GAME CONTRACT

A new lottery keno game will be installed in Massachusetts, according to a contract announced by Scientific Games Corporation (SGMS).

The game, called The Daily Race Game/Run for the Money, will be aimed at keno players in age-controlled locations like restaurants and social clubs. Players choose a series of numbers and then wait for the race to see if they have won. Run for the Money is a broadcast quality, animated horse race game designed to complement keno. It features 12 horses in each race with every horse having a chance to win as the horses sprint out of the turn and head down the stretch toward the finish line.

Scientific Games has teamed with TeleCom Game Factory, the original developers of the game, to make the product available to the Massachusetts Lottery.

THE INSIDER: Ameristar Casinos Inc. and its chairman and CEO Craig H. Neilsen, through his foundation, have each contributed $500,000 to the Nevada Cancer Institute.

David Krause has been promoted to vice president of marketing for the Silverton Casino Hotel Lodge. A former employee of Station Casinos Inc. (STN), Krause previously was Silverton’s director of marketing.

Gaming analysts at the firm of Harris Nesbitt have initiated coverage of Wynn Resorts LTD (WYNN) with a rating of "outperform."

Harrah’s New Orleans Casino is transforming its Jazz Court into a Las Vegas-styled nightclub with servers who will double as entertainers. The casino is owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET).

The Travel Channel has exercised its option to broadcast the fourth season of the World Poker Tour.

Station Casinos Inc. (STN) has declared its quarterly cash dividend of $0.21 per share to be paid on June 3 to shareholders of record on May 13.

Eric Endy, whose father, Paul Endy, founded Paulson Gaming Corp., now part of Gaming Partners International Corp. (GPIC), has advised the SEC that he plans to sell up to 80,000 shares of GPIC between April 11 and May 15.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton has rejected the claim for federal recognition by the Connecticut-based Golden Hill Paugussett tribe, thus upholding the decision made twice by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

International Game Technology (IGT) will release results of its second fiscal quarter of 2005 with a conference call on Thursday, April 21, at 6 a.m. PDT.

Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR) has completed the sale of its ownership and management interests in Caesars Gauteng, a casino located near Johannesburg, South Africa, for approximately $145 million.

Atronic, the Germany-based manufacturer of gaming devices, has received approval from the Michigan Gaming Lab for its e-motion video slots.

Scientific Games Corporation (SGMS) has been awarded a contract for online lottery terminals and a central operating system from the Philippines Lottery.