Harrah’s makes it official in Lake Charles

December 12, 2000 7:43 AM
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Although Harrah’s officially took over operation of the Players-Lake Charles river-boat casino property last April, it held its official grand opening last week. Before hundreds of anxious gamblers, top Harrah’s officials detailed the $40 million spent on the facility so far and promised more to come.

The $40 million went for everything from new signs, refurbishing one of the two riverboats, new uniforms and other items. Next year, Harrah’s plans to bring in a new riverboat to replace the Players III vessel.

The "new" boat is actually a riverboat that came with the deal when Harrah’s bought out Sam’s Town-Kansas City. It has three decks of gaming totaling 30,000 square feet, the state maximum.

In the works for 2001 is an $11 million facelift to the hotel.

Players sold out all their casino properties to Harrah’s last year in a $400 million deal. Much of the "push" behind the sellout was a ruling by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board that, in effect, forced Players to sell their Louisiana casino property or have their gaming license revoked for their part in a riverboat casino licensing scheme.

Players were also fined $10.2 million, the largest fine ever imposed against a riverboat casino company.

It is ironic that Players backed out of Louisiana just as a new book written by ex-Players casino executive John Brotherton hits the bookstore shelves. In A Fistful of Kings, Brotherton details the demands for money and jobs by Louisiana politicians and others in power. As a result of his testimony, ex-Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, his son Stephen, and others were convicted of corrupting the casino license process.

EDWARDS TO GET NEW TRIAL IN SOME CHARGES

The former governor has won a new trial on several charges in his gambling corruption conviction. Three convictions involving mail fraud laws will have to be retried, prosecutors said.

In an unrelated case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal mail fraud laws don’t apply to state riverboat licenses that haven’t been awarded.

Edwards lawyers are trying to convince U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola that all charges need to be retried since they were interrelated. Edwards was convicted of 17 counts of racketeering and fraud and acquitted of nine counts.

PARISH SQUABBLES OVER GAMBLING PAYMENTS

All the "i’s " are dotted and the "t’s" crossed on a new gaming compact between the state of Louisiana and the Louisiana Tribe of Coushatta Indians. But Gov. Mike Foster won’t sign the compact until Allen Parish officials agree on how the 6 percent gaming revenue tax is divided.

Allen County officials say the problem is that the compact specifies how the money is to be spent and could appear to be politically motivated.

If the governor doesn’t sign the compact, the huge casino complex in the small town of Kinder, near Lake Charles, would have to shut down.

However, no one thinks the situation will come to that. Allen Parish officials, the tribe and the governor’s office are working to iron out their differences to keep the 100,000 square-foot casino and related amenities open.