Louisiana bail-out plan passes senate

March 20, 2001 7:00 AM
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SOUTH
Louisiana bail-out plan passes

Despite opposition from some of Gov. Mike Foster’s strongest political allies, a proposal to bail out the financially troubled New Orleans land casino passed the Senate last week with three votes to spare.

With Foster watching from the sidelines, his major floor leader, Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, launched a furious effort to derail the governor’s proposal to slash the minimum state tax on Harrah’s New Orleans Casino and dedicate the money to teacher and college faculty pay raises.

When the smoke cleared, the Harrah’s bailout plan passed 23-16. The generally anti-gambling Senate was considered the toughest hurdle for the measure, which now moves to the House.

Harrah’s officials claim they will shut down the casino March 31 without the new deal.

MIDWEST
Detroiters want casinos to stay put

Detroiters have grown weary of the question of where the city’s permanent casinos will go, and a majority now oppose putting casinos near the riverfront, according to a recent Detroit poll.

Sixty-three percent of those who responded said they favor leaving the temporary casinos where they are, developing hotels around them and using the city’s riverfront for other development. Twenty-eight percent said they like Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer’s plan to cluster three huge new casino hotels near the river. Nine percent were undecided or had no preference.

The city has been trying to assemble land for the project for two years.

Three temporary casinos have opened: MGM Grand Detroit in July 1999; MotorCity Casino in December 1999, and Greektown Casino in November 2000. The casinos have restaurants but no hotels, major stages or theaters. They brought in $73 million in gaming taxes to the city in 2000.

Archer wants permanent casinos clustered together on 59 acres near the riverfront with room for 2,400 hotel rooms, theaters, more restaurants and shops to boost tax revenues further.

Gamblers boycotting Oneida casino

Oneida leaders say some gamblers refuse to play at the Oneida Bingo & Casino in Wisconsin because the group is withholding a $4.85 million payment to the state.

It also may be a reason casino revenues aren’t meeting this fiscal year’s projections, Oneida leaders said.

The tribe placed its annual gaming payment, which was included in a 1998 state-tribe gaming compact extension, in an escrow account Dec. 30 and requested a meeting with the governor.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson said in January that the state would not renew the tribe’s compact — which spells out the rules to operate Oneida Bingo & Casino — when it expires in 2003.

Convention Center going up in Evansville

A new Downtown Evansville (Ind.) convention center hotel with 200 to 250 rooms is expected to be announced today by a Casino Aztar official.

The site of the high rise hotel, which may cost in the range of $20 million, is expected to be on a parking lot at Main Street and King Boulevard, a space now used for Civic Center workers and visitors.

EAST
State-managed legal gambling opposed in New Hampshire

New Hampshire Rep. Robert L’Heureux had only two legislators standing behind him for a bill last week to allow the state to get into the casino ownership business.

But more than two dozen citizens from across the state turned out to oppose this bill (HB 651) and two other bills to give cities and towns the option of letting any commercial establishment apply to have slot machines.

State Rep. Vivian Clark admitted she was ambivalent about her own bill (HB 644) to have the state Sweepstakes Commission hold a sealed bid option to award slot machine hall permits in cities and towns that would allow them.

The three bills are the chief targets in 2001 of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling that has a broad spectrum of groups in its corner, ranging from the Granite State Taxpayers and the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police to the New Hampshire Council of Churches.

New Jersey commission bans big gambler

Casinos lost one of their biggest gamblers last week when the New Jersey Casino Control Commission banned reputed Gambino mob associate Taylor Breton from setting foot inside local gaming halls.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to temporarily put Breton on the Exclusion List, which has 173 names. He has 30 days to challenge the exclusion before commissioners consider final action

Nine of the city’s 12 casinos have welcomed Breton’s play, with at least five of them extending him credit lines of $1 million or more, according to Division of Gaming Enforcement records.

In the last two years alone, covering more than 173 gambling trips here, Breton bought $82.4 million in gaming chips, DGE records show. It’s unknown how much of that he actually wagered, but his net loss in that span was $7.2 million.

In exchange for Breton’s patronage, casinos gave him $5 million in complimentaries, such as meals, rooms, cash, gifts and transportation.

Breton, 48, is "a whale, the biggest player in the United States," former Caesars Atlantic City President Gary DiBartolomeo said last year. Several Las Vegas casinos also gave Breton million-dollar credit lines, DiBartolomeo said.

Revitalization bill moves in N.J. Senate

A Senate panel approved legislation last week that uses tax incentives to encourage Atlantic City casinos to build more hotels and resort attractions and to revitalize urban areas throughout the state.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. William Gormley, R-Atlantic, would establish an urban revitalization incentive program that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority would oversee.

Under the bill, the casinos would get an extension on the period in which they are required to invest 1.25 percent of their gross gaming revenue in redevelopment projects through the CRDA from 30 to 35 years.

The measure is expected to spur the creation of between 800,000 and 1 million square feet of new development.

WEST
Davis wants state to control slot distribution

California Gov. Gray Davis, in an executive order last week, told the state’s Gambling Control Commission it should assume control over the distribution of slot machines to California Indian casinos.

Gaming tribes are now scrambling to figure out just how much oversight power the commission intends to wield.

The order may also open the door for the gambling commission to answer one of the most frequently asked questions about the tribal-state gaming compact: How many slot machines will be allowed into California?

The number of slot machines statewide is supposed to be determined by a complicated mathematical formula in the Indian-state compact.


Foxwoods Food Court renovation gets started

Foxwoods Resort Casino (Mashantucket, Conn.) announced that it will renovate its Food Court near the Bingo and Bus lobbies to better serve its customers. Work on the facility began earlier this month and will be completed by June.

"Our Food Court has become so popular, we want to reconfigure it to make it a smoother and more efficient experience for our guests," said Michael C. Barlow, executive director of Food & Beverage.

The new design will allow guests to place and pay for their order at one location, and pick up their order at a separate counter with their receipt. The changes will result in shorter lines and faster service. Also, Asian dishes and pastry desserts will be added to the selection of Pizza, grinders, burgers, beverages and assorted sandwiches.

At the same time, The Deli will be reconfigured to create more seating space. In the Festival Buffet, the Mexican food station will be converted to a seafood station.

"We’re constantly looking for ways to keep things fresh at Foxwoods, while making it easier for our guests to get better, faster service," said Foxwoods President and CEO Bill Sherlock.

During construction, food stations will be set up in the Food Court seating area and near the Bingo lobby. Added staff will be assigned to the Festival Buffet, Rainmaker Café and Sidewalk Café to handle increased demand at those locations.

Race book gets renovated

With 200 remodeled carrels with 12-inch touch-screen monitors, Foxwoods’ Real Time Racing System is off and running with the most high-tech enhancements of any race book in the country. The world’s largest resort casino just recently completed renovating its race book.

The new technology allows customers to watch races from their seats on their own private monitors. The touch-screens let them get information on track conditions, jockey changes, current odds and previous race results up to one year ago, all at their fingertips. Customers also have access to "Pick Three" and "Pick Six" carryovers from all tracks.

In addition to the private carrels, race book players can see digital images of races from around the world on new 50-foot high screens in Foxwoods’ Ultimate Race Book.