Anchor bankrolls new Pala casino in San Diego

Apr 3, 2001 6:41 AM

ANCHORS AWAY! Remember the old sailor song? This time the anchor has to do with Anchor Gaming (SLOT). The Las Vegas-based company has bankrolled the Pala Band of Mission Indians casino, which opened Tuesday night in San Diego. A well-known Las Vegas casino operator ”” Jerry Turk ”” will manage the $115 million property. Turk recently sold Fitzgerald’s hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas to Detroit businessman Don Barden. It will have 2,000 slot machines, 46 table games, two entertainment lounges, six restaurants and a 2000-seat events center.

    “We’re trying to give people another reason to come besides just to gamble,” Turk told GamingToday. He added: “We want people to feel that when they walk into this place it’s equal to what you’d see in Las Vegas.”

    The casino is on Route 76, six miles east of Interstate 15.

    GamingToday correspondent Rich Viola will report on the opening next week.

    Projection figures are promising. The Pala casino is expected to generate up to $40 million a year for health care, scholarships and other needs of the 870-member tribe.

    Apparently investors like the idea of Anchor’s involvement in California Native American gaming properties. The company’s stock has been rising recently and on Monday hit a 52-week high of $64 a share. It ended the day at 617/8, up 5/8 in heavy volume of 394,500 vs. average daily volume of 279,540.

    And while mentioning Detroit, it’s interesting to note that Marian Ilitch, a partner with Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) in the Motor City Casino in Detroit, has joined a group of investors that recently launched an effort to get casino gambling approved in Hawaii.

    The effort seems to be Ilitch’s alone and reportedly does not involve Mike Ensign, Glenn Schaeffer or Tony Alamo or any other Mandalay honchos. But, of course, if the lobbying group ”” called Holomua Hawaii ”” were successful, it wouldn’t surprise the gaming community to use their relationship to join the effort.

    It’s expected that on Thursday, the lobbying group will introduce a recent study prepared by Michigan Consultants, with the assistance of an economist from the University of Hawaii, showing the economic benefits such a move would bring to Hawaii. 

    BILLIONS and ZILLIONS! Lawsuits are stacking up against Park Place Entertainment (PPE) over the casino deal in the Catskill Mountains.

    “But,” said a pipe, “sometimes bad news can be good news!”

    Please explain.

    The pipe did: “Start with the smaller claim. It has to do with only $227 million. It was filed by Native American Management Corp. The corporation includes Anderson-Blake Construction Co. and Gary Alan Melius. They have served notice that they intend to sue PPE for what amounts to small potatoes ($227 million) alleging breach of contract and RICO violations.

    “Take it up a notch to $550 million. That’s what President R. C.-St. Regis Management Co. is suing for. They allege PPE interfered with its agreement to run the tribes existing Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.

    “Go higher . . . The Mohawk tribal court recently issued a $1.8 billion default judgment against the Las Vegas-based company for inducing three chiefs to break the original casino deal with Catskill Development Corp.

    Could there be more?

    “Yes,” said the pipe. “ But, don’t forget what I said before: ”˜Bad news can sometimes be good news!’

    “Before I explain, let me tell you about still another lawsuit. A consultant is suing in U.S. District Court seeking a declaration that PPE promised him (Peter Bronner) 2% of the casinos gross revenue.

    “Remember, the long, drawn out process of approving Indian casinos in upstate New York figures to benefit nearby Atlantic City where Park Place owns three casinos that generate about 30% of the company’s total cash flow.

    “But, if you believe ”” as I do ”” that development of a major casino in the Catskills is a cinch, then lawsuits, even those up in the zillions, act only as a slow down.” 

    “OINK! OINK!” That’s the sound coming out of Detroit as it’s learned that only one (MGM Detroit) of the three Motor City casinos will move to the high-priced riverfront.

    “Some of the landowners who had prized riverfront property targeted for casinos were given a bad case of indigestion last week,” said a Michigan in-the-knowster.

    “It seems that Mayor Dennis Archer and top guns from MGM MIRAGE (MGG), Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) and Greektown Casino came to a surprise decision. Motor City Casino (MBG) and Greektown agreed to stay where they are, while MGM elected to move to a scenic 23-acre site on the river. The city had agreed to purchase 57 acres of riverfront property for the casinos at a price of approximately $250 million.

    “Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Some of the riverfront property owners heard the cash register ringing. Their prices nearly tripled.

    “The way I hear it,” the in-the-knowster continued, “when the land value got so high, the city stopped negotiating. That might have sent an alarming message to some would-be sellers because prices dropped. But, it was too late. A new plan had gone into effect. Only one of the three lucrative sites would be used.” 

    WILL HO GO? You can bet yes. You can bet no.

    “But,” said a rosebud who knows of Stanley Ho’s staying power, “don’t bet against Ho.”

    The Macao casino tycoon owns 10 casinos, but when the Peoples Liberation Army (Communist China) took over the 40-year exclusive gambling franchise he had, major changes were foreseen. Ho would go.

    Now, thinking is divided. The Chinese and Macao government have asked him to continue for at least a few more years.

    “As a matter of fact,” the rosebud added, “there seems to be little doubt Ho will get at least one of the licenses, if not more.

    “We’re not talking small potatoes. Last year gross revenues came to $2.1 billion ”” most of it coming from the 10 casinos. Needless to say, there is no shortage of bidders, both local and overseas, for a slice of the action.

    “Listen,” the rosebud continued. “Gambling is prohibited in mainland China. However, illegal gambling there brings in about $362.5 billion a year. That’s a lot of rice!

    “Don’t forget that most of the world’s biggest gamblers are within flight times of four to five hours of Macao.”

    More rosebud: “Before I get off the phone, you should get on the phone and see if there are any Las Vegas-type casino people knocking on the door. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were.” 

    GALVESTON, OH, GALVESTON! Port leaders in Galveston, Texas, have signed a birthing deal with Talisman Group. The ink was no sooner dry than Talisman offered its first cruise for the public on Monday. Port leaders see as much as $275,000 a year coming their way from the ship, T. J. Tejada told GamingToday.