Builder wants to take casinos to new depths

Oct 9, 2007 4:31 AM

Las Vegas casinos are famous for their mix of characters, ranging from well-heeled, high-rolling "whales" to shady, advantage-seeking "sharks."

Now, a Florida company has announced plans to build "undersea casino-resorts" so gamblers can commune with sharks, whales and other sea creatures, literally.

Joseph Cala says his Cala Corporation is preparing to build floating vessels (at a cost of $300 to $460 million each) that will serve as casino resorts, where tourists can "experience the wonders of life beneath the ocean."

"It has been my dream to develop this ever since I was swimming off the coast of Hawaii with my family," Cala said. "We were surrounded by Humpback whales with several dozen dolphins all around them."

Although the concept has a Jules Verne-like ring to it, Cala says he’s no Captain Nemo and his proposed vessels won’t plunge 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Instead, Cala and naval architect Ray Francis have collaborated to develop vessels that will be submerged and floating 30 feet below sea level with large viewing windows for observing the ocean’s creatures.

The floating, undersea vessels will be moored off-shore popular tourist destinations such as Florida, California and Hawaii, he added.

Cala points out that his company will act as shipbuilder and not the owner or operator of the floating resorts.

Toward that end, his firm received $300 million in tax-exempt bonds from the state of Alabama to be used in the construction of a shipyard in Mobile, according to a statement issued by Cala Corporation.

For now, the company needs a casino operator, say, Wynn, MGM Mirage or Harrah’s, for instance, to agree to buy the first ship.

The price tag for a complete shell is $300 million, with a "turn-key" undersea casino resort commanding $460 million.

So, if there are any casino operators interested in combining the intrigue of Sea World with the excitement of the Strip, contact someone from Cala Corporation at next month’s G2E in Las Vegas.

But, just in case, remember to bring your Scuba gear.