Baton Rouge voters approve Pinnacle Ent. riverboat

Feb 13, 2008 2:08 AM

Industry Insider by Ray Poirier | Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK) executives celebrated a hard-fought victory in Baton Rouge, La., over the weekend when voters cast their ballots in favor of a new multi-million gaming/entertainment complex.

When ballots were counted Saturday night, the result favored the move by Pinnacle Entertainment by a 56% majority.

It was a hard fought battle for the $250 million proposal because of strong objections from the operators of the Hollywood Casino riverboat and the Belle of Baton Rouge. They argued that the market could not support three riverboats.

Pinnacle countered that the objectors were simply trying to protect their extremely profitable turf.

Official campaign records indicated Pinnacle Entertainment spent $6.5 million in 2007 to get the approval of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and another $1.5 million in lobbying the community’s voters.

The company’s plans call for the placement of a riverboat, a 100-room hotel and an entertainment center.

"We’re extremely grateful to the people of Baton Rouge, who are allowing us to become a part of one of the most exciting and fastest-growing cities in the South," said Dan Lee, company chairman and CEO.

"We plan to generate 1,200 permanent jobs in Phase One alone, along with million of dollars per year in incremental tax revenues for the State and Parishes of Louisiana." he added.

Pinnacle is using one of the licenses it held in the Lake Charles, La., area to open the Baton Rouge facility. It said the two existing riverboats are operating on older models and that it will be injecting new life to the area.

The Hollywood Casino is owned by Penn National Gaming Corp. (PENN) while the Belle of Baton Rouge is owned by the embattled Columbia Sussex Corp., that recently lost its license to operate the Tropicana Hotel/Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

Casino opposed

Obviously concerned that a tribal casino outside the gaming guidelines he proposed would jeopardize his plans, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has filed a formal opposition with the federal government.

Patrick said the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s plan for a $1 billion casino in Middleborough should be disallowed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He said the tribe failed to adequately address key issues such as the environmental impact, zoning transportation, labor, safety and public health matters.

He also expressed concerns relative to the potential for lax oversight of gaming activities.

"Because the placement of lands in trust may exempt certain activities on those lands from state and local laws, there are significant jurisdictional concerns at the state level," he said.

Patrick’s plan would be for three casino license to be granted to successful bidders. Among the prominent companies that have indicated interest in the licenses are Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), Steve Wynn’s Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN), and Gary Loveman’s Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Quarterly reports

Six more gaming companies have announced dates for the review of their quarterly fiscal experience. They are:

Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at l:30 p.m. PST.

Bally Technologies Inc. (BYI) on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at l:30 p.m. PST.

PokerTek Inc. (PTEK) on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. PST.

Progressive Gaming International Corp. (PGIC) on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 8 a.m. PST.

Boyd Gaming Corporation (BYD) on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 9 a.m. PST.

Riviera Holdings Corporation (RIV) on Friday, March 7, at 11 p.m. PST.

THE INSIDER: Empire Resorts Inc. (NYNY) has plans to move its Monticello racino to the legendary Concord Hotel in the New York Catskills. The development would encompass a $700 million gaming complex and an entertainment city.

Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) announced payment of its regular quarterly dividend of $0.15 per share to be made on March 3 to shareholders of record on Feb. 18.

Gaming revenues during the month of January in Atlantic City fell 10% from the previous year, according to New Jersey gaming regulators. Slots fell by 13.9% while table games decreased 1.5%.

Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS) has received a three-year contract to provide instant lottery tickets to La Francaise des Jeux, operator of the French National Lottery.

Nevada Gold & Casinos Inc. (UWN) has agreed to dispose of its 50% interest in Sunrise Land and Mineral Corporation. In exchange, Sunrise Land and Mineral Corporation will forgive the $280,000 in debt owed by Nevada Gold.

Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) says it plans to open a 2,000 slot racino at its Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa., this week.