At the Pinnacle: Louisiana gains 15th riverboat casino

Oct 23, 2001 2:26 AM


            The Louisiana Gambling Board voted 6-3 to last week to grant Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. its 15th and final riverboat gambling license, according to an Associated Press story.

            The vote occurred after the board has rejected all other applicants by a 5-4 margin. Chairman Hillary Crain said the board has an obligation to grant the license because the Legislature’s actions have endorsed riverboat gambling in Louisiana.

            The other applicants were Horseshoe, which offered to build a $150 million casino-hotel on the Red River in Shreveport and Louisiana Horizons, a politically connected company that wanted to build a boat in St. Mary Parish.

            Pinnacle has had some financial problems, but an investigation by state police auditors showed that the company was capable of building the project.

            A Pinnacle spokesman said construction would take at least two years. The company cannot begin gambling operations at the new site until it builds a hotel, golf course and related facilities.

            Board member Robert Fleming voted against granting the license, citing the economic troubles facing the nation.

            “We are at war with Afghanistan,” Fleming said. “It seems there are better things that can be done than build another riverboat.”

Speaking for Rock

            An El Paso tribe has asked a federal judge to reconsider a decision to shut down the Speaking Rock Casino, which takes in about $60 million each year.

            The Tigua people of the pueblo say the ruling contained legal mistakes that prejudiced the decision. The Tiguas are asking for a new trial or an amendment to the judgment.

            Texas Attorney General John Cornyn told the Associated Press he was committed to abide by the judge’s ruling to deny the Tiguas their appeal to open Speaking Rock.

            “The law is simple,” Cornyn said. “My responsibility as attorney general is to enforce the laws of the state. I am pleased that the court agreed with our position that casino gambling is illegal in Texas.

            Pueblo Gov. Albert Alvidrez said the ruling contained legal mistakes that prejudiced the decision.

            “He (Cornyn) stripped this tribe of the very rights citizens of the state of Texas have.”

Stand costs Victoria

            The Illinois Gaming Board proposed the largest fine in its history against the Grand Victoria Casino, according to the Associated Press.

            The fine, proposed at $7.2 million, alleges the casino did business with four companies board investigators say have ties to organized crime.

            The Grand Victoria could have gotten off for $90,000 instead of the original fine if the casino had admitted wrongdoing, according to casino spokeswoman Marilou Pilman. Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea said the board “strongly disagrees with the assertions.” He would not say whether the board made any settlement offer before the fine.

            Grand Victoria is the highest grossing casino in Illinois, with profits averaging slightly less than $1.5 million each day. The casino is a 50-50 partnership between Mandalay Resort Group of Las Vegas and Hyatt Hotels Corp. of Chicago.

            Grand Victoria will appeal the penalty to an administrative judge, according to Pilman.

N.H. pushes gaming

            Lawmakers in New Hampshire will again consider the expansion of gambling when the 2002 session begins in January.

            Rep. Howard Dickinson, R-Conway, is co-sponsoring a bill to allow slot machines at the state’s four race tracks.

            New Hampshire has had the lottery since 1965. Race tracks permit gambling, allowing simulcast betting on races from other tracks as well. The small state town of Berlin is pushing for a giant economic development package through gambling in order to save the town from financial ruin.

            “We’re on the Titanic up north here, economically,” said Rep. John Gallus, R-Berlin. “I don’t see IBM or GM coming to the rescue.”

Tropicana delay

            Tropicana Casino and Resort has promised its new expansion project will deliver an experience unlike anything Atlantic City has offered in the past.

            However, the $225 million project has been pushed back a year until 2004 to allow time to pass following the opening of Boyd Gaming Corp’s billion-dollar Borgata casino.

            Borgata is slated to open in the summer of 2003. The centerpiece of the Tropicana expansion is The Quarter, a 200,000 square foot, three-story shopping village.

Peppermill expansion

            The Reno-based Peppermill Casino Inc. is launching expansion plans for two casinos in West Wendover.

            The casino operator plans to expand the number of rooms by 44 percent at the Peppermill and Rainbow hotel-casinos in northwest Nevada. Since 1990, gambling revenue in Wendover has grown 144 percent.

            Peppermill Casinos includes the flagship Reno facility along with sites in Sparks and Henderson. The two new casinos are planning to install a combined 2,100 slot machines.