Border Blast: Cal, Mexico want to copy Las Vegas

May 7, 2002 6:52 AM

Don’t look now, but the Pechanga Reservation is about to make a major impact in the California gaming industry.

The Pechanga Resort and Casino, on the outskirts of Temecula in Riverside County, is set next month to open its 525-room hotel and 75,000 square foot casino, according to a Riverside Press Enterprise story.

"We have not seen anything on this scale in the western United States," said Michael Lombardi, a former general manager at Casino Morongo near Banning. "This ups the ante for all the tribes in the Riverside area."

The amenities are comparable to those offered at modern Las Vegas Strip casinos, although featuring less hotel rooms. Lombardi predicted that the result would lure wealthy gamblers from across the region.

"They are capturing a segment of the market that should be sending chills up and down the spine of Las Vegas," Lombardi said.

Alan Feldman, senior vice president with MGM Mirage, said the Pechanga resort may keep some gamblers from coming to Vegas, but was not worried.

"You are going to have a whole lot of folks who say, ”˜If Temecula is this much fun, what is Las Vegas all about?"

The Aqua Caliente Desert Indians in Palm Springs are considering a hotel for their Rancho Mirage casino, while Donald Trump has helped the Twentynine Palms band of Mission Indians open a casino near Coachella.

Cal Indian leader

A study by InteCap Inc. shows that California is the leader among states in producing Indian gaming revenue.

In 2001, 46 tribal casinos produced $3.3 billion in revenue. However, the tribes are a long way from reaching their predicted goal of $4.7 billion for 2004. The California tribes earned $1 billion in 2000.

Indian gaming has produced $32 billion in direct and indirect output to the economy.

Arizona vote near

A pivotal vote on Gov. Jane Hull’s Indian gaming bill will come the same week as the 10th anniversary of a federal raid on a local Indian casino.

The Senate had been expected to vote on the bill last Thursday, but Sen. Lori Daniels, R-Chandler, asked for a delay.

Hull said she is hopeful the bill will face smoother waters in the House, where it needs 40 of 60 votes.

Detroit mulls bids

A Grand Rapids judge is being asked by the Lacview band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to throw out the casino licenses for the three Detroit casinos and re-open the bidding process again.

"We just want to see the law upheld and we want an equal chance at a fair bidding process," said Lacview tribe spokesperson Ruby Camp.

The judge said he would announce the decision in open court in three to four weeks.

NY court nixes deal

A New York State appeals court ruled that the Legislature needs to give its approval to compacts governors negotiate with Indian tribes to operate casinos.

It wasn’t clear how the ruling would affect plans approved by Gov. George Pataki and the Legislature for an expansion of gambling that would include up to six Indian-owned casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and the Catskills.

Las Vegas-based casino resort operators, especially Park Place Entertainment hope to participate in the expansion.

70-year ban may soon end

Mexican lawmakers would like to end a 70-year-old ban on casinos in areas frequented by tourists, according to an Associated Press story.

President Vicente Fox is in favor of putting casinos in beach resorts such as Acapulco, border towns such as Monterey and in the capital of Mexico City. The prospect of casinos in Mexico could generate as much as $1.3 billion in revenue per year for the country’s economy, not to mention an added presence for Las Vegas.

The country’s Tourist Commission is in the process of finalizing a bill that would legalize casinos. The bill could be ready when the next legislative session meets in September.

Bill Wortman, director of the Nevada Palace Hotel and Casino, has proposed building a gambling complex in Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas. The Oneida Indian Nation has expressed interest in Acapulco and Mazatlan.