Casino builder wants to reinvent the wheel!

May 7, 2002 9:12 AM

FERRIS WHEEL BACK ON TRACK! A joint venture to build a new mega resort featuring the world’s tallest Ferris wheel has announced a purchase agreement that would give them a prime Strip site. The land is at the northwest corner of Harmon and Las Vegas Blvd., between the Bellagio and MGM Mirage’s site (the Boardwalk property) for a future resort.

One of the principals, Richard Hannigan, president of Voyager Entertainment International, Inc. said, "The master plan now includes a residential/time share, with a hotel partner. The amenities will include a lake with water features, numerous retail and theme restaurants, and a magnificent 22,000 sq. ft. four story night club and restaurant in the eye of the wheel, located approx. 28 feet above the Strip."

Hannigan said the resort would have a wheel 560 feet high, putting it 20 feet above Paris’ Eiffel Tower across the street. Total cost of the Voyager project is expected to reach $260,000,000, which includes land acquisition. Completion is planned for New Year’s Eve 2003.

THE HOTTEST BUZZ! The latest word is that Bill Clinton will take over for Bryant Gumble on CBS’ ailing early show. They say the network would pay Clinton twelve million bucks (double the amount they pay Bryant). The question is, can Clinton get up that early in the morning to do the show?

VENETIAN LOOKING FOR ROOMS! An insider reports that The Venetian’s plans to add 1,000 new guest rooms, which had been on hold because of a slumping economy, are back on the drawing board.

The 5,000-room Strip resort is lining up financing for a $200 million expansion. Owner Las Vegas Sands said it expects to have funds lined up by June 30, with construction to start thereafter.

  With business rebounding and a $1.33 billion refinancing plan already in the works, Venetian boss Sheldon Adelson figured it was time to resume building. He plans to sell $850 million in new mortgage notes and open a $450 million senior secured credit facility. Proceeds will buy back the Venetian’s old bonds and to pay off other credit lines for a substantial savings.

WARMING UP IN THE MINOR LEAGUES: "You can expect "The Owl" to be really sharp when the dealers are told to shuffle up for this year’s World Series of Poker Championship at Binion’s Horseshoe," reported a Downtown pipe.

He was referring to Bobby Baldwin who has had his hands full the past couple of years running the Mirage Resorts properties for his bosses at MGM MIRAGE Inc.

"Maybe he felt he needed a little action to get him into his top playing mode but he was seen Sunday morning in a game with two other players in the poker room of Sam’s Town Gambling Hall," he said.

Baldwin, a world-class poker player, won the WSOP back in 1978, prior to signing on with Steve Wynn who was about to take the lead in Las Vegas Strip developments with The Mirage, Treasure Island and the ultimate $1.6 billion Bellagio. When Wynn sold the company to Kirk Kerkorian of MGM Grand, Baldwin stayed on with the new company.

GOOD NEWS FROM KANSAS: Phil Ruffin, owner of the New Frontier Hotel/Casino, received good news over the weekend. The Kansas House on Saturday barely approved a bill that would permit slot machines at the state’s racetracks.

For Ruffin, that would mean putting slots at his Wichita Greyhound Park and his smaller facility, Camptown Greyhound Park. The bill provides that the track operator can keep 66% of the net revenues.

There’s a lot of opposition to expanding gambling in Kansas and no one was prepared to predict what kind of reception the House bill would receive.

SPLIT DECISION IN MISSOURI: Like so many other states, Missouri is struggling with ways to balance its state budget. Naturally, increasing taxes becomes the focal point. Especially when the taxes are on such "sins" as gaming.

Looking to pick up about $50 million, the House proposed raising the riverboat gaming tax from a flat 20% to a graduated tax ranging from 16% to 30%. Thus there’l be winners and losers. Benefiting from the graduated tax will be those whose revenues are in the lower categories. These include Aztar Corp. (AZR), St. Jo Frontier, Mark Twain and the Isle of Capri in Boonville.

Paying the bigger premiums will be Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) and Argosy Gaming (AGY).