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S-lot of interest rises in California gaming

Jun 24, 2002 10:01 PM

The Indians have found a "Gray area" in California politics to bolster their casino play.

The State Gambling Commission raised the statewide cap on Indian casino slot machines to 51,000, a 13-percent rise over the 45,206 that Gov. Gray Davis had long insisted he authorized in the compacts.

The new total represents a 170 percent jump in the number of slots since Davis promised to grant no more than a modest increase in Indian gambling.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported that a number of tribal leaders applauded the decision, which will make 2,753 machines available immediately.

The Gambling Control Commission recalculated the statewide limit as part of a broader move to take control of the licensing or distribution of slots.

The slot count defines the scope of tribal gambling. The machines generate most of the profits and have been driving the rapid growth of Indian casinos in California, which has become the nation’s second-ranked gambling state behind Nevada.

No expansion in Iowa

Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Iowa denied that plans are in place to revive a $25 million expansion of the Altoona gambling facility.

The organization would like to expand the complex to include a multipurpose banquet hall/concert facility, a buffet area, restaurant and sports bar.

"I suppose that master plan is laying somewhere," said James Rasmussen, chairman of the Racing Association of Central Iowa. "We are not going to build a banquet hall, concert auditorium or sports bar. It is not going to happen in the near future."

Polk County, which owns the Prairie Meadows buildings and land, needs to obtain enough money from the track to pay the costs of constructing the $212 million Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

CCC still controls AC

The Casino Control Commission dodged a bullet and will retain authority over Atlantic City casinos regarding matters such as money-handling, accounting and gaming security.

The Press of Atlantic City reported that a threat to the Casino Control Act was defeated by politicians, gaming executives and regulators. The new plan would have allowed for casinos to act first and receive permission later on those matters.

The CCC chairman will have 15 days to approve requests for change or send the amendments to the full commission for a hearing.

Timothy Wilmot, who heads a trade group that represents the 12 Atlantic City casinos, said he is satisfied with the decision.

"We’ve got to comply with SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) laws, generally accepted accounting principals requirements and our own internal audit departments," said Wilmott, the Eastern Division president of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Okie bingo lives

For the moment, American Indian casinos can continue to offer a disputed bingo game in Oklahoma until a higher court decides if it’s illegal.

Federal gaming officials contend that MegaNanza machines are illegal in Oklahoma because they are not bingo games. The tribes maintain that the machines are an electronic version of bingo.

Several tribes had unplugged those machines after federal gaming officials warned them last week to stop play.

A federal magistrate in Tulsa ruled last Wednesday that the disputed bingo game could resume.

Pechanga opening set

The $262 million Pechanga Resort Casino opened to the public Monday, boasting a 14-story hotel, seven restaurants and a state-of-the-art theater.

"Timeless elegance, that was something we designed early on in the process," said Pechanga Development Corp. President Anthony Miranda said. "We felt in order to get the most bang for the tribe’s dollar, we wanted to avoid a theme and make customers comfortable and want to come back time and time again."

The hotel features 522 rooms, while the casino is 85,000 square feet with 2,000 slot and video machines, 63 blackjack tables, a poker room with 17 tables and a bingo room with more than 700 seats.

Pechanga’s resort also has a 23,000 square foot ballroom on the top floor. The band of Luiseno Indians is a sovereign government. The reservation sits on 4,500 acres located south of Highway 79, east of Interstate 15.