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Palm Springs has $90 million reasons to bet

Dec 10, 2002 12:31 AM

   Palm Springs is set to burst into the casino resort business.

   The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians broke ground last week on a $90 million casino project that will cover an entire city block in the California resort community.

   The new casino, slated for completion in November 2003, will replace the existing Spa Casino operation.

   “This is a grand day in the history of the Agua Caliente and of Palm Springs,” said Richard M. Milanovich, the group’s tribal chairman. “This ambitious casino project will make Palm Springs the premiere casino destination in California.

   The casino’s exterior and interiors will reflect a style of casual elegance. The site is about a quarter mile from the Palm Springs Convention Center.

   The planned site will have 1,000 of the latest slots and video poker machines, along with more than 40 table games. There will be a Player’s Club created to offer incentives for frequent bettors.

   Other attractions include three restaurants, a sports bar, a 150-seat entertainment lounge and a central bar on the casino floor.

   “This project will increase revenues for Palm Springs by bringing more destination visitors to the city that would normally go to Las Vegas,” Milanovich said. “The new casino will make Palm Springs even more of an attraction because visitors can now enjoy a casino as well as everything Palm Springs has to offer in terms of arts, entertainment and our unique atmosphere.

   Palm Springs has been known for years nationally as the host for the annual Bob Hope Desert Classic Pro-Am golf tournament.


Mohegan milestone

   The Mohegan Sun became a billion dollar operation during the last fiscal year and reported a growth of nearly 20 percent for the fourth quarter.

   The fourth quarter success was keyed by a record gaming day in September. Net revenues jumped 32.4 percent to $1.042 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The period marked the first full year of operation for the Mohegan tribe’s newly expanded casino resort in Connecticut.

   The Sun’s chief financial officer Jeff Hartmann reported that revenue from the new hotel tower, which opened last June, contributed to a 19.4 percent increase in the fourth quarter.

   Hotel revenue was $14.1 million for the quarter, while occupancy was 79 precent.  Room rates averaged around $176 per night.

   The Mohegan Sun has not surpassed rival Foxwoods in monthly slot revenues, but operators said that the resort has captured more than its fair share of the market.

   Mohegan Sun had 31,000 visitors a day during the 2002 fiscal year.


Conyers buys time

   Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to study whether new laws are needed to control Internet gambling.

   Conyers dropped a draft version of the bill, knowing there was no chance it would pass Congress and get White House approval before adjournment. The idea behind the bill, according to a Washington Post story, is to get aides and other staffers to dicker over language and hope that support could be gained through extra time.

   State gaming boards are worried that the Internet will hurt real-world gambling  operations from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and on Native American establishments.

   Previous legislation proposed by Representatives Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) were previously voted down on the House floor.


Arizona set for gaming

   Several more Arizona tribes are expected to sign gambling agreements later this month.

   The Cocopah and Quechan tribes are behind Proposition 202, approved by voters Nov. 5. The initiative orders the governor (Jane Hull) to sign deals to increase the number of slot machines the tribes can operate.

   The Yuma Sun reported that the Cocopahs are currently building a casino on Highway 95 north of Somerton. The tribe has not decided whether blackjack will be offered.


Slots at Cheers?

   Imagine Norm at the bar drinking a beer and playing video poker. Lawmakers in the Boston area are pushing for legislation that would give restaurants and bars a chance to add video gambling machines to their menus.

   State Rep. Karyn Polito sponsored a bill that would allow any establishment holding a liquor license to install up to five video gaming machines, according to the Milford (Mass.) Daily News.

   Television glamorized the Boston bar scene during the 1980s with the megahit show Cheers.


On, Wisconsin!

   Gambling related profits soared 58.6 percent in five years to a record $428.3 million in five years, according to Wisconsin state auditors.

   “Based on the reviews we do in the field and in-house reviews of the records, I can make the statement that the games being offered by the tribes are of the highest integrity,” said Scott Scepaniak, administrator of the state Division of Gaming.

   “The games are being played fair and the public’s interest is protected,” Scepaniak said.

The agency will abide with an audit recommendation to establish a three-year schedule to monitor each of the 24 casinos operated by the state’s 11 tribes.