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Gamers dealing for new venues

Jan 28, 2003 5:56 AM

A group of veteran casino operators with 95 years of industry experience has launched a gaming management and operations firm in Las Vegas.

Southeast Investments LLC is awaiting licensing in Washington and New Mexico, where the company is set to run casinos. Several properties in California and Oklahoma are also under evaluation.

"We’re well-funded and we are actively looking for opportunities,’’ says Rick Howe, a vice president with the four-member management team that includes Roxy Jewett, James Bradshaw and Rob Young.

With $500 million in funding through AA Capital Principals of Chicago, Southeast’s partners figure to parlay their big-city casino experience in burgeoning Indian and small-town gaming markets.

"The primary focus is west of the Rockies, but we can operate anywhere,’’ Howe says.

Jewett, president and managing partner, held executive positions at the Las Vegas Hilton, MGM Grand, Riviera, Stratosphere and Bally’s and at the Motor City Casino in Detroit.

Howe has worked in executive capacities at Caesars Palace, Bally’s and the Las Vegas Hilton.

Bradshaw, vice president in charge of finance, has held similar positions at Caesars Palace, the Las Vegas Hilton and Desert Inn.

Young, Southeast’s legal counsel, has extensive experience in issues involving Indian gaming.

The quartet says that, in contrast to the corporate behemoths that rule the Strip, Southeast brings agility and speed to the high-stakes game of acquisition and operation.

"We can react quickly,’’ Bradshaw notes. "A tribe can call us this morning and we will get back to them this afternoon.’’

And Southeast appears to be on to something, receiving inquiries every week simply by word of mouth.

The company is currently developing a casino for the Stillaguamish Tribe in Arlington, Wash., near Everett. Scheduled to open by August, the gambling hall will debut with 425 slots and 14 tables in a 45,000-square-foot building. J.E. Dunn and ITI are the contractor and architect.

As consultant on the project, Southeast is making a $36 million investment and will receive 12 percent of the gross.

"We highly recommend Southeast to any development enterprise in need of capital and/or expertise,’’ states Edward Goodridge Sr., chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe.

Meantime, the partners are vying for the remaining racino date in New Mexico.

And funding continues to flow through AA Capital, headed by Paul Oliver, John Orecchio and Charles Wall Jr.

Investors are excited about the prospects of emerging and expanding markets such as California, where intense slot action can run $300 per day — triple the Las Vegas Strip average.

Jewett says Southeast prefers to work with tribes that are already compacted in their states. To start from scratch can take two years or more.

"We also like to work with smaller tribes. Big tribes tend to have big problems politically,’’ he says.

Small is better, too, in the view of casino workers and executives worn down by the corporate grind.

"A lot of guys don’t want to work for the big boys anymore,’’ Jewett observes. "We have a good network of skilled workers who are eager for new challenges.’’