Big Deals

A state-by-state guide to what's new in gaming

Sandia Resort & CasinoDesert debut: The 228-room
Sandia Resort & Casino
opened in Albuquerque, N.M.,
late last year.

Even last year’s devastating Hurricane Katrina couldn’t put a stop to the gaming industry’s explosive growth in the United States. While the Gulf Coast casinos are being rebuilt (see “The Gulf Revisited”), glittering new facilities are popping up all around the country -- and beyond, as efforts in the Far East demonstrate (see “Eye on Macau” on the next page).

Here’s a rundown on the latest gaming news.

CONNECTICUT

The 1,416-room Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket soon will begin a $700 million construction project that will add an impressive 2 million square feet of space to the resort in the guise of a new hotel tower (Foxwoods has yet to divulge a room count) and more casino, entertainment and dining facilities. Included will be a 170,000-square-foot conference center, which will give the resort a total of 220,000 square feet of meeting space. Plans also call for the creation of four Native American-inspired gardens.

Scheduled for completion in 2008, all this work aims to better enable Foxwoods to compete for group business with the 1,200-room Mohegan Sun in nearby Uncasville, which opened its Project SunBurst expansion four years ago and now has 100,000 square feet of meeting space.

INDIANA

With a grand opening set for December, the $350 million French Lick Springs Resort & Casino brings gaming to the Hoosier State in a big way. The resort, about two hours southwest of Indianapolis, will feature an 84,000-square-foot casino with a nautical theme, a 20,000-square-foot spa, two championship-worthy golf courses and a hotel with 445 guest rooms.

But that’s not all: The property will add a conference and event center that will measure 109,000 square feet and offer two ballrooms with outdoor terraces overlooking gardens. Also planned as part of the project is the 240-room West Baden Springs Resort, with its own spa and golf facilities.

MISSOURI

Pinnacle Entertainment is pouring an estimated $400 million into a gaming project in St. Louis. At a site called Laclede’s Landing, the as-yet-unnamed property will feature a casino, a 200-room hotel, a spa, several restaurants and 12,000 square feet of meeting space. As part of the deal, Pinnacle also is building a 10-story residential-only condominium tower. Ground was broken on the complex this spring, with completion slated for 2008.

Also with a planned opening in 2008 in Lemay, a neighborhood in south St. Louis, is the RiverCity Casino & Hotel. Perched along the Mississippi River, the $375 million property will offer a casino, a 100-room hotel, a spa and several restaurants, as well as a bowling alley, a multiplex movie theater, an ice rink, a public park with athletic fields and a bandshell-style outdoor entertainment venue.

The first hotel-casino in St. Louis, the President Casino St. Louis Riverfront, is bankrupt and up for auction. Pinnacle reportedly is interested in purchasing the property.

EYE ON MACAU
MacauAll aboard: Vegas comes to Macau.

Returned to Chinese rule from Portugal in 1999, Macau (a peninsula plus two small islands) is now a Special Administrative Region, retaining its capitalism while subject to control from Beijing. Enter the gaming giants of Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Sands, owner of the Venetian, opened the $250 million, 51-suite Sands Macau here early last year. This past March, Hilton Hotels announced a 1,200-room Hilton and a 300-room Conrad, both to rise on the Cotai Strip, which connects Macau’s islands of Taipa and Coloane. Completion for both is set for 2008.

The first mega-property to open will be the $1 billion Wynn Macau, debuting this fall. The 600-room hotel will be spread over more than 15 acres and will have 600 rooms, a spa, a theater, 100,000 square feet of gaming, and nearly 225,000 square feet of meeting and function space.

Close on Wynn’s heels will be the $2 billion, 3,000-room Venetian Macau Resort Casino, to open in early 2007 with 1.8 million square feet of convention space and 546,000 square feet of gaming. Soon after, the 600-room, $975 million MGM Grand Macau will open.

Other companies with big plans include Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, which will open the 500-room Shangri-La Hotel, Macau, and 1,000-room Traders Hotel, Macau, by the end of 2008, and Melco International, which announced a $1.2 billion property featuring an underwater casino, three hotels and a theater, also to open in 2008. -- T.B.

Las VegasTall tale: Las Vegas’
Palms Casino Resort
will get two new towers.

NEVADA

Las Vegas

A quintessential Las Vegas touch is the new Museum of the American Cocktail. Inside Commander’s Palace restaurant at the Aladdin, the museum, which opened in March, traces the libation’s history from Prohibition to the present. And for the eternally enterprising entrepreneurs of this historical gaming mecca, there’s a lot of news worth toasting.

Last year’s biggest headlines were about the mergers of Harrah’s Entertainment with Caesars Entertainment, and MGM Mirage with the Mandalay Bay Group. The combined Harrah’s/Caesars now has a citywide room inventory of 17,883, in properties such as Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas and Rio All-Suites, while the merged MGM/Mandalay now controls a colossal 34,892 rooms in storied hotels such as the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.

Each of these megacompanies is now actively courting the conventions market, touting packages that let groups hold events in a range of venues while negotiating all their business through one sales office and with one contract.

Also noteworthy are several newcomers that have joined the glitz and glamor of the gaming scene here, including three properties that opened during the first three months of 2006.

* The 1,350-room South Coast Hotel & Casino sits on 60 acres and offers a 90,000-square-foot conference center, an 80,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom. The Miami-themed resort also features an equestrian center, a casino and a 64-lane bowling alley.

* The 414-room Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa, north of the city in Summerlin, features 70,000 square feet of meeting space, 10 restaurants and a 30,000-square-foot spa. The property’s second phase, to be finished in December, will add 400 rooms and a condominium tower.

* The 696-room Hooters Casino Hotel does not offer dedicated meeting space but does tout a mix of theme restaurants.

* The new $289 million Augustus Tower at Caesars Palace opened last August. Just west of the original Caesars buildings, the tower has 949 rooms, giving the property a total room count of 3,348, along with 80,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes a 36,400-square-foot ballroom.

In addition, in January Harrah’s/Caesars acquired the 2,640-room Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino. So far, no new plans for the property have been announced.

Meanwhile, the following projects are in the works:

* The Maloof Brothers, owners of the 430-room Palms Casino Resort, are adding two new hotel towers to the property. The first, the 40-story Fantasy Tower with 347 rooms, a spa, a 2,200-room theater and 60,000 square feet of meeting space, is set to open by the end of summer, while the second, rising 10 stories higher and to open in late 2007, will contain 599 condominiums and be known as Palms Place.

* The long-awaited new incarnation of the 2,567-room Aladdin Resort & Casino will debut by year’s end. Under its new guise as the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the property will offer 35,000 square feet of meeting space, the renovated 7,000-seat Theater of Performing Arts, a 1,500-seat showroom and a hotel tower with 1,200 rooms (some of them condominiums), to be called the Planet Hollywood Towers by Westgate.

* The 272-suite Conrad Las Vegas is set to open in December. The $350 million property includes a 100,000-square-foot entertainment complex called Majestic Plaza,a 14,000-square-foot health club and spa, two ballrooms and 13 meeting rooms. Nearly 200 condominiums also will be available.

* The mega-everything Wynn Las Vegas, which opened 15 months ago with 2,726-rooms, already is planning to build a $1.4 billion expansion that will add more than 2,000 guest rooms, 30,000 square feet of meeting space (for a total of approximately 260,000) and a 1,600-seat theater in 2007.

* The 4,049-room Venetian awaits the 2007 opening of a separate but affiliated hotel tower to be called the Palazzo Casino Resort. Rising to a height of 50 stories, the property will have a dramatic lobby dome and 3,025 guest rooms, giving the Venetian the largest room count in the city.

* The 2,700-room Grand Hyatt Las Vegas, which began construction last fall, will be part of the $1.5 billion Cosmopolitan resort just south of the Bellagio. Plans call for 70,000 square feet of gaming, 300,000 square feet of shopping and 150,000 square feet of meeting space. Phase I of the project will debut in 2008.

* W Hotels’ first entry into Las Vegas, the $1.7 billion, 3,000-room W Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Residences, will open in 2008 with a 75,000-square-foot casino, 300,000 square feet of meeting space, 10 dining and nightlife venues, and a spa.

* Station Casinos, the force behind the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa, will open a new property to be called Aliante Station in 2008. Taking up 40 acres in North Las Vegas, the hotel will feature 200 guest rooms, as well as assorted restaurants and additional meeting space, although exact details were not available at press time.

* Two other projects with expected 2008 debuts -- but few released details -- are the 4,000-room, $1.5 billion Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas (a sister property to the original Fontaine-bleau in Miami Beach) and the Southern Highlands Casino-Resort, which willcover more than 100 acres and will include a spa, a theater, 12 restaurants and an as-yet-undetermined amount of meeting space.

* The first post-merger project by MGM Mirage/Mandalay Bay will be the $5 billion Project CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip. The 66-acre development, likely to begin construction this month, will feature a 60-story, 4,000-room hotel-casino offering more than 1,600 condominiums. Among smaller hotels in the complex will be Mandarin Oriental’s first property in the city, the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, with 400 guest rooms,
a 30,000-square-foot spa and 40,000 square feet of meeting space. When opened in 2009, Project CityCenter will offer a total of more than 200,000 square of meeting space and 470,000 square feet divided among shopping, dining and entertainment venues.

* Near Wynn Las Vegas will rise a new hotel-casino courtesy of a partnership between Asian hotel company Shangri-La and Las Vegas heavyweight Boyd Gaming Corp. The 400-room Shangri-La, Las Vegas, will open in early 2010 and contain 20,000 square feet of meeting space and a 20,000-square-foot spa. The property will be but one small part of Echelon Place, a Boyd-managed, 63-acre development that will offer a total of 25 restaurants, 140,000 square feet of gaming and 825,000 square feet of meeting space in a dedicated convention center to be called the Las Vegas ExpoCenter at Echelon Place. Three as-yet-unnamed nongaming hotels will add 4,900 guest rooms and approximately 200,000 square feet of meeting space to the mix.

* This past March, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority announced the biggest-to-date expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a mammoth $737 million project due to begin late this year and finish by the end of 2010. An unspecified number of meeting rooms will be added to the center’s South Hall, and a new “mega-lobby” will be built to connect the Central, South and North halls and link up to the adjoining Las Vegas Monorail station.

* Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney has revealed plans to build a $3 billion, 4,400-room property to be called Las Ramblas, after the famously colorful street of shops in Barcelona, Spain. Clooney’s partner is Rande Gerber, husband of model Cindy Crawford, who is behind the wildly popular chains of hotel-based Wetbars, Whiskey Bars and Whiskey Blue bars. Plans call for a pedestrian shopping street, several bars and a spa. Construction on the property, to rise next door to the planned W Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Residences, has begun, and its first phase, including four condo-hotel towers, will open in 2008, although no definite date within that year has been given.

* Coming to the very northern reaches of the city, until now home to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and little else, is the Ultimate Sports Resort, which will have a 1 million-square-foot convention center along with five arenas, an Olympic-size pool, a bowling center, an ice rink, more than 5,000 guest rooms and more than 150,000 square feet of shopping. Currently, 2009 has been given as the opening date.

In all, the LVCVA predicts that between now and 2010, the city will add some 35,000 hotel rooms for a new citywide total of about 170,000 rooms.

Reno

The big news in this busy city is the $230 million, Tuscan-themed expansion of the 1,100-room Peppermill Hotel Casino. Construction started last October, and planned features include a 17-story curved-glass hotel tower with 600 suites; a new grand entrance; 14,000 square feet of additional casino space; a year-round pool with gardens and an entertainment deck; a spa; a 10,000-square-foot, a two-story nightclub; and a 50,000-square-foot convention center with banquet seating for up to 3,000 people, concert seating for 4,800 and space for approximately 300 trade show booths. When completed in late 2007, the property will have 90,000 square feet of meeting space.

NEW JERSEY

The state banned smoking in all public places as of April 1, with the exception of casinos, although most such venues have nonsmoking areas.

Of course, Atlantic City is where the action is, and the action increasingly resembles Las Vegas. Indeed, the developers of the Forum Shops at Caesars Las Vegas lent their know-how to the upcoming Pier at Caesars at the 1,400-room Caesars Palace. Opening this summer, the 575,000-square-foot project -- a redevelopment of the former Million Dollar Pier -- will feature restaurants, shops, venues and several rows of high-definition LCD screens, but the highlight will be the Atlantic Club, a $175 million facility with a spa and a skybridge leading to the hotel.

Another big project under way is the $325 million hotel-tower expansion at the Borgata, which is tucked along the shoreline in the Atlantic City neighborhood of Renaissance Pointe. Due to debut in summer 2007 with 800 rooms (for a new overall room count of 2,810), the new tower will be called The Water Club and will have a 36,000-square-foot spa and 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

Harrah’s Atlantic City announced a $500 million expansion to open by year’s end. Features include a 17,000-square-foot entertainment venue, a spa and an indoor pool. A new 900-room hotel tower will open in 2008 and will boost the overall room count to 2,526.

Also coming is a new hotel tower of between 1,200 and 1,500 rooms at the 1,250-room Trump Taj Mahal, to open in mid-2008.

NEW MEXICO

More than 10 years in the making, the 228-room Sandia Resort & Casino opened in December 2005 in Pueblo Sandia, near Albuquerque. Highlights include a 50,000-square-foot convention center with 10 meeting rooms and a 27,000-square-foot ballroom, a 228-room hotel and the 12,000-square-foot Green Reed Spa. With the dramatic Sandia Mountains as a backdrop, an 18-hole golf course ends at a 16,000-square-foot pueblo-style clubhouse and 3,000-square-foot outdoor meetings area.