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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Roundup

26 December 2002

ATLANTIC CITY -- A one-time Atlantic City casino executive has long-shot plans to build a small, independent casino in the city where she last worked 16 years ago.

Sandra Manno said sheís heading an investment group thatís trying to buy a 6- acre Boardwalk block so they can build Havana Casino Resort. Her plan is to spend $350 million, after land costs, to develop a 500-room property.

The land assemblage is going poorly, she acknowledged, but sheís maintaining hope that the site, between Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place, will work out. If not, Manno said, she might consider other locations in the city.

The plan, she said, is to build a relatively low-cost, Havana-themed property that relies on lively decor and service instead of over-the-top amenities. By keeping her debt service low, she said, Havana could offer more generous slot payouts than other casinos.

Manno, managing general partner of Philadelphia-based Onnam Gaming, said sheíd like to expand the Havana casino concept to Delaware, Mississippi and even Havana, Cuba, itself.

Although secretive about the project, she took out a full-page ad in last monthís issue of International Gaming & Wagering Business magazine. The ad said only that Havana would open in 2005; it did not say where or by whom.

Manno, once vice president of real estate for Resorts International Hotel Casino, would not disclose her investors or other funding sources.

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Ed Rendell, who becomes Pennsylvania governor next month, said he has no plans to champion riverboat casinos in the state, which would be a major threat to Atlantic City.

"We're working on slots," Rendell said, referring to his support for legalizing slot machines at racetracks.

"We ought to put money into slots. It's necessary for property-tax relief," he told The Press of Atlantic City after an unrelated press conference.

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Atlantic Cityís biggest proponent in the state capitol, Sen. William Gormley, pulled a bill would give state recognition to Indian tribes because he feared it could be ìa back-door routeî to tribal gaming.

The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Walter Kavanaugh, said the idea was to allow tribes to sell their arts and crafts as authentic Native American. Gormley said he wanted to review the bill to ensure it couldnít be used to hurt Atlantic Cityís $4.6 billion casino industry.

The bill would recognize the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape, Powhatan Renape and Ramapough Mountain tribes. They would need federal recognition to open a casino.

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The Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., may be close to toppling nearby rival Foxwoods Resort Casino as the worldís highest-grossing casino.

The Mohegan Sun for the first time reported a higher slot handle than Foxwoods in November and came within $1 million of surpassing it in slot revenue.

Mohegan's slot win was $61.8 million compared to $62.7 million for Foxwoods.

Neither casino publicly discloses its table-games revenue, which analysts believe account for 28 percent of their total gambling revenue.

Mohegan Sun is benefiting from a $1.1 billion expansion that opened in phases over the last year.

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Perhaps indicating that itís aiming for some of the worldís biggest gamblers, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa redesigned its hotel tower to eliminate eight single rooms to make way for two 5,000-square-foot suites. When the $1 billion Borgata opens next summer, it will have 2,002 hotel rooms ó most in the Northeast.

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Atlantic City casinos are getting a boost in their bid to draw gamblers from farther away. Delta Connection, a regional unit of Delta Airlines, said it will begin weekend jet service on Jan. 31 from Atlantic City International Airport to Boston and Washington, D.C.