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Arnold M. Knightly

Lake Las Vegas casino delays opening

7 July 2014

LAS VEGAS -- The lone and historically troubled casino at Lake Las Vegas is not opening any time soon.

On Tuesday, Newage Lake Las Vegas, which owns Hilton Lake Las Vegas Hotel and Spa, received a three-year extension on its conditional-use permit for nonrestricted gaming from the Henderson City Council to find an operator for the casino, formerly known as Casino MonteLago. Newage is owned by California-based Kam Sang Co., which is majority controlled by real estate investor Man Ho Lam.

Plans to open the casino Oct. 1 were pulled after Lam was denied a gaming license in May when the Nevada State Gaming Control Board found he “failed to satisfy their burden of proving their qualification to be licensed” under state law.

The Nevada State Gaming Commission upheld that finding later that month.

Phil Wolfgramm, a senior vice president at Kam Sang, said Wednesday that the company is working to find a casino operator and plans to have the casino open before the three-year deadline. While the denial of Lam by gaming regulators means he cannot reapply for a year, Wolfgramm said that the businessman will not try to get licensed again.

“It’s not our core business,” Wolfgramm said. “It was an effort to consolidate the ownership with the hotel and the casino.”

Lam and his creditors had wanted to open the casino in October to coincide with the planned reopening of the refurbished Reflection Bay Golf Course and Galleria Parkway, which will provide direct access to Lake Las Vegas from the Galleria Mall area off U.S. Highway 95 in Henderson.

While Lam asked for three years, Wolfgramm said the plan is to find an operator soon and open the casino long before that deadline. All possibilities are being looked at in finding a casino operator, Wolfgramm said, including a lease of the casino for a flat rent or selling the casino outright.

“We’re going to look for an operator that can come in and has some experience with (gaming regulators) and gaming,” Wolfgramm said. “We’ve already taken bids and are in discussion with many potential operators. I doubt seriously that will take three years.”

Lam first applied for a gaming license in August, with plans to have then operator Intrepid Gaming continue overseeing the casino during the licensing process, Lam’s attorney Brian Hardy told the Control Board May 7. However, Intrepid suddenly pulled out of its agreement to operate the casino in November, forcing the casino’s closure. The casino had previously closed in March 2010.

Intrepid operated the casino under an agreement with Deutsche Bank since May 2011, but Newage was unable to renew that deal, Wolfgramm said.

Newage acquired the 349-room Ravella at Lake Las Vegas and Casino MonteLago on Nov. 21, 2012, for $46.8 million from creditors led by Deutsche Bank. The creditors had held the property, which had opened as the Ritz-Carlton, since 2009. The property was rebranded Hilton Lake Las Vegas in June 2013.

The continued closure of the casino comes as apparent progress is being made in revitalizing Lake Las Vegas, including the Hilton. Lam told gaming regulators that the hotel has been able to turn a small profit the past six months without a casino.

Raintree Investment Corp., an investment firm for New York hedge fund manager John Paulson, has been refurbishing Reflection Bay, regreening the community open space and securing entitlements to build more houses on approximately 565 acres of undeveloped land. Raintree acquired its holdings from creditors for $31 million.

Pacific Capital Investments, owner of the three-acre MonteLago Village, recently hired a new real estate management firm to increase occupancy and lure new tenants to the shopping and dining area.