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Gaming Guru

Ed Vogel

Hooters Approved for License

7 October 2005

CARSON CITY, Nevada – (PRESS RELEASE) -- The founders of the Hooters restaurant chain won a unanimous Gaming Control Board recommendation Thursday for a gaming license as majority owners of the San Remo Hotel just east of the Strip.

Florida Hooters has purchased a two-thirds share of the 711-room hotel-casino from EW Common, the company owned by Japanese businessmen Sukeaki Izumi and his son, Toyoroku. The combined company will spend $65 million remodeling the casino and tentatively plans a grand-opening for the first Hooters Hotel Casino on Feb. 2.

Approval is contingent on the Nevada Gaming Commission giving its consent to the license at its Oct. 20 hearing. That should be a foregone conclusion since Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander and board members Bobby Siller and Mark Clayton all lauded company management.

Ten directors of the company, founded in Clearwater, Fla., in 1983, won preliminary licensing approval Thursday. Commissioners found nothing in any of their backgrounds that caused concern.

"I am very impressed," Neilander said. "In investigations this size we usually run into a few issues. This is a very clean corporation."

During the two-hour hearing, members scarcely mentioned Hooters' chief ingredient for success -- pretty, young, well-endowed waitresses in tight tank tops and orange shorts. No "Hooters Girls" were in attendance.

Other than the restaurant food servers, female employees at six tables in a "fun pit" area of the casino will wear the Hooters Girl outfits, Droste said.

Most employees, including management, will be dressed in "Florida casual" attire, except employees in the more upscale Dan Marino's restaurant, he added.

In a short interview following the vote, Neil Kiefer, chief executive officer of the company, said a federal court order permits the more than 400 Hooters restaurants to use only females as food servers. But he insisted the company does not just employ pretty young women with large breasts.

"There are all different kinds and sizes, the girl next door, the cheerleader," Kiefer said. "Of our original 20 employees in 1983, 16 are still with the company."

During the hearing, Droste said the employees exhibit "tasteful sex appeal."

The business started as one that mainly appealed to males, but has become a popular place for women, children and especially senior citizens, he said.

"They deliver the sizzle, but the steak also," he added.

Kiefer said Hooters will market the hotel-casino to the 60 million customers served in its restaurant chain each year.

Michael Hessling, who manages the San Remo, will serve as chief operating officer of the new Hooters Hotel.

The casino's current 500 employees can keep their jobs for now, he said, but they must go through training and adapt to the new image, he and others said.

They said Hooters employees are expected to reflect a "wow factor" and have smiles on their faces.

Hooters intends to triple the size of the pool and remodel all rooms, adding some suites and cutting the number of rooms to 696.

"Filling the rooms will not be a problem," Droste said.

He said the company soon plans a "Cure to the Common Casino" advertising campaign to convince Las Vegas visitors who stay in other hotels to stop by and gamble for a few hours at Hooters.

"Don't try to compare the San Remo with the Hooters brand," Hessling said. "It is going to be a property people want to check out."