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Howard Stutz

Action keeps Lake Las Vegas casino open

7 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Casino MonteLago in upscale Lake Las Vegas would seem the least-likely candidate to be closed for financial reasons, but Nevada gaming regulators had to act quickly Wednesday to the keep the small gambling site open.

Both the Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission, meeting in an emergency session, unanimously agreed to let two of the principals in Las Vegas-based PDS Gaming take over the 40,000-square-foot, stand-alone casino.

In response to a question from Gaming Control Board member Mark Clayton, casino representatives said the property would have closed, laying off 180 employees, without the changeover.

"Clearly, this qualifies as an emergency situation," Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said.

Gaming sources said losses at the casino totaled some $50 million since the property opened in 2003. Lake Las Vegas, located in Henderson, is known for its tony resort setting with multimillion-dollar homes and high-priced golf courses surrounding a man-made lake.

Johan Finley, chief executive officer of PDS Gaming, and company President Peter Cleary will buy out the current management contract, spending almost $1.6 million through PDS, which is purchasing the gaming equipment and leasing the property back to the casino.

Wednesday's ruling allows the new management team to cover 50 percent of the casino's losses.

To help slow the bleeding, Lake Las Vegas, the casino's landlord, will charge operators just $1 a month in rent until they are licensed to buy the casino, possibly by the end of September.

Finley and Cleary have applied with the Gaming Control Board to take over operation of Casino MonteLago from CIRI Lakeside Gaming Investors LLC, which was licensed in 2002. CIRI is a division of Cook Inlet Region, a corporation owned by members of an Alaskan Indian tribe.

The separate management company, Sybro LLC, headed by former Caesars Palace President Dan Reichartz, had run the casino for CIRI and was bought out.

A CIRI representative said Sybro wanted to end its management of the casino in December, but was convinced to stay aboard until new managers were found.

Casino MonteLago is adjacent to the MonteLago Village Resort and is accessible to guests at the resort's luxury condominiums and the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas. It is the only gaming offered in Lake Las Vegas. Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort closed a small casino that had operated when the hotel was known as the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas.

The property is small by Las Vegas standards, with 635 slot machines, 10 table games and a race and sports book.

Cleary said eliminating the old management contract and changing food and beverage purchasing could save the casino about $5 million a year.

In addition, Cleary said Casino MonteLago would change its marketing strategy to go after customers at the Ritz-Carlton and Loews while offering rates for the Lake Las Vegas golf courses.

"This time frame also allows us to examine what capital expenditures might be needed throughout the casino," Cleary said.

According to its Web site, PDS Gaming has provided more than $1 billion of financing to the gaming industry for operators, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and entrepreneurs. The company has financed gaming expansion into emerging American Indian casino markets, lottery jurisdictions, and cruise ship operations.

Action keeps Lake Las Vegas casino open is republished from