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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

One of three gaming measures passes

8 November 2006

Two of the three casino-related issues on ballots Tuesday were rejected by voters.

In Rhode Island, roughly two-thirds of the voters overwhelmingly rejected Question 1, a statewide ballot initiative that would have allowed Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment to build a $1 billion hotel-casino outside of Providence on behalf of an American Indian tribe.

Harrah's spent more than $5 million on a public relations effort to gain support for an 800-room hotel-casino that the company would build and manage on behalf of the Narragansett Indian Tribe on 86 acres in an industrial area of West Warwick, near downtown Providence.

Harrah's had been involved with the tribe's efforts since 2001.

In a statement, the company said it was disappointed with the outcome.

"We at Harrah's Entertainment were privileged to have the opportunity to set forth a vision for a destination resort here in Rhode Island in partnership with the Narragansett Tribe. While we of course regret that we will not be able to realize that vision, we respect the result of the vote and the will of Rhode Islanders."

Casino supporters had said the facility would bring 3,800 full-time jobs, $144 million in property tax relief, 3,500 jobs during construction, and millions of dollars in business for local vendors.

Because of its location off heavily traveled Interstate 95, Harrah's had said the casino could produce annual gaming revenues of $700 million.

However, the issue was opposed by Rhode Island's governor, attorney general and other elected leaders. A Rhode Island businessman sponsored full page advertisements in the Providence Journal last week that said a casino would lead to more crime and an increase in problem gambling.

"We share (the tribe's) disappointment at being denied the right to a casino on (their) sovereign land, a right that every other federally recognized tribe in the United States enjoys. We hope that someday Congress corrects this injustice," the company added.

Meanwhile, executives of another Las Vegas-based casino operator, Pinnacle Entertainment, were smiling Tuesday after voters in Lake Charles, La., overwhelmingly approved a ballot question that allows the company to relocate a riverboat casino in the community.

Pinnacle plans to move one of two casino licenses it acquired from Harrah's to a site near its 16-month-old L'Auberge du Lac resort and build the $350 million Sugarcane Bay. Lake Charles residents had to approve the transfer.

The vote was almost 65 percent in favor of the move.

Both of Harrah's Lake Charles riverboats were demolished last year by Hurricane Rita, and Pinnacle swapped its hurricane damaged casino site in Biloxi, Miss., for the licenses.

Pinnacle plans to transfer the second license to Baton Rouge.

Pinnacle President Wade Hundley thanked voters, saying the new casino would bring more than 2,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs to southwest Louisiana.

In Ohio, voters rejected Amendment 3, dubbed Ohio's Learn and Earn, that would have allowed the state to authorize 31,500 slot machines at seven racetracks statewide and two stand-alone casinos in the Cleveland area.

A portion of the revenues, estimated at between $700 million and $850 million annually, would have been directed toward a scholarship program to help Ohio students defray the cost of higher education.

Slot machine makers, including International Game Technology, Bally Technologies and WMS Gaming were supportive of the measure.

The vote was more than 2-to-1 opposed to slot machines.

One of three gaming measures passes is republished from