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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson

Imperial Palace Says Changes Paying Off

6 November 2003

LAS VEGAS --Imperial Palace owner Betty Engelstad and the property's two new trustees have made big investments in technology that are starting to pay off for the center Strip resort, they said Wednesday at a Gaming Control Board meeting.

Replacing the property's outdated internal DOS-based computer system with a Windows-based platform and putting the Imperial Palace on the Internet were necessary improvements, Engelstad Family Trust trustee William Nitz told the control board.

"We're spending a lot of money, but we think we're spending it well," Nitz said.

Nitz's comments during a licensing hearing for the Imperial Palace executives provide a rare glimpse into the operations of the privately held casino resort.

The Imperial Palace's 2,700 rooms are being renovated, with the project scheduled for completion in about a year.

The property also is building half of a monorail station it will share with Harrah's Las Vegas, and the casino recently added about 600 new slot machines, he said.

"This place is coming along just fine," Nitz said. "We find it a challenging experience but a good one."

Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said the Imperial Palace capital expenditures appear to be having an effect.

"Occupancy is up compared with before 9-11," Neilander said. "It's not like things were falling apart; it just needed to make a few changes."

The control board voted 3-0 to recommend approval for the property's trustees. The Nevada Gaming Commission is slated to consider the trustees' suitability for licensing at its Nov. 20 meeting in Las Vegas.

Betty Engelstad's husband, Imperial Palace owner Ralph Engelstad, died Nov. 26, and the property is operated by the trust. Ralph Engelstad built and opened the Imperial Palace in 1979, and the property has 2,600 employees

Nitz and fellow trustee Jeffrey Cooper meet weekly with Engelstad, and the troika jointly make decisions about the Imperial Palace casinos on the Strip and in Biloxi, Miss., and about other Engelstad Family Trust assets, Nitz told the board.