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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Atlantic City Borgata Set for Expansion

25 October 2004

Boyd Gaming Corp. -- fresh from announcing a major casino expansion at its Borgata resort in Atlantic City -- is expected to discuss details of a new hotel tower during the company's third-quarter earnings report on Tuesday.

The company received approval for the tower Thursday during the monthly board meeting of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a state agency that controls funds to help finance casino projects in Atlantic City. Boyd submitted plans for a roughly $350 million room hotel tower with 500 rooms as well as pools, a spa, meeting space and retail, CRDA Executive Director Curtis Bashaw said.

Bashaw said plans show for the resort to begin construction next summer for completion by the second quarter of 2007.

Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell declined to elaborate on the project but said Boyd executives would discuss it during the company's third-quarter earnings conference call. Boyd, which owns the Borgata with MGM Mirage, has previously discussed the possibility of building another hotel tower to accommodate better-than-expected demand for rooms.

The Borgata's performance has so far exceeded Boyd's and analysts' expectations, earning $24.5 million in the second quarter as well as the highest slot machine and table game revenue per game in Atlantic City. Boyd revealed details of its $200 million casino expansion in July, saying it would add another 600 slots, 36 table games, 56 poker tables, 46 race book seats in addition to retail shops and spa treatment rooms. That project is expected to open by the second quarter of 2006.

The hotel tower would be financed in part from two funds -- a casino construction fund and a separate expansion fund -- totaling $92 million. Recent state legislation enabled the funds, which include refunds of a tax levied a few years ago on comped rooms. The Borgata's expansion also is eligible to receive a rebate on sales taxes generated in retail areas -- a plan designed to create more retail areas, Bashaw said.

The CRDA also collects a small percentage of each casino's gaming revenue that is disbursed for various reinvestment purposes.

The Borgata -- the first resort to be built in 13 years in Atlantic City -- has spurred other casino giants to reinvest in their properties, Bashaw said.

Last week the CRDA also approved an expansion and renovation at the Showboat hotel and casino owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc. as well as renovations at Caesars and Bally's resorts, both owned by Caesars Entertainment Inc.

"Our plate at the CRDA is very full with applications, the likes of which we haven't seen in 20 to 25 years," Bashaw said.

The new projects, which include new retail areas and trendy dining outlets are aimed at drawing daytrippers for a longer period of time as well as a younger demographic, he said. Private capital is also coming to town with plans for residential high-rise towers, a new trend for Atlantic City, he said.

"Now there's a keep up with the Joneses mentality,"