Sunday Talk: Pinnacle officials excited about future in Lake Charles

By By Bobby Dower / American Press

The pending acquisition of Ameristar by Pinnacle, which owns L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, has raised many questions.

Geno Iafrate, executive vice president for Regional Operations, and Kerry Andersen, director of Media Relations and Public

Affairs, discussed the deal and Pinnacle’s plans when it is completed, with the American Press.

American Press: What prompted Pinnacle to purchase Ameristar?

Geno Iafrate:

Let’s start with Ameristar because I think a lot of the confusion that

occurred, a lot of the questions that are being generated

locally are primarily because of a lack of understanding of

Ameristar. Ameristar has no brand presence here or no recognition

here, and so for all intents and purposes, people think that

Ameristar is the 15th (gaming) license in Louisiana and the second

casino next to L’Auberge, right?

That’s not really the case. That’s a

part, a small part, of Ameristar. Ameristar is bigger than Pinnacle.

Ameristar has casino

operations in — they are based in Las Vegas, Nevada and they were

founded in Jackpot, Nevada, Craig Neilsen’s casino in Jackpot

is still there. They have a property in Blackhawk, Colorado. They

have property in Council Bluffs, Iowa. They have a property

in Kansas City, Missouri. They have a property in St. Louis,

Missouri, a property in East Chicago, Indiana and the property

that is being built here in Lake Charles.

When you think about that structure,

the real opportunity for Pinnacle was not specifically the property in

Lake Charles,

albeit that strategically is going to be important for us. The

opportunity was for us was to double the size of our company,

more than double the size of our company.

We were able to execute on our strategy of diversifying our company which will circle around to, was one of the reasons we

canceled the Sugar Cane Bay project in the first place which was lack of diversification of our company. So this project,

because of the size of Ameristar, inherently give us broad diversification across 13 jurisdictions. And Ameristar is No. 1

or No. 2 — oh, Vicksburg, Mississippi, I left out — No. 1 or No. 2 in every jurisdiction they do business in. So, a great


We got to know them — we’ve known them —

but we really got to know them here in Lake Charles as we worked on

things like roadway

designs, site access. We’ve allowed them to have construction

access through our customer entrance. They brought trucks right

up L’Auberge Drive, right up our golf course.

So just in our relationship that we’ve

developed and gotten to know them here in Lake Charles, we found that

they were a lot

like us as a company. Almost like we’re looking in a mirror. That

culture — a lot of time it’s easy to add assets, it’s hard

to integrate cultures and our cultures were so similar it seemed

like a natural fit. It’s exciting.

There is the notion out there that the reason that the deal went down was that Pinnacle was just protecting its turf here

in Lake Charles.

Iafrate: That question is rooted in a lack of understanding of how big Ameristar is and how broadly distributed they are and diverse

they are, as well as us. A lot of people in the state of Louisiana, I meet people that don’t know that we own Boomtown in

Bossier (City), Boomtown in Harvey. If you know that L’Auberge opened in Baton Rouge, you assume that we own it because we

own L’Auberge here. But then beyond that we have Lumere Place in St. Louis, we have River City in St. Louis, we have River

Downs in Cincinnati, we have Belterra in Indiana. People don’t realize that Pinnacle is bigger than just Lake Charles.

We canceled Sugar Cane Bay, let’s go

back to that and I’ll tell you why we canceled Sugar Cane Bay and why it

makes sense

to have this project and complete this project. When Sugar Cane

Bay was first announced it was a grand idea, but the funding

never existed. Recognize that this is all prior regime of

Pinnacle. Pinnacle we think of as a start-up company, although our

roots go back for many, many years with Hollywood Park. Think of

the current Pinnacle Entertainment as being about three years

old. The start of that company was March of 2010 when our current

CEO, Anthony Sanfilippo, joined and really recreated our

company. Our company, prior to that was a development company. We

would just build properties and then move on, build another

property and move on, never really focus on operating our


Now, we have become a quality operating

company that takes advantage of, selective advantage of development


Since 2010, we’ve added with the exact same assets, not counting

Baton Rouge, over 100 million dollars in incremental free

cash flow a year. So, financial strength, right? Our debt ratio

has been brought down pretty substantially since 2010, 2009

and 2010. So the financial strength of our company has changed

substantially since we canceled Sugar Cane Bay.

Sugar Cane Bay was announced, the

funding never existed to build it. Never. So, it was a grand project

that did not have financial

backing. Along the way, it was extended, the date was pushed out,

right? Now this was all pre-me, but I’m just giving some

brief history backwards. At some point there was a change in

leadership at Pinnacle where Dan (Lee) left and then John Giovenco

was the interim CEO. At that point, John realized that the project

could not be funded and they made substantial changes to

the project that included some modifications, really downsized the

project. You guys probably remember this process. Again,

pre-me, began working on that modified project, started driving

piles, etcetera.

So now 2010, Anthony joins the company

and realizes that we are still on the tail end of the worse economic

conditions in

70 years, the great recession that we dealt with from 2007 to

2010. Our company had substantial exposure on the Texas border

and we were about to double down in Lake Charles. At the time, we

had a $250 million commitment in Baton Rouge.

We assessed all of that and decided that although we’re in the gambling business, we didn’t want to bet the entire company

on Lake Charles. It just wasn’t a prudent to make. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and we felt like

that was a prudent decision.

So we canceled Sugar Cane Bay. We

raised the scale of the project in Baton Rouge from a 250 dollar million

project to a 368

million dollar project. Baton Rouge doesn’t have a Texas exposure,

so if something happens in Texas, Baton Rouge in unaffected

by it.

Then we began to focus on operation excellence throughout our organization and we were able to generate with the exact same

assets incremental 100 (million) to 120 million dollar in free cash flow while laying down debt all along.

Add a Retama Park acquisition in San

Antonio, Texas, which, once again, one of the primary questions always

asked of us by

analysts is what happens if Texas legalizes. We answered that

question. We have a presence in Texas now. We are close to having

a presence in Texas. We expect to close that deal January 31st and

begin operating that race track on February 1st, so just

a couple weeks away. And we want to diversity.

So, you put all that stuff together,

our financial strength, the general economic conditions of the world are

not great, but

better, the financial health of our company is substantially

better, solved for the diversification and the risk of having

too much exposed in one market, solved for because of the

Ameristar transaction. We are not outlaying cash to build a project

in Baton Rouge that isn’t generating any cash flow. It’s opened.

It opened on September 1st.

So our company now versus our company

in March of 2010 when we made the decision to cancel Sugar Cane Bay is a


different company. And now this project is a project that we can

be very excited about instead of scared to death of, if that

makes sense.

What does the acquisition of the 15th license mean for Lake Charles and the L’Auberge property and what your vision is to

do next door?


We were working toward some things with Ameristar that I think were

going to be really exciting for both of our properties.

We were going to combine our golf and tennis. They have a license

condition to have an 18-hole golf course and a pro tennis

facility. We have already to come an agreement with Ameristar and

the Port (of Lake Charles) to jointly operate — we were

going to create a separate company — and jointly operate the golf

and tennis facilities, so we would have a collection of

four nine-hole courses instead of each of us having an 18-hole

golf course. Think of the synergies and the draw that that

creates as a golf destination.

We are already doing that pre-Ameristar

acquisition. So now, physically owning both of the facilities allows us

to integrate

the facilities to be much more seamless from a guest perspective.

We can market them jointly, we can create a connection between

them that is as seamless as can be. The buildings aren’t going to

probably physically be connected because of where they are

located. I don’t know that they are going to be physically

connected, but as far as pedestrian traffic, vehicle traffic,


some sort of automated people mover, whether that’s a train, a

bus, we’re still working on that. But our ability to integrate

those and have two complimentary facilities that increase the

offering, both for local guests as well as the draw for regional

and national guests.

We envision you checking into the hotel

at the Ameristar facility or the L’Auberge facility and being able to

charge stuff

to your room no matter what building you are in. We envision you

being able to gamble and earn comps at either facility and

use them frankly at any one of our facilities in the entire

country — all 15 properties with our one-card system.

The benefits both locally and regionally and nationally are substantial.

We’ve all seen the drawings that Ameristar had. How much of that will you embrace or will you sort of start all over?

Iafrate: Ameristar

is a separate company and they are going to continue construction as if

they have to remain a separate company.

It’s part of their fiduciary responsibility of their senior

leadership team and their board of directors to run their company

as if they are going to always run their company.

At the moment, we are aware of the

plans and we have had some preliminary meetings where we get to see some

of the design

work, etcetera, but our influence is minimal. We don’t own them

yet. We have to continue through the process of regulatory

approval in each of the jurisdictions, shareholder approval by

Ameristar shareholders. We both have unanimous board approval

at this point. We need Ameristar shareholder approval and we need

FTC review which is always, publicly traded companies will

always be in that CD process. And then we need the jurisdictions,

the regulatory body between the jurisdictions to approve

ultimately the transaction.

We still expect to close sometime between late second quarter and the end of the third quarter, so sometime between June and

September is when we expect to close. A lot of it has to do with the timing of getting on each one of these various board

agendas and the like.

So at the moment we don’t own it. So

Ameristar continues to build it and build it to their specifications.

There will probably

be minimal physical change as far as location, number of hotel

room, height of tower, width of building, location of pool

— those things by the time you get to June or July, August or

September when we expect to close this deal, it will be pretty

set. Frankly, they are pretty set now, based on driving piles.

Will we paint a wall yellow instead of

red or blue instead of orange? Those are things when you get into those

design details

where you start picking out the curtains and the drapes and the

carpet, those are things that we will likely have influence

on, but the physical structure of the facility, I don’t know that

we are going to have a lot of influence on.


of the things that Ameristar changed was that there was going to be the

concept of a certain number of rooms, but there

was also going to be some kind of arena and they talked about it

had been their experience that people came to their casinos,

went to the shows and then didn’t go into the casino, so they

removed the arena but replaced it with additional rooms.

Iafrate: That’s true.

They went from something like 450 rooms to 700 rooms.

Iafrate: They went from 400 and 400-and-change to 700, 700 is the current number.

Would Pinnacle revert back?

Iafrate: Hotel rooms are critically important. We’re happy with the 700 hotel rooms.

As far as entertainment goes, it’s

early but I would tell you, look at the entertainment lineup at

L’Auberge. We are the premier

entertainment destination on the (Gulf) Coast. We run headliner

acts on a monthly basis. We run the Party by the Pool series,

we have the entertainment in Jack Daniels, there’s always the

piano lounge in Ember. I don’t think we’re starved for entertainment

in Lake Charles. L’Auberge, clearly, we’ve even done an event at

the Civic Center. L’Auberge clearly is the premier entertainment

provider for the Lake Charles area and Southwest Louisiana for

that matter.

I know that some of this is controlled by Ameristar, but what is your time lime? If you had your druthers, how quickly would

you like to see basically the facility up and running?


The current timeline, I don’t remember the exact date, it’s mid-’14,

it’s summer of 14. There is a specific date, I don’t

remember what it is. It’s in the conditions of Ameristar’s

license. I think it’s July 1st. We just use summer of ’14 as the


There’s a lot of work to do between now

and July of 2014. Not being directly in control of the project until a

minimum of

June and as late as September, I’m not sure we’re in a position to

be able to comment on the construction schedule. That would

be an Ameristar question. Once we are in control of it, I’m sure

we would be able to comment on the construction schedule.

Obviously, I want to open as soon as

possible, but we have a history of not opening things in phases. We open

when complete.

Baton Rouge is an example. We could have opened the casino first

and then finished the hotel. But our preference is to open

the full resort simultaneously.

Is that also somewhat of a challenge that this is going to be partially constructed and then basically they are going to hand

you the baton?

Iafrate: The general contractor doesn’t change. The general contractor is building to plans. They are going to keep building to plans.

They’re just going to get a check from somebody else, right? Yates Construction continues to be the GC and run the job.

Currently, the Ameristar construction

team, led by Jack Mohn, is overseeing the project. We don’t expect any

of that to change

between now and when we take over the project. Heck, it might not

change from now until the project opens. It’s just too early.

Jack and his team are doing an incredible job and they’re quality

guys, professional, great to work with. I wouldn’t be surprised

if that team was at the grand opening ceremony in 2014.

Are there any hurdles you have to clear with the state Gaming Regulatory Board?

Iafrate: Ultimately,

the Louisiana Gaming Control Board would have to approve the

transaction, as will every other jurisdiction that

there is an Ameristar. Missouri will.. Nevada. Any jurisdiction

that they are in — Indiana, Mississippi, even the jurisdictions

that we already do business in like Indiana, Louisiana, there are

others, Missouri, even the place where we already do business,

the transition still have to be approved because it is a transfer

of the license.


you envision something seamless as opposed to if you were going to come

in at this point and, say the Ameristar deal was

going much quicker and you were going to make some changes to

these plans, those would all have to be approved by the Gaming

Board, would they not?


It depends. If we change the size of the hotel room or the color of

the carpet, the Gaming Board has not interest in that

whatsoever. If we change — certain aspects of the facility that

are considered conditions of the license, if we were to modify

or change any of those conditions, then ultimately, we would need

Gaming Control approval. It’s like today there is a condition

that there will be an 18-hole golf course, there’s a condition

that there will be 700 hotel rooms, those type of things if

you wished to change any of those, even if we wanted to make the

bigger, even if we wanted to go to 900 hotel rooms, that’s

an interesting question. I know if I wanted to go down, I would,

but if I went up I’m not sure that the Gaming Control board

has interest in that.

Your workforce. When the new casino and resort is open, will they be interchangeable or will they two separate workforces?

Iafrate: It’s

pretty early in that planning process. I think it depends on the

position. Granted, there won’t be two entirely separate

accounting teams. Will I need extra accountants to handle a whole

another property? Probably. Will I need two completely separate

human resources teams? Probably not. But given the fact that I’m

going to come close to doubling the team member count, will

I need additional personnel in human resources? Probably.

And then when you get down to the

actual at the door, on the floor, line level-type positions, you have to

be duplicative.

I need a dealer at both places, I need a slot attendant at both

places, I need restaurant, I need chefs. It’s really in those

administrative functions and some of those senior level positions,

that probably don’t need to be duplicative. But as you

work your way down the organization, I’m going to need two of


You mentioned restaurants. Is it too early to talk about what kind of brands or restaurants you would have in the new facility?

Kerry Andersen: That’s all anybody really wants to know.

Iafrate: Ameristar has done a great job of putting a food and beverage package together. Although I’m aware of their food and beverage

package, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to spill the beans on all the great work that they’ve done.

Generally, you’ll see the items that are pretty typical with a casino. There will be a great buffet. There will be a wonderful

24-hour cafe experience. There will be fine dining experience. There are many restaurants planned for this facilities that

are pretty exciting.

In line with it coming out on Sunday, the public has a perception that Texas is going to determine a lot of things. This is

not just about Lake Charles, this is nationwide. Why don’t you explain your position in Texas because the company has made

an investment there?

Iafrate: Yeah, we have. This resort that is about to be created here, will there be an impact of Texas legalizes gaming? It depends

on what form of gaming is legalized and where. It is kind of hard to answer that question directly.

Are they going do resorts in specific locations? Are they going to do slots at racetracks? Of they just going to do VLTs?

Are they going to do anything? Who knows?

This resort, having 1,700 hotel rooms,

over 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games, great restaurants, 36 holes

of golf, pro

tennis facilities, two fantastic resort pools, a beach, you start

to put all of this together on 500-plus acres with great

access, this becomes a pretty special destination that even with

Texas gaming, this thing takes a hit, but still is a pretty

spectacular place that I think we’re going to be enjoy for many,

many years. Our next generation is going to enjoy this thing,

regardless of what happens in Texas.

Now, we took a stand in Texas. We

bought, it’s an interesting structure. We basically are going to be the

manager, we bought

a 75-and-a- half percent ownership interest in a management group

that holds the license and manages the racetrack at Retama

Park. Now, the interesting piece of this structure is Retama Park

itself, the physical assets, the building, the dirt, etcetera,

is owned by a public-private corporation. It’s kind of unique to

Texas. It’s owned by the City of Selma. It’s called the Retama

Development Corporation. The Retama Development Corporation is

this public-private corporation owned by the city of Selma

that has a public board, meeting are open. That corporation,

Retama Development Corporation, technically owns Retama Park.

We manage Retama Park and own 75-and-a-half percent of the

management group. There’s 140-some-odd partners that own the other

24-and-a-half percent. We own almost all the outstanding debt of

the Retama Development Corporation. We hold the paper for

the physical assets. It’s a pretty interesting structure that we

are retaining at the moment.

It would depend on what happens in Texas. The greatest possible scenario for Texas is that they would have one physical casino

and it’s at Retama Park (laughter) and they have table games, slots, poker and bingo and Jai-Alai, wherever else you want to have. That’s probably not going to happen.

Ultimately, as a company we believe,

we’re in the gaming distribution business. We provide gaming

entertainment across multiple

jurisdictions and as a result of that, we support legalization or

expanding game in Texas. As to what that looks like, our

support would vary depending on what it looks like. If Texas wants

to put resort casinos or even racinos out there and they

want to have a 95 percent tax rate, we’re not interested. I still

have to run a business. So, it just depends. Broadly speaking,

we’re in support of expanded gaming in Texas but as to how much we

support that, it really depends on what version and where

and how and etcetera.

We do think there are three Class I

racetracks in Texas. There’s the one at Retama Park. There’s one in

Houston, Sam Houston,

Penn Gaming owns I believe 50 percent of that and the Horowitz

family owns the other 50 percent. And then there’s Lone Star

Park in Dallas which is owned by Global Gaming which is the

domestic business arm of the Chickasaw Nation, which owns WinStar

Casino in Oklahoma. Those are the three Class I tracks.

There are believe 15 licenses or so in

total in Texas, including in smaller markets, including dog tracks.

There are other

horse racing facilities and there’s dog facilities, not just at

that Class I level. Those Class I tracks, the restrictions

on them to get that license, they had to be in an population

center with greater than 2 million people when those licenses

were issued. There are even licenses in Texas that are dormant.

The Austin Jockey Club is an example. It holds the license,

but they don’t operate a facility. They pay a fee to maintain

their license without operating an actual track. ...


early in the game, but what are the talks from your vantage point on

branding? What’s new the new casino going to be

named? When is your office going to take over the PR (public

relations) aspect of that facility? Where is that at right now?

Iafrate: It

would be ultimately, because we are both publicly traded companies, we

won’t take over any direct operation of their facilities

anywhere until the deal closes. That’s the bottom line. They have

to continue to operate. Ameristar has to continue to operate

as a if they are a stand-alone company. We have to continue to

operate as if Ameristar is a stand-alone company.

Now we can plan through an integration

planning process, we can spend time planning. We are putting a group of

folks together

on the Ameristar side and on the Pinnacle side. These folks are

going to spend their time between now and the consummation

of the deal planning. What do we do the second that the deal

closes? And the reason that you do that now is that you don’t

want to wait six months. We’re expecting in six to nine months

we’re going to close the transaction. We want to have a plan

ready so that the second it closes, break out the plan and start

executing. We won’t have direct control until that time and

there is work being done on the brand. I don’t know. It’s too

early. Can I sit here and say it will be called Ameristar? No.

Can I tell you what the alternatives are? It’s just too early.

Do you think the lawsuit that has been filed in Las Vegas is going to hinder this process?


I think that — I’m going to misquote these statistics but I’ll back off

of the statistics a little bit and I will be directionally

correct — I think somewhere 90-plus percent of any publicly traded

company, anytime there is a publicly traded company that

is involved in a merger or acquisition 90-percent-plus percent of

those transactions result in a lawsuit. And somewhere close

to zero result in any substantial action. I think it’s less than 5

percent actually result any form of action. It’s a process.

It’s just a process. I don’t think it would — no one appears to be

alarmed by it. Everybody expected it. It’s just part of

the process.

Going back to what you said before in explaining in how you already had a cooperative agreement with Ameristar, that has to

help as you move forward as oppose to another situation where you could be ...

Iafrate: An uncooperative agreement?

Well, you might be fighting tooth and nail so to speak.


Yeah. The gaming space is such a highly regulated space, it’s not easy,

frankly probably darn near impossible, to have a

hostile takeover in a gaming company. It really has to be a

process that is welcomed by both parties to ever consummate. Frankly,

I think the decision is that when Ameristar senior executives and

Pinnacle senior executives and both Ameristar and Pinnacle’s

boards have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders. And

they believe and have voted as such that our two companies

are better together than we are apart. And that releases a

tremendous amount of value for the Ameristar shareholders and then

on a go forward basis, creates a tremendous amount of value for

the Pinnacle shareholders. It’s a great transaction. It’s


It is technically, I want to cover

this, though, because we’ve been saying this. It is technically, by

definition, an acquisition.

Pinnacle is acquiring all of Ameristar’s outstanding stock and

assuming all of Ameristar’s debt. But we are not treating it

— technically it’s an acquisition, but practically we’re treating

it as a merger.

Ameristar is a fantastic company. Great

properties. No. 1 or No. 2 in every one of their markets. We expect to

learn a lot

from Ameristar’s operators and to be able take the things that

Ameristar does great and make them part of our new combined

company and take the things that Pinnacle does great and make them

part of our new combined company. And then have a new Pinnacle

on a go-forward basis that starts the second that the deal closes.

I don’t know L’Auberge’s impact on the Baton Rouge market has been, but you’ve got Beau Rivage in Mississippi and there are

lot of people that live in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge that have preferred in the past to go there rather than staying

in Louisiana. You might have that same deal if Texas ever legalizes. At Beau Rivage, you have a pretty fine facility.


We’re really proud of the Baton Rouge team and our property. We opened

September first and December numbers (aren’t out yet),

we have not seen December market numbers yet, but the first three

months of operation, September, October and November, our

facility grew that market by approximately 60 percent which really

has been our point in Baton Rouge all along. We have said

that the Baton Rouge market is much bigger than the two boats that

get reported at the Belle and the Hollywood. We’ve always

said that the market is much bigger than what is reported than the

Baton Rouge market.

You take those two boats — what are

those guys doing? — 12, 13 million (dollars) a month, call it 15 million

combined. Then

you have to throw in Paragon which doesn’t report up in

Marksville. That place is probably doing 12 (million). Call it 25

million a month between those three facilities. You go down to New

Orleans and you are throwing a another, call it 10 or 15

million in New Orleans per business. I’d call it 15 million. Now

you have a 40 million market in Baton Rouge and then you

take another 5 to 10 million that is going to Harrah’s in New

Orleans and kind of staying in those properties.

The Baton Rouge market is not a 15

million market. It’s a 45 to 50 million dollar (a month) market. Over

the last three months,

we’ve been able play that out. We’re not going 13 to 14 million a

month split three ways. We’re now doing 22, 23, 25 million

split three ways with us getting the vast majority of that.

We have been excited about the

performance of that property. Similarly in Lake Charles, the Houston

market is very under-penetrated

and it was under-penetrated when we canceled Sugar Cane Bay. We

didn’t cancel Sugar Cane Bay because we didn’t think the business

wasn’t there. We thought that it was too much of a risk to put

that type of additional exposure in Lake Charles, given the

profile of our company at the time. The profile of Pinnacle is in a

completely different place than it was in 2010 and the

Ameristar transaction, given all the other assets that come along —

the other seven facilities — that come along with this

deal. If you sit and think about it and you take out a map of the

United States and put all of the locations of both Pinnacle

properties and Ameristar properties, you go ‘‘Oh, I get it.’’ ...

What ground have we not covered?


I think ultimately the message is exciting. It’s exciting for Lake

Charles, for Calcasieu Parish, for Southwest Louisiana

and Louisiana as a whole. This is north of a 500 million dollar

investment. It’s going to create somewhere and I don’t know

exactly how many jobs — but somewhere in 16, 17, 1,800 new

additional jobs. It’s a little less than L’Auberge because of the

hotel size. We have a thousand rooms versus 700. It’s an easy

1,600 new jobs for Lake Charles. Great careers. High-paying


Pinnacle and L’Auberge’s team, I think, we have proven our commitment to provide a great place for our team members to work,

to have long, rewarding careers. An incredible place for our guests to come and have wonderful experiences.

I think the thing we are most proud of

is we are dedicated to making sure Lake Charles is a better place to

everyone to live.

You see our civic volunteer commitment throughout the community is

something that we are very, very proud of. We think that

adding another 1,600 people that can do cancer walks and those

families, it is just another great deal for us and great benefit

for Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish, Southwest Louisiana and the

state of Louisiana.

Andersen: It’s an opportunity for our existing team members who live here and are from here to move up within the company and advance

into management positions and that’s very exciting. ...

Iafrate: It’s going to be a special place. We’re excited. You’ve seen the designs and the presentation. It’s cool. It really is cool.

It kind of has a Hotel Del Coronado, Tommy Bahama vibe going. It’s a neat place.

So do you think it will appeal to someone who may not like the decor of L’Auberge?

Andersen: The Texas lodge.

Iafrate: We have that Texas hill country. L’Auberge’s more of a comfortable elegance kind of feel where currently the Ameristar project

is more of a island, Tommy Bahama kind of vibe.

It might appeal to a younger clientele?

Iafrate: I don’t know. I think the demographic at L’Auberge is such that we have something for everybody. If you look at the complements

of things, we have Jack Daniels, the Glow Bar, Ember, Party by the Pool, Match Box 20, then Tony Bennett.

Andersen: Then Englebert (Humperdinck)

Iafrate: You look at how we program L’Auberge, there is something for everybody all the way from a 5-year-old hanging out in the Lazy

River and the Arcade or the Ice Cream shop, all up to the 105-year-old, there’s all kind of stuff going on.


Everyone sees our gaming revenue

numbers because they are reported every month. This is the second year,

2012, was the second

year in a row that L’Auberge Lake Charles was the top No. 1

revenue producing casino in the state of Louisiana. If you think

about a number of years ago, people thought that it was a

no-brainer that we would be the No. 1 riverboat in the state of

Louisiana, but everybody excluded — there’s that one little

land-based casino down at the end of Canal Street in New Orleans

that is substantially bigger than us. They have over 2,000 slot

machines, they’re land-based, they are not bound by the


restriction and they are in the city that has a heckuva lot of

tourism compared to Lake Charles. It has four time the population

of Lake Charles. A national destination. Airlift in and out, on

and on and on.

We’ve beaten them two years in a row.

We’re not the No. 1 riverboat in the state of Louisiana, we’re the No. 1

casino from

a revenue standpoint in the state of Louisiana. And we’re very

proud of that. Our team members here in Lake Charles and the

community should be very proud of that, that everybody has done

very hard work at that.


was) a story a couple of weeks ago that shows that the Lake Charles

market, which is y’all, supersedes Reno (Nevada).

Most people would think that you go to Reno, you’re going to have

action. We’re over Reno, we’re over New Orleans, we’re over

Shreveport, we’re 13th or 14th in the nation according to the

American Gaming Association. How does that make you feel from

a business standpoint and from a legacy standpoint that your

product rivals some of the biggest stuff, especially Reno, which

has that tradition of being in the casino gaming market?

Iafrate: We’re proud of our facility

here. We’re proud of our team, more than 2,000 dedicated team members

here. We don’t

measure ourselves against other markets and other facilities. We

just try to be the premier resort destination in Southwest

Louisiana and we try to attract people from all over the place.

It’s exciting. It feels good and you can be proud when you

look at the scoreboard to be in that No. 1 spot, but you’ve got to

focus on every day being better than you were yesterday

and making sure we have the best service professionals in the

business and we are providing magical, memorable moments to

our guests and we’re doing the right thing in the community to

make sure it’s the great place for everybody to live. We keep

executing on those things, the rest of it kind of works out,


... We publish every month the gaming

revenue numbers. What we don’t publish are the non-gaming revenues, the

revenue we generate

in our shows in or in our restaurants or in our retail shapes.

That category of revenue, that non-gaming revenue, has been

a huge driver of our success here in Lake Charles. We have created

among the highest quality retail experience in the region.

We have incredible food and beverage facilities, great nightlife

entertainment. I’m as proud of the non-gaming stuff as I

am of the gaming operations here in Lake Charles.

I hear all the time all the time from people, ‘‘I don’t gamble, but I love going to Ember.’’ I can’t wait to go watch a game

at Jack Daniels.’’ Or ‘‘The pool was fantastic, or the pool, or the barber shop.’’ Right? It is a fully integrated resort

destination. It’s not all about gaming at L’Auberge. That’s the piece that we get very excited about.