Last Modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 1:45 PM
BATON ROUGE — State gambling regulators on Thursday approved Creative Casinos’ ownership transfer to Ameristar Casinos, allowing the Las Vegas-based casino operator to build a $500 million resort in Lake Charles.
Ameristar must break ground on its project by July 20 and must finish in 2014, as stipulated in its agreement with the state.
Gordon Kanofsky, Ameristar CEO, told the Louisiana Gaming Control Board that aside from more hotel rooms, the casino-resort will look similar to the plans that former Creative Casinos managing partner Dan Lee got state approval for.
“It will be the same aesthetic design. And it will be a very iconic structure,” Kanofsky said. “This will be something we will be proud of.”
When completed, the casino will consist of 700 guest rooms and 70 suites; 3,000 parking spaces, with 1,000 in a parking garage; a golf course; tennis courts; a resort pool and spa; conference and meeting rooms; dining venues; falconry and a croquet court; and a pleasure boat dock.
The gambling area will include 1,600 slot machines and 60 table games.
According to a company news release, financing will come “approximately one-half from future operating cash flow and one-half from borrowings under its revolving credit facility, which currently has $496 million of undrawn availability.”
Prior to appearing before Louisiana gambling regulators, Ameristar obtained approval from the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District to lease the same 242 acres of land that Creative Casinos proposed to build Mojito Pointe on.
Earlier this year, Lee contacted Ameristar officials about buying the project from him after he encountered difficulty obtaining financing to build.
Board member James Singleton expressed reservations about Lee choosing a company to take over the project, thereby getting use of the state’s gambling license.
“I just have a problem with somebody dictating to me and us as a board who the licensee should be,” he said.
Dale Hall, board chairman, said that even though some may question the deal, it is in the state’s best interest to support it.
He said that when Lee was chosen in 2011 to be granted the state’s last riverboat license, board members made the correct choice. “It was the responsible decision made at that time by the board.”
Board member Franklin Bradford echoed Hall’s sentiments. “It is in the best interest of the state,” he said. “Dan Lee may have done us a favor by helping to get a stable company to take over the project and complete it.”
Port of Lake Charles Commissioner Daryl Burckel attended the meeting and was pleased with the outcome.
“I’m very excited about this and Ameristar getting final approval. They are a publicly traded company that will go forward with their plans,” he said.
Ameristar has 7,500 employes at eight casino hotel properties.
The company has been public since 1993, with stocks traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. According to company financial reports, Ameristar generates $1 billion in net revenues yearly.