Casino MonteLago operators take step forward

7 September 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Operators of the Casino MonteLago in Lake Las Vegas, who have been running the only gaming establishment in the upscale community for the past three months on a temporary basis, took a step toward permanent control Thursday.

The Gaming Control Board, which let two of the principals of Las Vegas PDS Gaming take over the casino in June to keep the property open, unanimously recommended the operators keep the location following a 15-minute hearing. The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final ruling Sept. 20.

Peter Cleary, who is serving as the president of the Casino MonteLago, told the control board the operators had turned the casino's fortunes around over the summer.

When regulators acted on June 6 in an emergency session, the casino, the only gaming operation in Lake Las Vegas, had totaled some $50 million in losses since its opening in 2003 and was in danger of closing. Lake Las Vegas, located in Henderson, is known for its tony resort setting with multimillion-dollar homes and high-priced golf courses surrounding a man-made lake.

Cleary said operations had shown an 80 percent improvement to the casino's bottom line, due mainly to cost-saving measures. Cleary and Johan Finley, the chief executive officer of PDS, bought out the old management contract. PDS bought the gaming equipment and leased the property back to the casino.

Since taking over, Casino MonteLago established better relationships with the nongaming Ritz-Carlton and Loews resorts and the golf courses to offer packages to customers.

Casino MonteLago has 635 slot machines and 10 table games with a race and sports book. Cleary said a 90- to 120-day plan would be implemented to add a third restaurant, gift shop and high-end gaming area to the casino.

He also said marketing efforts would be increased to focus on bringing local customers to Lake Las Vegas.

"We have several ZIP codes targeted for mailers and other marketing efforts," Cleary told the control board.

Control board Chairman Dennis Neilander and board member Mark Clayton both said management's projections for Casino MonteLago revenues seemed high. Clayton said the projections included double-digit increases in the win per gaming machine.

"We didn't want to set the bar too low," Cleary said. "Here it is September 2007 and were using 2003 gaming equipment."

Finley said about 30 new slot machines had been recently installed and software to upgrade old machines is on order. He said approval from the gaming commission later in the month would allow the owners to increase their order.

The management team kept Casino MonteLago open and about 180 workers employed. CIRI Lakeside Gaming Investors LLC, had been licensed in 2002 to run Casino MonteLago. CIRI is a division of Cook Inlet Region, a corporation owned by members of an Alaskan Indian tribe.

According to its Web site, PDS Gaming has provided more than $1 billion of financing to the gaming industry for operators, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and entrepreneurs. The company has financed gaming expansion into emerging American Indian casino markets, lottery jurisdictions, and cruise ship operations.


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