Final Casino License Goes To $400 Million Lake Charles Project

At least it looks like they picked the right one.

Louisiana’s Gaming Control Board, tasked with the less-than-optimal mission of issuing a finite number of casino licenses rather than credentialing those operators who meet the state’s standards for licensure and allowing the market to decide winners and losers, chose a proposal by Creative Casinos, LLC for a $400 million casino titled Mojito Pointe. Creative Casinos, which is headed up by Dan Lee, a former top exec at Pinnacle Entertainment, beat out a $167 million proposal for a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles and a $145 million proposal for a casino in Jefferson Parish.

Lee’s new project will be next door to Pinnacle’s well-regarded L’Auberge Du Lac casino, which in January actually outpaced the land-based Harrah’s New Orleans casino in gross revenue. It’s expected to open by the end of 2013, assuming voters in Lake Charles approve its construction in an April 30 special election.

There is an interesting backstory behind the Mojito Pointe project. A year ago Lee, a former Wall Street analyst and chief financial officer for Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts, was fired from his position as Pinnacle’s CEO. As part of his severance from the company Lee signed a non-compete agreement, and Pinnacle had sued to prevent Lee from presenting the Mojito Pointe proposal to the Gaming Board. The property Mojito Pointe will be built on is the site of Pinnacle’s proposed $350 million Sugarcane Bay casino, a project which the company canceled amid the economic slowdown last year.

The suit was unsuccessful. And Lee was less than meek when a judge in Las Vegas denied a motion to prevent him from presenting his proposal to the Louisiana Gaming Board.

“It’s apparent that someone with Pinnacle has a grudge against me. Pinnacle canceled Sugarcane Bay and turned in the license. That put them in default on the lease. I then responded to the port and the state’s public process to find new developers. Only when it became evident that mine was the most ambitious of the proposals did Pinnacle become excited and start making absurd demands on me and the port.”

The architectural rendering of Mojito Pointe makes it look like an attractive destination.



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