LC observers nervous about Pinnacle Ameristar deal - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

LC observers nervous about Pinnacle Ameristar deal

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Investors liked it -- the announcement that Pinnacle will acquire Ameristar. The day of the announcement, both companies saw an estimated 20 percent increase in the price of their stock.

Still, some local observers are skeptical after watching the demise of Sugar Cane Bay, and are concerned to see the future project, now under construction, pass to the same hands that once canceled it.

But Pinnacle officials say construction on the project, formerly known as Ameristar, continues  with completion set for 2014. And both Lake Charles Port officials and our local member on the Louisiana Gaming Control Board expect the project to go forward as promised. Lake Charles Port Director Bill Rase has talked with the CEOs of each company.

"Both have stated that the project will remain and will go forward and what they're looking at is that, from the Pinnacle side, they put the best resort in the south  for gaming and the resort atmosphere. So, in order to do that, you've got to have the amenities that would go with a resort," Rase said.

The port's lease with the license holder spells out the minimum that will be spent and various key parts of the project.

"If you just look at the paper that's printed and signed by the parties, we do have the ability, that if they don't do what they say, that we can put them in default of the lease," said Rase.

Bob Jones is the local representative on the Louisiana Gaming Board which must approve Pinnacle's purchase of Ameristar.

"One of the big things is that they've already spent a good bit of money on the project. The license was re-purchased from the Dan Lee group and there's been a lot of pilings driven," said Jones.

He said the board would be extremely concerned about any scaling down of the project in Lake Charles.

"We would be concerned if they made a substantial alteration to the plans because when we re-graded the license, there were two other businesses ready to put facilities either here or in New Orleans and, you know, we're talking about 1500 jobs," said Jones.

Pinnacle spokesman Kerry Andersen said the new property and L'Auberge will be an integrated, full-service casino resort -- the largest on the Gulf Coast and will further promote Lake Charles as a gaming destination.
 
Pinnacle officials say the addition of another property here will serve to strengthen and expand the market. Andersen says the new property will generate a lot of employment opportunities and new business for vendors.

There is a Gaming Control Board meeting on Jan. 17. It's uncertain whether the pinnacle purchase of Ameristar will be on the agenda.

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