Jurors want Pinnacle license to stay in parish

September 7, 2006
By Theresa Schmidt

Calcasieu Police Jurors tackled the issue tonight of whether to adopt a resolution asking the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to refrain from moving any of the five existing riverboat gaming licenses from this parish.

Pinnacle officials fear the police jury's stand could send a negative message about their proposed Sugarcane Bay development. For jurors the idea of asking the gaming board not to take away any riverboat license from the parish is aimed helping the economy and jobs. And keeping all licenses now in Calcasieu is important to local labor unions.

Yet Pinnacle's president, Wade Hundley warned, the resolution before jurors, if approved, could have the opposite effect. "This resolution seems fairly benign on the surface. My concern is, it sends a message to the public, as a no vote on Sugarcane Bay." Hundley says the issue should be not the number of licenses but the investment. And he disputes claims by a group of local businessmen that the market could support a second project of the magnitude of Sugarcane Bay. "The Alliance, I know they have good intentions, scares me to hear the fact that they'd be willing to build a big, big casino, $500 million they claim, downtown in the face of us building Sugarcane bay. That's absolutely suicide. Economic suicide."

Hundley says if voters turn down Sugarcane Bay November 7 they'll see a development on Lake Charles' lakefront that will pale by comparison. "In the event we fail on the referendum, what we would do is just rebuild the old Harrah's. But we only need one license to do that. So, it's not as though we'll still have an extra license."

Still, in the unlikely event that the Pinnacle Harrah's deal fails to close, Tim Bowling, with the Alliance for Local Recovery and Development says they 're ready to step in. "What we're proposing is real. We do have the money. We have the $165 million cash, $2.5 billion line of credit. We're ready to roll."

After all the discussion, jurors went ahead and adopted a resolution asking the gaming board to keep all five licenses in Calcasieu Parish, though it's unclear what if any influence their action may have when the board takes up the issue. Right now their are five riverboat gaming license berths in Calcasieu Parish.  The two Pinnacle licenses previously held by Harrah's plus one at L'auberge-- and Isle of Capri has two licenses.