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Best of Rudi Schiffer

Gaming Guru

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Heard it on the River

3 May 2005

By Rudi Schiffer

COLONY CAPITAL, en route to becoming a bigger player and major competitor in the American gaming industry, quietly took over HARRAH'S TUNICA and BALLY'S in TUNICA at the stroke of midnight this past week and it was business as usual next day. The transistion appeared to be a smooth one as far as players were concerned and there was a comfortable feeling among employees we talked to and no signs of the normal anxiety one might expect with such a major change. As one exec told us…"we feel real good about Colony, they know the business and they should be very good for the Tunica market." Capable MARK FULTON, a former GM at Isle of Capri when it operated in Tunica, will be the GM at RESORTS TUNICA (Harrah's).

The acquisitions were part of a $1.2 billion payout for Harrah's East Chicago, Harrah's Tunica, Atlantic City Hilton and Bally's Tunica and followed Colony's $280 million buyout of the Las Vegas Hilton from Caesars Entertainment. Led by THOMAS J. BARRCK, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Colony is one of the few private investment firms licensed in gaming. Colony has owned RESORTS INTERNATIONAL in Atlantic City since April 2001 and is also a partner in ACCOR casinos in Europe. It is one of the world's largest independent acquirers and financiers of real estate-related assets with some $10 billion in assets.

SMOKEY JOE'S is making a comeback at SAM'S TOWN and F&B Director JACK ELIA and Executive Chef BARRY RHODES, predict they have a winner with this mid-range restaurant featuring home cooking. With MEE-MAW's secret recipe meatloaf on the menu, how can they not succeed. Also at Sam's Town GERALD STYER is the new poker room manager.

We HEARD that RESORTS TUNICA, the new guy at the end of CASINO STRIP, is coming out with a two-tiered player loyalty program. No details R ready yet. It will apply to BALLY'S in a few weeks, which is also owned by Resorts. We also HEARD that Resorts will put in a poker room in the former Harrah's. Stay tuned. By the way, here are the new web sites….BALLY'S TUNICA……RESORTS TUNICA…

Want to be a poker dealer. Check out the new MID-SOUTH POKER SCHOOL that has just opened in Memphis under the professional guidance of a respected poker exec, PEPPER MUNSEY. Pepper was formerly manager of the room at GOLDSTRIKE and was heavily involved in running the JACK BINION WORLD POKER OPEN before deciding to get in on the poker rage with his own operation. The facility is located at 2500 Mt. Moriah in the Perimeter Mall in Suite H-264. Call Pepper at 901-489-0819. Poker dealing is one the higher paying jobs for dealers in a casino.

On the financial front HARRAH'S ENTERTAINMENT has reported first-quarter revenues of $1.26 billion, up 24.2 percent from revenues of $1.01 billion in the first quarter last year. MGM Mirage, which has acquired MANDALAY RESORT GROUP (GoldStrike) said the company has shattered profit records at several Las Vegas Strip resorts in the first quarter and that the remainder of the year looks strong.

Two big money blackjack tournaments are on tap for Tunica. GRAND'S $150,000 tournament is scheduled for May 13-14 and GOLDSTRIKE'S $150,000 event is a week later on May 20-22. Both are $500 buy-ins.

CHEF SUMI CLARK led her HOLLYWOOD BBQ team to first place in the casino division at the 13th annual Tunica Rivergate Festival , an event which Hollywood sponsors. TUNICA RIVERPARK has installed a new exhibit of rare and unusual Ice Age fossils at its museum that will be on display for six months. The bones were all
discovered along the Mississippi River.

The 4th Annual salute to Tourism and Business, which includes a small business expo and awards luncheon, will be held on Wednesday, May 18 at the Grand Convention Center. This excellent program is staged by the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce. Call 662-363-2865 for tickets.

All quiet on the proposed new casinos and track that had folks hereabouts talking a lot. Nothing has been forthcoming in many months on the two casinos, SOLID GOLD at Mhoon Landing, and the Canadian backed operation that would cost around $900 million closer to Casino Strip. There has been some rumblings about the proposed NASCAR-typed track and we've heard the money is there but nothing is happening, at least publicly. Keep your eye on Arkansas, however, as gaming is making progress there.

All of you who are friends with CHEF MARC SILVERBERG will be happy to know that he is not only 99 recovered from the terrible motor-cycle accident he suffered with his gal Penny many months ago and his life has taken a big turn for the better. He has been hired by an Indian casino just east of Los Angeles at the foot of San Bernadino Mountains and should be on the job as director of Food & Beverage as you read this.

Rudi Schiffer
Rudi Schiffer is a long time columnist and contributing writer for Jackpot Magazine, the South’s leading gaming publication, and for, the world’s leading casino industry internet news distributor. He is also owner and co-host of the 20-year-old Goodtimes Radio Show, now simulcast on Fridays from 3-6 PM Central Time from Country Classic 1180 AM, Memphis networked with KMIS 1050 AM, and 103.9 KGLU FM from Kennet, MO covering parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. His radio show is also archived at A Boston University Journalism graduate, he resides in Memphis, TN. Known as the "Voice of Tunica" for his support the gaming jurisdiction for two decades, he was also recently named to Memphis Business Quarterly Magazine’s 3rd annual “The Power Players, Who’s Who” of Memphis.He is also a contributing writer for Southern Gaming & Entertainment and Mississippi Gaming.

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