Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Argosy betting on bigger casino

Lawrenceburg tax credit was key to plan

By John Byczkowski
Enquirer staff writer

Argosy Gaming Co. is moving ahead to plan an expansion of its Lawrenceburg casino, following the Southeast Indiana city's approval last week of a 10-year tax credit worth up to $50 million.

"Now that we have an agreement with the city, we think it's proper for us to move forward on this," said Larry Kinser, general manager at the Argosy Casino & Hotel.

The casino has more business than it can handle. "When they have 3,700 on there, there's 600 or 800 who can't gamble, because there's no place to gamble," Mayor Bill Cunningham said. "All they're trying to do is make changes to accommodate the people they have."

Argosy pays an annual fee to the city, based on gambling revenues, because the floating casino sits on a barge anchored on the city owned riverfront. The city receives a percentage of all gambling revenues, which it then shares with Dearborn County and nearby communities. Last year, Argosy paid more than $36 million in fees, Cunningham said.

Under the new 10-year agreement, the fee will be calculated the same way, but some money will be rebated to Argosy to help pay the cost of the expansion. The city will keep the first $30 million annually, rebate to Argosy the next $5 million, and then keep fees beyond the first $35 million.

Proposals for expansion presented to Lawrenceburg City Council at a meeting June 9 include a new "slip barge," one that would sit in the water between the casino and the boarding area. This barge would hold restaurants, the teller area and other non-gambling functions that could be moved off the casino barge - making room for more slot machines and gambling tables. Argosy is also considering building a new hotel.

Plans "are pretty embryonic right now," Kinser said. "We have the concept, but we don't have anything in terms of blueprints or on paper yet." He said Argosy hopes to open an expanded casino in 18 to 24 months.

"We want to be proactive, we want to get things done before gaming arrives in other states and insure our income for the future," Cunningham said.

Shares in Argosy closed at $36.77, up $1.24.


E-mail johnb@enquirer.com

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