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In a pickle

Written by Bill Toland on .

A standard North American pickleMayor Luke Ravenstahl has a way with words, specifically the word "pickle." From his press conference today:

"We need to balance the need for obviously opening the casino as soon as we possibly can, with the reality of, we have to get it right this time, because we're in the pickle that we're in now because we didn't get it right the first time."

Get there fast. But take it slow. I could totally go for a strawberry daiquiri right now.

And: The decision gaming board's selection of Don Barden "was obviously a bad decision."

And: "As the mayor of the city, representing the taxpayers and all of the interests of the city of Pittsburgh, I think it's at least reasonable to ask them to sit down and talk with me, talk with the county executive, before they make any decision on the future of the slots license."

And: "There has to be more transparency. The taxpayers and the residents of the city have to know what decisions are being made, why they're being made, who these people are, what their backgrounds are. This was a thorough process that resulted into where we are today."

And: "Should they use the new team, or should they go out for a new operator? It's hard for me to make that decision, not knowing what they have to consider, the Gaming Control Board."

The full story from Rich Lord:

"Whatever happens to the troubled Pittsburgh casino project, the facility should remain on its under-construction North Shore site and all promises to the city, Penguins and neighborhood groups must be kept, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a wide-ranging press conference this morning marking his return from vacation. He said that in spite of an ownership shakeup, he believes a casino could open here next year, bringing promised city revenue. But to make that happen, he wants a series of meetings involving himself, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the state Gaming Control Board, and the prospective new majority owners of the Majestic Star Casino."

... Along those lines:

"Two Pittsburgh-area legislators are urging state gaming regulators to revoke Don Barden's slots license and award a new Pittsburgh casino license based on "a competitive process that will include new applicants," who would complete what's already been started on the North Shore. State Sens. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, and Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, wrote yesterday to Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Mary D. Colins, urging the agency not to rush into approving a refinancing and reorganization plan being sought by Mr. Barden."

... Remember when Don Barden said he would sell his Vegas casino in order to raise cash for the Pittsburgh operation? The Bluhm buyout renders that pledge null and void:

"Don Barden won't need to sell Fitzgeralds to maintain a stake in a slots-only casino in Pittsburgh, but the downtown Las Vegas casino remains an asset he could use to generate cash for his struggling gambling portfolio."

Not that his Vegas assets were guaranteed to fetch anything:

"If Barden did want to sell his Las Vegas property, now is a tough time to put it on the market. In recent months a number of downtown properties have changed hands, including the sale of Binion's to Terry Caudill of Las Vegas for $32 million. But the economic slowdown has investors running away from gambling deals, with even big-name casino stocks such as Las Vegas Sands and MGM Mirage trading at a fraction of what they did late last year."

In case you missed it

Two items from the weekend -- first, a short profile of Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm (and what's with all these billionaires wanting a piece of the North Shore, all of the sudden?); second, Ruth Ann Dailey's column about the city practicing its poker face:

"There's no need for the wisdom of Solomon when someone as rich as Solomon antes up. Mr. Bluhm's timely arrival should remind our rubber-stamp-happy officials that, even in an economy that supposedly doomed Mr. Barden's undertaking, there's plenty of money to be made here. That's good reason to hold our own at the table. If one developer doesn't like our terms, another will show up soon enough. Over and over again, though, Pittsburgh politicos fail to appreciate what a great hand they've been dealt. I know table games haven't yet hit the banks of the Three Rivers, but really, if they want this to be a world-class city, they're going to have to learn to play world-class poker."

Odds and ends

Penn National, despite its dropping stock prices, is suddenly flush with cash ... The Indianapolis Business Journal gives its take on Centaur Inc. and whether it will be able to preserve the financing deal that would allow it to build a racetrack and casino in Lawrence County ... Maryland continues to pursue slot machines ... The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has won over its neighbors ... The Buffalo, N.Y., casino controversy is bleeding up the lake, to Niagara Falls:

"Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster and the City Council bolstered the city’s budget Monday by $500,000 to hire private attorneys after a federal judge ruled last week that a casino in Buffalo can’t legally operate on land owned there by the Seneca Nation of Indians ... The Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel has operated in Niagara Falls for more than five years without a significant challenge to its legality, but Falls leaders said Monday they want to be prepared [following a court decision] last week that found that a nine-acre parcel owned by the Seneca Nation in Buffalo is sovereign territory, but is not eligible for an exception to federal Indian gaming law that would allow the Senecas to operate an off-reservation casino on the site."

Hey, there's a spot on the North Shore that's just come open. And we're pretty sure the Indians we're living there at one point.

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