Monday, June 9, 2003

Belterra will apply to go 24/7

The Associated Press

Several Indiana casinos have formally asked state regulators for permission to remain open around-the-clock, though some say such a change would only benefit them on weekends and holidays.

A provision in the state budget bill signed into law by the governor last month allows Indiana casinos to stay open 24 hours. Lawmakers hoped that allowing such operations would generate an additional $10 million in annual gambling tax revenue for the state.

The Indiana Gaming Commission currently restricts casinos to 21 hours of operations, and many are open the maximum amount of time. Others close earlier during the week.

Belterra Casino in deep southeastern Indiana has asked state regulators for permission to stay open around-the-clock, in part because a competing riverboat has asked to do the same.

Caesars Indiana, in Harrison County west of Louisville, already announced it would seek 24-hour operations daily.

Belterra is the closest riverboat to Caesars, which is the state's largest riverboat. Caesars and Belterra draw customers from the Louisville area and other parts of Kentucky and Indiana.

Alain Uboldi, general manager of Belterra in Vevay, said he was at first undecided about whether to go to 24-hour gambling. He said he initially decided to make the change only on weekends, but changed his mind when he heard Caesars planned to shift to 24-hour operations all the time.

"I looked at the number of people when I close - close to 200 people in my casino when I close - and I decided: If Caesars goes, it makes sense for us to go," he said.

Two other Ohio River casinos - Grand Victoria in Rising Sun and Casino Aztar in Evansville - also have asked state regulators for authority to switch to 24-hour operations, but only on weekends and holidays.

Still, Aztar spokeswoman Pam Martin said executives there have not decided whether to extend the boat's hours.

"We're still taking a look at whether it's something we want to do," she said. "We're just asking for permission."

Up the river toward Cincinnati, the operators of Grand Victoria decided that the casino's rural location meant 24-hour operations during the week probably would not be lucrative.

"We analyzed our trends in our current business during the different hours of the day and different days of the week and different seasons," said General Manager Larry Buck. "We applied to operate 24 hours, two days a week - on the weekends."

The casino also has asked to remain open around the clock on some holidays.

Buck said the casino might later switch to 24-hour operations daily with commission approval, but only if the change would make business sense.

The gaming commission plans to meet July 11 to discuss and vote on the applications.

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