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Belterra Casino & Resort

Plans in works to build
a second hotel tower by 2004

By Don Ward
Editor

FLORENCE, Ind. ( August 2002) – Belterra Casino Resort will join Indiana’s nine other riverboat casinos in taking advantage of the new state regulations allowing dockside gambling, beginning Aug. 1. The new rule was at first projected to begin in September, but on July 24 Indiana Gaming Officials announced the earlier date because of the smooth transition that had occurred among the boats since the legislation was passed.
“I think everybody is aware of how important this is to the state. The casinos really came together on this,” said Jack That, the gaming commission’s executive director.

Belterra Casino & Resort Spa

Belterra Casino & Resort

The Indiana General Assembly in June passed legislation to allow dockside gambling. This removes the requirement that casinos must cruise and removes the requirement of allowing customers onto the boats every two hours. Now customers can board at any time.
The change is expected to increase casino profits and generate extra income for the state by as much as $300 million a year. The money will be used to help balance the state budget. Local communities should also benefit from the additional revenues, officials said.
A graduated increase in casino wagering tax will be put into place, as well as an increase in the boarding tax charged to the boats per person entering the casinos. Currently, the boats pay a $3 admission tax to the state plus a wagering tax of 20 percent of their winnings. The new law would require an admission of $3 when the customer boards and a graduated wagering tax that tops out at 35 percent when a casino’s annual revenues reaches $150 million.
“This will make life a lot easier for us and for our customers,” said Alain Uboldi, Belterra’s vice president and general manager. “In the past, people have had to rush to eat before making their boarding assignments to get on the boat. Now they can take their time and board any time they please.”
In the past, both Belterra and Grand Victoria Casino in nearby Rising Sun often benefitted from gamblers who missed the boarding times at Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg as they traveled down river from Cincinnati. Uboldi said he believed the increased business his casino derives from dockside gambling would be more substantial and help all of the state’s casinos.

Alain Uboldi

Alain Uboldi

“It’s a matter of customer convenience,” he said.Uboldi joined the Belterra staff late last year with a mission of turning around falling revenues since opening in October 2000. He describes 2002 as the turnaround year. The boat posted its first $10 million month in May and saw its revenues jump from $46.9 million in the first six months of last year to $54.6 million in the first half of this year. Previously, Belterra’s monthly earnings hovered around $9 million, among the state’s lowest.
The casino plans a major expansion, including a second hotel tower with 300 rooms and an indoor swimming pool. Construction could begin late this year or early next year in hopes of completion by 2004. The expansion includes a meeting room to accommodate 1,000 people and four smaller meeting rooms. The big meeting room would be an addition to the existing Center Stage Showroom, which seats 1,500. The first tower has 308 rooms and is often full on weekends, Uboldi said.
Uboldi said the expansion is designed to attract more corporate customers and convention business. The new tower complex will be connected to the existing one.
Since the Miss Belterra will no longer cruise, Uboldi said some boat crew members will be retrained for other jobs.
Belterra was the last of Indiana’s 10 riverboat casinos to open. Legislators have been debating a proposal to award the 11th casino license to French Lick, Ind.
The new law is expected to be a win-win situation for the casinos and the state. A study commissioned two years ago by the Casino Association of Indiana predicted that dockside gambling could boost wagering statewide by about 30 percent. Riverboat casinos in Illinois saw their revenues increase by 21.6 percent in 2000, the first full year of dockside in that state. The change also decreased the wagering levels at nearby Indiana casinos in northwest Indiana.
Overall, Indiana’s riverboats have shown an increase of 9 percent in revenues in 2002, despite the economic slowdown. Their revenues of $997.8 million in the first half of 2002 tops last year’s level of $915.9 million, gaming officials reported. Admissions also rose by 1.2 million statewide.

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