The grand opening of the casino resort being built in south Baton Rouge will be announced next week, the corporation’s president told Louisiana regulators Thursday.
Though he has never announced a date, Anthony Sanfilippo, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Entertainment, said in an interview that he always has hoped L’Auberge Casino would be open to customers by Labor Day.
Most of the construction is complete and 1,067 employees had been hired, as of Tuesday, for the estimated 1,250 permanent positions, said Sanfilippo, of Las Vegas.
Sanfilippo was at the State Capitol for a hearing during which the Louisiana Gaming Control Board heard details about the casino’s safety plan and extended the construction deadline for another month.
The facility is being built on 575 acres of land near where Gardere Lane intersects with River Road.
Sanfilippo said Pinnacle would ask the regulatory board for formal permission to open in August. Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. is holding an “earnings conference” on Wednesday to discuss financial results for April through June.
Sanflippo said Pinnacle would announce the official opening date during that conference call.
In a prepared statement, Geno M. Iafrate, executive vice president of regional operations, called the request to extend the “completion of construction date” a formality that relates to the regulatory board’s procedures. “It does not constitute a change in our previously stated grand opening timeline,” Iafrate stated.
The board voted 8-0 to modify Pinnacle’s license to extend the construction completion date to Aug. 31. The nine-member board is charged with overseeing gambling in Louisiana.
“It’s going to be a very vibrant addition to this community,” said Dale A. Hall, of Baton Rouge, sitting as chairman of the board.
L’Auberge Casino will have a superintendent, rather than a captain like other riverboat casinos, said Walt Hanson, a maritime risk consultant for ABS Consulting, headquartered in Houston. The superintendent will have a marine engineering background, he said.
“We’re going to have to get the mindset changed,” Hanson said.
Though called a riverboat, whose hulls were built by Bollinger Shipyard in Amelia, the casino is moored and will not move. It will be set back in the Mississippi River bank out of main navigation channels.
“It’s a casino on stilts,” Hanson said.
The 74,000-square-foot casino, which will have nearly 1,500 slot machines and 50 table games, is higher than the levees, he said. During high water times on the Mississippi River, the water could go over the levees but the casino floor won’t flood, Hanson said.
ABS Consulting was hired under the new rules to oversee safety plans, procedures and hiring that the state regulators will approve. L’Auberge is the first “river boat” casino whose safety certifications come after U.S. Coast Guard gave up that authority.
The resort will include a 12-story hotel with 205 guest rooms, four restaurants and a 13,000-square-foot conference facility, according to a company press release.
The casino construction, which cost about $368 million, not including interest, began in May 2010.
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