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Star Casino Launches Louisiana Gaming Boat Business

The burgeoning gaming vessel market marked a symbolic first with the dedication, christening and official opening of Star Casino, Louisiana's first modern riverboat casino.

"With the dedication of this vessel, we herald the beginning of a new era in Louisiana's gaming history," said Louie Roussel, majority owner of Star Casino, Inc. and well-known New Orleans businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. "We are proud to be the first riverboat casino to come on-line in Louisiana. We want to assure the public t h a t the Star Casino will continue to be 'first' for many years to come ... first in customer service, first in quality entertainment and fun, and first in fairness and integrity of operation," Mr. Roussel continued. After a few setbacks with the U.S. Coast Guard and New Orleans City Council members, Louisiana's first riverboat casino was on its way to making riverboat gaming history. The 265-foot Caterpillar-powered Star Casino boasts an impressive equipment list with the likes of Raytheon VHF radio and radar, Thrustmaster thrusters, engine controls and steering controls, and a Ritchie Compass. Star Casino is a tri-level, 22,500-sq.-ft. floating Las Vegas-style casino with a beam of 80 feet and a 14-foot draft. The Star Casino has a capacity for approximately 1,250 guests. The onboard entertainment features a number of games of chance, including 760 slot machines; 39 gaming tables for blackjack, craps, and roulette; and video poker.

The $12 million vessel was constructed in about eight months by Bender Shipyard in Braithewaite, La. Claire Amiss, marketing manager of Star Casino, Inc., says Bender was chosen to build the Star Casino based on the company's fine reputation. Mr. Roussel wishes to convey the importance of the fact that Louisiana's first gaming riverboat will be locally-run. "This is a locallyowned, locally-constructed riverboat casino, that is providing jobs for approximately 1,000 people in the New Orleans area. Our annual payroll will be about $17 million," Mr. Roussel commented. "Even before opening, the Star has made a very positive impact on our local economy, and will continue to do so, because the Star Casino is a locally owned and operated boat. That means salaries and winnings as well as the profits and taxes stay right here in Louisiana instead of leaving our state," Mr. Roussel continued. The riverboat docks at the Star Casino Terminal, a 34,000-sq.-ft. modern building which houses an information booth, reservations booth, restaurant, gift shop, cocktail bar and the security operations center of the Star Casino.

Security at Star Casino is of primary importance, according to Mr.

Roussel. The security system is elaborate and features state-of-theart equipment. Walter J. Tirrell,Star Casino: Louisiana's First Riverboat Casino director of security, claims that the entire Star Casino complex is monitored and patrolled 24 hours a day to ensure the safety of employees and guests.

The Star Casino operator is the well-known casino company Showboat, Inc., an operation with successful gaming establishments in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Keith Wallace, former general manager of the Showboat Casino in Las Vegas, will serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Wallace has played a major role in the start-up of Star Casino, and his history of casino management experience qualifies him to direct the Star Casino team.

A black-tie celebration was held at the Star Casino Terminal at South Shore Harbor on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, La. in late October. A formal christening ceremony for the 19th century paddlewheel replica was held at the terminal with state and local dignitaries particip a t i n g . Governor Edwin W.

Edwards, Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, Senate President Sammy Nunez, and Speaker of the House John Alario joined the Hon orable Robert G. Harvey, presi dent, Board of Commissioners of thi Orleans Levee District, and Mr Roussel to dedicate the boat and t< officially open Star Casino, followec by a fireworks display over Lake Pontchartrain, the largest single lake in the U.S., where the Stai Casino will operate 365 days a year, Star Casino officially opened for business on November 8.

The gaming vessel market has been gaining support across the U.S., with Indiana's recent legalization of riverboat gaming prompting 28 applications for t h a t state's 11 licenses.

Other states are not far behind, and sources within the industry estimate that Ohio and Texas are two states likely to join the riverboat gaming ranks soon.

Louisiana, which has been one of the more active states legislatively from the beginning of the boom, will one day have 15 riverboat gaming vessels licensed in the state, as dictated by current law.

The gaming vessel market has obviously resulted in a much-needed boost for many shipyards attempting to make the change from the Navy business of the past to the booming commercial business of the future. Equipment manufacturers have also profited from the extra business, a testimony to that being the Star Casino's impressive equipment list.

The following manufacturers helped make the Star Casino a reality in just eight months:

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