Restaurateur, 6 others push for table games to be part of Nemacolin casino
By Liz Zemba
Published: Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Table games and slots go together like hamburgers and french fries, according to a Fayette County businessman who spoke in favor of bringing blackjack and roulette to the Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin Woodlands in Fayette County.
“I can't imagine the casino without table games,” said Fred Zeigler during a public hearing Thursday at the Wharton Township Municipal Building before three members of the state Gaming Control Board. “It's like McDonald's without french fries.”
Zeigler, owner of the Stone House Restaurant in Farmington, was one of seven people who spoke in favor of Woodlands Fayette LLC's request to have table games at the casino. The speakers said the table games will draw more visitors to the Laurel Highlands, create additional jobs and increase tax revenues.
No one spoke against allowing table games at the resort.
The board in April 2011 granted Nemacolin the state's final resort casino license. The $60 million casino, which will be operated by Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., is under construction and will open this summer, according to Arnold Block, chief operating officer for Isle of Capri.
Block, who spoke during the hearing, said the casino will include 600 slot machines and 28 table games. Isle of Capri, he said, paid the $7.5 million table games authorization fee and other expenses required to bring them to the resort.
Rich Laudon, vice president and general manager of Lady Luck, said the casino will employ 400, with 130 for the table games. Table games are projected to generate $1.4 million in gaming taxes, with a 2-percent local share, he said.
John “Jack” Lewis, a Wharton Township supervisor, said he wants to use the tax revenues to buy equipment, build storage sheds and to pave and maintain roads. The casino is “like a dream come true” because of its potential for jobs and tax revenues, he said.
“We're going to do everything in our power in the township to keep it secure,” Lewis said. “Wharton Township will be able to do things we've never been able to do.”
Lewis said the township receives $75,000 in property taxes toward its annual budget of approximately $1 million. He did not have estimates on how much the casino is expected to generate in taxes, but Nemacolin officials have previously said they anticipate gambling will create $1.3 million a year in taxes for Wharton, $2.1 million for Fayette County and $37.7 million for the state.
Laudon said the casino has received 1,000 job applications and has hired nine senior managers, two of whom are from Pennsylvania. Laudon said casino jobs will include dealers, cashiers, security officers, bartenders, valet drivers, waiters and waitresses.
He said salaries will vary, depending on positions.
“We'll be competitive,” Laudon said. “We'll try to stay in similar pay ranges to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.”
The process for hiring dealers has begun, with 100 people having visited a Feb. 2 informational meeting on dealer school. Laudon said the first dealer school starts on Monday and will last five to 11 weeks.
Others who spoke in favor of table games at the casino were Wharton Supervisor James Means, state Sen. Rich Kasunic, state Rep. Tim Mahoney, Muriel Nuttal of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce and Ronald Virag of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.
Nemacolin's founder, Joe Hardy, and his daughter, Maggie Hardy Magerko, resort owner and president, attended but did not offer any testimony.
Construction on the casino began in October in the resort's former Wild Side entertainment center. In addition to slots and table games, it will house two restaurants. The general contractor is Keating Building Co. of Philadelphia, Block said.
Linda Lloyd, hearing officer, said a transcript of Thursday's hearing will be provided to the full gaming board before a public vote on the request.
Lloyd said the board has 60 days from the date the petition was filed to render a decision. According to the gaming board's website, Woodlands Fayette filed for the table games' authorization on Jan. 9.
Isle of Capri owns and operates 15 casinos in six states and has an annual payroll of $253 million, according to Block. Nemacolin hosts 350,000 guests annually and has an annual payroll of $23 million, according to Chris Plummer, general manager.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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