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Inside gaming column: Monte Carlo guest flees fire, keeps slot jackpot

25 Feb 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Casino guests were quickly evacuated from the Monte Carlo on Jan. 25 when a fire burned a portion of the hotel's rooftop facade.

A Las Vegas woman was one of the last to leave. She hit a $1,577 jackpot on a penny slot machine minutes before the alarms sounded and couldn't cash out because of the jackpot. She didn't want to leave the resort without her money.

Paul Berry, a CityCenter hotel executive who raced over to the Monte Carlo to help with the evacuation, said a quick-thinking security officer came up with a solution. The woman, the security officer and Berry waived to a nearby "eye in the sky" video monitor. The security officer alerted the surveillance department and the three were caught on tape at the slot machine. The customer had her evidence and the name of the security officer in case there were any questions.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said the customer returned the next day and collected her winnings.

During Thursday's conference call to discuss MGM Mirage's earnings, an analyst asked if the opening of the $1.9 billion Palazzo by rival Las Vegas Sands Corp. had affected business.

"What's the Palazzo?" MGM Mirage President Jim Murren quipped.

Company Chairman Terry Lanni quickly followed up, saying it was too early to tell if the new resort had cut into MGM Mirage's customer base.

Kentucky's governor wants state lawmakers to allow 12 casinos to operate in the state. One government task force is pushing to cut the number of casinos to nine while gaming analysts believe the proposed gaming tax of 50 percent might dissuade some operators.

Under the plan, seven racetrack casinos and five standalone casinos would be licensed in various parts of the state. Gov. Steve Beshear said the casinos could generate $600 million a year in tax revenue for Kentucky.

On May 3, the Beijing Olympic Games torch will spend close to eight hours in Macau. More than 120 torchbearers will have the opportunity to carry the Olympic flame past some of the Chinese gaming enclave's historic locations, such as the Ruins of St. Paul's, Senado Square and the A-Ma Temple.

No word yet if any of Macau's casinos will be included in the torch relay.

Speaking of China, government officials said last week they were moving toward a combination of private and public financing for a 23-mile-long automobile bridge that would connect Hong Kong with Macau and the mainland province of Zhuhai. The bridge is expected to cost more than $7.5 billion. The bridge would allow more mainland Chinese citizens to visit Macau.

The Inside Gaming column is compiled by Review-Journal gaming and tourism writers Howard Stutz, Benjamin Spillman and Arnold M. Knightly.

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