Casino data released; group to host community meeting | SteamboatToday.com

Casino data released; group to host community meeting

— The group that is proposing to build a casino near Yampa Valley Regional Airport estimates opening a casino will create nearly 1,000 jobs and generate nearly $60 million in revenue during its first year.

With economic studies in hand, members of the Sleeping Giant Group partnership are moving forward with the hopes of building a casino, and it is time to hear what the public thinks.

"The next step is the community conversation," said Steve Hofman, a Steamboat Springs resident who is one of the group's partners.

The group will hold its first community meeting about the project at 5:30 p.m. July 5 at the Haven Community Center in Hayden.

"It's a chance for people to take some ownership in this project and shape how it goes forward," said Steamboat Olympian Johnny Spillane, another partner in the group.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said that the proposal still is in its early stages and that there would be plenty of opportunities for the public to express their opinions.

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"We'll have to see what information they bring to us to see if the community impacts have been discussed and addressed," Monger said.

To help explain the project to the public, the group launched a website at http://www.sleepinggiantgroup.com. The website includes an artist rendering of the development and responses to 22 commonly asked questions the group encountered during meetings with people in the Yampa Valley. Also being made public is an economic impact study and a gaming market assessment that looks at the viability of the casino.

The Sleeping Giant Group commissioned Scott Ford with Yampa Valley Data Partners to do the economic impact study.

The study estimates the casino, not including a hotel or entertainment venue, would generate 550 jobs, and the employees on average would earn $42,850 in wages and benefits. Another 70 jobs would indirectly be created, and 375 jobs would be generated elsewhere in the community because of a 15 percent increase in tourism.

With the added jobs, the study states local household income would increase by $34.5 million and sales and lodging tax collections would be in excess of $4.3 million. Of that, the city of Steamboat would receive nearly $1.5 million.

The Innovation Group, a Littleton-based gaming industry consultant prepared the gaming market assessment for the Sleeping Giant Group. According to the study, the casino would have estimated revenues of $56.7 million with 554,222 gamer visits in its first year. Residents within a 150-minute driving distance would account for about 30 percent of its customers, and visitors staying overnight at the casino's hotel "would be a major driver of gaming revenue accounting for about 55.7 percent of the total."

The Sleeping Giant Group partners think the casino would be an added amenity for tourists and do not think it will attract people solely interested in gambling.

The study estimates a conservative annual growth rate in revenue of 2.5 to 3.5 percent and recommends a facility initially with 650 slot machines and 18 tables.

The partners envision a casino that would cost about $52 million to build and be between 55,000 and 65,000 square feet. The hotel would have between 150 and 200 rooms and be between 75,000 and 100,000 square feet.

After gathering input from the community, Hofman said the next step would be to approach Native American tribes about owning the casino. The federal government then would need to approve it, in addition to the governor of Colorado.

Hofman said if the process stays on schedule, the casino could be operating by 2015.

Hofman said the partners in the Sleeping Giant Group include himself, Spillane, Hayden resident Dave Marin, Hayden developer Stefanus Nijsten, Nijsten's business partner Bob Zibell, and Steamboat attorney Scott McGill.

Hofman said that the group already has spent $250,000 in time and money on the project and that an investor is helping finance the project as it moves forward. He would not say who the investor is.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

By the numbers

Estimated increases in sales-, lodging-tax collections:

Colorado: $1,057,929

Routt County: $365,425

Steamboat Springs: $1,493,252

Education Fund Board: $186,657

Airline subsidy: $93,386

Accommodation tax: $155,709

Local Marketing District: $311,418

Total: $3,663,775

Source: Yampa Valley Data Partners economic impact study

Online

Learn more about the proposed casino at http://www.sleepinggiantgroup.com.

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