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Las Vegas high rollers in Melbourne

AMID the throng of people in the F1 paddock last weekend in Melbourne was United States Grand Prix promoter Tommy╩Baker, who is in the process of finalizing details for a race in Las Vegas in 1997.

Baker turned up with representatives of Steve Wyn's Mirage Group which owns the Mirage, Treasure Island and Golden╩Nugget casinos and is in the process of building two vast 3,000 room hotel/casinos on the old Dunes Country Club, which is at the Tropicana Avenue intersection with "The Strip", the junction around which it is intended to center the race track. The aim is to run the track around the six hotel/casinos at the intersection, which between them will boast 20,000 hotel rooms and will provide a dramatic backdrop for a race with the Luxor casino's pyramid structure next door to the Arthurian Castle of the Excalibur casino.

The key to the success of the race is that the organizers are planning to offer a free ticket to the race for anyone who buys a hotel room in Vegas. This will minimize opposition to the race from casinos which might object to having The Strip closed down for a few days.

Baker said that the decision about the race now rests with Bernie Ecclestone, suggesting that the Vegas authorities are happy with the plans. Ecclestone, however, refuses to reveal his plans although all indications are that the race will go ahead in October, 1997. An announcement is likely to happen in June when F1 will have a high profile in North America with Jacques╩Villeneuve racing at the Canadian Grand Prix.

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