Vegas heavy-hitters visit Monaco

THE Monaco Grand Prix is traditionally the venue for high-rollers to visit the Formula 1 scene and last weekend was no exception, with five representatives of Las Vegas casinos being squired around the paddock by Tommy Baker, who is trying to put together a deal to run an F1 race on a street circuit at the southern end of Vegas's famous Strip.

The group included casino owner Bobby Baldwin and the chief executive of Mirage Resorts, Steve Wynn. Mirage has an annual turnover of $1.3 billion and owns the Mirage, Treasure Island and Golden Nugget casinos, and is in the process of building two more complexes on the site of the old Dunes Hotel and Country Club. One, to be called the Beau Rivage, is currently being built on an island in the middle of a man-made 50-acre lake. It is expected to be the most luxurious hotel in town and will open in 1998. The other is a joint venture with Circus Circus Inc. to build a $275 million casino/hotel with a Victorian theme.

Between them, Mirage and Circus Circus (which is also keen on the idea of hosting a Grand Prix) control most of the hotel/casinos at the southern end of The Strip. The Circus Circus company has an annual turnover of $1.1 billion and owns the Circus Circus in addition to the Excalibur and Luxor resorts. Last year Circus Circus added the Hacienda to its portfolio.

The plan being discussed is for anyone taking a hotel room in Las Vegas to be given free admission to the race, which will be laid out around seven of the casinos at the intersection where The Strip meets Tropicana Avenue. The casinos are keen to get a Grand Prix to help them promote the city as "the Entertainment Capital of the World" although it seems they are balking at paying Bernie Ecclestone's asking price for a five-year deal of $80 million.

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