News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Jeannie Floyd, The Brownsville Herald, Texas
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 25, 2003 - SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas -- Community Planning Associates would like to bet that a casino would prosper on South Padre Island. The developers hope to establish a casino-anchored destination resort and world-class aquarium at Isla Blanca Park.
Current Texas law does not permit onshore casinos except for non-Native Americans. However, developers say they plan to present their plans at the next special session of the Texas Legislature scheduled for next year.
Barry Keenen, co-developer for CPA, said the project is still in the "preliminary stages," but if a majority of Texas voters favor a casino, the project should boost the county's economy.
Keenen said that if the legislature addresses the issue, Texas voters could decide in November 2004 whether or not to allow casino gambling in the state.
The special session will focus on education funding, which prompted CPA officials to address the economic benefits the project will bring to schools, which include possible alternatives to the "Robin Hood" school funding plan.
"Robin Hood" takes money from school districts in wealthier areas and reallocates it to less affluent school districts.
Rather than take money from wealthy school districts, developers say the state can claim tax revenue from the resort and aquarium.
"The money has to come from somewhere," said Doyle Wells, alderman for the town of South Padre Island and co-developer. "The last thing we want to do is raise taxes to generate money to meet our shortcomings." Developers argue that the $300 million project would help produce local economic benefits, including $20 million-plus per year in new tax revenues for schools.
Keenen added that the project would create at least 2,200 direct new jobs ranging in pay from $9 an hour to $90 an hour, plus comprehensive employee benefits, and about 1,400 "trickle down" jobs that would be created by the project for a total of 3,600 jobs.
The project will benefit not only South Padre Island, but all of the county, Wells said.
The main benefit of the resort and aquarium would stem from "peripheral," benefits, he said.
Developers also said the project would attract 3,500 to 12,000 additional visitors to the aquarium complex, as well as the project's entertainment, dining and shopping attractions at the Seaport Village Resort/Marina and Wyland-Scripps-UT Aquarium complex.
Keenen said the casino would not produce gamblers.
"Those people are there already," he said.
He added that 80 percent of Louisiana's money casino revenue comes from Texans, and that their money should benefit Texas, not another state.
The resort would take up 160 acres at Isla Blanca Park on the Southern tip of South Padre Island.
It will include a casino, world-class aquarium and Seaport Village Marina.
"Everybody has been really excited about it," Keenen said.
Other projects with which he has been involved include the Seaport Village San Diego Project, which involved the "revitalization of downtown San Diego," Wells said.
The entire downtown San Diego area was renovated to create a seaport village and eventually became a tourist attraction, he said.
Keenen has also been a developer for Biejas, San Manuel, Agua Caliente, and Scyan Casinos in Southern California and Commerce Casino in East Los Angeles.
Austin-based Community Planning Associates has been developing such projects for 18 years.
Other developers for the casino project would include Anne Taubman, developer and owner of SeaPort Village; world-renowned artist and conservationist Wyland; Dean Torrence of the Jan & Dean music duo and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
-----To see more of The Brownsville Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.brownsvilleherald.com.
(c) 2003, The Brownsville Herald, Texas. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.