Nevada regulators approve Hooters casino licensing - Saturday 22nd of October 2005

The new Hooters Casino Hotel, scheduled to open in early February, won a final approval Thursday from Nevada regulators after a top company executive outlined a marketing strategy to make the resort the "toga party" for Las Vegas.

Ed Droste, a co-founder of the first Hooters restaurant in 1983, added at a state Gaming Commission hearing that the hotel-casino deal, part of an aggressive diversification effort, is "the most natural extension of our brand."

Besides the Las Vegas resort - the old Hotel San Remo - other brand extensions include Hooters calendars and magazines, various food products and Hooters Air, which flies to Las Vegas and nine other cities around the country.

Droste said the "tasteful sex appeal" of Hooters girls, in their trademark tank tops and skimpy shorts, will be a key element to the hotel-casinos success.

That prompted Gaming Commission member Sue Wagner to ask whether feminist author Gloria Steinem would agree with the marketing concept. "I doubt it," Droste conceded.

Michael Hessling, the projects chief operating officer and general manager, said the resort has an ideal location and will be "a must-see attraction." Its just off the Las Vegas Strip, near the MGM Grand, New York-New York, Excalibur and other megaresorts.

Hessling also said the property should appeal to the typical Las Vegas tourist - someone who makes about $60,000 a year. He added the age spread of customers is expected to average 30 to 50, and there should be more male patrons than women.

The resort will have 690 rooms, 670 slots, 32 table games, three poker games, a sports book and several restaurants and bars. About 500 people now work at the location and will have an opportunity to stay with the new resort. Also, about 500 more workers will be added prior to a scheduled Feb. 3 opening.

Atlanta-based Hooters of America bought the resort last year. There are 400 Hooters locations in 46 states and 16 foreign countries, and many of those properties - which draw in more than 60 million customers a year - will help to promote the Las Vegas resort, regulators were told.

The hotel-casino organization includes Hooters Gaming LLC, Lags Ventures LLC and Eastern & Western Hotel Corp. Eastern & Western represents the Izumi family of Japan, which had operated the San Remo since 1990. Agreements for a joint venture with Hooters were signed in June 2004, and final paperwork on the deal should be completed Oct. 31.

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