Prime Sports, Supreme open $300-m gaming lounge - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Prime Sports will today put the final touches on a $300-million, 12,000 square foot hi-tech gaming lounge and restaurant, just days before formally signing a deal in which it will sell a major stake in its operation to Supreme Ventures.

The Acropolis, located at the new Loshusan mall at Barbican Circle in Kingston, was jointly funded by the Danny Melville family - the owners of Prime Sports - and Supreme which, within a few days is expected to formally announced that it has bought a major stake in the gaming lounge company.

Yesterday, Brian George, the chief executive officer of Supreme said the investment in the new facility would place Prime Sports on the cutting edge of this end of the gaming market, and would herald a new standard in the local industry.

George also confirmed that Supreme and Prime Sports would likely sign off on the share acquisition this week, and that Supreme had made the investment in the new complex as part of that deal.

"More than US$5 million was spent," George told the Business Observer. "It is designed to be a flagship for the industry, to set a new industry standard and to demonstrate our major commitment to entertainment."

The Acropolis, which occupies over 10,000 square feet of space, is outfitted with 148 brand new machines that are all linked to a central computerised monitoring system, that George says makes the games tamper-proof.
Workers put the final touches on the Acropolis yesterday.

The rest of the space will be taken up by a restaurant, called Ambrosia, which the Prime Sports/Supreme principals believe will create a symbiotic partnership with the gaming lounge, thus increasing the overall yield from the location.

The Acropolis represents the first time that the principals of Prime Sports have built a gaming lounge from scratch, even though they have invested millions of dollars in revamping and significantly expanding the 130-machine lounge they operate at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.

"We are looking to provide everything for gamers to play, dine or have drinks," said George. "It is the first time that a gaming lounge is being equipped with totally new equipment."

Prime Sports, which was started in the 1990s as a partnership between the Melvilles and the Teitle brothers of the USA, has other operations throughout Jamaica. The locations: the Wydham Rose Hall, and Holiday Inn Hotel in Montego Bay, and up until its sale and subsequent closure last year, the Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios. It also operates out of Sandals Dunn's River.

But the Melvilles and Supreme both had something that the other wanted - a factor that eventually formed the basis of the business partnership that George describes as "a marriage made in heaven and a win-win situation".

The Melvilles were seeking capital to expand the business, and a partner who would bring enough gaming expertise and management capability to allow them to focus more of their human and capital resources on developing their other businesses: Chukka Caribbean Adventures, and Tropical Battery.

On its part, Supreme, a successful lottery company, was seeking to expand into other areas of the gaming market - particularly those that promised higher yields than the five per cent gross margin it now earns from its lottery games.

Importantly, the new lounge is being opened, and the partnership consummated just ahead of a private placement being undertaken by Supreme, in which it will be seeking to raise $1.8 billion in exchange for 30 per cent of its shares. That placement, in mid-July, will precede the public offer later in the year.

George said yesterday that the final touches on the Barbican Road facility will be completed today, but that Prime Sports would have to await final approval from the regulatory body - the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission -before it could officially open to the public.

Importantly, the principals of both partners - Supreme Ventures and Prime Sports - were nominated as Business Observer Business Leaders - Marc and Alexander Melville in April this year, and Paul Hoo and Peter Stewart in 2002.

Alexander Melville is chairman of Prime Sports and an executive and principal of Chukka Caribbean and Tropical Battery. Hoo, the chairman of Supreme, was CEO at the time of nomination, and Stewart, who later died, the chairman. Hoo is now chairman.

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