Block E casino plans unveiled [PICTURES]

Categories: Business
Minnesota Live
A rendering of the proposed downtown casino
After months of rumor, developers' plans to transform Block E into a massive casino were finally officially unveiled today.

Alatus partner Bob Lux says Block E's fatal problem to date has been its reputation as a rough-and-tumble spot.

"Safety was the main concern," Lux said. "It's what is keeping people from the suburbs from coming to downtown Minneapolis."

Bob Lux of Alatus
The solution, Lux said, is to replace the menacing riff-raff with a young and wealthy crowd of out-of-towners drawn to a new massive gaming complex on the Block E site, complete with gambling facilities, restaurants, bars, and an open-air rooftop deck featuring with pools, waterfalls, and "botanical gardens."

The casino development will be good for the city and the state, Lux said. If executed, the project will create between 450 and 600 temporary construction jobs, and as many as 2,800 permanent gaming jobs.

A 3 percent city tax would channel $13 to $15 million annually to city coffers, and the state would stand to make $125 million each year in tax revenue. Traffic to the new destination would generate 85,000 additional hotel-room nights per year.

Of course, all these statistics come from an impact study commissioned by Alatus, the people who want to build the casino. The study was conducted by the Innovation Group, a New Orleans-based consultant for the gaming industry.

State Sen. Doug Magnus and State Rep. John Kriesel
Lux and his partner in Alatus, Phillip Jaffe, hope to have at least part of the new casino complex up and running as soon as next spring, with the full project complete the following year.

But before that can happen, the state will have to change its laws to allow gaming outside of Indian land. State Sen. Doug Magnus and State Rep. John Kriesel have signed on to sponsor this legislation, which is slated to be released tomorrow. The bill would authorize the state Lottery Board to explore locations for a state-run casino.

Thumbnail image for casino_barbarajohnson.jpg
City Council President Barbara Johnson
But the legislation's passage is anything but assured. Tribes who run existing casinos worry the Alatus plan would steal their customers and jobs. Some are also worried about the social costs of expanding gambling in the state.

Notably absent from the parade of supporters at this morning's presentation was Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who has already spoken against the plan.

But Alatus has lined up the support of City Council President Barbara Johnson, who told City Pages this morning that if the legislature can change the law, she'll work to line up support for the Alatus plan on the City Council.

Here are some renderings of the proposed casino:


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