Belterra Casino requests
24-hour operation schedule

Switzerland County casino joins
statewide move to keep doors open 24/7

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Ind. (July 2003) – A switch to 24-hour gaming seven days a week is in the cards for Belterra Casino in Vevay, Ind., beginning in July. Belterra followed suit of another southern Indiana casino, Caesars Glory of Rome Casino, located near Jeffersonville, in requesting permission from the state’s gaming commission to extend operating hours.

Alain Uboldi, Belterra General Manager

Alain Uboldi,
Belterra General Manager

“We were debating for a while operating 24 hours only on weekends and holidays,” said Belterra General Manager Alain Uboldi, when he received word from Caesars General Manger Barry Morris that his casino planned to request 24-hour operating privileges every day of the week. “We decided to follow up and open 24 hours, too,” Uboldi said.
Since opening, Belterra has operated 20-21 hours each day, closing for just a short time during the wee hours of the morning. The casino on May 28 sent paperwork to the Indiana Gaming Commission requesting additional operating hours. The commission’s seven-member board will meet July 11 for final approval. Pending approval, Belterra should be ready to operate 24 hours a day no later than July 12, Uboldi said.
Caesars and Belterra aren’t the only casinos that have requested 24-hour operating privileges. All 10 of the state’s riverboat gambling facilities have submitted some version of around-the-clock operating plans for the commission’s approval, according to gaming commission spokesperson Jennifer Arnold. Not all of the boats will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Arnold, but the commission wanted to review plans of all the facilities at once.

Belterra Casino

Photo by Don Ward

Belterra Casino
in Florence, Ind.

“We didn’t want to have to do this piece-meal,” Arnold said, noting that it was easier to approve all requests for 24-hour gaming at the same time using the same standards and guidelines. “We do anticipate giving approval to all casinos at once, contingent upon the commissioners acceptance of the plans,” said Arnold.
The casinos’ requests to extend hours came in the wake of a provision passed by state legislators in April allowing riverboat gambling facilities to be open 24/7. Originally, the state’s gaming commission required the casinos to be closed a certain number of hours each day for accounting and auditing purposes.
“But now that we have more experienced employees and we’ve matured as a regulatory agency,” said Arnold, “we’re comfortable that they can operate 24 hours without compromising the integrity of the accounting and auditing process.”
As a state regulatory agency, the gaming commission still has the authority to impose rules and procedures that the casinos must follow in order to retain their gaming licenses. Gaming commission agents, Indiana State Troopers who operate on contract with the agency, serve on all riverboats to insure that regulatory procedures are followed.
Procedures directed by the gaming commission include how money is transferred during operating hours. “It is very different to do a drop when the casino is closed,” said Uboldi, who explained that different procedures are followed when transferring money with patrons on the floor.
For example, said Uboldi, slot machine lanes may be closed two at a time for about five minutes to be cleaned out. Each casino was required to submit plans detailing their management of soft drop, involving the transfer of paper money, hard drop, involving the removal of coins from machines, security, surveillance and staffing, said Arnold.
Both casinos and state coffers should benefit from the new 24-hour gaming law. “It was not a bad decision for the state,” said Uboldi, asserting that increased revenue for Indiana casinos will result in increased tax revenue for the state. Arnold agreed. “I think that it will raise more revenue for the state,” she said.
Although allowing 24-hour gaming may be a big change for the gaming commission and the casinos, some patrons say it will not effect their experience that much.
“It really doesn’t make that much difference,” said Belterra patron Rose Babiak of Louisville, Ky. She admitted she probably wouldn’t be up that late – or early – to gamble but that the change will be an advantage for those who are.
Others who have gambled in other states said it’s just par for the course to be open around the clock. “I’ve never been to a place that closed,” said Tom Labrie of Pittsburgh, Pa., on a recent visit to the Vevay resort.
Belterra’s timing for expanded hours may have been prompted by Caesar’s decision, but they would have probably made a request to switch eventually anyway in order to accommodate more patrons from an expansion project at the casino. “We would have gone to 24 hours anyway in February 2004 when more rooms are ready,” said Uboldi.
Next year, Belterra plans to open an additional 300 hotel rooms in a second tower, now under construction. Belterra also will expand its convention space and add an outdoor swimming pool, all part of an approximately $37 million expansion project.
An experienced casino executive, Uboldi said he is well-prepared to handle the changes necessary for a smooth transition at Belterra. He worked for 20 years in Las Vegas, where around-the-clock gaming is standard. “It will be back to normal for me,” he said.

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