HOUSTON -- Houston's own casino-mogul has just sealed the deal to open a new Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Louisiana.
Galveston native TiIlman Fertitta wants another bite of the estimated $2.5 billion Texans spend gambling out of state.
He also wants a casino one day in Texas, but only under certain conditions.
Even though gambling is illegal in Texas, polls repeatedly show there is strong public support for at least limited amounts of gaming. Texas Senator John Carona introduced a bill that would have put the issue before voters this November, but he pulled it from consideration after being told it had little chance of passing.
From Las Vegas to Atlantic City, Golden Nugget casinos are iconic landmarks. Now, owner Fertitta is adding a fifth Nugget, next door to Texas in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He likes to go big.
“It's going to be a huge property. You're going to have a marina. You’re going to have all of our restaurants,” Fertitta said. “It’s going to be a great gaming floor. You're going to think you're in Vegas.”
It will be next door to the popular L'Auberge casino owned by Pinnacle and a two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Houston.
First Class Tours makes 6 trips a day there from its Eastex and Lauder location. Many riders here are regulars.
“Sometimes twice a week, sometimes more,” said frequent rider Del Northway.
But lots of folks would rather not travel at all, if they could.
“We hate to take our money to Louisiana when we could lose it right here in Texas,” said Barbara Kerr.
“I’d stay here probably,” Northway said.
Fertitta would love to oblige them, but only if can stay big.
“I don't believe in putting them in dog tracks or horse tracks where you only go after a certain demographic. You either do it first class, do it big, do it right or your don't do it at all in Texas,” Fertitta said.
For now though, he's concentrating on Lake Charles. His budget on the newest nugget is $600 million.
“He'll make it back quick,” Northway said.
It's slated to open in 2014 and many here are familiar with the Golden Nugget brand and the Golden Nugget's owner.
“He's got golden fingertips,” Kerr said.
Fertitta has around 100 restaurants in South Texas, from Saltgrass Steakhouse to the Landry chain.
Landry’s and its associated businesses are expected to generate $2.7 billion in revenue in 2013.