Pinnacle seeking to close January 2, 2009

The Gaming Board secretary is suggesting Exuma casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment is now looking to close up shop on January 2, 2009, and not the end-of-the-month retreat it had initially indicated.

„It has not been confirmed yet,“ Bernard Bonamy told Guardian Business Wednesday, „but they have indicated to the Bahamas Hotel Corporation that that is the date they are looking at; not the August 31, date.

„That’s predicated, however, on a number of conditions.“

It was earlier this month when Las Vegas-based Pinnacle told shareholders and financial analysts alike it had decided to discontinue operations at the casino attached to the Four Season resort. It also dropped a considerably bigger bombshell; namely a second quarter loss of USD 18.1 million, compared to the profit of USD 9.9 million recorded for the year-ago period.

Results for the latest quarter also include an impairment charge.

While revenue for the Las Vegas-based casino operator rose to USD 266.6 million from USD 232.9 million a year earlier, its two-year-old operation in Exuma, on the other hand, continues to bleed money.

The Four Season, like its smaller counterparts across the chain of islands has been particularly hard-hit by the „recession“ now gripping the U.S. and its drag on tourist growth. Possibly another contributing factor to Pinnacle’s move to jump ship is the continuing uncertainty attached to the Four Seasons itself given a lingering receivership, initiated last year by a creditor of then-owner Emerald Bay.

An immediate turnaround to either negative wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen when Pinnacle announced it would cease managing the Family Island gaming house, the only one outside of Nassau and Freeport.

It is unclear whether the government, the resort or Pinnacle is behind the move to delay its departure by another four months.

What does seem increasingly unavoidable is the loss of another revenue-generating property for the government, given little indication another casino operator is prepared to pick up where Pinnacle will likely leave off in January.

Pinnacle, which owns and operates casinos in Nevada, Louisiana, Indiana, Missouri, and Argentina, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Still earlier this month, a company spokesperson said Pinnacle would like to see the property transferred to a local operator.

Bonamy said that transition hasn’t yet been confirmed.