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Fontainebleau Resorts LLC announces plans for 2.8 billion dollars

Privately held casino resort developerFontainebleau Resorts LLC announced plans for a $2.8 billion (2.07 billion EUR) gambling resort on the Las Vegas Strip and while securing a key $250 million (184.5 million EUR) investment from Australian entertainment giant Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd.

Fontainebleau said Monday that it planned to open the 3,889-room Fontainebleau-Las Vegas by late 2009. The property will mix condo-hotel units, suites and hotel rooms with a 100,000-square-foot (9,290-square-meter) casino, nightclubs, spa and convention space.

The company, majority owned by Turnberry group principal Jeffrey Soffer, quietly broke ground on the 24.5-acre (10-hectare) site north of the Riviera hotel-casino in February and has kept its plans secret until Monday.

"It'll be a contemporary design and it will blend what's current and what will endure in contemporary art, striking design, world-caliber architecture, new technology and hip music," Fontainebleau chief executive Glenn Schaeffer told The Associated Press. "It's not about the past, it's about the future."

PBL's investment gives the publicly traded Australian company a 19.6 percent stake in Fontainebleau and marks its first entry into the U.S. casino market.

Last year, PBL partnered with Hong Kong-based Melco International Development Ltd. and paid Wynn Resorts Ltd. $900 million for the right to develop casinos in Macau, where it is now building the Crown Macau and City of Dreams projects.

"This signals an increasing global interest in Las Vegas gaming projects and real estate," said real estate observer Paul Murad, author of "Manhattanizing Las Vegas." "We will be seeing more Asian and European players entering the marketplace here."

The development will include about 1,000 condo-hotel units, Schaeffer said, without saying how much revenue from sales of the units would offset construction costs. PBL's investment is expected to be completed by May, when more details of the project would be made public, he said.

Schaeffer said the plans showed confidence in the condo-hotel business model, which allows customers to buy residences and then have management rent them as hotel rooms for a share of the revenues when they are unoccupied.

A similar model is expected to offset $2.5 billion (1.85 billion EUR) of the $7 billion (5.17 billion EUR) construction tab for MGM Mirage Inc.'s CityCenter casino complex under construction further south on the Strip.

"The most experienced developer of condo-hotels in Las Vegas and the world is probably Turnberry Associates," Schaeffer said. "Turnberry Associates will manage and sell those condominium-hotel units. They invented the category."

Schaeffer is the former president and chief financial officer of casino company Mandalay Resort Group, which merged to form MGM Mirage Inc. in 2005.

Fontainebleau also is undertaking a $500 million (369 million EUR) renovation and expansion of a Florida hotel to create the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. The revamp, which will double the number of rooms in operation to more than 1,500 and add a nightclub, lounge, "beachscape" and a new condo-hotel tower, is expected to be finished in mid-2008.

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