The project hasn't been formally announced, but that is expectedto come this week as management of the property headed by regionalpresident Anthony Rodio unveils their plans to corporate officialsin Las Vegas. The AC Hilton is owned by Resorts InternationalHoldings, a division of the Los Angeles-based Colony Capital.

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But the plans emerged late last week during testimony by hotelofficials before the state's Casino Control Commission relative togetting the casino's five-year operating license renewed. Thatrenewal application was approved unanimously by the commission.

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Hotel officials did not release a timetable for the expansion,pending corporate approval, and cautioned that the project is inthe early planning stages. But details divulged by Rodio andcompany before the commission call for a new 1,000-key tower thatwould boost the room count past 1,800. Existing gaming space woulddouble to approximately 120,000 sf, and the project would add newretail space and restaurants, a 3,500-seat theater and a 3,000-carparking garage. The new facilities would rise on three adjacentblocks and would be attached to the existing property.

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"It's a gem of a property that would benefit from expansion,"Rodio told commissioners. "It is the smallest property in thismarket, and we have to turn away from 30,000 to 35,000 people amonth because we don't have the hotel rooms to accommodate them,"he added, noting that the hotel's occupancy generally ranges from95% to 100% year-round.

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The hotel/casino began its commercial life in 1980 as the SteveWynn-owned Golden Nugget. Wynn then sold it to the Bally Corp. inthe late 1980s for a reported $440 million, and the propertysubsequently underwent its only major expansion in 1997 when 300hotel rooms were added. Resorts International/Colony Capital boughttwo years ago as part of a $1.2-billion deal that included threeother casinos in Indiana and Mississippi.

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If the project moves forward, the AC Hilton would join a list ofproperties that are undergoing or have undergone major expansionsrecently, including the Borgata, the Tropicana, Trump Taj Mahal andHarrah's.

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