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LAKE CHARLES, LA-In the wake of its license and land swap with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. earlier this month, Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. is ready to proceed on Sugarcane Bay, a $350-million, 400-room development. Early estimates are the gaming giant will begin work next year, with an eye on a 2009 opening.

Sugarcane Bay will be on the site that currently contains Harrah’s 263-room Lake Charles Hotel at 505 N. Lakeshore Dr, adjacent to Pinnacle’s L’Auberge du Lac Hotel & Casino. Part of the construction will involve a tear-down of the Lake Charles Hotel, which was damaged in the wake of last year’s hurricanes. The design plan is still on the drawing board.

L’Auberge, which opened May 2005, is doing quite well, according to a Pinnacle spokeswoman. “We’re close to gaming capacity there,” she says, “and we’ve been very pleased with the response.” As a result, the owner is adding 1,000 rooms. Work begins in August.

The Pinnacle contact tells GlobeSt.com that Sugarcane Bay will take advantage of the critical mass generated by L’Auberge and will provide additional amenities, games and rooms. “We’ll also have more activities to keep people on site,” she adds. In addition to games, other on-site commercial real estate components will include restaurants and retail shopping. Sugarcane Bay will be connected to L’Auberge so guests can easily roam between the properties.

According to the spokeswoman, L’Auberge’s first operating year’s success was one reason why Pinnacle willingly made its recent deal to swap its 378-room Casino Magic Biloxi in Biloxi, MS for the Lake Charles Hotel, a pair of casino boats and other gaming assets. “Harrah’s was a little landlocked in Lake Charles because we were next door,” she says. “We were landlocked in Biloxi and they had a stronger presence there. So, this worked out well for both parties.”

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