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OUARZAZATE, MOROCCO-Developers of a gaming mixed-use project, set to break ground this year, are looking for an investor and operating partner. Société d’Aménagement et de Valorisation de Ouarzazate (SAVO) won a concession from the Moroccan government to build on a 1,000-acre plot just miles from the Ouarzazate International Airport. SAVO is a joint venture of three companies, Palmeraie development, Actif-Invest and Thomas & Piron International.

The project is slated to be the largest gaming location in Morocco, with competition coming from six, small casinos. The largest current gaming establishment has 200 gaming machines and 31 table games, according to project brochure from CB Richard Ellis Global Gaming Group, the company responsible for finding the investor.

In addition to casinos, SAVO plans to build six themed hotels, containing more than 3,000 beds as well as three residential villages spread throughout the property to create 3,500 beds. Additionally, there will be a convention and conference center, outdoor movie theatre, Museum of Cinema, golf course and aquapark.

“They expect to break ground this year with expectations for the first hotel to open in 2011,” says Gino Vincent, associate with CBRE. “With such a large scale project, it will take several years for the project to be fully completed.” He estimates the gaming component will cost about $350 million, and cannot put a price tag on the whole project as plans have not yet been finalized.

CBRE has been looking for an investor for this project for about seven months now. “The tight capital markets have impacted the gaming industry from investing in new developments,” Vincent tells GlobeSt.com. “The challenging economy that has reduced profits for gaming companies has also made it difficult for companies to invest. In response to these challenges our clients recently asked us to identify high caliber gaming companies that would be interested in managing the gaming operations.”

To date several gaming companies have approached CBRE about the project but no one has yet signed on the dotted line. Vincent says every company they have spoken with expresses concern about the economy. “We think it would be very difficult for any company to make a first international investment today, but many gaming companies see international markets as the future,” he says. “This is a prime investment for a gaming company that wants to control the Western European gaming customer. The low tax rate provides an extraordinary opportunity for a gaming company to compete favorably with existing European facilities.”

The Moroccan government, a constitutional monarchy, crowned its king six years ago. Since taking office, “He has acted in a manner that suggests real estate and economic development is the best way for his country to prosper,” Vincent says. “As a result of his philosophy and policies there are numerous development projects underway throughout Morocco. The government is committed to increasing tourism and foreign investment and has implemented several programs to stimulate Morocco’s economy. As a result, Morocco’s economy is growing and not receding like much of the world is.”

SAVO needs to keep a controlling interest in the project, since it won the government concession. But the joint venture can sell a 33% portion in the project now, or sell 100% of the gaming portion when construction completes.

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