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Casino boat to bring gambling back to Savannah

The Associated Press

SAVANNAH -- Casino boats on Savannah's waterfront folded a decade ago, but a new operation is ready to roll the dice.

Millionaire's Casino, a 187-foot boat capable of holding 450 passengers, is set to open March 1.

Two daily cruises will depart from the Hyatt Regency Savannah to international waters three miles offshore, where gambling is legal.

The boat will offer 325 slot machines and gambling at black jack, craps, roulette and poker tables plus sports betting via satellite feed, said manager Jim Monaghan.

The casino will employ about 150 people, he said.

Monaghan said he's playing a different game than past casinos, most of which shut down after less than a year. His boat is designed for gambling, where the others were converted work boats, he said.

Also, the market has changed since the early 1990s, when gaming was legal in South Carolina and video poker machines filled many Georgia convenience stores, said Monaghan, whose company, Dynamic Gaming Solutions, has 15 years of casino experience.

The closest gambling is down the coast in Brunswick on the state's only casino boat.

"The supply and demand is already here," Monaghan said. "We'd be the only game in town for this kind of entertainment."

Monaghan, who has joined the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Savannah Waterfront Association and Historic Savannah Foundation, said people support his venture.

"Everyone is excited," Monaghan said. "The biggest comment I get is, 'It's about time."'

His liquor license application drew no comment from City Council members when it was approved three weeks ago.

But some business owners are skeptical.

"I don't think it will last that long," said Stan Strickland, a River Street business owner. "It will have the same problems that the previous ones had."

The trip to international waters will be 80 minutes and can be rough on those who suffer sea sickness. Monaghan said he has a plan: He will lease dock space from Williams Seafood on the Bull River off U.S. 80 for another stop for passengers who do not want to take the long trip down the river.

From Williams it's a short "10-minute trip" to international waters, he wrote in a business plan filed to the city.

But Williams Seafood owner Tommy Williams said the two have only informally talked and there is no agreement yet.

While docked at the Hyatt, the boat's top-deck restaurant, raw bar and a few bars with live entertainment will be open to the public, Monaghan said. The gambling deck will be closed but there will be 150 video gaming redemption machines that are permitted under laws that allow arcade games to spit out tickets to buy trinkets valued under $5.

Monaghan said his prizes will likely include gift certificates.

Although a city ordinance requires bars to shut down at 2:55 a.m., Monaghan claims that he will be able to operate 24 hours a day while docked because his bar floats.

City Revenue Director Buddy Clay disagreed.

"The waterway belongs to the city, and while he's docked, we see him as any other business," he said.

Casino attorney Adam Kirk said his advice to Monaghan is to act like the business is on land.

"The city of Savannah is powerful enough to give us problems in other respects if we start taking advantage of loopholes," he said.

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The new statewide show highlights arts communities.

Savannah art and its artists are profiled on Georgia Public Broadcasting's new show "State of the Arts."

In the premiere episode, which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on WVAN Channel 9, the show stops in Savannah during its statewide quest to document what's happening in Georgia's arts community.

Hamilton Northcutt, writer, producer and host, said GPB executives saw a need to add an arts program to its existing stable of business, political and outdoors shows.

"This state has such a wealth of creative talent," she said. "It's about time somebody put a spotlight on all of the arts in Georgia."

In Wednesday's episode, that spotlight comes to rest at the Telfair Museum of Art. Northcutt details the ongoing construction of the Telfair's third building in downtown Savannah; highlights works from painters in the museum's permanent collection, such as Childe Hassam, Frederick Frieseke and Gari Melchers; and points out that the Telfair holds the largest collection in North America of visual art by Lebanese artist Kahlil Gibran, best known for his book, "The Prophet."

Diane Lesko, executive director of the Telfair Museum, said she was delighted to learn that the Savannah institution was one of the first subjects profiled by the GPB series.

"I'm thrilled," Lesko said. "GPB-TV is doing a wonderful job in terms of trying to introduce the various cultural attractions - of which there are many - in the state of Georgia, and we are honored to be part of this broadcast."

She hopes the television exposure will draw attention to the museum and generate a whole new audience of art lovers, as well as pique the interest of local "been-there-seen-that" residents.

"It will be wonderful for our whole city, and individually for the institutions highlighted in the show, because this widespread TV coverage will draw in people who wouldn't ordinarily visit the Telfair," Lesko said.

GPB concludes the museum segment by featuring Sylvia Shaw Judson's "Bird Girl" sculpture, made famous by its appearance on the cover of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" known locally as simply "The Book."

"This show makes art more available to everyone, which is what we're striving for," Lesko said.

Sea Island gets twice the attention in this episode: first with a profile of former Georgia First Lady Betty Foy Sanders. The 77-year-old Sea Island resident is known for her unflagging support of the arts community and is an accomplished artist in her own right.

Northcutt said GPB wanted to interview Sanders reading the book "The Artist Within: The Legacy of Betty Foy Sanders, Georgia's 74th First Lady."

"She's a remarkable woman," Northcutt said. "She's an amazing talent who has led a very individual life."

The second mention of Sea Island comes courtesy of Brunswick resident Dr. Carl Dohn Jr.

Dohn, an obstetrician and amateur woodworker, created the summit table used by President George Bush and seven of the world's other most powerful leaders during the G-8 Sea Island Summit. Dohn sculpted the antique heart pine table, using his collection of antique hand-tools.

The production, which was shot by Emmy-winning videographer Mitchell Zastrow, also showcases Habersham County's Mark of the Potter, Georgia's oldest craft gallery; "Peachtree Battle," the longest running theatrical production in Atlanta history; and the Chihuly exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

It also includes video montages of the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, The Atlanta Dogwood Festival and the "Glories of Ancient Egypt" exhibit at Atlanta's High Museum of Art.

The show will encore at 10:30 p.m. Sunday and again at 7 p.m. June 30. The next installment of "State of the Arts" will air in October.

Cheryl Alford for GPBHamilton Northcutt, host of Georgia Public Broadcasting's new show, "State of the Arts," stands outside the Telfair Museum of Art.


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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

One of the anticipated perks of serving as the host for the G8 Summit was the global publicity that Savannah was to receive for being the media hub during the week. So, do the numbers back up the hype?

According to www.bacons.com, a media resources Web site, the publicity was far reaching for the months leading up to the summit.

In April, Savannah received mention in 340 print articles internationally with combined circulations reaching 30 million people.

In May, the numbers dipped to 127 articles while reaching 15 million readers.

June had by far the most coverage being the actual month of the summit. There were 1,204 pages of print in more than 936 articles. The circulation of these articles reached a potential audience of 106 million readers.

Overall, Savannah was featured in more than 1,000 printed publications ranging from daily and weekly newspapers to trade and consumer magazines around the globe, according to the Savannah Convention and Visitors Bureau.

However, Anthony Schopp, president of the Savannah Convention and Visitors Bureau, thinks that it is still too early to see what impact G8's influence will have for potential tourists to Savannah.

"Based on the results of the news articles preceding the summit, I think the publicity will exceed our expectations. We will not really be able to quantify the results for another six months or so," Schopp said.

Schopp is optimistic that the G8 will have a deep impact on tourism for the long run, however. "We believe this event will elevate Savannah tourism to a new level," Schoop said.

The publicity that has been generated is unique in that the publicity in the media was free. Schopp explained how the San Francisco Chronicle daily newspaper ran several articles on the city of Savannah during its G8 coverage, yet he pointed out that a half-inch advertisement in the Chronicle cost $533.

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Guest donaltopablo

I think this is excellent news for the Savannah area. A boost to tourism I'm sure is very welcome by the business owners and service employees.

However, what I think Savannah lacks more than needing more tourism is a strong commerical and business base. Outside investment in mfg, office jobs, corporate jobs, even increased shipping and warehousing I think would bring a level of diversity and hopefully higher paying jobs to an area that desperately needs it.

But hopefully in addition to the tourism and name benefits the G8 brought, that business leaders will see it as a place to invest/move/expand.

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