Casino project launched; Plenty of pizazz promised for Marilyn’s on

Casino project launched; Plenty of pizazz promised for Marilyn’s on

Alison Boggs Staff writer

Promising 150 full-time service sector jobs and a casino unlike anything in the state, the owners of Marilyn’s on Monroe splashed onto the downtown Spokane scene Friday afternoon.

As a Marilyn Monroe impersonator worked the room in a black evening gown and a chef served champagne and hors d’oeuvres, the business’s owners announced plans for their casino, restaurant, lounge and comedy club.

“It’s going to really be an attraction for downtown Spokane,” said Mark Kelegian, one of the three owners. “You’re going to come in here and see the bar raised. It will capture the ex-citement and flair of an unforgettable era.”

The new business will front Monroe Street on the west side of the Big Easy building, between Sprague and First avenues. A $150,000 life- size sculpture of the blond bombshell will greet visitors entering from the main Monroe Street entrance. The windows facing Monroe Street will be covered with images of Monroe and members of the infamous Rat Pack, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.

About 3,500 square feet of the first floor will be devoted to a house-banked card room casino. It will have 15 digital gaming tables, offering games such as poker and blackjack. One of the games, Trips, is a five-card stud game recently approved by the state Gambling Commission. It pits players against each other, with a fast-growing pot that rolls over to the next round if no one wins.

The other half of the business will house a 100-seat restaurant and the Rat Pack Lounge, featuring live comedy three to four nights a week. Sporting events and celebrity performances also will be shown on giant plasma-screen TVs.

“It’s going to draw a crowd that is going to be affluent, from around the region,” said John Brewer, president of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. Representatives of several economic development agencies attended a Friday afternoon news conference held to announce the business’s plans.

Marilyn’s on Monroe is planning a February opening and will operate 20 hours a day, every day.

The business is a collaboration between Digideal, a Spokane Valley company that makes digital card tables, and two Southern California brothers, Mark Kelegian and Haig Kelegian Jr., whose family has owned casinos for years. The family has part ownership in the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, Calif., and Oceans Eleven in Oceanside, the Kelegians said.

Marilyn’s was the “brainchild” of Digideal CEO Michael Kuhn, Mark Kelegian said. The trio is hoping to open two other casinos in the Inland Northwest within the next three to four years, he added, but declined to say where. The company formed to create Marilyn’s on Monroe is called Celebrity Casinos LLC.

Documents filed with the state Gambling Commission show initial contributions to the business of $250,000 each by the Kelegian brothers. Digideal’s initial contribution, also a $500,000 value, was 15 gaming tables that incorporate the company’s digital card system technology, documents show.

Mark Kelegian said the business would cost $1 million to $2 million to put together.

Kuhn said he met the Kelegian brothers while earning approval for Digideal technology in California. He said the brothers became distributors for Digideal tables in that state. When they visited Spokane, Mark Kelegian said, they “fell in love” with the area and saw the business opportunities in the city’s downtown revitalization efforts.

“We want to be part of that revitalization,” said Haig Kelegian Jr. The brothers said they hope their club will bring more entertainment downtown, such as a jazz club and more restaurants.

Included in the club will be a comedy club with shows several nights a week. The business’s operations manager, Don Parkins, is a hypnotist and comedian who also runs Uncle D’s Comedy Underground, an entertainment agency that books comedians across the country.

State documents show that Celebrity Casinos will lease 8,582 square feet of the building at 900 W. Sprague from Western United Life Assurance Co. The lease applies to portions of the first and second floors of the building. The 10-year lease begins Dec. 31 at a base rent of $10,012 a month. The rate rises gradually to a maximum of $12,873 in the final year.

Business writer Alison Boggs can be reached at (509) 459-5491, or by e-mail at alisonb@spokesman.com.

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