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Mark Burnett to produce new 'The Restaurant'-like 'The Casino' reality series for FOX


By Reality TV World staff, 12/15/2003 

Although the producers of NBC's The Restaurant decided to team back up with chef Rocco DiSpirito for a second season of the restaurant-based reality show, that apparently hasn't stopped one of the producers -- namely Survivor titan Mark Burnett -- from pursuing a previously reported "spin-off" concept of the program, a casino-set version of the program entitled (predictably enough) The Casino. But if you believe Burnett, the new show apparently has no connection to The Restaurant, and he and his new production partner "conceived" of the show independently.

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The Casino, announced by FOX (not NBC) Executive Vice President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell, will begin production this spring for a thirteen episode Summer 2004 broadcast on FOX. Set at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the program will provide an extraordinary 24/7, behind-the-scenes look at the real-life dramas that unfold at the establishment after its new owners take over the old-time Vegas landmark and attempt to bring back the glory of its "Rat Pack" heyday.

"We are thrilled to be in business with Mark Burnett," said Darnell. "He has consistently proven himself to be one of the best producers in the business." He added: "We found the concept for this series riveting. Casinos are exciting, fantastic and mysterious - and incredible human drama unfolds all day, every day. No one has ever had this kind of access, and we think viewers will be amazed by this world."

"Las Vegas is like a magnet," said Burnett. "The city attracts people from all over the world with two things on their mind -- getting rich quick and having as much fun as possible in a short period of time. It is the magnetism of Las Vegas that we will try to capture on camera, as we tell the story of two young entrepreneurs who found remarkable success during the Internet boom and are now living out their dreams of owning a Las Vegas casino. We will watch them take a seat at the table of the world's most exciting business as they take over one of the most legendary of all Las Vegas casinos, the Golden Nugget."

At the center of the series will be entrepreneurs Timothy Poster and Thomas Breitling, whose Travelscape.com start-up website help revolution the travel industry in the late 1990's. Having become multimillionaires after selling their company to Microsoft's Expedia unit in 2000, Breitling and Poster have decided to use part of their fortunes to fulfill their life-long dream by purchasing the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, as well as its sister property on the Colorado River in Laughlin, NV. Together they are betting that they can create the same sort of classic Las Vegas experience that was so prevalent in Vegas' glory days.

"Our goal is to provide customers with the type of service that they cannot find anywhere else in Las Vegas. We intend to give our patrons the type of service that was so common in years past, but has been slowly disappearing with the growth of the mega-resorts. Vegas casinos used to be a fantasyland for gamblers and this is what we intend to provide. It is all about knowing customers by their names, knowing what kind of whiskey they drink, what kind of cigarettes they smoke, and what type of suites they prefer - and giving it to them. This will be the focus of our business," said Tim Poster.

Announced by FOX as "conceived by Burnett and production partner Conrad Riggs" despite the obvious similarities to the program idea that Burnett and his Restaurant partner Ben Silverman were reported to been pitching back in September, The Casino will go beyond the challenges facing Breitling and Poster, to explore the personal dramas unfolding among some of the 3,000 employees inside this world. From cocktail waitresses, to pit bosses, to security, management and entertainers. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the show will follow the real-life cast of characters as they run an elaborate high-stakes operation that caters to visitors from around the world seeking the thrill of Las Vegas.

"We researched the Vegas landscape and found Tim and Tom to be very charismatic characters and their journey to be the most personal and dramatic story. They will be walking the casino floor every night like in old Vegas. That doesn't happen in today's large, corporate casinos," said Conrad Riggs.

Riggs will serve as Co-Executive Producer for Mark Burnett Productions along with Jamie Bruce (The Restaurant), along with the company's Kevin Harris (The Apprentice), who will serve as Supervising Producer.

On behalf of Poster and Breitling, Trent Othick of Las Vegas-based Insomnia Entertainment and Rob Lieberman will executive produce, and Perry Rogers of Alliance Sports Management will produce and coordinate the production for Poster and Breitling. Mark Burg represents Rob Lieberman and will receive a producer credit on the show.

The series will be filmed in High Definition format in association with Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Company.

Implementation of the contract for the series is contingent on the acquisition of the Golden Nugget properties by Poster and Breitling. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other closing conditions.

Applications for potential guests interested in appearing in the series are available on www.fox.com.

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