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Gaming Guru

Rod Smith
 

Barrick Gaming Reveals Plans

4 March 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Calling its gaming operations the new "anchor tenant" for downtown redevelopment, Barrick Gaming Corp. on Wednesday unveiled plans to renovate and expand the areas around four downtown properties it is buying.

Tony Cabot, a partner in Las Vegas law firm Lionel, Sawyer & Collins who represents Barrick, told the Nevada Gaming Control Board the investments the Barrick group is making and its redevelopment projects "will redefine the future of downtown Las Vegas."

"Downtown once was the glory of the gaming world, but now you see places you don't want to go. The application before (the control board) is different from others. It's really the redevelopment of downtown," he said.

Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander praised the group's efforts to redevelop downtown and the board recommended approval unanimously for Barrick Gaming's buyout of most of Jackie Gaughan's downtown Las Vegas real estate assets.

The Gaming Commission will consider at its meeting later this month granting final license approvals for two Barrick trusts and five Barrick gaming companies that will allow the deal to close.

Barrick Gaming owners David Barrick and Stephen Crystal outlined plans for a massive redevelopment of the Plaza and its seven additional acres, the Las Vegas Club, the Gold Spike and the Western Hotel, which they plan to retheme as a Latino destination resort.

Barrick officials said the redevelopment plans call for spending "hundreds of millions of dollars."

Although they offered no details on the final cost and financing of the project, Crystal said said his company has arranged for international financing of the project with backers mainly experienced with traditional real estate developments.

The Barrick group also plans to create a themed street behind the Plaza, which will recreate the ambience of old downtown Las Vegas.

Crystal said it has taken 2 1/2 years to develop the plans, which will represent more than 45 percent of the downtown hotel inventory and protect 4,000 downtown jobs as well as create new positions.

They said the plans may be expanded to include the recently approved downtown entertainment district, the El Cortez, on which they have an option, and the Queen of Hearts motel on Main Street and the Nevada Club Hotel, which they plan to buy.

The plans include adding 1,200 hotel rooms and 1,200 time share units to the Plaza, linking the Plaza and the Las Vegas Club with a deck over Main Street and adding a portable arena.

Crystal told control board members that the Barrick group sees a significant increase in demand for rooms in downtown Las Vegas, largely because of the development of the World Market Center on the city's 61-acre parcel, which he referred to as "the new uptown."

He also explained that the former Gaughan properties are ideal for redevelopment, unlike most of the land downtown, because they are not owned by multiple landowners.

"Downtown is not dying. It's just not growing," Barrick Gaming Chief Operating Officer Phil Flaherty told the board. "These properties have the opportunity to grow."

Also on Wednesday, the Gaming Control Board approved applications from:

• Coast Casinos for a delayed public offering.

• Lynn Bennett, Bill Bennett's widow, for a gaming license.