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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Jeff Simpson on How the Downside of Growth - Traffic Jams - Cuts Casino Profits

12 June 2006

One of the problems with a metropolitan area that grows as fast as Las Vegas is that our roadways can't keep up with the traffic on them.

It's a problem that plagues many valley businesses, and I hear from a lot of them when their customers are inconvenienced by traffic snarls and road construction.

Customer inconvenience costs these folks business, especially in the locals casino business.

One of the hallmarks of a successful locals casino is convenience.

Customers want to gamble, eat and drink at a spot that is close to their homes or to their routes home from work.

Traffic jams and road construction make those casino visits less fun and convenient.

During the past seven years I've written how Station Casinos reported declining business at Palace Station when Sahara Avenue was undergoing road work near Interstate 15 and later at its Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho properties when Rancho Drive was widened.

More recently Michael Gaughan told me the South Coast's business was hurt by a Las Vegas Boulevard South project as well as the lack of an I-15 interchange at Silverado Ranch Boulevard.

I thought I'd seen casino construction disruption, but the Silverton suffers more than all of those properties.

Silverton owner Ed Roski Jr. and President Craig Cavileer have totally remade the southwest Las Vegas locals casino. They've opened new and improved restaurants and bars, expanded the casino and opened the Bass Pro Shops outdoor megastore.

With the dramatic growth taking place in the southwestern part of the valley, the Silverton is ideally situated to expand its business.

But the Blue Diamond Road construction project is taking its toll on the Silverton. The project includes widening Blue Diamond, building a new overpass over I-15 and building a new intersection at Blue Diamond and Dean Martin Drive (the former Industrial Road).

The Silverton entrance is just south of the Blue Diamond and Dean Martin intersection, and the construction project is creating giant traffic jams that make getting in and out of the property difficult.

"It's my biggest source of frustration," Cavileer told me last week.

He said last weekend he was leaving the Silverton's valet parking area, and the traffic was backed up so far it took him 22 minutes to drive the couple of hundred yards to get to Blue Diamond Road.

It took another 11 minutes on Blue Diamond for Cavileer to get onto I-15.

A few years ago, before the explosion of home building began west of the property on Blue Diamond and the Silverton improvements that draw a lot more customers, that portion of the drive would have taken a couple of minutes.

I visited the property twice in the past few weeks. While my experience wasn't as bad as Cavileer's, it took at least 15 minutes to get out of the property and onto the interstate.

The project is expected to be completed by October.

• • •

Skyline General Manager Mike Young wrote me last week to ask why I noted the disappearance of the property's former loss leader T-bone steak specials in a recent column without commenting on any of the property's improvements.

He said the property's undergoing significant refurbishing with a lot of new slots and coinless machines added. The Skyline wants to reward its loyal gaming customers instead of subsidizing meals for diners who don't gamble, he wrote.

Gaming revenues are up 10 percent, and a $1.5 million deficit on food has been eliminated.

It's hard to argue with success. I just miss the $3.95 steak.