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Brian Wargo

Henderson Leaning Toward Strip Resorts

18 January 2006

Six decades after the first casinos were built on what would become the Las Vegas Strip, Henderson is ready to pronounce that gambling is appropriate on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Henderson planners had said the opposite just last month in a proposal that would have severely limited the number of casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard South near the southern end of the Las Vegas Valley. But the City Council did not agree.

"We were always going to allow it," Henderson Councilman Steven Kirk said. "Why on earth would we have someone with a Las Vegas Boulevard address and not have gaming? We just weren't going to allow someone to buy 5 acres and build a slot joint."

Under a revised ordinance, casinos would be allowed in a gaming district that extends 1,500 feet from the centerline of Las Vegas Boulevard South. Resorts must consist of at least 25 acres and 500 rooms. Kirk said he expects the final version will increase the requirement to 1,000 hotel rooms.

"I don't want to tie the hands of future councils on that corridor," Councilwoman Amanda Cyphers said. "None of us know what the town is going to look like in 50 years."

The earlier language required casinos along the corridor to be 5 miles from each other unless they were part of a master-planned development of 1,000 acres or more. That proposal would have benefited the planned $1.8 billion M Resort in Henderson, at the southeast corner of St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Henderson's ordinance remains speculative, however, because it controls only a short stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South. The city is trying to annex 3,600 acres of Bureau of Land Management land south of St. Rose Parkway, which includes southern portions of the boulevard, but Clark County commissioners have voiced opposition. Without the county's endorsement, the BLM has not supported the annexation.

County Commissioner Lynette Boggs McDonald said Henderson's original proposal to curtail gaming along Las Vegas Boulevard shows it's not the best steward for the corridor.

"That reaffirms my thoughts on the importance from an economic development standpoint of wanting to maintain control and continuation of the Las Vegas Strip," Boggs McDonald said.

Henderson planners had written the original language so that the ordinance would be consistent with a proposed 5-mile-radius restriction on casinos throughout the city. That limitation, if approved, would effectively guarantee that existing Henderson casinos enjoyed monopoly status in their zones.

Henderson resident Jennie Orme, who asked officials to impose restrictions on casinos elsewhere in the city, said she had no problem allowing future casinos to be built along what many are referring to as the South Strip.

"You expect gaming to be there," Orme said. "As long as they are away from neighborhoods, that was our concern from the beginning."