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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Zoned Out

21 June 2006

NEVADA -- Southern Nevada's newest locals casino has shown the door to some of its neighbors in order to better welcome others.

Red Rock Resort's top executive recently sent letters to 35,300 residences within a three-mile radius of Station Casinos' $925 million hotel-casino at Charleston Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway.

That one-page correspondence outlined strict new curfew guidelines that limit evening access primarily to persons of legal drinking and gambling age.

"We've noticed that people under the age of 21 are visiting our property later at night than we had anticipated," wrote Scott Kreeger, Red Rock Resort's president and general manager. "In response, we have decided to implement a curfew ... (that is) a bit more restrictive than the curfew already imposed by Clark County."

The change was intended to ensure "the safety of our young people and the comfort of our guests," Kreeger added.

As of Thursday, Red Rock Resort stopped allowing underage patrons on site after 9 p.m., unless they were eating in a restaurant or attending a movie while accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

Underage guests seeing movies that end after 9 p.m. must now leave the resort immediately after their show ends.

Underage persons staying in the resort's 414-room hotel are still allowed on site, though an adult must accompany them after 9 p.m.

Clark County's curfew for those age 15 to 18 is 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; it extends to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

Residents of western Las Vegas offered mixed reactions to Station's crackdown.

Garwin Hay of Spring Valley scouted Red Rock Resort on Tuesday seeking places to take his 14- and 12-year-old grandchildren when they visit later this summer. Kids and teens don't bother him, but Hay prefers that they avoid casinos during evenings.

"After 9 o'clock they're only going to get into trouble," said Hay, who cited this year's Easter weekend attack in which a group of teens beat an MGM Grand landscaper outside the Strip resort.

Peccole Ranch resident Greg Keller took his 12-year-old daughter, McKenna, to see a movie at Red Rock Resort on Tuesday afternoon. He also supports the curfew, saying kids don't need to be around gambling and nightclubs.

The lack of underage patrons also makes Red Rock Resort more attractive on evenings when Keller and his adult friends go out without the family, he added.

But Leanne Tomas, a 16-year-old resident of The Lakes, was upset by Station's curfew.

"They shouldn't have put an arcade and movie theater in the central area where everyone gathers at night," Tomas, a Las Vegas Academy student attending summer classes at Summerlin's Palo Verde High School, said this week.

"It's pointless," added classmate Amanda Lebitski, also 16. "It's a casino, but it shouldn't just be for adults."

Tomas noted that Red Rock Resort is home to Kids Quest, an hourly child-care provider, and boasts a family friendly food court next to the cineplex.

Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson wasn't swayed. She said all Station properties have curfews, though times vary based on underage activity in each neighborhood.

Station officials waited a few weeks after Red Rock Resort's April 18 debut to enforce the 9 p.m. deadline because management needed to "get a feel" for what time best fit the property, Nelson said.

"We cater to locals, which means we do have a lot of different entertainment offerings," including some that appeal to families, Nelson said. "We've left plenty of time throughout the day, and into the early evening, for those under 21 to enjoy."

Calls Red Rock Resort fielded in response to Kreeger's letter "overwhelmingly" supported the curfew, Nelson said.

Enforcement is another issue entirely.

Signs posted around Red Rock Resort urge underage patrons to "Stay in the Green Zone," or emerald-shaded sectors depicted on an accompanying map of the property. But even those who remain in approved areas are one step away from gaming and drinking.

Unlike Station's Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Red Rock Resort has no direct outside access to its food court and cineplex.

As a result, the approved pathway between Red Rock Resort's west garage and movie theater, for example, follows a serpentine path that passes 21 rows of slot machines.

Those entering from the east garage must walk the length of the property's 87,000-square-foot casino, passing two bars and the Cherry nightclub along the way.

Nelson was unsure why Station did not build access points that bypassed the new resort's gaming floor.

Station's curfew is not the first time a Las Vegas hotel-casino has cracked down on underage visitors.

Mirage Resorts in the mid-1990s when it banned strollers in its casinos. When it opened Bellagio in 1998, security guards kept persons under 18 from entering unless they were guests of the $1.6 billion resort.

That ban is no longer in place under new owner MGM Mirage, but spokesman Alan Feldman said local casino operators constantly struggle with monitoring younger guests.

"We try our best to be hospitable to guests who are 21 while recognizing that there may be people in their party who are not," Feldman said. "It's an ongoing issue."

MGM Mirage employees are trained to check the ages of guests who appear 25 or younger; those under 21 are asked to leave gaming areas.

At some resorts, the company has changed its carpet colors to better differentiate gaming areas from nongaming walkways, Feldman said.

Most casinos in Atlantic City take things a step further, forcing underage visitors to bypass casino areas altogether using special walkways and corridors.

Spokesman Rob Stillwell said Boyd Gaming Corp. typically restricts access to its guests under 18 beginning at 9 p.m.

Like Station, Boyd operates several hotel-casinos whose movie theaters, bowling alleys and food courts appeal to younger residents. When possible, Boyd provides access to such attractions that bypass casino areas.

But Stillwell concedes patrons often must walk past slots and tables to reach family friendly amenities.

Stillwell said his 15-year-old son frequently accompanies friends on trips to Boyd's Suncoast, as well as Red Rock Resort. He said parents must take a greater role in keeping their kids away from adult activities.

"If he wasn't going there to bowl or eat or see a movie, it's my responsibility to make sure he's not hanging out" in a casino, Stillwell said. "It's really on the parents."

Red Rock Resort's size, scale and target market -- if not its very existence -- have been subject to intense debate ever since Station's plans for Summerlin were revealed three years ago.

Nearby residents, with the support of the local Sierra Club chapter and the Culinary Local 226 union, a frequent Station nemesis, in 2003 challenged the company's request to build a 300-foot-tall hotel tower. Opponents claimed the building would increase traffic and ruin views of Red Rock Canyon.

The Clark County Commission was only partially convinced, and in January 2004 it approved a scaled-down design that capped the tower at 198 feet. Construction teams broke ground three months later.

Residents later balked at Station's planned use of massive video marquees along Charleston Boulevard and the Beltway. And earlier this year, critics targeted Station's print ads touting Red Rock Resort in national publications such as Cigar Aficionado, Condé Nast Traveler and Southwest Airlines' in-flight magazine.

Nelson hopes the 9 p.m. curfew will generate goodwill among nearby residents.

"We're doing this because we're a good community partner," she said.