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Cy Ryan

Bill on casino expansion tied to churches dies

3 June 2009

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- A bill to allow casino expansion in Las Vegas in a gaming district now blocked by the location of two Catholic churches died in the Senate on Monday.

The Senate, before adjourning the session, never took a vote on whether to concur with amendments of the Assembly on Senate Bill 354.

Current law states that casinos outside of the Las Vegas Boulevard gaming enterprise district may not expand if they are within 1,500 feet of a church.

To get around this restriction, the bill expanded the gaming corridor to include downtown Las Vegas and expands the zone along the Strip.

St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in downtown Las Vegas is within 1,500 feet of property purchased by the Golden Nugget for expansion. But the death of the bill dims the chances for Golden Nugget to expand.

Attorney Mark Fiorentino represents Marriott International, which has some 20 acres on the Strip, but it is blocked from expansion because a small portion of the property is within the Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Strip. It wanted that restriction removed.

And the Guardian Angel church's location would restrict Steve Wynn from building a casino on the company's 140-acre golf course next to Wynn Las Vegas. But Wynn doesn't have any current plans for such expansion, said Fiorentino, who represents Wynn Las Vegas.

He said both Catholic churches have no objection. "It is supported by all labor, including the Culinary," he said.

He said officials talked to the Guardian Angel church and it had no objections "because part of their mission is to serve people who work and who visit the casinos.

The Guardian Angel is "completely surrounded by casinos," he said.

But the Senate declined to take a vote and the session ended.