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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Boyd shifting tactics in NLV

11 April 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Boyd Gaming Corp. is changing its North Las Vegas casino plans, joining the developer of a proposed 2,675-acre master-planned community as the builder and operator of a large hotel, casino and resort complex within the project.

The 66-acre site, on the northwest corner of the Las Vegas Beltway and Losee Road, needs to be entitled as a casino location by North Las Vegas civic leaders. If that happens, Boyd Gaming said it would scrap plans to develop a casino on a 40-acre gaming-entitled site the company controls on the southwest corner of Centennial Parkway and Lamb Boulevard. The North Las Vegas locations are about two miles apart.

Boyd Gaming and Olympia Group, developers of the Park Highlands master-planned community, are expected to announce the joint-venture agreement this morning and will also file a development application with the city of North Las Vegas.

Boyd Gaming Chief Executive Officer Keith Smith said the location within Park Highlands is a much better casino site than the company's current location, which it acquired for $35 million in early 2006. The Park Highlands casino site could eventually house a 1,200-room hotel-casino with restaurants, meeting space and other amenities.

Boyd Gaming is not yet releasing what its financial contribution to the joint venture will be.

"The site is within a commercial corridor and will have tremendous customer base," Smith said.

Boyd Gaming does not expect to begin construction on the North Las Vegas casino site for at least three to five years, allowing additional time for the surrounding area to develop. In addition, the company said it would build the site in three phases.

This year, Boyd Gaming expects to open a $400 million hotel expansion to the Borgata in Atlantic City and complete a $130 million hotel project at its Blue Chip riverboat casino in Indiana. Also, construction has begun on the $4.8 billion Echelon project on the Strip that is expected to open in the latter half of 2010.

"Obviously, we have a lot on our plate right now," Smith said. "The area is still growing. Even if we were ready to put a shovel into the ground, the population in that area is not enough to warrant the cost of construction."

Olympia Group, which developed Southern Highlands in the southern part of the valley, broke ground more than a year ago on Park Highlands. When completed in about 10 years, the community is expected to have 16,000 residential units and be home to some 50,000 people. Olympia paid $639 million for the land at a Bureau of Land Management public auction in 2005.

Park Highlands is expected to include six school sites and 430 acres of dedicated parks and trails, which includes 300 acres of preservation area. The community is expected to house a regional police station, a fire station, a U.S. post office and a city of North Las Vegas Public Library. Costs for infrastructure and improvements are estimated to be more than $1 billion.

Smith and Olympia Group CEO Gary Goett met Thursday with North Las Vegas city leaders to discuss the proposal.

If the Park Highlands site receives gaming entitlement, Smith said Boyd Gaming would sell its 40-acre parcel with a proviso that a casino could not be built on the location.

North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon has reportedly been opposed to granting additional casino developments for North Las Vegas. The Park Highlands site is roughly five miles east of Station Casinos' $675 million Aliante Station, which is located at Aliante Parkway and the Beltway. The hotel-casino is expected to open in December.

"Boyd Gaming provides Park Highlands with a casino entertainment component that completes our vision for a community-centric master-planned development," Goett said. "We are developing this community, not only for the residents who will live here, but for the 125,000 neighbors who live in the surrounding area."

Olympia operates the Casino Fandango in Carson City in partnership with the Las Vegas-based Navegante Group. The company is also in the planning stages for a casino in Sparks and a casino project near Southern Highlands.

Boyd shifting tactics in NLV is republished from