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Howard Stutz

Inside gaming column: New casino hopes to match price to patrons

20 October 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The challenge for Station Casinos in opening Aliante Station is to not scare away the customers. In other words, the $662 million North Las Vegas hotel-casino may resemble Red Rock Resort in Summerlin, but it better not have Red Rock prices.

Aliante Station executives seem to have to have taken that thought to heart.

"The key is to have approachable price points, to correctly market the property and to be smart enough to understand our customer base," Aliante Station general manager Joe Hasson said.

Some 1,500 of Aliante Station's 2,500 slot machines are multidenomination penny-based games. The property has budget-conscious restaurants, such as T.G.I. Friday's and the Original Pancake House. MRKT, the resort's steakhouse, evokes images of the upscale Hank's at Green Valley Ranch Resort and T-bone's at Red Rock. But the average dinner check could be 30 percent lower.

"After Red Rock, the bar was set high," Station Casinos Chief Operating Officer Kevin Kelley said. "But we took into account the needs of our guests."

Aliante Station opens Nov. 11 amid the Nevada casino industry's worst economic slump on record. Strip gaming revenues are down 6.6 percent through August.

The locals gaming market is also suffering. Financial uncertainty has caused casino patrons to cut back on their gambling expenses and shorten the number of times they dine out in a week.

Gaming revenues in North Las Vegas were $186.6 million through August, a decline of 8.9 percent.

The trick for Station Casinos is to create new customers for Aliante Station in a turbulent market without poaching from its nearby sister resorts, Santa Fe Station, Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho.

The casino has the typical gaming amenities, except bingo. There is also a small high-limit room where the minimum wager is $25. That bet wouldn't buy you a cup of coffee at the Bellagio, but that's not the customer Aliante Station is after.

Hasson said 6,500 households in the Aliante community and other North Las Vegas neighborhoods provide a solid customer base.

The property's opulent features, including Italian marble flooring, imported stonework and specially designed casino carpeting, could intimidate locals who remember $4.99 steak dinners and $1.99 breakfasts.

"Did we overdo it?" Kelley asked.

Maybe, unless value is a key ingredient in the package.

Aliante Station cost almost three times as much as the 2-month old Eastside Cannery. M Resort, opening in March, has a $1 billion budget. The casinos cater to different geographical regions.

One prediction: Bingo will be Aliante Station's first new addition. The customer base includes Sun City Aliante.