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Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Aliante Station to Join NLV Neighborhood Casinos

20 December 2005

Before the dust settles on its soon-to-open Red Rock Resort in Summerlin, Station Casinos is striking a deal to build a neighborhood casino in Aliante in North Las Vegas.

Station plans to announce today a long-anticipated deal with The Greenspun Corporation to develop Aliante Station in the 1,905-acre master-planned community.

Station will build and manage the property, which is expected to have about 200 hotel rooms and 2,000 slot machines in the first phase of an expected multiphase project. It will be on 40 acres at the northeast corner of the Las Vegas Beltway and Aliante Parkway.

The Greenspun Corporation is owned by the Greenspun family, which owns the Las Vegas Sun.

The corporation owns the site. Greenspun's real estate development company, American Nevada Company, will contribute the land for the project. Station will give cash and join with Greenspun in financing the remainder of the casino.

Station expects to break ground by late 2006 or early 2007, with the casino to open by midyear 2008.

The company expects Aliante Station to be the next of several neighborhood casinos Station plans after Red Rock, which is to open by late March at the beltway and Charleston Boulevard.

Station executives say they haven't determined the final cost and have just begun working on a design.

Aliante Station will include many of the features that the company's other properties have become known for, including multiple restaurants, meeting space and a buffet.

Station executives also are considering a movie theater, spa and other features.

"It will have some of the same amenities you see elsewhere," Station Casinos Chief Legal Officer Scott Nielson said. "But it's not going to be on the scale of a Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock."

While Station bosses have discussed prospects for several other casino parcels that the company owns across the valley, they have remained mum on whether the company would develop the Aliante casino. But investors have long speculated that Station was first in line to run the Aliante casino because Station and Greenspun have a similar ownership agreement with Henderson's Green Valley Ranch.

Station Chief Executive Frank Fertitta III is credited with Green Valley Ranch's innovative design. It is considered the most upscale of the valley's neighborhood casinos.

The property has been a "phenomenal success," Nielson said.

Station owns 50 percent of Green Valley Ranch and manages the property for a fee that includes 2 percent of property revenue and 5 percent of operating cash flow. Station also is a partner with Greenspun in the Barley's brew pub casino and restaurant and the Greens Cafe, both in Henderson.

"We have a great relationship with the Fertittas and Station Casinos as a result of the success of Green Valley Ranch Resort, and we are confident that they will develop and operate a high-quality project for our residents and the surrounding North Las Vegas community," Greenspun Corporation Chairman Brian Greenspun said in a statement.

Station executives don't anticipate neighborhood resistance because the casino was part of the original master plan. That means homebuyers have received notices of the casino and other details such as its maximum height, Station officials say.

The use permit for the casino was approved by North Las Vegas four years ago when American Nevada bought the land with Del Webb. The permit allows Station to build a hotel with as many as 800 rooms and rising to a height of 150 feet, along with a casino with 100,000 square feet and at least 4,900 parking spaces.

The project will require a design review from North Las Vegas.

Station -- which already owns Santa Fe Station, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station in North Las Vegas -- is in an enviable competitive position. The Aliante Station site is the only land zoned for a casino along the beltway in North Las Vegas.

The Olympia Group, developer of Southern Highlands in the far southwest valley, recently proposed a casino on land it purchased for a master-planned residential community adjacent to Aliante.

But North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon has objected to another casino in his city.

To build a casino nearby, developers would have to jump several regulatory hurdles that prevent the land from becoming zoned for casinos. Land purchased from the federal government on the outskirts of town could be zoned for casinos someday, but that would likely be years away, giving Station a big jump on the competition, Nielson said.

Aliante Station is expected to draw customers miles from Aliante because it will be adjacent to the beltway, Nielson said. Santa Fe Station is the closest major casino, but it isn't expected to lose much business to the new property because most of Santa Fe's customers come in via U.S. 95 rather than the beltway, he said.

"It's a convenience factor more than anything else," Nielson said. "The market is deep .... (nearby residents) are looking for more amenities out there."

While not known for its affluent neighborhoods, North Las Vegas ranks close to Las Vegas and Henderson as one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Station and American Nevada officials say the North Las Vegas population is expected to double every eight years, with an average annual growth rate of more than 9 percent.

Other casino companies, including Boyd Gaming and the operators of North Las Vegas' Cannery casino, approached American Nevada in the hopes of operating the Aliante casino.

American Nevada's longtime partnership with Station Casinos and the strong financial performance of the Green Valley Ranch partnership made it difficult for the company to consider another casino partner, said Phil Peckman, Greenspun Corporation chief executive officer.

Coast Casinos and Boyd "could have done a fine job with it," Peckman said. "They're great companies. But we're comfortable with Station. They know what they're doing, and we're not going to get into a business we don't know."

Nielson said the Greenspun partnership "led us to do some things on a level we wouldn't necessarily have anticipated" at Green Valley Ranch, including the addition of such upscale features as a steakhouse and an expanded spa.

As part of the joint venture, Station also will contribute 55 acres at the beltway and Losee Road. That land could be developed into a casino but will more likely become a commercial, residential or retail development, Peckman said.

Aliante, now with about 3,500 homes, is expected have to about 7,000 homes upon completion.

Enough homes exist within several miles of the site to warrant a major casino, Peckman said.

Station has been aggressive about purchasing casino sites over the years, further cementing its position as the largest operator of neighborhood casinos in the valley. It now owns more than 200 acres of developable land, including two sites along the fast-growing western fringe of the valley, another site on Las Vegas Boulevard South and the former Showboat and Castaways site on Boulder Highway.

The company also bought a big chunk of land around its Wild Wild West property just east of Interstate 15 at Tropicana Avenue that it intends to redevelop later.

Nielson wouldn't disclose a timetable for future casino projects in Las Vegas, saying the company is expected to disclose its game plan by early next year.

Aliante Station to Join NLV Neighborhood Casinos is republished from