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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Casino Planned for New North Las Vegas

3 December 2004

LAS VEGAS -- A property owner in North Las Vegas on Wednesday received a green light to build a 1,000-room hotel and casino surrounded by mixed-use residential and commercial buildings on a barren swath of land a few miles from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 89-acre site, at the intersection of Lamb Boulevard and Ann Road and facing Interstate 15, sits among vacant lots and industrial buildings such as the nearby Meadow Gold dairy.

But the owners envision that area as a future gateway to Las Vegas from the north, where nearby master-planned developments are already under way along with a new interchange at I-15 and Lamb.

"If you look at it today you may not think much of it," said Robert Gronauer, an attorney for the landowners. "If you look at it in five to seven years, this is a great site. You're going to have people driving from those planned communities into town to work."

Still, the project and another nearby casino approved for Lamb Boulevard and Centennial Parkway are several years off as both wait for civilization, and therefore demand, to crop up and fuel their vision.

The first phase of the casino calls for a six-story, 350-room hotel along with a 180,000-square-foot casino and a four-story parking garage. Two future phases would include 350 rooms and 300 rooms, respectively. The proposed hotel and casino would feature a restaurant, showroom, meeting rooms, banquet areas and a swimming pool.

The hotel and casino would be the centerpiece of a mixed-use commercial and residential area that is envisioned as the North Las Vegas version of the District at Green Valley Ranch, a retail and condominium development in Henderson.

The exact size and scope of the project will likely vary over time as demand shifts, Gronauer said. The land is owned by Corte Madera, Calif.-based Runvee Inc.

Gronauer said the owners may sell the land or partner with developers to build the project. The casino would likely be developed by an established gaming company, he said. One casino company has already expressed interest in working on the project, he said, declining to name the company.

Station Casinos Inc. spokeswoman Melissa Nelson said the company won't comment on casino projects that haven't been previously disclosed. Other representatives couldn't be reached for comment.

A state gaming review panel in 2001 rejected a move by Station to build a casino near Craig Road and Commerce Street in North Las Vegas. The North Las Vegas City Council approved the site for a casino, but frustrated residents appealed to the state.

Boyd Gaming Corp. also was thwarted in an attempt to build a casino in the western edge of the valley and has scouted other sites for neighborhood casinos.

But Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell said the company is unlikely to bite at this opportunity because it has several other projects under way such as the South Coast hotel and casino south of the Strip and the eventual redevelopment of its Stardust resort on the Strip.

"From a long term perspective, if it was something that made sense, we might look at it," he said.

The City Council of North Las Vegas unanimously approved the project Wednesday as part of a larger "gaming enterprise district."

Under a 1998 law that aimed to curb the proliferation of neighborhood casinos, developers must prove that new casinos won't hurt the surrounding community and can be rejected if enough residents disapprove.

The project passed all those hurdles, beginning with plans submitted over the summer and Planning Commission approval in October. The city staff approved the development largely because there are no developed residential neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity.

The project's smooth sailing stands in stark contrast to Station Casinos' Red Rock Station, which withstood significant opposition from surrounding residents in Summerlin and growing opposition from residents close to the company's proposed casino at Durango Road and Interstate 215 in the southwest.

North Las Vegas has received only three letters of protest from residents and residents did not speak out about the development at the city council meeting Wednesday, the city's planning manager, Mark Jordan said.

Gronauer said the owners wanted to receive approval far in advance so future homeowners know up-front about casino plans in the neighborhood before they move in next door.

"The key to obtaining this approval was to make sure we give everyone notice," he said. Casinos under development in North Las Vegas operate under use permits that expire after a limited time.

Runvee Inc. will have eight years to build the casino or will need to apply again with the city, unless it obtains an extension first, Jordan said.

The North Las Vegas City Council approved a second casino in July 2003 at Lamb Boulevard and Centennial Parkway proposed by downtown casino owner Jackie Gaughan. Gaughan's company received a use permit that will expire after only two years, though the company may apply for an extension. Gaughan has proposed a 398-room hotel with an 80,000-square-foot casino, 64-lane bowling alley, 16-plex movie theater, restaurants and a showroom. That project isn't expected to be built for several more years and not until the highway interchange at Lamb Boulevard and I-15 is complete.