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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Looking in on: Gaming

8 November 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Focus Property Group isn't sure when it will build its Inspirada hotel and casino in Henderson, but it wants to stake its claim before the surrounding community is built and residents start moving in to gum up the works.

On Nov. 21 the company will appear before the Henderson City Council seeking zoning approval for the casino, which would be about as big as the newer generation of suburban casinos.

The project would be on 37 acres in the "Town Center" commercial district of Inspirada, a proposed 1,940-acre community at St. Rose Parkway and Executive Airport Road that will have 11,500 homes separated into seven "villages."

Nobody yet lives within 2,500 feet of the proposed casino - an invisible barrier that, under state law, would trigger a review process should nearby residents object to the property.

"It's in everybody's best interest to get the site laid out sooner rather than later so that people are buying with complete and total knowledge of the site," said Tom Amick, Focus' land-use attorney.

The plans include up to 1,000 hotel rooms in a 190-foot tower, 216,000 square feet of casino, retail and restaurant space (94,500 square feet devoted to gambling) and an 80,000-square-foot convention center. The project's size may be scaled back, Amick said.

Focus hasn't yet determined whether it will hire its casino managers in-house, hire a management company to run the casino or sell off the land to a casino operator, he said.

• • •

One of the big attractions of Internet poker parlors - a lucrative business further criminalized by Congress recently - was the anonymity they offered players who wanted to avoid eye contact with others.

Well, here comes what may be the next best thing to online poker for the bashful, lazy and multitasking: a casino-based wireless gambling device. The poker player can walk around the joint or sit poolside with his mobile poker device, ante up and play in real time against other players inside the casino - without having to find a seat in the poker room.

Slot maker Progressive Gaming International Corp. is developing the World Series of Poker-branded "Peer to Peer," a wireless gaming device that would be available only on a casino's property.

It will be attractive to "people who are intimidated by going into a poker room and people who like playing Internet-style poker," said Tom Galanty, Progressive's chief technology officer.

Multiple forms of identification would be required to use it. It would also use a device to periodically authenticate the user.

The company expects to receive nationwide approval for the poker games from an independent testing lab in the next several months.

• • •

While concerns about financing, the availability of labor and rising construction costs continue to derail condo-heavy projects, Strip casinos are joining the condo party fashionably and advantageously late.

Venetian owner Las Vegas Sands is the latest casino operator to announce a condo project with a Strip address. The company plans to build 370 "ultraluxury" condo units atop a Barneys department store that's part of the adjacent Palazzo resort now under construction. Clark County commissioners will vote on the 50-story tower Wednesday.

Condo sales will maximize the Palazzo's paper profits and boost spending at both casinos, executives say.

MGM Mirage - planning about 1,350 condos at Mandalay Bay and about 2,700 residences at CityCenter - reported growing profits this week for each of its 576-unit condo towers behind MGM Grand. The first tower generated $52 million in condo sales , the second tower is on track for $75 million and tower No. 3 will reap about $87 million - not counting the side benefits for the nearby casino. The company recently filed plans to build two additional towers of the same size.

Bosses say CityCenter's condos to make at least $2.5 billion if they go for more than $1,000 per square foot as expected.