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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Red Rock Ready to Roll

19 April 2006

SUMMERLIN, Nevada -- When Station Casinos' Red Rock Resort opens to the public tonight, Summerlin resident Judie Woods will be among the hordes of residents taking a first peek.

Woods, a real estate agent who patronizes the Suncoast and North Las Vegas casinos, paused during a recent visit to the Boca Park shopping center to say she can hardly wait for Red Rock to open.

As for its $925 million price tag and upscale amenities, Woods said Summerlin residents have high expectations. "The neighborhood demands it," she said.

Red Rock is modeled largely on the company's Green Valley Ranch Station Casino, the most expensive locals casino ever built when it opened in Henderson five years ago. Green Valley Ranch has drawn tourists who might otherwise stay on the Strip. Green Valley Ranch was built in partnership with the Greenspun family, owners of the Las Vegas Sun.

Red Rock, Station's first casino in the far west valley, is a significant step up. At nearly a billion dollars, it is a reflection of its affluent neighborhood.

Station executives say Red Rock will draw customers who don't typically go to locals casinos, which many people think of as little more than video poker barns with mediocre food.

With Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock, Station has created casinos where gambling is not the primary attraction, said marketing consultant Ray Brown, who has worked with several locals casinos over the years.

"They have the best of both worlds," Brown said. "It serves as a destination resort and at the same time, day in and day out, serves the local customer."

Like their Strip counterparts, Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock are designed to generate more money from restaurants, nightclubs and other features that do not involve gambling, Brown said.

By contrast, competitor Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Coast Casinos chain has stuck with a time-tested strategy of attracting gamblers with decent odds and value-oriented restaurants, Brown said.

Summerlin is a good location for a new casino because it is one of the fastest-growing master-planned communities in the nation. Its population has virtually doubled since 2000, when about 50,000 people lived there, Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell said.

The only other casino in Summerlin proper is Rampart, attached to the J.W. Marriott Resort. After floundering as a tourist destination, Rampart is now doing well catering primarily to locals.

A few miles away from Red Rock and next to Rampart is Boyd Gaming's Suncoast, which opened in 2000.

Executives of both those properties say they aren't worried about losing business to Red Rock.

"Not only is there room for both of us, but we're in different market segments," Stillwell said.

Red Rock is more upscale than Suncoast and will likely cater more to tourists, he said.

J.W. Marriott resort General Manager Jim Rose said Red Rock will help raise Summerlin's profile among locals and tourists alike, and generate more excitement. "Activity breeds more activity," Rose said.

The median household income for families living within a three-mile radius of Red Rock Resort is about $74,000, compared to about $70,000 within three miles of Green Valley Ranch, according to data compiled by Las Vegas consulting firm Applied Analysis.

By comparison, the median income surrounding Suncoast and South Coast is about $64,000 and $62,000, respectively.

In addition to a mall expected to open in the next few years, Station executives expect tens of thousands of housing units will be added in the neighborhood after Red Rock's debut.

"There's going to be a lot more people around Red Rock Resort than we knew about when we first started planning this project about four years ago," Station Chief Executive Frank Fertitta III said during a recent conference call to discuss the resort.

Attracting locals helps with efforts to draw tourists looking for something different, he said.

"A lot of tourists are coming to town and saying, 'Where do the locals go?'"