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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Report: No Tough Limits on Neighborhood Casinos

22 September 2005

NEVADA – For those who thought a Clark County committee created in the wake of controversy surrounding opposition to locals casinos would recommend tough limitations on future projects, think again.

A committee of casino representatives, local residents and other stakeholders has issued recommendations requiring developers to advertise their projects in newspapers prior to approval, hold neighborhood meetings earlier in the process for residents' input and post larger signs announcing future casinos on their sites.

But the recommendations stopped short of including stricter limitations on future casinos, nixing a proposal to limit the size of casino floors to 100,000 square feet and the maximum number of rooms to 500.

The committee, created in January, will present the recommendations to the seven-member Clark County Commission on October 5. The commission has the discretion to adopt or reject the recommendations. The group was created as a reaction to opposition surrounding Station Casinos' previously-approved casinos along the western Las Vegas Valley.

The committee also rejected rules that would have limited freestanding casino signs to 50 feet high, prohibited animation on signs such as LED screens as well as reflective glass such as that now used by both Strip and neighborhood casinos.

Also scrapped were potential incentives for developers that build "mixed-use" projects alongside their hotel-casinos with affordable housing for casino workers or off-site affordable housing. A proposal to create a separate gaming license for "neighborhood casinos" that could limit their scope also was left off the table.

The recommendations include a requirement that casino hotels have a maximum height of 100 feet or a height otherwise specified by county guidelines for commercial corridors.

Other points recommend that developers use non-reflective glass, provide separate entrances from casinos for entrances to recreational activities appropriate for minors and families and examine traffic flow closely.

The committee also recommended that the county requirement that casinos be built with a minimum number of 300 rooms be reduced to 200 to conform with state law.

The recommendations would only apply to future casinos in suburban areas and not to projects previously zoned and approved for gaming, including some proposed by Station Casinos.

A representative of Station Casinos, the focus of most of the controversy surrounding the increasing size and scope of locals casinos, said the company was happy with the recommendations.

Posting bigger signs and holding neighborhood meetings "starts the conversation a bit earlier" and "allows people to make an informed decision in advance" before residents move into a neighborhood, Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said.

"We are really glad we participated in the process," Nelson said. "Being in the neighborhood casino business, most of this has been our approach all along. Evaluating it gets the residents involved in the process and reminds them that their feedback and concerns matter in this process."

Casino developers are required by state law to notify residents about casinos before they are built and must also post signs on their properties in advance.

Specifically, the recommendations would require developers to post one sign on each street frontage and at least one sign that is 256 square feet. Neighborhood meetings would also be required prior to developers submitting a land use application. Those meetings are now required for projects that include "nonconforming" zone changes rather than land that has already been zoned for casinos.

Bigger signs means "nobody can drive by (a construction site) 50 times a year and say they didn't know there was going to be a casino there," Clark County Planning Manager Chuck Pulsipher said.

Some Summerlin residents said they didn't receive forms notifying them that Station's Red Rock Resort would be built nearby when they bought their homes.

In a well-publicized fight last year, residents also opposed the 300-foot hotel tower originally proposed for the resort. After negotiations with Station, the Clark County Commission ultimately approved a 198-foot tower.

The recommendations don't change the fact that the Clark County Commission still has a "great deal of discretion" to limit the size of locals casinos and require design changes, Pulsipher said.

"The board is in the driver's seat," he said. "This just gives them some concrete guidelines."