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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Station Casinos learns lesson about neighbors

5 March 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The last time Station Casinos broke ground, there was a big dust-up by neighbors complaining about the height, the traffic, the imposition. There goes the neighborhood, they said.

This time, neighbors' reaction is more akin to a hallelujah chorus.

The company, it seems, has learned a few lessons about how to pursue its neighborhood projects: Design a casino within acceptable parameters, stick to it, and make friends along the way.

And it helps to build it in a new neighborhood that could use an economic boost.

It was a lot easier for Station Casinos to pursue its Aliante Station in North Las Vegas than the row it had to hoe in Summerlin to build its Red Rock Resort, which ended up about 100 feet higher than originally envisioned by the community's developers.

Plans for Aliante Station's 150-foot, 200-room hotel haven't changed since North Las Vegas officials approved the property's design in 2002.

"We've learned to have proactive communication with the surrounding area early on in the process," Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said. "They like having their issues addressed one on one. It's been mutually beneficial. We learn a lot by taking this step."

The 40-acre Aliante casino was planned as part of a surrounding, 1,905-acre master-planned community from the get-go five years ago. When Station announced details of the casino - its 10th big property - in 2005, there was nary a word of protest.

As residents moved in, they embraced the proposed casino as they would a community center. North Las Vegas City Hall and local business owners grew excited by the prospect of tax revenue, payroll checks and commercial synergy it would generate in town.

Still smarting from its early experience in Summerlin, Station extended an olive branch in North Las Vegas, inviting more than 5,000 residents to a meeting in October prior to the City Council signing off on the property's final design.

"This isn't just about what amenities we can offer," Nelson said. "Our credibility is important, that people trust us to do the right thing and that we deliver on our promises."

And while there was some concern about traffic congestion, many people who spoke at the meeting wanted to know what more Station could do to add to the casino.

"More popular than the gaming aspect was the bowling," City Manager Gregory Rose said. "We've got a number of seniors in that area who are excited about it."

(To the delight of Aliante's older clientele, the casino will have a bingo room and bowling center in a future phase after the property opens late next year.)

After conducting demographic studies, Station bosses decided to add more amenities than initially planned, boosting the price tag from $450 million to $600 million. (Red Rock Resort cost $925 million.) Aliante Station is half owned by the Greenspun family, which also owns the Las Vegas Sun.

"This seems to be a very underserved area for entertainment," Station President Lorenzo Fertitta said at Aliante's groundbreaking last week. "This will be an impetus for further economic growth."

That would please Bob Borgersen, a Sun City Aliante resident and occasional gambler who would welcome even a second casino to the neighborhood.

Miffed by a Station executive's comments in 2005 that Aliante Station wouldn't be as upscale as the company's Red Rock or Green Valley Ranch casinos, Borgersen called the company to lobby for a bigger and more high-end property.

Executives said last week they always intended to build a high-end property that improves on its predecessors, but Borgersen said he is happy about the larger budget and the casino's Red Rock-like design.

"I can appreciate that people don't like casinos, but if you're against casinos why do you move to Vegas?"

Station Casinos learns lesson about neighbors is republished from