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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Station Casinos Sees a Future Near North End of the Valley

23 November 2005

Station Casinos -- already the largest owner of casino-zoned land in the Las Vegas Valley -- recently paid $47 million for vacant land in North Las Vegas with the intention of someday developing a hotel there.

Last month Station bought six parcels totaling about 54 acres at the northeast corner of the Las Vegas Beltway and Losee Road from Unlimited Holdings Inc. of Las Vegas.

Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson said the company intends to develop a hotel there but said it could take years for the company to evaluate the site.

"It's too premature to move forward with any plans," she said. "It's still a very undeveloped area and is not ready for gaming at this point."

Under Senate Bill 208, a 1997 law restricting the development of neighborhood casinos in the Las Vegas Valley, Station will have to jump through several hoops to obtain zoning.

The state law would require Station to first obtain approval from the North Las Vegas City Council. In order for the plan to pass muster, the casino would have to be a certain distance from schools, churches and homes. Beyond that, the company would have to prove that the resort wouldn't hurt the region's "quality of life" and will not be detrimental to the "health, safety and welfare" of the community, among other standards.

Either side can appeal the local authority's decision to a state Gaming Policy Committee review panel made up of state regulators and members of the public.

Nelson said Station will be prepared to meet those requirements "when the time is right."

SB208 -- which has only been tested twice -- is responsible for blocking plans by both Station and competitor Boyd Gaming to build suburban hotels.

In March 2001 the state review panel overturned a North Las Vegas City Council decision that would have allowed Station to build a casino at the Craig Ranch Golf Course. Similarly, the review panel voted in 2000 to stop Boyd from building a casino in a Spring Valley neighborhood in southwest Las Vegas that had been approved by the Clark County Commission.

In both cases, surrounding residents mobilized to stop the casinos by appealing to the review panel.

"They were well organized, they passed around the hat and they showed up in force," said Chuck Gardner, a Las Vegas attorney who represented residents against Station's proposed Craig Ranch casino.

SB208 makes it difficult for gaming companies to fight local opponents because it establishes a "fairly high standard based on subjective elements," Gardner said.

Station's parcel is just a few miles from the Aliante master planned community, which features a piece of land that is zoned for a casino.

Experts believe that Station would be the likely developer of the Aliante casino with landowner American Nevada Co. American Nevada is owned by the Greenspun family, who also own the Las Vegas Sun. American Nevada previously partnered with Station to build Green Valley Ranch Station. American Nevada contributed the land for the property and, through the Greenspun family, maintains a 50 percent interest in the property.

Nelson declined to comment specifically on the Aliante opportunity, and officials with American Nevada could not be reached for comment.

In September, Station sold 34 acres near the southwest corner of Craig Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard to developers for $18.4 million. The land now contains a restriction on building a casino because Station allowed the right to build a casino on the land to expire.

Station intended to develop at the nearby Craig Ranch Golf Course site instead because it was farther away from homes.

Station Casinos Sees a Future Near North End of the Valley is republished from