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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Westward Ho to Close

15 September 2005

LAS VEGAS -- The Westward Ho hotel and casino will close Nov. 17 and is in the process of being sold, a company official said Wednesday. The Westward Ho, which opened in 1965 and sits between the Circus Circus and Stardust properties at the north end of the Strip, is the latest aging casino to change hands amid the hottest real estate market in history.

Director of Marketing Jeffrey Bernard would only say that the sale, to a "Fortune 500 company," is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Representatives wouldn't comment further on the deal or the future of the property.

But experts familiar with the transaction said the buyer in question is Centex Corp., a Dallas-based homebuilder that has been eyeing Las Vegas for condominium development. The company operates several business units besides its homes division, including a resort unit that has built Italian-themed condos at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson as well as other units in Hawaii and Florida.

Centex executives could not be reached for comment.

"What in the world is Centex Homes doing buying a casino on the Las Vegas Strip?" according to a source close to the deal, who declined to be named. "It doesn't make sense ... until you consider the potential for high-rise condos," the source said. "The prices that land is going for these days are mind-boggling. They almost have to sell."

Sources said Centex will likely tear down all or part of the Westward Ho and build high rises similar to those being built up and down the Strip. It wouldn't be the first residential developer to compete with casino companies purchasing land around the Strip. Homebuilder D.R. Horton recently bought more than 30 acres of land east of the Strip near the intersection of Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane. The company sold off some of the land to resort developers building a casino resort and a W hotel and kept the rest to build mid-rise condos.

Several interested buyers have approached the Westward Ho over the past several years, sources said.

The Sun reported in August that a buyer was waiting in the wings while the Westward Ho was locked in a lawsuit with an investor attempting to purchase the property.

The suit, filed by another residential developer based in Texas, is still pending. A Clark County District Court judge received a motion last month to dismiss the case but an order has not yet been signed. Texas developer Tracy Suttles, who failed in a previous attempt to buy the property, filed suit in June based on a claim that the property owners breached a sale agreement. Westward Ho argued that the developer strung them along and didn't have the money.