Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Jeff Simpson on how competition is a very good thing for the residents of valley

Competition is good for consumers. It results in better products and improved service.

Las Vegans don't have to look far to see this economic rule at work. Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson battle for high-end business across Sands Avenue and casino industry giants MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment square off along the length of Las Vegas Boulevard.

All four Strip operators constantly work to improve their hotels and market them better, with new room towers, restaurants, nightclubs and shows designed to get a leg up on the tough competition.

The two biggest locals operators, Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming Corp., have so far avoided much real competition, with most of each company's top properties located far from the other's.

But that's about to change. Station Casinos is about to open its biggest and best locals casino, the $925 million Red Rock Resort, raising the Station flag a few miles from the Suncoast, owned by Boyd's Coast Casinos subsidiary.

Last week, Boyd answered back, with its $35 million purchase of a 40-acre site in North Las Vegas, near the intersection of Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway, at the southwest corner of Lamb Boulevard's intersection with Centennial Parkway.

Boyd plans to begin development work next year on a locals casino for the site, putting it on a timetable about a year later than planned by Station for its Aliante Station, about five miles west of the Boyd location.

Station shares ownership of Aliante Station with the Greenspun family, owners of the Las Vegas Sun.

Station has a couple of gaming-entitled parcels of its own that would take dead aim at nearby Boyd casinos: its prized Wild Wild West site is poised for a major redevelopment about a mile east of the Orleans on Tropicana Avenue and its Las Vegas Boulevard South site at Cactus Avenue is about a mile south of the South Coast.

Just like the Strip, where the biggest and best operators continue to generate record profits, the increased competition in the locals market is unlikely to be a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser.

What should locals expect from the closer Station-Boyd competition?

New casinos with more amenities, better buffets, a wider array of upscale dining options, and plenty of convenient parking. For Las Vegas residents, that's a very good thing.

Business, after all, is business, and that's why Steve Wynn said he decided to end "Avenue Q's" brief run on the Strip.

"Avenue Q" made "a little money" for Wynn Las Vegas, Wynn told me last week, but the cost of keeping the show was too high. And the show never developed the kind of wide-ranging appeal that would have ensured a long run.

Instead of building a big new theater for Monty Python's Spamalot, Wynn will save money and expand "Q's" theater for Spamalot by 299 seats to a total of 1,499 - one less than an Actors Equity trigger point, allowing the show to have 10 weekly performances.

Using the "Avenue Q" space for Spamalot's Grail theater saved Wynn from having to build a $70 million new theater, a space that would have separated the Wynn Las Vegas convention space from the convention facilities planned for the Encore resort slated to begin construction in a few months.

Joining the two resorts' convention spaces will be more efficient and will enhance their marketability, Wynn said.

Jeff Simpson can be reached at 259-4083 and at [email protected]

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