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July 31, 2014

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Jeff Simpson says Suncoast and Rampart don’t fear opening of $1 billion resort

Station Casinos opens its Red Rock Resort next month, but its nearest competitors aren't quaking in their boots.

The $925 million casino at the intersection of the Las Vegas Beltway and Charleston Boulevard has been touted by those who have toured it as being not only clearly better than all other locals casinos, but as good as any on the Strip.

Pretty big praise, so you might think the operators of the Suncoast and Rampart casinos would be worried about losing business.

They're not.

"All of our customers are going to want to go see the Red Rock," said Rampart co-owner Bill Paulos. "Everybody's going to want to see the Red Rock. Station does a helluva a job; those guys (the Fertitta brothers, Station's top executives and owners) do a great job.

"But we have a niche casino at Rampart. We have a base of customers who like the feel of what we do."

The Suncoast, operated by Boyd Gaming's Coast Casinos subsidiary, won't lose too much business either. The property's been open for more than five years, and Coast Chief Executive Michael Gaughan isn't worried about the casino losing long-term business to Red Rock.

Red Rock is a bit more than two miles away from the Suncoast and a little farther from the Rampart. Gaughan said recently that the Las Vegas Valley's growth, particularly in and around Summerlin, will insulate Suncoast from the impact of the April opening of Red Rock.

"The town's just exploding, and Suncoast won't take the hit you might think," Gaughan said.

Paulos laughed when he was asked if Station had given him a tour of the property - other Las Vegas casino owners have, bosses who weren't as directly competitive.

"No, they haven't asked me, but I'm anxious to go," Paulos said. "I want to see what you can get for almost a billion dollars."

Gaughan said new slot systems in place at his South Coast and Suncoast will soon be expanded to Coast's Orleans and Gold Coast casinos. The new systems allow the casinos to give customers free slot play as an inducement to come in and gamble and as a reward for previous play.

Station has long offered a system with that capability, but Gaughan said that he won't try other Station-style marketing to lure slot players.

While Gaughan lures gamblers in with mailers promising substantial rewards to top players, Station takes more of a shotgun approach, offering Jumbo Jackpots at random to slot players and inexpensive gifts on its mailers.

"The difference between me and Station is they run a lottery," Gaughan said. "I reward my better players."

Paulos said he and partner Bill Wortman are finalizing their plans to convert the Nevada Palace on Boulder Highway to a Cannery brand.

"We hope to be pushing dirt by the end of the year," Paulos said.

The partners' North Las Vegas Cannery is two months away from opening a major expansion that will include 14 movie theaters, a big race and sports book, a poker room and an Italian restaurant and deli.

Behind the decision to expand was a gradually growing customer base boosted by the increasing number of people living in close proximity to the Cannery.

"In most other businesses you have to build enough capacity for your average business, but in the locals casino business you have to build for your peak business," Paulos said. "The Cannery is doing very, very well."

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