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August 27, 2014

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M Resort license, Crown purchase of Cannery get Control Board approval

The state Gaming Control Board has recommended a license for Southern Nevada’s newest resort and for an Australian multinational company to make its first imprint on the Nevada market.

In separate votes, the board unanimously approved a license for the $700 million M Resort at Las Vegas Boulevard South and St. Rose Parkway and a license for Australian casino giant Crown Ltd.

The Jan. 7 meeting was the first for new board member Mark Lipparelli, who replaced Mark Clayton, a four-year member who did not seek reappointment when his term expired. It has since been announced that Clayton will join the gaming and regulatory law department of the Las Vegas-based Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm Jan. 20.

If approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission at its Jan. 22 meeting, M Resort would become the southernmost resort in the Las Vegas Valley.

M Chief Executive Anthony Marnell III said the resort would open March 1 and would be the first resort seen by travelers from Southern California when they arrive in Las Vegas on Interstate 15.

Marnell told regulators he views the resort as a locals property, but it will draw small tour and travel groups, particularly from Southern California, and free and independent travelers seeking a high-end resort experience without going to the Strip.

Marnell said the resort would have 351 standard rooms and 39 suites, a 92,000-square-foot casino with more than 1,800 slot machines, 60 table games, nine restaurants and several bars.

A convenience store and gasoline station are on the property at which customers will be able to swap loyalty card points for gasoline, he said. An on-resort pharmacy will distribute medical needs to employees and to customers, also with loyalty card points.

Marnell said the company received 37,000 applications for 1,800 jobs. Four hundred people have been hired and 1,400 have been extended offers with most employees expected to be on board by Feb. 14.

Construction of a 1 million-square-foot retail center has been postponed at least 24 months, Marnell said, but construction on a Galaxy Theater complex is scheduled to begin shortly after the resort opens.

The Control Board also recommended approval of a license for Crown Ltd. that is in the process of acquiring Cannery Casino Resorts, which operates three properties in Southern Nevada and is building a casino in Pennsylvania.

Crown operates resorts in Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Macau and also is an investor in the Fontainebleau under construction on the Strip.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said it’s somewhat surprising that a company with so much multinational experience would make its entry in Nevada as the operator of locals properties.

But Crown Chief Executive Rowen Craigie the company has had its roots in locals casino management and that its Crown Melbourne and Perth Burswood in Australia are “urban casinos” in that market.

Crown is controlled by James Packer, son of legendary high roller Kerry Packer. When he died in December 2005, Kerry Packer was Australia’s richest man. James Packer was not present at the Control Board meeting.

Crown was spun off from Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd. in 2007 and has spread its gaming empire globally. One of its most profitable ventures: the Crown Macau, a joint venture with Melco International Development Ltd., led by Lawrence Ho, son of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho.

Located on Macau’s Taipa Island, the Crown Macau, which opened in May 2007, has 261 table games and 176 slot machines. But opening later this year on Macau’s Cotai Strip will be the joint venture’s newest property, the City of Dreams, which will have a 420,000-square-foot casino with 550 table games, 1,500 slots and 1,400 hotel rooms.

By comparison, the three properties operated by Cannery Casino Resorts, a subsidiary of Millennium Gaming Inc., have 514 table games and 9,000 slot machines. The Fontainebleau, which Crown holds a 19.6 percent stake in, will have 125 table games and 1,700 slots.

Craigie said Crown has no plans to change operations at the three Cannery properties, the Cannery in North Las Vegas, the Eastside Cannery and the Rampart, near Summerlin. He said Cannery executives Bill Wortman and Bill Paulos would assist in the transition and that they would continue to serve on the company’s management committee.

Crown has yet to select a chief executive for the Nevada operation, but Craigie said there’s a “short list of candidates.”

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