Station keeps tabs on south end of Strip

Oct 25, 2005 3:15 AM

The expansion of the Las Vegas Strip miles south of Russell Road will likely produce a proliferation of hotels and casinos with marketing strategies aimed at a mix of both visitors and locals.

That’s the best guess of Station Casinos executives who contend they do not see this area as a threat to their locals-oriented kingdom as the South Coast (due to open in early 2006) and other projects take shape along the stretch south of existing major resorts.

Station Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Glenn Christenson sees these projects on the extended Strip as having hybrid-like identities. Visitors are probably going to be a key component of their business because of their proximity to the California arterial, and residential developments are sprouting all across the area.

That makes sense, considering the Boyd-owned South Coast has given the green light to a second hotel tower months before it opens in early 2006.

Reliable sources say Station is expected to be one of the operators eventually building in this area, although Christenson and other senior execs have mostly focused on their Red Rock (West Charleston at the beltway) and Wild Wild West (Tropicana and I-15) sites as the ones most worthy for the most capital spending in the near future.

Besides, Station has acquired enough property to keep the company building for years to come.

Moreover, the company also has the 40 acres occupied by its Palace Station at Sahara and I-15. This project has remained mostly untouched during recent years as the company has focused on expansion in residential areas.

Aztar still
”˜cutting bait’

Aztar has good things happening in most of the jurisdictions where it’s now doing business.

Business is up nicely at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. Aztar’s considerable investment seems to finally be making a difference and more capital spending has been promised.

The company may have much more to say in the next month about its expected bid for one of the stand-alone slot parlor licenses in Pennsylvania.

Plus, a fancy boutique hotel is on the way next to its Evansville, Indiana, casino.

But Aztar’s Las Vegas Trop continues going, well, nowhere. There’s no word on when its 34-acre site will be redeveloped, though senior execs seem to want to spin this as continuing evidence of their careful planning.

Designs for the new project are still coming along, according to Chairman Bob Haddock.

No, sir, no need to rush into something this big.

As previously reported here, the Tropicana is not taking room reservations beyond mid-February, but it has taken similar action several times in the past, only to advance the cut-off date another few months.

The implication is that something big really is just around the corner. But how many people still believe that’s true?

"They’re teasing both the customers and Wall Street," an analyst noted cynically.

All in all, it’s a strange way for a company with a great location to do business at a time when business has never been better for companies willing to take advantage of opportunity.

The Tropicana would be in serious trouble if other companies were not already spending big bucks to draw business to this, one of the busiest intersections in the world.

For now, it seems, Aztar is content in owning the answer to a Vegas trivia question: Where on the famed Strip can you still play slots with real coins, just like 10 years ago?

Penn raking in hurricane money

Penn National may be in the right place at the right time for all the wrong reasons.

The company’s riverboat casino in Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge benefited from a nice spike in business during September as people fled the soggy Gulf Coast for safer havens.

Those transplants brought their spending power with them, enough to make a very positive difference at businesses that rely on people with money to spend on fun and games.

Whether this increase continues to be felt during the months ahead depends on how many people choose to return to what they once called home in the New Orleans area.

More TV poker
for Nugget

The next made for television poker special is set for filming at the Golden Nugget, Nov. 2-4. Featuring a reality TV format, it will be edited into an unspecified number of segments and aired on GSN, formerly known as the Game Show Network.

Invited poker players will play three eight-hour days of no limit Texas hold”˜em. The buy-in will be $100,000, antes will be $100 with $300 and $600 blinds.

The idea will go beyond simply showing hands but to also follow the interaction of players with each other and the game itself.

Maybe one of them will get up from the table to go borrow money, take a walk or go eat and talk about what’s happening at the table ”¦ that kind of stuff.

The cast of players was not yet set several days ago but may include Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Barry Greenstein and Bob Stupak, to name a few.