Casino okayed for sports complex

Jul 31, 2007 6:18 AM

A panel that met for only the third time in 10 years last week endorsed a Las Vegas City Council decision to approve a casino at the proposed $9.5 billion sports arena in downtown Las Vegas.

Without the authority to include gambling, the 85-acre project would have been in jeopardy, said an attorney arguing on behalf of RIT Neon, the Michigan-based group trying to develop the site south of Charleston Boulevard and east of I-15.

Opponents of the city’s decision turned to the state panel, called the Review Panel of the Gaming Policy Committee, to overrule the city council.

"This is very unusual for a body of appointed people to look over the shoulders of elected officials," said Peter Bernhard, one of the panel’s four members. "This is a position of considerable power, but it’s also a position of considerable responsibility."

Opponents argued an intervention was justified because the city council authorized the creation of a Gaming Enterprise District without any evidence that casino builders would make necessary improvements to prevent crowded streets from developing gridlock.

Attorney Charles Gardner called the proposed location, "The absolute worst place to put a casino ”¦ in this valley. Charleston Boulevard is a traffic nightmare," he said.

Gardner was hired to argue that the city should have made developers agree to offset the impact of a casino on the site before approving it.

The proposal calls for an arena, 1500 residential units, 1.2 million square feet of commercial space, 6000 hotel rooms and up to 300,000 square feet of gambling space.