Lawmaker makes a play for timeshare casinos

Dec 25, 2001 1:46 AM

A Nevada lawmaker wants to expand gaming into Las Vegas’ booming timeshare. But not all operators are backing his bet.

State Sen. Mike Schneider tells GamingToday that he will introduce legislation allowing large timeshare resorts to apply for unrestricted gaming licenses. Currently, they are only permitted to hold restricted licenses, which carry a 15-slot limit.

“Timeshares are coming in big here and demand still exceeds supply,’’ the Las Vegas Democrat said, noting that thousands of new units have come on line in the past five years. “The state wants more tax revenue, so why should we miss this opportunity?”

Earlier efforts to open up casino action in timeshares encountered resistance from hotel-casinos. But Schneider says timeshare gaming would complement ”” not compete with ”” Strip resorts.

“There wouldn’t be any showrooms or fancy restaurants. A 100,000-foot casino would go broke. But these (timeshares) have hundreds of rooms and a guy ought to be able to play the slots or a hand of blackjack while he’s waiting for his wife to go out to dinner,’’ Schneider said.

With big names like Fairfield and Hilton building on and around the Strip, the lawmaker believes that modest in-house casinos could boost gaming revenues. He also sees these venues as prime properties for slot route operators. “It opens up a new market,’’ Schneider adds.

To grant unrestricted licenses to timeshares, the Legislature would have to waive the current requirement that an establishment have a 24-hour restaurant. But Schneider doesn’t see that as a deal breaker.

“Does it make any sense that Hilton could open up a 1,000-room timeshare in the middle of the resort corridor and not be able to have 50 slot machines?’’ He asks the same question about the high-rise Fairfield timeshares on Harmon and the Trend West complex at the south end of the Strip.

Some gamers already appear to be on board. Isle of Capri, new owner of the Lady Luck, is considering a timeshare plan for a portion of the downtown resort. Because Lady Luck already has a gaming license, it is free to add timeshares. Conversely, the Royal timeshares on Convention Center Drive could expand its casino floor because it was grandfathered in with an unrestricted permit years ago.

But Steven Cloobeck, owner of the Polo Towers and the Jockey Club, calls Schneider’s plan “the worst idea in the world.’’

Though Cloobeck’s two properties house nearly 2,000 suites combined, he says his vacationing tenants aren’t lining up to play the 15 slots in his top-floor lounge. “Our guests want a quiet environment. This is their home away from home,’’ he explains.

“I’m with the Nevada Resort Association on this one. We don’t want it,’’ he said.