Inside Gaming: A Flashy Strip Project That Won't Stop Traffic

16 January 2006

Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $4 billion Echelon Place development has a great advantage over other developments, both for the company and the community. It's unlikely to disrupt the traffic already packed into the area of the Strip. With easy access from Industrial Road and Interstate 15 as well as the Strip, and from the north as well as the south, traffic on any major road will be minimized, planners say. And the 63-acre site is large enough for staging construction, so it will not interfere with local business or tourists.

Station Casinos execs think enough of the Echelon Place project to call it "a good program," but not enough to lead it astray from its own strategy of focusing on locals casinos. Chief development officer Scott Nielson said Echelon Place's prospects, and those of MGM Mirage's Project CityCenter, bode well for growth in Las Vegas. And anything that grows Las Vegas is good for Station. Nielson is smart enough to realize this isn't a standard zero-sum game, but rather one of baking bigger pies and carving out larger pieces.

Don't look anytime soon for development of a regional casino in the United Kingdom, as U.S. operators have been hoping, announcements to the contrary not withstanding. Sure, Britain liberalized its gaming laws last year. But the Casino Advisory Panel won't report to Parliament on a site until the end of the year, and licenses won't be granted until the end of 2007. No construction is expected to start before 2007. Also, the British government has a second study going on problem gambling, due in late 2007, which could slow whatever progress is then under way.

Ditto Mexico. Despite recent optimism, legalized gambling in Mexico got hung out to dry late last year when the chairman of the Tourism Committee said there will be no further discussion of gaming expansion until after the new Congress is seated in September and the new president takes office in December. It is likely any efforts to expand gaming are long shots, much as they have been for the past 10 years. Analysts now say not to expect real progress until at least 2009, maybe later.

Just when it seems we're getting some relief at the pump, petroleum industry sources say to expect gasoline prices to soar again and pass $3 a gallon by May, when gasoline companies start refining more expensive summertime blends. That means gasoline prices will be reaching all-time highs right in the middle of the gaming industry's peak season in Las Vegas. And remember, consumer surveys show $3 a gallon is the pricing point at which Californians start deciding to stay home and drop drive-in vacations to Las Vegas.

Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith can be reached by e-mail at rsmith@reviewjournal.com or by phone at 477-3893.


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