Inside gaming column: As Stardust exits, Boyd off Strip, for now

26 February 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Once the Barbary Coast becomes part of Harrah's Entertainment this week, Boyd Gaming Corp. will not have a presence on the Strip -- at least for three years.

The company is exchanging the Barbary Coast for 24 acres adjacent to the shuttered Stardust that will be added to the planned $4.4 billion Echelon Place development.

During last week's fourth-quarter earnings announcement, Boyd Gaming said it expected to break ground on Echelon by summer and open the planned 5,000-room complex by the third quarter of 2010.

Boyd closed the Stardust in November and is preparing to implode the hotel tower's skeletal remains next month. With the Barbary Coast leaving the fold, the nearest company casino to the Strip is The Orleans, a few miles west on Tropicana Avenue.

But lacking a Strip address doesn't bother Boyd Gaming President Keith Smith.

"We'll have a pretty large project under development and I think the scale size of the project will be all the focus we need," Smith said.

Two California legislators are expected to introduce a bill that would allow the San Manuel Indian Casino in San Bernardino to more than triple the number of slot machines it offers.

The casino, operated by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, has been trying since last year to get a new gaming compact ratified by lawmakers.

The tribe wants to operate as many as 7,500 slot machines at its casino compared with its current state-imposed maximum of 2,000. One California state senator told the San Bernardino Sun that the move might be a ploy for the tribe to get its amended compact approved.

The San Manuel tribe, along with four other California tribes, signed off on renegotiated compacts with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year, but the state legislature failed to ratify the agreements.

A decades-old proposal to plant a casino in New York's Catskills Mountains saw new life last week when Gov. Eliot Spitzer agreed to let the St. Regis Mohawk tribe build and operate a $600 million gambling hall at the Monticello Raceway.

Construction on the proposed casino, which is expected to include 3,500 slot machines and 125 table games, could begin later this year. The U.S. Department of Interior still needs to sign off on the project and allow the tribe to take the raceway land into trust.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Bill Lerner said the proposed casino could ultimately spell trouble for Atlantic City's gambling halls and Connecticut's two American Indian casinos. The new competition would be 75 miles north of New York City, a lucrative feeder market for both Atlantic City and southern Connecticut.

The Inside Gaming column is compiled by Review-Journal gaming and tourism writers Howard Stutz, Benjamin Spillman and Arnold M. Knightly. Send your tips about the gaming and tourism industry to insidegaming@reviewjournal.com.


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