Station Casinos quiet about Reno land - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

Station Casinos Inc., often blamed for hurting Northern Nevada gaming revenue with a tribal casino just outside Sacramento, is getting a warm reaction from the gambling community after buying land in south Reno.

Las Vegas-based Station has Northern Nevadans guessing what the company has planned for the 96 acres it bought at the southeast corner of U.S. 395 and Geiger Grade.

???We don???t have any specific plans at this point, so there is not a whole lot to talk about,??? CFO Glenn Christenson said. ???We buy property not only in Southern Nevada, but California and now Northern Nevada. We do a pretty good job with land holdings.???

Station manages the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, Calif., for the United Auburn Indian Community. That casino, which opened in June 2003, has siphoned off Northern California gamblers from Washoe County.

But Station officials see potential in the south Reno site.

???It???s a great piece of property,??? Christenson said. ???It has a lot of opportunity associated with it.

???It is a very rapidly growing area. We think it is a good investment.???

Despite the competition between Northern California and Northern Nevada casinos, Christenson said no contractual reasons prevent Station from building a casino in south Reno.

Station paid $15.1 million in February for the 96 acres and related water rights, the company reported in a recent proxy statement.

The company bought the land from the Blake Sartini and Delise Sartini Family Trust. Blake was executive vice president/COO of Station until September 2001. Delise is the sister of Frank Fertitta, Station chairman/CEO, and Lorenzo Fertitta, vice chairman/president.

Boyd Gaming sold the land to the Sartinis after plans for a Sam???s Town casino never panned out.

???I???m assuming Station bought it to develop it,??? said John Farahi, co-chairman/CEO of the company that owns the Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa in south Reno. ???They are great operators.

???It is going to transform our tourism industry to bring that caliber of operator to Northern Nevada. It would be a tremendous shot in the arm for our tourism industry.???

Station properties are popular in the Las Vegas area, where they have eight hotel-casinos, as well as various stand-alone casinos.

The company is developing a major project, Red Rock Resort Spa Casino, at Interstate 215 and West Charleston Boulevard in northwest Las Vegas. Plans include 2,800 slot machines, roughly 850 hotel rooms, 94,000 square feet of meeting space, a 35,000-square-foot spa, nine restaurants and 16-screen movie theater.

In addition, the company announced a 17-screen movie theater at I-215 and Durango Drive as part of the planned Durango Station Hotel & Casino.

Christenson said the company also is working on ???Project W,??? off Tropicana Avenue and Interstate 15, and has four other pieces of property in Las Vegas it intends to develop.

???We have nothing in Northern Nevada that resembles a Station casino,??? said Reno gaming analyst Ken Adams.

???Station???s business model is a very elaborate regional casino that caters to the people who live in the immediate vicinity. They provide huge amounts of entertainment.???

Adams said Station???s style doesn???t include stealing business from surrounding casinos.

???That is not their business model,??? he said. ???This implies a whole different way of thinking about Reno and a great deal of confidence in Reno, if they are going to go through with it and not just award their brother-in-law with a sale, and I doubt that ??? they are a publicly traded company.???

Reno Community Development Director John Hester told the Gazette-Journal in November that the Reno property has a special-use permit that allows a casino, but it is unclear if that permit still is valid.

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