New Casino Planned for Reno, Nevada

Station Casinos announced Wednesday it has agreed to purchase a second land parcel in Reno near the site of a planned open-air retail complex. The Las Vegas-based casino operator said it will build a casino complex on the location.

No timetable was given for the project, and the company did not reveal a sale price for the 50-acre site, which is on the southeast corner of the Mount Rose Highway and Interstate 395 in southern Reno.

The company is spending just less than $1 billion in Las Vegas to build the $800 million Red Rock Station in Summerlin and make $190 million in capital improvements to two of its existing casinos. It is also planning to unveil a development project on a 58-acre site near Tropicana Boulevard just west of Interstate 15 later this year.

"We will build a regional gaming and entertainment resort in Reno, but we haven't drawn up plans for the site," Station Casinos spokeswoman Lesley Pittman said.

She said the new complex will be integrated into its environs similar to the way the Green Valley Ranch Station in Henderson is intertwined with the neighboring District, a retail, office and residential complex.

The 50-acre Reno site is part of a 200-acre master-planned project that will include the Summit Sierra, an open-air entertainment, retail, office and residential development.

The 650,000-square-foot retail component is under construction and expected to open in March. It includes retailers such as Dillard's and Williams-Sonoma, and a Century Theatres cinema complex.

"Station Casinos will bring an important element to the site, and we think this will be a tremendous enhancement to the Reno market," said Jeffrey Bayer, president of Bayer Properties, whose company is developing Summit Sierra and agreed to sell that portion of the land to the casino operator.

Station Casinos recently purchased a 96-acre parcel in Reno, which is a relatively short distance from the company's newest site.

Station Casinos is entering the Reno market at a time when gaming results are lagging behind the rest of the state.

In March, the most recent monthly gaming revenues reported by Nevada casino regulators, Reno was the only jurisdiction in the state that reported a decrease in total gaming win, with casinos in the city collecting $62.5 million from gamblers in the month, a 1.56 percent drop from $63.5 million the previous year.

Washoe County in March reported a monthly gaming win of $86.3 million, up 0.67 percent from the $85.7 million won in March 2004.

Pittman said that Reno's population is significantly growing, with Washoe County up 33 percent over the past decade. Much of that increase is centered in the southern Reno region.

Unemployment in Reno is 3.6 percent, compared with 4 percent in Las Vegas. Job growth in Reno over the past two months has been as high as 4.9 percent.

"We believe the Reno market desires a project of this type, and we think a facility similar to the Green Valley Ranch Station would have significant regional appeal," Pittman said.

Bayer, who expects the Station Casinos project to be open by 2007, also believes the Reno gaming market is underserved and a casino element would enhance the project's overall offering.

"The city's population is moving south, and there is an affluent population from California relocating to that area of Reno," Bayer said. "There hasn't been a new casino opened in Reno in some time, so we think this will add considerably to our master plan."

Station Casinos shares fell $1.10, or 1.71 percent, Wednesday to close $63.15.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone said Station Casinos' move into Reno is another growth vehicle for the company, which has five potential gaming development sites around the Las Vegas Valley.

Falcone said he would expect Station Casinos to roll out expansion plans for Northern Nevada by the end of the year.

"The Reno market lacks a quality locals property similar to Station Casinos' properties in Las Vegas," Falcone said. "We believe this type of land purchase is consistent with the company's historical track record of securing valuable and desirable land in a favorable supply and demand environment."