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Gaming board confident Aliante can survive times

The economic downturn will make marketing Station Casinos’ newest casino difficult but it has helped the company recruit some great workers, company officials said Wednesday when the Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to recommend licensing of the $662 million Aliante Station.

Casino management expects “tough sledding” when the North Las Vegas property opens because of the downturn.

But, the economy has provided “vibrant activity” for applications since the hiring process began July 6, said Joe Hasson, general manager of what will be Station Casinos’ 18th local property.

“We’ve had approximately 1,000 applicants a week since mid-July through our doors,” said Hasson. “It has given us a great pool to choose from.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission will consider the matter Oct. 23 in Carson City. The 202-room hotel-casino is scheduled to open Nov. 11.

Station Casinos will have approximately 1,000 employees working at Aliante Station with 400 others working for various businesses inside the property, including restaurants, movie theaters and other amenities.

Hasson, who was general manager of Green Valley Ranch Resort from 2003 to 2007, told regulators that 400 employees have already started working and the rest will begin in the five weeks leading up to the opening.

Nearly 20 percent of the workers are transfers from other Station Casino properties.

Control board member Randall Sayre expressed confidence that Station Casinos will be able to succeed with the new property despite the troubled economy.

“It’s refreshing to see people do what they do well have the courage to move forward in these difficult times,” Sayre said.

The casino will be the largest in North Las Vegas with 2,550 slots, ranging from penny machines to $25 slots, 40 table games and a 12-table poker room.

Hasson said that while he expects the new property will initially cannibalize customers from the company’s other properties in North Las Vegas — Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho — he believes Aliante Station will build a bigger business base for the company.

Aliante Station, on the corner of the Las Vegas Beltway and Aliante Parkway, will be marketed to a combination of Station Casinos’ current customer base, 6,500 households in the Aliante master plan, destination travelers and events at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway nine miles northeast, Hasson said.

“We already have bookings from groups looking to take advantage of the proximity of our hotel to the speedway,” said Hasson. He said the car aficionado group Mustangs Across America has completely booked the hotel for April.

Hasson said the surrounding population numbers are similar to what was seen when Green Valley Ranch opened in December 2001. However, the median income is closer to the households surrounding Santa Fe Station.

Funding for the project, a 50-50 joint venture between Station Casinos and the Greenspun Corp., includes a $391 million term loan, which matures in October 2012, and $260 million in partner equity.

Nearly $293 million of the debt is fixed at 7.5 percent, Station Casinos Chief Financial Officer Thomas Friel said.

Greenspun contributed the 40-acre parcel valued at $50 million, which anchors its Aliante master plan community.

The project is the fifth partnership between Station Casinos and the Greenspun Corp.

The partnership began in 1995 with Barley’s in Henderson, and now includes Greens Supper Club, Wildfire Casino and Lanes and Green Valley Ranch Resort.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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