Nevada’s Gaming Distance Laws Have Quietly Changed

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Nevada lawmakers recently amended a 26-year-old law that restricts the distance between casinos and schools or places of worship. However, the potentially controversial change was implemented without public discussion or debate, as reported by The Nevada Independent.

The amendment to Senate Bill 266 was made to benefit Red Rock Resorts (flagship casino pictured), a major Las Vegas casino developer.

It wants to build a new 125-acre casino resort just off of the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. But a 25-acre piece of the Red Rock Resorts parcel is located less than 1,500 feet from Dennis Ortwein Elementary School.

That would have disqualified it under the previous law, which has now been amended.

Red Rock Resorts is owned by the billionaire Fertitta brothers, who have friends in high places across the U.S. and have often backed high-profile Republicans with donations.  

Separating School and Casino

The amendment to SB266 paves the way for Red Rock Resorts to develop its casino-resort on a nearly 125-acre site on Cactus Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Just across Interstate 15 is the Dennis Ortwein Elementary.

The amendment, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas), creates an exemption allowing an interstate highway to serve as a buffer between a casino site and areas protected by the 1997 state law.

This exemption applies only if the proposed establishment consists of 20 or more contiguous acres and is located within the Las Vegas Boulevard gaming corridor. Both of which do apply to the land Red Rock owns.

The company plans to designate a small portion of this site as a gaming enterprise district, an area approved by a county, city, or town as suitable for operating an establishment with a nonrestricted gaming license.

The amendment was introduced and adopted on the Assembly floor on June 4.

It passed through the Assembly on a 40-2 vote the next day and was approved by the Senate just before the session’s midnight adjournment. Governor Joe Lombardo signed the bill on June 13.

Notably, there were no discussions in either legislative house on SB266.

This isn’t the first time the 1997 law has been amended, so lawmakers can claim some form of precedent.

It was previously changed to allow Wynn Resorts to move part of the former Desert Inn Golf Course into its gaming zone, despite being less than 1,500 feet from a Roman Catholic church. Legislators at the time decided that the Desert Inn Super Arterial qualified as a buffer separating the church from casino.

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Clean Slate for Red Rock

Red Rock Resorts spokesperson Michael Britt stated that his company wanted a fresh start on development with no restrictions on the land it paid $127 million for in 2022.

“We were seeking to have a clean slate for development,” he said.

“We thought that an interstate highway defined the definition of a barrier. So, it obviously benefits us with that property, but it also helps others along.”

The new amendment gives it the “full ability to use the entire piece of land as we see fit for gaming.”

Red Rock Resorts, which operates six large casino resorts in Las Vegas and Henderson and a chain of smaller casino-only properties under the Wildfire brand, has ambitious plans for the future.

In 2021, the company’s executives announced plans to double the size of the company’s Southern Nevada footprint by 2030. Their $780 million Durango Station casino in southwestern Las Vegas is expected to open by the end of the year, potentially paving the way for additional development.

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