The company that owns and operates the Red Rock Resort and Station Casinos recently announced the development of a new Wildfire casino in Downtown Las Vegas. To be located on Fremont Street, the project has drawn both praise and criticism from the local community.
Since the new casino is aimed at attracting business from residents more than tourists, it’s important that local homeowners understand what the project is and the effect it will have on the surrounding community. Let’s take a closer look.
Who is behind this project?
Station Casinos is partially owned by the publicly-traded holding company, Red Rock Resorts. It is one of four major companies that dominate the gaming market in Las Vegas, where it already owns or manages around 20 casinos. These are divided into several brands, each with their own market niche, including Fiesta Casinos, Station Casinos, and Wildfire Gaming.
What’s different about a Wildfire casino?
Casinos under the Wildfire Gaming brand typically cater to locals rather than tourists. This means amenities like on-site restaurants are usually more casual and affordable than you’d find at tourist-centered locations like Strip casinos. Wildfire casino game offerings are usually on the casual side as well, featuring mainly video poker and slot machines as opposed to table games and live poker.
Why the downtown location?
Red Rock has owned the land in development at the downtown location for 18 years, since it purchased the old Castaways Hotel and Casino in the early 2000s. Once the new casino opens, it will represent the company’s first significant presence in the downtown area and the southwest part of Las Vegas.
But if the company has owned this property for nearly two decades, why are they developing it now? First, the company recently sold the Palms Casino Resort, so it has liquid funding for the project. Second, the timing is likely due to the recent influx of new residents from California and other high-priced markets. Many retirees looking to downsize and buy real estate in cash have chosen Las Vegas, as have professionals who just recently gained the ability to work from anywhere. This increase of wealth in areas like Summerlin and Spring Valley can support a new gaming location in the Southwest that would have struggled previously.
It’s also presumable that the company hasn’t branched into the Fremont Street area before because of its popularity with tourists—since Wildfire casinos are more geared toward Las Vegas residents. This part of Downtown does feature glitzy attractions like a massive stage for live performances, a 24-hour mall, and the famous SlotZilla zipline.
But Fremont Street has become more popular with locals in recent years. An increased number of small businesses as well as easier accessibility and more casual dining options than the Strip contribute, and this popularity will only increase with the $4.5M addition of a pedestrian mall. The mall is set to open by the end of this year—lining up with Red Rock’s timing for the new casino.
How will this affect locals?
So far, reactions to the casino’s development have been mixed. Since the 50-acre location is located at the intersection of Durango and the 215, some residents in the immediate area are concerned that it will worsen traffic along Durango Drive, increasing accidents and reducing quality of life.
Others are optimistic that more traffic means more business. Downtown Las Vegas includes the Arts District and many locally-owned businesses besides what’s available on Fremont Street, and some think a big casino will bring more patrons.
And how does a new casino affect property values? The jury is still out. The National Association of Realtors once stated that casinos have an “unambiguously negative” effect on property values—but in Las Vegas where large casino resorts drive the economy, that doesn’t necessarily apply. Additionally, nearby rental properties are likely to see an increase in value due to demand from tourists and casino employees.
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