Nevada Lawmakers Secretly Amended Gaming Distance Law for Casino Developer Near School

Posted on: July 24, 2023, 02:46h. 

Last updated on: July 24, 2023, 02:52h.

Nevada lawmakers in June secretly amended a state law restricting the distance between casinos and schools to benefit a casino company, according to a report by the Nevada Independent website.

The 126 acres owned by Red Rock Resorts (left) stands across the I-15 from an elementary school (right). (Image: Google Street View)

The change to SB266, a 26-year-old law limiting the distance from a casino to a school or place of worship to 1,500 feet, was made to benefit Red Rock Resorts (NASDAQ: RRR), which requested that 25 of the 126 acres it owns on Las Vegas Boulevard and Cactus Avenue be categorized within a gaming enterprise district.

Without the change, Red Rock couldn’t put gaming on those 25 acres, since they’re fewer than 1,500 feet from the Dennis Ortwein Elementary School in the residential Southern Highlands master-planned suburb.

According to the Independent, the change to the so-called gaming enterprise district law was made “without any public input or discussion” on the second-to-last day of the state’s 120-day legislative session.

A day after the amendment was introduced in the Assembly on June 5, it passed 40-2. The Senate approved the amended version just before the session’s midnight adjournment, and Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) signed the bill on June 13.

Dennis Ortwein Elementary School in Southern Highlands stands fewer than 1,500 feet from 25 of the 126 acres of land owned by Red Rock Resorts. (Image: Google Street View)

Separation of Church and Interstate

The amendment, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas), forgoes the distance restriction if an interstate highway separates the casino from the school or church. In this case, Interstate 15 separates Ortwein Elementary from Red Rock’s planned casino.

“We were seeking to have a clean slate for development,” Red Rock Resorts spokesperson Michael Britt told the Independent. “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 [Las Vegas Boulevard].”

The 1997 law was amended only once before to allow Wynn Resorts to move part of the former Desert Inn Golf Course into its gaming zone, so it could build its Encore casino, even though the land was less than 1,500 feet from a Roman Catholic church. Legislators at the time decided that the Desert Inn Super Arterial served as a sufficient barrier.

Red Rock purchased the land, about a mile south of the South Point Hotel & Casino, last year for $172M.

At the time, the gaming company said in a statement: “We are excited about the potential of this site as a local and regional destination casino resort. The larger acreage parcel allows the Company greater flexibility in master planning to take maximum advantage of the future development.”