Hard landing: Casino slowly being demolished - Wednesday 28th of May 2008

More than a year after closing, the Nevada Landing is history. Since mid-February, MGM Mirage has been slowly demolishing the Jean casino, which was to make way for a master-planned mixed-use development. As of last week, only the Nevada Landing marquee remained.

The 303-room hotel-casino, themed after a Mississippi River-style paddle wheeler closed March 20, 2007 but sat surrounded by a chain-link fence through summer and winter. Unlike numerous Strip resorts, Nevada Landing didnt go out with a spectacular implosion and fireworks show.

"We began the dismantlement of Nevada Landing in mid-February and have been tearing the building down piece by piece since then," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said. "No implosion or wrecking ball was utilized and as much of the buildings materials as can be are being recycled."

For now, an asphalt cap will replace the building.

The casinos roughly 300 employees were dispersed throughout MGM Mirages network of resorts. Most landed at the Gold Strike, on the south side of Interstate 15, which was to be expanded as part of the redevelopment of Jean. When the Nevada Landings closing was announced, MGM Mirage said it would master-plan the 166 acres it controls on both sides of the highway into a community featuring affordable housing, businesses, shops and a new hotel casino.

Feldman said that development is on hold.

"Along with our partner, American Nevada Co., we continue to explore all options to create a higher and better use for the property in Jean," Feldman said. "Obviously, this is an uncertain time in the economy so a final decision isnt expected anytime soon."

The Olympic torch relay, in its run-up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, passed through the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau on May 3 without any of the pro-Tibet protests that affected the relay in Europe and San Francisco.

Runners carried the Olympic flame past Macaus historical landmarks, dating to back the citys 400-year existence as a Portuguese colony.

The torchbearers also passed several of Macaus lucrative gambling halls, including the Sands Macau. Several hundred spectators lined the entrance to the MGM Grand Macau as the torch passed by.

One of the runners carrying the flame was controversial 87-year-old Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho, who operates more than a dozen casinos in the Chinese gambling enclave. His daughter, MGM Mirage business partner Pansy Ho, carried the torch on a portion of its leg through Hong Kong.

Bally Technologies has tried to answer the salvo fired by International Game Technology in the battle to be first to market with a server-based slot machine system.

The Las Vegas-based slot maker signed an agreement with the Barona Valley Ranch in San Diego, where the casino will upgrade its slot management system with Bally products. Gaming analysts thought the deal could pave the way for Bally to provide server-based technology to Baronas 2,000 slot machines.

Last month, IGT announced a deal to provide a server-based gaming system to the under-construction CityCenter when the massive development opens in November 2009.

Barona, considered one of the more technologically advanced casinos in the California Indian gaming market, has been testing some of IGTs server-based gaming products for the past two years.

"Barona is a strategic win for (Bally)," Oppenheimer gaming analyst David Katz said. "This may not necessarily rule out the ultimate adoption of IGTs server-based technology by Barona and other casinos over the long term, but supports our view that concerns about the continued strength of Ballys systems business in the near term are unfounded."

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Joel Simkins called the news "a major bellwether for adoption of Ballys server-based strategy."

The Barona deal puts Bally a step ahead of IGT in the Indian gaming market.

"The decision to supplant IGT, which according to our industry contacts has faced some struggles at Barona during its beta-test period, is a very strong statement of endorsement for Bally," Simkins said.

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