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The Nevada Independent

Gaming regulators grant Durango project preliminary approval for Nov. 20 opening

Building on its longstanding dispute with the nonunionized Red Rock Resorts, Culinary Union turns out to protest the first new locals casino in 14 years.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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State gaming regulators granted preliminary licensing approval Wednesday for Red Rock Resorts’ $780 million Durango Casino and Resort, putting the southwest Las Vegas property on track to meet its Nov. 20 planned opening.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final ruling on Sept. 21.

When it opens, Durango will become the first all-new locals casino in Southern Nevada in 14 years and begin what the company hopes to be a doubling of its current Southern Nevada footprint over the next 10 years.

Red Rock President Scott Kreeger told the board the company controls seven vacant land parcels throughout the Las Vegas Valley that are targeted for future development.

“All of them are located in high-growth areas and all of them are located near major arterial freeways,” Kreeger told the board.

The initial step in Red Rock’s development is opening the 201-room Durango, which has been under construction for almost 20 months on a 50-acre site near the 215 Beltway. Durango will be the only major casino to serve the 250,000 adults who live within a 5-mile radius.

The 83,000-square-foot casino floor will house almost 2,300 slot machines, 63 table games and 15 dining establishments that include four full-service restaurants and a 25,000-square-foot food hall. The property will have 20,000 square feet of convention and meeting space and a spacious resort pool area.

Durango General Manager David Horn said during the nearly 90-minute hearing the property has hired 500 of the planned 1,700-person workforce. He said between 35 percent and 40 percent of workers transferred from the other six Red Rock Resort properties in Las Vegas.

Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick asked about the hiring challenges. Durango faces a competitive labor market given the planned opening of the Sphere in Las Vegas later this month and the December opening of Fontainebleau Las Vegas.

“There's a lot of interest in this project,” Horn said, adding that he expects the property’s human resources department will see at least 6,000 applications. “I will not complain about that one bit.”

Durango will be the first new locals casinos since M Resort opened in Henderson in 2009. Four locals casinos have closed since that time, including three operated by Red Rock Resorts (formerly known as Station Casinos). 

The company never reopened Texas Station in North Las Vegas and its two Fiesta properties in North Las Vegas and Henderson, which were shuttered in 2020 amid the COVID pandemic.

The company has since demolished the buildings and is selling the land for non-gaming use.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick during a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Before the hearing began, more than a half-dozen representatives from Culinary Workers Local 226 and former Red Rock Resorts employees — backed by several dozen others in the packed hearing room in Las Vegas — spoke out during the public comment period against the project.

Several former employees complained they were not rehired following the pandemic while others said they were targeted after the pandemic for their union-organizing activities.

The Culinary has been in a more than two-decade feud over organizing efforts with Red Rock going back to when the company was known as Station Casinos. Union representatives told the control board they wanted to meet with Kreeger, who was also being licensed by the board, about their concerns.

Kreeger did not discuss the union representatives’ complaints during his discussions with the board and he was recommended for licensing.

Also during the public comments, several Red Rock Resorts employees and executives spoke on behalf of the company and the Durango project.

Hendrick also read prepared remarks during the public comment session disclosing his past relationship with Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, Red Rock Resort’s largest shareholders.

Hendrick, who was appointed as chairman in January by Gov. Joe Lombardo, spent more than a decade as the general counsel and a top executive for the Las Vegas-based parent organization of the UFC when it was controlled by the Fertitta brothers. They sold UFC in 2016 for $4 billion.

“I was never an employee of Red Rock Resorts or Station Casinos, and I have no pecuniary interest in Red Rock Resorts or Station Casinos matters,” Hendrick said, adding that he didn’t believe his disclosure was required by Nevada law.

In addition to voting on the Durango matter, Hendrick said he would vote on all future matters involving Red Rock Resorts but would no longer make a similar disclosure.

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