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LAS VEGAS-A bill working its way through the state legislature would expand the north end of the official gaming corridor here to include would-be casino properties owned by Wynn Resorts, Marriott International and Golden Nugget owner Landry’s Restaurants, the three companies who proposed the bill, SB354.

The expansion of the district to include the properties–Wynn’s 142-acre golf course, an adjacent 14 acres assembled by Marriott across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, and land Landry’s acquired for an expansion of the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas – would mean they are no longer bound by a 1997 law prohibiting casinos within 1,500 feet of churches and schools.

The existing gaming corridor extends 1500 feet on either side of Las Vegas Boulevard between St Louis on the north to St. Rose Parkway on the south. The proposed expansion would take in the three aforementioned properties as well as some others. The bill will next be voted on by the full Assembly.

The current proposal is a compromise following opposition from MGM Mirage and the Culinary Union, and Assemblyman Richard Segerblom who represents downtown Las Vegas and is vice chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The original proposal was to extend the gaming corridor by a much greater amount both west and east of the Strip, and to extend it up Las Vegas Boulevard all the way into the Downtown core.

Attorney Mark Fiorentino, who represents the three companies, told the Las Vegas Sun there is little opposition to the bill because the proposed casinos are in urban areas close to gaming. In addition, the churches in question, already surrounded by casinos approved prior to the legislation, aren’t opposed to additional casinos, he added.

“No one would say with a straight face that these … aren’t urban areas,” Fiorentino reportedly said.

UNLV economics professor Bill Robinson told the newspaper that the bill may not be welcomed by established operators not directly benefiting from it, such as MGM Mirage and Harrah’s, which own a majority of the existing Strip casinos, but it’s good for Vegas as a whole.

“What we have now is an oligopoly … which lowers innovation and creates copycats instead of innovators,” he reportedly said. “You have to have strong competition in your industry and the possibility of new people coming in and new ways of doing things.”

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