Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 16, 2009

Boyd Makes New Bid For Station Casinos

Posted by Hunter

Boyd Gaming, who made an offer for some of debt-plagued Station earlier this year, has now said it wants to buy the entire company for $2.45 billion. Station Casinos is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

I can see how this would make sense - they seem like organizations with comparable goals and customer bases. Station rebuffed the previous offer.


Read archived comments (10 so far)
December 16, 2009 3:19 PM Posted by parchedearth

I see this as a warning to the Fertittas, that if they don't start seriously considering Boyd's original offer they might lose all the properties and be left with nothing.

December 16, 2009 4:12 PM Posted by Mayhoff

Seems Boyd has plenty of money for everything but the Echelon.

December 16, 2009 4:34 PM Posted by mike_ch

Fertitta has clearly taken his eye off the ball. They have pretty much tapped out their resources and don't seem to be quite aware of their situation still. They used to be pretty competitive, but now it seems more like they're struggling along out of pride more than anything else.

The amount of money they spent over the years on stuff like GVR and Red Rock and they're STILL trying to rebrand themselves younger and more upmarket. Just look back four years ago and Station's marketing was heavy on retirees who won some money playing Video Poker, and then shifted entirely to the contemporary luxury thing that was booming on the Strip.

Station had still been around if they had continued building smokey VP barns around town. Instead they tried to bring some of that Wynncore vibe to the suburbs, and probably ran up a debt tab higher than the suburbs could pay off.

December 16, 2009 4:45 PM Posted by atdleft


Yep, for better or for worse, it seems Boyd has abandoned Echelon (for now) to pursue Station in bankruptcy court.


"Just look back four years ago and Station's marketing was heavy on retirees who won some money playing Video Poker[...]"

And really, it still is. Whenever I flip on Channel 8 or pay attention to the local cable ads, I see Station ads... Focusing on some new "sweepstakes" or "how loose our slots are!" or showcasing some new "big winners". They've had to realize the hard way that they can't ignore their base demographics like that. It just seems like they're still not really getting how their reckless debt pile-up has put them in the sh*tstorm they're in.

And btw, I honestly have to admit that I like living just a mile from GVR. It's a gorgeous casino, but it would probably also be a mess if it weren't for the Greenspuns investing in it (and Aliante).

Oh, and another btw... I'm a long-time lurker & first-time commenter. This new Vegas local really appreciates all your great reporting on my new hometown! :-)

December 16, 2009 4:56 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Stations equity strip when they went private is what killed them. GVR and Red Rock aren't the problem. Aliante, didn't help, but they could absorb that and still survive easily.
The Fertitas need to be very careful now, IMO. If Michael Gaughan and the Maloofs decide to get involved with Boyd in an attempt to take on some of the properties-we might wind up seeing ads for the UFC Oasis in Mesquite.

December 16, 2009 5:38 PM Posted by atdleft


Well, at least GVR isn't the problem. Whenever I stop by, the casino is busy. And on weekends (especially when Station is doing some "sweepstakes" promo), it can jet jam-packed!

So ultimately, you're right that the primary reason for Station's hot mess today is their unbridled greed leading to shaky, and ultimately disastrous, finance schemes.

Again, GVR and Aliante aren't in as poor financial shape mainly because of the Greenspun money... Though considering the recent Greenspun Media/Las Vegas Sun firings, it's not like they're in that much better financial health.

But anyway, I must admit my mixed feelings regarding this possible Boyd buyout. On one hand, Station had it coming with the Fertittas' slimy self-enrichment schemes. But OTOH, I'm REALLY feeling uncomfortable about one company (Boyd) taking a near monopoly of all Off-Strip/locals' casinos. With only a few exceptions (such as The M here in Henderson, and The Cannery casinos), almost every locals' casino I visit, whether it's in Summerlin or on "The Boulder Strip", is either Station or Boyd. That just may be too many casinos to allow just one company to control.

December 16, 2009 10:01 PM Posted by mike_ch

atdleft: They aren't really ignoring their core demographic where it matters, but the truth is that locals hotels are good for one thing: giving a friend someplace to crash that isn't your couch. Except on nights when rates citywide are high everywhere, like a few months ago when Britney, Boxing, and Hannah Montana was going on all at the same time, locals hotels couldn't really get away charging high amounts.

Station tried to change that, but really their hotels probably shouldn't overly focus on luxury accommodations. One or two options around the valley for those who are loaded is okay, but Aliante Station was simply a bridge too far.

What's amusing is watching how fast Station has had to reverse course: they can barely afford to run any 24 hour cafes in their properties, and Coco's is replacing the formerly ubiquitous "Grand Cafe" that was seen at nearly all Stations. Only in Red Rock do they bother to operate a cafe, even in GVR they have offered the space up to Coco's. Aliante's price tag that was something like twice what Phil Ruffin picked up Treasure Island for ($775m), and it opened up right off the bat with a TGI Friday's in the absence of a 24 hour Cafe.

There's no need for multimillion dollar rooms and stunning lobbies in chain casinos dotting the suburbs.

I don't even think Boyd would keep all of the Station properties with the tenacity that, say, Harrah's does. They knew that Coast Casinos had made a big mistake with South Coast and chopped that off especially quickly only because Michael Gaughan believed enough in that location to leave his position in the merged company and run it alone.

There's two casinos with a large local patronage that deserve big expensive rooms and flashy lobbies and that whole luxury bubble experience: Palms (which now really needs a casino refurb from my last experience there for Podpalooza), and M. Those are the only two that have any tourist draw, and it's because they're perpendicular to the Strip. Building M-like places out around the 215 was simply a huge mistake.

December 17, 2009 7:22 PM Posted by atdleft


Generally I agree with you, but I disagree on the current higher-end Station Casinos. GVR and Red Rock actually are good fits for their respective neighborhoods, since these neighborhoods ARE expensive. GVR is just down the road from Henderson's multimillion dollar neighborhoods (MacDonald Highlands, Anthem, Grand Legacy, etc.), and Red Rock is right across the 215 from one of the most exclusive gated communities in the entire valley (Red Rock Country Club).

However, I just might have to agree with you on Aliante. That was just going too far, too fast, and for FAR too much (money, that is)! Most of the area around the Aliante neighborhood is still undeveloped, and with the big real estate crash still hurting the valley I doubt we'll be seeing super-expensive housing (providing high-end clientele for Aliante) in North Las Vegas any time soon.

But yes, overall Station messed up BIG TIME in forgetting its main customer base (locals) in pursuing tourists so hard, bilking its customers (especially in starting the horrendous trend of "resort fees"!), and ultimately forsaking wise business management in favor of ridiculous self-enrichment schemes for top execs (see the above link on their insanely lavish stock compensation tricks)... And ultimately building up a massive debt load that the company now just can't handle.

Oh, and you reminded me of another reason to be concerned about this possible Boyd purchase of Station. Whenever I go to a Coast Casino, it's like I'm stepping back in time to Las Vegas' "bad ol' days" of scuzzy, smoky casinos and lousy food. If Boyd does take over Station, I just hope they don't let Red Rock rot into a hellhole.

December 18, 2009 10:25 AM Posted by mike_ch

atdleft: I see your point, you're technically correct, but the numbers just haven't added up. High-end resorts, Station or otherwise, just haven't worked even in high end parts of town.

Another good example would be The Regent, which came in with the same flair of an ultra-luxe world traveler's hotel that you see today with Mandarin Oriental, opened in Summerlin many years ago. It flopped. It got bought out by some other third party and retitled The Resort At Summerlin with the blessing of Hughes/GGP, and it flopped then too. Eventually they had to break things down into the situation you see today: a JW Marriott with a casino ran by third party who are now more well-known for the Cannery. Somewhere in all those ownership changes, an incredible upstairs buffet became a meh one just off the casino floor (in fact, it seems you can't go upstairs in the Rampart anymore for some reason) as all F&B (except for the excellent Ceres restaurant off the hotel lobby) is run by whoever owns the casino.

All the while this was going on, Gaughan built Suncoast just outside the official border of Summerlin (believe it or not, somewhere in the space between Rampart and Suncoast is where Summerlin begins/ends, just like the Strip not being in Vegas) and it was a pretty big hit. It's not that much to talk about now, of course, but when both places were new-ish, Suncoast was making money and the fancier joint wasn't.

And keep in mind Station had more of these lined up, with another planned at 215 and Durango. The Castaways site, in a much less luxe setting, has little interest to them.

And now Station is cutting back, not just chain restaurants but worse food from top to bottom. I just realize it's only one critic's opinion, but John Curtas' reviews of LBS Burger and Terra Rossa, both at Red Rock, were very negative.

Compare the palaces Station was building around 215 with Boulder Hwy's offerings, specifically Sam's Town and Eastside Cannery. You'll find decent service and good VP with fair prices. No trendy bars or million-dollar chandeliers, but the owners aren't in bankruptcy, either.

December 19, 2009 6:27 PM Posted by atdleft


Technically, GVR actually isn't in bankruptcy since it isn't part of the Fertitta empire that filed for bankruptcy (and as I mentioned earlier, the Greenspun money also helped). And from my regular "unofficial investigations" of what's happening there, it seems humming nicely. I think what's worked for them is that they're a good fit for the central Green Valley/MacDonald Ranch/Anthem part of Henderson, and that they don't have to worry about too much competition (the only other casinos in the area are Sunset Station way out by the 95, Fiesta all the way at the 95/215 intersection, and The M all the way on the other end of Henderson at Las Vegas Blvd. & St. Rose Pkwy... Btw, the first 2 are also Station Casinos.).

OTOH, Red Rock does have more competition to worry about, as Summerlin has more casinos both in the community (JW Marriott & Suncoast) and just outside the area but still a short drive away. The locals' casino game is just a whole lot fiercer out there, and Red Rock may have had a harder time winning over locals with its "hipper than thou" vibe while the older, more established casinos were already becoming local favorites.

Still, I can see where you're going. And as a new "local myself" who's becoming more accustomed to "Las Vegas locals' culture", I know locals' casinos have to walk a fine line between trying to be interesting enough to get those value-seeking tourists willing to stay off-Strip and staying true enough to the classic "locals' casino formula" of loose slots, low-limit table games, F&B specials, and an all around inviting vibe to keep the locals spending happily. IMHO I think they made it work with GVR, and they had the additional benefit of being the only casino in Green Valley. OTOH, they needed to step up their game with Red Rock, since Summerlin was already being penetrated with other casinos, but instead they may have undone that delicate "locals vs. tourists" balance by going so hard after the hipper, younger, (and then) richer tourists to really endear Red Rock to locals who were more used to the more laid back vibe at JW Marriott and Suncoast.

And btw, I'm a crazy foodie who's been on an eating rampage ever since moving to Vegas full-time in July. I read John Curtas' review of LBS, then I tried it myself. And while I respect "Mr. ELV" very much and usually agree with his take on local restaurants, I have to disagree with him on this one. LBS does fabulous burgers... Even veggie burgers, and IMHO their house-made (!!!) veggie burger may even be better than Burger Bar's!

So regarding the food situation at Station, I've found so far that the non-Station-run joints (like LBS at Red Rock & Original Pancake House at GVR) are pretty good while the places run by Station F&B mostly suck. Terra Verde at GVR is "kinda sorta" a rare exception (kinda sorta b/c it has its own management quasi-independent of Station F&B), but Station really doesn't know and doesn't care about serving quality food. So far, the only locals' casino I've found with truly good food all around is The M, and that's because Tony Marnell III really cares about the quality of the food he serves and he lets his F&B invest in quality ingredients and good cooks.