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OCTOBER 7, 1996

Rivalries in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX promoter Tommy Baker formally presented his plans to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority last week and met with strong opposition to the idea from the Hilton Hotels Corporation.

Baker's proposal - which called for a race to take place in either March or October 1998 - included a circuit laid out between Flamingo Road and Tropicana Avenue. This would directly affect casinos on either side of Las Vegas Boulevard - "The Strip".

The casinos on the western side of "The Strip" include the Circus Circus company's Bellagio resort (due to open in 1998); the recently-opened Monte Carlo, a joint venture between Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts and the Circus Circus company; and New York-New York, a partnership between Primadonna Resorts Inc. and MGM Grand Inc., which is due to open on JanuaryƊ3, 1997. Circus Circus, Mirage and Primadonna are all keen on the race while MGM Grand - which runs the world largest hotel - 5009 rooms - at the southern end of the block to the east of The Strip is not opposed to the idea.

The casinos on the eastern side of The Strip are largely against the race - because they are mostly owned by Hilton. Until recently Hilton had only two hotels in Las Vegas - the Las Vegas Hilton and the Flamingo Hilton. In June, however, the company bought Bally's Las Vegas, which had previously announced plans to build a Parisian-based casino-resort. The 3000-room "Paris" and Bally's are both on the intended race track, and traffic to the Flamingo Hilton - just north of the Flamingo Road intersection - would be disrupted.

Hilton argued that Las Vegas was already well-served for motor racing now that Richie Clyne's Las Vegas Motor Speedway is open. Clyne, who owns the Imperial Palace casino - to the north of the Flamingo - was one of the casino owners who traveled to Monaco with Steve Wynn in May to meet Bernie Ecclestone. Apparently he is not opposed to a street race.

The fight, therefore, seems to be between Wynn and his allies and Hilton. It should perhaps be pointed out that there is no love lost between Wynn and Hilton because in 1985 Wynn made a hostile takeover bid for Hilton, offering $1.78 billion for 25% of the company. He was rebuffed.

Las Vegas newspapers reported that there are other options for the United States Grand Prix in Dallas and Orlando. There was, however, no motor racing announcement by Disney in the week of Disney World's 25th anniversary - when an announcement was expected. Disney is still building on its 28,000-acre site in Florida and a major sports complex is part of the plan... Perhaps this will include a race track.