04/13/2006 11:00PM

Red Rock hot new spot

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If you flew into Las Vegas, told a cab driver to take you to the Red Rock Station casino, then were promptly blindfolded until your arrival, you would swear you were in a Las Vegas Strip establishment once the blindfold was removed.

You would, however, be wrong.

The Red Rock is the newest spot for the Las Vegas locals - off Highway 215 at the Charleston exit, nestled in the Summerlin community miles north of the Strip at the foot of the Red Rock mountain range. The $900-million-plus complex is a worthy rival to the mega-resorts on the strip with its opulent appointments and luxurious offerings.

The Station Casinos company unveiled its most ambitious Las Vegas addition to the media on Thursday, days before the public gets to test the digs at the official opening on Tuesday.

This ain't your daddy's locals hangout. The Red Rock Station is a far cry from its parent company's roots of the Bingo Palace, where the Palace Station casino now sits. And it fits the neighborhood just fine.

The first impression of the sweeping race and sports books is a "wow." As expected from a newly designed race and sports book, the Red Rock has all that new technology has to offer. The monster race and sports book video screen is the largest of any in such a room in America. The 96-by-18-foot video screen is the nucleus of all wagering information, as well as video feeds of a multitude of racetracks and sports events. Below the giant board is a row of betting windows. The 200-plus seats and 213 monitors assure players of personal amenities that will set Red Rock apart from other casinos.

Adjacent to the book are several restaurants, the Turf Grill, and a spectacular race and sports book bar. It is the VIP area, however, that will appeal to the well-heeled players of Summerlin. In addition to its spacious digs, the VIP area will include a buffet.

Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports book operations for Station Casinos, believes the Red Rock book will be a big hit with the players.

"We have been anticipating public reaction for months," said Manteris, "and we are anxious to open the doors to the players."

Despite the Red Rock's upscale decor, Manteris said that it is still a locals place.

"We believe that Red Rock is a complement to the new demographics of Las Vegas locals, as well as healthy competition for the Strip resorts," he said.

While Manteris has leaned toward the sports side throughout his bookmaking career, he has a deep respect for horseplayers and their contributions to the bottom line of the race and sports book industry. Jason McCormick, who balances the racing side of the equation, has been tabbed as the director of Red Rock's race and sports book.

"I feel we have the best book in town, and we are dedicated in providing the service to match," McCormick said.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.