Ocean's New Heist?

Danny Ocean is back. Sort of.

George Clooney, the celebrity heartthrob who stepped into Frank Sinatra's role for the remake of Ocean's 11 and its sequel, is getting into the gaming business -- in a manner of speaking.

Forbes reported yesterday that the actor has invested an undisclosed but apparently sizeable sum in a new $3 billion Las Vegas resort called Las Ramblas. Clooney is partnering with real estate developers Related Las Vegas and Centra Properties. Nightclub owner Rande Gerber is also a partner.

The complex, which is expected to have more than 4,400 condominium and hotel units in 11 high-rise towers, will be built on 25 acres bordering Rank Group's (Nasdaq: RANKY  ) Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and Starwood's (NYSE: HOT  ) proposed W Hotel. It's the latest in a string of big Vegas real estate deals, such as the recent $370 million buyout of long-time strip resident The Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino by Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE: HET  ) .

I admire Clooney's gumption. Consider: He's buying into the top market in a state that has led the nation in population growth for 18 years running. Indeed, Las Vegas adds more than 5,000 residents every month. The current metro area population is expected to grow from its current populace of 1.75 million people to 2.8 million residents over the next 20 years, according to statistics published by Web site Restaurant News Resource.

Only time will tell whether Clooney's gamble will pay off. It certainly looks smart now. But it's worth remembering that the resort won't even break ground till next year and will be built in phases over the following five years. The market has the potential to drastically change in the interim period, and though the project might still be lucrative, it might not deliver in expected quantity.

Can Clooney expect the gambling life to still be all the rage in 2011? I, for one, wouldn't bet against it.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is hoping to get back to Vegas next year. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile here. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.

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