Reno is Coming Back
- California businesses are getting competition again from our neighbor in Nevada as Reno is making a comeback.
- Reno and Nevada is attracting businesses, jobs and the tax income they generate away from the People's Republic of California.
RENO -- The signs of decay linger on Virginia Street, the main casino corridor in “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
Pawn shops and cut-rate motels line up alongside the high-end hotel towers. The strip is still pocked with shuttered casinos, victims of the recession and burgeoning competition from Northern California’s Indian tribes.
But signs of comeback – slow and steady – are evident as well. Construction crews are turning the old Fitzgeralds casino, closed since 2008, into the outdoor-themed Whitney Peak Hotel. A small slot-machine parlor called Siri’s Casino soon will open next door reports the Sacramento Bee.
In nearby Sparks, the Grand Sierra Resort is pouring $30 million into new amenities, including a chic $15 million nightclub. The new owners of the venerable John Ascuaga’s Nugget are spending $50 million on a honky-tonk entertainment venue, a new sports-betting operation and other upgrades.
Closer to the California border, Boomtown Casino is putting $20 million into an overhaul.
Add it up, and Reno appears to be recharging. Nobody is predicting a return to the pre-2000 glory days, before full-fledged Indian casinos became legal in California. Instead, local leaders are working to reinvent the city as an all-encompassing travel destination; the Whitney Peak won’t have a casino.
Even among casino executives, the optimism is growing. Many say they think Reno has withstood the worst that the California tribes can dish out. With the overall economy improving, combined casino revenue in Washoe County, including the north shore of Lake Tahoe, rose almost 4 percent last year. That was the first increase since 2006.
“All the indicators are looking good,” said Carlton Geer, the new president and chief executive of the Nugget, a casino with its origins in the 1950s. “Most of those Indian gaming impacts have been absorbed by the market.”
Notably, Reno executives say they’ve experienced surprisingly little fallout from last November’s opening of the $800 million Graton Resort & Casino in Sonoma County.
“So far our data would show we have not had a major impact,” said Gary Carano, general manager of the Silver Legacy in downtown Reno, which survived a recent stint in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Brian Bonnenfant, an economist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said community leaders understand a good chunk of the gambling business is likely gone for good. Although Reno drew 4.7 million visitors last year, the most since 2008, the head count was nearly 1 million below 2004 levels. Gambling revenue in Reno is about one-fourth lower than it was a decade ago, a loss of $250 million.
“Everybody is in full realization,” he said. “Reno is ... sober about gaming and how far we can take it.”
|California Businesses to Reno|
A Northern California canine services and training business will relocate its headquarters and training center to Reno later this spring.
In a news release Wednesday, Red Bluff-based Vigilant Canine Services International cited proximity to Reno-Tahoe International Airport for canine and handler transportation needs as well as the state’s business-friendly atmosphere as keys to its decision to move to Reno.
The company employs about 150 people with operations in 18 states.
Increasingly, casino executives and tourism promoters push the concept of a Reno-Tahoe outdoor vacation with casinos as part of the package. The area also is relying heavily on special events such as Hot August Nights, the annual classic-car festival.
“We offer the total destination resort-casino experience,” Carano said. “That’s what Reno has to offer as a getaway that the Native American casinos in Northern California do not offer.”
Reno’s other advantage is an assortment of casinos within a few miles of each other. That’s certainly the draw for Ernest and Yolanda Herrera of San Jose, who were walking through the forest of slot machines at the Nugget one afternoon last week. The couple said they have sampled the Indian casinos but visit Reno three or four times a year.
“You have a variety of casinos, and not just one like Cache Creek,” said Yolanda, 61. “It’s almost like going to Vegas.”
For the full article go to the Sacramento Bee.