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Best of Star Brooks

Gaming Guru

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Reno's Got the Holiday Spirit!

6 December 2003

Reno is getting set for the holiday season. And the casinos are full of color, of activity... new slots... some casinos sporting new ticket-in ticket-out technology. You can't beat it... it's pretty... and it is full of fun for all who choose to come and gamble in Reno every fall.

The Sundowner Hotel and Casino shut its doors...three weeks earlier than planned... after being built and running since 1976, it will be missed. It had been flailing for a while, and although it had been slated to close on December 6th, but it just couldn't last another three weeks and was closed. This leaves a lot of casino employees floundering in the already slow job market with the holidays upcoming. Everyone involved has my sympathy. I used to come up to Reno from California periodically during the winters many years ago, and the Sundowner was always a favorite stop... it seems odd to see it closed up.

Boomtown Hotel and Casino Reno has announced the promotion of Keith W. Henson to Senior Director of Marketing and Slot Operations. Under the new title, Henson will oversee Boomtown's nearly 1,200 slots, 318-room hotel, RV Park, full-service Keno, 35,000 square-foot Family Fun Center, VIP Services, Player's Club, special events, as well as 10,500 square-foot convention center, General Store gift shop and extensive marketing program. Beginning in 1997 as a Boomtown blackjack dealer, Henson moved up through the slot department and a management training program which familiarized him with Boomtown marketing operations. Following a position on the management team that opened a Boomtown-affiliated Washington property, Henson was named Boomtown Slot Operations Manager. In 1999, he opened the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and Casino and, in 2001, returned to Boomtown as Director of Slot, Fun Center and Keno Operations. In the new position, Henson says he will call on a proven team of managers to further develop Boomtown's guest service, advertising, player development and promotional activities. "The focus of every decision will be for the comfort of our guests. We will further enhance their experience through Boomtown's friendly and superior service standards," Henson explains.

Washoe County Gaming Win Down...again

On Monday, November 10th, a Nevada Gaming Control Board official stated that Washoe County casinos experienced their worst September in ten years. Reno was even worse.... you would have to go back to 1991 to see lower figures. Table revenues dropped 20%... and the blame is pointed towards the newly opened Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, California, and other California Tribal Casinos interrupting the traffic flows from Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay areas to Reno...casinos on the other side of a sometimes snowy and treachorous mountain pass from Reno. Reno casinos are keeping a wary eye open as winter approaches. This will be the first winter the new casino is open. Other casinos in California have been expanding and growing. How many gamblers and other Reno visitors will traverse the Donner Pass this winter remains to be seen. No one can predict what the weather will have in store for Reno and the Sierra Nevada Mountains this winter. It could be good and it could be bad... and that is what worries Reno.

In my opinion, Reno is going to have to beef up its marketing plan. I think they would do better to form a united front and market the entire area for what it really is... a whole passel of really nice casino/hotels with lots of great games to play... the emphasis being on the number of choices that Reno has. You aren't going to go to a Tribal casino and have the number of choices. If it is crowded at a Tribal casino, where are you going to go? You can't go next door or across the street or over the skyway to the next one... you have to get back into your car and drive, usually an hour or more, to find another one. At least Reno has choices... and if you choose to drive to find another one, there are lots of other choices... Sparks, Carson City, Verdi, Minden, and Lake Tahoe are just short hops... Where else can you get great golf and ski packages like you can in Reno and Lake Tahoe? Reno casinos just need to find a common ground (I suggest the RENO GAMING GUIDE ) where they can deliver their promotions and specials to an audience composed of people already planning to visit Reno... many new first-timers and many, many returnees. Something different, something a little more noisy and colorful than casinos are used to... but daring to be different is also daring to catch the public's eye... so I'm going for the gusto again... trying to get the casinos' attention... bugging them for sponsorship... and asking them if they are ready yet... news of lower revenues for 10 out of 12 months should have them looking for a cheaper alternative to getting their message across.

I decided that it is time for another pop survey for people interested in gambling in Reno....What do you think the casinos need to do to attract visitors to Reno during the winter months? Would you cross the Donner Pass in the winter to drive to Reno? Would you take the train? I'll print all the responses and pass them on to those in the Reno casinos... so I'll be looking forward to hearing from everyone who cares to share their opinions. Just drop an e-mail to me.... and try to keep it reasonable... okay? We all would like them to ensure those jackpots... but we all know that is impossible. So try to keep it real, and maybe we can make a difference as a whole.

One more thing... and it isn't gaming related but it is one more thing to go see when in Reno from Thanksgiving through Christmas... I was driving around the downtown area and someone said that I should go out to Idlewild Park and see how they decorate for Christmas... so I did... and WOW! The park is off Keystone and it is a big park... but all over the park were wood-framed, light-decorated Christmas decorations sponsored by various service groups and businesses in the area, and I can only imagine what it will look like all lit up... Someone else said the lights go on November 26th... virtually every corner of the park will be lit up... Santa will be there... it is something special to look forward to going to see... if I ever get the Christmas spirit revved up and quit wincing... this is probably where it will happen. The number of generators parked to run the lights was amazing... this has to be one of the best kept secrets. If you happen to be in town... go down to the park. It's going to be awesome.

The ski resorts are opening in the Sierras...the holiday decorations are popping up all over, and the preparations for superb holiday dining and gaming choices are in the process... so do what you have to do... and when it is done, head for Reno... home of the choices. Choices you won't find everywhere when it comes to fine dining, great gaming, and even more superb entertainment. Subscribe to the Reno-Tahoe Gambling Weekly on the RENO GAMING GUIDEand find out what is in store for you!