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Best of Star Brooks

Gaming Guru

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Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda....

17 January 2004

It's already been that kind of year... the shoulda's, woulda's, and coulda's are catching up on the gaming industry (and the rest of us too... I think). Binion's Horseshoe in Vegas was closed last Friday night by the Feds and a few other agencies... landing Becky Binion Behnan in the shoulda, woulda, coulda pile... for employee benefit and tax troubles... the paper said there were seven landlords in the woodpile of people left in the "owed" pile. Shut down for not paying the employee benefits and making it so the employees are going to need to find other jobs... goes in the "shoulda" pile. Seems like a catch-22 situation to me... the employees were owed and now they will face more delays and unemployment to boot. Seems like a large pile of trouble on Fremont Street.

Locally, in Reno... Duke's just recently closed its doors on the first day of the New Year... going to the "woulda" pile... had they been able to develop the kind of guests they had desired, it would have been an upscale martini bar environment... but as to the location in Sparks... well... I just don't find a martini environment to start with... I'll take the olive and forego the martini myself. I shoulda seen it coming... they had discontinued serving Starbucks coffee, and toward the end of that the coffee was often cold and old (as in yuk) and they weren't bringing in new things to poke at as far as the slots go. I think that if they had re-thought the original game plan it coulda worked... but their eggs were all in the martini bar concept from the get-go. Funny thing was...whenever I went the martini bar wasn't open. It always was closed or going to be open... that shoulda been a warning that what they coulda done wasn't going to be happening.

Up in El Dorado County in California... which is the California side of the South Shore of Lake Tahoe the shoulda's...woulda's... coulda's continue. The County of El Dorado is hellbent on stopping the Shingle Springs Miwok tribe from developing their casino along US Highway 50 in Shingle Springs. While it isn't the newest of news, it is still one of the reasons I count my blessings daily that I am no longer a resident of that county. The latest effort to stop the tribe's efforts involves a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger requesting he take a fresh look at whether a casino should be built in Shingle Springs. One of the objections presented was that the lawyer who is representing CalTrans is also representing the Miwoks. Other objections include air quality and traffic and the impact on the rural lifestyle of the area. The County of El Dorado even picked on the tribe's heritage... claiming they were a bunch of Hawaiians at one point. Anything to stop the casino.

For those who aren't aware of some of the background of the tribe... the reservation land is land-locked, with a private subdivision in the way. The Miwoks have suffered greatly because of the location... they own land on the other side of the highway that would give them access without entering through the subdivision and CalTrans has indicated they would build an offramp to allow access. In my opinion so much could have been prevented if the county had been willing to help the Miwok's by providing access in exchange for a revenue sharing plan. (A great big shoulda, woulda, coulda in my book) It would have provided the community a plan that would have benefitted both sides... but instead all I have heard from the County of El Dorado is that they will "fight the Miwok's efforts to the death..." As a former resident of the county never once was my opinion asked of this issue. It was "assumed" that it was for my benefit too... I guess. Another reason I have to presume is the county's proximity to Douglas County, Nevada... home to the Lake Tahoe Stateline Casinos. But being a native Californian I dare say that I think the county should have taken its own financial affairs into the accounting and realized that had they been willing to work on a revenue sharing basis that they coulda provided badly needed services to an area that could use the help. Especially now that their new governor is cutting funding to education and cutting back on services statewide. I look at neighboring Jackson, California... home to the highly successful Jackson Rancheria Casino... Margaret Dalton is the Tribal Chairperson and is highly thought of in the area. One county away... in Amador County. The tribe is financially independent, and it is involved in the affairs of the community. School projects and area charities have benefitted... the whole area has benefitted and the casino is still expanding and growing. The community cooperation shows a level of pride that leaves El Dorado County looking dumber and dumber to me. If I could put a smiley face in this article I would... I no longer have anything other than a post office box in El Dorado County. Hallelujah!

Getting back to the Shoulda...Woulda...and Coulda pile on my own doorstep... I shoulda shut down the Reno Gaming Guide before it even started because I woulda prevented my own family from enduring the stress and financial burdens that have caused detrimental health effects to everyone I have touched... and I coulda prevented the pain that I have caused. My own stubborness has had me clinging to the dream like a toddler with their "blankie" and I have been blinded by the "coulda's" while talking to area casinos about the "shoulda's" instead of maybe just finding another job to do. But that is how much I like the gaming industry. It is complex and it is fast-moving. Every closure of a casino...every drop in the quarterly numbers--be it revenues and/or guest numbers--tells me that they need to think outside their boxes. I have been outside the box for so long now I wouldn't even know how to put myself in a box and still think. Even though there are tons of woulda's and shoulda's and coulda's I still say the Reno casinos need to work together. I know in my heart that they probably won't... but all I ask is that they work alongside each other. Nobody has an exclusive to guests... they are all going to visit other casinos while they are here and the casinos can't stop them from doing that... I still want the Reno Gaming Guide to be their forum for working alongside each other. I quit on getting them to totally work together...even if it would benefit every single one of them. Until the last "old" thinker dies off or retires or until they all open their eyes and really see something they'll be in their box... unless they have to close their doors first. I hope that the Northern Nevada Gaming Summit in February has positive effects on the industry... but until they learn to see the picture from the bottom end of the business like their guests I don't think it will happen... and for that I am sorry for them. There has to be a larger and more "together" effort to keep Reno growing and positive. And the time is now... not later.

I welcome all comments and suggestions still on what others think Reno needs to do... I am putting together a collage of comments to put on the Reno Gaming Guide. If you want your comment to be included, please send me an email at And thanks in advance. I love feedback!