Changing Face of Downtown

By: James Steiner
By: James Steiner

Look at the Eldorado, owners spent $11 million renovating their hotel rooms. A move, they say, kept rooms full. Rick Murdock represents the traditional thinking of downtown casinos.

Rick Murdock, VP Sales and Marketing, "Keep transient customers coming into our city. Keep airlines happy, cab drivers happy, keep economy moving."

Gaming analysts say, properties like the Golden Phoenix and the Kings Inn, have had to re-invent themselves because the overall number of visitors in Reno is down. Ever since the explosion of Indian gaming, in 2000, some of the less popular casinos...have been losing money.

Industry experts say converting casinos to condos...is a way to fill those vacant rooms. Richard Wells, Gaming Analyst, "Doesn't hurt to lower the hotel base. That's offset by locals living downtown. They can generate business for the casinos."

This philosophy was almost unheard of...when casinos exploded onto the scene in the early 1950s.

Bill Thorton, co-owner of the Club Cal-Nevada, remembers when casinos operated in what was called the "red line" district.

That meant no casino could be built outside the downtown. Thorton says, "gambling was a sinful business back then. People didn't want it outside the downtown area. And operators wanted it to be a closed shop."

They fought tooth and nail to keep projects, like the Reno Convention Center, in the downtown area. That way casinos wouldn't spread throughout the city. The "now" Reno Hilton, once the MGM, brought a new way of thinking in the early 1980s.

Casinos could thrive outside downtown Reno. That opened the door for large expansion. Then there was the nugget growing and it became apparent big casinos could be outside the downtown areas. Now, with Stations Casinos coming on board, that old way of thinking remains in the past. Some of the original owners of the downtown casinos realize Reno is re-developing and re-vitalizing itself.

Downtown stays the heart of the community just with a different look and feel.


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