Casino Planned for Pyramid Highway North of Sparks

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Nevada lobbyist Harvey Whittemore and his partners are proposing a $25 million casino north of Sparks using the unrestricted gambling license from the now closed Old Reno Casino.

Whittemore, a Reno lawyer, said the proposed project would be built on 18 acres east of the Pyramid Highway in the fast-growing Spanish Springs area.

The plan is the latest involving the valuable gaming license that Whittemore acquired last year and transferred to Nevada Casinos Inc., the company that owns the Peppermill Hotel-Casino.

Because the unrestricted license from the slots-only gambling hall was in place before new laws required a minimum 200 hotel rooms, it can be used to build a new casino elsewhere without hotel rooms.

Whittemore bought the Old Reno Casino and the property it sits on from former operator Eb Cox and former landowner Craig Questa for an undisclosed price.

He then sold the property for a $1 to the city of Reno, which planned to condemn the building located near the downtown train trench project.

Whittemore brought in partners from the Peppermill and transferred the license to Nevada Casinos. Last August, he and his wife, Annette, won approval by state gambling regulators to buy 10 percent of the stock of the company, which owns casinos in Reno, Sparks, Henderson and West Wendover.

Nevada Casinos initially proposed using the license to build a casino on South Virginia Street, near the Atlantis Casino Resort. But that plan was scrapped after Atlantis owners sued, challenging the city's condemnation plan and other legalities of the deal.

A partner in the law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins, Whittemore also is a business partner of Peppermill co-owners Nat Carasalis, Bill Paganetti, Albert Seeno Jr. and Tom Seeno.

Whittemore said he and Tom Seeno own 18 acres on the east side of Pyramid Highway where the casino would be built.

"We hope to have development started within 90 days after the city approves the location," Whittemore said.

But Sparks in April imposed a 10-month moratorium on new, neighborhood casinos to develop a plan on where they should be allowed.

City Planner Margaret Powell said the new casino is one of at least two proposed for Pyramid Highway.