Analyst Warns of Gambling Decline in Reno

Casino profits are soaring worldwide, but Reno continues to lag behind the gambling gains of Las Vegas and tribal destinations, a leading gambling analyst says.

Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial gambling at the University of Nevada, told a gathering of business leaders on Wednesday that gambling has grown to an $85 billion industry in the United States from $10 billion a year a quarter century ago.

"That's the good news," Eadington said. "The bad news is that Reno is not really part of this."

Along with Las Vegas and tribal gambling, Eadington said gambling has grown in areas such as Oregon, Washington and western Canada, further cutting into Washoe County gambling.

"We hit about $1 billion (in Reno-Sparks gambling revenues) in fiscal year 2000," Eadington said. "That dropped all the way down to $870 million. And in 2005-06, it climbed back to $940 million. But clearly, if you correct this for inflation, we are down significantly."

Reno gambling experts and resort executives agreed with Eadington, saying Reno has become a more difficult market for gambling operators.

"Reno has always been a tough market, even before Indian gambling," Rob Mouchou, vice president of operations at the Eldorado Hotel Casino, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "But no question, Indian gambling has made it much tougher."

Eadington points to 1989 as the critical year when the gambling futures of Reno and Las Vegas took different paths.

"In 1989, the direction of the gambling industry in Reno and Sparks versus Las Vegas has diverged in a fairly dramatic fashion," Eadington said. "The year 1989 is a critical period in Las Vegas history. That was the year the Mirage and the Excalibur opened, the first of the modern mega casinos.

"It is also the year Harrah's chose to move (its corporate headquarters) out of Reno because Reno was too pedestrian, too parochial, too wrapped up, I think, in dysfunctional issues. They decided to move to Memphis and later to Las Vegas to be in the center of the action."

Mouchou sees signs of a positive future for Washoe County's gambling industry.

"Overall since 2002, the slot market in Washoe County has actually gone up about 10 percent," he said.

"What we are seeing in Washoe County is that the effects (of out-of-state gambling expansion) has pretty much been overcome with our slots," Mouchou said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)