Years of Struggle End in Siena Closing

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Add one more darkened property to downtown Reno. Thursday at noon the Siena Hotel Casino closed its doors.

Though sudden, the closure was not unexpected. The signs of trouble have been there for a long time.

For veteran observers of the northern Nevada gaming industry, it's been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Today's closing is just the final echo of the crash.

Truthfully, the Siena has faced an uphill battle from its conception.

Built on the bones of the 50 year old Holiday Hotel, it began with a huge debt from its construction.. Nevertheless it was launched with considerable fanfare in the summer of 2001 as something new to the Reno market. It was, however, ill-prepared for the shock that followed the 9-11 attacks a short time later. I

Industry analysts say it was small for a hotel casino, was planned before the full impact of Indian gaming was known and never seemed to find its niche.

Even its picturesque location on the banks of the Truckee had a downside. It was the only operation on the south bank, a long walk from the downtown casino core.

By this July it had fallen behind in its taxes. State gaming authorities suspended its gaming license, restoring it only under restrictions that mandated payments and a minimum cash reserve.

The casino closed weeks ago. The management said it was for renovation, but the writing was on the wall. Today unable to pay its power bills, management closed the rest of the property.

Remaining employees were told they no longer had jobs. Guests were told they'd have to seek lodging elsewhere. Creditors wondered when they might be paid. And those were only the immediate impacts.

County treasurer Bill Berrum was at the Siena Thursday morning packing up equipment owned by the Kiwanis Club which had held its meetings there.
His service club will find a new venue. In will be harder for local governments to replace the revenue.

"County, city. the school district, downtown redevelopment, we're all getting nailed."

Berrum said local governments would be losing hundreds of thousands they can ill afford. The over all impact on the local economy? "In the millions."

In the statement posted on the locked doors, Siena management says they are in negotiation with an investor and hope to reopen soon.

Sadly, history is against that kind of recovery. Casino properties that go dark tend to stay dark or are forced to reinvent themselves as condominiums.

When and if, the Siena does reopen, it will face the same challenges that led to Thursday’s closure.