CRYSTAL BAY - Slot machine jingles and flashing lights - and the future of 29 employees - will all be on hold when the famed Cal Neva Resort shuts down its casino floor at month's end.
The 5,365-square-foot casino owned by Canyon Capital Realty Advisors will close March 31, the company announced Wednesday, effectively cutting ties with current casino operator Luna Gaming Tahoe, which is owned by Luna Entertainment.
Cal Neva Casino Gaming Manager Wayne Thompson said he is among 29 Luna Gaming Tahoe employees who will be laid off at month's end. If the resort is able to secure another gaming manager, Thompson said he hopes current casino employees will be considered for positions once it opens.
Canyon estimates the casino could re-open by year's end, so long as a new Nevada-based gaming operator is hired; Bosworth said the resort's restaurants, lounges, showroom and wedding facilities will continue to operate during its closure.
"Canyon has already been in discussion with several gaming-license holders who have expressed interest in becoming Cal Neva's new casino operator," said Canyon executive Richard Bosworth in the statement. "Canyon's decision to move forward with new casino management reflects our continued commitment to securing the future of this incredible landmark."
Canyon spokeswoman Emily Heidt, of Sugarman Communications, declined to reveal names of those potentially interested.
Heidt did not comment when asked if the casino is generating revenue, but said since taking ownership in April 2009, Canyon has led a significant turnaround in Cal Neva's business operations, resulting in a 300 percent increase in wedding bookings and a 27 percent increase in the Lake Tahoe hotel market penetration.
The building straddles the Nevada/California state line, with the casino on the Nevada side and hotel on the California side.
Canyon - which took over operations in 2009 after a bidder-free, two-state foreclosure auction, then quickly hiring NHH Hotels and Resorts to manage hotel operations - still is seeking a buyer for the entire
A price for the property has not been set. The minimum bid at the April auction was set at $15 million.
Originally built in 1926, Cal Neva was owned by Frank Sinatra in the early 1960s, and flourished as a popular destination for the Hollywood and political elite. The resort includes 219 rooms and cottages, restaurants, a spa and open space featuring panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. The property also features a 350-seat show room, 16,000 square feet of meeting space and a lounge.