Carson casinos band together as an association

Never ones to share secrets or even much conversation, Carson City's casino moguls these days are getting together to chat on a monthly basis.

This era of openness took hold this summer as Cactus Jack's general manager Bill Hissam "instigated" - his word - the formation of a Carson City Gaming Association.

All seven Carson City casinos joined the association, which incorporated in September and has scheduled its second formal meeting for Thursday.

"I always felt it would be in the best interest for everybody if we talked together," said Hissam, the association's president. "We have common interests, and we haven't communicated well in the past. Why reinvent the wheel if we're dealing with the same problems?"

This is a grab bag that could include Indian casinos, employee benefits, joint marketing to attract more tourist gamblers and promoting the downtown corridor. The association has yet to pin down what the immediate priorities will be.

"One is Indian gaming in California," said Steve Bilyeu, chief executive officer at Carson Station and the Pinon Plaza. "It's likely we'll be able to come out with a better and unified tourism marketing campaign in central California."

Cactus Jack's, the Horseshoe Club, the Carson Nugget, the jointly-owned Carson Station and Pinon Plaza, Slotworld and the Ormsby House all joined the association.

Casinos aren't the only tourist attractions banding together. Earlier this year, Carson City's eight museums formed the Museum Association of Carson City, and two years ago the area's nine golf course joined marketing forces as the Divine Nine.

MACC has already paid dividends for the museums.

"I know my attendance has gone up," said Suzi Meehan, MACC's president and executive director at the Children's Museum on Northern Nevada. "If somebody asks what else there is to do, we know where to refer them. I appreciate hearing the guys at the railroad museum telling people to come over here because there are fun things to do."

Before forming MACC, the bosses at the eight museums couldn't even name all the eight museums in Carson City.

MACC has incorporated as a non-profit organization, and its first major joint effort is placing a backlighted display touting the eight museums at the Reno-Tahoe Airport.

The Divine Nine does joint marketing through the Carson City Convention and Visitors' Bureau. In just two years, the golf courses in Carson City, Douglas County and Dayton have gained a certain name recognition among California golfers, said Candy Duncan, the bureau's executive director.

She welcomed the news of the casinos forming an association.

"It's good to know they have organized," Duncan said. "It's a good sign that all these coalitions have gotten together. In the past, Nevada has rested on its laurels of being the only gaming destination. We need to take steps like this to set us apart. We're going to do better if we work together rather than as separate entities."

The casinos thought along the same lines. Hissam especially recognized the saying that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

"On a personal note, the better the lines of communication with the competition, the better one does, and the better they all do because we share the same customers," Hissam said.

Hissam and Bilyeu also see the gaming association as a way local casinos can better serve the entire community.

"Primarily," said Bilyeu, the association's secretary/treasurer, "we want to make sure that together we can help enhance the quality of life in Carson City by being better corporate citizens."


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