Reno should heed warning

You would think that $232 million is a number to get some attention.

But in Reno, the reaction apparently was a collective shrug to the possible loss of revenue when - not if - Indian gaming becomes a reality in California.

Of course, that has been the attitude all along in Reno. "What, me worry?"

Well, maybe somebody should.

A Wall Street analyst's report, released last week, predicted Indian gaming would cost the Reno/Sparks area $232 million in revenue growth through 2004. It would be a 21 percent decline in a $1 billion gaming market.

Californians go to the polls next month, and there's a great likelihood it will be approved - again. So burying their heads in the sand is probably not going to do Reno business leaders much good.

Nevertheless, Washoe County's casinos are "cautiously optimistic" they turned the corner in 1999, when gaming win grew by 4.8 percent after a couple of years of 2 percent growth and an actual decline in 1996.

The state as a whole, however, grew by 11.9 percent. Las Vegas, South Lake Tahoe and Carson City/Carson Valley all had higher percentage increases than Washoe County.

As we've said before, it isn't the giant companies of the gaming industry who should be taking the lead here. They will invest in California casinos, (those that haven't already), and protect their own bottom lines, while the Nevada tourism industry that has followed in their wake will be left to sink or swim.

"It will be interesting to see what strategies these casinos develop to try to hang onto their customer base," said Jason Ader, analyst for Bear Stearns who put together the report.

He could say the same for the rest of the tourism industry. Based on experience, though, in Reno the strategy will be to wait 10 years and see what happens.


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