Gaming changes up for vote

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A vote by Carson City supervisors is expected Thursday on a proposed ordinance that would require future gaming operations with more than 15 slot machines to incorporate at least 100 hotel rooms as part of the same property.

If passed, the ordinance would mean the end to new properties -- like SlotWorld and the Silver Dollar Casino -- that cater to gaming-only customers.

"My feeling is a (casino) with 100 rooms will attract business to Carson City," the bill's author, Treasurer Al Kramer, told supervisors in early December. "That should be a requirement for any unrestricted gaming licenses."

The board telegraphed a "yes" vote on the measure at that meeting, but delayed a vote when Joe Masini, one-third owner of Bodine's Restaurant in South Carson City, noted that a business impact study had not been completed. The statement is required under city rules.

In the ensuing month-and-a-half, Kramer has solicited comment from potentially effected businesses, and found a favorable response by a nearly three-to-one margin. Backers of the ordinance include many of the city's existing casinos, including gaming-only properties developed under the existing rules.

In a letter or support for the ordinance, executives at SlotWorld concede they are supporting a change in law that would have forced them to forgo their development five years ago, but say at that the gaming business environment has changed.

"The local gaming market then still had demand for a different, arguably better product which we were able to provide," the letter states. "We don't believe that demand exists anymore. With the opening of Dotty's and the Silver Dollar Casino, the market has become saturated."

It was with that consideration that Kramer says he proposed the change to "enlarge the gaming pie" rather than allowing more competition where the potential customer base remains relatively unchanged.

"When the freeway shuts down Carson Street, unless people come to Carson City as a destination, the only people we will see in the casinos are locals," Kramer said Monday. "In my mind it is better to prepare for that now."

In its current language, the ordinance does provide a six-month for developers who have been looking at Carson City. Interested parties will have up to 180 days to apply for an unrestricted license and apply for permits under the old rules.

A defunct casino that has at one time held an unrestricted license would have the ability to apply for renewal under the old rules within one year.

Masini, along with several Carson City business owners, has argued that restrictions on development downgrade the value of their respective properties by removing the best potential revenue generator.

"It's like trying to stop construction on new mini-lubes in town if you own a car dealership," Masini said, alluding to casino support of the measure. "We bought that land (near the intersection of highways 50 and 395) knowing full well it had gaming potential.

"We've always known that the highest and best use of this land is gaming."

Cheers Bar and Grill owner Gene Wallace and Comstock Country RV Resort-owner Gene Lepire also expressed opposition to the plan.

The ordinance's opponents argue that restricting the type of gaming establishments that can be built effectively erodes principles of free enterprise.

If you go:

What: Carson City supervisors

When: 10 a.m. Thursday

Where: Carson City Community Center Sierra Room


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