Application to buy Fitzgerald's in Reno stalls over financing

A plan to purchase and revitalize Reno's Fitzgerald's Hotel-Casino stalled Wednesday amid concerns by members of the Nevada Gaming Control Board over its financing.

All three members of the board expressed concern the financing was "stretched thin," leaving Wolf Lichten and his son David in danger of failure if they have a couple of bad months.

"You've got a very thinly capitalized entity here," said Chairman Dennis Neilander. "If the property were to operate at historic levels, you'd only be able to operate four or five months before you'd be completely out of cash."

But attorney Jeff Silver said Wolf Lichten has a reputation as a "genius" in casino marketing in Atlantic City, and he and his son have strong experience in casino operations. Lichten said he believes he can substantially increase the customer base at Fitzgerald's - especially from Asian markets.

The property, located next to the train trench on Virginia Street in Reno, has been in bankruptcy for two years.

Silver said the Lichtens have put "literally everything" of their own money into the property, risking it all on their belief Fitzgerald's can be turned around and made into a profitable resort.

He said the casino was doing much better several years ago "until the perfect storm of Indian gaming and Retrack" - Reno's project to lower the railroad tracks through town.

Indian gaming caused all of downtown Reno's casino properties to lose revenue for the past three years and Retrack, Silver said, effectively cut off most access to Fitzgerald's by eliminating parking spaces and making access to its garage nearly impossible.

Now the train trench project is nearing completion, and Wolf Lichten said he expects it will be much easier to attract customers.

Board member Mark Clayton said he doesn't think their marketing plans are detailed enough to justify predicting a 21 percent increase in slot revenues and a 50 percent increase in table game collections over the next year. He agreed with Neilander.

All three board members said they couldn't support the application without better financing and more detailed marketing plans.

After conferring with his clients, Silver asked the board to refer the application back to staff while they seek better financing and better data to support their income projections.

The board agreed and no vote was taken on the application.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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