STATELINE - With corporate mergers dominating much of the gaming industry over the past decade, one South Shore casino has stood the test of time, remaining independent of Wall Street and decisions made outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
This month is the 20th anniversary for Lakeside Inn & Casino, a milestone in itself, considering the changing face of the gaming industry that has brought consolidation in the Stateline casino corridor and new competition with the proliferation of California Indian gaming.
"We are in a constant state of evolution and innovation," said Mike Bradford, chief executive officer for the 124-room Stateline hotel and casino on Highway 50 at Kingsbury Grade.
"This has been our philosophy. You not only have to be innovative, but you have to remain consistent with a set of beliefs and values. We're really pleased with the way it has come out."
Lakeside came into being when Harvey Gross, who built Harveys Resort Casino, had the facility built away from the main casino corridor. Originally named Harveys Inn, the idea was to establish a South Shore lodge, which has the feel, look and decorum of old Lake Tahoe, tucked away from the lights and the skyscrapers.
In 1985, Gross sold the operation to Bill Kartozian, Dick Jeha and Stan Sperling. Their idea was to turn the hotel and casino into a place for not only visitors but locals, providing discounts, specials and incentives for casino regulars, said Bradford, who partnered with Kartozian and Jeha in 1991 after coming on board as president in 1987. Bradford was named chief executive officer in 2003.
"Twenty years for any business in Tahoe is a long time. We are really happy to be here celebrating, because it takes 10 or 15 years to be successful in this kind of business," Bradford said.
Much of Lakeside's success can be attributed to the consistency of its management team. Under Bradford and Lakeside President Lon Rusk, the casino has focused on customer service in the food, beverage, gaming and lodging areas.
Lakeside has about 350 employees, in which management boasts of low turnover, considering the transient nature of the South Shore.
"The turnover is lower than most places in town. You could say that a lot of us have grown old together," Bradford said.
Customers also notice the family-friendly atmosphere. For Shirley and Ron Quilici of South Lake Tahoe, Lakeside has become a preferred place for gaming, bingo and drawings.
"The people are friendly, (making it) a nice place to gamble," Shirley Quilici said, adding the couple plays at Lakeside daily.
In a village full of casinos, Lakeside has its own look and appeal, which is what gives it what many say is its warmth and charm.
To celebrate its 20 years, a variety of anniversary festivities will take place, culminating in a casino party 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 19.
"This celebration is not only for Lakeside Inn & Casino, but it's also a tribute to all of our friends and loyal guests," said Rusk.