Celebrating the big 30

An event-filled day of celebration is planned Saturday as the Depot Casino and Restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary of operation.

The events are planned all day. The Depot’s restaurant is bringing back one of its menus from 1987 and there will be Champaign and mimosas available for customers. There will also be drawings for prizes throughout the day — a 1987 Double Eagle coin is the grand prize — and a special game of Bingo will start at about 1:30 p.m.

“It should be a fun event,” said co-owner Ralph Mills.

Mayor Ken Tedford praised The Depot’s owners and staff and said they’re great people. He noted it’s not easy to keep a business running for 30 years. Tedford said the owners have to be dedicated to their venture to have it last so long.

“As mayor I’m always proud to see businesses be successful and stay successful,” he said. “The Depot’s done a great job.”

A lot has changed since the casino opened its doors. With Mills and David Widmer at the helm, the building has been expanded, providing more gaming space; the upstairs has also been expanded, seeing use as an event space, banquet hall and night club before being used for bingo.

During the 1990s, a shift occurred in Nevada gaming; as reservations in California opened their own casinos, tourism traffic in Nevada took a hit. Mills, however, said they weathered the change in tourism; he noted they do not rely on tourism business and did not see the changes Reno and Las Vegas would have.

“Tourism through here has its cycles, but it’s such a small percentage of our total business that it hasn’t had a big effect,” Mills said.

He added their main clientele over the years has been locals more than people passing through the area.

Some of the biggest changes the Depot has seen have been to the technology of gaming. Mills recalled when they started slot machines were coin-operated, though now they have moved to a ticket system.

Mills said one of the biggest threats for the future was how prevalent online gambling is becoming; with online casinos growing in popularity, many people no longer go to a brick and mortar establishment.

Mills is confident, however, that they’ll weather the trend just fine. He noted many of the Depot’s customers don’t come just for the slots or Bingo, but because it’s a chance to get out, socialize and do something fun with friends. He said the social experience was a big draw.

“Not only is gambling an entertainment for customers, it’s a social event,” he said. “They’re coming to see their friends and neighbors and people they come to socialize with … it’s coming down to get out of that sequestered environment the online world can take.”

Tedford said he feels The Depot will do well going forward into another 30 years. He said the business is at a great location and has a good business model with strong morals.

“These are key,” he said. “I only see great things for The Depot.”

The Depot was originally a train depot serving a mine. After the mine closed, the depot fell out of use and was eventually purchased by Cheryl Evans and moved to Fallon to be a bar on North Taylor Street. In 1987 it was purchased by Mills and Widmer and opened as the casino and restaurant of today on Williams Avenue.

Mills said it’s been an interesting 30 years and he hopes to see another 30. He said there have been cycles and shifts in the economy, but they’ve kept fairly consistent business going.

He added they don’t have many plans for the next 30 years. He noted The Depot is locked in by businesses on either side, making further expansion difficult. He noted, however, that they’re happy with the current size of things.

“There’s not much more viable expansions we could do here,” he said. “It’s a nice manageable size the way it is.”


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