Carson Station new ownership hopes to attract locals
Special to the Nevada Appeal
As many Northern Nevada casinos struggle through the recession, several smaller local venues have come under new ownership over the past few years. Since 2006, 777 Gaming, founded by Rory Bedore, has been buying out struggling casinos and helping to restore them to healthier financial operations.
The Best Western Carson Station Hotel Casino, in downtown Carson City’s historic district, is one of these casinos. In March 2011, Bedore announced his intention to purchase the property from Clark Russell, who has been the owner since 1987, and on June 30, the sale was officially closed. According to the city’s assessor office, Carson Station was purchased for $1,000,505; this included the casino, hotel and parking lot.
Jason Tate, senior vice president of operations, said the improvements made to the property in the past several months should help to bring people in.
“The property needed capital, and we had it,” he said.
The renovations include a remodeled casino floor, new machines and an upgraded bar.
“We took the wall paper down, made it bright, and took down walls that obstructed views,” said Tate. The new owner is also looking to make sure that the Carson Station Restaurant continues to serve the high quality food it has been known for, and some menu items are being added.
The hotel rooms have been refurbished with new mattresses, flat-screen televisions and new furniture. Tate said room rates have gone up about $5-6 per night.
“We can keep rates at a reasonable rate and still provide a superior room,” he said.
Jennifer Russell, daughter of Clark Russell, now overseas marketing and human resources for Bedore. She said they were ready to get out of the casino business.
“I think there were some financial challenges, with the economy and the way things are going,” she said. But she said she’s excited about the changes that have been made, and those in the works.
“It’s been very interesting, there have been a lot of new challenges working with people with resources and seeing the property moving forward,” she said.
When asked why Bedore chose to purchase Carson Station, Tate said that the beauty of Carson City, and the “genuine, down-to-earth people” attracted Gaming 777 to the location.
“We were looking for a property to own. … We fell in love with Carson Station,” Tate said. It was for sale, and they negotiated and ended up buying the property. Gaming 777 worked as consultants since the beginning of March, and took over on July 1.
Tate said the casino is looking for ways to make its operations more efficient. Most of the staff has been retained, though it has been reduced through attrition. A few people were let go and some areas combined. About 95 percent of the staff is full time. Although they do not receive benefits, Tate said, that could change in the future.
New marketing strategies have also been developed to boost business, and the company is planning to add convention space, restaurants and a swimming pool.
It’s also working on a new branding strategy.
“Carson Station has always been known for trains,” Tate said, and the company is working on ways to play up the railroad theme.
With the work going into upgrades and renovations, Carson Station may still face some challenges as the new owner works to make it financially successful. According to Mike Lawton, senior researcher for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the gaming industry is still slow in the Reno/Carson City area. For the past several years, since the recession hit, gaming revenues have been down.
“What we’re seeing in … Nevada has been coming from the Las Vegas Strip, spilling to local markets in Las Vegas. We’re also seeing some positive coming out of mining counties,” he said.
But there hasn’t been such a widespread recovery in the Carson City/Reno area.
“They’re opening up during a tough time,” Lawton said of Gaming 777.
But Tate and Russell remain optimistic. A Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting was held Thursday, and the Great International Chicken Wing Society cookoff is taking place in the parking lot this weekend. Tate and Russell are hoping the weekend will help reintroduce area residents to Carson Station.