Downtown casino triumvirate revels in its locals
November 10, 2006
Getting four kids ready for school and day care is a job in itself for Jeannette Kelley. The Carson City mother goes through her daily ritual while soothing a 13-month-old who is entering the terrible twos a little early.
Kelley, 35, drops the kids off and then heads to the office. After twisting through the smoky hallways, passing the garish slot machines and the small grill, occasionally saying hello to her regulars, Kelley ascends to the second floor of one of Carson City’s oldest downtown casinos.
She has the corner office with the best view in the house: downtown Carson City with the Capitol dome in the background, framed by fall foliage.
The office of this casino executive displays the cherubic faces of her children, finance books and a gurgling fish tank sans beta. The fish died awhile ago and Kelley hasn’t yet made the trip with her son to pick out a new one.
This soft spoken businesswoman said she’s proud to be a part of the grand ole’ three on Carson Street: her father’s Carson HorseShoe Club, the Carson Nugget and Cactus Jack’s. These are the spots where locals go, and Kelley hopes to continue that status in her position as vice president. She’s one of six children – the only one to follow her father into the gambling business – after earning two bachelor’s degrees.
She distances the HorseShoe from the flashier casinos, but doesn’t criticize them. The club has looked pretty much the same for the last 10 years, except recently it received a new coat of exterior paint. The casino was started by her father, Gene Chaney, in 1973. When asked about her favorite places to play, Kelley confidently responds: “All the Carson casinos!”
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You went to college in Virginia, met your husband there, and then stayed for six years, why did you come back to Carson City?
“We were trying to decide on a place to live, my husband and I. I wasn’t planning on coming back. But then I started thinking that Carson is a nice small town but there is still shopping and recreation here. And you can raise a family here.”
Is it difficult to juggle both roles as a mom and a casino exec?
“It’s very challenging because it’s two 24-hour jobs. But I have help in both places. My team here and my husband at home. I have a great day care and that really makes a difference. Plus, this job does have some flexibility.”
Do people react differently to you because you’re a woman in such a high position?
“I think it was unusual in the past, but there are a lot more female executives now. A lot of us grew up in the industry, like Jennifer Russell (of Carson Station), like me. We grew up in it and we stayed in.
I took over for my father in 1999. I sort of evolved into this position.”
How do you compete with the bigger, flashier casinos?
“One thing is we’re established. We’ve been here for more than 30 years. We have very wonderful, local players and they bring their relatives in who are tourists. I’d say 99 percent of our customers are local.”
What do you play?
“I can’t play here, but I like to experiment with different games. I really like video poker. I try everything.”
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.