Jethro’s casino takes first steps in Douglas
Nevada Appeal News Service
MINDEN – Max Baer Jr., entrepreneur, film producer and actor who once played Jethro in the 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” is bringing his plans to build Jethro Bodine’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino to north Douglas County – this time, without the flaming oil derrick that was part of a 2003 Carson City proposal.
Part of a larger commercial complex, the casino would be located on about 23 acres along the eastern border of a proposed 95-acre redevelopment project on property mostly owned by Michael Hohl and Dink Cryer opposite Carson Valley Plaza.
“I’ve lived in Douglas County since 1978, and I’ve wanted to build this casino for a long time,” he said. “If I see an opportunity, I’m going to pursue it.”
County Manager Dan Holler said plans are being reviewed by Douglas County staff today. If approved, more review will be necessary before the proposal is considered by the Douglas County Planning Commission, June at the earliest. If all goes well, the project could be forwarded to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in July.
Baer’s application was filed with the county April 24.
Though he hasn’t cemented an agreement with Hohl and Cryer, Baer said, “I can’t apply for zone changes on land that I don’t own unless there’s a document that says it’s OK.”
Phase one of Baer’s project includes a 40,000-square-foot gaming area with 800 slots and 16 tables, a showroom, cinema complex and five-story, 240-room hotel. An arcade and “Granny’s White Lightning Bar” are just a few of the attractions in almost 300,000 square feet, according to project spokesman Don Smit.
The first phase will not be visible from Carson Valley and once the surrounding commercial area is developed, the buildings will block most direct views of the casino from Highway 395, he said.
“This is a great location, less obtrusive by a huge measure than Starbucks,” he said.
Variances will be required for a proposed 200-foot flameless oil derrick and readerboard. Two 12-story, 240-room hotel towers and convention space are scheduled for future phases and will also need approval from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
Dressed in jeans and a New York Yankees baseball cap, Baer spoke from a Minden restaurant as he pulled out a study from PKF Consulting, an international firm of management consultants specializing in the hospitality, real estate and tourism industries.
They recommend increasing the number of rooms to 750 rather than the 240 planned in phase one.
“If the project is ultimately successful, it will be due to it becoming a regional draw and overnight destination for travelers to the overall market area,” the study said. “We anticipate the initial phase of 240 rooms plus the aforementioned public facilities would not be economically viable on a stand-alone basis, but would be developed to establish the market position and introduce it into the marketplace.”
According to a study commissioned by the Carson Valley Visitors Authority, a new casino-hotel-resort with first-class hotel rooms and other amenities would allow Douglas County to compete with similar operations in Reno and Lake Tahoe.
“As the outgoing executive director (of the Chamber of Commerce) I believe there is tremendous potential in the development of a brand name project like the Jethro Bodine’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino in North Douglas County,” said Skip Sayre. “I am in favor of this project for the economic benefits it could bring to northern Nevada, especially the Douglas County/Carson Valley market.”
In addition to another 480 rooms, subsequent plans include convention space and the best location for that space is next to hotel rooms, Baer said.
He cited local examples, including plans for a South Lake Tahoe convention center across the street from the casinos.
“People attending conventions can’t be staying in 20 different hotels miles from the convention,” he said. “If casinos without rooms or attractions are added, that will divide the pie. A resort with rooms will bring outside revenues and new business to the community.”
The community must have revenue to survive and they can get it through new taxes or from sales taxes in specially-designated retail areas, Baer said.
“Gaming is as much part of Nevada as oil is in Texas,” he said. “Unless the people who don’t believe in growth offer to pay more, where is the money (for county services) going to come from?”
Numbers indicate the casino industry in Northern Nevada has been hit hard by American Indian gaming in California, but Baer said that fact is irrelevant.
“When gamblers have bad luck at one place they go somewhere else,” he said. “Indian casinos can’t do that. They stand alone and they hold more slot play. They own you.”
By providing a destination casino resort, name recognition and proximity to local attractions like Lake Tahoe, he can compete. Competition raises the bar for everyone, he said.
This isn’t the first time Baer has tried to build his Beverly Hills Casino.
His first attempt was conceived for Stateline in the early 1990s. He wanted to create it in the building that had been home to John’s Tahoe Nugget, but plans were squelched when Baer realized the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency wouldn’t allow rooms, nor a Beverly Hillbillies-type automobile on the roof.
Following zoning approval by Reno officials for his casino at Park Lane Mall in 1999, mall owners Macerich Co. of Santa Monica decided not to sell Baer the property, he said.
Baer subsequently paid $4.3 million in 2003 for a closed Wal-Mart store and parking lot in Carson City, where the casino was to be built. The area is zoned for commercial enterprises, including gaming, but the shopping center’s restrictions forbid gaming.
Baer places the blame on Carson City Supervisor Shelley Aldean, president of Glenbrook Co. and manager of the shopping center. After supporting his casino project and acting as his broker, she would not sign off on waiving the restrictions, he said.
“This is more than just a story. This is the culmination of a lot of years of work. If people say nothing more than I’m a persistent SOB, that’s OK. So was Rocky Balboa,” Baer said. “I’m going to keep working on what I believe in. I may never reach my goal, but it won’t stop me from trying.”
In addition to longtime business partners Roger Camras and Robert Miller, Ph.D., Baer is partnering with John King of King Ventures in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Steven Craig, chief executive officer of Craig Realty Group in Newport Beach, Calif.
King Ventures has developed a variety of new and historical restoration projects, as well as residential and commercial office properties.
Craig oversees the development and operating functions of his company, including site selection and acquisition, governmental entitlements, construction, financing and operations, according to his Web site.
• Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.
About Max Baer Jr.
The son of former heavyweight champion Max Baer, he was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1937 and grew up in Sacramento. He is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara, Calif., with a degree in business administration and minor in philosophy.
His acting career began in 1960 at Warner Brothers studios, where he appeared on television programs including “Maverick,” “Surfside 6,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Cheyenne” and “77 Sunset Strip.”
He played Jethro Bodine in the popular 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” and, after the show ended in 1971, he wrote and produced the motion picture “Macon County Line.”
One of the largest grossing movies per dollar until introduction of the movie “The Blair Witch Project,” it was made for just $110,000 and grossed almost $25 million at the box office.
With little money, Baer knew he could not compete in a big-budget, star-oriented industry, so he initiated the idea of using a popular song title to produce a low-cost, high-profit movie. His 1976 film “Ode to Billy Joe” was produced for $1.1 million and its box office earnings alone were $27 million.
The movie was sold to NBC for four runs, the cost $4.7 million, Baer said.
He acquired the licensing rights for the “Beverly Hillbillies” trademark and the TV show characters in 1991 and pays CBS royalties on the income he generates, including a line of slot machines built by International Game Technology of Reno that carry the Beverly Hillbillies theme.
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