Placer Indian casino could impact Tahoe venues |

Placer Indian casino could impact Tahoe venues

Susan Wood
Nevada Appeal News Service

It’s been more than three years since Las Vegas-based Station Casinos opened Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, a $215 million project on 49 acres in Placer County that initially prompted shivers from the Reno gaming establishment.

Now Lake Tahoe appears to be in the same boat, as the Miwok Tribe prepares to build a casino in Shingle Springs, off of Highway 50 between Placerville and Sacramento.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council will discuss its policy alternatives at Tuesday’s meeting at 9 a.m. The topic came up with El Dorado County recently, which opted to drop its lawsuits against the casino in exchange for nearly $200 million to offset the losses over a 20-year period.

Studies have measured the economic losses on Nevada gaming from Thunder Valley to be substantial, with a 15 percent dent in revenues. But many contend other factors have contributed to those losses.

In the last six years, the national economic downturn, Bay Area dot-com bust and the 9/11 terrorist attacks have had a negative effect on tourism. Adding to those factors is a trend even the Nevada casinos have come to recognize: It’s not all about the gaming anymore.

“When all was said and done, my feeling is it does not insatiate the desire for people to have room service, see a show, and get away from home. It’s like when we go to San Francisco to get away,” said Steve Trounday, vice president of marketing at Grand Sierra Resort, the former Reno Hilton.

Trounday has noted an advantage since his property has offered craps and roulette.

However, Thunder Valley has a huge benefit of milder weather to attract players leery of driving in the snow.

The hope is the 200,000-square-foot casino owned by the United Auburn Indian Community will continue to draw day-trippers – especially as tourism leaders at the lake have curbed their marketing efforts toward the destination traveler who stay longer and spend more.

Thunder Valley spokesman Doug Elmets said the casino operator plans to eventually build a hotel, but not in the near future.

According to a Reno gaming analyst, 19 Indian casinos are proposed for California’s Central Valley from Fresno to Redding.

But Stateline casino heads like Mike Bradford of Lakeside Inn and Casino are counting on the beauty of Lake Tahoe to draw players – especially with the revenue losses already recorded through the years.

Bradford said he expects his casino to survive. But the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance member fears cutbacks by all the casinos could hurt service employees the most.

“We’ve been concerned about this for years,” Bradford said of the possibility of Shingle Springs being built.