Sundowner becomes latest downtown Reno casino to close |

Sundowner becomes latest downtown Reno casino to close

RENO — Citing mounting financial losses, owners of the Sundowner Hotel Casino in downtown Reno have announced plans to close Dec. 1.

It’s only the latest in a string of casino closures in a city facing increased competition from Las Vegas megaresorts and tribal casinos in California.

“I would suggest there will be several more (casino closures) in the next several years, and probably the market needs that, given the changes that are occurring,” gambling analyst Dennis Conrad told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The Sundowner closure affects 300 full-time and 75 part-time employees, who learned about it in a letter from co-owner George Karadanis.

“(The casino) cannot continue to operate in the gaming industry climate as it currently exists … I wish it could be otherwise, but the (casino) can no longer sustain the economic losses we have incurred and continue to incur,” Karadanis wrote.

The resort, which opened in 1975, has been for sale for several years.

Employees, who also were notified that their health insurance will cease on Oct. 17, said they expected the closure.

“There have been so many back-and-forth rumors. But no Christmas bonus last year said a lot,” dealer Cindy Sutterfield said while standing behind an empty craps table Thursday.

Rob Whittey, the Sundowner’s chief financial officer, said the casino had struggled since the giant Silver Legacy Resort Casino opened in 1995. There are no plans for the Sundowner building, he added.

“Unfortunately, we are in the position of another building that is going to go dark,” he said. “We really had a great ride in Reno. But the face of gaming has changed.”

Other downtown casinos closing in recent years have included the Flamingo Reno, Comstock, Pioneer and the Riverboat. The Flamingo Reno later reopened as the Golden Phoenix Hotel Casino.

Other downtown casinos, including Harold’s Club, the Mapes and Riverside, earlier closed.

Washoe County casinos’ gross revenues fell 5.6 percent in July, the first full month of operation for the Thunder Valley Casino outside Sacramento.

Analysts say it shows the casino, with 1,906 slot machines and 100 card tables, and others in northern California are diverting business from Nevada.

That trend will only accelerate this winter when gamblers no longer have to brave snowy Sierra passes to gamble, they said.