Hillbilly casino is Douglas County’s problem now
September 27, 2007
As we all know by now, actor/businessman Max Baer, Jr. wants what he wants when he wants it. And after being rejected by Reno and Carson, he finally found a home for his tacky hillbilly hotel-casino project in Douglas County, where he’s already stirring up trouble for the locals.
The latest chapter in the ongoing Baer/hillbillies saga occurred early this month when a local developer, Big George Ventures, filed suit against Douglas County commissioners, accusing them of “interfering with Big George’s reasonable investment-backed expectations” and “depriving Big George of the economically feasible use of its property.” What fun! And it was all so predictable, given Baer’s previous history.
The commissioners, who are doing their best to pave-over the north end of Carson Valley, approved the massive Baer project despite objections from Big George and nearby residents. The residential developer will build 254 patio homes, 27 duplexes and 14 four-unit buildings just east of Highway 395 between Topsy Lane and North Sunridge Drive. Meanwhile, Baer plans to erect his 95-acre hotel-casino and commercial project adjacent to the Big George development.
Baer, who played the dimwitted Jethro Bodine on the popular “Beverly Hillbillies” TV program 40 years ago, envisions a 40,000-square-foot casino, a 43,000-square-foot cinema complex, restaurants, spa facilities and two 12-story hotel towers topped off by a 200-foot-tall oil derrick and an electronic “reader board” that would light up the adjacent residential area at night. Many longtime residents object to such a garish display so near to their homes.
“We don’t want our valley to start looking like Las Vegas with all of its glitzy, towering buildings,” wrote one Carson Valley resident in a letter to the editor of the Appeal. “Everything in our valley is built low and ranch-like, and we like it that way … (Baer’s) casino would spoil that ambiance and ruin the natural beauty here.” And so it will, just as I wrote when he proposed to locate his hillbilly hotel in Carson’s Southgate shopping mall. Fortunately, however, deed restrictions finally did him in and he moved south.
During his battle with Carson City and Supervisor Shelly Aldean, who manages the Southgate complex (she recused herself on the issue), Baer threatened numerous lawsuits but only one reached District Court, where former Judge Michael Griffin ruled in favor of the city. And now Baer is threatening to sue the new owners of the old Bodine’s property at the corner of 395 South and Clear Creek Road for infringing on his copyrighted name. Of course he ignores the fact that Bodine’s family restaurant existed long before he moved to this area.
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Baer is so ego-involved with his hillbilly project that he’s not interested in Northern Nevada history or anything else. As I said before, he wants what he wants when he wants it and he doesn’t want to follow the same rules as everyone else, given the fact that he’s a famous “celebrity” (whatever that means). But the new owners of Bodine’s – Mike Pegram and Reno’s well-known Carano family – have said that their business “has no reason in the world” to change its name. And while he’s at it, Baer should also sue the owners of Jethro’s Bar, a new watering hole in the Gardnerville Ranchos. After all, there’s only one Jethro Bodine … thank God!
Baer and his adoring fans claim that his hillbilly hotel-casino will employ hundreds of people and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for Douglas County. Maybe so but most of that revenue will go to the state because gambling taxes go into the State General Fund, not to local governments. That inconvenient fact is usually ignored by the serial letter-writers that Baer mobilizes every time he doesn’t get what he wants.
Unfortunately, many of the low-wage workers that Baer plans to employ and their families will live in Carson City, which won’t receive any of his “largesse.” Instead, Carson taxpayers will foot the bill for fire and police protection for those employees and schooling for their children – as we already do for many employees of the “big box” stores just south of town – which is a very good deal for Douglas County.
Some of my Douglas County friends tell me that Carson City created its own problems by turning down Baer and other casino developers who wanted to move into the capital city. Well maybe so, but this is a quality of life issue. Those of you who think more casinos and more sleazy payday loan store-fronts are the solution to Carson’s economic woes should re-think the issue. Because when gambling becomes the cornerstone of Carson’s economy, we’ll be in real trouble and our quality of life will suffer.
Say what you will about the capital’s high-profile car dealers, they provide a much stronger economic foundation for our city than does gambling. That’s why I urge city commissioners and Development Director Joe McCarthy to go after retail businesses and to resist the siren call of the slot machines. Enough already!
• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist, has been a Carson City resident since 1962.