Editorial: Gaming challenges pushing South Shore in new direction | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Gaming challenges pushing South Shore in new direction

How will South Lake Tahoe’s economy change in the next 10 years?

Nobody’s sure, but it’s a good bet it won’t look like it does today.

There’s a perfect storm brewing on the South Shore, says Lakeside Inn and Casino CEO and owner Mike Bradford, and it may dramatically change how the area does business.

Much of it revolves around the constantly fluctuating gaming industry. According to experts, including Bill Eadington, a University of Nevada, Reno, economics professor, the industry has experienced tremendous growth, but not here.

“Reno has not done as well, either, but not as badly as South Tahoe,” he notes.

The culprits? Popular Indian-owned casinos, the absence of major airline service to Tahoe and the continued growth of Las Vegas as a world destination. Add to that the recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Tropicana Entertainment, parent company of Horizon Casino Resort and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, and the area has much with which to contend.

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The Horizon – which is moving ahead with improvements to the facility, says marketing director Tom Davis – recently settled a lawsuit with Park Cattle Co., which owns the Horizon land. Park Cattle expects to take control of the casino in three years and perhaps turn the facility into a residential/commercial complex.

Given the number of casinos in the relatively small Stateline area, that might be the wise choice, especially given the area’s declining gaming trend.

And if Bradford’s prognosis is correct, the South Shore will metamorphose from a drive-up gaming market to a destination resort, which in many respects it always has been.

But until the housing slump eases and financing loosens, that will be tough to pull off, though Tahoe should have enough charm to weather the storm.

As Eadington says: “Tahoe is still a very attractive setting. A lot of people want to be here, have a timeshare and access to the Tahoe market.”

According to Strategic Marketing Group Director Carl Ribaudo, the South Shore may see casinos consolidate, which will result in job cuts and an exodus of middle-class workers from the area.

Ribaudo also sees the potential for higher-end businesses to dominate the South Shore as visitors seek attractions other than gaming.

City Councilman Bill Crawford predicts a wild ride for the area as it copes with anticipated changes.

“My position is we adjust to the reality,” he says. “The reality here is we are in decline.”

Crawford’s right on: This is not the time to sit back and yearn for the good old days, though that’s certainly tempting. Fortunately, South Lake Tahoe has the environment to weather this perfect storm.