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Parents upset about theater enterance through casino

Since an eight-plex movie theater opened inside the Horizon Casino last Wednesday, dropping the kids off at the movies has become a contentious and difficult issue for many South Shore parents.

Parents are concerned that moviegoers, especially young children, must walk through the heart of the gaming area to get to the theaters. No outside entrance was built to allow moviegoers to avoid slot machines, bars and blackjack tables on their way to see a movie.

“The bottom line is that it’s wonderful to have these kinds of facilities in town, but it’s unfortunate that the kids have no access without being subjected to adult behavior,” said Barbara Davis, assistant superintendent for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. “It would have been much more appropriate to have another outside entrance.”



Then there’s the problem of where children should wait until their parents pick them up after a movie at the new Wallace Theaters.

“It was safer at the ‘Y,'” said 26-year Tahoe resident, Roger Letendre, who used to drop off his children at the Lakeside 4 Theater, which closed Wednesday.




That theater also was owned by Wallace Theaters Corporation.

“They had someplace to go,” said Letendre. “They used to go to McDonald’s where the parents could pick them up afterwards.”

Instead, children can now be seen spending time before and after movies hanging out between the entrance to Lily’s Beach Club and the rest rooms, or wandering through the casino.

But David Lyons, director of marketing for Wallace Theater Corporation II, said he foresees few major complications.

“We don’t expect it to be a problem. It’s pretty direct access right to the theater,” Lyons said. “There are numerous very successful movie theaters located within casinos throughout the country. Families regularly attend movies there and the theaters are very popular.”

In addition, casino security is present around the clock.

However, the potential dangers involved when children are left alone inside a casino, even for just a few minutes, could have serious repercussions, according to Mayor Judy Brown.

“I don’t like the idea of going to a casino to see a movie, and the thought crossed my mind about parents dropping their kids off,” Brown said. “After that horrible incident in Las Vegas where that young girl was killed in a casino rest room – that really leaves me worried.”

The presence of children within the casino is nothing new in Tahoe, according to Bob Wenner, the Douglas County Sheriff’s chief deputy at the lake, and certainly something casino security staff are equipped to oversee.

“We already have families staying there. They go through the casino with kids all the time,” Wenner said. “Horizon security staff does well with the arcade and I don’t anticipate any additional problems.”

Constructing a theater inside a casino is not a new idea. Many, however, do offer entrances outside or near the casino entrance.

But the logistics of redesigning the Horizon showroom did not lend itself to that, according to Horizon General Manager Howard Reinhardt.

As far as the Nevada Gaming Control Board is concerned, the biggest issue is direct access to the theater.

“As long as (moviegoers’) progress through the casino is not inhibited, (so children) can go right through and there are no long ticket lines next to slot machines, we see no problem with having a theater within the casino,” said Jerry Markling, deputy chief enforcer in the Las Vegas office of the control board.

The Las Vegas gaming office has a lot of experience with theaters and other attractions inside casinos, Markling said, and casinos there have been catering to families for years with exhibitions, animals and amusement rides.

“The problem is when kids stop and look or play with the machines,” he said. “As long as the casino is responsible and manages the access to minors, we let them police themselves.”

At this point, the only movie theaters on South Shore are in, or near, the casino corridor. The Stateline Theater is slated for demolition to make way for the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project, including a new eight-screen theater, resulting in 16 movie screens near the state line, but none elsewhere on South Shore.


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