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TCC says gaming would improve with new county

Jenifer Ragland

It’s no secret that the gaming industry at Lake Tahoe is in serious trouble.

Within the last few years it is estimated that net wins at South Shore casinos have taken a hit somewhere in the area of $30 million.

On Tuesday, state gaming analysts reported a 17-percent decline in gaming numbers for the second month in a row this year – making Lake Tahoe the only area in Nevada that did not see an increase.

Last year, head counts at gaming properties here fell 8.6 percent, from 6.5 million in 1995 to 5.3 million in 1996.

With an economy that depends almost entirely on tourism, this is not a problem that can be ignored.

What is the solution? According to the Tahoe Citizens Committee, it’s a new county within the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“The challenges are very clear that we need to undertake steps that would bring back gaming revenue and drive some growth in occupancy,” said Steve Teshara, director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance and member of the TCC executive board. “Part of that is taking more efficient advantage of the resources we have already, and any new resources we can get.”

But how will a declining industry support a new county?

It’s a gamble.

Tahoe County supporters are hoping that creating a more responsive local government will in turn create a stronger economy, but there are no guarantees.

“The new county will focus on turning the tourism business around, and activities that have focus have a higher likelihood of succeeding,” said Michael Jabara, TCC chairman. “Tahoe is just too important to its residents and the state of Nevada not to have the right kind of focus on economic, environmental and quality-of-life issues.”

Teshara said the gaming alliance is working on a change of strategy that will focus on marketing the gaming industry specifically – a joint effort among all South Shore casinos so they are focusing on bringing more people to the area rather than competing with each other.

“They will probably include package promotion, events, joint slot tournaments, and gaming types of events that take place at multiple properties, not just one,” he said.

Teshara believes Tahoe County would be more focused on committing the resources needed to make those things happen than Douglas County has been in the past.

But there is still a feeling of weariness among some people in the basin – particularly on the North Shore – who are afraid of the casino core having too much control.

“I never understood what people are talking about when it comes to that,” Teshara said. “We represent jobs and livelihoods. The notion that somehow seven or eight people in a room are going to dictate the county is just an incorrect notion.”

Still, people are questioning why the top executives of at least two major casinos are so involved in the breakaway movement. Why the LTGA put forth up to $300,000 to help win the battle in the Legislature.

The big question is, “What’s in it for them?”

According to Teshara, what’s in it for the casinos is what’s in it for everyone – economic health.

Gaming directly and indirectly provides many different revenue sources for local government in Nevada, he said.

Tahoe County would receive about $1.3 million in gaming revenue directly, plus sales tax, property tax, and room tax money that inevitably comes with a booming gaming industry.

“I never understood that ‘big bad casino’ mentality,” Teshara said. “Everybody benefits from the presence of these properties and has a stake in their health. To suggest otherwise is not a reflection of reality.”


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