Ordinance feedback favors gaming license restriction

The future look of Carson City, and the health of its economy, is of paramount concern in the debate over a proposed ordinance that would require future gaming developments to include at least 100 hotel rooms.

City Treasurer Al Kramer proposed the legislation in December, and a vote was delayed by City Supervisors on Dec. 6 while a business impact statement was developed.

In the ensuing month, Kramer has fielded calls and letters, mostly in support of the ordinance and its potential limitation to the future development of stand-alone gaming establishments, similar to the new Dolly's and Silver Dollar casinos. The comment period for the statement ended Monday.

The most ardent supporters of the zoning change say it would effectively force the addition of hotel rooms in town as gaming entrepreneurs look to capitalize on Carson City's improving reputation as a tourist destination.

"Quite frankly, current ordinances favor the development of slot arcades," said Bob Cashell, a Nevada gaming magnate who has expressed interest in developing a property in North Carson City.

"I cannot justify the enormous investment in a resort type facility and successfully compete with an adjoining business which has minimal investment, lower operating costs and substantially different building requirements."

Cashell's opinion was repeated by at least 15 residents and gaming business owners in correspondence with Kramer's office.

"Carson City has a shortage of quality nightly rooms and convention facilities," wrote contractor Donald Hand. "The intent of this ordinance amendment will provide an environment in which big investors might consider our city a choice location in which to develop a property which would fulfill the need in our community and be profitable for the investor."

Opponents to the legislation say it is premature for Carson City and could serve to detract from property values. Owners of Bodine's Restaurant at the junction of highways 395 and 50 in South Carson City, said a desired future expansion on the 3.2-acre lot would be impossible under the proposed rules.

"Three-point-two acres is not enough land to put up a 100-room hotel, but is about right for a restaurant/slot-machine type operation," the company wrote. "We have always felt we could expand in that direction someday.

"As property owners, this expansion should be dictated by our time line."

Comstock Country RV Resort-owner Gene Lepire even goes as far as requesting that his property, also located on South Carson Street, be granted a permanent grandfather clause.

If approved when the ordinance comes before supervisors again, developers holding an unrestricted gaming license (to operate more than 15 slot machines), would be forced to incorporate the rooms as part of the same property. Similar laws have long been in effect in Las Vegas, Clark County and Reno.

Backers of the change, including the Carson City Gaming Association and a handful of business community members, say it would encourage a larger tourist draw for the city, "enlarging the pie" for gaming revenue. A lack of first-class hotel accommodations, they say, holds back the potential for the convention bookings and groups that have benefited the local economies of Reno and South Lake Tahoe.

If passed, the language of the ordinance provides for a grace period of up to a year for interested developers to build, and existing closed locations, such as the Silver Spur, to revamp their gaming operations.


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