Two of downtown Reno’s most prominent marquees bear the imprint of Don Carano, the legendary casino empire builder who died at age 85 on Tuesday.
Carano, a second-generation Italian-American born in Reno in 1931, was already a prominent lawyer in the McDonald Carano firm when, aided by a loan from then-First National Bank of Nevada, he built the Eldorado Hotel-Casino in 1973.
At the time it was a brash move: He had ventured north of the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, away from the immediate downtown casino core stretching from Commercial Row to the Truckee River.
But it worked. Over the next four decades, Carano and his family built that 282-room hotel-casino into a multistate gaming enterprise. The crowning moment came in 1995 when, in a partnership with the Circus Circus corporate umbrella, Carano opened the 35-story Silver Legacy Resort Casino and its 1890s mining-themed interior. It was then – and remains today – the tallest building in Northern Nevada.
It would become the center of the “tri-properties,” the Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus hotel-casinos, ultimately connected by overhead walkways. Years later, the Silver Legacy and Circus Circus were acquired outright by Eldorado Resorts Inc., the company begun by Don Carano and today managed by his sons.
In his later years, Carano tended to the family’s wine interests, notably the Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma County in Northern California, leaving the day-to-day operations of the hotel-casino empire to his family in Reno.
Eldorado Resorts Inc., managed by his family headed by son Gary Carano, chairman/CEO, has expanded its hotel-casino empire to nine other states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The properties encompass 20,000 slot machines, more than 550 table games and more than 6,500 hotel rooms, and the Carano family took Eldorado Resorts Inc., public in 2014, trading shares on the Nasdaq exchange, but has retained majority control of the company.