Join the club, Carano family. And I don’t mean the frequent gamblers club.
It would be a shame to see the Legacy close. Not only would it carve a dark hole in an already dimming downtown Reno, it also would cut down one of my first memories of this town. Predating my permanent relocation here, my first memory of northern Nevada is as a tourist looking at a gorgeous, snow-capped Mount Rose from my hotel room window at the Grand Sierra Resort. What followed must have been a trip or ten to the bar, because the next thing I remember is seeing a blur of white and green lights after stepping out of a taxi on Virginia Street. After becoming a resident here, I realized in a more sober state that the blur was the Silver Legacy.
Though I would be very sad if the Legacy’s current financial woes are its undoing, I am not worried about the future of gambling for several reasons.
First of all, gambling is sexy and gambling is fun. Casinos are exotic places with all their lights and sounds and smells and excitement. Whether a gambler is dressed to the nines or straight from the mines, it is a powerful adrenaline rush to sit at that table, throw down your chips and trust your wits against the house. Gambling has an ugly side, but it is romantic, too. Some people are addicted to gambling just like a drug, wasting all their time and cash in the hope of a big payoff. For other people, gambling is a last ditch effort to escape a spiraling life of poverty and despair. Poker and roulette and craps bring together the beauty and ugliness of our society. So, if gambling is taking a dive right now because of the economy, it will bounce back when the rest of the world does because its mystique is recession-proof.
The second reason I’m not worried is that I don’t see many other states – if any at all – legalizing gambling and threatening Nevada’s status as a gambler’s Mecca. Gambling is one of those games a state had to get into early or not at all.
Now, we all know that tribal casinos have siphoned away a lot of Nevada’s business, nabbing tourists with the lure of shorter driving distances and Vegas-esque facilities. But it isn’t really fair to get mad about that, since the Native Americans are just trying to grab back a piece of what was taken from them 150 years ago.
Indian gaming demonstrates that gambling has to do the same as any other business trying to survive the Great Recession: change. The sexiness I described above might no longer be enough by itself to draw visitors to Nevada. Heck, gambling could disappear altogether from TV commercials and brochures one day in favor of other gimmicks, or at most be a footnote. But Nevada wouldn’t be Nevada without it, even if something else takes its place as the state’s main attraction.
Maybe I’m totally wrong and gambling will dry up and blow away in the desert wind. When I’m old, I might be visiting a museum that features tables and chairs that used to be inside the Silver Legacy and I’ll say, “I remember when …” Perhaps gambling will be relegated to places like Dotty’s: small parlors in strip malls where old timers can sit at video poker machines in faux living rooms and gamble, smoke and drink away their remaining years like in the good old days. Wait a minute, I might have thought of a way to help pay my own mortgage. I have a living room I don’t use much.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to see if the Carano family wants to reopen the Silver Legacy at my house. My mortgage is a lot cheaper than theirs.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.