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Baldini’s casino turns 25
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Jan 21, 2014 | 1049 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, left, celebrates with Barry Phillips, Baldini's Casino general manager, Tuesday afternoon after Martini declared the day 'Baldini's Casino Day' in honor of the property's 25th anniversary in Sparks.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, left, celebrates with Barry Phillips, Baldini's Casino general manager, Tuesday afternoon after Martini declared the day 'Baldini's Casino Day' in honor of the property's 25th anniversary in Sparks.
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It was an inside joke based on an “Italianized” version of ‘Baldwin’ that named Baldini’s Casino 25 years ago, and the casino was filled with regular local customers and upper management Tuesday afternoon as Sparks Mayor Geno Martini deemed January 21 Baldini’s Casino Day.

The casino celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2014 as a viable local casino with more than 500 slot machines, two restaurants and bars and more than 200 employees. Before toasting a glass of champagne with Baldini’s Vice President and General Manager Barry Phillips, Martini said Tuesday afternoon that the casino has invested in and paid back the Sparks community.

“I love it when local places like this help make a difference in the community, and Baldini’s has done a great job for a lot of years,” Martini said. “It’s a great locals’ place and it is wonderful when businesses like this make investments in the City of Sparks.”

Tuesday was just a portion of a 90-day celebration where Baldini’s will “rollback” on food and drink prices to reflect 1989, and Phillips said the casino will be giving back more than $1 million during the next few months through giveaways and drawings. He said the celebration was “big” for the casino and added that it has been a staple in the community for some time.

“We are entrenched in Sparks and we have been for 25 years,” he said. “It’s a great little property and it’s just the right size to not be intimidating to the gamer, but big enough where you have variety to play a lot of different games and meet a lot of different people.

“A lot of these kinds of casinos began as convenient stores like us and just blossomed into a great place for locals.”

The property where Baldini’s stands today was purchased in 1962 by Don Baldwin and started as a two-pump gas station and convenience store, according to a release by the casino. The business expanded to include a buffet, slot machines and another restaurant operating as the 'Shy Clown.'

The property exchanged hands a couple of times before landing back in Baldwin’s hands and opening in 1989 as Baldini’s Sports Casino after a little help from Baldwin's “Italian friends.”

In 2008, Baldini’s was purchased by partners Grant and Ladd Lincoln, Stan and Sheldon Feist, Charlie Skinner, Jeff Kendrick, Rick Heaney and Craig Soper, who all continue to own the property today.

The ownership group chose Phillips to run the day-to-day operations at Baldini’s in January 2013 and Phillips said much has changed on the property since. He included casino floor improvements and promotional changes as some of the biggest alterations, and he said keeping things running smoothly mirrors a “three-horse race” among employees, guests and ownership.

“You are basically a host when you are a general manager at one of these properties,” Phillips said. “Employees always seem to be at the top of the list and one day they are first in the race, but on another day it might be the employees and owners who drop back and I am focusing more on our guests. Those three horses are always important in this business and I am always juggling them.”

Phillips spent eight years as manager at Rail City Casino in Sparks and said that he enjoys the role of the “casino of convenience,” focusing on daily traffic rather than “filling hotel rooms on the weekend.” Though Phillips admits he, and most Reno-area casinos, have plenty of challenges, Baldini’s is coming off a “record quarter” and he hopes to have continually more locals wander the casino floor during the 25th anniversary celebration.

“You want to provide that great service seven days a week whether you have 50 people in your building or 2,000 people,” Phillips said. “It is very difficult. On this property, because it is a casino of convenience, we know a lot of our guests have been coming here a long time. A lot of them come here 30 days a month and this is their recreational activity.

“A lot of seniors love this place and it gives them something to do and it is a social experience to get out in their community. They can be here and interacting, and that is kind of what we are a sort of social club.”
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