Living on land – eating in the sea

The marine iguana lives in the Galapagos islands and is unique among its kind – it get its food under the surface of the sea.  It dives from the rocks where it sits to warm up before making the cold dives down as far as 50 feet and lasting up to 30 minutes before being forced by its body temperature to return to surface to warm up again. No one is quite sure how the iguanas and other lizards got the the Galapagos, but get there they did.  Like all of the animals, birds and vegetation on the islands finding the food and territory necessary for survive on a Galapagos island is a challenge.  All species have been forced in adapting and becoming specialized – so, for example, finches evolved into 13 different species each eating differently from the others.  The marine iguana apparently got tired of the struggle and simply jumped into the water to find food.  In the process (and one would assume over tens of thousands of years) it had to develop specialized coloring, breathing and swimming physiology – the only lizard on earth to accomplish the task.  But the marine iguana survives and apparently thrives in its specialized way – it lives and breeds on land, but eats from the sea.

In Reno we are watching the evolution of a homegrown gaming variety of the marine iguana; the Club Cal-Neva.  The Cal-Neva has been a fixture in downtown Reno for nearly 50 years under the current ownership.  In an earlier era it feed off tourists from the other casinos, hotels and motels in town, but it also had a very successful local business driven by cheap food, loose slots and good odds on any wager.  Over time the tourist business in Reno dropped off dramatically and the tourist that remained were for the most part locked inside the mega-casinos complexes.  The majority of the local customers too stopped going downtown and stayed in the neighborhoods  to play in casinos that now dot the residential sections of the city. The Cal-Neva’s business at it downtown casino isn’t all gone, but it is certainly dramatically reduced.  However, like the iguana, the Cal-Neva simply jumped into the water looking for food and taking its successful and popular sportsbook on the road – today that is about 31 different casinos in the state have a sportsbook run by the Club Cal-Neva.

The evolution has been underway for at least 10 years, but today a little notice in the Mesquite News caught my eye  and reminded my just has far it has gone – the Club Cal-Neva is opening a sportsbook in Mesquite.  According to the story it will be the 32nd Cal-Neva book in the state; the majority are in northern Nevada, but it is expanding its presence in southern Nevada as well. Like the iguana it is learning to dive deeper for its food; but also like the Galapagos Marine Iguana it still lives on the rocky shores of the island – and downtown Reno has very much become an island with a specialized population of its own as it drifts slowly away from the residential neighborhoods.  The downtown island is still important to the Cal-Neva financially and it is a relatively safe place to rest and prepare for the next dive.  Over time the Cal-Neva may not need as much land territory as it once needed, but having a unique food source certainly will help it survive when 20 other casinos that once feed on the same mix of tourists and locals in downtown Reno have gone the way of the dodo bird. Living like the marine iguana could easily see the Cal-Neva through another 50 years, it certainly works for the iguana.


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