After the dog fight

The Cal Neva Resort, on Lake Tahoe’s north shore, once was owned by Frank Sinatra. It is expected to reopen in February.

The picture of fighting dogs did get some criticism;however,  it is a very common metaphor –  “a dog-fight” – it is popular probably because it expresses the intensity of a fight between two dogs – a very dangerous and often lethal form of combat. And that is the imagine that I wanted to convey, the intensity of the fight for survival that characterizes the business environment in places during the Great Recession, in this case the competition between casinos fighting over customers as each struggles to find a way to survive.

In some places the fight is over and the dead dogs hauled away or almost.  The Sacramento Bee carried a story today about the Cal-Neva in Crystal Bay, Lake Tahoe.  According to Dale Kasler of the Bee, the Cal-Neva is going to reopen its casino in February.  Well, kind of, the owners of Baldini’s Casino in Sparks are going to put a few, 12 or so, slot machines in the property.  A kind of test, if the business justifies more then they will add a few more a bit at a time in keeping with the business.

The Cal-Neva has had its successful and even glorious times, lots; but in the last 30 years or so  a series of managers with troubled pasts and difficulty with Nevada gaming regulators have tarnished its image and limited its successes.  The down hill course has also been a long slow slide for the casino.  In the last 20 years its most successful business was weddings, not gambling.  And now, all of Lake Tahoe gambling is really challenged, surrounded as it is by Indian casinos in California and more modern casinos in Reno, Carson City and Gardnerville.  Business on the North Shore where the Cal-Neva sits is down 30 percent in the last 4 years.  Not much reason for hope, but that is why the fighting dogs is a good metaphor and a good visual image of the intensity of the fight – the Cal-Neva and its neighbors, particularly on the North Shore, are smaller and weaker than the competition and the competition is ripping them apart.  So from being the home of Frank Sinatra, the Rat-Pack and the Mob, the Cal-Neva is now going to be home to fewer slot machines than the average grocery store in Reno.  A very long fall from grace – oops I mixed my metaphors.

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December 2010
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