Kings’ Inn Sells after 35 Years of Being Deserted and Abandoned

Forty years ago, Reno was in the midst of a casino boom. Within a few years, the MGM Grand opened along with the Comstock Hotel, Riverboat, Sahara Reno, Sundowner, Virginian, Peppermill, Atlantis, Silver Legacy, Circus Circus and Kings Inn. Sadly, there were not enough local customers or tourists for all of those new casinos. The situation became worse as gaming spread all over the West Coast and the number of tourists visiting Reno continually decreased.

The decline in tourists and increased competition between casinos forced many casinos to close their doors during the 1980s and 90s. Let me read the names of the dead to you: the Comstock, Riverboat, Sahara Reno, Sundowner, Virginian, Horseshoe, Mapes, Riverside, Onslow, Money Tree, Harold’s Club, Fitzgerald’s, Colonial Inn, Nevada Club, Silver Spur, Ponderosa, Old Reno Casino, Overland, Palace Club, Pioneer Inn, the Reno Ramada and Kings Inn. That would be old news, except for the sale of the Kings Inn. Since 1982, the building has been empty, decaying and considered a blight in downtown Reno, it was only open 7 years. For me, the Kings Ins is a symbol of all the broken dreams of its era. When the Kings Inn closed, gaming in Reno was already in the process of changing dramatically, but the trends were hard to see day to day.

A friend of mine tells the story of learning to see the trend in personal terms. Each year the casino he, and a small group of his friends owned, borrowed money in the fall to see it through the winter. Winters are tough in Reno, storms close the highways and Californians would rather stay home or ski. Most casinos in Reno borrowed money to survive the winter, including the famous Harrah’s Club. Each spring my friend’s casino paid back the loan and over the summer tried to accumulate as much cash as possible for the coming winter. It was never enough. In 1990, in the wake of a devastating flood that had closed the casino for a week, he was talking to his lawyer and explaining the process of borrowing for the winter. The coming winter would be more difficult because the revenue lost due to the flood would put them very far behind schedule.

The lawyer listened patiently and then asked, “So what is going to change? What is going to make things better and break that cycle?” My friend was stunned. Of course, the lawyer was right, but he had never thought of it. Each year he worked hard just to stay on the treadmill; he always hoped things would magically get better. Now he realized they never would, so my friend and his partners decided to close the casino. The casino closed in the aftermath of the flood, but it did not close because of the flood. It closed because it could never make money in Reno’s declining gaming market.

The sale of the Kings Inn reminded me of the casinos that have closed since I started to work in Reno. It reminded me of the high hopes we had in 1978 when we opened the Comstock. And it reminded me of the optimism everyone felt in Reno and in the casino industry. All of the other closed casinos have been torn down or repurposed. Only the Kings Inn has found no other purpose. Maybe now it will. Reno is moving on and it needs something different to inhabit that empty lot of the Kings Inn, something that brings a new hope.

The Kings Inn, the long-abandoned hotel-casino that has come to symbolize downtown Reno blight, has been sold to a Las Vegas developer. …Ruffin said Bengochea’s plans for the Kings Inn property are still being developed, but said they likely include some kind of residential component. Anjeanette Damon, Las Vegas Sun, 7-15-14

The eight-story Kings Inn, a decades-long symbol of blight on the downtown Reno skyline, has been sold…After months of labor strike delays, the Kings Inn Motor Hotel & Casino opened in late 1974 with 167 rooms, restaurant and bars, swimming pool and convention and banquet facilities, all at a cost of $6.5 million. In 1975, the property added a dozen table games as well as more than 150 slot machines. In June 1981, amid disputes among its owners, the property entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. A year later, it was bought in a foreclosure auction for $3.95 million and the casino closed as part of the auction…Foote said he’d like to see more varied use of downtown property, including residential buildings and office hives such as those popping up along nearby Startup Row. “The tide is flowing in a positive direction,” Gary Foote said. “But there’s a lot more to be done.” Anjeanette Damon/ Bill O’Driscoll, Reno Gazette-Journal, 7-16-14


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