Blue Skies Are Bad News in Tahoe

Several winter months without snow have taken a financial toll on the Lake Tahoe casino industry. The fair weather has kept some vacationers from coming to the resort community. And California gaming halls are also siphoning business.

Analyst: Too much product for the populace

Lake Tahoe casinos have seen a dismal winter, with gaming revenues falling by double-digit rates between December and February. The downfall was due in part to a third straight winter of subpar snowfall for the ski industry, reported the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Since 2004, the casino community has experienced a nearly 39 percent decline in revenues at South Shore properties and a 34 percent drop at the north end, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Even so, and despite competition from tribal casinos in California, some operators in the vicinity are looking forward to a good 2014.

Criswell-Radovan, owner of the historic Cal Neva Resort Spa & Casino, plans to reopen the property later this year following a “multimillion-dollar” renovation.

The Hyatt Regency, which invested $20 million in the Incline Village resort in 2012, has recently completed $3.6 million in upgrades. Investors Jon and David Park closed the 539-room Horizon on the South Shore and plan to spend millions on renovations. Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, a Caesars Entertainment property, has recently upgraded 450 slot machines and will do some spring sprucing up as well.

But Reno gaming analyst Ken Adams says the market may simply be too crowded for everyone to survive and thrive. “There hasn’t been any really good news at Tahoe for a long time,” he told the Gazette-Journal. Adams was concerned about Caesars’ recent, abrupt decision to close its Harrah’s Tunica in Mississippi.

“They simply just closed it. Too much product,” Adams said. “I anticipate that could happen at Tahoe. There’s way too much product there. I don’t think anyone will do well there unless there’s less product.”

John Hernstat is more optimistic. The Grand Hyatt’s director of sales and marketing said the property’s convention facility helped get it through the snowless ski season.

“It’s been a challenging winter, but we’ve had a good group of convention business. That was very helpful for us,” he said.