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Best of Star Brooks

Gaming Guru

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The Great Reno Balloon Race

7 September 2001

Every year, this event just gets bigger and better.... and I try my hardest to find reason to get down to Reno.... to see the skies full of magnificent hot air balloons in every shape and size. They lift off from Rancho San Rafael Park and always.... have what they call "The Dawn Patrol" where the balloons lift off before dawn and take turns lighting up as they ignite the burners.... it is something that will leave you totally awestruck. The balloons also race across the skies.... another must see on the list..... gamble all night, and gaze at these incredible beauties come daybreak!

Also coming up this weekend.... the Camel Races in Virginia City..... y'know.... the town where all the Cartwright's of T.V.'s Bonanza hung out. Not only are there camel races, there are also ostrich and water buffalo races. If you have never been to Virginia City.... you just have to make a day of it and GO! Complete with all the historical buildings.... and the boardwalk, there are places to sit and just absorb.... and of course.... gamble a little.... with names like "The Bucket of Blood Saloon," and museums, and mine tours, and a narrow-gauge railroad to ride. It is an experience that you can also take your whole family to.... grab yourself some fudge, tour the vintage shops..... it is an experience that will leave you talking about it for years and years and years to come. Not a Knott's Berry Farm replica.... the spirit of the Comstock Mining Era (Silver and Gold) lives on.. Virginia City sits on top of a mountain between Reno and Carson City.... with roads leading to both.... and is at an altitude of 6000'.

Also coming to Reno/Sparks next weekend.... The National Championship Air Races out at the Stead Airport.... which is the world's longest-running air races. This year it will include jets for the first time ever.... and you can view military and historical aircraft displays, and of course, there are the aerobatics displays..... you just can't have enough fun in Reno at this time of year.... all the casinos, all the activities.... so much to see and do.... and of course... so much to win!

Last week I mentioned the new Regis' Cash Club slot progressives at Caesars Tahoe.... and wondered myself why I didn't see any appearing at the other casinos.... and found out on Friday morning that Park Place Entertainment properties have an exclusive deal on the slots for the next eight months. Guess that explains that! I also noticed that the three quarter version of "Slingo" is a progressive slot bank.... right now just over $101,000. Hey, it isn't chump change.... that's for sure.... but if you have ever watched the meters fly on the quarter version of "Wheel of Fortune" slots.... it pales by comparison. WOF is the only game that can climb hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 24-hour period. Incredible!

Heard on the casino floor at the Horizon Casino in Lake Tahoe.... they have reportedly purchased the old Maxim property in Las Vegas recently.... and they already own Lighthouse Point Casino in Greenville, Mississippi.... which is a fixed riverboat casino.

Also heard, the development of more Tribal casinos in Northern California.... particularly in the area north of Sacramento... This is a rising threat to the business in both Reno and Lake Tahoe, as the Tribal casinos are licensed for at least 2000 slot machines each, and feature games that are hard to come by, especially in Lake Tahoe, like live poker games, and Bingo.

Harrah's Lake Tahoe is closing their sports book, nobody knows what they will use that space for, but with the recent acquisition of Harveys.... they got themselves one exceptionally large and popular Race and Sports Book..... it wouldn't be feasible to keep both open. Now, you can go into Harveys and hear the PA system announcing the details of Harrah's 15 restaurants. It is really quite strange, since Bill Harrah and Harvey Gross were always competitive, and some sources claim that spirit of competition wasn't always as friendly as it is currently billed to have been! Conversations around town usually debate as to who is spinning faster in his grave.

Labor Day brought the masses to Lake Tahoe.... there were the sternwheeler's racing across the lake on Saturday, and the fireworks over the lake on Sunday night.... people packing the casinos, testing their luck on the new slots.... people packing their newly acquired bankrolls.... And for the first time in what seemed like a very long time.... there was an absence of the dreaded smoke from the clean mountain air. While the last fire, the "Star" fire is still burning, the wind has pushed the smoke in a different direction.... The fire is in a desolate area of wilderness and is not threatening structures or interfering with traffic.... though I hear there still is a smoky haze over Interstate 80 leading to Reno from California, it is at least not a choking hazy mass of soot that it was.