Monday, June 4, 2012

Boom And Bust

Nothing's ever easy - that's a lesson I learn at least once every few weeks.

Take this weekend past. Steppen Stonz had a good weekend up at Boomtown in Verdi. Nothing spectacular, but solid. This time around, we had steady crowds both nights, a lot of our regulars. We got good tips again, averageing out to about $20 a man for the weekend. We got lots of good remarks from casino management, and I was asked by the suits when we'd be back. I honestly wouldn't know that - as I told one pit boss, that was information way above my pay grade.

But getting ready to play Saturday night, I noticed something that could only be considered a bad omen. While I was checking my pads and triggers, making sure that all my connections were sure and they were all registering with their module, I saw two gentlemen walking about the casino floor, one taking copious amounts of pictures of the cabaret area with a cellphone, while the other talked about putting things here and there. These gentlemen clearly fit the profile of people who were about to purchase the place, confirming what Mikey had said the night before over breakfast at the Denny's inside Boomtown, that the casino was about to be sold to new owners.

Ownership changes in casinos never bode well for bands here in Northern Nevada. The last time Boomtown changed hands (to its current owners), among the first things they did was to not only cancel all live entertainment, but to tear out the previous cabaret, and move the sportsbook into its place. That said, they did rectify that (IMO) mistake, and while the cabaret area is only portable staging and flooring, it's still in a good location with good sound and lights. The truth is that this happens all over the area, as new owners suddenly realize that casinos require a lot of capital, and seemingly the first thing to get cut from the budget to save money is live entertainment. And the process has been ongoing for decades now. Back in the old days, the largest casinos had live orchestras, and the musicians were unionized, and the union was strong. But as the first generation of casino operators gave way to corporate owners from far away, the union was broken, and smaller bands took the place of the orchestras. Now the bands are being replaced by DJ's and karaoke hosts - if anything at all. I look around, and see how few people on the circuit are even my age, let alone younger than me (Miguel notwithstanding), and I wonder sometimes if I'm the last of my generation.

And sometimes I wonder about the newest generation of casino owners. The phrase I keep hearing over and over is 'Vegas-style'. 'Vegas-style gaming'. 'Vegas-style attractions'. There's just one problem with 'Vegas-style':

This isn't Las Vegas.

The biggest difference? Here in Reno, you don't have to stay inside because of 120-degree heat. Even when the temperatures hit triple-digits here, there's a nice cool river to play in. There's a nice cool lake just a short drive away that's usually a good ten to twenty degrees cooler than the Truckee Meadows. Then there's the audience itself. More gamblers here are older, and they generally don't respond well to late-night 'party pits' where the dealers are pretty girls in sexy costumes that dance as much as they deal blackjack. Not a lot of younger people (as in my age and younger) gamble that much here, there are just a lot of other things to do here than just stay indoors and gamble. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to be a part of those 'Vegas-style attractions'. That'd mean stable, longer-running shows that pay better, right?

Oh well.

And karma being the bitch that it is, I got back to Sun Valley to resume living in my trailer for a few weeks of personal business (and maybe a fill-in gig this weekend - who knows?) before going home, and I promptly left my truck's headlights on. And only came to realize this about ten hours later. I got my truck jump-started, but the battery is weaker than a sick kitten, even with the solar trickle-charger I have. Hopefully, Michelle and Bill's friend Frank will come through with the battery charger Michelle says he has.

Like I said before, nothing's ever easy. And more often than not, I'm no help making it any easier.

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