Local Casino Celebrates 25 Years Today - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Local Casino Celebrates 25 Years in Business

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Today (Tuesday), surrounded by cake and champagne, it was proclaimed "Baldini's Day" by Sparks Mayor Geno Martini. 25 years. But the story goes back further than that…back to the Shy Clown Casino beginning in 1974, home of the "baron of beef, all you can eat for $1.99".

The Shy Clown mascot was a red-nosed cowboy with 70's hair and a very tall hat. Why name a casino the "Shy Clown?" Baldini's Marketing Director Pete McHugh said, "It just sounded good. You know, you'd tell someone you're going to the Shy Clown, and it was something you wanted to check out."

And check it out, they did.

The Urban-Cowboy-city slickers-wearing-Stetsons fad turned it into the hottest spot in Sparks. Baldini's bartender Cathy Bent remembers those days: "There were a lot of fights, a lot of bar fights. It really was the Wild Wild West." Bartender Jackie Elliot called it, "All Western, all fun, all excitement and a lot of partying."

It was one wild place back in the day…the home of nice boots, cold beer, "Wrangler butts drive me nuts" and the mechanical bucking bull, which used to be right where the slot promotions counter is now. The Shy Clown had a 7 year run. The Urban Cowboy fad wound down, but the lack of hotel rooms really did it in. They building is right in the airport's flight path. As Cathy Bent told us, "When the planes land they have their landing gear out, so we really don't have that option."

So in 1981 the doors closed…for eight long years. Finally, in 1989, it reopened as Nevada's first-ever "sports casino," later simplified to just "Baldini's." Today, it's spruced up from the old days…with still that western character. What keeps it real? As Cathy Bent put it, "We have the longevity of our locals and we have developed into a family."

Cathy is right. There behind the bar for 24 years now, lately she's been the shoulder to cry on for 49ers fans. We watched as one customer told her, "In the end, I thought they wasted some time outs..." Across the casino floor, bartender Jackie Elliot has been at Baldini's for 25 years. As she told us, "We've grown up together. I've been growing up with the people coming in, so it's that relationship that we have."

-written by John Potter

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