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August 27, 2014

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Declining Harrah’s resort in Reno wins cut in tax assessments

Harrah’s in Reno is in bad shape and it won a reduction in its taxable value from the state Board of Equalization today.

But it’s far short of what the hotel-casino sought.

The Washoe County’s Assessor’s Office set the value at $20.5 million, and the board — after three deadlocked votes — put the taxable value at $16.2 million. Harrah’s suggested the value at $8.8 million, said Mark Stafford of the assessor’s office.

John Knott, a consultant for Harrah’s, told the board the 928-room hotel was not in good condition and it would take $19 million to make needed improvements.

He said the property reflects the decline in the Reno market, which has been dropping for 10 years, partly due to the advent of the Indian casinos.

The property can’t generate the $19 million for the upgrade and he thinks Caesars Entertainment, the parent company, would sell it for $8 million.

Stafford, an appraiser for the assessor’s office, said comparable sales of hotel-casinos in the Reno area show the value of the downtown property at $20.5 million.

The equalization board had a difficult time deciding on the value. Board member Benjamin Johnson suggested the value put on by the assessor’s office be upheld. But the commission deadlocked on a 2-2 vote with member Alleen Martin agreeing with Johnson.

Board member Keith Harper then suggested the value be lowered to $11.2 million. Chairman Dennis Meservy agreed with him. But that failed on a 2-2 vote. Another motion by Harper to drop the value to $13.9 million again resulted in a 2-2- deadlock.

Johnson then made the successful motion of putting the value at $16.2 million, which passed on a 3-1 vote with Harper dissenting.

Knott, who identified himself as a consultant who has handled more casino sales than anyone else, said at one point the company even suggested giving it away because it is losing money. But that was never pursued.

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