Casino once owned by Sinatra draws no bids at auction

Unable to find a buyer for the ailing Lake Tahoe casino once owned by Frank Sinatra, the resort's reluctant owner said it will keep the place open anyway.

The Cal Neva went up for sale Wednesday at dual courthouse auctions in Roseville and Reno, but there were no bids. The 83-year-old property lies in both California and Nevada, on Tahoe's north shore.

The failure of the auction means ownership remains with an affiliate of Los Angeles real estate investment firm Canyon Partners. Canyon foreclosed on the Cal Neva last month after its former owner, a beleaguered Los Angeles businessman named Ezri Namvar, defaulted on a $25 million loan.

"We're going to assess the property and its future," said Canyon spokesman Steve Sugerman. "We have no intention of closing it." He said Canyon will likely install new management soon; the Cal Neva has been run by a court-appointed receiver since February.

Yet Bill Eadington, a gaming expert at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the Cal Neva's future is clouded by a weak economy and other factors.

"It's not likely to be viable as a casino, not likely to be viable as a destination resort," said Eadington, who lives about a block from the Cal Neva.

Court records show the Cal Neva has been losing money. Tahoe's north shore has long been a weak casino market, and the recession has been devastating. Gaming revenue on the north shore fell 24 percent in February from a year earlier, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

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