Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 12:28 UK

Roulette wheel stops spinning at former Rat Pack casino

Nevada casino once owned by Frank Sinatra
The casino once owned by Frank Sinatra has stopped operating in face of recession

The roulette wheel has stopped spinning and there is no more blackjack at Frank Sinatra's former casino.

Plunging numbers of gamblers mean operations have been halted at the Cal Neva Lodge, one of Nevada's most fashionable casinos in the early 1960s.

The venue was once popular with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, before the rise of the Las Vegas Strip.

Its owner hopes to reopen, but analysts fear the landmark attraction has seen the last throw of the dice.

Marilyn's final weekend

Gaming ceased this week at Sinatra's old resort, which straddles the Nevada-California border on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

The Cal Neva doesn't capture people's imagination the way it once did
Guy Rocha
Former Nevada state Archivist

The venue where Marilyn Monroe spent her last weekend before her death from a drug overdose in Los Angeles in 1962 has struggled in the face of recession and competition from Las Vegas and Indian reservations.

The small cabin where she stayed still stands, and is part of a tour offered by the resort.

But gambling revenues at Lake Tahoe casinos last year were about half of what they were in 1992, when corrected for inflation, according to William Eadington, economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"The realities are when you have that kind of decline the weakest operators typically get pushed out," Mr Eadington said. "The older, tired casinos - and the Cal Neva is a great example - don't have much to offer for gaming."

Sinatra owned the Cal Neva from 1960 to 1963 - during its heyday - drawing fellow Rat Pack members Martin, Davis and Peter Lawford, and stars such as Joe DiMaggio.

Mobsters and celebrities

Richard Bosworth, of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, said the Los Angeles-based financial institution that has owned the resort since last year has held discussions with gambling-licence holders interested in managing the casino.

The rest of the property, including restaurants and the showroom now named after Sinatra, would remain open, Mr Bosworth added.

"Ol' Blue Eyes" renovated the Cal Neva, adding the "celebrity showroom", where his showbiz friends would perform, and a helicopter pad on the roof.

Frank SInatra and Marilyn Monroe at the Cal Neva
Sinatra entertains Monroe at the Cal Neva Lodge as another guest looks on

He used tunnels to shuffle mobsters and celebrities beneath the resort so they would not be seen by ordinary guests and gamblers, said Carl Buehler, a bartender who leads tours at the resort. "This was one of the hottest casinos in Nevada when Frank owned it," Mr Buehler said.

Former Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha said he doubted whether the casino would be able to reopen because of the decline in Nevada's gambling business.

"People just aren't coming in the numbers to gamble like they used to," Mr Rocha said. "The Cal Neva doesn't capture people's imagination the way it once did."

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