Donald Louis Carano, founder of Eldorado Resorts Inc., passed away peacefully on October 3, 2017 surrounded by his family. He was 85 years young.
A pioneer in the gaming, law and wine industries, Mr. Carano was also an entrepreneur, hotelier, restaurateur, husband, father and grandfather. Don is celebrated as a family-oriented, passionate leader in his many businesses, including: Eldorado Resorts, Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, and the McDonald Carano law firm. He was also known throughout his life as a longtime supporter of philanthropic endeavors in both Reno and his wine country home in Geyserville, Alexander Valley, CA.
A second-generation Italian-American, Don was born in Reno on October 17, 1931. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of San Francisco, followed by two years as an Officer in the United States Army.
Returning to USF, Don graduated with honors from USF Law School and began his law practice in Reno. He was a founding member of the prestigious McDonald Carano law firm and was proud to maintain an “of counsel” relationship with the firm until his passing.
In 1967, Don became a partner in the Boomtown Casino with his friends Bob Cashell and Bob McDonald. In 1972, he became a co-owner of the Pioneer Inn on Virginia Street. along with long-time partner and friend, Jerry Poncia, and colleague John Lazovich.
His true legacy began in 1973 when he opened the Eldorado Hotel Casino, the first major casino to open on Virginia Street north of the railroad tracks. At that time, many considered this to be an extremely daring venture, but ultimately it was one that changed the profile of gaming in northern Nevada.
In 1993, Don, in partnership with Mandalay Resorts / MGM Resorts, announced the opening of the Silver Legacy, the first mega-themed resort in Reno.
Today, Don leaves behind a thriving Eldorado Resorts family legacy, with 19 properties in 10 states and over 14,000 team members.
Don Carano believed that good things come from working together as a team and with a family spirit which is reflected in everything the Eldorado brand represents – integrity, service and quality. His business ventures were anchored by his strong belief in teamwork and family values.
His community contributions have been recognized with many honors, including the International Gaming and Wagering Business Hall of Fame, Nevada Food and Beverage Directors Association Man-of-the-Year Awards, the American Lung Association Distinguished Community Service Award, Hotelier of the Year Award, “Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic” by the Consul General of Italy, University of San Francisco Law School’s Alumnus of the Year, International Restaurant and Hospitality Rating Bureau’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the WIBC Gladys M. Banker Friendship Award and more. In 2017, the University of Nevada recognized Mr. Carano as a Distinguished Nevadan.
With the Eldorado’s emphasis on fine dining, Don and his wife Rhonda, his life-long partner in love and in business, fell in love with Sonoma County on visits to sample California wines for Eldorado restaurants. His love for the land in northern California, the vineyards, and winemaking forever changed the course of his life.
After taking classes in winemaking and producing small lots of wine from their home ranch in Alexander Valley, the Carano’s purchased additional land in Sonoma County and founded Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in 1981.
Today, Ferrari-Carano is a household name among wine lovers throughout the U.S. The Carano family owns 24 sustainably-farmed estate ranches comprising over 1,900 vineyard acres in six appellations of northern California. Don explained, “After we bought the initial parcel, the wine bug bit us, so over the years we continue to acquire different properties.”
In 2000, the Carano’s bought the boutique Vintners Inn hotel and the legendary John Ash & Co. Restaurant in Healdsburg, CA. In 2008, they acquired Lazy Creek Vineyards, a winery known for its pinot noirs in Anderson Valley, after becoming enchanted with its rustic beauty that reminded them of their first visits to the North Bay, nearly 40 years earlier.
Don Carano is survived by his wife Rhonda, his five children Gary, Gene, Glenn, Gregg and Cindy, 11 grandchildren, six great grandchildren and the entire Eldorado Resorts family.