Reno is on a roll. "The greatest little city in the world", as this gambling cross-roads in the north-west of Nevada first billed itself, has long been eclipsed by Las Vegas. Now it has picked itself up thanks to a surprising diversion: ten-pin bowling.

Americans' passion for bowling goes on without attracting much attention just because it is so ordinary. It was an inspired stroke by Reno city planners to build a national stadium, within bowling distance of the casinos. This high-tech stadium, with 80 bowling lanes (imagine 80 cricket pitches in a row), now hosts the American bowling championships for both sexes. It will produce two million room-nights for Reno hotels over the next decade, and add $1bn to the local economy.

The centre of Reno contains a cluster of big casinos which blaze out their attractions in a dazzle of glitz and neon. Now in a new development, the casino complex has, literally, crossed to the wrong side of the tracks, and moved north. Among the new properties, the new Silver Legacy is among the best-designed casinos I have ever seen. In the centre of the gaming floor, a huge replica of a mining shaft chunters away, under a painted sky which changes colour from dawn to dusk. (Silver mining in Nevada these days is only a romantic memory, supplanted by nuclear testing.) The Silver Legacy's frontier-modern decor is all glossy wood and shiny brass, under multi-coloured tiffany lamps.

Reno is never going to challenge Vegas. But as a gambling resort four hours' drive from San Francisco, and 40 minutes from the skiing at Lake Tahoe, it has its own appeal. The poker, however, is not up to much. The games are low-level hold 'em and seven-card stud, which help pass the time for blue-collar retirees and off-duty casino employees. All the action has moved across to the card rooms of California, where a new arrival is Ladbroke's poker club at San Pablo, just outside San Francisco. This is a big, friendly card room, whose pop-Spanish design contrasts with its mainly Asian clientele. Well worth a visit.