Surprisingly, the first of Nevada’s big casinos was not in Vegas at all in its northern counterparts, Reno, “the biggest small city in the world.” This casino was Harolds Club.
The year was 1937. The game was still a product of the wild west. The casinos were honky-tonk and dark seats, their floors covered with sawdust and lack at the spittoon. Fistfights were not rare and gunfights were not unknown. The clientele was unsavory and all of it was not exactly male, a spot with a lot of out-of-town draws and certainly no place for ladies. Raymond Smith, founder and one could say “the inventor” of the Harolds club, all changed this. In the first year of his administration he successfully made-up his institution in the twentieth century, modernizing its facilities, lighting up its façade at night, installing the plate-glass windows out to face so that people could look in and see that this casino at least was not the devil’s den. Mr. Smith, an ex-carnival barker and a man with a taste for shaking, then raised more eyebrows not only by allowing women in his play emporium, but by inviting them and, at the same time, taking them as traders, an equally act impiously in this macho community.
This was just the beginning. The advertisement was Mr. Fort of the Smith. He started running a roulette game with a mouse like a ball and numbered mouse-holes for the wheel. After came fireworks displays, parades through the city center, outstanding releases of helium balloons float, tattooed with club insignia. More than twenty million club matches were printed. Seven hundred and fifty one-armed bandits were installed, more than one-fifteenth of all slot machines in Nevada. The dimensions of the casino itself have been expanded, with a wild west museum built at the Smith Collection of the house of Western memorabilia and five salons built nearby,
Of all the prowess he never launched by Mr. industrious. Smith, however, his “piece de resistance” was the billboard blitz on the shoreline. Why limit his reputation to the local gentry, to the promoted wily promoter. Why not plant our moniker in the minds of every living American, the Connecticut Yankee and the Southern Belle, as well as the western dude? After all, four out of five of the five thousand people a day visiting the Harolds club are out-of-towners. Why not take advantage of this fact? By the time the Second World War comes and gone there is a chain of more than four thousand signs stretching from Miami to Fairbanks, each describing a covered wagon full of grotesquely designed pioneers, one of whom says aloud to the spectator that for him is “club or Harold’s bust.” To this day, several teams of construction engineers are kept busy across the country which erects these incredible contributions to pop culture. And what’s more, they work. Since the Harolds 1946 club has been the most successful and highly patronized casino in the world.