The Tahoe Mariner sits forlornly in this photo to your right. Situated on a small rise above the highway, the casino property went through a long progression of owners and name changes before Valley Bank of Nevada finally foreclosed on the casino in 1983.
Capy Ricks purchased the property in 1946 from Ed Malley’s real estate office. Malley had been at the lake for years, having sold his first property in 1922. As mentioned in Nevada’s Golden Age of Gambling, his largest buyer was George Whittel, a multimillionaire who eventually owned tens of thousands of acres at the lake, including nearly 27-miles of shore-front.
Capy Ricks was a more modest man, and built a friendly little club on the lot above Highway 28 at Crystal Bay and called it Capy Rix’s. Finished in 1947, the property was rustic compared to the beautiful Biltmore being completed next door. Wooden steps led from the dirt parking lot up to a wooden porch that spanned the length of the building.
A red and white awning along the path to the front door, along with umbrellas, gave the club a friendly, beach-resort look. Inside, a restaurant and gaming including roulette, craps, chuck-a-luck, and 21 were offered. A total of eleven slot machines were available for players, including Mills Jewel Bells and Buckley Criss Cross Bells.
In late 1948, Jimmy Hume and five partners purchased the club. Eventually, Hume bought out Jerry Cooper, Bucky Harris, Walter Melrose, and George Zouganilas. Harold Murphy (Hume’s stepfather) stayed on as the operations manager, and J. C. Jordan signed up to be the casino manager and a fifteen-percent owner. They ran the casino as the North Shore Club, and in 1969 the group purchased a small motel next door called the Vern Villa.
When the snow flew fiercely and the club closed for the winter, Hume would head for the Orient or go on safaris. Jordan went to other gaming area’s and especially liked London. Murphy passed away in 1970, and the club was sold to 26-year-old George Raymond Smith, son of Raymond I. “Pappy” Smith – the patriarch of Harold’s Club in Reno. Harold’s had just been sold to Howard Hughes, and George was anxious to make his own way in the gaming industry.
Jordon moved down to Reno and was a manager at Harold’s Club for seven years. George, after selling the North Shore Club, was a long-time manager at the Cal-Neva in Reno.
Chester Conrad and Al Banford purchased the North Shore club from George in 1974. They immediately remodeled, and nineteen more motel rooms were added. As a summer-season, only casino, the property ran profitably, if not overly successfully.
In 1979, Ray Plunkett purchased the casino and announced plans to expand. Plunkett had been at the lake for years and ran the first snowplow at Crystal Bay. He charged $6.50 an hour and helped the few clubs that stayed open during the winter survive the season. He spent the summer months working for Johnny Rayburn at the Buckhorn Inn and Restaurant, and then at the Ta-Neva-Ho, where he ran the “Bucket of Blood” bar.
Plunkett began building at the North Shore club by pouring a foundation for new hotel rooms, but financial problems and a fight with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency stopped construction. It Tahoe Mariner then sat vacant until 1983 when the property was foreclosed on.
After twenty years as a ghost casino, the property was finally torn down in 2000.
Thanks for reading – Al W. Moe