Photo Courtesy (William Pettite)
The last time I posted, there was a lot of snow around my car. No more than there was in the picture of the old Christmas Tree casino at Mt. Rose in Reno, but a lot. It’s 107 degrees in Scottsdale, Arizona right now. I’m comfortable.
In the picture above, June Abelman is throwing a snowball at Nick Abelman, owner of the small casino and restaurant in the 1940s. Nick was a long-time casino owner in Northern Nevada, having started his career in Goldfield and Tonopah, several hundred miles south. He passed on Las Vegas completely, never interested in the town because it didn’t have gold mines.
Abelman’s career as a Nevada Gaming Pioneer is chronicled in The Roots of Reno, which tells the story of Northern Nevada casino owners like Bill Graham, Jim McKay, George Wingfield, how they operated their establishments, and how they changed casino gambling in the state of Nevada.
What’s interesting about Nick is that he almost always used a simple handshake to seal his business deals. He often carried $10,000 or more on his person just in case he came across a businessman in need of a quick partner, and once loaned a South Lake Tahoe casino manager $100,000 for the weekend so he could prove to his boss that the club still had plenty of cash to run on. Nick received a 10% fee for the three-day loan. Nice!
In the 1940s, when walking from his home on California Ave. in Reno with his nephew, William Pettite, Nick liked to hand $50 bills to the passerby’s he knew to be old friends or gaming customers from his Reno clubs like the Waldorf and Riverside casinos. That’s pretty nice.
Thanks for reading – Al W Moe