Bill Harrah at Lake Tahoe


Harrah’s Tahoe – Opened in 1957

 Bill Harrah was already a successful casino operator in Reno when he expanded to Lake Tahoe. The expansion is a little confusing, because, over the years, the Harrah’s name graced both sides of Highway 50 at Stateline.

Hopping from spot to spot was a pattern Harrah had used in Reno, where he first set up shop at 124 N. Center Street, opening his first Nevada business on October 29, 1937, at the Owl Club. It wasn’t successful, but that didn’t stop him from opening another club the following summer. Over the next six years, Harrah had a half-dozen clubs, finally settling on Harrah’s Reno Club in 1945.

At Lake Tahoe, Harrah first purchased George Cannon’s Gateway Club, which was housed in an old Quonset Hut. It was located on the lakeside of the highway. It was upgraded to Harrah’s high standards and reopened for the 1955 summer crowd. The club included the original South Shore Room plus keno, roulette, craps and 21 and a parimutuel wheel (Big 8) and of course, plenty of slot machines.

Players had a choice of two bars, a snack bar, a 24-hour restaurant, and a premium booth, where slot players could redeem their premium points for gifts. Business was very good, and just two years later, Harrah purchased Sahati’s Stateline Country Club across the highway, on the mountain-side, which dated back to the 1930s. It opened as Harrah’s Tahoe in 1957.

A new and vastly expanded South Shore Room theatre-restaurant opened in late 1959. The new club had everything the club across the street had, plus a bingo room and a banquet hall called the Edgewood Room. An underground walkway was added in the 1960s, so players and employees could get across the highway without fighting the crowds of summer, or the snow and bitter cold of winter.

Harrah’s Club on the lake-side was eventually sold to Harvey Gross, builder of Harvey’s casino. Forty years later in a strange twist, Harrah’s purchased Harvey’s club and now the parent company owns both, once again.

A much more detailed history of Harrah’s clubs in Reno and Lake Tahoe is found in the book, Nevada’s Golden Age of Gambling. Just $3.99 for 180 pages of stories and photos from the good old days!

100-Pound Mountian Lion leaves Harrah’s Reno

Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy.

Actually, the lion had trouble negotiating the revolving door at Harrah’s casino on Virginia Street plaza and wandered over to an outdoor stage where it crawled underneath for safety. Police and emergency workers cordoned off the area and waited for officers from the Department of Wildlife to arrive. When they did, the animal was tranquilized before being taken away to be checked for injuries. Afterward, the animal was fitted with a GPS necklace.

Early Saturday morning the young lion was driven to Spooner Summit at Lake Tahoe and released a few miles from Highway 50 where it will have plenty of wild game to chase and more water available.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first lion in a Reno casino since the MGM had their signature lion downstairs available for photo shoots.

Thanks for reading – Al W Moe


Harrah’s Bingo Club 1960s

Bill Harrah first came to Reno in the 1936 and his businesses hopped around the block of Center Street several times after opening his first club in 1937. The first spot was at a bar previously called the Owl. After more successful ventures on Commercial Row and Virginia Street, Harrah’s casino straddled both sides of what became Lincoln Alley (remember that Fitzgerald guy?) so there were entrances on both main streets.

However, this little Bingo and Keno parlor shown above was located on the other side of Center Street, with the Club Cal-Neva directly across from it. Now, the location is the Cal-Neva’s parking garage. Kind of funny, since it’s nearly right where the Owl was 25-years earlier. Harrah’s became the largest owner of casinos in Nevada and later the world.

In other Reno news, Hot August Nights are in full swing, the hotels are full, the casinos are hopping, and old cruisers are be-bopping to 50’s music all over town. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but late at night while most of the revelers should be in bed, the poker games are cookin’. That’s always a good thing.

Thanks for reading – Al W Moe


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