New China Club
260 Lake Street
1952 - 1971
China Club
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection

Eric Cook
Grade 3

Mark Englebretson
Grade 3

Laurence Miller
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Frank Lonteen
Grade 2

Richard & Bev Siri
Grade 2

The New China Club at 260 Lake Street was formerly known as the Palm Club. In 1952 Bill Fong was granted a bar license at the location, and in August he applied for a gaming license. Fong was a Chinese businessman from Oakland, California.

His spokesperson was local realtor Helen Penny. In Fong's application, he stated that he wanted a club that would cater to Asian and African American customers. He admitted that he had been arrested several times in California for operating a Chinese lottery but that he had served all the time he had been sentenced to serve. He also stated that he and his wife had $32,000 in total assets and he would employ only experienced dealers. Fong was granted a license and opened with one craps game, one 21 game, and one keno game.

In 1952 and 1953 the casino showed good growth, and Fong opened another 21 game, 10 slot machines, and a chuck-a-luck game. In 1954 Fong took in his brother, Yee Fong, as an equal partner. In 1955 another 21 game was added. In 1956 Fong added another keno game to the New China Club making his casino one of the first to have two keno games on the property.

In September 1958 Fong announced the first of two major marketing events. Jesse Owens, a famous sports figure and gold medal winner in the 1936 Olympics was scheduled to participate in the first annual New China Club's Keno Queen contest. At 9:00 PM on September 26, twelve Keno Queen contestants were honored at a reception in the New China Club. On Saturday a parade formed at Lake Street and Commercial Row and continued from there down Virginia Street to California Avenue. The twelve queen contestants, each dressed in a formal gown, rode in convertibles. Jesse Owens was the parade marshall. On Sunday at noon in the New China Club, Jesse Owns, crowned the first Keno Queen, Mrs. Ruby Roberts of Oakland, California.

In October of 1958 the second big marketing event of the year was introduced when the New China Club announced that starting on December 1, the "World's First Craps Contest" would begin. The Grand Prize was to be a pair of oversized gold dice, studded with diamonds, plus $1500 in cash. The contest would include monthly prizes, and the finals were to be held in May 1959. The prize would be awarded to the player shooting the most consecutive passes.

In 1959 Bill Fong announced a scholarship plan similar to one that Raymond I. Smith had started many years earlier. Fong's plan was to send two high school graduates to the University of Nevada. The first two recipients of the scholarships were Don Hunt of Hawthorne and Betty Jones of Las Vegas.

In 1960 Bill Fong announced another major publicity gimmick. He sponsored a golf tournament with former heavy weight boxing champion Joe Louis as co-host and tournament director. The tournament, which garnered nationwide publicity for Bill Fong and the New China Club was a huge success.

In 1966 Fong introduced the game of fan-tan to the New China Club. It proved to be very popular with Asian customers, and in 1967 he added another Oriental game, pai-gow.

IN 1970, Allen Wu and Elwin Wu, half brothers of Fong, were licensed each for 13 percent of the New China Club.

On December 31, 1971, Bill Fong allowed the gaming license at the New China Club to expire, and the business closed. In June 1971 he had announced plans for a new high-rise casino-hotel on the site but he he never followed through with the plans.

In December 1972 Bill Fong went into business in the El Cortez Hotel, where he opened a bar and Chinese restaurant.

The building that housed the New China Club was razed in the 1980's and the site is currently a parking lot.

According to Dwayne Kling

Bew "Bill" Fong

Bill Fong was born on August 30, 1920, in Canton, China, and came to the United States in the late 1930s. In 1952 he came to Reno from Oakland. He purchased the old Palm Café at the corner of Lake Street and Commercial Row and reopened it as the New China Club, operating it for almost twenty years, from August 1952 to December 31, 1971.

Fong's New China Club served African American and Asian customers. Fong operated the first legal fan-tan and pai-gow games in the state. He also established the first local scholarships for African American students. He sent several students to the University of Nevada, including then national high-jump champion Otis Burrell. Fong also sponsored golf tournaments and other events that attracted several nationally known black athletes, including Jesse Owens and Joe Louis.

One year after closing the New China Club, Bill Fong opened a Chinese restaurant in the El Cortez Hotel. There were slot machines on the property but no table games.

Fong, a high-profile extrovert, was very active in promoting gaming in the entire Reno area, rather than only at the New China Club. He also founded and served as the first president of the Nevada Casino Association. He loved to gamble, and in his earlier days in Reno he was often seen betting the table limits in various casinos around town.

Bill Fong died in a local hospital on April 11, 1982, after a long illness.

According to Dwayne Kling