Horseshoe Club
229 North Virginia Street
1956 - 1988
Horseshoe
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection




Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 3

Charles Davis
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Don Boyer
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Michael Richter
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

John Stapleton
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Don Boyer
Grade 2

Jim Bothwell
Grade 2

Don Boyer
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Don Boyer
Grade 2

Don Boyer
Grade 2

The Horseshoe Club opened in October 1956. Over the years, there were five different owner/management teams, but other than two occasions when the Horseshoe was closed because of bankruptcies, the business operated as a gambling casino at the same location for almost forty years.

The Horseshoe was the second casino to open on the west side of Virginia Street (the Primadonna Club opened there in 1955). Prior to 1955 gambling was not permitted on that side of the street.

In March 1956 Elmer "Baldy" West, Bernie Einstoss, and Brad Hewins began negotiating for the purchase of Patterson's Clothier's and the Monarch Café. Negotiations were soon completed, and in June 1956 construction began on the Horseshoe.

The Horseshoe was tentatively scheduled to open on Labor Day weekend, and on August 24 the casino was approved for licensing by the state. The licensees and their percentages were: Elmer West, 31 percent of the $600,000 casino; Bernie Einstoss, 16 percent; Brad Hewins, 8 percent; Tom Beko, 8 percent; Frank Grannis, 7 percent; Jim Powers, 6 percent; Ben Hill, 5 percent; Irene Marich, 5 percent; Gerald Cooper, 5 percent; Andrew Desimone, 4 percent; William Rogers, 2 percent; Fred Cavendish, 2 percent; and Pat Kelly, bar manager, 1 percent. The Horseshoe was licensed for 176 slot machines, one roulette game, two craps games, and six 21 games.

The Horseshoe actually opened on October 25, 1956. The president of the corporation was Elmer West. Bernie Einstoss was vice-president, and Brad Hewins was secretary-treasurer. The club's motto was "Fun, Food and Fortune." The interior décor was based on a horseshoe theme, and the carpeting was designed with thousands of red horseshoes scattered on a black background.

In December 1956 William Pappas, long-time Reno gambling figure, purchased 6.9 percent of the Horseshoe for $48,000. In January 1957 Eugene Sullivan bought 6.9 percent of the club, and in May 1957 Pat Mooney purchased 3.4 percent.

In 1957 the Horseshoe introduced two new marketing ploys to attract customers. The first was a bingo game that featured a "bonus bingo," which paid $50,000 if a player covered the entire card by the time the first fifty numbers were called. The only other bingo games in town at the time were at Harrah's Club, Dick Graves's Nugget, and the Primadonna. Needless to say, the $50,000 prize was never paid, considering the odds against a customer filling an entire card in such a short time. The closest they came was on June 19, when "Reno's Lucky Horseshoe Club" paid a $5,000 bonus to a lucky winner.

The second marketing ploy was one that was common at the time-and is still used by most casinos-inexpensive food. Prime-rib dinners were $1.18 on Wednesdays, chicken dinners were $1.15 on Sundays, and holiday dinners, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, featuring turkey, duck, ham, or trout, were $1.23.

In December 1958 Elmer West sold his remaining 22.9 percent of the Horseshoe to his other partners for $215,000. Also selling their percentages were Pat Kelly and William "Spike" Rogers. The remaining stockholders were Bernie Einstoss, Brad Hewins, Frank Grannis, Pat Mooney, William Pappas, Eugene Sullivan, Ben Hill, Gerald Cooper, Tom Beko, James Powers, Irene Marich, and Fred Cavendish.

In January 1959 Ruby Mathis purchased 11.2 percent of the Horseshoe.

In October 1960 the Horseshoe initiated a remodeling and expansion program that, when completed in May 1961, cost over $1 million and added 2,800 square feet to the ground level, as well as a new second level. The club took over the space formerly occupied by the Reno Jewelry Store. A restaurant, a bar, and a keno game were added on the second floor. The expansion resulted in the hiring of an additional 80 employees, bringing the total workforce to 250 people.

In March 1962 Bernie Einstoss sold 3 percent of his holdings to Ben Hill, Fred Cavendish, and Frank Grannis, for $17,000 a point. In September 1963 he sold 3 percent to Clarence "Jack" Hoyt for $67,500 and 2 percent to Morrie Mandell for $45,000. In August 1964 Einstoss completely divested himself of his Horseshoe holdings when he sold his remaining 19 percent to the corporation and shareholders for $475,000. Later in 1964 Bernie Einstoss bought controlling interest of the Riverside Hotel.

In August 1967 the Horseshoe was sold to the Taylor International Construction Corporation, which leased the property to the 229 Corporation, composed of Stuart and Walter "Wally" Mason, Brad Hewins, Ned Turner, and Francis Breen. The Mason brothers were both associated with Taylor International as well as being principals in the proposed new club operation. Brad Hewins was a partner in the Horseshoe and had been in the casino business in Reno for more than forty years. Ned Turner was a former member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board who had retired only a few months previously. Francis Breen was a Reno attorney who served as a director of the 229 Corporation but had no financial interest in the corporation.

Taylor International, the landlord, had built many noted hotels, among them the Fountainebleau, the Eden Roc, and the Deauville Hotels, all in Miami Beach; the Riviera and the Tropicana Hotels in Las Vegas; the Denver Hilton; and the El San Juan and La Concha Hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Taylor International continued in the building business and later built Caesars Palace; the original MGM Hotel-which became Bally's Hotel-in Las Vegas; the MGM in Reno-now the Reno Hilton; the second MGM Hotel in Las Vegas, completed in 1993; and the addition to the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas.)

In early November the Gaming Control Board turned down Taylor International as a landlord because of previous financial difficulties, and the entire deal had to be restructured. The problems were resolved, and the Horseshoe was taken over by the 229 Corporation-Stuart Mason, Walter "Wally" Mason, Ned Turner, Brad Hewins, and Francis Breen-on November 28, 1967.

In June 1970 the Masons announced that Sam Silverberg, a fourteen-year veteran of the gaming industry, would take over as general manager of the operation. In October 1971 Silverberg sued the Horseshoe for "wrongful termination." He claimed that he had signed a five-year contract that allegedly provided that in addition to his salary he would be paid 10 percent of the yearly profits. After a dispute over terms of the contract, Silverberg had been terminated in July 1971. The suit was settled in August 1975, with Silverberg being awarded $112,000.

In January 1977 Tom Mullis, a co-owner of the Silver Spur and a Reno physician, and Jess Hinkel, former head of Del Webb's gaming operations, applied to the Gaming Commission to buy the Horseshoe Club for an undisclosed price. Mullis, who would own 75 percent, and Hinkel, who would own 25 percent, applied for licenses for twenty-one table games and 355 slots. Mullis and Hinkel were licensed effective April 1, 1977, and immediately initiated a $1-million remodeling program. The project lasted almost the entire summer of their first year of operation and included the development of a casino, a lounge, a keno game, and a restaurant on the second floor, along with a gourmet dining room. The entertainment on the second floor included belly dancers from Greece and Turkey.

Mullis, who had a penchant for fine art, commissioned several oil-painting masters to help decorate the gaming facility. The club's décor was in the Louis XIV style, with original artworks accentuated by museum-type lighting and elaborate chandeliers. Many of the paintings depicted explicit nudes, and their "exposure" created much conversation and many negative comments in the Reno gaming community.

In August 1977 Vic Leonardi, a twenty-year veteran of the gaming industry, was named assistant general manager and casino manager of the Horseshoe.

On January 8, 1980, newspapers announced that the Horseshoe had closed at 5 P.M. on Sunday, January 6, after its owners had filed for bankruptcy. Bob Brodie, the general manager, said that most of the club's 310 employees had been laid off and would receive their final check that day. Some local observers said that the disruption of business during the remodeling project had led to the failure of the casino.

On January 16, Jess Hinkel, 25-percent owner of the Horseshoe, filed a lawsuit against principal owner Tom Mullis and general manager Bob Brodie, alleging fraud, collusion, mismanagement, and misappropriation of funds. Hinkel, who had served as general manager until terminated in June 1978, said that he was in a state of shock about the casino closing. The suit was never resolved.

In February 1981 Sil Petricciani, who had recently been appointed general manager of the Horseshoe Club, said he planned to reopen the casino on the first of April. Petricciani, who had owned the Palace Club for many years, said that the owners, Maury and Stuart Mason, had filed an application with the Gaming Commission to reopen the Horseshoe. The Masons were hoping to get the application on the Commission's March agenda.

The Horseshoe reopened on April 1 at 1:30 P.M. The club had a small lounge in the basement with a small band, and the second floor had an expanded restaurant and bar area. The first floor, minus the nude pictures, looked the same as when it was closed in January 1980. The club opened with nine table games and 270 slot machines.

At midnight on December 31, 1981, the Horseshoe, owned by the Mason Corporation, completed the purchase of the adjoining Silver Spur Casino. On January 1, 1982, at 12:01 A.M., the two casinos became one entity and the property was called the Horseshoe-Silver Spur for a short time. Eventually the Silver Spur portion of the name was dropped and the property was once again known as the Horseshoe Club.

Dwayne Kling, former co-owner and general manager of the Silver Spur, took over as general manager of the combined properties. Most of the management team from the Silver Spur remained in place when the two casinos merged in 1982. Don Dennis and Bob Higgins from the Horseshoe pit department were joined by Kent Buchanan, Steve Gerlach, and Danny Troye from the Silver Spur pit. Chuck Thomas, Rod Jones, Gordon Drendel, Neil Lyden, and Cliff Hogan operated the keno game, and Reuben "Sandy" Sanderson was named slot manager. Joining the management team later were Gordon Allison, Frank Holmes, and Jason Prater. Supervising the restaurant was executive chef Bill Behymer, and overseeing the bar department was longtime Silver Spur employee James "Waco Jim" Horn.

Dwayne Kling resigned as general manager in 1983 but stayed on as an advisor to the new general manager, Mike Hessling. After Hessling resigned, Kling stayed on to work with general managers Jerry Raasch and Bob Brodie until leaving in 1988 to open the Ponderosa Hotel, "The World's First Non-Smoking Hotel-Casino."

On December 14, 1988, the Horseshoe once again closed its doors. Actually, the club itself was doing well. The financial problems were coming from the parent company, the Mason Corporation. Problems from the corporation's other investments forced the Horseshoe to keep sending money to the Las Vegas headquarters, and in doing so, the Horseshoe became so strapped for cash that it was unable to pay gaming taxes and other required bills and was forced to close. The club had already closed the keno game and most of the pit in an effort to cut the payroll. None of these drastic measures worked, and when the club finally closed there were only one hundred employees still working. The closing was conducted in an orderly fashion as state gaming officials and casino workers attended to the necessary closing procedures.

In May 1989 the Horseshoe, like the legendary phoenix, rose again from the ashes. Bob Cashell, former lieutenant governor of Nevada and former owner of Boomtown, opened the Horseshoe Club and the neighboring Silver Spur Casino as one establishment. Cashell had obtained a thirty-two-year lease on the Silver Spur property from an investment group composed of Everett Brunzell, Conrad Priess, Dwayne Kling, James Parker, John Gojack, Jose Gastanaga, and Charles Stepro. He also acquired the Horseshoe Club from the Mason family, which was facing an involuntary bankruptcy petition from creditors. The petitioners included suppliers seeking more than $110,000 in money allegedly owed them by the Masons.

Bob Cashell's Horseshoe Club had its grand opening on May 25, 1989. The club, which Robert Cashell Jr. helped to operate, opened with 525 slot machines, a keno game, eight 21 games, one craps game, and a 150-seat restaurant.

The club cost Cashell $3 million. It was decorated in a burgundy and green motif, and the upstairs restaurant, called Grandma's, was redesigned so people could sit by the windows and look out on the activities on Virginia Street.

In September 1995 Bob Cashell closed the Horseshoe operation. He blamed the deterioration of the downtown area, citing such problems as the abandoned Mapes and Riverside Hotels, the shuttered Harolds Club, the increase of crime, and increasing problems from panhandlers and homeless people as his reason for closing.

Currently the former site of the Horseshoe is occupied by the Horseshoe Jewelry and Loan Store.

According to Dwayne Kling