Nevada Club
224 North Virginia Street
est. 1946
Overland Hotel
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection




Kent Hedburg
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

James Campiglia
Grade 2

Gerald Mitchell
Grade 2

Kent Hedburg
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Kent Hedberg
Grade 2

Kent Hedberg
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

In April 1941 Harry and Ed Robbins opened a casino called Robbin's Nevada Club. They operated the business by themselves until March 22, 1946, when they became partners with Dan Sullivan, Ruby Mathis, Mert Wertheimer, and Lincoln Fitzgerald. In a short time Mathis and Wertheimer left the operation. Sullivan and Ed Robbins stayed on with Fitzgerald, and in 1952 the trio did away with their partnership and formed a corporation. Dan Sullivan stayed with the corporation until his death in 1956, and Fitzgerald bought out Ed Robbins the same year.

A Grand opening to celebrate the new management began at 7:00 P.M. on March 22, 1946. An ad proclaimed that the "New Nevada Club" was featuring a new bar, a new keno game, and gambling games were licensed by the newly remodeled club. A racehorse book was added the next year.

On August 10, 1946, Dan Sullivan and Lincoln Fitzgerald were named in a fugitive-from-justice case. They were charged with bribing public officals in Macomb County, Michigan, on several dates between August 1, 1940, and August 1, 1946. They were also charged with running illegal gambling in Macomb County from August 1, 1940, to June 23, 1946. For the next sixteen months, Fitzgerald and Sullivan engaged in legal maneuvering aimed at fighting extradition. In January 1948 the maneuvering came to an end, and they were both jailed without bail. Sullivan listed his occupation as general manager of the Nevada Club, and Fitzgerald stated that he was casino manager of the Nevada Club.

In August 1948 Sullivan and Fitzgerald were sent to Michigan to face the illegal gambling charges (the bribery charges had been dropped). They were found guilty and fined a total of $52,000. After paying the fine, they were released, and they returned to Reno to continue operating the Nevada Club.

Misfortune continued to plague Fitzgerald. On November 18, 1949, he was shot twice from ambush at his home on 123 Mark Twain Drive. The attack occurred at 11:43 P.M. as he was leaving to go to the Nevada Club. Fitzgerald, who was fiftyseven at the time of the shooting, lingered on the brink of death for several days, and doctors said only his will to live kept him alive. He eventually recovered, but not until April 20, 1950, was he released from Washoe Medical Center. Fitzgerald remained somewhat crippled for the rest of his life, and he went into semiseclusion for the next several years. The assailant was never found.

Also in April 1952 the Nevada Club entered into a five-year lease (which was extended and continued until Jacobs sold the property to the Nevada Club in 1996)with Murray Jacobs for the use of the Jacobs Building at 230 North Virginia Street (immediately adjoining the Nevada Club). The business (the Jackpot Arcade) was purchased for $50,000, and the lease payment was $25,000 a year. The building, which had a front footage of 17 feet and extended 140 feet east to Lincoln Alley, was renamed the Nevada Club Annex.

Early in the history of the Nevada Club, Lincoln Fitzgerald introduced a feature that gained the Nevada Club a great deal of publicity and a great deal of business. It was the Monte Carlo wheel, a roulette wheel that had only one zero instead of the usual double zero, and a double layout. The single zero noticeably added to a player's chances of winning. It was an extremely popular game with all roulette players, especially system players. The wheel stayed in use until the Nevada Club was sold to the Lincoln Management Group.

The Nevada Club was one of the first casinos to install a restaurant on its property. Its fine food and reasonable prices, along with its famous pies and desserts, made the Nevada Club a popular place to eat and gamble.

Business continued to grow. In April 1955 the Nevada Club was licensed for 100 more slots (making a total of 631 slot machines), four more 21 games, and two more craps games.

In October 1955 the Nevada Club introduced the new four-reel Buckaroo slot machines, which were manufactured by the Jennings Company. Many of them were still in use in the Nevada Club when it closed in 1998. They were advertised as the first machines with "no lemons or other blanks." A player could win $5,000 with a $1 bet.

The Nevada Club was also famous for the way it paid jackpots. The absence of hoppers in those days prevented the machines from dropping the total amount of a large payout, so most casinos handpaid the customer with currency. The Nevada Club machines dropped twenty coins when a jackpot hit, and the balance of the payout, in coins, was prepackaged in a brown paper bag bearing the Nevada Club logo and handed to the winner. Naturally, with all those coins instantly available to them, many customers played their winnings right back into the machines.

The single-coin slot machines in the Nevada Club were very popular with local players. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Nevada Club had as much local slot play as any casino in town.

In August 1957 the Nevada Club and Lincoln Fitzgerald extended their holdings to Lake Tahoe when they purchased the Biltmore Club on the North Shore for $421,000 and renamed the property the Nevada Lodge.

In the 1960s Fitzgerald started buying up property on West Commercial Row and Virginia Street.This property became the site of Fitzgeralds Casino-Hotel, which opened in 1976.

The Nevada Club had previously purchased property at 200 North Center Street and planned to open a casino there, but illness prevented Lincoln Fitzgerald from going ahead with his plans.

The Nevada Club was always a well-illuminated, unpretentious, simple casino. It was however, one of the first--if not the first--to have a restaurant on the property. Free of any gimmicks, the casino never offered any type of entertainment.

The club was also noted for its many longtime employees. Fitzgerald, known as "Fitz" or "Boss" to his employees, was a firm, strict disciplinarian. An employee did not leave the club for any reason during the eight-hour working shift and did not fraternize with any employee of the opposite sex. Those who transgressed were immediately terminated. Also, Fitzgerald personally interviewed every prospective employee. The Nevada Club had a pay scale different from any other casino in town. Fitzgerald liberally rewarded employees who stayed with him, both in hourly wages and in bonuses. However, employees were forbidden to tell anyone how much they earned.Divulging wages was another reason for termination. However, it was well known around the downtown casinos that "Fitz was good pay."

Some of the many longtime employees at the Nevada Club included Mark DeSautel, Oscar Dykes, Emma "Ma" Baker, James Erwin, Dan Fagan, Wilford Nolan, Charles Kossol, Vern Peterson, Emmett Shea, Ed Beatty, and many more.

Lincoln Fitzgerald died in 1981. His widow, Meta, along with her brother, Carlton Konarske, operated the Nevada Club until December 31, 1986. At that time, the Lincoln Management Group took over management of the business and leased the property with an option to buy. The option was exercised, and on January 1, 1987, Lincoln Management closed the property but reopened it one month later. The new owners maintained much of the atmosphere and appearance of the early-day Nevada Club.

On November 20, 1997, the Fitzgerald Gaming Corporation (the former Lincoln Management Group) announced that it had sold the Nevada Club to a yet-to-be-announced new owner. The casino closed earlier than expected on December 28, 1997. It never reopened.

On June 18, 1999, Steve Yarrow, senior vice-president and general manager of Harrah's Reno, announce that Harrah's had purchased the entire Harolds Club and Nevada Club properties. Harrah's planned to expand into the site with added casino attractions and amenities.

Terms of the sale were not made public, but documents from the Fitzgeralds Gaming Corporation indicated that the Nevada Club was sold for $3.8 million. There were no estimates available of the price paid for Harolds Club. However, in 1995 Fitzgeralds sold Harolds for $8.9 million to an out-of-town buyer who then fell into bankruptcy.

On July 28, 1999, Steve Yarrow announced plans to raze the Harolds Club and Nevada Club buildings. Asbestos removal was to begin on August 9, and demolition was expected to begin on September 20 and end October 18. Yarrow did not reveal Harrah's plans for the expansion, but he hinted that the result would be a "spectacular" addition to Reno and would take two to three years to complete.

According to Dwayne Kling