Palace Club
46 East Commercial Row
1934 - 1979
Palace Club
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection




Pam Goertler
Grade 4

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 1

Mark Englebretson
Grade 1

Michael Richter
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

Gerald Mitchell
Grade 3

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 3

Charles Davis
Grade 2

The Palace Club property was purchased by John Petricciani in 1924, although for many years he did not operate a business there himself. He leased the property to various businesses, including a department store, a soft-drink parlor, and a barber shop. He also leased the second floor of the building to Bill Graham and Jim McKay, who used the location for their Bank Palace Club from 1931 through 1933.

John Petricciani operated a craps game in the Palace for one month (June 1931). It was licensed as the Palace Cigar Store. He left the casino business when he rented his property to Graham and McKay, but he maintained a slot-machine route that he had operated for many years in Reno. It was because of this slot route that Petricciani was often called "Slot Machine Johnny." In 1934 he got back into the casino business when he licensed the Palace Bar for one roulette game and one 21 game. In 1935 he changed the name on the license to the Palace Club and was licensed for two craps games, two faro games, two roulette games, one 21 game, one stud poker game, and six slot machines.

An interesting aside is the following quote from the Nevada State Journal of April 22, 1935: "Silvio Petricciani is nominated as the best craps dealer in town" (Silvio was John's son). On April 26, 1936, the following ad ran in the Nevada State Journal: "The Palace Club presents Reno's newest sensation, Race horse Keno-Today and every day. Post time twelve noon." This same ad ran every day for several weeks.

Racehorse keno, known today as simply keno, has played an important role in Reno gaming history. During keno's peak popularity from the early 1940s through the early 1980s, it was a large revenue producer for many casinos and an important tax contributor to the State of Nevada. The Palace Club was noted for bringing keno to a place of prominence in Reno and for refining and polishing the game. Originally, keno was the name of the game known today as bingo. To differentiate keno from bingo and because Chinese lottery (the game that keno is patterned after) was illegal, John Petricciani and Peter Merialdo had to convince the governor of Nevada that racehorse keno was a "banking game" and was played with a mechanical device (a keno goose). They convinced the governor, and so the Palace Club was able to license the game.

On May 7, 1936, the Palace Club placed this ad in the Nevada State Journal: "The Palace Club is in their second sensational week of Race Horse Keno, the game that has taken Reno by storm. First post time is 10:00 A.M.-Races every twenty minutes until 2:00 A.M. Saturdays until 4:00 A.M."

By the first of June, the Palace Club had extended the keno limit to $500 and was operating the game twenty-four hours a day. Francis Lyden of Butte, Montana, was in charge of the keno game, and his three keno shift bosses, all from Great Falls, Montana, were Clyde "Sugar Plum" Bittner, Jack "MacTavish" Mullen, and Warren "Swede" Nelson. Also among those coming down from Montana to work the keno game were Jim Brady, Ken Watkins, John Morse, Tom Cavanaugh, Jim Crowley, James Kalley, Jim Shay, and Dick Trinastich.

John Petricciani believed in leasing out some of the gambling in the Palace. In 1935 Virgil Smith came from Lovelock to operate the poker games, and in 1937 Wayne Martin, also from Lovelock, and Brownie Paretti leased the poker and pan games.

In January 1936 Billy Jordan was named manager of the Palace gaming tables. By 1937 the Palace had increased its casino space to 7,000 square feet and had one craps game, six 21 games, one roulette game, two faro games, and 150 slot machines to go along with its successful keno game.

In June 1943, with his son Sil (Silvio) in the military service, John Petricciani leased the Palace Club for five years to Ernie Primm, Joe Hall, Archie Sneed, Jim Contratto, all of Southern California, and Elmer "Baldy" West of Reno. West was a floor manager at the Palace and took over as manager. Sneed, Hall, Primm, and Contratto each put up $35,000; West's contributions were to be in the form of services. The five men were also given a five-year lease option, which they renewed in 1948. Contratto sold his interest in October 1943, a few months after the lease was signed.

In July 1943 a full-page ad in the Nevada State Journal announced that "for the first time, we have lady clerks [dealers] and many new men clerks." World War II was creating a shortage of male workers in all industries, and the gaming business was no exception. For many years, none of the clubs had hired female dealers, but after the Smith family began the practice in the Harolds Club, some other clubs followed. In November 1943 the Palace Club placed the following ad in the help-wanted section: "The Palace Club is offering young women 21 to 25 years of age the chance to learn how to deal all games and earn up to $90 a week."

In June 1948 a full-page ad in the Nevada State Journal reproduced a letter from the Pace Slot Machine Company addressed to Elmer West, thanking the Palace for an order of fifty-two Pace slot machines (with a payout to the customers of 95.75 percent). This and similar advertisements ran throughout July, August, and September 1948.

On October 31, 1951, Ernie Primm filed a suit alleging that Elmer West's "wild temper and dictatorial policies rendered the Palace Club's four way partnership ineffectual." Judge A. J. Maestretti named Clayton Phillips, former Reno police chief, as receiver to operate the Palace. A few weeks later, in mid-November, Elmer West and Archie Sneed bought out Ernie Primm and Joe Hall, and the litigation was ended.

The lease held by West and Sneed was due to expire on June 1, 1953, and as early as July 1952 three men-Walter "Big Bill" Pechart, David Kessell, and Walter Parman-filed an application with the Nevada Gaming Commission to be licensed at the Palace. The three men were former associates of Elmer "Bones" Remmer, a well-known California and Nevada gambler. After two months of delays and deferments, the state gave preliminary approval to Pechart, Kessell, and Parman on September 30, 1952. However, in May 1953 the state denied them a license.

On May 26 Walter Parman, who claimed to have a valid lease at the Palace, filed for a gaming license. He sought licenses for 150 slots, eight 21 games, two craps games, two roulette games, one poker game, one pan game, and one keno game. The same day, Brad Hewins, who also claimed to have a valid lease at the Palace, filed for a gaming license. He wanted licensing for 175 slots, ten 21 games, three craps games, one pan game, one poker game, one roulette game, and one keno game.

In June the lease held by West and Sneed expired, and the Palace Club was closed, throwing two hundred people out of work. Both Parman and Hewins were still claiming that they had signed leases. On July 19 Judge Wines ruled that Brad Hewins would be awarded the lease. Walter Parman appealed the decision, but Wines rejected the appeal.

On July 22, 1953, the Palace opened at 6:00 P.M. with 175 slot machines, seven 21 games, three craps games, one pan game, one poker game, one roulette game, and one keno game. The license fee was $21,800, and the owner percentages were as follows: Brad Hewins, 87 percent; Lou Iacometti, 5 percent; Jack Guffey, 2 percent; and Louis Rosasco, 6 percent.

On November 10, 1953, the ownership of the Palace Club changed dramatically when Brad Hewins sold his percentage and the City of Reno licensed the following request: the stockholders listed would hold 99 of the 100 shares then outstanding. The proposed partners and the amounts of stock held were given as follows: Jack Guffey, 5 shares; Warren Nelson, 4 shares; Joe Hornstein, 25 shares; Cliff Grady, 5 shares; Louis Rosasco, 10 shares; Louis Iacometti, 10 shares; Howard Farris, 11 shares; Frank Cohen, 8 shares; Joe Padilla, 2 shares; Bernard Vignaux, 4 shares; Jack Austin, 4 shares; Harry Weitz, 7 shares; and William Wietz, 4 shares. All were Reno residents except Padilla, Vignaux, and William Weitz, who were from San Francisco, and Austin, who was from San Jose.

On December 10, 1953, the Palace was licensed for 175 slot machines, three craps games, one roulette game, six 21 games, one keno game, and two pan games. Howard Farris, Jack Guffey, and Harry Weitz were licensed as shift managers.

The Palace Club proved to be extremely profitable for the next several years, and the only ownership changes occurred when Warren Nelson and Howard Farris left to buy into the new Club Cal-Neva; when Frank Cohen died and his shares were taken over by his widow, Clara; when Cliff Grady died and his estate was licensed; and when William Weitz was killed in an automobile accident and his brother Harry took over his percentage.

In 1964, when the lease expired, a group that had owned the property and building for many years applied for the gaming license at the Palace. The group was composed of the following: Silvio and John Petricciani, sons of John Petricciani, and their two sisters, Clorinda Delich of Las Vegas and Marietta Carli. They were each licensed for 25 percent of the operation and Sam Delich was approved as a corporate officer with no investment. The group was given final approval on May 19, on the condition that they put up a $370,000 bankroll. The first thing Sil Petricciani did when he took over was to clean up the club. He gave it a full face-lift and put up a big, beautiful new sign on the outside of the building. He also put in a new restaurant with good food for reasonable prices. His chef was Bill Stevens, who had many years experience. His good food brought lots of business to the Palace.

In November 1964 the Petricciani group sold 13 percent of the operation to three employees of the Palace Club, Larry Russo, Mike Garfinkle, and Sam D'Andea. In 1965, 5 percent of the club was sold to Carl Weeks for $15,000.

In the late 1970s the Gaming Commission licensed Russell Oberlander, Carl Weeks, Don Dennis, Lonnie Snyder, and Jim Burrows as shift managers at the Palace Club.

On September 28, 1979, Sil Petricciani broke the news to his 281 employees that the club had been sold to Harrah's Club for a price that wasn't disclosed, other than that the amount was in "six figures." Harrah's Club had been seeking the property for several months, but it wasn't until the Palace's co-owner, Sam Delich, told Petricciani that he was no longer able to work because of back surgery that they decided to sell. Sil, who was sixty-two, said he was too old to run the business by himself. Harrah's declined to comment on when it would reopen the club.

The Palace never reopened, and the building was soon demolished. The site is now a parking lot.

According to Dwayne Kling