Pioneer Inn
221 South Virginia Street
1972 - 1974
Pioneer Inn
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection




Michael Richter
Grade 2

The Pioneer Inn opened in August 1968 with 162 rooms and no gaming. John Lazovich was the general manager, and the property featured a gourmet dining room known as the Iron Sword Restaurant. The original partners in the venture were Don Carano, John Lazovich, Ray Poncia Jr., Jack Lyons, Bob McDonald, and Thomas "Spike" Wilson. Within a few years of the opening, Wilson and McDonald had left the corporation, and Jack Lyons was killed in a motorcycle accident.

In April 1972 the Pioneer Inn installed sixty-five slot machines, and John Lazovich, Don Carano, and Ray Poncia Sr. were licensed for one-third each of the operation. Table games were introduced in 1974, and two of the first casino managers were Bill Nance and Charles Kruse. Later casino managers included Gary Carano, Herb Grellman, and Guy Archer.

In 1969 the owners of the Pioneer signed a twenty-year lease with Denny's Restaurant to operate a coffee shop at the location. In 1989 the Pioneer opened its own restaurant.

The first general manager of the Pioneer was John Lazovich. He was followed by Pat Allison, Roberto Crawford, and Les Clavir. At the present time, the Pioneer is co-managed by Guy Archer, who was hired in 1979, and Earl Howsley.

The Pioneer Inn has maintained a quiet, low-key operation over the years, and there are several longtime employees, including pit supervisor Yvonne "Todd" Davis, who have been employed by the Pioneer for over twenty years.

The Pioneer Inn is still located at its original site. It has expanded over the years and currently has 252 hotel rooms, a coffee shop, the Iron Sword Restaurant, a keno game, 320 slots, and a ten-table pit area.

According to Dwayne Kling