|Roaring Camp||128 Lake Street|
|June 1, 1946 to February 1949|
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection
|To the best of our knowledge, no casino ashtrays were ever created for the Roaring Camp. If you happen to know where one exists, please consider sharing a photo of it with the collecting community.|
The Roaring Camp, also known as Stagg's Roaring Camp, opened on June 1, 1946, and housed what was probably the largest collection of western memorabilia in the western United States. It featured over two thousand guns, including Tom Mix's personal gun collection, a "prairie schooner," a host of old-time carriages, hundreds of artifacts of all kinds related to western life, and dozens of mechanical pianos, player pianos, and organs of all kinds. At the bar, patrons sat astride authentic saddles while enjoying their drinks and perhaps waiting to eat in the restaurant, which was operated by local favorite Ramona and featured the best Mexican food in town.
Unfortunately, during its short life of less than three years, the Roaring Camp was plagued with problems in the gaming end of the business. Raymond Stagg was the principal owner of the establishment, but he frequently leased the gaming to other people, and he had trouble with some of them. In June 1946 Bill Bush and Manuel Fleisher were licensed as operators of a mechanical horse-race game, but a month later Stagg and his partner, R. J. Forwood, kicked them out of the Roaring Camp. Bush and Fleisher then sued Stagg and Forwood for $15,840 in punitive damages. The lawsuit was settled in October, when Judge McKnight ruled that the plaintiffs, Bush and Fleisher, had tampered with the racehorse game they were leasing and operating in a room at the rear of the Roaring Camp. Since tampering with any gambling game was prohibited by state law, the judge ruled that the game was being conducted in an illegal manner, which gave the proprietors the right to break the lease and remove Bush and Fleisher from the business.
On December 4, 1947, Murl Hell, a dealer at the Roaring Camp, was arrested for dealing a 21 game with marked cards. The accused was employed by Virgil Benningfield, who had the gambling concession at that time. Cheating charges against Hell were finally dismissed on January 23, 1949, after several witnesses, including Ken Clever, a dealer at the Christmas Tree Restaurant, proved that the cheating charge was a frame-up perpetrated by a disgruntled customer.
On December 31, 1947, Ray Stagg was licensed for twenty-two slot machines at the Roaring Camp, but no table games were licensed.
Customer charges against the business came up again on July 24, 1948, when Ray Stagg was charged with operating a "plugged slot machine." During an inspection, machines were found with a piece of metal riveted to the third reel to prevent them from paying jackpots or the three-bells payoff. Stagg was bound over for trial. The case was not resolved until April 1949, when cheating charges against Stagg were dismissed. It had been determined that a former employee had rigged the slots without Stagg's knowledge.
On February 19, 1949, local newspapers announced that Ray Stagg had sold the Roaring Camp to Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith of Harolds Club for $300,000. Stagg went to work for Harolds Club as a public-relations person and traveled all over the United States promoting Harolds Club. He signed a ten-year contract that paid him $15,000 a year.
Harolds Club opened the Roaring Camp on Saturday, April 2, 1949. Harolds operated the Roaring Camp until late in the year, then it closed the club. The Smiths eventually transported all Stagg's memorabilia to Harolds Club and placed the collection in a section of the club that they appropriately named the Roaring Camp Room. For years, all or portions of the one-of-a-kind collection were displayed in Harolds Club and were considered a famous piece of Reno history. After Harolds Club was sold, first to the Summa Corporation and later to the Fitzgerald Group, the collection was always "in harm's way." In December 1993 the collection was sold to the Butterfield and Butterfield Auction House for an undisclosed sum. An auction was held on May 31, and by June 1, 1994, the famous collection was no more. The site of Stagg's Roaring Camp Room at the corner of Lake and Second Streets is now occupied by the Long Neck Bar and Grill.
According to Dwayne Kling