Silver Spur
221 North Virginia Street
1968 - 1981
Silver Spur
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection




Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Don Boyer
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mandi Birkinbine
Grade 2

Jim Bothwell
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

On June 19, 1968, the Nevada Gaming Control Board recommended that seven men put up more than $300,000 to open the Silver Spur Casino on "casino row" next to the Horseshoe Club at 221 North Virginia Street. The percentages as recommended were: Fred Cavendish, 12 percent; William Hamilton, 5 percent; Jose Gastanaga, 14 percent; Everett Brunzell, 10 percent; Tom Mullis, 10 percent; James Parker, 6 percent; and Charles Stepro, 2 percent. The Board deferred action on the applications of Conrad Priess for 20 percent, Sasha Maloff for 10 percent, and John Gojack for 11 percent. Two days later, the Gaming Commission approved eight men for licensing at the Silver Spur. It refused to license Sasha Maloff, a Lake Tahoe-Reno land promoter, because of what it deemed his unsuitable finances.

During the session, Conrad Priess's application for 20 percent was postponed to allow more time for investigation of his finances. Priess denied that he was in financial trouble, but the Commission said that it needed more time to check its information.

Both the Gaming Board and the Gaming Commission closely questioned John Gojack, a former Midwest labor leader, as to whether he had ever headed a pro-Communist union. Gojack was at that time in the bank marketing field and denied that his union was ever a Communist organization. He claimed that he had tried to keep his union politically independent and not let it fall into either the Republican or the Democratic Party. The Board eventually voted 2 to 1 to give Gojack a license. Keith Campbell opposed the bid on the grounds that Gojack's "background is not acceptable." However, Board member Wayne Pearson said the Board "could not afford to judge an applicant on his political beliefs." The five-member Commission's vote was unanimous for Gojack's approval.

It wasn't until July 31 that Conrad Priess was given final approval by the Commission to invest $100,000 for 20 percent of the Silver Spur. The Commission apologized for any embarrassment that the delay may have caused Priess.

The Silver Spur opened at 6:00 on July 1, 1968. A silver spur worn by actor Audie Murphy in the motion picture Billy the Kid was used for the ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the casino. The four-day opening festivities featured the entertainment of a western group, the Bob Day Trio. During the celebration, all standard bar drinks were priced at twenty-five cents. Fresh orchids were flown in from Hawaii and presented to women attending the celebration.

The Silver Spur facilities covered two stories above the street level, with restrooms, employee lounges, a kitchen, and executive offices in the basement. The casino proper and the restaurant were on ground level.

In the casino, a plush atmosphere reminiscent of the mid-nineteenth-century elegance of Nevada hotels was carried out in furnishings designed by Dohrman Company, which also designed the restaurant and offices. The feeling of the Old West permeated the casino from floor to ceiling. Carpets were custom-made of wool and nylon with black and gold accents framing silver spurs set in a deep red field. The design was repeated every eighteen inches in the pattern. Burlap flocked with a red velvet damask design covered the walls between massive mirrors and dark wood paneling. Custom-designed chandeliers with authentic silver spurs, hung from the ceiling with leather straps and buckles suspended from bronze chains and rings, completed the period evocation of early western gambling halls.

The general manager of the Silver Spur on opening night was Fred Cavendish. In addition to Cavendish, Silver Spur executives were Charlie Stepro, casino manager; Bill Hamilton, pit manager; James "Reggie" Parker, keno manager; and Clyde Keeling, slot manager.

Casino games included a $25,000-limit keno game, five 21 games, one roulette game, one craps game, and 150 slot machines.

In 1969 it became very obvious that the Silver Spur had to expand. The entire casino plus the keno game, the restaurant, and all the slots were on the first floor, and all facets of the operation were too crowded. Construction began early in 1969. By June, the "Top of the Spur" was opened, providing the casino with an additional 5,000 square feet of space. The restaurant was moved to the second floor, along with a bar and a spacious keno lounge. The area was known as the Virginia City Parlor. Moving these facilities allowed the pit area and the keno game on the first floor to expand dramatically.

In 1969 the Silver Spur purchased several paintings of seminude girls for display in the Virginia City Parlor. The paintings were tastefully done, and copies of several of them were used by the casino in its marketing program. Calendars, menus, and brochures all featured the "Virginia City Girls."

In 1971 the Silver Spur purchased one of the world's largest antique spur collections. There were more than forty spurs in the collection, which included, along with the western spurs, spurs from more than a dozen countries, the oldest set from Germany, dating back to the thirteenth century. Also included were camel spurs from Morocco, Spanish spurs from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Mexican spurs from the eighteenth century, and many more. Over the years, additional spurs were added to the collection, and when the casino was sold in 1981 there were more than eighty sets of spurs on the walls.

In the early 1970s the Silver Spur Casino began the tradition of awarding genuine silver spurs to the eight winners of the major categories at the annual Reno Rodeo.

The Silver Spur was known as a great place to work, and there was little turnover among the employees. There was also very little change in management. During the more than thirteen years the casino was open, there were only three general managers-Fred Cavendish, James Parker, and Dwayne Kling. Some of the casino managers of the Silver Spur were Ray Gibberson, Harry Bay, Norm Brown, Kent Buchanan, Dwayne Kling, and Steve Gerlach. Pit supervisors and shift managers included Dan Becan, Jim Lewis, Steve Hopkins, LaVerl Kimpton, Joe Devers, Ron Bryant, and George Ardans.

The keno game at the Silver Spur was often rated the best in Reno. Some of the people employed in the keno game included James Parker Jr., John Tyler, Norm Nelson, John Whitehead, Don Trimble, Ken Barrenchea, Bill Scott, John Riordan, Chuck Thomas, Rod Jones, Cliff Hogan, and Gordon Drendel.

In 1979 James Parker retired as general manager of the Silver Spur to return to his native state of Arkansas. Dwayne Kling, a part-owner of the Silver Spur who had been employed there since 1971, was named the new general manager of the club.

On December 31, 1981, the Silver Spur was sold to the Mason Corporation, doing business as the Horseshoe Club, for $4 million. The transaction became final at midnight. The owners at the time of the sale were Conrad Priess, Everett Brunzell, Jose Gastanaga, John Gojack, James Parker, Charles Stepro, and Dwayne Kling.

In 1988 the Horseshoe closed, and the Silver Spur reverted to its former owners, but they never reopened it. Instead, they sold the business to Bob Cashell, who had purchased the Horseshoe out of bankruptcy earlier in the year. Cashell operated the Silver Spur portion of the building as part of his Horseshoe Club until he closed it in 1995.

The former location of the Silver Spur is now occupied by the Silver Spur Gift Shop.

According to Dwayne Kling