|Jim Kelley's Nugget|
Photo from the Pam Goertler Collection
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection
Jim Kelly moved to Nevada in 1953 when his slot machine business in Idaho was shut down by local authorities. Instead of grieving for his business, he simply moved where the local jurisdiction allowed gaming: Nevada.
Together with Dick Graves, Kelly purchased the Reno Nugget in 1954 and moved many of his slot machines into the casino on Virginia Street across from the mighty Harold's Club.
He also kept an eye on the casinos at Lake Tahoe which were doing better and better business as the roads became well-maintained during the winter months and a new owner, Frank Sinatra, had set up shop at the Cal-Neva.
Along the highway just a few-hundred yards from the California State line and the larger Cal-Neva Lodge at Crystal Bay, Nevada there stood a small casino that managed to do a brisk business each summer. Owned originally by Tony Gallarini and Mabel and Dixie Reese, the Sierra Lodge sported the motto: “Bring a buck and a truck.”
Stanley Parsons purchased the casino in 1953 and had new chips made for his club. Included was a 25-cent chip with arrows and dice around the rim, now a favorite with chip collectors called an arodie.
Parsons background was in restaurants, owning Stan’s Brick House in Walnut Creek, California and Stanley’s Restaurant in Incline Village, and Carson City, Nevada. The Sierra Lodge offered excellent food in a small restaurant as well as a couple blackjack tables and some slot machines.
Jim Kelly purchased the casino property in 1962 and changed the name of the club to the Nugget, like his casino in Reno. A fire burned a portion of the casino in 1980, but it was rebuilt with a fancy brick front and thrived throughout Kelly’s lifetime. He sold his club in Reno to Jackpot Enterprises in 1990, but kept his interest in the Tahoe Nugget.
Although Jim Kelly passed away in 1993, the casino at North Shore Lake Tahoe has survived. With the current difficulties in Nevada gaming and the competition from casinos in California it is anybody’s guess how long a club with less than 100 slot machines and no table games can survive. We wish them the best.
This history used with special permission of the author Al W. Moe. All rights are reserved by Al W. Moe Al is the author of several great books on Nevada Gaming History.
Many more stories can be found in the book "Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling" written by yours truly, AL W. Moe available from those crazy online bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. All of Al's great books can be ordered Angelfire Press - where it gets shipped for FREE!