Harolds Club was a casino in Downtown Reno that was established in 1935. During the 1950's it became the world's largest casino.

The “Harolds Club or Bust” logo covered 2300 billboards across the country in 45 states. Whatever Harolds Club was, highway travelers must have thought, it’s a big deal. Because of the billboards Harolds Club became famous.
Raymond Ingram "Pappy" Smith (1887-1967) was a pioneer casino marketer and one of the best known Reno casino owners. Smith was a pioneer gaming operator, both for his operational innovations and his broad-based marketing.

Smith started in the gaming industry by working at county fairs and carnivals. He moved to California in 1929 and Reno in 1935.

In Reno, he was at last able to run casino games legally. He opened a small casino on Main Street called "Harolds Club" after his son Harold. There, he made his name by offering honest games for "regular people."

Where other gambling halls were smokey, backroom affairs, Smith opened Harolds Club to the street and installed bright lights. Under his guidance, the casino expanded and added games and attractions.
Smith was one of the first to emphasize customer service, and he believed that by catering to a number of small-time bettors, he could be just as successful as those who chased high rollers.

To that end, Smith made an effort to court female gamblers, a demographic that Reno gambling halls had traditionally neglected. He hired women to deal and advertised "ladies welcome." Smith was successful, and Harolds Club became known as a safe, friendly spot for both men and women to gamble.
Smith started the club with one game and two slot machines. In the 1950s and 60s, Harolds Club grew to 1,525 slots and 61 table games, making it the Nevada casino with the most gaming offerings at that time.

In later years, it also housed a restaurant, several bars, headliner entertainment (Petula Clark, Louis Armstrong, Brenda Lee, and many others), and spanned seven floors.
Pappy and his two sons created a fun, friendly place for employees and guests, in part relying on gimmicks to do so. Raymond A. primarily handled behind-the-scenes administrative tasks. Harold Sr., who managed the casino during the swing shift, often wore unusual outfits and resorted to wild antics - such as riding his horse into the club or playing his violin over the loudspeaker.

Pappy - considered by many to be the grandfather of gaming in Nevada - occasionally doubled the payouts for customers at random tables. Guests never knew what to expect, and the ambiance appealed to the everyday person, not just serious gamblers. Dealers were encouraged to get to know patrons, making them feel as though they were a part of the extended Harolds Club family.

The casino’s generous policies were unprecedented. The Once Only Book, for example, helped those who’d gambled all their money get home. Anyone in that circumstance could get a loan up to $50 (a $500 value today) per year. If they repaid it, they could borrow again. Customers sometimes asked Pappy for the money back that they’d gambled, as they’d spent what they’d needed to live on, and frequently, he refunded them.
The Smiths’ seemingly outlandish strategies worked as customers were not only loyal, but flocked en masse to Harolds. In 1952 during Labor Day weekend, 44,206 people entered the club. To put this into perspective, Nevada had a population of 160,000 in the 1950 census.

In 1970, three years after Pappy succumbed to cancer, Summa Corp. (the Howard Hughes Corp.) acquired Harolds Club for an estimated $11 million. It introduced new management and rules and abandoned many of the strategies responsible for the resort’s success.

Harrah’s bought the property in 1999 and had it demolished to create a plaza. Gone but not forgotten, there was never anything like Harolds Club, and there never will be again.