The images included in this email were taken during the 1970s, which reflects my personal recollection of my time working at Harrah's Reno from 1970 to 1976. At that time, Harrah's Reno was considered the premier Hotel Casino in Northern Nevada.
William Fisk Harrah (1911 – 1978) founded Harrah’s casinos in Reno, Nevada beginning with a tiny bingo parlor in 1937.

Bill Harrah was the son of attorney John Harrah. Born in South Pasadena, California, Bill attended UCLA before purchasing a small business from his father called the Reno Game.

The game allowed up to 33 players to roll balls down small ramps and into slots, trying to register a four-card sequence. It was like filling a bingo card. And, whatever John and his father thought of their game, it was gambling. It got shut down regularly by local authorities.
However, twenty-year-old Bill invested his profits back into better prizes, nicer furnishings, and thoughtful marketing. Those three things would become a hallmark of successful Harrah’s casinos in the years to come.

In 1937, Bill Harrah opened a small bingo parlor at 124 North Center Street in downtown Reno, Nevada where gaming was legal. It failed miserably.

The following year, Harrah tried again. He opened Harrah’s Plaza Tango in July 1938. Harrah’s Reno opened in the 1940s and expanded backward across Lincoln Alley towards Center Street during the 1950s. A hotel tower opened in 1969.
Bill Harrah insisted that his casinos were a cut-above those around him. When he first saw the casinos at Lake Tahoe in the 1950s, he exclaimed, “We have a nice club in Reno, and these crummy places at Stateline are doing twice the business we are.”

Everyone knew he was a perfectionist. Everything had to be perfect and in its place for the guests of its properties. He set the standard at the time.

Harrah purchased George’s Gateway Club at South Shore Lake Tahoe in 1955 and upgraded the property for the coming summer season. It did big business, and Harrah bought up the smaller properties around him to build the Lake Club.
Two years later he moved across highway 50 and purchased Sahati’s Stateline Country Club. The property became Harrah’s Lake Tahoe with a pair of restaurants, a showroom, 150 slots and 15 table games. It opened in time for the 1960 Olympic Games held at Squaw Valley Ski Resort nearby. A hotel tower opened in 1973.

For several years, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe was the most profitable casino in the state, but that may have reflected the huge skim of Las Vegas casinos by the Mob. The Mafia hated to pay taxes. Harrah hated to look unprofitable. Mostly because he wanted to take his company public. No gaming company had ever been listed on a major stock exchange.

Bill Harrah changed all that. In 1971, Harrah’s Inc. made its initial public offering. In 1972, it was listed on the American stock exchange. The following year, Harrah’s became the first casino company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Bill Harrah used the cash influx to build the hotel at Lake Tahoe.
Bill Harrah was a very rich man. As Harrah reached his 50’s, his love of cars and women began to take over his life. He had a car collection with hundreds of rare cars, motorcycles, and even boats and planes. Housed in a huge warehouse in Sparks, Nevada, the collection was broken up after Bill Harrah died in 1978.

Harrah had six wives, including singer Bobbie Gentry, who soared to fame with “Ode to Billy Joe” and signed to play in the showroom at Harrah’s Reno.

The Reno casino became a focal point of gaming in Nevada, training employees in a manner close to that of Disneyland managers. During my time at the Reno casino, I attended dozens of classes, and I can attest to the fact that they had an excellent training program. In fact, during my last six months there, I worked full-time as a class instructor.