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The Gaming Hall of Fame

1990 Inductee

Raymond Smith

Raymond "Pappy" Smith

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Raymond Ingram "Pappy" Smith (1887-1967) was a pioneer casino marketer and one of the best known Reno casino owners.

Smith started in the gaming industry by working at county fairs and carnivals. He moved to California in 1929 and Reno in 1936.

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 gradually 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.

Harolds Club became world-famous thanks to a national billboard campaign; 2300 signs decorated like covered wagons read "Harolds Club or Bust," fitting in with the then-current vogue for the Wild West.

In 1962, Smith and his sons sold their casino to an outside company, though they leased it back and ran all gaming operations. Though Harolds continued to expand, its best days were behind it.

Smith died in 1967 and his sons sold their interests in Harolds Club to Howard Hughes. It was at that time the world's largest casino.

Though Harolds Club closed in 1995 and was razed years later, Smith was a pioneer gaming operator, both for his operational innovations and his broad-based marketing.

 

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Last modified Tuesday, 10-Mar-2009 15:00:04 PDT

 

 

This page last updated Tuesday, 10-Mar-2009 15:00:04 PDT .