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Al Moe

I Love Small Town Casinos

By January 23, 2013

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Photo Courtesy (Nevada Casino History) Photo Courtesy (Nevada Casino History)

There are a lot of little towns in Nevada, tiny burgs with a school, maybe a McDonald's, and a gas station. If you've never been to Battle Mountain (pop. 3,650) or Pioche (pop. 1,002), you may not get the gist, but the towns are fun. And, a lot of them have some kind of gambling. In fact, there are 50 cities in Nevada with casinos, although the word casino is used very generously, but how can you not love the Owl casino in Battle Mountain?

When I first started driving around the state, I didn't consider any club that didn't have table games to be a casino, but I was a snob back then. Of course that didn't keep me from entering and taking pictures of every little casino. You haven't seen it all until you've been to places like T.J.'s Dirty Bird (in Winnemucca), or the Bird Farm (in Fallon). I liked them because they had chips I could collect!

Over the years there have been a lot of casinos in Sparks, Nevada. They've come and gone like the autumn leaves, always interesting, always colorful. A few of my favorites were the Claim Stake, which had a huge statue of a fellow panning for gold on the roof, and the King of Clubs, shown in the photo above.

The King of Clubs was originally a theater, but Larry Mullin thought the building would make a great casino. It had about 50 slot machines, a couple blackjack tables, and a 10-cent crap game. I remember playing craps one day, I think in 1985 (the club was open less than a year), and winning about twenty-bucks and taking a handful of the 10-cent chips home with me. Turns out they became valuable and I sold them over the years for up to $10 each! I love small town casinos!

Sparks lost the Silver Club a couple years ago, closed due to poor revenue. It was first started by Karl Berge in 1967, just a hole in the wall that had a poker table and a few slots plus a bar with cheap drinks. Unfortunately, the building that remains is three stories now, just an empty eye-sore. Across the street, one of Northern Nevada's nicest casinos, John Ascuaga's Nugget, continues to command most of the attention in town. It too, started across the street next to the Silver Club, not much more than a diner with a dozen slots, but that was 50-years ago.

If you make it to Reno, Sparks is just 15 minutes away. The hotel prices are the same, the casinos are similar. Drop by and see what used to be a really small town!


April 13, 2014 at 4:16 am
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