Nestled deep inside the biggest casino in the world, the Golden Gulch waged a short war with its own owners and the players who straggled in to find what all the fuss was about.
Before Las Vegas shot to colossal heights in the middle 1950’s and beyond, Reno was the place to find the best legal gambling in the United States and the Bank Club casino was the biggest in the world.
Located at 239 North Center Street, the Bank Club was originally licensed as the Bank Palace Club, the second casino licensed in 1931 when gaming became legal. Bill Graham, James McKay and Ray Kindle were the first licensees.
While most casinos in Reno were small, the Bank Club was huge, even without a hotel. Guests who needed rooms were sent next door to the Golden Hotel at 219 North Center Street. George Wingfield, longtime Reno real estate magnet owned the buildings, but in 1947 he wanted to expand his Riverside Hotel and tapped old friend Norman Biltz to purchase the properties on North Center Street.
Biltz brought James Lloyd Sr., who was the managing director of the Golden Hotel, into the deal, and they made plans for expanding into one large property since the first floor of the Hotel was leased to the Brunswick Club and the Bank Club.
In 1947, Lloyd bought the lease of the Brunswick Club when he and Biltz couldn’t decide how to chop up the Bank Club. Instead of waiting, he redecorated the property and opened as the Golden Gulch Casino.
According to the Nevada State Journal, the new casino sported a bingo parlor, forty-seven slot machines, a keno game, a roulette table and a horse race book, plus showroom entertainment. A craps game was soon added, and hi-tempered dice from the Wills Dice company were used on the game. They were guaranteed to be accurate to within 1-10,000 of an inch.
That didn’t matter to the players or the owners, and 13 months later El Rancho Las Vegas casino owner Thomas Hull purchased the lease, and then closed the casino down to begin a $300,000 remodeling project that included a theater restaurant. His new venture went bankrupt three months later.
Lloyd and his group of investors moved back in and reopened the property, but the Golden Gulch was long gone by that time, another small club here today and gone tomorrow in Nevada’s boom and bust cycle.
Dice, matches, showroom flyers and a few chips remain from the club. The most valuable chip is a $5 issue from the T.R. King company with their early large-crown design rim and gold hot-stamp of a “GG” on one side and “$5” on the reverse. A nice condition chip of this variety can sell for as much at $800. The dice sell for as much as $75.