Without “Pappy” Smith to guide Harold’s Club, Harold S. Smith, Sr. began to consider retiring. The casino was just too big, and there were too many loose ends for him to contend with. Just as he had done ten years earlier, he let it be known that Harold’s Club was for sale, but the cost was prohibitive. Harold needed a buyer with deep pockets.
In 1970, eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes purchased Harold’s Club. Jack Pieper was appointed manager and stayed in the role until J. C. Jordan, a former co-owner of the North Shore Club at Lake Tahoe, took over. The North Shore Club was then sold to George Raymond Smith, son of Raymond I. “Pappy” Smith. Harold Smith, Sr. retired from the gaming industry and enjoyed his free time by doing a little gambling.
Tables around the club were formally arranged into “pits” for the first time, and all dealer tips were “pooled” instead of being kept by the dealer that had actually earned them. Corporate American had come to Reno.
J.C. Jordan appointed Phil Griffith the property controller in 1973, and when Jordan retired in early 1979, Griffith was named president. His appointment coincided with the opening of a $20-million expansion that moved Harold’s Club right up to Commercial Row along North Virginia Street.
As gaming revenues hit a plateau and the 1,500 slot machines stopped producing ever-increasing numbers, Harold’s Club tried makeovers for the club. Having already shed the down-home cowboy image the casino embarked on a “Bourbon Street” in Reno plan. It didn’t help.
Harold’s Club was taken over by the Lincoln Management Group in early June of 1988. Lincoln Fitzgerald had owned the Nevada Club next door since the late 1940’s and built Fitzgerald’s Casino-Hotel across Virginia Street before his death in 1981. His widow, Meta, sold her holdings in 1985 to a group headed by Phil Griffith named the Lincoln Management Group.
Gaming revenues in Reno held steady in the early 1990’s, but smaller clubs like Harold’s were forced to operate with a smaller portion of the pie. Newer, exciting clubs like the Peppermill and the Clarion were eating into Harold’s Club’s share of the traditional gambling base, and while the club consolidated their gaming areas and reduced their staffing, profits could not be sustained.
In December of 1994, Phil Griffith, president and chief executive officer of Fitzgerald Gaming Corporation, announced the corporation had found a buyer. In March of 1995, Harold’s Club closed its door.
A new buyer was never able to get the club open again and the tower and casino were both torn down. In its place