Harold’s Club opened in 1935 and enjoyed an ever-expanding base of players, especially during the Second World War. Local service men helped fill the coffers, and after the war, many returned to Reno and did some gambling. Every casino in town did well in the post war period, but Harold’s Club boomed.
While Harold was out carousing in Las Vegas, “Pappy” hired a traveler who brought with him a mouse roulette game. The crazy game featured a large box with 50 numbered holes in it, and after the players had made their bets, a field mouse was released across the top of the box, and players waited anxiously for it to scoot down one of the holes. Usually, it disappeared into the box when a load noise was made, and while the game only lasted a week, publicity lasted for years.
Pictures of the game in action made their way to newspapers all over the US, and years later players would ask, “where’s the mouse roulette you guys got?”
After a major expansion in 1947 that included the Covered Wagon Room, accessible by the first escalator in Nevada and it’s Silver Dollar Bar with 2141 silver dollars set into the bar itself, the casino continued growing in the 1950’s.
Harold’s Club became the largest casino in the state and offered 48 table games from craps and roulette, to 21 and chuck-a-luck. There was also a thriving poker room, sports book, and a keno game, and the casino housed over 600 Pace slot machines.
Unfortunately, the 1950’s also brought out the worst in Harold Smith, Sr. He enjoyed his club’s success and partied as hard as Bill Harrah during the 1940’s, but Harold’s drinking and gambling took on epic proportions in the 1950’s. His 50% share of the casino had been whittled down by his divorce and his depression grew to a point that even the games in Las Vegas held no interest.
He was so confused and depressed that he wound-up in the psychiatric ward at local Saint Mary’s Hospital. Negotiations to sell the club began, and the Morgan and Agostini Corporation of San Francisco prepared to take over but the deal was never consummated.
Needing cash to shed their debt from building the seven-story tower, the Smith’s sold the property and buildings for $16 million to the Webbel Corporation and leased back the casino.
The new corporation included just Raymond I. “Pappy” Smith, Harold A. Smith, and Harold S. Smith, Sr. And, flush with cash, they purchased the Colony Club next door. Remodeling of the small casino ran nearly $300,000.
At the age of 80, “Pappy” passed away on May 24, 1967. His impact on Harold’s Club and the city of Reno would continue to be felt for years, but the casino itself began to falter.