The Gambling History of Reno

Reno, Nevada is the third most populated city in Nevada and was founded in 1868. Reno is known as "The Biggest Little City in the World" and is famous for its many casinos. Reno is one of five places named after American soldier Jesse L. Reno and is also the birthplace of popular Caesars Entertainment.

1864 - 1930

Prospectors traveled far and wide to Nevada in hopes of striking it rich in gold and they brought gambling in Nevada to life. In their spare time, you could find the majority of them in saloons or gambling halls playing games and gambling away their money or gold.

In the early 1860s a Nevada Territory Governor named James Nye took a stand against gambling and tried to ban any games involving it. In 1861 the legislature agreed with Nye and put in place penalties for running a gambling game or institution or playing in one.

The ban on gambling was not successful and in 1864 the penalties were reduced to only the operators being punished and only to a mild degree.

Some forms of gambling were finally legalized in 1869 and these laws saw little changes in the next 40 years. In 1909 another push to legalize more forms of gambling happened and this time it succeeded - legalizing almost all types of gambling.

Soon after these gambling law changes, nickel in the slot machines started popping up. These machines would pay out in various things including sums of money under $2, drinks, and cigars.

By the 1920s Reno had card rooms that you could find legal or illegal games being played and it became the gambling capital of Nevada.


In 1931 Governor Fred Balzar signed Assembly Bill 98. This bill allowed wide-open gambling so that illegal betting in the back of casinos could now be legalized and brought to the main floor and conducted with regulations. This legislation allowed gambling to boom in Reno and was the base for the gambling we enjoy in Reno today.

Already existing card rooms, small casinos, and bingo parlors were the first to be licensed and many new gambling operators began flocking to the area to open their gambling establishment.

William Fish Harrah was drawn to Nevada and founded Harrah's Entertainment that's now known as Caesars Entertainment. In 1937 Harrah opened his first bingo parlor in Reno and in 1938 he opened the Plaza Tango also in Reno.


For many years the gambling licenses were handled locally at county levels but in 1945 this job shifted to state level which brought a 1% tax on gross earnings from gambling making Nevada the first state to tax gambling. This tax went into effect in 1946.

Nevada Club Casino and Harrah's Club, later known as Harrah's Hotel & Casino, both open in Reno in 1946.

In 1947 the gaming taxes totaled $670,000 and the Nevada Legislature raised the percentage of tax to 2%. The Mapes also opened in Reno in 1947.

In 1949 a bill passed that allowed the State Tax Commission to look into the background of the person or people applying for a gambling license.


In 1955 the gambling tax percentage changed again this time to a sliding scale them went from 3 to 5.5 percent.

In 1959 the famous Black Book was invented that keeps cheaters and nefarious characters out of casinos in the state of Nevada.


In 1962 a 400-room hotel tower was constructed in Reno by Bill Harrah.

The Gaming Industry Association was formed in Reno in 1965.


Several hotels and casinos opened in Reno in the 1970s including Eldorado Hotel & Casino in 1973, Sundowner Hotel & Casino in 1975, and Fitzgerald's Hotel & Casino in 1976.


The 1980s brought concern for Reno because of the 1970s gambling legalization in Atlantic City and the ending of the legal monopoly that had been going on in Nevada for the last 45 years.


In 1995 the Silver Legacy Hotel & Casino opened in Reno.


Reno rebranded itself as an outdoor adventure and gaming destination to embrace the natural surroundings of the area.

Jennifer Harman

Jennifer C. Harman-Traniello was born in 1964 and is a famous poker player from Reno.

In 2000 Jennifer won her first World Series of Poker bracelet playing a game she had never played prior to the event, No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball. She said she received a quick five minute tutorial session before hand.

She won her second World Series of Poker bracelet in 2002. She won this at a $5K Limit Texas holdem event and was the first women to have two bracelets until 2012.

Jennifer wrote a chapter about limit holdem in the popular book Super System II. She's also the only regular player at the high-stakes cash game at the Bellagio that's a woman.

In 2015 she was inducted to the Poker Hall of Fame and by 2016 her live tournament winnings were over $2,700,000.

Current Reno Casinos

Below we list the various casinos in Reno, Nevada, as well as information on the best features of each.

Atlantis Casino Resort Spa

Atlantis Casino Resort Spa has a tropical theme and was opened in 1972. It has over 64,000 sq ft of gaming space and 824 rooms. It also has a spa that's over 30,000 sq ft. Over the past 45 years Atlantis has been opened, around $150 million worth of updates have been applied to it.

Their signature attractions include:

  • Light Show
  • Waterfalls
  • And Torches

Their notable restaurants include:

  • Atlantis Steakhouse
  • Café Alfresco
  • Gourmet Grind
  • Bistro Napa
  • Chicago Dogs! Eatery
  • Manhattan Deli
  • Purple Parrot
  • Java etc.
  • Oyster Bar on the Sky Terrance
  • Sushi Bar on the Sky Terrance
  • And Toucan Charlie's Buffet & Grille

Circus Circus Reno

Circus Circus Reno was opening in 1978 and is a circus themed hotel and casino with 1,620 rooms. It's the second largest hotel in downtown Reno based on number of rooms. It has over 66,000 sq ft of gaming space and offers a free circus throughout the day and has 33 carnival games.

Club Cal Neva

Club Cal Neva was opened in 1962 and has 3 poker tables, 849 slot machines, 41 table games, and a race and sports book in its 36,252 sq ft of gaming space.

Their notable restaurants include:

  • Top Deck Restaurant
  • Steak & Pasta House
  • Knockout Grille
  • And The Casino Grill


Eldorado is a resort and casino that opened in 1973 with a theme that matches their name, El Dorado. They have 815 rooms and over 78,000 sq ft of gaming space. They also have a theatre that seats 580 people.

Their signature attractions include:

  • The Brew Brothers
  • Eldorado Showroom
  • Statue Fountain
  • And NoVi Lounge

Their notable restaurants include:

  • Millies24
  • Roxy
  • La Strada
  • Pho Mein
  • The Buffet
  • The Brew Brothers
  • Sushi Sake
  • The Prime Rib Grill
  • And The Eldorado Coffee Company

Grand Sierra Resort

Grand Sierra Resort was opened in 1978 with a modern theme, 2,001 rooms, and over 63,000 sq ft of gaming space. It was formerly known as MGM Grand Reno, Reno Hilton, and Bally's Reno.

Some of the amenities at Grand Sierra Resort include:

  • Wedding chapel
  • Shopping center
  • Convention center
  • Pool
  • Movie theater
  • 50-lane bowling alley
  • Race & sports book
  • Nightclubs
  • Lake golf driving range
  • And RV park

They have 10 different restaurants to choose from, two of which are by Charlie Palmer who's a celebrity chef.

Harrah's Reno

Harrah's Reno is a casino and hotel with a pavilion theme that opened in 1937. They have 950 rooms and over 40,000 sq ft of gaming space.

Their notable restaurants include:

  • Carvings Buffet
  • Hash House a go go
  • Inchiban
  • Harrah's Steak House
  • And Joy Luck Noodle Bar

Peppermill Reno

Pepermill Reno is a hotel and casino with a Tuscany theme that opened in 1971. It has 1,621 rooms and over 107,000 sq ft of gaming space. Pepermill also includes a 33,000 sq ft spa with sun deck, garden, indoor pool, salon, cabanas, outside bar, and a 9,500 sq ft health club.

Their notable restaurants include:

  • CHI
  • Island Buffet
  • Bimini Steakhouse
  • Romanza Ristorante
  • Café Milano
  • Biscotti's
  • Oceano
  • The Pub
  • Sports Del
  • And Café Espresso

Sands Regency

Sands Regency is a classic themed hotel and casino with 833 rooms, over 25,000 sq ft of gaming space, and was opened in 1970.

Their notable restaurants include:

  • Cabana Café
  • Pipeline Tijuana
  • The Copa Bar & Grill
  • 3rd Street Lounge
  • The Original Mel's Diner
  • Taco's Tijuana
  • And The Sands Buffet

Silver Legacy Reno

Silver Legacy Reno is a 19th century Victorian themed hotel and casino. It has 1,720 rooms and over 89,200 sq ft of gaming space. It's 42 stories tall and is usually lit with a green light; this led to it being referred to as the emerald city of Reno.

It has eight different restaurants including:

  • Sterling's Seafood Steakhouse
  • Hussong's Cantina-Taqueria
  • Pearl Oyster Bar & Grill
  • Flavors! The buffet
  • Triple Play Grill
  • Starbucks
  • And Café Central

They also have eight retail stores including:

  • Tradewinds Casualwear
  • The Boutique
  • Reflections
  • The Gift Shop
  • Carriage House
  • Chester's Harley-Davidson
  • Libellule Florals
  • And Lil' Big Stuff Kid's Sweet Boutique

Other Casinos

Other Casinos in Reno and surrounding area include:

  • Alamo Casino
  • Baldini's Sport Casino
  • Bonanza Casino
  • Boomtown Casino
  • EDGE Nightspot
  • Gold Dust West
  • Gold Ranch Casino
  • Nugget Casino Resort
  • Rail City Casino
  • Reno Nugget
  • Tamarack Junction
  • And Western Village Inn & Casino

Reno, Nevada's nickname of "The Biggest Little City in the World" is well suited for this packed city. Reno has a rich gambling history that can still be seen in their famous hotels, casinos, and spas today.