Popular imagination associates carnivals with casinos; both are rife with risk, danger, iffy environments, and fringy people. Before coming to Nevada, Raymond I. (Pappy) Smith operated carnival game concessions in Ocean Beach, California (San Francisco). His son, Harold Sr., came to Nevada after the legalization of gambling in 1931 to open Harold’s Club. Both father and son are credited with the phenomenal success of the club. Many fans of Harold’s Club attributed its far-ranging popularity to its atmosphere that captured the lure and mythology of the 19th century west. Other fans touted its variety of slots and game tables and, especially, its attractive women dealers as the secret to its legendary popularity. Known, too, for publicity stunts and gimmicks, Harold’s Club remains, even after its closing, a model for what worked.
At one time, Faro was the most popular game in the country. Originating in France in the early 18th century, it is said to have been a revised form of the popular British pub game Basset. The face of an Egyptian pharaoh on the royal deck of cards led to “Faro.” Faro spread to the New World rapidly after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was more widely played than poker in many Western saloons. (From “The Game of Faro” by Joe Zentner in Nevada in the West, Spring 2011).
In a special issue of Nevada Magazine (March/April, 1981) celebrating Gaming’s Golden Anniversary: 1931-1981, writer Buddy Frank devoted several pages to reporting on the fast-evolving world of cheaters and their tricks. Cheating was and is so pervasive in gambling that casinos need to relentlessly come up with new ways to foil cheaters, an aspect of the business that some may not be aware of. On June 11, 2013, Fox 5 news channel in Las Vegas reported that the Nevada Gaming Control Board was warning casinos about the potential for Google Glass to facilitate cheating. Google Glass allows the wearer to take pictures, record video and transmit data.