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The Gaming Hall of Fame

1989 Inductee

Warren Nelson

Warren Nelson

Industry Leader


Warren Nelson (1913-1994) was one of the pioneers of gaming in Reno.

Born in Great Falls, Montana, Nelson brought a cowboy ethic to his long career in gaming. He was an influential executive at several northern Nevada casinos and a noted philanthropist.

Nelson got his gaming start in a Depression-era Butte, Montana keno game. Moving to Reno in 1936, he found work at the Palace Club, where remained, on and off, for the next several years. In 1942 he joined the United States Marine Corps.

When Nelson left the service in 1946, he helped Bill Harrah open up Harrah's Club, his first full-fledged casino (Harrah had earlier run bingo games in Reno). After leaving Harrah in 1948, Nelson owned a share in the Waldorf Club, which he also managed, before leaving for the Mapes, and from 1955 to 1962, the Palace Club.

After leaving the Palace Club, Nelson and a group of friends purchased the Club Cal Neva, which he helped turn into an extremely successful operation. Nelson was also an early member of the board of directors of International Game Technology and served five years as president of the Nevada Gaming Industry Association.

Nelson helped to establish the Truckee Meadows Boys and Girls Club and gave generously to both the University of Nevada Reno and Carroll College, a Helena, Montana Catholic college.

Nelson, who learned his craft in rough-and-tumble Montana during the Depression, helped to bridge the gap between the lawless frontier and modern respectability. His oral history, Always Bet on the Butcher (taken from interviews conducted in 1978) remains a classic of gambling literature and a unique look at a storied career.


Further resources


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Last modified Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:07 PDT


This page last updated Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:07 PDT .