The Nevada Tax Commission granted a gambling license to Bill Fong for the New China Club on August 6, 1952. In his license application, Fong and real estate agent Helen Penny positioned the New China Club as a place where Black servicemen at Stead Air Force base could come to gamble, rather than being bussed to Sacramento, since Reno casinos would not serve them. An October 25, 1952 ad announced, “Reno’s Newest Casino-Bar,” suggesting the business opened around this time.
Opening at 260 Lake Street in a space formerly occupied by the Palm Saloon, the New China Club offered 21, dice, roulette, keno, and slot machines. Eventually it had the first legal fan tan and pai gow games in Nevada.
The club expanded in 1956, with a larger, improved casino area and a café. An ad for the grand opening refers to the club as “Reno’s Monte Carlo.” There was another grand opening in 1957 after the addition of more than 800 square feet of floor space, for a total of 4000 square feet for gaming; at the time it was the only casino with two individually operated keno games.
In September 1958, the New China Club launched the Keno Queen contest, accompanied by a parade through downtown Reno featuring the eleven contestants. Votes were counted by the Rev. C. A. Crosby, U. S. Woodard (president of the Reno-Sparks branch of the NAACP), and Tom Myles (editor of the Nevada Challenge).
In July 1959, the New China Club announced scholarships for a four-year term at the University of Nevada for Black students. Also in that month, the club began broadcasting a radio show with Frances Walters, NAACP branch entertainment chairman.
In April 1960, the New China Club added radio broadcasts of international and domestic news with Basil Woon, a former war correspondent. And in the fall of 1960, the club co-sponsored the Fong Open with the Fairway Golf Club of San Francisco. It featured 153 golfers, both men and women, from the Western states. The boxer Joe Louis participated as a contestant and helped award the 29 trophies and other prizes to the winners.
Bill Fong purchased the land and New China Club buildings on Lake Street for $300,000 in February 1962. In July of that year, he opened the International Room in the New China Club, billed as Nevada’s only international room. One of the draws was the regular schedule of jazz performances.
In 1971, it looked like the New China Club was set to grow even more, with a bid submitted by Fong to the city for a high-rise hotel casino. The city approved a height limit waiver, and in January of 1972, it was noted that gaming would be closed at the New China Club in preparation for the construction work, though the restaurant and bar would remain open. But in late June/early July 1973, the New China Club was razed and the lot leased by Harrah’s.
Bill Fong went on to run Bill Fong’s El Cortez Dining Room and Coffee Shop. He died in April 1982.