Filed Under Gambling

New China Club (site)

Bill Fong opened the inclusive club in 1952, when other Reno casinos would not admit people of color.

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.

Images

Keno queens outside of New China Club
Keno queens outside of New China Club The crowning of the Keno queen outside the New China Club, ca. 1960 Source: Nevada Historical Society MSNC 469 Date: ca. 1960
Bill Fong
Bill Fong Bill Fong was born August 30, 1920, in Canton, China. He learned gaming operations in Canton, Macau, and Hong Kong. Fong served as a mechanic in World War II and then landed in California after the war. He moved from Oakland to Reno in 1951. Source: Nevada Historical Society ETH-03080
"Let's Get Acquainted!" ad
"Let's Get Acquainted!" ad An early ad for the club appearing in the Nevada State Journal highlights that the New China Club was open to anyone, regardless of race. Source: Nevada State Journal Date: October 25, 1952
New China Club exterior
New China Club exterior Postcard advertising the New China Club, circa 1950s. Text on the back reads, “While in Reno you are cordially invited to the New China Club, Reno’s Newest Casino & Bar.” It notes that the location is next to the S.P. [Southern Pacific] Railroad Depot. Source: Nevada Historical Society WA-11509 Date: ca. 1950s
New China Club interior
New China Club interior An interior view of the New China Club Source: Nevada Historical Society MSNC 469 Date: ca. 1960
Governor's Mansion meeting
Governor's Mansion meeting Governor Charles Russell, Jesse Owens, Bill Fong, and Tom Myles gather at the Governor's Mansion during Owens' 1958 visit to Reno for the Keno Queen contest. Source: Nevada Historical Society MSNC 469 Date: 1958
Keno Queen parade
Keno Queen parade Keno Queen contestant Dorothy Fitzhugh of Las Vegas in the 1958 parade. In the truck behind her is the Ed Garland Original Dixieland band, flown to Reno from Hollywood; Garland wrote a song, “Keno Queen,” for the event. Source: Nevada Historical Society MSNC 469 Date: 1958
Fong Open
Fong Open Joe Louis with the Fong Open tournament winners at the New China Club, October 1960. Source: Nevada Historical Society MSNC 469 Date: October 1960
Jazz singer at the New China Club
Jazz singer at the New China Club Jazz performances from artists such as Patience Valentine, Eagle Eye Shields and his Four Plus One, and the Two Hot Coles, were a popular occurrence at the International Room of the New China Club. Here, an unidentified artist and band perform. Source: Nevada Historical Society MSNC 469
Climbing with Nevada ad
Climbing with Nevada ad Newspaper ads for the New China Club continued to emphasize that all were welcome. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: January 6, 1959

Location

260 Lake Street, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Sarah Patton, “New China Club (site),” Reno Historical, accessed May 19, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/273.