Bill Harrah stands as one of the most influential figures in gaming history. The company named for him is currently the world’s largest gaming operator, and his focus on efficient management and effective marketing has become the industry standard.
Harrah owned a series of small bingo parlors in downtown Reno. In 1946, he opened a larger gambling hall called Harrah’s Club.
In 1956, Harrah opened a Harrah’s Club at Lake Tahoe. In order to stay open during the slow winter, Harrah inaugurated a bus program that delivered patrons from across northern California to his casino. Both the Reno and Tahoe casinos became extremely successful, and both subsequently added hotels.
Harrah was generally content to let his top executives run daily operations, and devoted much of his time and money to an extensive collection of automobiles that was, at the time of his death, assessed at over $40 million.
In 1971 Harrah’s offered its first stock to the public, and in 1973 it became the first gaming company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Today, the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration is one of the world’s top hotel programs, a legacy truly worthy of this gaming pioneer.