In 1956 Bill Harrah opened Harrah's Tahoe Club and established a busing program that brought working class gamblers from northern California to his Reno and Lake Tahoe casinos. This 1962 advertisement by Hoefer, Dieterich, & Brown, Inc. was designed to entice people in the San Francisco Bay Area to spend the weekend at Harrah’s Tahoe spending money on games, drinks, and food.
The Harrah’s brand began in 1946 with Bill Harrah when he opened a bingo parlor in Reno, Nevada. Ever since the opening of Harrah’s Reno Club, the brand has contributed to and often led trends in casino and gaming marketing and corporate strategies. For example, Harrah’s established a lucrative busing program in the 1950s, created a linked customer loyalty program in the late 1990s, and partnered with Native American nations just after the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1989. Harrah’s Entertainment Corporate Archives documents Harrah’s marketing strategies as well as the development of the corporation over the course of the 20th century. The Harrah’s Archives is housed in the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives and a detailed inventory of the collection’s contents can be found online in the finding aid.
Construction of Harrah’s Ak Chin Hotel and Casino located on the Ak Chin Indian Community Reservation in Arizona, 1993.
Ak Chin Council chairman Martin Antone, the Promus Companies chairman Mike Rose, and others at the groundbreaking of Harrah’s Ak Chin Hotel and Casino in 1994. Unlike many other gaming corporations, Harrah’s did not oppose the legalization of Native American gaming and formed partnerships with a number of nations including the Ak Chin Indian Community.
The Harrah’s Archives (dating from 1811 to 2004 with the bulk of the materials dating from 1940 to 2000) contain the promotional and corporate files of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and its predecessors, as well as Bill Harrah’s personal papers and card game collection. The materials were compiled and developed as a corporate archive by Harrah's Entertainment, Inc.’s Corporate Communications Department. The collection is primarily comprised of casino and employee periodicals, reports, manuals, promotional files, ephemera, and newspaper articles that document Bill Harrah’s casinos in Reno, Nevada and Lake Tahoe as well as Harrah’s Inc., Holiday Inns, Inc., Holiday Corporation, the Promus Companies, and Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. Also included are photographs that document the construction of Harrah’s properties, business operations, the people who worked and performed at Harrah’s properties, and Bill Harrah’s automobile collection. The collection also contains Bill Harrah’s collection of playing cards and card games.
The front of this brochure advertises Harrah’s customer rewards program “Total Rewards,” 2002. Before “Total Rewards” the loyalty program was called “Total Gold” and was the first linked loyalty program usable across all locations of a single gaming corporation. The reverse of the brochure shows the various Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. locations where customers could use their loyalty cards. Additionally, the location of Harrah’s casinos illustrates how the company expanded outside of Nevada into Native American and riverboat gaming markets in the South and Midwest.
The project to process and make the Harrah’s records more accessible for researchers is part of a larger initiative funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) titled “America’s Great Gamble: A Project to Promote the Discovery of Sources About the Expansion of Legalized Gambling Across the United States.” Researchers interested in this material will find the Guide to Harrah’s Entertainment Corporate Archives on the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives website. Additionally, read this blog post to find out more information about “America’s Great Gamble.”