Thursday, Dec. 31, 1959 | 11:59 a.m.
Downtown sages look to 1960 as a big, booming, bustling year for Fremont Street - especially for the north side of the Main Stem, between First and Second Streets, which is about to be carved up between the gambling barons who operate the Horseshoe and Mint Clubs.
By mid-1960, the Mint Club will have expanded its present Fremont Street frontage to a total of 180 feet, taking the operation to the corner of First and Fremont Streets.
And if present plans go through - and the odds are that they will - the Horseshoe Club will have acquired the Boulder Club, stretching its Fremont Street frontage to a total of 125 feet and placing its casino operation right next door to the Mint Club.
But the operators of the Horseshoe and the Mind each deny an economic battle is being waged.
Executive Sam Boyd of the Mint Club says, "It's only friendly competition and surely will stay that way."
Ed Levinson, president of the Fremont Hotel, Inc., which operates the Horseshoe, echoed Boyd's sentiments, adding, "The proposed expansion of both organizations should have a healthy effect on the overall prospects of the downtown area."
One thing is certain. Both operations have the financial wherewithal to go into lavish expansion plans.
The Mint Club is owned by the group headed by Milton Prell which operates the Sahara Hotel. It is one of six corporations valued in excess of $20 million which are controlled by the Prell group.
In addition to the Sahara and the Mint, the Prell organization also operates the Lucky Strike Club, located directly across Fremont Street from the Mint plus six downtown parking lots.
On Dec. 28, the group concluded a lease transaction to acquire the defunct Bird Cage next door to the Mint, plus the North First Street frontage owned by William Elwell which formerly housed the Busy Bee Cafe and the Lido Bar. The present structure will be replaced by a new two-story building, Boyd said.
Boyd said the lease transaction involved $400,000. An additional $600,000 will be spent to expand the Mint from its present location to include the Bird Cage and the new Elwell building.
Target date for a grand opening of the new - and bigger Mint Club - is May 30. Just how big is reflected in the measurement of the proposed Mint Club's frontage: 180 feet on Fremont Street and 140 feet on North First Street.
Although the Mint got a head start on its expansion plans, the Horseshoe reportedly is moving swiftly to catch up.
Negotiations have been underway for several weeks as the Horseshoe Club principals seek to acquire the Boulder Club, one of the earliest gambling halls to dot Fremont Street.
The group, headed by veteran gambler Farmer Page, which presently operates the Boulder Club, has a lease on the property until next July 1. The property is owned by Margo Goumond Hines.
Levinson denies that the transaction has already been completed despite persistent reports to the contrary.
He says, however, that the lease and the proposed expansion to join the Horseshoe and the Boulder Club under the same roof will involve approximately $750,000.
Completion of Levinson's plans would enlarge the Horeshoe Club - again relying on a tape measure - to 125 front feet on Fremont Street added to its present 215 front feet on North Second Street, which includes the Horseshoe Restaurant.
In addition to the Horseshoe, its owners also operate the multi-million dollar 13-story Fremont Hotel at the corner of Second and Fremont Streets, and the Horseshoe Hotel, formerly the Apache.
The Prell group is also pumping more money into the Lucky Strike Club, remodeling the popular bingo parlor and slot machine house to the tune of $170,000.
This includes the installation of an "air curtain" which will replace the customary front doors. The "air curtain" was turned on yesterday. It is the second one installed in the state, the other similar device being located in Harrah's Club in Reno.
Both the Sahara Hotel and Fremont Hotel groups look to 1960 as a mighty big year, financially. It's easy to see why. The question is - who will reap the biggest harvest in this "friendly battle" between the gambling titans of Fremont Street.