1947 Hollywood actress Mildred Jenkins testified in court about her wedding night in Nevada. After marrying A.Q. Bonner, Jr., a Northern California rancher, the two had breakfast and went to a casino. “A.Q. lost all his money then insisted I give him mine because, he said, it belonged to both of us now,” she said. “When I repeatedly refused, he said I took the marriage too seriously and that he thought it was just a good gag” (Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1947). The judge granted Jenkins an annulment.
Two Minnesotans each wagered $5,000 (about $67,000 today) on a new Fort Scott, Kansas oil well not producing 25 barrels the first day. Twenty-seven Kansans pooled the same amount and bet the opposite. The latter group won and was paid.
1956 The gambling licensees of the Dunes and Silver Slipper casinos applied to restart bingo on the premises, but the Nevada Gaming Commission denied their request, stating that the return of the game to the Las Vegas Strip would be detrimental to the area. This was because in prior years when bingo had been permitted, the competition had gotten out of hand and the ample prize money had drawn so many people, it had created traffic problems.
1909 Businessman David Eldridge and self-described “desert rat,” Malapai Mike, traveled 40 miles across Death Valley in California to investigate a proposed power site for the Brockington Company in Boston, Massachusetts. On their return, they got lost in what seemed to be a sinkhole. In the oppressive heat, they grew exhausted and dehydrated, and one of their two burros died. They tossed a silver dollar to determine who’d take the remaining burro and try to get to safety. Eldridge lost. The men divvied up the water, 1 quart for Mike, 4 quarts for Eldridge. Then Mike left. He made it to civilization and safety despite the second burro also giving out. Hollow-eyed and emaciated, he told authorities the tale of his having abandoned his companion and his harrowing escape. Eldridge, who subsequently couldn’t be found, was presumed dead.
1946 Some Las Vegas, Nevada casinos handed out women’s nylons as slot machine and tango game* prizes. When the city’s board of commissioners found out, they banned it, threatening repeat offenders with losing their gambling license. It wasn’t the hosiery the officials took offense to; it was the casinos offering merchandise to encourage the playing of traditional games of chance. “We are endeavoring to maintain gaming on a high plane and feel bound to discourage and eliminate any practice which may impugn the dignity of our gaming establishments,” they said (Nevada State Journal, Oct. 12, 1946). * Tango is similar to bingo and keno
1859 Before Nevada became a state (1864), a few hundred miners at Gold Hill — in what then was the Territory of Utah — passed some anti-crime laws. One forbade gambling: “No Banking games, under any consideration shall be allowed in this district under the penalty of final banishment from the District,” according to the Territorial Enterprise. Photo from the University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections: by I.E. James
1800s To amuse themselves, some miners — California ones, as reported in this case — staged lice fights and waged large sums on the outcome. They placed two Pediculus humanus face to face on a level surface and nudged them forward until their heads touched. Then the battle was on. “Through their large magnifying lenses, the men would watch the combat with intense interest. The insects would often fight with great ferocity, lunging at each other with their tusks, biting off legs, rearing up on end, and displaying throughout the most desperate valor. The struggle would only end with the death of one or both of the gladiators,” reported the Reno Evening Gazette (Feb. 5, 1880).