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Old December 12th, 2010, 07:15 PM
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zengrifter zengrifter is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Default Nevada State Prison Casino Relegated to History

Prisoners at Nevada State Prison in Carson City operated their own casino
complete with poker and blackjack games, sports betting, and even craps. zg

Nevada State Prison casino relegated to history

Excerpt From Nevada Appeal 2/5/10

This is a undated file photo of inmates of the Nevada State Prison in Carson City, gambling
at a table inside the prison. Between 1932 and 1967, inmates operated their own casino.
Courtesy of Carl Osborne/Associated Press

Before receiving a gambling license, an applicant must undergo a thorough investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. People are routinely rejected if they have a criminal history or have associated with unsavory characters.

So then, how did inmates at the Nevada State Prison — every one of them a convicted criminal — operate their own casino for 35 years?

Blackjack, craps, poker, gin rummy, even sports betting were available as recreational activities for inmates at the state's maximum security prisons between 1932 and 1967.

Inmates operated the “Bullpen,” a stone building converted into a casino, on the grounds of the state prison in Carson City. Sometimes the local Kiwanis Club and state agency heads stopped by the prison casino to drop a few coins.

Former Mustang Ranch owner Joe Conforte, now a fugitive living in Brazil, even ran some of the games when he was a prison inmate there in 1962.

Inmates will gamble, regardless of whether it is legal or illegal, and prison gambling did keep them out of trouble, said Carl Osborne, a Las Vegas bus driver who has accumulated a collection of Nevada State Prison tokens, called “brass” by the inmates.

“I think the games would have been more than honest, because cheating inmates would be scared of the consequences,” Osborne said.

“If someone got caught cheating, they might have to be transferred out of state for their own safety. You wouldn't have been very safe there.”

There had been a riot at the prison early in 1967, and several legislators introduced a bill to close down the casino. Warden Carl Hocker was a veteran of San Quentin and a no-nonsense disciplinarian. The casino closure bill wasn't needed once Hocker took pre-emptive action and bulldozed the Bullpen.

Osborne is a history buff. He thinks it was a mistake to close the prison casino. He also realizes that not many Nevadans are around today who remember the era of legal gambling in the state prison.

“Virtually no one realizes we had a casino in our prison,” he said. “But it is in our history. It shouldn't be forgotten.”

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