When the Nevada State Prison Had a Casino In It

Between 1932 and 1967, a Nevada-style casino operated inside the Nevada State Prison. For 35 years, this inmate-run gambling operation coexisted in a place where vice is normally prohibited. There’s no other example in the history of penalization in the U.S. where casino gambling was allowed. The prison was never issued a gaming license or in any way recognized by Nevada gaming authorities. Rather, it was more or less ignored and tolerated. If an application for license had been made, it surely would have been denied based on the unsavory character of the applicants, not to mention their criminal history. The casino was self-policed. The inmates who ran the games didn't tolerate cheating or strong-arming for fear of getting shut down by the warden. A percentage of the take was deposited into the Inmate Welfare Fund, an act which added legitimacy to this “immoral" habit. During its heyday, the prison casino included blackjack, craps, poker, and sports betting. Throughout its history, various wardens either turned a blind eye to the casino, considering it a worthwhile distraction for the inmates. That all changed in 1967 when a bill in the State Legislature to prohibit prison gaming was defeated in the Senate. Shortly thereafter, the State Prison Board used its authority to close the casino. The sandstone building which housed the casino was demolished soon after.