Silver Tailings: The Go-To Guy of Casino Design


There is a little known character that helped shape Nevada’s history, which seems to have been lost in the Mob-land story of Las Vegas.  Nola Hahn established himself as a leading expert on designing gambling pits that could be hidden away by panels or other camouflaging contraptions in case of a bust.

This was during the days of the Volstead Act, prohibition, speakeasies and the Club Continental in Los Angeles was his crowning glory.  By 1938, Hahn ended his partnership in the club having bought the Trocadero from Billy Wilkerson, who was none other than the man who founded the Hollywood Reporter, the Flamingo Hotel and discovered actress Lana Turner.

Hahn’s timing for the purchase wasn’t very good as later that year Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw, whose administration is seen as one of the most corrupt in the city’s history, was recalled and Fletcher Bowron was voted in as his successor.  Bowron ran on the platform of a crackdown on vice, which was part of what he called the Los Angeles Urban Reform Revival.

Hahn kept the Trocadero for a couple of years, then sold it and headed for Las Vegas, where he opened the Colony Restaurant in 1942, preceding Bugsy Siegel, who didn’t seek legitimacy until 1946 with Wilkerson’s Flamingo. Originally, Siegel came to Southern Nevada in 1934, but he could imagine any potential for organized crime in the desert.

Within a few years Hahn became the guy to go to when it came to designing legal gambling clubs. Unfortunately, there’s little of anything about him after that, other than he committed suicide in 1957 at the age of 60.

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