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Gaming pioneer Nelson, philanthropist Davis, die

Sep 28, 2004 11:15 AM

Warren Nelson, 91, one of the last of Nevada’s gaming pioneers, died Thursday at his home in Reno. He was inducted into the Gambling Hall of Fame in 1989.

A Montana native, Nelson was attracted to Nevada in 1936 by the state’s developing gaming industry. He began as a keno operator at the old Palace Club before putting his career on hold while he joined the Marines in 1942.

Following World War II, Nelson, and his bride, the former Pat Futter, returned to Reno where he joined another gaming innovator, Bill Harrah, to open a casino on North Virginia Street. He held several positions before joining the late Leon Nightingale and a group of investors in the purchase of the Club Cal Neva.

Nelson was an original member of the board of directors of International Game Technology (IGT) and remained in that position as the company grew to become the nation’s largest and most successful manufacturer of gaming machines. He also served on the state Board of Regents and for five years he was president of the Nevada Gaming Industry Association.

Throughout his career, Nelson was well known for his philanthropic efforts toward the University of Nevada, Reno, and Carroll College in Helena, Mont., whose football stadium bears his name. He also served as a trustee on the board of the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver, Colo.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter Gail of Reno; a son, Greg, of Taos, N.M., and three granddaughters.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Marvin Davis

Marvin Davis, 79, a billionaire whose financial empire began with his explorations for oil and gas and continued with movie and real estate purchases in California, died Saturday at his Beverly Hills home.

Although Davis became better known for his entertainment activities in Hollywood, he dabbled in the gaming industry as well, especially in the Midwest. Through Las Vegas gaming attorney Frank Schreck, he was granted a minor gaming license for Nevada and periodically had his name associated with potential Nevada gaming developments. None ever materialized.

A founder, along with his father, of Davis Oil Co., he spent several years "oil wildcatting" in the Rocky Mountains, eventually accumulating a large fortune. He relocated his family to California in 1980 and developed a reputation as a shrewd dealmaker, having purchased such properties as the Pebble Beach golf course and the Beverly Hills Hotel.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years and five children. Private funeral services are scheduled.