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Casino Host Chips

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In the not-too-long-ago days of Las Vegas, your Casino Host was the man to know. They had the power of the pen and were generous with the RFB comps (Room, Food, and Beverage). They made you feel like a truly valued customer. Always happy to see you at their casino, they knew you were there to gamble, and gave little attention to today's obsession of tracking your play by computer and analyzing how much in comps you are entitled to receive. If you were there, you were playing, so you got comped at every turn. Need a comp to the buffet? Dinner for two at the steak house? A room for the weekend? How about a couple of tickets to the show? No problem. The Casino Host was readily available to satisfy your every request.

Some casinos went the extra step to empower their Hosts. Rather than arm their Hosts with the standard business cards, these casinos chose to use casino chips as the calling card of their Host. The Host would have plenty of personalized $1 casino chips in their jacket pockets and handed them out regularly to their guests. These $1 chips could be played just like any house chip at any of the casino's table games. What a great idea! The Hosts could flaunt their power to hand out comps, as well as chips, to make your stay something special and take the sting out of your eventual loss in the pits or at the one armed bandits.

As you might have guessed, many guests took these $1 Host chips home with them as souvenirs. Let's look at a few $1 Host chips that were used at the Thunderbird Hotel. For those not familiar with the Thunderbird, it opened its doors on September 2nd, 1948, and operated until New Years Eve, 1976 when it became the Silver Bird. The Silver Bird was only opened for 6 years when it was sold and renamed the El Rancho which operated for another 10 years until closing in 1992. The 2755 Las Vegas Blvd site was demolished to make room for the never completed Fountaineblueau Resort. The Thunderbird changed ownership during its lifetime, even being owned by Caesars for a few years. At the Thunderbird, Rosemary Clooney made her first Las Vegas appearance in 1951, and Judy Garland made her last in 1965.

The casino boasted a huge number of Hosts -- all ready to cater to your every whim. Below is the complete set of $1 Host chips. All featured one of the two Thunderbird Hotel faces shown below.

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Thunderbird Casino common fronts

The backs of the chips had the name of the Host. There were 28 Hosts in all with one female Hostess. Some Host chips are more common than others as those hosts worked at the Thunderbird for many years before retiring. Others had short stints, so their chips are much more valuable. In general, these $1 Thunderbird casino Host chips can be had for between $15 and $60 each.

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Thunderbird Host Chips

Born in 1916 in Wyoming, "Cactus" Pete Piersanti moved to Nevada where is was one of the founding fathers of Jackpot, Nevada. There, he opened his own casino, called Cactus Pete's, in 1956. The casino is still in operation today. The Host chips has a common front and personalized backs.

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Cactus Pete's common front

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Cactus Pete's Host Chips

Later, in 1971, Pete bought the Senator Club in Carson City and renamed it Cactus Jack's Senator Club and issued $1 chips to their hosts as well. In 1997 he renamed is Cactus Jack's which is still in operation. All of their Host chips were in use in the 1970's. One version was called the "Howdy Chip" and was used by 4 of their Hosts. The fronts and backs are shown below with each Host having their own distinctive color.

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Pete's personal chip

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Cactus Jack's Host Chips

Pete had his own personalized chips which even listed his phone number!

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Pete Piersanti's personalized chips

While the prestige and popularity of the Casino Host has faded since the earlier days of Las Vegas, these men and women are forever immortalized on the $1 Host chips issued by the casinos where they worked.
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