Mourning the Passing of Keno and Keno Men

Casino gaming is a mature industry, long past its youth. The last members of its pioneering generation are disappearing all too quickly. In the last few weeks, six people who were part of the foundation of casino gaming died. Four were well-known Las Vegas gaming figures. The fifth was a pioneer in Indian gaming. The sixth, Fred Rogers, was neither well-known nor a pioneer.

Fred Rogers died in May in Reno, Nevada. Fred was too young to be called a pioneer; he belonged to the second generation of early gaming people. And yet, he served the industry as long and, in his way, as well as the more famous pioneering people did. Fred Rogers worked for 35 years in casinos and for 35 years Fred worked in keno. He knew his job and did it well; his customers came back over and over to play keno and talk to him. Wherever he worked, the casinos prospered.

Fred Taylor Rodgers, age 68, of Reno Nevada, passed away May 28th, 2014 after his long battle with illness. Fred was born to the late Audrey Francis Rodgers and Robert Frances Rodgers February 23rd, 1946 in Redding California. Fred was married to Rochelle Rodgers in 1977, and they lived together at their home in Lemon Valley Nevada for the past 37 years. Fred was a loving son, husband, and father. Fred was a long-time Reno resident, retired from a career in the keno department for several Reno area casinos including the Peppermill and the Comstock. Fred was an avid reader who loved a good Hatuey’s cigar. He also enjoyed fishing, watching bad horror movies, and spending time visiting with family and friends. Fred was a decorated veteran who served in the Vietnam War. Fred enlisted in the United States Marine Corps 3 days after his 17th birthday on March 26th, 1963. Fred was honorably discharged on March 25th, 1969. Reno Gazette-Journal, 6-1-14

In 1963, Fred joined the Marine Corp. He served two tours and was in Vietnam before being discharged. In 1969 after his discharge from the Marines, Fred returned to his hometown, Reno, Nevada and got a job writing keno at Harold’s Club. Working at Harold’s Club was more than just a job for him; it was an education in keno and casino gambling. When Fred worked at Harold’s, the keno game was independently owned and operated by Jessie Beck. That game was the busiest keno game in the state. And for those people lucky enough to get their start there, it was the best place to start keno. Also, anyone who worked at Harold’s also learned how to treat people. Harold Smith and Jessie Beck both respected their customers and their employees. It was a great place to work and a great place to acquire a trade.

Fred worked in four or five more casinos before he was forced by his health to retire in 2003. He was the quintessential supervisor. Fred knew keno. He understood keno players and he understood keno writers and runners. Fred and I worked together twice and in theory I was Fred’s supervisor, except that I wasn’t. No one was ever really Fred’s boss. He allowed me to act like a boss as long I understood my role. I could make whatever decisions I wanted as long as they did not conflict with his way of running his shift. He knew that he knew best and on most days I knew that Fred knew best. It was a good working relationship.

Fred never became a keno manager. He turned down any promotion that was offered to him. He had found his place; he understood it and liked it. Fred was a keno man, one of the last of his kind. Keno is no longer very important in Nevada casinos. It once contributed 15-20 percent to a casino’s total gaming revenues and it served as a beginning for many casino careers, including mine. A young person who learned keno well found many opportunities for growth and promotion in the gaming industry. Today keno is a dead end, it produces very little revenue and it offers no opportunities.

Fred Rogers and his peers have gone, but they left something behind. They left an industry that grew and matured on the foundations they built. They helped a generation of professional managers understand casinos and gambling. Keno was successful in its time because it was exciting, offered lots of ways to win, big payoffs and a friendly environment. It was enough to keep the players coming back for a long time. But as good as Fred was, he could not stop the tide of technology and the monster revenue producing slot machines that eventually brought keno down. Casinos of the future will be different, but without Fred Rogers and his keno game, there will be something missing, at least for me.


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June 2014
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