I asked Doug Saito, you know, the casino gaming chip storyteller and publisher of Chip Chat Magazine, to write this article. Doug told me that he would do John Campellone's biography at some later time; but because of this promotion, it is necessary for me to tell at least this piece of the story.
It begins in late 1981. John Campellone (or "JC," as he prefers to be called) had just opened the Playboy Club in New Jersey. His work completed, he and his wife Karen decided to return to their first love, Nevada. Trying to decide what to do with one's life can sometimes be difficult. JC loved gaming, particularly the fun and excitement of owning his own gambling establishment. After all, he opened, owned and/or operated more casinos than most. JC contacted his old friend Mary Bumm, who still owned Our Bar in Pahrump. The place never had gaming but he figured he could "fix" that if he could convince Mary to let him have it. Most people in Pahrump know how the place got its name. Mary Bumm and partner Al Werley christened it Our Bar when they opened it years before. JC proposed a lease with option to buy, and Mary agreed. Now, if JC could only find Tom Duke, his old partner, the deal would be done. JC, always a man of his word, promised Duke years before that if he ever opened another place, Tom would have the opportunity to invest. Locating Tom wasn't too difficult; he could be found every day at his own establishment, Tomkin's Feed Store. JC and Tom struck their deal. Tom would buy an interest with JC retaining the majority. Our Bar would reopen on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1982.
Remodeling increased the property by 50%, just enough space for two blackjack tables. Because of the lack of employees, Nevada Gaming authorized only a one-year conditional license, to emphasize their concern for proper cash controls. Ten boxes of $5.00 and two boxes of $25.00 chips were ordered from Paul-Son's. Everything was set for the opening. Our Bar operated for approximately one year, and then closed its doors. The reason it closed was......but, that's another story for another time. Upon closing, JC took inventory of the chips. All 200 $25 chips were there. But in counting the $5 red chips (which should have totaled 1,000), 14 were missing. "Probably taken by chip collectors," JC told me during our recent interview, displaying one of those grins that stretches from ear to ear. And so ended a meeting with one of the most fascinating gaming characters I ever met. What about the chips? Well, to borrow an expression from a well-known East Coast chip dealer, I've got them all. You may ask, What are you going to do with them, Jim? Make probably $40,000 off them? Not really, I'm going to use them to promote our hobby. Rest assured that JC would never have let me buy those chips if he thought I was going to profit from them. He could have sold them many times over to chip dealers, but chose not to.