E. Parry Thomas

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E. Parry Thomas (born June 29, 1921) is a now-retired American banker who helped finance the development of the casino industry of Las Vegas, Nevada. Along with his business partner, Jerry Mack, Parry Thomas is credited with building Las Vegas into what it is today.[1] He was born in Ogden, Utah.

Thomas worked for Continental Bank & Trust Co. of Salt Lake City. Walter Cosgriff, who headed that bank, also owned a stake in the Bank of Las Vegas, which opened in 1954. The Las Vegas bank was struggling, so Cosgriff sent Thomas to find out whether it should be closed. Thomas was enthusiastic about the potential and ended up assigned to work in Las Vegas full-time.

Role in developing Las Vegas[edit]

Thomas arrived during the pioneering phase of gaming in Las Vegas. Banks at the time were wary about lending to casinos, because of the risks involved. Thomas realized that gaming, like insurance, was based on probabilities and could be a sustainable business. If other bankers wouldn't lend to Las Vegas casinos, Thomas would. He was instrumental in getting insurance companies and pension funds to invest in Las Vegas gambling operations as well. Thomas later said, "We felt a great obligation to deal with all legitimate enterprises within the state." It wasn't until the 1970s that other banks would begin to lend to casino operations.

In 1955, the Bank of Las Vegas made its first casino loan to Milton Prell for the Sahara Hotel and Casino. The $750,000 enabled Prell to build the Congo Room, 120 hotel rooms and to make other improvements.

In the mid 1960s, the owners of the casinos were starting to have succession issues. Many were ready to sell, but Nevada law required that all owners be licensed which resulted in casinos selling at low valuations. The law prevented publicly held companies from acquiring casinos, because it was impractical for every stockholder to obtain a license. Some thought corporate control would open the gambling industry to hidden ownership. Thomas proposed changing the law about 1965. Northern Nevada, being much larger at the time, controlled the Legislature, and William F. Harrah of Harrah's casinos figured he didn't need investors on Wall Street. He persuaded legislators to kill the bill. Thomas convinced Harrah and his attorney, Mead Dixon, to join him in supporting the bill. His point was "what was (Harrah's company) going to do when Bill Harrah died?" They understood immediately. The bill became law in 1967 and was refined with a 1969 amendment. Only those holding 10 percent or more are required to be licensed.

In 1968, Bank of Las Vegas merged with Valley Bank of Reno. Reno was still a larger city at the time and the Valley Bank shareholders wouldn't have a major bank in their community called Bank of Las Vegas so they chose to use the name Valley Bank.

During this time Howard Hughes became interested in Las Vegas. Bob Maheu, a former FBI agent who was Hughes' top aide, couldn't recall any major piece of valley real estate Hughes acquired without consulting Thomas, including six casinos. For a summer while his family was in southern California vacationing, Thomas moved into the Desert Inn Hotel so he could quickly transact the business Hughes needed done. Thomas bought properties as nominee for Hughes so the sellers wouldn't know Hughes, the richest man in the world at the time, was bidding for the property.

In the early 1970s, Valley Bank, at Parry's urging, lent $1.2 million to Steve Wynn, which Wynn used to buy a narrow strip of land next to the Caesars Palace, right on the major thoroughfare, Flamingo Road. Earlier Parry had tried to sell the land to Caesars Palace but they weren't interested. Wynn then announced plans to build the world's narrowest casino, motivating Caesars to buy the land for $2.25 million. With none of his own money invested, Wynn made $1 million on the deal. This gave Wynn enough money to buy a significant interest in the Golden Nugget Hotel in downtown Las Vegas and soon take over the company.

Thomas and his partner Jerry Mack, soon learned that the University of Nevada, Las Vegas had very little land for growth, so they established the Nevada Southern University Land foundation. They donated $500,000 for feasibility studies and the initial architectural renderings for the university. Through the foundation, they helped acquire all the land upon which the university sits today. The basketball arena where the famous Runnin Rebels play bears their name today, the Thomas & Mack Arena.

In 1992, BankAmerica Corp. bought Valley Bank of Nevada.


  1. ^ Nielson, Christopher. "Banking on Success". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved 14 June 2012.