Sarann Preddy was one of a handful of women casino operators in Las Vegas, Nevada. Few women have experienced the extensive and often excessive process of procuring a Nevada gaming license. Preddy applied for this coveted document on more than one occasion. Preddy owned and operated a number of gambling establishments during her long career and thus offers a unique perspective on women’s opportunities to succeed in Nevada gaming.
Sarann was born in Eufaula, Oklahoma to Carl and Hattie Childs. She may have developed a penchant for entrepreneurial ventures from her father, who owned several businesses in Eufaula. Preddy married for the first time soon after graduation from high school. She, her husband Luther Walker, and her father Carl Childs moved to Las Vegas in 1942. Finding few opportunities in Las Vegas, Preddy went to Los Angeles to attend business school. She returned to Las Vegas and quickly settled for a job writing Keno at the Cotton Club on Jackson Street on the Westside. She learned to deal “21” and began to accumulate experience in gaming. Preddy followed her second husband, William Scruggs, to Hawthorne, Nevada in 1950 and literally fell into her first opportunity to own a gambling establishment. She bought the Lincoln Bar, obtained a gaming license, and operated the club for seven years.
During one of her frequent trips to Las Vegas, she first laid eyes on what many saw as a beacon of hope for the Westside and black Las Vegans, the Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino. In 1955, Preddy witnessed the excitement of the opening of the Moulin Rouge and, although she did not know it then, the first, fully-integrated hotel/casino was destined to play a significant role in her later life. Sarann Preddy returned to Las Vegas from Hawthorne in 1957 and worked at Westside clubs as a dealer until a newly enacted ordinance, barring women from dealing in Las Vegas, ended that career. She then turned to activities that suited her entrepreneurial goals and skills, operating several ventures including a cleaning establishment, dress shop, and a lounge. Preddy returned to dealing at the height of the integration effort and worked at Jerry’s Nugget for seven years.
Preddy and her children played roles in the integration of the gaming industry in Las Vegas. Her daughter, sons, and daughter-in-law opened long-closed doors to African American employment on the Las Vegas Strip. Preddy utilized a formidable agent for change by becoming active in the NAACP. She began her long association with the NAACP in Hawthorne and brought her experience to the Las Vegas branch during an era of heightened civil rights activity. She joined a powerful group of black professionals who had recently moved to Las Vegas to bring integration to the Strip. Preddy served in the administrations of a number of NAACP presidents and was instrumental in establishing the NAACP Women’s Auxiliary. At the urging of the NAACP she ran for a City Commission seat and although she was defeated, added political experience to an already impressive resume.
She obtained another gaming license and opened the People’s Choice, first as a supper club and then a gambling establishment. Seven years later, she was ready to bring her experience and drive into the venture that she admits became the defining episode of her life — restoring the Moulin Rouge to its previous splendor. With dreams of recreating the brief success of the Moulin Rouge, Preddy originally intended only to operate the gaming franchise for its new owner. In 1990, she and her husband Joe Preddy spent nearly every material possession they had worked a lifetime to accumulate, to purchase the Moulin Rouge. But they were unable to secure the financing required to renovate the hotel. They were ultimately forced to sell the Moulin Rouge to a developer who had expressed interest in its rehabilitation. Preddy was able to secure its designation as a historic preservation site.
Photo courtesy of Sarann Preddy. Audio courtesy of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada. They may not be reproduced without specific permission.