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Video Vault | From State Line to Primm

Reported by: Tom Hawley
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Updated: 8/06/2014 8:05 am

LAS VEGAS (KSNV — The last stop heading south along I-15 before California is Primm, of course. But longtimers remember that there were casinos and a small amount of residential housing there when Primm was the name of a family — not a location.

News 3 had broadcast live from that location many times before it officially became Primm — in 1992, for example, when there were plans to open a store selling lottery tickets just over the border.

"Scott Andrus is here to tell us that lottery players don't really have to go quite as far anymore," introduced anchor Sarah Hoeveler. "Scott?"

"For Gary Primm, the man who owns both Whiskey Pete's Casino and the Primmadonna Casino here at State Line ..." began Andrus.

State Line was the name on the sign for a community first envisioned on the California-Nevada by Ernest J. Primm, according to a 1954 Las Vegas Review-Journal article.

Primm had previously lived in Las Vegas, and then taken what he learned about gambling to Gardena, Calif., and pioneered poker clubs there — some of which continue to this day. He got around California anti-gambling laws by charging for a place at the table rather than a cut of the pot.

This led to involvement in local Gardena politics, some of which captured newspaper attention back in Southern Nevada. Perhaps when Primm's Rainbow Club was mysteriously bombed in 1960, it made non-controversial gaming in Nevada that much more attractive.

The unincorporated community that became home to Whiskey Pete's, the Primadonna and later Buffalo Bill's was initially known by a pragmatic name: State Line. When an I-15 interchange was built there in the early 1970s, it included exit signs bearing the unofficial State Line name.

Going back to that 1992 News 3 report, when Andrus said the words "Here at State Line", the spelling at the bottom of the screen was wrong, with no space between "State" and "Line". That space represented the only typographical differentiation between the southern Nevada location and a soundalike casino town up north. That was part of the impetus for a name change.

"Company officials hope it will get rid of any confusion with the other Stateline at Tahoe, and boost its image," reported News 3's Mary Pae in 1996.

The initial choice for a new name came from one of the casinos rather than the family operating them.

"Since the county commissioners have OK’d the name change from State Line to Primadonna," reported Pae, "the next step is to have the State Board of Geographic names approve it as well, before you see any of those signs coming down."

The name the state finally gave its stamp of approval to was music to the ears of the people running Primadonna Resorts.

"We're just very happy with it, and it's going to take some getting used to," spokesman Daniel Shumny told News 3 in 1992. "But we're here for the long term."

As it turns out, the Primm family was only there with full ownership for three more years. They sold out to MGM in 1999, and the property was later sold to Terrible Herbst. Today, the three resorts are owned by Affinity Gaming.

Primm is not the only southern Nevada town named for its casino-owner founder. The story of Laughlin, Nevada, will be featured in a future Video Vault.



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