SPOKE AT FIRST MOB WORLD SUMMIT



June 17, 2018   Sunday

Today, I spoke at the first MobWorld Summit. It was held in Las Vegas at the Plaza Hotel convention center near the Mob Museum, where some of the forum’s events were presented. This new organization is for people interested in the history of American gangland, and it is promoted by Larry Henry. He is a former Las Vegas Sun newspaper editor, and he was a teacher of journalism at the Haas Hall Academy in Rogers, Arkansas before becoming headmaster.

At the Summit, I presented the authentic histories of the top gangsters who built 80% of the Las Vegas Strip resorts from the Flamingo in 1946 to Caesars Palace in 1966, as presented in my 30 Illegal Years to the Strip. I also presented how these men taught me the casino business and positively influenced both my career and my development into manhood.

The audience was knowledgeable about mob history and was invigorated, asking me questions for a couple hours after my presentation. I talked with a few former associates, as well as some of my former UNLV students, and they brought back many wonderful memories.

I also visited with a couple of friends. One is former Kansas City Detective Gary Jenkins, who assisted FBI agents for a year to build the Las Vegas Strip casino skimming cases fictionalized in the movie Casino (1995). He wrote the fine book Leaving Vegas, which contains many FBI wiretapped transcripts of the Midwest Mafia gang leaders discussing their casino skimming activities. The other is Casey McBride, who is an expert on Frank Costello. He presents information about this top gangster on his websites FrankCostelloHistory.com and NationalCrimeSyndicate.com. What a great time I had!



This photo was taken after my MobWorld Summit speech. To the left is former KCPD Detective Gary Jenkins, and in the center is event developer Larry Henry. Their backgrounds are above.
 




ANOTHER CLEAR-CHANNEL RADIO INTERVIEW


April 14, 2018   Saturday

I just finished my fifth interview with Morgan White Jr. on his clear-channel broadcast from Boston that reaches the eastern two-thirds of the country. In our hour-and-a-quarter discussion, we covered what the isolated but romantic Las Vegas Strip resort desert oases were like in the 1950s, my wonderful years working for Howard Hughes’ Summa Corporation, and Ben Siegel’s life and vision for the Las Vegas Strip.

We also discussed how I opened the first sports book in a Strip casino, and it became Las Vegas’ most popular. I explained how my sports book manager Sonny Reizner set the betting line for the entire nation. Every morning, as he put up his contest numbers in the book at 9 a.m., 35 men stood around writing them down, so they could rush to the nearest payphones to call them to the nation’s largest bookmaking syndicates. Similarly, America’s biggest newspapers and TV and radio stations across the country carried the Castaways’ betting line in their sports stories.

Morgan was very interested in talking with me about Sonny, because they were good friends. Every time Morgan visited Las Vegas, they had long chats. Now when Morgan visits, he and I have dinner and talk late into the evening about the town’s casino history and the colorful characters associated with it. Thank you, Morgan, for the great publicity!

I continue to work hard on my next Nevada history book about the casinos of the 1920s through the 1940s, which I described in detail in my last blog below. In the meantime, a major casino consulting assignment came my way, and it slowed me down from writing for awhile, so I am now looking forward to this new history’s publication next Spring, rather than this Fall.

WRITING THE NEXT NEVADA CASINO HISTORY BOOK



December 23, 2017   Saturday

I hope everyone has a healthy and peaceful holiday season and new year.

In the past month, I have done three radio interviews promoting my history books as Christmas gifts. One was based in Los Angeles and two in Boston, including an hour on the clear-channel broadcast that covers the eastern two-thirds of the country.

I am hard at work on my next history about the Nevada gambling industry. It covers the casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe from the 1920s through the 1940s. During the Roaring ‘20s, Nevada’s casinos were wide-open operations like today, even though they not only offered illegal
gambling but also alcohol, which was banned by Prohibition. Nevada legalized casinos in 1931, following a multi-year, complicated political effort that was filled with great intrigue. It resulted from the vision and determination of just one man, who wanted Nevada to have a different type of tourist economy from the rest of the country, with wide-open vices going around the clock.

In the 1930s, the most popular legal casinos in Las Vegas and Reno were the ones that had been the busiest illegal casinos during the 1920s. Some of these gambling halls cleverly overcame the economic hardships of the Great Depression with ingenious and effective, but sometimes illegal, marketing programs.

I am well along in the writing process, as I am currently finishing the World War II era casinos. During the War, the casino industry, local economies, and player markets underwent great change. This is when the first Las Vegas Strip resorts opened, and when downtown Las Vegas casinos opened that would dominate the competition and remain the most popular for years to come.

The final era to be covered will be the nation’s great post-War economic boom of the late 1940s, when major casinos opened and brought action, excitement, and glamour to Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. Some of these would become the State’s most popular and successful for the next decade.

This dramatic growth of the casino industry, combined with the State’s dynamic political forces, led to the convoluted and difficult creation of Nevada’s unique form of policing: Gaming Control. In this process, an organized crime gang came very close to taking over control of the State’s government, but a few competent, dedicated, and gutsy State officials successfully fought off these malevolent forces. The murder of Ben Siegel is analyzed in detail from facts I assembled over years of digging for information to finally show that just one man had both motive and opportunity that fateful night.

Because the late 1940s had so many new casino openings and such momentous gaming control advancement, this period will fill about half the book with dramatic facts. The early casino pioneers during these three decades were the most colorful and fascinating personalities in Nevada history. They developed the rules for the most popular gambling games, and they introduced most of the great casino marketing developments that would first make Reno, and later Las Vegas, the world’s gambling center. These pioneers also developed the casino dinner-showroom and entertainment-lounge formats that would make Las Vegas the glamorous entertainment capital for the next half century. Most important to me personally, these pioneers described their business lives to me for my historical book series, and they took me under their collective wings to direct my incredible casino management career for which I am so deeply grateful.

This early exciting casino period had some great big-time gamblers, who bet unbelievable sums. These players include Nick the Greek, who was the biggest poker and casino player of his generation, and System Smitty, who calculated the mathematics of Blackjack card counting before the advent of computers. He won a fortune before the early casino operators realized he had found a way to pull back their statistical advantage. There were other major gamblers of this era, including the unbelievable life and misadventures of the biggest gambler in Reno’s history.

I will keep you posted about my writing and editing progress as I get closer to publication. My goal is to have this book released in October, but I am covering a large swath of exciting and fascinating history, so we shall see.

AUGUST LIBRARY SPEECH & BOOK SIGNING



August 26, 2017   Saturday

I spoke this afternoon at the Las Vegas Library about my career, the great casino pioneers who taught me the gambling business, and what Nevada’s Golden Era of Nevada gambling resorts was like before the Strip was transformed into the Megaresort Era of the 1990s.

I went into my extensive casino consulting career, and I described the major lawsuits and criminal cases I won as an expert witness. This included the huge IRS skimming case against the Dunes Hotel on the Strip, and getting the Nevada Supreme Court to dismiss the kidnapping and theft charges against the suspects in the terrible beating of two players at the Horseshoe Club in downtown Las Vegas.

I described my friendship with casino owner Johnny Drew and my respect for him as a casino operator. I explained my turnaround of Mesquite, Nevada’s Oasis resort for IGT slot-machine mogul Si Redd. I presented my management style, casino marketing and promotion innovations, and tremendous publicity machine for the Castaways and Silver Slipper casinos, which were in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.

I also explained why today’s casinos have to buy new slot machines more often than in the Golden Era, when the town’s hotel rooms were filled with gamblers, rather than convention attendees and party club revelers. As I explained why today’s machine models lose their popularity so quickly, there were many nods of agreement in the audience, as if these people had experienced what I was describing.

In contrast, I operated the Castaways and Silver Slipper for 13 years. I had inherited old machines and in expansions, I added some new machines and many old, used machines, so at the closing of both, as required under Nevada estate law, my machines average age was more than 20 years old. Yet, these machines had the highest average win per day in Nevada. I achieved this record because, when I bought the old machines I inserted new reel strips, since players do not care about the images, names, and lighting on the facades, but are only focused on what kind of action the machines’ reel strips give them.

As I explained, players today are not more fickle than the players of my era, they just cannot find machines that give them the gambling experience they are searching for, which my unique reel strips had given them for so many years.

After my presentation, I answered the audience’s many questions about the history of the Las Vegas casino industry. Afterwards, I autographed both “30 Illegal Years To The Strip” and “All Against The Law”.

I am most appreciative to Julie Okabayashi, who is the Library’s Scheduling Specialist. She proposed I do the three speeches this summer. She offered great assistance in making these events successful. Afterwards, she sent me the following email, “Thanks for all of the lectures you gave this summer for us. Every program you gave was well attended and the audiences really had a great time listening to your stories. I hope we can work together again soon.” Julie, I would also enjoy working with you on future presentations.