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.