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 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.


July 5, 2017   Wednesday

I spoke this evening at the Las Vegas library about the careers and lives of casino pioneers Moe Dalitz and Benny Binion. They were the two biggest gangsters to move to the city and to own and operate casinos. Dalitz built the first high-rolling casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip, the Desert Inn, and the world’s biggest hotel and largest casino, the Stardust. Benny Binion owned the Horseshoe Club in downtown Las Vegas. It was the only casino downtown that drew many of the big players, who stayed at the Strip resorts, to make a lay down (the term for placing cash on a table wager).

I discussed the illegal gambling and Prohibition liquor careers of Dalitz and Binion prior to their coming to Las Vegas, and also their contributions in developing  legal casino operations in Nevada. Despite their earlier illegal careers, both men were highly respected by the local residents who dealt with them and by the Nevada gaming control authorities, because both were always cooperative with the enforcers and followed all state regulations.

After my presentation, I answered the audience’s many questions about the history of the Las Vegas casino industry. These readers’ inquiries were stimulating, and I am most appreciative for the attendees reception and strong applause at the end. Afterwards, I autographed both “30 Illegal Years To The Strip” and “All Against The Law”.


June 3, 2017   Saturday

Today, I spoke to local readers at the Clark County library in Las Vegas. My hour-and-a-half talk was about the gangsters who built 80% of the Las Vegas Strip resorts during the two decades from the Flamingo in 1946 to Caesars Palace in 1966. The theme was from my “30 Illegal Years To The Strip”. It covered these gangsters’ criminal careers during Prohibition and then their elegant but illegal casinos across the country, until they and their associates moved to Las Vegas.

In addition to explaining what these Strip pioneers actually did and did not do during their criminal careers and what their values were, I presented the great myths that have developed about their backgrounds. I described the many major, serious inaccuracies in most books about these men’s careers that are well documented by the factual sources in my book.

I offered strong evidence that the gang leaders of this era talked like normal people in private meetings and not like the cartoon-like threatening bullies they are always portrayed as in Hollywood’s gangster movies and TV shows. In this regard, I plugged KC Detective Gary Jenkins’ book “Leaving Vegas” that contains the transcripts of FBI’s bugged conversations of the Mafia leaders involved in the large casino skim, which was fictionalized in the movie “Casino”. While these Midwest Mafia leaders were frustrated with their Las Vegas casino management, these bosses in private talked like normal people with no threats or anger. Earlier this year, Gary played the actual FBI bugged recordings at this library to show how normally all these men talked and what they actually said, when they met with each other in private.

I also discussed the many serious errors in the two AMC series of “The Making of the Mob”, both for New York and for Chicago. I especially pointed out this series’ complete reversal of the actual role of the Chicago Mob in the Las Vegas casino industry from the 1950s to the 1980s, as presented in the final episode 8.

After my presentation, I answered numerous questions about various aspects of the history of the Las Vegas casino industry to this very inquisitive group. Then, I autographed both “30 Illegal Years To The Strip” and “All Against The Law”. I am most thankful to everyone who attended for their welcome applause at the end of my presentation, and their warmth during our conversations, while I signed books.


April 27, 2017   Thursday

I just finished my fifth radio interview with Morgan White Jr. on his clear-channel broadcast from Boston that reaches the eastern two-thirds of the country. Because of his great knowledge about the history of the Las Vegas gambling industry, it was a wide-ranging hour and a half discussion. We covered some of the great casino operators like Moe Dalitz, some of the main underworld hidden interests like Sam Giancana and Nick Civella, and why so many long-term Las Vegas Strip casino operators wanted to sell out, when tycoon Howard Hughes arrived in town interested in purchasing resort casinos.

Morgan and I discussed how the Sopranos TV series characters were so unrealistic, and how different the gangland leaders of the 1920s through 1970s were from the way they are typically presented by Hollywood movies and television shows. This was the era before America held primary elections, and many of the biggest gang leaders were major influences on their district voters. These mobsters were so effective because they were personable and helpful with their constituencies, rather than being the bullies they are always depicted as.