On Friday, October 28, I’ll be taking part in the Mob Museum’s Nevada Day festivities, signing books in the bookstore (where else) from 3-4 PM. Here is more info about the event: Nevada Day at the Mob Museum.
They say it’s a book signing, but in full disclosure I’ll sign just about anything you want to bring. I’ll talk, too. To be honest I have pretty bad handwriting so the actual signing will probably not be the best thing about the event. If I don’t get people to talk with, I’ll have to stare at that creepy Henry Hill portrait for an hour, so stop by if you are in the neighborhood.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I look at the death of my former workplace, the Trump Taj Mahal:
Even without the current Republican presidential candidate’s name on the building’s crest, the Taj is as perfect a symbol of Atlantic City’s quick decline as can be imagined. Opened in 1990 as the city’s largest, it kept its place on top of the casino win pile until the 2003 opening of the Borgata. The stilled casino’s minarets and gilded domes now give the sense of a dying empire.
Read more: Lessons From the Fall of Atlantic City – Vegas Seven
This was difficult to write.
I’ve been asked what I think about the Taj closing. If you didn’t know, I worked there for about 3 years (1994/95, 1998, 2000) so this one literally hit close to home for me. I had the chance to write about it for the Washington Post’s Post Everything, so I did:
Behind the campaign-related headlines, though, the end of the Taj — a tragedy to its nearly 3,000 employees and an economic drag on an already struggling resort town — underscores the mistakes that too many, including Trump, have made in Atlantic City. Even when the city was the hottest gambling destination in the world, it never built a sustainable path from its past to a prosperous future. Trying to base your economy on gambling alone, it turns out, is a lot like gambling itself: The odds, long term, are….
Read more: Donald Trump wasn’t the only one who made a bad bet on Atlantic City – The Washington Post
I wrote this partially in response to a lot of media inquiries I’ve gotten. I’ve spoken to several reporters who wanted to know more about the Taj, but they usually were just interested in me saying negative things about Trump and the whole story. Several of them started from the idea that Trump was completely inept and hired inept people from the start. Mentioning that Dennis Gomes–president of the Taj when I started there–is as highly respected as anyone in the business didn’t fit that narrative. And that’s just one of many.
As I suggest, there’s a whole lot more blame to go around. I feel like I could have written a lot more on this, but as always there are space constraints.
On a personal note, I will say that my co-workers at the Taj helped me through some very difficult times, and I’m inestimably proud to have been part of that team.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the new machines at this year’s just-concluded Global Gaming Expo:
Some subtext of the 2016 show (if you haven’t been keeping up on recent gaming developments) is that the streak of expansion that drove the industry from the late 1980s is largely over; there are few jurisdictions without gambling that look to adopt it anytime soon. While there is some growth in national gaming win, many states have seen flat or even declining results
Read more: Casino Industry Makes a Bid for Millennial Attention – Vegas Seven
Casino gambling is at a transition point, and it is fascinating to watch it play out. The industry changed a great deal as it grew and matured. But is it still nimble enough to pivot and deal with the challenges of maturity and changing customer preferences? That’s the big, big question.
I went full meta in this week’s Green Felt Journal. It was the first issue of a revamped Vegas Seven, so I talked with architect Brad Friedmutter about why Las Vegas hotels are constantly refreshing themselves:
With that in mind, while the new look of your favorite casino or weekly magazine might take some getting used to, odds are that a lot of thought and customer input went into it. If you like it, so much the better. If you don’t, make sure to tell someone why, because a new look is never too far off.
Read more: Redesign, Rebuild, Reconnect Remains a Must for Casinos – Vegas Seven
If you are in Las Vegas, pick up a physical copy of Seven to see the changes–I like the way it looks.
I’m pleased that my headline–“Redesign, Rebuild, Reconnect,” made it more or less intact to print. It’s a riff on Seth Rollins’s “Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim” that made sense to me.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I look back at the legacy of Parry Thomas, with an assist from Steve Wynn, who knew Thomas better than most:
It’s no understatement that without Parry Thomas, Las Vegas would look much different today.
Read more: E. Parry Thomas Built This City, One Loan at a Time – Vegas Seven
What I’ve learned is that it is basically impossible to understate Thomas’s influence on modern Las Vegas–not just its casinos, but pretty much everything.
I was lucky to be able to attend the memorial service at Encore on Tuesday. It was a beautiful tribute, with each of Thomas’s children sharing their thoughts. Steve Wynn closed with some remarkably personal thoughts on mortality and Thomas’s influence. I’m paraphrasing much less eloquently, but he said that each of us is someday going to be the “guest of honor” like Thomas, and if people have half as much praise for us as they do for him, we’ve had a good life.
That’s something to think about.
They blew up the last bits of the Riviera. I thought about it. I was sad. Then I thought about it some more. I was angry. Then I thought about it some more, and it made sense. I share some of that journey in my latest Green Felt Journal:
It’s a Vegas tradition, this sacrificing the past for a prospective future. Las Vegas is about today, not taxidermy. Even if the Riviera were still open today, it would be almost unrecognizable from the nine-story high-rise (the first in the state!) that Liberace opened back in 1955. Most of the Riviera’s physical plant dated from the 1970s or later. The iconic “No Ifs, Ands, or …” Crazy Girls sculpture dates from 1995.
Read more: The Riv’s Quiet End – Vegas Seven
The point I wanted to make was that it’s easy to just say we want to roll back the clock to happy, simpler days, but we need to ask ourselves, “Happier for who? Simpler for who?” I can’t find any easy answers.
I went to two ROH events last weekend. I had something to say about them for Vegas Seven. If you’re not a wrestling fan or don’t follow ROH, this might give you an idea of what you’re missing:
And this—the action in the ring—is where ROH really excels. The opening tilt, a four-corners survival match to determine the No. 1 contender for the ROH television title, is a good example. The match showed the best of what ROH has to offer: power moves, quick pacing, and high-flying acrobatics. It’s one thing to see Donovan Dijak, billed at 6 foot 7 inches and weighing in at 270 pounds, catch the diminutive Lio Rush mid-move and hurl him to the ground; it’s another to see the big man himself take to the air, diving out of the ring. That move was enough to garner the first “holy shit” chant of the night.
Read more: Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor Didn’t Disappoint – Vegas Seven
I really can’t say enough about this. I actually could have written twice as much and still not covered everything. Hopefully I will write more about this is the future.
I had two pieces in Vegas Seven last week connected to Ring of Honor’s Las Vegas events. The first was an overview of Death Before Dishonor and the subsequent TV tapings:
A global pro wrestling organization, Ring of Honor focuses more on in-ring action than World Wrestling Entertainment, the established “sports entertainment” kingpin, and its events are smaller than WWE ones with more wrestler/fan interaction. Cheap seats at a WWE event such as the recent Money in the Bank pay-per-view will put you in the upper bowl, far from the action, while cheap seats at an ROH event are on the floor, just a few rows back from the ring. It’s the difference between seeing a band at T-Mobile Arena or Brooklyn Bowl; one of them is a spectacle, the other more of a happening.
Read more: A Smack Down at Sam’s Town – Vegas Seven
You’ll get a more in-depth look at wrestling in the one on one interview I did with Jay Lethal. Here’s an excerpt that I think is particularly poignant given the results of his PPV match:
I realized that I made it in the business after having a conversation with my dad years ago. This was before my Ric Flair match, actually. It was when an action figure of mine came out. And my dad, he said, “You know, you’re getting to live your dream, you’re getting paid to do it, you’re healthy, you’re happy where you are. If you stopped wrestling today, I mean, wouldn’t you feel accomplished?” … And he was absolutely right.
Read more: One on One With Ring of Honor Champ Jay Lethal
Was that Lethal’s final interview in his (first) run as ROH champ? I don’t know, but I am so glad that he took the time to talk with me. He’s got a great story.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the CEO transition at Scientific Games:
In a move with big repercussions for the gaming industry, manufacturing giant Scientific Games recently announced that its chief executive officer, Gavin Issacs, is being replaced by former Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan. This is a major transition for Sci Games and reveals the direction the industry is headed.
Read more: CEO Shuffle at Scientific Games – Vegas Seven
The manufacturing side has seen a lot of consolidation but remains just as compelling as the operating side.