Archive for the writing Category

13th floor fun in Vegas Seven

My latest Green Felt Journal is up in Vegas Seven. This week I talk about a brand new attraction at Circus Circus that’s a little spooky:

About this time every year, theme parks around the country get a monthlong reprieve from the off-season as they re-theme themselves for Halloween. No one wants to float down a lazy river in October, but being chased by zombies through a maze is another story. Locally, Circus Circus is making the most of scare season with two attractions that promise to terrify patrons.

via Welcome to the 13th Floor | Vegas Seven.

This was a fun story to research–I talked a little bit about my experience on the most recent Vegas Gang podcast.

It’s a quick, fun tour, and might be a neat side-trip if you’re coming to town for Vegas Podcast-a-palooza.

Baccarat doesn’t = back in LVBP

In my latest Las Vegas Business Press column, I dissect the August 2010 Nevada gaming numbers:

And if your casino doesn't offer baccarat or high-end play, you might be out of luck. With only 22 out of the 329 casinos with nonrestricted licenses in the state 6.7 percent offering the game, only a few are sharing in the baccarat bounty.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Bounce in baccarat doesn’t signal recovery.

I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a caller who wouldn’t identify herself but still had a very good question: could the rise in gaming revenues be tied to the extension of unemployment benefits?

My first thought was, “I really hope not,” and the nature of the revenues suggests that’s not the case, unless the unemployed are betting big on baccarat. But other revenues are up slightly, and my caller shared an admittedly anecdotal but no less valid example: her neighbor, thanks to the extension, received six weeks worth of checks at once, paid her rent, and gambled much of the rest of it away.

If you multiply that by a few thousand (a big if), you could have a definite bump in gaming revenues, albeit one at taxpayer expense.

You might be able to figure out if this was so by looking at gaming revenues on a day-by-day basis. A big jump in the days after the unemployment checks mail would tend to support the theory. On the other hand, if people from other states are taking their money and vacationing in Vegas, it would be hard to correlate.

Podcast-a-palooza in Vegas Seven

Thursday once again brings a new Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I talk about an event that I’m privileged to be a part of, Vegas Podcast-a-palooza:

The event is called Vegas Podcast-a-palooza, and it brings together three prominent Las Vegas podcasts: the Vegas Gang, a roundtable discussion among several Vegas aficionados (including this author) with a business and design focus; The Strip Podcast, Steve Friess and Miles Smith’s interview/discussion show; and Five Hundy by Midnight, Tim and Michele Dressen’s view of Las Vegas from a visitor’s perspective (the two have had a love affair with the city since their marriage here in 1997). Each show broadcasts live, from Las Vegas, in front of an audience.

via Podcast-a-palooza comes to the Flamingo | Vegas Seven.

I strongly encourage you to come down to Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza on October 30, at 4 PM, at the Flamingo GO pool (plug finished). It should be a lot of fun. You can get the tickets and all the info you need–including stuff on the 3X Total Rewards multiplier–right here.

Liz Butler’s story in Vegas Seven

It’s another Thursday, which means another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This one is about a remarkable woman who works at the El Cortez, Liz Butler:

If you want a lesson in Las Vegas history, you don’t have to go much farther than Liz Butler, who’s still serving drinks at the El Cortez. With an accent and attitude that betrays her East Coast roots, she’s been a fixture at the El Cortez for nearly four decades, and she doesn’t show any sign of leaving.

via Four decades at the El Cortez | Vegas Seven.

This was my favorite story to write in the past few months. I really liked talking with Liz, and I hope that I could communicate some of her personality through the story. She’s really interesting, and has that total New Yorker attitude, in a good way.

Alfred Heston in Casino Connection

This month in Casino Connection, I take a look back at one of Atlantic City’s most honest public officials, and its first noteworthy historian, Alfred Heston:

Atlantic City has seen generations of public officials and interested citizens, but few residents have left a legacy as monumental as Alfred Miller Heston, a newspaper publisher, historian and city official.

via Making History: Atlantic City’s Alfred Heston | Casino Connection Atlantic City.

This was a fun one to write. Heston was a truly unique Atlantic City character, and his name lives on in the Heston Collection at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.

Response to another lame take on Vegas

What is it about Las Vegas that brings out the worst in some writers? The latest victim shares his thoughts on Las Vegas in Smithsonian Magazine, though I cant imagine why an editor would solicit this kind of superficial “analysis,” much less publish it:

I knew, going in, that I’d feel out of place. The glitz, the kitsch, the acid-trip architecture—Vegas isn’t me. I’m more a Vermont guy. I’ve never actually lived in Vermont, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking of myself as a Vermont guy. Writing a book, however, greatly increased my sense of alienation. Vegas doesn’t want you writing any more than it wants you reading. You can sit by the topless pool at the Wynn all day long, all year long, and you won’t see anyone crack open anything more challenging than a cold beer.And it’s not just books. Vegas discourages everything prized by book people, like silence and reason and linear thinking. Vegas is about noise, impulse, chaos. You like books? Go back to Boston.

via Las Vegas: An American Paradox | Travel | Smithsonian Magazine.

It’s probably 1,500 words long, but it feels much longer thanks to the 5 click-throughs you need to do, and the absolutely vapid writing.

Great, J.R., you saw some T&A, and you had a two-minute conversation with some lady in a restaurant. That doesn’t mean you’ve plumbed the soul of America, or even understand Las Vegas at all.

It’s easy to be contemptuous of other people having a good time–the Puritans elevated it to an art form a few centuries ago. But that says more about the writer than the subject, doesn’t it?

On one hand, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Moehringer spent two years and didn’t have a good time. I get that. But it’s hard not to take what he says personally. I like books, and I live in Vegas. I don’t see any disconnect between the two. And anyone who divides the world between “book people” and the hoi polloi is so ineffably pretentious that…I can’t describe it. But you get the point—really, really pretentious.

That being said, I’ll just mention a few things that I think are really off base in the article. For example, IMHO linear thinking is of definite but limited value. I prefer diagonal thinking–it’s much less limiting.

There are lots of places for silence in Las Vegas. Try Turtlehead Peak, for one: an hour’s hike, and you can look down on the entire valley. It’s beautiful. Or just pick a corner of Sunset Park, or any of the other public parks that dot the valley.

He’s simply wrong that Vegas doesn’t want you writing books. I’ve had no problem writing three books in Las Vegas, and I’m working on the fourth. And as someone who writes a minimum of 5,000 words a month (Vegas Seven, Las Vegas Business Press, Casino Connection, I’m looking at you), I’ve never had a problem finding inspiration or space to write. But I tend not to overthink things, and it’s more a question of, “How many words? When do you want it?” than absorbing writerly inspiration via osmosis or whatever Moehringer does in Fantasy Vermont with all of the book people.

Look, I’m the last person to be a Vegas booster, saying this is the best of all possible cities. It’s just not in my temperament. But I wouldn’t blame any of my shortcomings as a writer on the city. A good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools, or the setting of his workshop. And, like Moehringer, I’m an award-winning author. So there.

HRH, HRC thoughts in the LVBP

A while ago, I got a Twitter request for my thoughts on the Hard Rock lawsuit. Here they are, in the digital pages of the Las Vegas Business Press:

There are several issues here. First is whether the “drunken debauchery” that the HRC folks accuse the HRH of allowing to take place somehow diminishes the goodwill that Hard Rock has built up among customers since the first Hard Rock Café opened in 1971.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Hard Rock Caf�© lawsuit reveals great LV paradox.

I never thought I’d write an article that hit on Jim Morisson’s crotch, Jersey Shore and drunken debauchery. I’m showing some range, at the very least.

Football’s local impact in Vegas Seven, and an award

It’s Green Felt Journal time again. This week, I talk about the impact of football on Las Vegas in Vegas Seven:

Even though Las Vegas doesn’t have an NFL team, football is a popular pastime in the city, and one that has a huge economic impact on the area.Yes, there are the Locomotives of the United Football League and the UNLV Rebels, but football’s real impact here isn’t felt on the field or in the stands—it’s in the sports books and bars of the Valley.

via Even with no NFL team, Vegas scores big during football season | Vegas Seven.

I decided to write this after I did a little poking around to check on some of the claims of “economic impact of a new arena” proponents. Even without a team, it’s clear that football generates a lot of economic activity in the area.

This is also as good a time as any to announce that I’m now officially an award-winning columnist. The Nevada Press Association has honored me with second place in the “Best Local Non-staff Column” category. Here’s the description:

2. David G. Schwartz, Vegas Seven
“Schwartz’s column is everything you’d expect a column on the gaming industry not to be — accessible, well-sourced, pertinent and insightful. ‘Real baccarat players like their privacy.’”

I still can’t figure out whether that’s a back-handed complement or not, but I’ll take it.

Congratulations also to Vegas Seven stablemate Michael Green, who beat me out for the top spot in the category.

And fellow gaming writer David McKee took home not one, but two awards for his work for another Las Vegas weekly paper.

You can read about all of the award-winners here.

Lucky 13 for Roll the Bones

Roll the Bones has made another list…’s list of the top 50 gambling books of all time. At #13, it’s near enough the top to be respectable:

In Roll the Bones, David Schwartz has compiled one of the most thorough historical accounts of gambling available. Schwartz manages to include gambling’s development in different areas of the world including Native America, China, Western Europe and the U.S. Events are set out in chronological order, which makes the book very easy to read, and all forms of gambling are covered. Towards the later stages of the book, the author moves to more modern issues and offers some enlightening discussions about gambling’s importance and place in society. Also of note is the thought-provoking musings about the future of gambling and how it might change. All in all, Roll the Bones is strongly recommended to anyone interested in the history of any form of gambling, or even anyone just looking for a good read.

via Top 50 Gambling Books of All Time –

It’s nice to get some recognition…the is the second list like this the book has made in the past few weeks, coming on the heels of Joe Mazur’s “Top Five Gambling Books” list at the Wall Street Journal.

So it’s not just me telling you that if you want to read a good book about gambling history, you should give Roll the Bones a try.

Countdown to the Cosmo in V7

It’s Thursday, so my long-awaited piece on Cosmo, 90 days out, is out in Vegas Seven:

It hasn’t been easy for the Cosmopolitan. When ground was broken in October 2005, it was one of a crop of planned casinos that were going to re-make Las Vegas. The Palazzo, Encore and Aria opened, but Boyd Gaming pulled the plug on Echelon in 2008, and the Fontainebleau’s post-bankruptcy owner, Carl Icahn, has no announced plans to resume construction on the partially built casino.Then there’s the Cosmopolitan. After the project’s original owners defaulted on a Deutsche Bank loan, the bank bought the hotel and decided to finish construction and run the casino itself, via its own management team.

via Countdown to the Cosmo | Vegas Seven.

I’ll give the folks at Cosmo credit for making the best of a bad situation and bringing something new to town. Whether that’s going to be enough to make the casino a success naturally remains to be seen but I think they’ve got as good a shot as anyone.

As I briefly mentioned on Two Way Hard Three, I think their current airport billboard ads leave something to be desired, but the casino seems to be making an effort to establish a real identity for itself in a way that I haven’t seen before. Usually, it’s just, “We’re the newest and the best!” or, “I’m Steve Wynn, and this is my new casino.” You didn’t really need to do much else to guarantee plenty of traffic for the first year or so.

In the current environment, however, it’s a different story. Aria, which was also pitched as the “Vegas for people who don’t currently go to Vegas” hasn’t, as yet, succeeded in drawing large numbers of people who wouldn’t otherwise come to town. Can Cosmo do it, or just be different enough to get a few hundred people a week to take a gamble on a Vegas trip? Or to convince people with deep attachments to (and accumulated points at) other properties to give it a try? It’s certainly possible.

I really look forward to getting a look inside the property and doing a sit-down interview with John Unwin sometime in the next few weeks.