My latest Green Felt Journal talks about the history behind the federal tax on sports betting:
Like so much else in the history of Nevada gaming, the tax is linked to the Kefauver Committee, the early 1950s U.S. Senate body that investigated organized crime throughout America. Chaired by maverick Tennessee Democrat Estes Kefauver, the committee found that organized crime was indeed a national problem—a problem chiefly fueled by income from gambling operations. With state and local authorities unable (or unwilling) to prosecute gambling entrepreneurs to its satisfaction, Congress decided to fix the problem itself.
via Why Congress Should Repeal a Federal Tax on Sports Betting | Vegas Seven.
Always nice to bring some history into the discussion.
This week, I’ve also got a Vegas Seven feature on the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel:
Twenty years later, it appears Morton saw into the future: You don’t see too many Nile rides in casinos today, but you do see quite a few Center Bars. This is the story of how the Hard Rock set itself apart from the rest of Las Vegas, and why Las Vegas has followed it
via The Rock Star: Peter Morton and the Birth of the Hard Rock | Vegas Seven
I think that Peter Morton really does deserve a great deal of credit for seeing just what was going to be popular in Las Vegas long before others did. I learned a great deal researching this one.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at what the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is actually going to do with the Riviera site:
Construction on the Global Business District is expected to begin in the next couple of years and unfold over the next decade. If executed along the lines currently planned, it will profoundly shape both the Strip and the Valley. No, it won’t have the glamour of a high-profile casino opening, but it’s destined to have a tremendous—and lasting—impact on the city for decades.
via LVCVA’s Unconventional Approach to Global Business | Vegas Seven.
This is truly going to change both the Strip and the city in ways that I don’t think we fully appreciate right now. Read the column to learn why.
In my latest Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the Riviera’s place in history:
If there were one property you could point to that has represented the evolution of our city’s casinos over the past 60 years, it would be the Riviera. So it’s only fitting that, in its final days, the hotel-casino is doing so again.
via Riviera Going Out as It Came In: A Symbol of the Strip’s Future | Vegas Seven.
I have a lot more than 700 words to say about the Riviera’s past and future, and I hope to be able to write more about them both soon.
This week’s feature in Vegas Seven is a lot of fun. A bunch of Seven writers contributed brief thoughts on what might have happened in things had turned out a little differently at various points in Las Vegas history. It’s alt-history for Vegas:
So, in the interest of preserving our own sanity, we’re taking the occasion of our fifth anniversary to share some of these coulda-happened scenarios with you. Read them, ponder them or imagine them as feature films starring Steve Buscemi as Oscar Goodman. Just be aware that, as you take in these wild conjectures, you might be changing the course of Las Vegas history. Though if you do, we’ll still write about it.
via Stories Never Told, of a City That Never Was | Vegas Seven.
I am happy to have contributed a few items. This was probably the most fun I’ve had writing in a while.
This week’s Green Felt Journal dissects the reality behind the numbers in the Gaming Abstract:
Each year, the Gaming Control Board releases a massive document that charts the performance of the state’s casinos for the previous fiscal year, broken down by geographic area and income. The release of the 2014 Nevada Gaming Abstract crystallizes the trends that have shaped the local gaming industry over the past year. Not surprisingly, the 23 Las Vegas Strip casinos that made more than $72 million in gaming revenue in 2014 are a critical piece of the state’s economic infrastructure: These large Strip properties represent more than half of Nevada’s gaming revenue and nearly two-thirds of the state’s total revenue (gaming and non-gaming combined). Let’s dive into the details:
via Nongaming Activities Continue to Pay the Bills for Strip Casinos | Vegas Seven
It will be interesting to see how things fared over the 2nd half of 2014, to say the least.
This week’s Green Felt Journal, partially written in my head while hanging out at the Discovery Children’s Museum last week, is about the tug of war between locals and visitors in Las Vegas:
Sometimes, it can seem that life in Southern Nevada is a big zero-sum game. With limited money to spend in both the private and public sectors, this dilemma is ever-present: Invest in infrastructure and attractions that will draw more tourists and pump more money into the economy, or add more services and institutions that enhance the quality of life for those of us who live here?
via The Locals vs. Tourists Balancing Act | Vegas Seven
At the museum, I just got to thinking that the line between local and not visitor isn’t always as sharp as we assume. It’s a lot blurrier than the line between local and shoobie, anyway. I have no idea if I spelled shoobie right. Not sure if there is a correct standard English spelling since it’s transliterated from South Jerseyean.
Like most people, you probably want to start your New Year with a discussion of historic Las Vegas. I can’t think of many better ways to do that than at this talk I’m giving as part of Mob Month on Tuesday, January 6 at 7 PM at the Clark County Library:
Mob Month 2015 – The Mob on Trial: The Kefauver Hearings and Their Impact on Organized Crime
In 1950, Senator Estes Kefauver led a U.S. Senate Committee to investigate organized crime. The investigation, known as the Kefauver Hearings, were held in Las Vegas and 14 other cities and included testimonies from over 600 witnesses including National Crime Syndicate bosses Willie Moretti, Joe Adonis and Frank Costello. The hearings were televised and introduced America to the concept of the Mafia. David G. Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center For Gaming Research and author of bestselling books Grandissimo, Roll The Bones, and Cutting The Wire will examine the importance of the hearings and the subsequent impact on organized crime, law enforcement and state gaming regulations.Free and open to the public.
Books will be available for purchase and signing after the event. For more information, please call 702.507.3458.
I had a great time giving talks this summer at the Clark County Library, and I’d like to thank everyone there for making this possible.
The Kefauver Committee’s Las Vegas hearings are a fascinating topic, because they clearly made a major impact, but were relatively brief. In this talk, I discuss why the hearings were held, what they were about, and how they were received. I’ve certainly learned a great deal researching this, and I hope that you are able to attend the talk.
In John L. Smith’s rundown of good Vegas history books, Grandissimo had a positive mention:
Las Vegas has been home to some great characters, and Circus Circus creator Jay Sarno was perhaps the most remarkable. UNLV’s David G. Schwartz tells his story in “Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas: How Jay Sarno Won a Casino Empire, Lost It, and Inspired Modern Las Vegas.” Sarno’s life and style were surely a challenge to describe, and Schwartz did an incredible job.
Books on Nevada’s colorful past, cast of characters make great gifts
I’m grateful to John for the kind words. It’s always validating when your work is well received.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I consider how strict regulation with room for discretion helped save Nevada gaming in the 1960s:
Sawyer’s “hang tough” policy emerged at a crucial time: Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Department would ratchet up pressure on Nevada casinos starting in 1961, and without the good-faith efforts of Sawyer’s appointees to clean house, more sweeping federal action seemed inevitable.
via How a Few Regulators Saved the Nevada Gaming Industry | Vegas Seven.
Olsen’s role is particularly important. If you ever at UNLV Special Collections, I strongly suggest reading his oral history.