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.
It’s really easy for me to notice when NFR is in town because it’s marginally harder for me to park at UNLV. But what does NFR really mean to the rest of the city? I’ve already gone the economic impact route, so this time I started thinking a little less literally:
It’s hard not to notice when the National Finals Rodeo is back in town: The whole city, it seems, repurposes itself to cater to rodeo participants and their fans. There’s no denying the economic boost the 10-day event gives Las Vegas during the slowest stretch of the calendar. But the connection between NFR and Las Vegas is deeper than mere economics: The rodeo speaks to fundamental truths about Las Vegas’ identity as an urban area in the western United States.
via National Finals Rodeo Goes Beyond Local Economics | Vegas Seven.
It’s nice to have the chance to think about what events like NFR really say about Las Vegas. I hope you get something out of the article–I certainly found myself learning as I wrote it.
In this week’s Green Felt , I consider how Las Vegas might just have a few lessons for Macau after all:
Once those architects began planning resorts, however, it became apparent that Asia was not Las Vegas, and that what worked so well here for the previous generation—large slot parlors with table-gaming cores—was not at all adaptable to conditions on the ground in China. So American operators—Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International—did the adapting, emphasizing baccarat while adjusting to a market where VIP play dwarfed the mass market.
via What Macau Can Learn from Las Vegas | Vegas Seven
There’s a line between trying to replicate what works in Las Vegas just because it works in Las Vegas and figuring out how to make things that worked in Las Vegas work in other areas. I think we are seeing companies navigating that line.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I consider the 150-year history of Nevada and gambling, and wonder what the future will hold:
The original match wasn’t exactly a marriage of convenience, but it wasn’t a forbidden romance, either. When Nevada joined the Union in 1864, it soberly criminalized the gambling that had been rampant—as it was virtually everywhere in the West—during its territorial days.
via Is Nevada Moving Away From Gambling? | Vegas Seven.
I wanted to make the point that Nevada’s relationship with gambling has never been about gambling–it’s usually been about something else, whether it’s Western-style personal liberty or economic development.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I discuss how Las Vegas faces change:
Now let’s broaden that concept and consider how Las Vegas not just the casino industry responds to changes dealt to it externally. For example, earlier this month, gay marriage became legal in Nevada. Almost immediately, the question being asked wasn’t whether Nevada’s wedding industry chapels, and the ancillary businesses that support them would benefit from the landmark ruling, but how much it would benefit—and how quickly casinos would jump in.
via As New Jersey Moves to Legalize Sports Betting, Nevada Stays One Step Ahead | Vegas Seven
A broader legalization of sports gambling would definitely shake things up, but with sports gambling being such a small part of Nevada gaming revenues, I don’t think it would hurt Las Vegas casinos. More familiarity with wagering might even help them.