Casinos in Canada

Casinos evolved quite differently in Canada from the United States, following a mix of the European statist model and the U.S. free enterprise one. Most casinos in Canada are owned by either a provincial government or run for charitable organizations.

Most of the charitable casinos are in Western Canada. The first provincially-owned casino in Eastern Canada, Quebec’s Casino de Montreal, opened in 1993, followed the following year by Ontario’s Casino Windsor, right across the border from downtown Detroit.

There is much more interesting material about casinos in Canada and everywhere else in Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling

Go here to read an excerpt from the book, or learn where to buy your copy.


What is Grandissimo?

This is a book project that I’ve been working on for several years. It’s the story of the man who I believe to be the single most influential figure in Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s and 1970s, but who unfortunately not many people know about.

I’m substantially finished the book, and hope to publish it later this year.

Until then, I’m using this space to let people know about the book.


Three excerpts from Roll the Bones

Today I’ve added three excerpts from Roll the Bones to the site to give you a little flavor of the book if you haven’t picked up a copy already. Enjoy!

1. Author’s Note/Prologue

This is the introductory overview to the book, giving an idea of its scope—and the changes in the Casino Edition.

2. Why the Mob won Vegas

This excerpt, from chapter 10, “A Place in the Sun,” explains how the Mob carved out influence on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1950s and 1960s, and why it was so dominant.

3. The Rise of Atlantic City

The opening pages of chapter 12, “America’s Playground…Again” discuss the rebirth and rise to (brief) dominance of Atlantic City’s casinos in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

To learn where you can buy Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling, please visit here


The author talks about what Roll the Bones covers, and gives a…

The author talks about what Roll the Bones covers, and gives a little of the publishing backstory.


World War One and Atlantic City

In response to this photo and Bat-Signal request for more info, I wanted to post a link to an Atlantic City history column I’d written for Casino Connection a few (nine) years back. Turns out that it’s one of the 10 or so AC history pieces not in the Casino Connection archives.

Looking at the sixty or so articles I wrote for Casino Connection over the years, I think I have the core of a pretty good book. But some articles will need some revision, both for content and style.

So here is the entire article, which has the answer to the original question, “What is this?”…after the jump.

Continue reading


My Boardwalk Homecoming in Vegas Seven

I’ve got a very special Green Felt Journal out in today’s Vegas Seven. No, it’s not like a “very special episode” of Diff’rent Strokes or The Fact of Life that’s going to pontificate on a current social issue. Instead, I’m talking about the usual stuff I talk about in that space–gambling, casinos, and tourism–but in a much more personal way than I usually do. Here’s a snippet:

The Atlantic City I left was on the other side of history: a city left for dead, one that maybe, someday, might come back. Like Las Vegas, it blew up its past; some of my earliest memories were the implosions of the grand Boardwalk hotels. But this wasn’t replacing the Dunes with Bellagio. Old Atlantic City—the Traymore, the Marlborough-Blenheim, Million Dollar Pier—hadn’t been improved upon; gold had been replaced with concrete and red neon, when anything was built at all. Unlike Las Vegas, you never could shake the sense that you were one or two generations from the golden age.

via A Boardwalk Homecoming | Vegas Seven.

I usually don’t get that autobiographical, because there’s usually not that much of a need for me to put myself into the story. After all, it’s usually pretty straight-forward stuff–a personality profile, a sketch of a current issue–that calls for, at most, some editorial comment, but not much personal reflection.

So this is a different kind of writing for me, but for this story, it’s a path that I had to take. If it succeeds, it’s largely due to the unstinting support and fantastic sounding board of my editor, Greg Blake Miller.

On a more (literally) pedestrian note, I’ve also got some thoughts on Revel over on Two Way Hard Three. I liked the place, quite a bit, but there were a few things that left me scratching my head.


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.


Trump Plaza History

This has been up for a while, but I haven’t linked it yet and, with the news that Donald Trump and Carl Icahn are dueling over Trump casino empire, it’s relatively timely: my piece on the early history of Trump Plaza in Casino Connection:

Trump was leery of the Casino Control Commission. It had forced Caesars World’s founders Clifford and Stuart Perlman to step down before giving Caesars Boardwalk Regency a license. It had denied a license to Hilton after the company had already built its casino. And it caused so many problems for Hugh Hefner that the Playboy founder torpedoed the Atlantis casino.

Trump refused to turn so much as a shovel of dirt until commissioners voted yea or nay on his license. In March 1982, he got his wish—and his license—in hearings that lasted two hours (by contrast, hearings for the Atlantis dragged out for two months).

via Plaza Suite: History of Trump Plaza | Plaza Suite: History of Trump Plaza | Casino Connection Atlantic City.

I quoted that bit because it seems relevant, with MGM Mirage leaving AC over regulatory issues.


Bugsy unearthed at UNLV!

We’re having a great talk next Thursday night down at the library. It’s been on the gaming.unlv.edu schedule for a while, but I thought it would be nice to offer a friendly reminder:

"There Were Few Solid Facts to Get in the Way":

Popular Perceptions of Bugsy Siegel as Founding Father of Las Vegas

A Special Presentation for Nevada Archives Week 2008

Larry Gragg, Ph.D.

Curators’ Teaching Professor

History and Political Science

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, Missouri

March 2008 Visiting Gaming Research Fellow

Special Time: 7:30 PM

Special Location: Lied Library Extended Study Lounge–First Floor

Center for Gaming Research: Gaming Research Colloquium Series

Dr. Gragg has done some very deep research into the Siegel conundrum, and I think that this is as close as we’re going to get to an honest, accurate assessment of his impact. If you are interested in Las Vegas or history, or both, I welcome you to come to campus for this free event. Bonus–since it’s after 7, parking is totally free as well.


AC Oral History Program

Historian James Karmel has let me know about a great oral history project that’s in progress in Atlantic City. From the AC Free Public Library:

The interviews will take place throughout the summer, with the final product scheduled to be made available to the public this winter. Once the project has been completed, the interviews will be stored and archived in the library’s Alfred M. Heston Collection room of Atlantic City history.

Dr. James Karmel is the contractor for this project. He is a professional historian and author of Gambling on the American Dream: Atlantic City and the Casino Era, which is based on oral history interviews he conducted from 2002-05. He is an associate professor of history at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md.

This is the librarys second oral history project involving Atlantic City and casino gambling.

In 1978, the library interviewed 68 people representing the culturally and economically diverse mix of people who live or work in the city – small business owners, lifetime residents, city government officials, transients, school teachers and local celebrities. The interviews focused on the city’s history, the interviewees’ relationship to the city and their thoughts on the city’s future. More information on the 1978 Living History Project

Atlantic City Free Public Library.

I wish I had access to the 1978 project here. I could write some really interesting Casino Connection columns, I’m sure. Dr. Karmel and the ACFPL are doing valuable work here–this sort of thing is incalculably useful to future historians.

Chris Columbo, who was interviewed in the 1978 project, was a really good friend. I always said he was the great-grandfather I never had. I used to hang out with him when he was playing drums down at the Showboat and listen to his stories about the old times. Growing up around people like that might have been what sparked my interest in history. When you’ve got someone telling you what it was like to play with Lester Young, you really get an appreciation for all of the stories that are out there. I went to school and everything, but I think I learned a lot more from Chris and a few others back in Atlantic City.