On Writing Grandissimo | UNLV News Center

I have a little piece on UNLV’s Newscenter about why it’s important to preserve the past:

Since my latest book, Grandissimo, came out, people have asked me why I wrote it. The simple answer is that Jay Sarno was the most interesting person in Las Vegas history not to have a book already written about him. But the process of researching and writing it reminded me of how important it is to preserve our past — even the parts that don’t seem immediately important.

via On Writing Grandissimo | UNLV News Center

There’s also a hint about a project I’m currently working on, if you are interested.


Reaction to Sarno Roundtable at Lied Library

The Sarno Roundtable event went off on Sunday at Lied Library. It was a tremendous experience, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what KSNV has to say:

You can access that report here if the embedded video isn’t happening: Biography profiles Caesars Palace developer Jay Sarno

The Las Vegas Sun also covered the event:

David Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming, moderated the panel through discussions of Sarno’s life in Las Vegas during the 1960s. The panel members talked about Sarno’s court battles with the FBI, his legacy on the Strip and his eccentric lifestyle that made him a divisive figure in Las Vegas.

“There was nobody in Las Vegas who was neutral on the subject of Jay Sarno,” Schwartz said. “People loved him and people couldn’t stand him. There was no middle.”

Jay Sarno remembered for doing ‘something nobody had ever done before’

But you don’t have to take their word for it—you can listen to the entire roundtable right here, since it’s now a UNLV Gaming Podcast.

I’d like to thank everyone from Lied Library who helped plan and run the event, all of the panelists for showing up and being so candid, and everyone who attended. It was truly a great night, and a sign of just how important Jay Sarno was to the development of Las Vegas.


UNLVs High Roller | UNLV News Center

Thanks to the recent news that I’ve been named to the “40 under 40” list in Global Gaming Business, the UNLV News Center has posted an interview with me. Great questions:

David Schwartz is the ultimate Vegas insider. On any given moment, he can talk about gaming trends locally and nationally, casino security, the history of Vegas mobs, the tourism industry and places to take your kids when youre visiting Vegas yes, there are places to take the kids. After all, Schwartz is a researcher so hes bound to have good tips.It’s no wonder why Schwartz was recently named among the top 40 emerging gaming leaders by Global Gaming Business Magazine.

via UNLVs High Roller | UNLV News Center.

I liked getting the chance to think deeply about some of the issues we discussed.


UNLV Gaming Podcast 37: Paul Steelman, Part II

I was lucky enough to record part two of my planned two-part UNLV Gaming Podcast interview with Paul Steelman. I’ve posted it to the site and iTunes. Here’s the description:

37-December 20, 2011
Paul Steelman
In this December 20 interview, Sarno Award-winning casino architect Paul Steelman discusses several of his projects, Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, and the future of casino architecture. Part II of II

Listen to the audio file (mp3)


This was a lot of fun to record. Towards the end when Paul was showing me the Steel Pier slideshow things broke down a little and, since you can’t see what he’s showing me, you might be a little in the dark, but I tried to narrate as much as I could. It shows how spontaneous the talk was. There’s a lot of really good material in both interviews.

As I move forward in my quest to get interviews with all of the Sarno Award winners, I’ll say this: Paul has set the bar very high.

Also, as an Atlantic City native I’m both wowed and cheered by his plans for Steel Pier. You get a sneak peak (well, sneak listen) in the interview, and we’ll find out more in a few weeks with the official announcements.


Practical UNLV gaming law education in the LVBP

My latest Las Vegas Business Press column is out. It’s about how the gaming law program at UNLV’s Boyd School of law is bucking a national trend and delivering a solid education in the practice of gaming law to its students:

A recent New York Times article decried the current state of legal education, describing an “aversion to the practical” that privileged professors’ theoretical scholarship over teaching the basics of practicing law in the real world. Though there may be merit to that argument, the Gaming Studies Law Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ William S. Boyd School of Law proves that practical education is alive and well in Las Vegas.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Practical education in law is alive and well in valley.

The original NY Times article was thought-provoking. There’s certainly a trend in academia to focus on the theoretical over the practical, the abstract over the concrete. That’s all well and good when you’re publishing in specialist journals, but if you’re educating students for the real world you really need to teach them things they’ll actually use. I’m not saying that college or grad/professional school should be the equivalent of a vocational education, but if you’re teaching a course in something that has real-world applications, you shouldn’t shy away from them.

One of the goals of my casino history class is to get students to integrate a solid knowledge of the past of casinos into their mindset. That way, when they’re out in the workforce, they have context for what they’re seeing.

It’s also proof that you can’t reduce everything to a headline-sized argument. While there might be the theoretical drift that the article describes in many programs, clearly there are others that continue to fulfill their educational mission.


New UNLV podcast up: Benjamin Min Han

I’ve just posted the 30th UNLV Gaming Podcast–Benjamin Min Han’s excellent Gaming Research Colloquium talk that I recorded earlier today. Here’s the description:

30-March 24, 2011
Benjamin Min Han
“We’re Right Next Door’: Televisual Las Vegas in Cold War America”
Han, currently a graduate student in cinema studies at New York University, is looking at how television performances helped to shape perceptions of Las Vegas. Since World War II, Las Vegas has evolved into an entertainment capital of the world. While we often associate Las Vegas with gambling and casinos, many foreign ethnic talents arrived in the city to perform in hotels and nightclubs. These talented performers were instrumental in the development of televisual Las Vegas. This talk explores the migration of ethnic talent, and how such prominent Las Vegas entertainment business figures like Jack Entratter and Bill Willard envisioned transforming the city into a primary center of television production from the 1950s to 1970s.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)

View flyer (pdf)

UNLV Gaming Podcasts

It was a really interesting talk that I hope people listen to. Han was the final Gaming Fellow for the 2010-11 academic year, and I’m really pleased with how well the program turned out.

In general, I think we’ve had some pretty good podcasts this year. I’m looking forward to doing even more. Sue Kim Bonifazio, of the Kim Sisters, came for the talk, and she says she’s got a book coming out soon–hopefully I can interview her around the time it’s released.

If you’re not familiar with the Kim Sisters, who Han references in his talk, here’s a video clip:


March Gaming Colloquium announced

I can finally announce the specifics about this month’s Gaming Research Colloquium talk. Here’s the official announcement:

Please join us on Thursday, March 24, at 12:15 PM, as March Gaming Research Fellow Benjamin Min Han delivers a Gaming Research Colloquium talk entitled “We’re Right Next Door’: Televisual Las Vegas in Cold War America.”

Han, currently a graduate student in cinema studies at New York University, is looking at how television performances helped to shape perceptions of Las Vegas. Since World War II, Las Vegas has evolved into an entertainment capital of the world. While we often associate Las Vegas with gambling and casinos, many foreign ethnic talents arrived in the city to perform in hotels and nightclubs. These talented performers were instrumental in the development of televisual Las Vegas. This talk explores the migration of ethnic talent, and how such prominent Las Vegas entertainment business figures like Jack Entratter and Bill Willard envisioned transforming the city into a primary center of television production from the 1950s to 1970s.

The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in Las Vegas history, entertainment, American studies, and media studies are encouraged to attend.

The talk is being held in UNLV Special Collections’ Reading Room, on the third floor of Lied Library.

View flyer (pdf)

If you don’t want the pdf, here’s a jpg of the flyer:

Benjamin Min Han

This should be a good one.


Wrapping up 2010

With some time to really work today, I finished several updates and created a new report that should help put 2010 in perspective. Here’s the rundown:

1. I updated and retitled the analysis of monthly and quarterly revenue changes 2007-2010:

Nevada Gaming: Charting the Recession
Analysis of Total Gaming Win, Statewide and Las Vegas Strip, 2007-2010, on monthly and quarterly bases

2. I updated the year-to-date report, which now has unaudited figures for the entire year:

Nevada Gaming Statistics: Year-to-Date Comparison
Current totals for Statewide, Las Vegas Strip, Boulder Strip, and Washoe County

3. I created a new report, which summarizes the year’s revenue trends for several reporting areas:

Nevada Gaming Win 2010
Summary of Results from Statewide, Las Vegas Strip, Downtown Las Vegas, Boulder Strip, and Washoe County reporting areas

The new report is a real improvement over the old Gaming Revenue Breakdowns, which only had state-wide info. Now, I’ve also included summaries for four major reporting areas. Four times the work as last year, but hopefully five times the enlightenment for people who actually read this stuff.

I’m now working on an annual comparison of revenues in several markets. I’m thinking it will look like:

Nevada Statewide
Clark County
Las Vegas Strip
Atlantic City

I’m pretty sure I can get yearly data for all of those (well, I already have it for five of the eight), and it will give a good where the industry is heading. I’d like to get total US vs. total Asia as well, but that’s a project for the future. I’m having a hard time finding a good source for Singapore stats, which is the main impediment to rolling out a Singapore jurisdiction page and including Singapore in the report.


December NV gaming revenue analysis

The Gaming Control Board released the December 2010 Gaming Revenue Report today, and I’ve gotten my historical comparison/analysis up. Here’s the executive summary, but you should really click through to see all of the numbers:

As in November, December saw a decline from the previous year’s results, but there were bright spots. Statewide and in most large markets, slot handle was up, meaning that gamblers put more money in slot machines—and won more. Buoyed by the Strip, table win increased statewide, while revenue fell. In general, if slot players respond positively to lower holds by gambling, the future may hold better results.

Statewide, total revenues fell by 2.38% for the month, with a modest (4.47%) gain in table win offsetting a 10.56 drop in table win. As noted above, slot handle inched (+1.06%) up, which is encouraging. The decline in slot hold was found across most denominations, and may be due to casinos responding to customer preferences for lower‐hold machines.

Las Vegas Strip revenues fell by only 0.30%, with a major (10.55%) drop in slot win, due to a substantially lower (‐12.65%) slot hold percentage. Baccarat revenue was just about steady; its last impressive gain was in October, and it is possible that we will not be seeing any more large increases in either baccarat handle or win in the near future. High rollers may not be providing the lift to the state’s gaming industry that they did through much of 2010.

In Downtown Las Vegas, total revenues declined by 4.44%, with slots falling 10.46% despite a slightly higher handle. Table revenues increased, despite a falling handle, because of a higher average hold.

On the Boulder Strip, total revenues fell by a whopping 29.63%, with dramatically lower (‐33.55%)slot hold responsible. Despite the lower hold, total handle fell, and an impressive boost in the amount played (+53.50%) and won (+19.80%) at the tables did not make up for the increase in slot win.

Washoe County revenues declined slightly (‐0.71%), with slot win trending up (+2.75%) on slightly higher hold and a marginally higher handle. Up north, table revenues dipped by 10.76%, at odds with the pattern in Clark County.
Nevada Gaming Statistics: December Comparison (pdf)

I pretty much said everything I needed to say right there, except my little insight about the craps win on the Strip, which superficially looks impressive (up 168%) until you go back and look at the December 2009 total, which was abnormally low due to an extremely low (6.59%) hold percentage. So it’s really a return to normal for craps, not an actual spike in play.

You can see the same thing to a lesser extent when you look at slots on the Strip. The hold percentage came back to normal in December 2010 (more or less) after an extremely high (6.48%) hold in December 2009.

Stuff like that demonstrates why it’s important to look for the bigger patterns, and not just the year-on-year increases. Any two data points can give you some whacky “trends,” but with three or more you’re on solid(er) ground.


2/24 UNLV Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Gaming Research Colloquium talk that we’re hosting at UNLV:

Please join us at 12:15 PM, Thursday, Feb. 24, as February Gaming Research Fellow Darryl A. Smith delivers a Gaming Research Colloquium talk titled “’Dark with Excessive Bright:’ Gambling Tells and the Gaming Taboo.”

Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies at the Pomona College, will discuss the philosophical commonalities between poker tells and themes in religious and secular writing. Within sacred language the belief has existed that the personal name is an intrinsic part of oneself. As such, its revelation threatens exposure to powers that might undo its bearer. Smith considers the relation between the detection of tells in gambling and that of so-called true names. Strategies of concealment and detection that are basic to both tell-reading and true-naming are explored in relation to post-colonial theory’s insights into using light in order to hide things.

Those interested in poker, philosophy, religious studies, and the literature of gambling are encouraged to attend.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith

Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith | University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Here’s why it’s going to be so good: Professor Smith’s background is in religious studies, so we’re getting more of a perspective on poker from the humanities than we usually do. The title, if you don’t recognize it off the bat (I didn’t), is a quote from Milton. Talking with Darryl about his research, the conversation went from John Milton to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man to Mike Caro and David Sklansky, and it made perfect sense. So he’s not going to tell you how to win more pots, but he will give you a better idea of where poker draws from bigger philosophical concepts. I find that interesting.