The Ho’s unworthy suitor

With real estate values skyrocketing on the Strip, those holding land there are in the catbird seat. But the sale of the Westward Ho, a small casino near Circus Circus that also has an Industrial Road property, the Ho, has been complicated. It seems that someone has been stringing the Ho along. I’m not making this up.
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I had a pretty quick–though comprehensive–tour of Foxwoods and the surrounding area yesterday, and it’s pretty impressive. It’s amazing to me that, in less than 20 years, a gambling operation that started as bingo has grown into the world’s largest casino resort. On the Greyhound ride up there (I’ll post some pictures of that; it was quite a journey), I read a bit of sci-fi, which got me thinking:
Imagine if someone traveled back in time to 1985 and said the following:
1. Poker will be a spectator sport shown on several television channels
2. The world’s largest casino will be in rural Connecticut
3. The world’s biggest casino poker room will be in that same casino
4. The communist government of China would be encouraging Americans to build casinos (albeit in a “Special Administrative Region”
5. A company whose main asset is a virtual poker room would have an IPO worth $10 billion (give or take)

People would think that person was writing an implausible story.

It just goes to show that, as I’ve steadfastly maintained, the truth is stupider than fiction. That, and never, ever underestimate the willingness of people to gamble.

Anyway, Foxwoods was really something else. Even if you’re not a gambler, it’s worth a trip just for the people-watching.

Also, for you foodies, the buffet has the best cole slaw I’ve ever tasted, and some really interesting bread pudding. It tasted like it was made from sweet potatoes or carrot cake or something like that.

But that wasn’t the most interesting thing about the tour: I’ll hold that honor for the cultural/historical museum, which incredible almost beyond words. For those of you who think that Indian gaming doesn’t “give back,” I’d advise you take take a tour of that facility.
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The bones have been rolled

The day has arrived…after about a year of research and writing, I’ve finished the first draft of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling.

What does this mean for you, the reader? A chance to do some more reading. Gotham will be bringing the book out next June, so if you’ve ever bemoaned the lack of a one-volume comprehensive history of gambling, you’ll have a few hundred pages of beach reading for ’06. Or something to pass the time with while your friends are playing “just one more hand” at the tables. Unless you’re in Macau, where bringing books into the casino is strictly forbidden, as the word “book” has unlucky connotations. See, you haven’t even started reading, and you’ve already learned something (unless, of course, you’ve been to Macau).

For me, this is the culmination of a lot of work, and the prelude to even more. Right now the manuscript is 768 pages in MS Word, which translates to about 500 in actual book form. I’m guessing that the ideal book will be a bit shorter, so I’ve got some revising to do. This is more than twice as long as Cutting the Wire, which is less than 300 pages in book form.

I’ll be posting more info on the Roll the Bones page as I get it, but here are some little facts:

– manuscript structure: 12 chapters plus prologue and epilogue
– total manuscript pages: 768
– word count: appro. 190,000 (The next time I teach a class and get a student complaining about a 500-word essay…forget about it)
– first use of word “gambling:” page 4, preface

I tried to be comprehensive, so there are section on gambling from all around the world. The thing that should get the History Channel excited, though, is that I even have a paragraph or two on Hitler’s Casino. Seriously. We’ll see if that makes it through the revising.

What’s next? Selecting the photos and revising, then starting work on my next project, which I’d like to see come out in 2008. I don’t have anything in writing yet, but I’m leaning towards a biography for this one. After spending a year writing about everything to do with gambling, I’m looking forward to a more focused narrative.

Thanks to everyone who gave me support during this writing. Doing this website has been a lot of fun, but writing the book, particularly during the past few months, has cut into the time I can spend on it. I’m looking to start reading for pleasure again and getting a few reviews up: I owe Brian Rouff one for Dice Angel, and I’m finally going to start Money Shot. I’m just finishing Deke Castleman’s Whale Hunt in the Desert, which is an interesting inside take on the VIP casino host world. Again, you the reader benefit!

So just when I’m thinking that I’m having a good day Thursday, here comes news that someone else is having an even better day: an unidentified Rhode Island guest at Isle of Capri Biloxi hit the quarter Wheel of Fortune slots for $1,058,459.34. Based on my year of research into 7000 years of gambling history, my advice is to quit while you’re ahead.

Charlie and the casino shake-down

This doesn’t really have anything to do with either the Johnny Depp or Gene Wilder versions of Roald Dahl’s books about Charlie Bucket and Oompa-Loompas, but something about this story seems positively Wonka-esque. Someone tried to blackmail Sydney’s Star City casino with chocolate. Seriously.
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Gambling cat?

Yesterday, I suggested that gambling may be able to predict the future…as long as the future’s already been written in a book and people are able to bet on it. This site has yet another example of gambling gone wild:

Stuff On My Cat � Smokey has a bit of an issue

Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

Also, the interview on is up now. If you haven’t checked that great Vegas site out yet, here’s your chance.