The Columbus of Highway 91 in Vegas Seven

This week, I’m privileged to have a cover story in Vegas Seven. It’s about the mostly-unsung hotelier who, I think, is the real discoverer of the Las Vegas Strip, Thomas Hull:

The natural advantages of Las Vegas, Fisher said, would make it “the metropolis of Nevada,” but only if properly pushed: “If a good hotel man could be taken to Las Vegas and introduced to the wonderful winter weather, I believe that he could be interested in building a resort hotel that would put the little desert town on the map.”

More than 20 years would pass before that man—Thomas Hull—would arrive and change the place forever. This is his story.

via The Columbus of Highway 91 | Vegas Seven.

A few thoughts: first, I’ve been researching and writing about the development of the Strip for about 15 years now, but in working on this feature I learned a few new things about Hull, so I think that even if you already know his story, you’ll find this an entertaining read.

Second, there are still plenty of people who don’t know anything about Hull, and think of Bugsy Siegel as the founder of the Strip, even though Hull opened his casino 5.5 years before the Flamingo, and the basic idea of a fancy Vegas hotel had been kicking around since 1918.

I think Columbus is a great analogy for Hull (not mine–I write the stories, not the headlines). Others had been on Highway 91 before, but Hull’s the one who built the resort that really put it on the map.

I really got inspired to write this feature by Tony Hsieh and the Downtown Project. I saw some parallels: California entrepreneur courted to rescue Downtown Las Vegas who brings something new to town. Like Hull, I think that Hsieh may change the city in ways that aren’t apparent right now. They even have the same initials. As the Downtown Project plays out, I’m looking forward to learning and writing more about it. I’m very lucky to be in a city where I’ve got so much history unfolding around me.

The last thing I’d like to share is that it’s always a thrill to get a cover story, particularly when the cover art is as good as it is for this issue. It really means a great deal to me knowing that the editorial staff has enough faith in my writing to trust me with the cover feature. And if you like the story, a good deal of the credit goes to my editor Greg Blake Miller, who helped me revise, rework, and refine the story.  He’s a great writer who’s also a great editor, and his help in getting this story into its final state was invaluable.

Colbert Arrest Highlights Hypocrisy of Prohibition in Vegas Seven

Last week, Mike Colbert’s arrest was big news. I commented about it pretty extensively in a few places, but I didn’t have time until yesterday to pull my thoughts together and put them down in one place. The result is a Vegas Seven blog post:

The arrest last week of 25 people—including Cantor Gaming’s sports book manager Mike Colbert—in a national sports betting bust triggered a firestorm of commentary, most of it focused on the calamitous effect Colbert’s arrest would have on a range of issues, from Cantor’s future in Nevada to the pending efforts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey (and, ultimately, other states). Certainly, the arrest of a major figure in a major Nevada sports betting company on a gaming-related charge is a black eye for the industry, but I don’t believe it’s the game-changer that others seem to think it is. Here’s why.

via Colbert Arrest Highlights Hypocrisy of Prohibition | Vegas Seven.

I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to handicap Colbert’s chances at trial or guess what’s going to happen specifically to Cantor, because 1) I’m not a lawyer and 2) there’s too much information that’s not known yet. Instead, I’m talking about the bigger social and political impact that the arrests might have.

There are illegal sports betting arrests happening all the time, which makes it clear that a lot of people are betting illegally. With so many other forms of gambling legalized, there comes a time when you have to ask: couldn’t law enforcement resources be better utilized investigating other forms of crime?

With PBR, Rodeo’s Heart Will Go On in Vegas Seven

The rare Celine Dion headline title drop for a Vegas Seven piece this week. It’s about Professional Bull Riding:

We’re used to early December being rodeo time in Las Vegas; that’s when the National Finals Rodeo takes over the town. But NFR’s not-so-little cousin, Professional Bull Riders’ Built Ford Tough World Finals, shakes the ground at the Thomas & Mack Center through Oct. 28—and it’s become a local institution in its own right

via With PBR, Rodeo’s Heart Will Go On | Vegas Seven.

Having driven through everyone getting into the Built Ford Tough Finals yesterday on my way home, I can attest to PBR’s popularity. And it’s kind of fun calling the event by its official name, the Built Ford Tough Finals.

The Organization Man | Vegas Seven

This week, Vegas Seven published its Storytelling Issue. The theme is “I Fought the Law, ” and in the Latest Thought, I discuss who and what the real Moe Daltiz was…and wasn’t:

In the CBS version of Las Vegas in the 1960s, it’s pretty easy to know who the bad guy is: Michael Chiklis’ mobbed-up Vegas antihero struts around his casino wearing a black fedora, has federal witnesses bumped off, and tries to charm the new sheriff with free champagne. He’s smooth, cunning and completely in control.

In Las Vegas circa 2012, that bad guy’s actually considered a pretty good guy. We’ve rewritten our history to suit the cinematic notion of the mobster as an action hero, a four-color study in pure, brutal power. Most of the real connected guys who settled in Vegas though, were boringly, sometimes devastatingly good at running their businesses. And they left the black fedoras and bloodlust at home. Moe Dalitz was perhaps the most influential of them all.

via The Organization Man | Vegas Seven.

I started riffing about this a while back, and I’m still trying to capture the nuances   with Dalitz. Not quite the romantic criminal figure he’s often made out to be, but not exactly the thoroughly honest businessman he represented himself as.

Music to Your Ears in Vegas Seven

This is probably the last literary spinoff from G2E: a piece in today’s Vegas Seven about the man behind the music in many Las Vegas casinos:

Here’s the funny thing about music in public places: If it’s working the way it should, you don’t even notice it on a conscious level. There’s just an extra spring in your step or, if you’re in a casino, pep in your poke as you hit the “bet again” button on your favorite slot machine. It’s the backbeat to your night out, or day at the spa, pushing you along without getting in your face. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

via Music to Your Ears | Vegas Seven.

I’ve been interested in the art and science of casino music programming for a while now, so it was great to be able to talk to Allen Klevens and learn all about how it’s done.

You really notice when it’s done wrong. I remember walking through MGM a while back when “Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac came on. It was a bit disquieting, because that’s the kind of song that makes you think, “what am I doing with my life and what am I doing here?” rather than “let’s party!”

And I liked getting the peek behind the curtain, with Klevens revealing the three top tracks for casinos and three that won’t work. I’ve been listening to Brian Eno’s “This” a lot since then–but not in a casino.

The Experience of Fremont in Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the origin of the Fremont Street Experience:

Fremont Street and the downtown casinos might be on the verge of a renaissance. Several casinos have reinvented themselves with renovations and expansions that try to blend nostalgia, modern comforts and value. But this isn’t the first time downtown has reinvented itself. In the 1950s, it tried emulating the Strip by replacing its rough-hewn gambling halls with hotel-casinos. More recently, in 1995, the Fremont Street Experience transformed downtown; in many ways, the casino district is only now growing into that change

via The Experience of Fremont | Vegas Seven.

I got the idea for this column while interviewing Mark Brandenburg, who was the junior partner at the Downtown roundtable I describe. You can listen to the original UNLV Gaming Podcast here.

Poker’s Perilous Perch in Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at where poker stands in September 2012. On one hand, live poker’s been on the decline for a few years. On the other, online poker is, some feel, going to transform the state’s economy. Here’s where we are:

Nevada poker is in an odd place. On one hand, poker room revenues have declined by 21 percent since 2007, and several casinos have downsized or closed their poker rooms, including the Tropicana on Sept. 11 . On the other hand, some are counting on online poker to revitalize Nevada’s gaming industry. As summer slides into fall and we get ready for online poker to go live next month, where is poker in the Silver State heading?

via Poker’s Perilous Perch | Vegas Seven

.I have a feeling that this is a column that, a few years from now, I’ll look back on and say, “If only you knew….”

In other words, I have a feeling that things are going to be changing in a big way, and it’s difficult to see exactly how the chips are going to fall.

South Point Puts It On (the) Line in Vegas Seven

When I heard that South Point Poker,, LLC, had been awarded the first license as an online poker provider in Nevada, I was immediately curious about the company: who were the people making this historic step? Everyone knows Michael Gaughan, but I had a feeling he wasn’t coding the site in his spare time. So I talked to SPP COO Lawrence Vaughan, and the result was this week’s Green Felt Journal:

On Aug. 23, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved the South Point’s application to run a legal online poker room—the first Nevada casino to be granted such a license. We are on the cusp of writing history. So what’s really going on with the operation, which will probably start accepting real money bets on poker before Halloween?

via South Point Puts It On (the) Line | Vegas Seven.

This really is historic. I know that word’s thrown around too much in Las Vegas sometimes, but Vaughan and company are doing something that’s never been done before (in Nevada).

And I resisted rhyming or otherwise getting cute with “Gaughan” and “Vaughan.”

Name Games in Vegas Seven

This week, I’ve got a “Latest Thought” in Vegas Seven where I finally weigh in on whether we should rename McCarran International Airport. I say, why stop there?

There’s been plenty of talk this summer of renaming McCarran International Airport. At first, it seemed like a lot of talk from people who hadn’t thought much before talking: A name change would be neither cheap nor easy, and this isn’t exactly a time when the public coffers are overflowing. But with Sen. Harry Reid recently declaring that he thinks a name change is in order, this is clearly a subject that needs further discussion.

via Name Games | Vegas Seven.

I’m glad I got the chance to have a little fun with this one. It’s certainly not at the top of the list of ideas I’d want to hear about how to keep Las Vegas relevant in post-recession America.

Atlantic City’s Last Great Hope? in Vegas Seven

I’ve got something besides today’s Green Felt Journal in today’s Vegas Seven: a look at Revel, Atlantic City’s latest casino:

Revel, Atlantic City’s first new casino in nearly a decade, has been called “Cosmopolitan East,” for its similarities, real and supposed to the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Like the Cosmo, it’s put a great deal of emphasis on its non-gaming amenities, and, like the Cosmo, it’s struggled on the casino floor. In June, Revel’s win per slot per day—a valuable metric of casino performance—was the lowest in the city.

via Atlantic City’s Last Great Hope? | Vegas Seven.

This week’s news about Revel seeking more credit only underlines the point that the casino is underperforming.