CASINO: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi

CASINO: Love and Honor in Las Vegas

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A riveting if not uplifting look at the gaming industry's inside games during the mob's heyday in Las Vegas. With the cooperation of Frank (a.k.a. Lefty) Rosenthal, one of Chicago's top men in the Nevada pleasure domes, Pileggi (Wiseguy, 1986, etc.) offers a blow-by-blow account of how organized crime looted the casinos they controlled as silent but deadly partners during the 1970s. A wizard of odds whose handicapping talents made him a legend in the Windy City's underworld, the devoutly nonviolent Rosenthal went West in 1968 (at age 38) in search of a fresh start. He subsequently married a gorgeous but unstable showgirl and at her behest took a day job at the Stardust. Although his rap sheet and gangland ties made him impossible to license, Rosenthal effectively ran the show on behalf of absentee owners who regularly collected millions in skimmed cash. In the meantime, the FBI had been keeping a close eye on dozens of top racketeers, including the late Tony Spilotro, a street thug with influential friends. The diminutive Spilotro (known as the Ant, short for pissant) caused considerable mischief for his distant masters, first by conducting an open affair with Rosenthal's alcoholic wife and then confirming for the FBI longsuspected connections when summoned back East to explain his betrayal. Withal, the biggest break came when the Feds obtained the notes of a lower-echelon hoodlum who kept meticulous records of all meetings he attended to ensure reimbursement of his expenses. The heads of a half dozen major crime families were convicted on conspiracy charges, along with scores of smaller fry. Spilotro wound up five feet under in an Indiana cornfield, and an anything-goes era passed into Nevada history. Rosenthal (whose role in the endgame remains unclear) retired to Florida, where he lives on a horse farm. A cautionary tale of what passes for honor among thieves.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster