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SUPER CASINO by Pete Earley


Inside the ``New'' Las Vegas

by Pete Earley

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2000
ISBN: 0-553-09502-1
Publisher: Bantam

Award-winning journalist Earley (Circumstantial Evidence, 1995, etc.) takes a long, hard look at the rejuvenated Las Vegas casino industry, from the new breed of Disney-influenced megacasinos to the still-seamy underbelly of need, misconduct, and loss. Earley is a heavyweight reporter, and he gained unprecedented access to the casinos—primarily the oft-beleaguered Circus-Circus conglomerate’so this book is densely detailed. He first reviews the bad old days of Vegas, when mobsters who built their own casinos with Teamsters Pension Funds in the 1950s were forced out by federal pressure by the 1970s, paving the way for mass mergers that both reduced the cash skimming, tax evasion, and brutality, and eradicated most components of the Las Vegas of Hunter Thompson and the Rat Pack. Earley’s central narrative concerns the decades of corporate intrigue that attended the rise of supercasino ventures like Circus-Circus, originally a —grind joint,— versus Steve Wynn’s —high-roller— establishments, like the Mirage. Beginning with Jay Sarno, a lecherous impresario who ushered in the contemporary aesthetic with Caesar’s Palace and the grotesque cement —big top— of Circus-Circus—then within eight years lost control of both—Earley documents the backstabbing and soul-selling that overtook the first generation of megacasino executives. This grim tale is interspersed with Studs Turkel’style personal narratives of casino denizens, most of them revealing and poignant. A widow visits Las Vegas to recall her deceased husband; a teenage prostitute manages to graduate from blackjack-dealer’s school; casino employees struggle with cynicism and conscience. Also more compelling than the corporate swashbuckling are chapters succinctly examining the nitty-gritty of high-tech casino operation: surveillance, security, anticheating measures, and the odd comforts demanded by gamblers. Given that Las Vegas’s latest incarnation appears to be an unstoppable cultural juggernaut, a timely and deft examination of the mechanisms, individuals, and corporate culture that transformed the once risquÇ pursuit of gambling into the glamorized, mainstreamed fantasy of —gaming.—