Do you Gamble? Well sure you do, and it's no surprise as
most people now have
A few statistics about those 42 million people in 2015 going to Vegas annually:
Here's a great deal for you! What? The Casino will only take 3% of your Tax Refund!
Vegas keeps renovating and always is looking for ways to keep you coming back. For example, in March-2014 the High Roller wheel opened to great fanfare. This observation wheel is 550 feet high and rotates 28 pods that hold 40 people each. It's not a Ferris wheel as it moves only 1 foot per second. The Wheel is located at the end of the new LINQ Promenade between the Flamingo & the LINQ Hotel. The LINQ Hotel(2014) was formerly the Quad(2012) which was formerly the Imperial Palace(1979). The Promenade is pretty slick and features forty shops of retail, dining, and entertainment, including a bowling alley.
LINQ Promenade February - 2015
Change is inevitable in Vegas as the Boutique Cromwell opened in 2014 which was Bill's(2007), which was formerly the Barbary Coast(2005). As I left Vegas on Tuesday February 10, 2015 the Clarion Hotel & Casino was imploded at 205 Convention Center Drive, just off the Strip. Formerly known as the Royal American, Paddlewheel, Debbie Reynolds Hollywood, and Greek Isles. The Clarion is the 13th joint to be imploded since 2007. The new owner, Lorenzo Doumani, paid $22.5 million in cash for these 6 acres, and says his upcoming project will be outstanding!
Here's a list of other imploded joints. Oct. 22, 1993
the Dunes(5-23-1955) made way for Bellagio.
Early Casino Resorts in Vegas (actually in Paradise, NV)
1st-El Rancho Vegas-2500 Las Vegas Blvd opened April 3, 1941,
was destroyed by fire on July 16, 1960
2nd-The Last Frontier-3120 Las Vegas Blvd opened October 30,
1942, and closed on July 16, 2007
3rd-Flamingo-3555 Las Vegas Blvd opened as Pink Flamingo on
December 26, 1946.
4th-The Thunderbird-2755 Las Vegas Blvd opened September 1,
1948 and became Silverbird
5th-Desert Inn-3131 Las Vegas Blvd opened April 24, 1950 and
operated until August 28, 2000.
6th-Sahara-2535 Las Vegas Blvd opened October 7, 1952 to May 16, 2011. Now SLS.
7th-Sands 3355-Las Vegas Blvd opened December 15, 1952 and closed on June 30, 1996. Now the Venetian.
8th-The Royal Nevada-3100 Las Vegas Blvd opened April 19, 1955 but was absorbed by the Stardust in 1959.
9th-Riviera-2901 Las Vegas Blvd opened on April 20, 1955 and
closed on May 4, 2015. Purchased by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and
was imploded in 2016. Liberace cut the ribbon at the opening.
10th-Dunes-3600 Las Vegas Blvd opened May 23, 1955 and operated to January 26, 1993. Now Bellagio.
While the major action is on the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip,
I first went to Vegas in the 1960's
stayed at the Stardust, so I always went
back to the "Dust" for old times sake until the joint finally closed
on November 1, 2006 and the buildings were imploded on March 14, 2007. When the Stardust opened on July 2, 1958,
it was the world's largest Hotel-Casino with
1,032 rooms. I stayed in the
motel rooms out back as they were
cheaper than the Tower rooms. The hotel had an eighteen story sign erected
in 1968(designed by Betty Willis) that
miss at night. The Stardust attracted people with cheap rooms
and cheaper food
and drinks. Of course the fabulous showgirls of the Lido de Paris Revue
brought in customers also. The Lido show was considered risqué at the
time. Nude shows were in Vegas, but you had to go away from The Strip to
see all-nude gals.
I've stayed at most of the major hotels at one time or another, and on my last three trips, I stayed at Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and Rio. All nice joints, however Bellagio has the friendliest and most available staff. You cannot hesitate anywhere inside the property for a minute without some friendly, bright, and energetic person jumping up to help you with whatever you might need. The maid came to my room three times a day! All this service is not without a price, but if money is not the issue, Bellagio is great. Bellagio is located at 3600 Las Vegas Blvd formerly the location of the old Dunes.
There is a great ceiling installed by Dale Chihuly in 1998
titled 'Fiori di Como'.
I previously hadn't stayed at the Rio as it is located off The Strip and I assumed that it probably was not as nice as the majors on Las Vegas Blvd Strip. I was pleasantly surprised! In 2007, the good people at Harrah's were holding an Invitational Craps Tournament at Rio and I was invited along with 350 other dice nuts to partake in their generous hospitality. Rio is considered an all-suite hotel and I was more than satisfied with my suite. The going rate is $315 per night during mid-week. It was spacious and more than adequate for the 4 day 3 night stay. You know it's a nice place cuz the Bad Boys of Magic, Penn & Teller have a theater there.
The craps personnel were very well organized and the
tournament ran smoothly
each day. The only draw back to my entire stay was that I didn't win the
$20,000 tourney. In fact, I busted out the first day when I tried to make
a run on the don't side of the crap table while everyone else was loading up on
the come side. I met a few of the crap tourney participants and many of
the players did not have extensive tournament experience, but had experience
against the house. Somewhere within a dice tourney, you must make a stand
away from the popular bets if you're trying to win. I talked to two 30ish
ladies that were in the tournament and while I jawed with one, I noticed that
the other young lady was reviewing the sports book odds for the days'
games! It seems she started betting sports events in her early twenties
and now considers herself a seasoned semi-pro. So maybe some of the
youngsters are coming around to the craps table before the slots take over the
entire casino. Being I bombed out early, I hit the restaurants using up
the food vouchers supplied by the Rio folks. Since I was in Vegas by
myself, I invited a couple 1st timers from France to join me for dinner just to
have company. Neither of these "kids" were gamblers, they just
wanted to see the sights of Sin City and see first hand what the hoopla is
always stop at the Flamingo at 3555 Las Vegas Blvd, as it has ties to the old
days even though the current joint was built in the 1990's. Gone is Bugsy
Siegel's original Pink Flamingo that opened on December 26, 1946. The original
was named after Bugsy's girl friend Onie Virginia Hill whose nickname was
Flamingo because of her long legs. Alas, the last of the original
buildings were torn down on December 14, 1993.
I like the pink facade at night, Margaritaville, the live parrots on the sidewalk, the feel of the old days, and I like Kenny in the crap pit. While they have spruced up the place a bit, it's not as uppity as the other newer class joints.
I also take time to revisit the downtown area and to stop at Lester Ben Binion's (b 11-20-1904 Pilot Grove, TX d 12-25-1989 Las Vegas, NV) place that opened back in 1951 as the Horseshoe Club. Previously, it was named the Eldorado Club. Benny Binion was old school rough and tumble, but he took all the action you could dish out. He was originally a moonshiner, a numbers guy, shot two people to death, and served time for tax evasion, but most people loved him. Benny went to El Paso, TX in the early 1920's for one year and then went to Dallas, TX. Daughter Barbara Shirley was born October 23, 1934 in Dallas and died June 5, 1983 in Las Vegas. Son Jack Benny was born 2-21-1937 in Dallas. Daughter Brenda Sharon was born in 1941 in Dallas. Daughter Becky was born in 1944 in Dallas. Son Lonnie Ted was born 11-28-1943 in Dallas and died 9-17-1998 in Las Vegas. In 1964 the Binions owned 100% and renamed it Binion's Horseshoe.
million dollars inside a plexiglass horseshoe, just inches away from your
outstretched hand! The World Series of Poker that is so popular these days
was started at Binion's in 1970. Johnny Moss(b 5-14-1907 d 12-16-1995) won the first tournament by
popular vote without even playing as the main pros all agreed that Johnny was
the BEST of the BEST. The 1st World Series of Poker was hosted by Chill
Wills(b 7-18-1902 d 12-15-1978) & Titanic Thompson(Alvin C Thomas b
11-30-1893 in AR d 5-19-1974 in TX).
While Benny is gone, he's not forgotten and a magnificent
bronze sits at 2nd & Ogden with Benny astride his horse.
Update on the statue as it was moved
during 2008 to the South Point Casino
Benny's son Jack Benny Binion (b Feb. 21, 1937) still carries on as he owns the Rights to the "Horseshoe" name. He still makes appearances at the Horseshoe named joints and in 2017 consults for Wynn International.
It's still old school downtown and the limits are lower than the Strip, however the street is cleaned up and now the action extends a couple more blocks as speculators continue to open more hotels and joints.
I talked to a policeman riding a bicycle up and down Fremont Street and he reported that the crime is not as it used to be. His major problem is breaking up fights with the late night drunks. I did observe numerous down and out homeless types frequenting the area and occasionally observed them seeking handouts from the tourists. In earlier years, I ventured downtown to go to Binion's because of it's storied past and Benny Binion's reputation. However, I always felt uneasy on the streets there. Today however it appears just as safe as the Strip. According to generalized newspaper reports, the Vegas area has its crime problems, however The Strip and now Fremont Street has beefed up patrols so as not to chase away the millions that show up annually. That's not to say that the Vegas area is without crime. As in any big city, it's not smart to venture too far off the beaten path. Speaking of crime, the Vegas police have reported an influx in the three years 2005-2006-2007 of an overseas gang. These foreigners were quoted as saying that Vegas was ripe for the picking.
If you are in the downtown area, you're not far from the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop-713 Las Vegas Blvd. You may have seen these characters on their Reality TV Show that started in 2009. The Show includes Grandpa, Son, Grandson, and Chumlee, a hired hand. After visiting the joint in 2013, I must say that Chumlee is the brightest of the group!
I take it back. Chumlee (Austin Russell) is just as dumb as the rest. Chumlee, age 33, was arrested March 9, 2016 on sex, weapons, and drug charges as the result of a search warrant. Meth, weed, and a gun at his house in Vegas.
There's always a new twist as old schemes, ways, and methods are updated to modern times. That brings to mind one of the most enterprising & determined Vegas Cheats of all time according to my book. That would be Dennis Andrew Nikrasch, AKA Dennis Sean McAndrew. Dennis, born September 12, 1941 in Chicago gets the self-taught achievement award for updating his basic skill of cheating casinos by manipulating slot machine payouts. Dennis had an uncanny ability to pick locks and it is believed that he worked in Chicago for the crime families.
He was convicted in Chicago for burglary in 1961 before moving to Vegas in 1970. In Vegas, Dennis rigged the mechanical slots during the 1970's and no one really knows how many millions he hauled off. It was estimated that he racked up $10 million between 1976 & 1979. Dennis, his wife Susan, and his brother Terrence were indicted in 1983. Brother Terrence got 15 years in 1984 while Dennis & Susan went on the lam. Both resurfaced in Las Vegas and surrendered to authorities in January of 1986. Dennis got 15 years in prison however he was paroled in January-1991 after serving only 5 years and he remained on parole until May-1996. Susan received a 1 year term. Well, it seems that you can't keep a great mind down as Dennis was planning & plotting his next move while doing time. Of course technology had moved past Dennis from mechanical slots to the electronic computer age, but not to worry. Dennis set up shop in his Vegas garage with a newly purchased electronic slot machine and proceeded to take it apart piece by piece and put it back together again. In addition, he educated himself about computers and the "chips" that make it work. He was now re-schooled, re-tooled, and ready for action. An accomplice from the Bruno crime family in Philadelphia by the name of Eugene A. Bulgarino, AKA Louie Turco, AKA Gigi, born June 4, 1933 in Philly, purchased a computer chip from IGT as requested by Dennis. Bulgarino died April 16, 2014 in Peoria, AZ. Dennis was able to decipher the info from the practice slot machine and obtain the necessary combinations so as to load up the slot with the jackpot sequence. Sometime in 1996, Dennis, his associates, and his hired hands were ready for the real slot machines and they hit the Vegas casinos.
After their arrest on June 9, 1998 authorities found computer chips and burglary tools when they searched a safe deposit box and a storage shed used by Dennis Nikrasch. Eugene Bulgarino got 3 years 10 months; wife Joan Mae Bulgarino got 4 months jail and 4 months house arrest; Ronnie Gale McElveen got 2 years and 9 months and the mastermind Dennis Nikrasch , just two years after being released from parole for the last slot scam, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years. Nikrasch & Bulgarino were both added to the Vegas Black Book of Banned from the Casinos on September 24, 2004. Dennis died in 2010, no details are available.
Yea, some things change and other things don't change in Vegas, but it's always been an exciting place. On September 9, 2007, the MTV people were holding their Video Awards Big Bash at The Palms and you couldn't get near the nightclub area unless you had bodyguards and an entourage of 50 or so. I stayed on the sidelines to see what I could see. You may have read about Kid Rock getting into a scuffle with Tommy Lee and the police showed up around 10 P.M. Fun in Vegas, you can't beat it! I left The Palms and stood on the corner of Hugh Hefner Blvd for a few minutes deciding on the next joint to visit and I was summoned to a vehicle at the curb. A young gal asked if I needed a lift or if I was looking to party for the night. Some things don't change in Vegas as I don't ever recall a night on the street when I haven't been approached to participate in the sex trade business. Mobile billboards are a common sight promoting "Babes-Just for You." Most street corners have posters and advertising boxes listing available girls. In addition, individuals are stationed at the busy intersections on The Strip handing out "Trading Cards" advertising for Demi, Stacy, or Stephanie who can be at your room and ready in only 20 minutes! Giovanna even offered a FREE INTRODUCTION and a $35 SPECIAL!
In 2007, the current Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, weighed
in on the prostitution business stating that Vegas ought to open up
brothels. Oscar was interviewed by Bob Herbert of the New York Times and
was liberally quoted in a September 4, 2007 article. Mr. Herbert stated,
"There is no city in America where women are treated worse than in Las
Vegas." Herbert continued, "The tone of systematic,
institutionalized degradation is set by the Mayor, Oscar Goodman who describes
Vegas as an adult playground where anything goes."
As I mentioned, Mayor Oscar Goodman was the mouthpiece for ex-Stardust Casino boss Lefty Rosenthal as Lefty was suspected of secretly overseeing the Stardust, Fremont, and Hacienda casinos on behalf of organized crime. Frank Larry Rosenthal, born June 12, 1929 in Chicago, is another colorful character from the Vegas scene. Also known as Norman, Larry, Lefty, Larry Franks, Frank Larry, Frank Carpentier, Charles Carpentier, and Frank Gossup; Mr. Rosenthal originally became noticed in Chicago because of his ability to pick winning horses. He went on to become widely known for setting the odds for sporting events. While at the Stardust, Lefty set up and operated a Sports Book along with hiring the first female dealers in the casino which made the Stardust one of the leaders in the industry. If you made a bet anywhere in the country, the line was probably set by Lefty Rosenthal. As depicted in the movie Casino, Lefty survived an October 4, 1982 car bombing attempt on his life while sitting in his '81 Cadillac Eldorado outside of Tony Roma's restaurant on E. Sahara Ave. Alas, in 1991 the Nevada Supreme Court upheld Rosenthal's November 30, 1988 listing in the Black Book that bans him from casinos. During one of his court hearings, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment nearly 40 times, even "taking the 5th" when asked whether or not he was left-handed! After being barred and his casino days over, Lefty moved to California, and then on to Florida. Lefty, a pioneer of modern gambling and a renowned handicapper continued to handicap sports events out of Miami Beach, Florida until his death on October 13, 2008.
So as not to slight the women folk, I'll mention that one
woman made the
Black Book which subsequently bans her from casinos. Sandra Kay
Vaccaro was listed in the Black Book on October 2, 1986. Sandra, AKA Sandra Day
Fumagalli, AKA Sandra Day Wondra, was born December 13, 1939 in Granite City, IL
and worked with her then husband John Joseph Vaccaro Jr., AKA Alan Joseph
Champagne, to cheat the slots during the
early 1980's. John also made the Black Book on June 20, 1986 four months
earlier than his wife. John Vaccaro served time in 2008 in Louisiana
after trying to cheat the casinos again down south. John was born March
28, 1942 and died November 16, 2015 in Boulder City, NV. In 2016 Sandra
resides in Boulder City, NV.
In addition to spending time at the dice tables, I enjoy finding other things to do in Vegas. In February-2008, I traveled to the Liberace Museum at 1775 East Tropicana Avenue to pick up a newly released Liberace Style pair of shoes. The Museum is quite the place with glitter, clothes, pianos, autos, costumes, rings, jewelry, and a snack bar. Two extremely friendly ladies, Connie & Sandra took time to show me around and pick out a "new pair of shoes'. In addition to all the Liberace stuff, the museum houses a theatre and regularly holds Liberace Tribute performances.
Well. you missed it folks. The Liberace Museum closed on Oct 17, 2010. 450,000 people visited annually in the earlier years. Wladziu Valentino Liberace died of AIDS in 1987 and his fans are slowly dieing off too as attendance was less than 50,000 last year. Liberace was Mr Bling and the Lady Gaga of his day.
I continued down East Tropicana stopping next at 2900 at "The Gun Store." They have everything you might need, such as an Uzi, MP5, MP40, M16, AK47, or a Thompson. You can try one out right there 7 days a week 'til 6:30 P.M. If you can't afford to buy one right now, well sho' enough they have a RENTAL program. It's Vegas baby.
East, the next stop was at 3330 Tropicana to visit the Pinball Hall of
200 machines of the owner's 1,000 machines are available to play at this
location. Approximately 30 people were playing the favorite machines
of their youth when I arrived. None of these people were kids as their
ages were 35 and up and about half were women. Tim Arnold, the owner was not
available, however Mike Clark known as "Hippie", the main repairman was busy polishing up
a machine. Hippie explained
that it was a full time job cleaning and replacing gates, bumpers, and supplying
parts to keep the machines playable. I spent two hours feeding quarters to
the pinball machines. The Hall of Fame operates as a tribute to the
Pinball era, and any profit is donated to charitable causes in Las Vegas.
A great afternoon spent on East Tropicana in Las Vegas.
OK folks, that's all for now and I hope to see you in Vegas