Book Review: The Money and the Power Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports · January 3, 2019 at 3:30 pm by Sally Denton & Roger Morris 461 pp. Vintage Books. 2002, $17.95 by Buddy Frank I often write about how Las Vegas doesn’t really represent the world of gaming today. The city is undeniably the entertainment center of the universe, but in terms of gambling, Sin City no longer dominates. The revenue leaders are in China and Singapore, the biggest casinos in such seemingly unlikely venues as Oklahoma, Florida, Connecticut and California. And today, just about everybody has higher Win Per Unit slot figures than southern Nevada. However, there is no doubt that Vegas started it all, and reigned supreme for years and years. Reno and Havana were brief challengers, but both faded quickly, Reno in the post-WW2 years and Havana as a result of the Cuban Revolution. If you’re like me, much of what you know about early Vegas is as much legend as it is reality; Hollywood movies and a trip or two to the Mob Museum probably cemented my views more than any pursuit of real historical research. Near the end of 2017, however, I attended the Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer Award ceremony at the University of Nevada at Reno. The recipient that year was investigative reporter – and Elko, Nevada native – Sally Denton. She and her former husband, Roger Morris, have written several nonfiction works, including The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America. If you search Amazon for Las Vegas, this book won’t show up until well after the first 10 pages of results. Perhaps that’s why I hadn’t read this 2002 book before now. If it is, in fact, difficult to find now, that’s a shame; the book is an extraordinary effort rich in documentation and attribution. Two things jumped out at me after I finished reading: Sally Denton will never be honored by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. A better title for the book might be Myth Busters: Las Vegas Edition. Here’s just a few personal myths that this work busted: Myth: Frank Sinatra and his mobster friends were the primary residents at the Club Cal Neva on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in the 50s and 60s. Reality: Joe Kennedy and his soon-to-be president son, Jack, were far more frequent players at the lake resort. Myth: The New York (Sicilian/Italian) mob ran Las Vegas (wasn’t the family name Corleone?) Reality: Yes, the Genoveses were there, as were underworld types from Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago and many other locales. But they all had to have the blessing of the true Godfather of Vegas, Miami’s Meyer Lansky. Myth: Howard Hughes helped start cleaning up Las Vegas when he bought out the mob-run Desert Inn and several other casinos after gangster Moe Dalitz tried to kick him out of the penthouse to make way for high rollers coming in the winter. Reality: The mob fleeced the drug-addled Hughes to cash out their marginal properties at huge profits while also illegally emptying the cages and count rooms on their way out the door. (Note: while it was perhaps unintended, these events really did mark the beginning of the end of organized crime in Nevada). Myth: Steve Wynn is a great guy. Reality: You already know the answer to this one, but the book gives you some more ammunition. Denton and Morris quote fairly extensively about the matter from John L. Smith’s excellent 2001 book, Running Scared. Add that to your reading list now if you’re interested in knowing a bit more about Wynn’s questionable background. (Smith, who married Denton last year, is now one of the writers on the CDC Gaming Reports team). There are dozens of similar examples within, the most notable of which – at least to me – is that I had no idea of the strong influence Nevada had on presidential politics for years. Nor did I realize the long history the city, and the mob, had with certain Mormon bankers. You’ll also learn much more about some famous or infamous Vegas names such as Binion, Laxalt, Dalitz, Del Webb, and Hoffa, and U.S. Senators Pat McCarren and Howard Cannon. Those last two have airports named after them in Las Vegas and Reno, respectively; those honors seem questionable after reading this. I strongly recommend you read this book, if for no other reason that you can’t be in this business – in any state – without your friends or customers eventually asking you about organized crime. After reading it, you’ll have a much better foundation to answer those questions and concerns. As much as I enjoyed the book, I did find it to be something of a slow read, even though the subject matter was fascinating from the first chapter to the last. I think this was because the authors cite so much evidence and source documentation on each and every page. The information is voluminous and convincing, but on occasion it slows the narrative a bit. It’s also worth mentioning that it sometimes feels as though Denton and Morris truly detest gaming and Las Vegas in general (even when it wasn’t in the hands of organized crime): “The city was never in truth, some perverse Atlantis apart from the main. The nation at large populated the ranks of the Strip’s criminal and corporate overseers, underwrote and owned the casinos, took in the skim as well as admitted earnings, trafficked with the place in every way legal and illegal—America the city’s roots and mentor.” To me, it was a bit more innocent: we just liked to have fun. # # # Amazon has this on Kindle for $9.99. That might be a good choice; Kindle’s electronic bookmark feature is a great advantage for this serious study that few will finish in a single sitting or two.