Review: Gaming Coffee Table Books Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports · November 29, 2018 at 6:00 pm It’s already that time of the year; many of us are seeking gift ideas for the holidays. I’ve found you can seldom go wrong with a coffee table book. Wikipedia defines them as ‘oversized, usually hard-covered books whose purpose is for display on a table intended for use in an area in which one entertains guests and from which it can serve to inspire conversation. Subject matter is predominately non-fiction and pictorial (a photo book).’ When it comes to gaming or gambling – I use the latter term to separate us from video games – there aren’t many choices. But here are four I’d strongly recommend. The Art of Gambling Through the Ages: The title is very descriptive, as this is a book filled with various artist’s depictions of our profession. I have to admit that, when I first received this book, my first impulse was to see if they’d included the painting of dogs playing poker. I wasn’t disappointed; one of Cassius Coolidge’s most famous canine capers is featured on Page 229. Don’t be misled, however: the range of highly-regarded artists represented is impressive, from Cezanne to Goya, Frederic Remington to Charles Russell, and Dali to Picasso. This is a beautiful book and should be on your coffee table or in your outer office if you have one. Arthur Flowers & Anthony Curtis, 231 pp. Huntington Press 2000 $65 Marshall Fey’s iconic Slot Machines – America’s Favorite Gaming Device should already be on your coffee table. If it’s not, you can’t go wrong with this classic. Virtually every top hit machine today can trace its roots back to one of the early machines chronicled in this book, from Wheel of Fortune to Multi-Play Video Poker. I’ll argue that there are still plenty of good ideas in these pages just waiting to be updated for today’s technology. The book is currently in its Sixth Edition, seventh printing. You can find early editions on the internet for just a few dollars, but to make it a special gift, I suggest going to Fey’s website (www.libertybellebooks.com) and requesting that he autograph a copy for you or anyone on your gift list. (In case you were unaware, Marshall’s grandfather, Charles Fey, invented the very first true slot machine, the classic Liberty Bell.) Marshall Fey, 256 pp. Liberty Belle Books, 2002 $35 Noir Afloat is based largely on the infamous Tony Corner Stralla, who was known variously as the “King of the Rumrunners” and the “Admiral of the Gambling Ship Fleet.” Despite living and working in casinos in Southern California for over 15 years, I was unaware of the scale and scope of off-shore gaming in Santa Monica Bay in the 1920s and 1930s. While the book is a well-documented history, it also contains hundreds of rich photos detailing the rise and fall of the floating casinos. In addition to Stralla, who also has a dubious background in early Las Vegas, it chronicles all the other ships where gaming was conducted in that grey-market area 30 to 60 miles off the west coast. Ernest Marquez, 208 pp. Angel City Press, 2011 $40 This last selection really stretches the definition of the coffee-table category. It’s not large-format, and certainly no one would classify it as a photo book (there are a paltry handful of illustrations and only eight pages of black/white photographs). But it is thick; at 570 pages, it doubles any of the suggestions above. Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling is a comprehensive overview of gambling by David G. Schwartz, who has a PhD in U.S. History from UCLA and is currently the director of the Center for Gaming Studies at UNLV. More importantly, he grew up in Atlantic City, where his early employment was in the casinos. With that background, it’s easy to understand the passion in his prose for the topic. While many think gaming was born in Nevada and, later, New Jersey, Schwartz documents the pastime to pre-humanity and follows its development through Europe, Asia, and colonial America, drawing right up to Las Vegas near the publication date in 2006. It is highly annotated, with nearly two dozen pages of end notes. You’ll find gems throughout that even Google and Siri haven’t discovered. I highly recommend this book. It’s out in paperback, but the hardcover is the only choice for a holiday gift. David G. Schwartz, 570 pp. Gotham Press, 2006 $30 Happy Holidays, and good reading.