In August, when Caesars Entertainment spinoff VICI Properties announced its $17 billion acquisition of MGM Growth Properties, it was yet another reminder of how much the great Las Vegas casino poker game has grown over the years.
It was a colossal deal made by a company so large and swift moving, it would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago, given Caesars Entertainment’s bruising bankruptcy. Perhaps the only thing that wasn’t surprising is that the big deal included Caesars and MGM, two of the biggest names in the industry and operators of many of the brightest marquee megaresorts in Las Vegas.
Before the rise of VICI, there was the fall of Rome.
The story of the Caesars Entertainment’s gargantuan and at times vicious bankruptcy reorganization is told in great detail by Max Frumes and Sujeet Indap in The Caesars Palace Coup: How a Billionaire Brawl over the Famous Casino Exposed the Power and Greed of Wall Street. It leads off this year’s casino industry must-reads.
Whether you’re awed by the multibillion-dollar machinations of the modern era or remain fascinated by the ghosts of Las Vegas past, this season offers something for every literary gambling habit.
Clearly, Caesars Palace and all that it’s meant to Las Vegas and the greater gaming world remain a source of preoccupation to an eclectic array of writers. For their part, Fumes and Indap are skilled financial journalists, an expertise on display in this book.
They aren’t shy about spotlighting what can be described only as cutthroat business played at the highest stakes. Part of their promotional matter gets right to the point: “The Caesars bankruptcy put a twist on the old-fashioned casino heist. Through a $27 billion leveraged buyout and a dizzying string of financial-engineering transactions, Apollo (Global Management) and TPG (Capital) – in the midst of the post-Great Recession slump – had seemingly snatched every prime asset of the company from creditors, with the notable exception of Caesars Palace. But Caesars’ hedge-fund lenders and bondholders had scooped up the company’s paper for nickels and dimes. And with their own armies of lawyers and bankers, they were ready to do everything necessary to take back what they believed was theirs – if they could just stop their own infighting.”
It is. At times the book made me wish I’d paid more attention in my business classes, but it opens a great window into a high-flying world few get to see.
Did I say Caesars continues to intrigue us even after all these years?
Part of its hold on the Las Vegas psyche is its shadowy start and its ability to morph and grow and continue to attract high-rolling gamblers, top entertainers, and members of the international and Hollywood in-crowd.
You’ll find all that and more in Randall Cannon’s well-researched and entertaining Caesars Palace Grand Prix: Las Vegas, Organized Crime and the Pinnacle of Motorsport. Don’t worry: You don’t need to love auto racing to enjoy it.
Cannon captures an era of Las Vegas that may not come again, despite many game efforts. For the better part of a generation, no Strip casino resort cast a flashier image than Caesars Palace, and its status only grew when it brought Grand Prix racing to Las Vegas Boulevard.
With the machines came the people behind them, not all of whom were exactly savory. That’s all right, though, because you didn’t have to look far behind the curtain to find the real-life caesars who manipulated the palace intrigue. They were notoriously connected to the mob and Cannon brings just about all of them onto the page.
It’s a heavy book festooned with photographs from the track and the mug book. Those who imagine Las Vegas as a place that lost its organized-crime shadow with the arrival of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes will likely cringe after reading a more accurate depiction of the real Las Vegas.
Of course, not everything that happens in Las Vegas has a Roman theme. If you haven’t noticed, the rise of legalized sports betting is a top gaming story again this year.
Fortunately, Las Vegas bookmaker Chris Andrews is here to tell us all the best parts with his new book Then One Year … History’s Craziest Year as Seen by a Las Vegas Bookmaker. It’s a journal-style follow-up to his colorful and smart Then One Day … 40 Years of Bookmaking in Nevada. Both should hold places on your gaming bookshelf.
Andrews, with a career steeped in the bookmaking industry, is emerging as one of its great characters from his perch at Michael Gaughan’s South Point Hotel-Casino. His portrait of the memorable year, during which not even a global health crisis could stop the action, is well worth your investment.
Those chasing tales from the poker pit will find the best of the best in Marton Magyar’s The 50 Greatest Stories in Poker History, which covers a hall-of-fame’s worth of characters and the games they played at the highest level. These stories never go out of style.
Another book I enjoyed this past year was former casino collector and federal agent Joe Dorsey’s memoir Joe’s Dash: From Million-Dollar Drug Busts to Multi-Million Dollar Collections for Las Vegas Casinos. Written with Linda Ellis, Dorsey’s book takes you from the streets of San Diego to the penthouses of Las Vegas and on to the Far East during his remarkable career.
When you go hunting for credible and readable gambling books, it pays to stick with the experts in the field. To that end, there’s Arnold Snyder’s memoir Radical Blackjack and a reprint of Stanford Wong’s Sharp Sports Betting. Those searching for readable insights and solid math need look no further.
Whether this season finds you high rolling or searching for the nickel machines, here’s to a happy and safe holiday for everyone.