Review of Super Casino

Pete Earley decided to write a book on the Las Vegas casino boom of the ’90s. What he got was unprecedented access to the internal operations of the Luxor hotel and casino, a modern resort property owned by Mandalay Resorts Group, formerly Circus Circus Enterprises. During the time of his access, Earley records the ups and downs of the Luxor from an insider’s view, explores Las Vegas history focusing on recent events and the Circus chain in particular, and spends time with several colorful figures associated with this enigmatic industry.

The book is divided into several parts. The first section is titled “Counting Cards”, where Earley tells the story of Luxor personnel watching card counters at their casino as a sort of prelude to the action of the book. Unfortunately, whoever taught the author about card counting doesn’t seem to know the first thing about the subject, or else Earley wasn’t a very good student, because this whole first section is crap. Don’t give up, though, the book gets much better.

The next section is called “Prologue” and it’s yet another history of the casino business in Las Vegas. This one is pretty well done. It tells some stories I hadn’t heard before, and tries to set the record straight on a number of infamous Las Vegas legends. I don’t know which versions are correct, but at it’s worst this is a credible work. At it’s best it reveals significant new insights into this well chronicled metropolis. The section does focus on the history of the properties that are now part of the Mandalay Resort Group and recent history (the ’90’s) in particular, which I found welcome as good information on both topics is relatively uncommon.

After this, we get, “Part Two”, which covers a year at the Luxor. This chronicle is told as a set of events that happen to people associated with the place. We follow Slot Gacor members of the Luxor upper management team, rank and file employees, a showgirl, and even a prostitute who picks up tricks at one of the Luxor’s bars. Through these tales, Earley weaves together a compelling tale of life in a “Super Casino” resort/city, in a way I had not previously encountered. I found it quite engaging. The book concludes with an Epilogue, Acknowledgments, and an Index.

With the exception of the first 15 pages on blackjack card counting which elicited groans from me, I really liked the book. The historical section contained enough new information and perspectives that even a fairly jaded Las Vegas know-it-all will likely find it worthwhile. Also, while I certainly would’ve been even happier with even more details of the Luxor’s internal operation, the author does a good job of splitting the difference between those readers who will want all the inside information and those who are just looking for a good story.

Overall, this was an extremely good Las Vegas introspective, and probably the best I’ve read in quite a while. I’m guardedly willing to put Earley’s book near the same class as similar works by folks like Spanier and Alvarez. Worth reading by any fan of Las Vegas.

If one can ignore the silly misinformation about card counting in the first 15 pages, the book will turn into a delight for the Las Vegas/gambling aficionado. The history portion is fresh enough, and the inside look at the operation of a Las Vegas megaresort is fascinating. Maybe not quite spectacular enough to be afforded “instant classic” status, but certainly good enough to rate some comparisons. One of the best Las Vegas books I’ve read in years. I highly recommend it.

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