History of gambling may explain where we are now

Jan 6, 2009 5:02 PM
Book Reviews by Howard Schwartz |

How did Las Vegas get where it is today? Who were the people with insight, and what factors contributed to the city and the state’s growth?

Historians likely will continue to study Las Vegas decades from now, charting and analyzing economic and sociological trends, looking at the swings and changes, trying to understand what makes this strange city tick. Here are a handful of key reference sources worth having in your library which may explain where we are now and give some indication of what the future holds:

Neon Metropolis (How Las Vegas Started the 21st Century) by Hal Rothman (340 pages, hardbound, $27.50). Rothman, who passed away ever too soon, was considered by many to be a vital voice of conscience when it came to the growth of Las Vegas, its continuous transformation into "the last American frontier city" and what the future holds for it. A revered instructor at UNLV, Rothman saw what others needed to see about the city, a diverse, growing, unique entity, trying to find balance.

The Maverick Spirit (Building the New Nevada), edited by Richard Davies (304 pages, paperbound, $17.95). This important reference focuses on more than a dozen key figures in Nevada history. They include Moe Dalitz: Controversial Founding Father of Las Vegas; William Fisk Harrah: Nevada Gaming Mogul; Hank Greenspun: Where He Stood; and Steve Wynn: I Got the Message. Each made unique contributions, including one with the sense and bravery to move ahead of the pack with internal and external casino innovations or with key legislation.

Resort City in the Sunbelt (Las Vegas 1930-2000) by Eugene Moehring (359 pages, paperbound, $19.95). The author, a highly respected professor of history at UNLV, explores the impact of tourism and the spectacular growth of the city. He addresses the "downside of that growth" – increase in crime, overcrowded schools and under-funded social services.

A Liberal Conscience by Ralph Denton (393 pages, paper bound, $25.95). Denton, a pioneer historian, a respected lawyer and an expert on the history of the state and its politics, helped coordinate Grant Sawyer’s three gubernatorial campaigns and has had a successful law practice in Las Vegas since 1954. Denton, still active, is the father of Sally Denton, whose magnificent history of Las Vegas (The Money and the Power) is also a must-read in this area.

Any item is available from Gambler’s Book Shop. The store’s website is www.gamblersbook.com. You may order there using MasterCard, VISA or Discover (no CODs please) or by phoning the store any day except Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time at 1-800-522-1777.