Summary

Jay Sarno built two path-breaking Las Vegas casinos, Caesars Palace (1966) and Circus Circus (1968), and planned but did not build a third, the Grandissimo, which would have started the mega-resort era a decade before Steve Wynn built The Mirage. As mobsters and accountants battled for the soul of the last American frontier town, Las Vegas had endless possibilities - if you didn't mind high stakes and stiff odds. Sarno invented the modern Las Vegas casino, but he was part of a dying breed - a back-pocket entrepreneur who'd parlayed a jones for action and a few Teamster loans into a life as a Vegas casino owner.
For all of his accomplishments, his empire didn't last. Sarno sold out of Caesars Palace shortly after it opened - partially to get away from the bookies and gangsters who'd taken over the casino - and he was forced to relinquish control of Circus Circus when the federal government indicted him on charges of offering the largest bribe in IRS history - a bribe he freely admitted paying, on the advice of his attorney, Oscar Goodman. Though he ultimately walked out of court a free man, he never got Circus back. And though he guessed the formula that would open up Las Vegas to millions in the 1990s with the design of the Grandissimo, but he wasn't able to secure the financing for the casino, and when he died in 1984, it remained only a frustrating dream.
Sarno's casinos - and his ideas about how to build casinos - created the template for Las Vegas today. Before him, Las Vegas meant dealers in string ties and bland, functional architecture. He taught the city how to dress up its hotels in fantasy, putting toga dresses on cocktail waitresses and making sure that even the stationery carried through with the theme. He saw Las Vegas as a place where ordinary people could leave their ordinary lives and have extraordinary adventures. And that remains the template for Las Vegas today.
©2013 David G. Schwartz (P)2014 David G. Schwartz
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Customer Reviews

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5 out of 5 stars
By Andrew on 08-09-14

Great Listen - Thanks to Dr. Dave

Would you consider the audio edition of Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas to be better than the print version?

I find print version slightly superior, I read it prior to purchasing it on Audible However, it is great to see the nuances that I missed the first time through.

What other book might you compare Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas to and why?

Grandissimo was what Super Casino by Pete Earley could have been had Earley had the passion for Las Vegas that David Schwartz displays. After reading Super Casino I always wondered about this Jay Sarno guy, he seemed far more interesting that Bill Bennett and William Pennington. To finally get the whole story and find out the truth - not that Jay Sarno died after a night of satisfying a dozen prostitutes - allowed a much broader view of how ahead of his time Jay really was, and the fact that had Jay not been a "hotel man" Las Vegas would not be place it is today.

What about Eric Martin’s performance did you like?

I thought Eric Martin did a very good job, however some details and pauses made it seem a bit over the top.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

There is so much information you can't really make it though in one sitting but is certainly a book I will listen to over and over.

Any additional comments?

I can't wait to see what Dr. David Schwartz does next!

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10 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Wanzi on 04-03-15

Fun and informative

I enjoyed every second of this one. I would never have guessed on the origins of this city but this book puts it all neatly into place.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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