Books

Sucker bet

INSIDE LAS VEGAS by Mario Puzo

ROBERT MILLER May 2 1977
Books

Sucker bet

INSIDE LAS VEGAS by Mario Puzo

ROBERT MILLER May 2 1977

Sucker bet

INSIDE LAS VEGAS by Mario Puzo

(Grosset and Dunlap, $16.95)

This is not quite a coffee-table book, if only because it is not quite big enough to qualify. It measures an awkward eight-by-10 inches and contains a skimpy 25,000 words of text woven through a lot of rather ordinary photographs. So call it a crap-table book, and put the emphasis on the crap. Early in his slick text (Puzo is, admittedly, an easy-to-read writer; the millions of lipmovers who ploughed through The Godfather attest to that), the author addresses himself to the question any discerning reader must ask: was this piece of flackery financed by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce or one of those preposterous hotels along The Strip? No, he assures us, and I guess we have to take his word although that, too, would appear to be a questionable commodity. Puzo confesses

that he has welshed on Vegas debts run up during what he calls his “degenerate-gambler” days and that casinos still hold an unspecified amount of his bad paper. Having made a fortune from The Godfather (two movies, a book spin-off called The Godfather Papers) and from the belated good sales of his earlier and more admirable novels (The Dark Arena, The Fortunate Pilgrim), Puzo ought to have paid up and been done with it. And perhaps he has, with this effort: certainly Inside Las Vegas does that city no harm.

Puzo’s message is straightforward, if illconsidered: gambling, he says, is fun and if it’s not good for you at least it’s not as harmful as television, religion or commerce. Again and again, he insists that Las Vegas won’t cheat the suckers simply because it doesn’t have to. True enough, just as it is true that there are a lot of nice-girlsturned-hooker in Vegas; that most of the showgirls will show boys of all ages a hot time, if the boys are high rollers and the pit boss says do it; that the food, though inexpensive, is strictly airport-awful; that Vegas has a lot of churches and is virtually free of petty crime.

But this is all old stuff (just like the book itself, the meat of which appeared in Playboy months ago). What does Puzo tell us that’s new? Well, he argues that the Nevada authorities must not legalize the collection of gambling debts because Vegas holds so much bad paper that its collection would plunge the United States into depression. He forecasts big things for the gambling industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He explains, accurately, how junkets work. He offers a few tips on cheating and on avoiding bankruptcy in a casino. And he tells a few funny gambling anecdotes. Not much for $ 16.95—but given the subject matter about what you’d expect: a rip-off. ROBERT MILLER