The Las Vegas that Canton native Jim Sinay knew during the decades he worked in its casinos no longer exists. Many would be thankful for that.
The city of lights was more cruel than corporate in those days in the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s, when the Lehman High School graduate labored as a craps dealer, floorman and pit boss at several different Las Vegas casinos, both downtown and in "The Strip." The gamblers and those who ran the gambling joints in the past were "a rough and tumble breed of people," Sinay recalls.
"We saw players kicked out ... for not betting enough money, smoking a pipe, using systems, counting cards, getting drunk, and not throwing the dice all the way to the end of the craps table," recalled Sinay in one of many stories of "old Las Vegas" that he has posted recently on social media. "Many made their money illegally, and their idea of staying within the law was not getting caught.
"One player got so excited during a hot hand at the dice table that when he signed his marker (that's getting credit to gamble) he suddenly cried, 'Hey, wait a minute; bring that back!' Why you ask? It seems he had accidently signed the marker with his 'real' name."
Of course, there were more serious penalties for indiscretions in casinos of Sinay's days.
Las Vegas was a world then in which there was money to be made and money to be thrown away, flagrantly. And if you crossed the wrong people, Sinay notes in his social media memories, you could end up "80 miles out and six feet under."
We have posted some of Sinay's stories in this space before, and we will return to other tales in the future. They help recreate a world in which most of us never have nor ever will dwell.
"If anyone has a question about how it was working as a craps dealer and pit boss from 1968 'til 2000, I would be glad to answer it," Sinay posted on his Facebook page a few weeks ago. "I will NOT insult or put something on here that would be deemed insulting to 'certain' people. Questions like the money we made, famous people, funny stuff, the 'Family' ... ask and I will do my best."
Some of the stories are from a book about "old Las Vegas" – "When It Was Great" – that Sinay wrote with Wid Bastian in 2016. Other recollections are taken from a book by Sinay's friend and fellow casino worker, Barney Vinson, who wrote "Behind the Tables." A host of them are simply recalled by Sinay has he lives out his post-casino days.
Many of the memories are humorous, but an equal number are graphic in their detail.
"When you were dealing at a casino in the old days, you better not try to pull something like stealing or cheating while working," Sinay noted in one posting. "Here is a true story, but I will leave out the name of the casino. Downtown in the '70s a blackjack dealer was caught sticking chips down his waistband. He goes on a break and heads for the dealer's room. Two 'guys' grab him and take him down the stairs to the dealer's room for 'questioning.' Along the way down the steps, he must have slipped a few times, because every other step had bloodstains on the wall."
A few of Sinay's postings review the meanings of terms used by those hanging around casinos.
"In casino terms, what is a 'slugger?'" he asked in one posting, before vividly answering his own question a few days later.
"A 'slugger' is a person who uses slugs instead of real coins when playing a slot machine. Today, they use bills instead on most of the machines. When you win, you hit a button and a slip comes out with your winnings marked down, Then you go to the cage to get your money. This system has eliminated 'change girls' who walked around making change for bills for years.
The new system also eliminates the use of "slugs." Under the old system, violence sometimes was employed.
"Sluggers were not treated very good when caught by the 'boys.' Some were not able to hold a glass for a long time."
Sinay often refers to the "boys." These casino bosses broke bones and bloodied bodies – or had those deeds done – if rules were not followed and responsibilities were not met in the "old days," Sinay frequently recalls in his postings.
"Before 1980 there were men in the room above the games looking through binoculars at the table games for cheaters," Sinay wrote recently. "One night downtown, no one had heard from the 'eye,' as we called them, for the whole night."
This particular "eye" had closed his eyes that night, and spent his time smoking pot and listening to music on a portable tape player.
"They found the guy about four hours later on the other side of the parking lot with two broken legs and out cold next to the trash cans. He was lucky not to have had more done. We heard he left town with someone else driving the car. Lesson? 'Don't mess with the 'boys.'"
Reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @gbrownREP.