The Vegas Guy

Terrible's Casino

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How can you resist a place called Terrible's Casino? It's only been open for three months, but I couldn't wait to hit the newest gambling joint in Vegas and find out what terrible things Terrible's has wrought.

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Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort

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I can't go to Laughlin without thinking about Sam Kinison. On the day he died, he was heading up Highway 95 outside Needles, Calif., for a gig at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort when he was hit head-on by a car travelling in the wrong lane, and there's just something wrong about that whole picture.

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Larry Flynt Takes on the Indians

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Larry Flynt's Hustler Casino may be the most elegant place in the world to play poker.

Part European castle, part modern art museum, it greets you with gold-framed Gustav Klimt paintings in the foyer and pampers you with plush wing chairs you would expect to find in a 19th- century French brothel. There's an Alice-in-Wonderland playfulness about it, too, with its checkerboard carpet of red and black and its rich velveted walls.

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Casino of the Sun

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All the Hawaiian-shirted slot jockeys showed up outside Casino of the Sun last week and found the doors locked— and there is nothing that makes a snowbird grumpier than being deprived of his progressive jackpot bingo in the morning. He's liable to get so mad he'll kick his little sweater-wearing chihuahua over the roof of his Winnebago.

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California Indian Casinos

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She closed her eyes as she walked through the door of the Viejas Casino outside San Diego.

It was her first visit to an Indian casino, and she wasn't sure she wanted to see it.

"When I saw what they had there," she said, "I wanted to throw up."

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Normandie Casino

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Look for the man with the smooth high pompadour when you visit the oldest casino in California. On certain nights, when there's a lot of table action, you'll see Craig Phillips in a tailored jacket, bobbing and weaving across the floor, talking the lingo, feeling the juice, because Craig is a born gambler, and gamblers like other gamblers, and Craig is everybody's friend at the Normandie Casino.

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San Manuel Casino

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HIGHLAND, Calif. — The casino sits right directly on top of the San Andreas Fault.

I'm not exaggerating. Deron Marquez just showed it to me on a map, and it's right under the building we're sitting in. The fault line looks kinda nasty, zigzagging across the Indian reservation like a paper tear, but my new friends Deron and Vince don't seem to be bothered by it. We're hanging out at the tribal headquarters of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Deron and Vince would rather talk about the 16 natural springs on the land, the source of the bottled water they'll soon be selling.

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Oaklawn Park

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"I'm still uncomfortable being here on Sunday," says Cella, one of the grand old men of racing, the fourth generation of the St. Louis family that built the Orpheum vaudeville circuit and five horse-racing tracks. Cella is as Old School as they come, still donning his checked British sporting jacket and his Scottish golf cap when going to the track.

"I take it you were one of the last holdouts against Sunday racing?" I say.

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Mandalay Bay Casino

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I've asked a dozen people what the theme is at Mandalay Bay. Nobody knows.

All Las Vegas casinos have themes, right? The huge Wall Street brokerage firm of Bear Stearns tells me that Mandalay Bay is "heavily-themed." So what's the theme? Is this such a hard question? This casino resort is the fifth largest hotel in the United States, but nobody can quite get a grip on what it's all about. In last year's Bear Stearns report on the gaming industry, they describe the MGM Grand as "Hollywood-themed," Paris as Paris-themed, New York-New York as New York-themed, The Venetian as Venice-themed, and Bellagio as based on the Swiss-Italian resort of Lake Como. (That one is pretty obscure, but it is a theme.) Finally we get this description of Mandalay Bay: "heavily themed."

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