This is the 25th anniversary of the UNLV Center for Gaming Research. The center, located in Lied Library, attracts researchers from all over the world. The unique collection documents the history of specific casinos, statistical basis of games, economic reports, regulatory changes, and the social and political effects of gambling.
David Schwartz, director of the center, dug into the archive to dubunk some of gamings most dubious and enduring myths.
1. The Flamingo was the first Vegas casino, and it was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's idea.
Numerous sources in UNLV Special Collections document the many legal gambling halls that existed in Las Vegas before the 1910 prohibition of commercial gaming and that popped up within weeks of commercial gaming's return in March 1931. And the Flamingo was originally conceived of by Los Angeles nightclub impresario Billy Wilkerson--Siegel muscled his way in after the casino was well under way. The Flamingo, which opened in December 1946, wasn't even the first major casino on the Las Vegas Strip--that was the El Rancho Vegas, which opened its doors in April 1941.
2. Gaming was ever recession-proof.
One of the clich?s many used to say about gambling in general and casinos in particular is that it was "recession proof." But looking at the statistics compiled by the center, it's clear that gambling, even in Las Vegas, has had several ups and downs over the past 80 years. In particular, slowdowns in 1980, 1991, 1997, 2001, and of course 2007-2009 have been particularly noticeable.
3. Casinos pump oxygen into the air to keep patrons alert and gambling.
This is an urban legend that, in contravention to medical science and common sense, refuses to die. In the hundreds of pages of blueprints and architectural renderings of casinos in UNLV's possession, there is no mention of the mega-sized oxygen tanks needed for such a feat.
4. All casino games are created equal.
Some novices believe their odds are roughly the same on all the games the casino offers. But reading through the hundreds of books in UNLV's collections about gambling mathematics and strategy, it is clear that some games are decidedly more (or less) equal than others. In addition, the center compiles statistics from a number of jurisdictions. The real-world hold percentages -- or how much money a table keeps -- indicate that players are likely to do better at blackjack table, for example, than on roulette.
5. Writing about gambling is a recent phenomenon.
Some think that books about gambling haven't been written until recently, but the oldest book on a card game found at UNLV dates from 1534. Capitolo del Gioco Della Primieraa is an Italian book about the game of primero, written by one Francesco Berni.