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Bad Bet on the Bayou: The Rise and Fall of Gambling in Louisiana and the Fate of Governor Edwin Edwards Hardcover – June 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter, Bridges covered the early '90s senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns of presidential hopeful David Duke, etching a sober portrait in The Rise of David Duke (1994). Four years later, Bridges joined the Miami Herald, where he won a 1999 Pulitzer as part of an investigative team and began work on this book. He traces the historical background of gambling in Louisiana from pre-Civil War riverboats and the Louisiana Lottery (shut down by the federal government in 1907) to 1940s casinos. Edwin Edwards (aka "Silver Zipper," aka "Cajun King"), the only man to be elected governor of Louisiana four times, in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, "could charm a society matron one minute and an oil-rig worker the next." When the bayou state's oil boom bottomed out in the 1980s, Edwards decided gambling could revive the economy, but the cash flow through casinos, riverboats and video poker led to corruption, greedy promoters and "snake-oil salesmen in expensive suits," as the Times-Picayune put it. Following FBI wiretaps and raids, the 72-year-old Edwards was indicted and convicted on charges of extortion from riverboat casino companies. Numerous quotes re-create remembered dialogue in this fascinating and fluid narrative reconstruction. Describing Louisiana as the country's most "exotic" state, Bridges does a formidable job of capturing its allure (as well as that of the former governor), but his easy flair is supported by high journalistic standards, including his meticulous attention to details and his exhaustive research which, all in all, make for an irresistible read. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Flip Brophy. (May)Forecast: As the literature on Louisiana politics continues to grow and Louisiana in particular, the Big Easy remains a place of fascination for many Americans, this book, with its catchy, alliterative title, is destined for a prominent spot on the shelf.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

As an old Kentucky refrain goes, "In Kentucky politics are the damnedest." In analyzing political machinations and serious misuse of the public trust, especially by flamboyant Gov. Edwin Edward of Louisiana, Bridges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald reporter who covered Louisiana politics for the New Orleans Times-Picayune in the early 1990s, makes Kentucky politics seem tame. After discussing Louisiana's often sordid but always entertaining political history, the author devotes the remainder of the monograph to telling what happened when the state legalized gambling in the 1990s under Governor Edwards. Using primarily oral interviews with many of the participants, including Edwards himself, and files from the Times-Picayune, Bridges focuses on the key role fourth-term Governor Edwards played in bringing gambling to Louisiana. As an Edwards critic observed, "[H]e had a tragic character flaw; he thinks of politics as a way to make money for himself and his friends rather than public service. The flaw finally brought him to his knees." While critical of Louisiana's failed gambling experiment, Bridges's narrative is an excellent example of detailed investigative reporting that reads like a mystery novel. Recommended for public libraries. Charles C. Hay III, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Richmond
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (June 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374108307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374108304
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J Crawford on July 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was born, and raised in Louisiana. I had to take Louisiana history in junior high school. It was a waste of time, because it taught about Thomas Jefferson, Napolean, Bienville, spanish-french archetecture, Iberville, etc. Two books that are a must read if you want to know anything about Louisiana: "Just Taking Orders", and "Bad Bet on the Bayou".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on June 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Don't write anything you can phone. Don't phone anything you can talk. Don't talk anything you can whisper. Don't whisper anything you can smile. Don't smile anything you can nod. Don't nod anything you can wink. -Earl Long, brother of Huey Long and himself a Governor of Louisiana
From a distance, it has seemed like Edwin Edwards was either the Governor of Louisiana or on trial for corruption, or possibly both at the same time, for nearly all of the past twenty five years. Tyler Bridges, a former reporter for the Times-Picayune, who covered the successful efforts to legalize gambling there in the 1990s, has written a thorough account of that struggle and of the political career of the extraordinarily colorful and resilient Edwards. In particular, he focusses on the fault line where the two stories came together, and how the slippery and seemingly invincible Governor was finally brought down by his eager and quite lucrative involvement in the rampant corruption surrounding the gambling industry.
In so doing, Bridges handles a welter of really labyrinthine information quite adeptly, wringing out of it a narrative that is relatively easy to follow (though sometimes, quite annoyingly, repetitious). The tale is replete with shady Southern con men, mobsters, pols on the take, and features cameo appearances by well known scoundrels such as David Duke, Eddie DeBartolo, and Bill Clinton. In the final section, as the FBI and Federal prosecutors close in on Edwards and bring him to trial, there is genuine drama : will he slip off the hook yet again, or has the barb finally been set deep enough ? And as many states face the question of whether to rely increasingly on gambling revenues, instead of taxes, there's a real object lesson in the dangers they face.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Even for close followers of the Louisiana political landscape, things can get highly confusing with the favoritism, kick backs, back room deals, bribes, and bizzare family and professional political relationships. Throw in Edwin Edwards, David Duke, Edddie Debartalo and a rogues gallery of legislators, judges, the Mafia and some casino executives and we are left with a titantic mess in Louisiana. Happily this book sorts it all out, leaving us with the very unpretty picture of what happened in Louisiana over the last decade. It tells the story of the rise of legalizing gambling in Louisiana and the resultent social, economic and political disasters that followed. Bridges makes a powerful case for political reform and writes with a languid style reminisisent of a slow moving bayou. A bit too much repetitive text (I said "I read that already" a few two many times) but overall a masterful work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever wondered how things happen behind the scenes this book transports you to the highways and byways of the murky political landscape. Bridges has crafted a top notch replay of the high stakes sweepstakes that became gambling in Louisiana. A must read for anyone interested in politics, business and gambling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
You go to Louisiana for the food, Mardi Gras, or jazz; you do not look to Louisiana for political ethics. Edwin Edwards, a man of intelligence and wit, was elected four times as governor. He could have been the state's best governor (although that might be damning with faint praise), but he turned out to be at least among its worst. His tragedy was inextricably linked with personal and corporate gambling, and it is told with all the fascination of a mystery novel in _Bad Bet on the Bayou: The Rise of Gambling in Louisiana and the Fall of Governor Edwin Edwards_ (Farrar Straus and Giroux) by Tyler Bridges. It is a memorable account of the worst in politics.
Louisiana had had sometimes scandalous connections to gambling long before it became a state, but overt gambling had been suppressed, especially in the seventies with the oil boom. When the boom went bust in the nineties, there was a scramble to boost state coffers, and especially those of New Orleans, and Edwards was determined that gambling would boost construction, increase employment, and bring money in from out of state. It looked unseemly for someone with an obvious love of gambling to get on the casino bandwagon, but Edwards was never regarded as a beacon of moral purity. When he ran against Klansman David Duke in 1991, bumper stickers read, "Vote for the Crook. It's Important," and Louisianans did so overwhelmingly. The first two-thirds of _Bad Bet_ tells in amazing detail the ins and outs of the corrupt means by which gambling was brought to the rivers of Louisiana and specifically to the French Quarter. But it is in the spellbinding final third that the book takes off, showing how the FBI brought Edwards down.
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