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Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Time of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn Hardcover – November 25, 1995

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About the Author

John L. Smith is an award-winning columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of The Animal in Hollywood. He and his wife make their home in the quiet hills that surround noisy Las Vegas.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Barricade Books; First Edition edition (November 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569800391
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569800393
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I instead read a mixed bunch of stories that seemed to have very little order.
A Vegas junkie
Fact: the son of a Bino Hall operator rises up to be one of the worlds leading casino developers and owners through some very shady associations.
Maryland Shooter
Unfortunately, it is very poorly written, lacking organization, and even more lacking in factual citations.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Robin Luckey on January 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book reads like what it is -- a quick 300 pages cranked out by a Vegas journalist familiar with the subject, commissioned by a publisher with a rich history of wallowing in libel. The preface admits as much. The publisher proudly proclaims on the book jacket, "Steve Wynn has already sued the author of this book and its publisher twice...." Indeed, the book leaves you wondering if getting sued by Steve Wynn was the whole point of this book, and is the only notoriety this tabloid volume would ever have received.
The author does himself and the reader a great disservice with his vague source citations. The book lists a great many books, interviews, and court records, but unfortunately these sources are listed as a group at the end of the book and aren't footnoted throughout the text. This makes it impossible to discern the specific source for any of the claims in the book.
Most disappointingly, the book fails to give a satisfying biography of its subject. Most of the more fascinating business maneuvers in Wynn's career are sadly glossed over, leaving you with more questions than answers. How exactly did Wynn make so much money buying and selling a small lot on the corner of Caesar's? Exactly how did Wynn leverage control of the Golden Nugget? This book won't really tell you. All too often you'll have to be happy with the answer than Wynn "knew somebody".
I kept up hope for this book (having already read other damning customer reviews), but ultimately I found this book disappointing. It seemed unnecessarily condemning of Wynn -- if he's a crook, the facts should speak for themselves, and the author needn't pursue it so doggedly. This book seems only to prove that Wynn works in a business with a lot of shady peers, and that Wynn doesn't seem to mind it. What a surprise.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By estwald on December 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
Be warned. If you're looking for the exciting true story about how one man revitalized a city in decline and truly modernized Las Vegas through vision and guts (as I was), you won't find it here.

This is not a book about Steve Wynn transforming Las Vegas. This is a tabloid hit job written by a hostile author who has only one objective: link Steve Wynn to the mob.

As a Vegas history buff and as someone who's interested in Wynn, let me concede the author's objective up front: okay sure. Of course Wynn knows mafia wiseguys. How could he not? How could Wynn arrive as a young man in Vegas in the 60s and climb the ladder of influence without making mob contacts? The mob ran the town! The only real surprise as far as I'm concerned is how little Wynn seems to be involved with the mafia.

It's not that I'm a huge fan of Wynn, and all of Smith's secondhand accounts of Wynn behaving like a spoiled brat in private seem plausable, but since it's so obvious that the author is laser-focused on smearing Wynn, who's to say I'm getting a balanced account?

Whole chapters are devoted to little more than proving that Wynn is friends with this particular mob middleman, and on this particular day in 1982, they were SEEN HAVING LUNCH at this particular bistro. Though Wynn would always deny that the lunch took place, that's not the recollection of this busboy, who we've tracked down, who was ACTUALLY THERE. etc. etc. This is the book.

I was most looking forward to a retelling of the story of how Wynn built the Mirage. Where did he get the inspiration? How was it financed? How did he pitch it to investors? How did it get built? What were the expectations? How was it received when it opened? How did it change the texture of the strip? We get none of that.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book with an open mind - my only prior knowledge of Steve Wynn was that he was the guy that built the Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio - the Mirage having ushered in the new era of modern luxury casino hotels in Vegas, and the $1.6 billion dollar Bellagio having upped the ante.
That said, I can see why Steve Wynn fought so hard to prevent this book from being released. Wynn sued the the original publisher and apparently helped force it into bankruptcy.
Any reader of this book will likely come away believing that:
1) Wynn rubbed elbows with mob figures, and may have served as a front man in some of his early dealings, before he accrued enough juice on his own,
2) Wynn leveraged his money-making capacity into a large measure of control over the local and state government and judiciary,
3) Wynn is an egomaniac,
4) Wynn kicks puppies....
You get the idea. Although the book makes a fair attempt at biography, its real purpose is to be an expose'. After 350 pages, it has the effect of beating a dead horse.
Wynn may indeed be all of those things, and certainly some of the things he's accused of could result in the loss of his Gaming License - although it seems Nevada is far too invested in him to ever let that happen. I wish there was a more balanced, well-rounded account of Steve Wynn's story out there.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "uteska" on January 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have always had a fascination with Steve Wynn's hotels and was looking to learn more about him when I came across this book. However, after reading Mr. Smith's depictions of Steve Wynn, the only thing I know for sure is that Smith REALLY doesn't like Steve Wynn. He criticized his every move, looking only at the negative "hidden agendas" associated with things such as the Mirage Dolphins and the Bellagio Art Gallery that the rest of the world is grateful that Steve Wynn brought to us. He repeatedly tries to link Wynn to the mob, but can never make a convincing arguement. He only briefly touches on the building of the hotels, their success, and fails to mention how the Mirage, Treasure Island, and the Bellagio were innovators in three different generations of Vegas theme hotels. Despite the books 2001 copyright date, is now about 9 years out of date. It pre-dates the MGM-Mirage merger, and even cites the Fremont Street Experience as being "set to open in late 1995." A postscript to the paperback edition attempts to bring it up to date, but it feels rushed, with misspelled words and inaccurate details.
Smith seems to have about 100 pages of relevant information, and 254 pages of stories that are so loosely linked to Wynn that at times I forgot who I was reading about. Smith goes so far as to imply that the deterioration of the UNLV basketball program is due to Steve Wynn deciding that Jerry Tarkanian projected the wrong image for the university and that he had to go.
In addition to the anti-Wynn take on every story, Smith illustrates some stories with details that aren't even accurate.
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