Chequers Book Reviews
The Professor, Michael Knapp
Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling: History in Photos and Stories, Albert W. Moe (1996)
127 pages, perfect bound, $14.95 postpaid, Nevada Collectibles, P. O. Box 30029-244, Reno, NV 89520-0029
Al Moe has been around Nevada gambling all his life. In fact, it was he who, in the late 1970's, began publishing a newsletter for collectors which eventually helped to create the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club. Al's knowledge of gaming in Nevada, especially the northern portion of the state, where he has dealt in a number of casinos, consists not only of reading books about the area, but personal experience and discussions with industry insiders over many years.
It is that background, as well as Al's love for preserving Nevada gaming history which makes his Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling valuable for the collector interested in the background of the chips and tokens he collects. There are a number of full-page photographs in the book which have rarely been seen, and an index to the photos in the back of the book gives the reader a caption for the less-obvious settings and detail.
The book is not without its flaws, unfortunately. If ever there was a book that called for the skills of a decent editor, this is it. The organization of the book leaves much to be desired: it simply jumps from one area of Nevada to another, from discussion of one site or group of gaming pioneers to another, without apparent reason or flow. Because each chapter is separate, however, the lack of organization can be overlooked. The stories Al has gathered and retold do not suffer because they don't flow easily into each other, but some sort of geographic or date progression would make it easier for the reader to comprehend the glue that binds the stories together.
What is more difficult to understand is the frequency of misspellings and misuse of punctuation and sentence structure. Especially in a book devoted to preserving history, spelling can be extremely important. As a minor example, the name of the corporation which Howard Hughes established to handle his gaming enterprises was Summa Corporation, not Suma Corporation, which is the spelling that appears in the book. The occasional lack of specific dates, especially when the book is discussing the transition of a club or hotel from one owner to another, is also a major flaw.
Despite these criticisms, so long as the reader is willing not to rely solely upon this book for all his information, Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling is a unique and valuable book. I'm glad that Al has collected these stories and personal recollections of Nevada gaming figures in one place, because so much of gaming history is kept in the minds of those involved. Once the gaming pioneers of Nevada are gone (as many are), the stories and relationships die with them. I would not hesitate to add this book to my library, although I would not rely on it for pure historical fact.