Setting the Record Straight -
following article was posted by Jim on
Chip Board on February 23rd, 2005
remember the exact date but it was in the middle of July
1987. I was watching the 6:00 p.m. local news and the
attractive Ms. Gwen Castaldi was interviewing everyone and
anyone about the closing of the Castaways. Off to the side
and playing blackjack was Steve Wynn wearing his U.S. Army
cavalry hat telling Ms. Castaldi how he was going to miss
the Castaways. He was going to miss it so much that he was
tearing it down and was going to replace it with something
better. Somehow I never could understand that logic in his
explanation. I turned to Rena and asked if she would mind if
I changed the channel. She didnít. I was sick to my stomach.
Another piece of "our" history was going to be destroyed in
the name of progress. Little did I realize that night the
Las Vegas I loved was beginning to "die".
Howard Hughes bought the Castaways sometime during 1970.
There was a tremendous amount of history prior to his
purchase involving the property that really contributes
nothing to what I am going to tell you. If youíre interested
in this history Iím sure you can find it in other articles
that have been written about this unique piece of property.
I am going to pick up the story around 1976 when Bill
Friedman took over responsibility as President and General
Manager with Sonny Reizner (now deceased) operating the
"Hole in the Wall" sports book.
In my opinion, the accidental combination of Bill Friedman
and Sonny Reizner working together created a chemistry that
will never again be repeated in the gaming industry. The
enthusiasm, creativity and marketing ability of both
individuals reflected itself in one of the most successful
gaming operations ever created here in Nevada or anywhere
else for that matter. I doubt it could ever be duplicated
again. Many have tried only to fail miserably. Who but the
talented Bill Friedman could create an idea to have a midget
wearing a sandwich advertising board stating "follow me to
the Castaways" run through Howard Hughes upscale sister
property the Sands (located across the street) with Sands
security in genuine hot pursuit? The first time I saw it I
laughed till I cried. It was a brilliant idea reflective of
a brilliant marketing mind. Friedman packed the Castaways
with his unique marketing ploys.
I believe It was Friedman who thought of the 97.4% return on
certain dollar carousels. I can remember driving by the
Castawaysí marquee advertising the 97.4% return laughing to
myself and shaking my head Ė Friedman did it again! Oh the
machine's) returned the 97.4% but ONLY after the progressive
jackpot hit and was taken into the machine's) hold
computation. Until the progressive jackpot hit the machines
held a very healthy percentage in favor of the house.
Sonny Reizner's "Hole in the Wall" sports book was exactly
that a hole in the wall. Tucked away behind the craps and
blackjack tables with room for two ticket writers it was one
of the first sports books located within a strip casino. A
novel idea for strip gambling houses since sports betting
was relegated to independent downtown locations with a few,
like Little Caesars, scattered on the strip.
It was Sonny Reizner who brought to Las Vegas the novel idea
of a football contest where the participants, for a fee,
could match their skill against others to see who could pick
the most winners. He started with the $1,000 entry fee for
the "Challenge" and graduated over time to the $5,000
"Ultimate Challenge". Every week during football season you
could come to the Castaways and see the contest results
posted on the right wall, behind glass, as you entered the
foyer. Often, it was difficult to maneuver your way through
the people, six and seven deep trying to see who was leading
the "pack" in order to get through the double glass doors
that led into the casino.
It was Sonny who coined the phrases "Monday Night Madness"
and "Monday Night Fever". It was Sonny who invented and
peddled his Monday Night Fever parlay card with ridiculous
propositions like who would win the coin toss. For a minimum
$10.00 bet you got to make your parlay card selections and
received a free Monday Night Tee shirt. Over the years I
must have collected 20 or 30 different shirts that I have
tucked away somewhere in the garage. Today when you see all
those Super Bowl proposition bets you can think of Sonny
because it was he who started it all.
I donít know who was responsible for hiring G.L Vitto but
again the Castaways hit a home run. G.L. would do the
Castaways advertisements on television. He was dressed in a
referee black and white shirt with a whistle hanging from
his neck. He would mumble something about Steve Garvey, who
at the time was the Dodgers first baseman blow his whistle
and signal the safe sign by moving his hands sideways.
Whatever he said made no sense but it wasnít supposed too.
However, G.L. became a local television star and along with
his success the Castaways prospered. He was funny, because
he really was not funny. I guess the humor was in the
incongruity because I laughed like many others. Was it any
wonder the Castaways made money? It made so much money that
it put the other Hughes casinos to shame but thatís another
story. The complementary (comps) drinks and meals were
handed out freely and often to anyone who asked. The drink
tickets were unique in that they carried the name of the
casino shift and/or pit boss. All one had to do was ask. I
would think it rare to find any individual who ever paid for
a drink at the Castaways.
During the 1970ís Congress passed the Bank Secrecy laws.
Apparently drugs and money laundering were creating problems
for enforcement agencies who wanted better laws that had
teeth in their penalties. The Bank secrecy laws became Title
31 and with Title 31 came the $10.000 currency transaction
forms and required reporting. Title 31 carried criminal
punishment rather than the civil penalties under Title 26 of
the Income Tax laws. The Internal Revenue Service was given
responsibility over certain aspects of Title 31 around
For whatever reason and/or political influence Nevada
casinos avoided coming under the requirements of Title 31.
The Nevada gaming authorities would have the responsibility
of enforcing Nevadaís Regulation 6a. Regulation 6a resembled
Title 31 so closely that it was scary; except for a very
important early provision. The early provision exempted
currency reporting requirements if the cashing-in of chips
at the cage could be verified as coming from a gaming win.
In other words the individual gambler won the chips playing
at the casino games it would not be necessary for the casino
to report the individual on an over $10,000 transaction.
Today I believe chips are treated the same as cash for
regulation 6a purposes. Also, I believe there is a
"suspicious person" clause that has been added. It requires
a casino to take down information if they believe the person
cashing chips appears suspicious regardless of the
transaction dollar amount.
In addition, another provision of Regulation 6a exempted
from the reporting requirements a transaction for a player
who exchanged a large denomination chip for smaller
denomination chips. I believe the exemption for this type of
transaction is still in effect today. Hence was born the
need for the casino to have large denomination chips
especially in sport books. The casinos with sports books
would order oversize chips and some of them would establish
separate "banks" for taking and placing bets. To the best of
my memory the first casino to do this was Binionís
Horseshoe. Binionís procedures for handling the oversize
sport book chips was copied by many of the casinos downtown
as well as on the strip.
In addition some of the casinos would supply safety deposit
boxes, located within the cage, where the high denomination
chips could be conveniently stored by the player. It was now
an easy process for a sport book bettor to make his/her
wagers in chips and be paid in chips for winning tickets.
Obviously this type of transaction was a verified gaming
transaction. The problem it created is that it simplified
the process for "laying off" illegal wagers by those
individuals who did not want to bring attention to
themselves. It also made easy the process of converting
$5,000, $1,000, etc chips into $1,000 and $100 dollar chips
respectively without worrying about the reporting
It has been alleged that Nevada, since it is the only State
in the Union, that allows full fledged betting on sports,
has been/is the focal point for all illegal sport book
betting and those who operate it too "balance their books"
by laying off wagers they are side heavy on. The oversize
sport book chips, whether knowingly or unknowingly by
casinos, facilitates this process.
John L. Smith wrote in May of 2000Ö
Sunday, May 07, 2000
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal COLUMN: John L. Smith
All eyes are on Artie B. -- hopefully Congress' as well.
Bodendorfer is a key figure in an investigation of what
authorities believe is a massive illegal bookmaking
operation that stretches from Las Vegas sports books to
several major cities. Last week, the state Gaming Control
Board and FBI served dozens of search warrants and seized
millions in cash from Bodendorfer and numerous other
gamblers in a case that promises to reverberate from here to
The Castaways had oversize sport book chips. As I was told
years ago the reason why they had oversize chips was to
"facilitate the gaming process". They wanted to be
competitive with other Nevada sport books and offer the same
amenities to sport book bettors that they could get
elsewhere. The Castaways was not breaking any law and "why
shouldnít they be allowed to be competitive".
I have no knowledge that the Castaways was involved in any
illegal sport book activity. I saw the oversize chips being
used. So have many others. I was often in line making my
Monday Night Fever parlay wager watching large wagers being
made with those very sport book oversize chips. They were
Bud Jones metal centers. I can not and do not remember the
colors or inserts. At that time, I had no interest in such
matters. However, I will say this I know of no other
Castaways oversize sport book chips that have surfaced,
since the 1987 closing, except those that are currently in
collectors hands. But Jim, Bud Jones has no record of making
oversize sport book chips for the Castaways. Maybe the
statement should be: Bud Jones can not FIND any record that
they made oversize sport book chips for the Castaways. Too
many individuals have seen them while visiting the
Castaways. Take the following statement posted on Greg
Susongís Chip Board by Jim Kruse, the current Building
Project Finance Committee Chairman for The Casino Chip and
Gaming Token Collectors Club, Inc.
Castaway Sports Book Chips
Posted By: Jim Kruse
Date: 12/15/01 1:37 a.m.
I have been reading the treads on the Castaways $500 and
$1000 Sports Book chips. I don't know if they were ever
used, but I do know they were real chips in the Castaways
inventory. Bill Freidman, the General Manager of the place
was holding hourly drawing, giving away everything in the
place including the giant sign on the building. The Sports
Book chips were in an acrylic case with a bunch of other
items they were drawing for and I was so dumb I asked the
Lady if I could cash them in if I won one (I didn't win).
She laughed and said no. Jim
I could go on and on posting previous Chip Board messages
from others supporting the fact the Castaways oversize sport
book chips did in fact exist. Here is a post from James
Campiglia noted chip authority and author of "The Official
U. S. Casino Chip Price Guide".
Posted By: James Campiglia
Date: 12/13/01 2:41 a.m.
In Response To: Can anyone refute this information?
Castaways $500 (JimF@Work)
My information is 100% correct in my "Official" book on this
one. I personally sold Jerry Wall 400 to 500 of each of
these: $100, $500 regular, and $500 & $1,000 Race & Sports.
Some were 400 & some 500 in the old brown chip boxes. OR did
Bud Jones use these still in the mid 80's? Many were given
to employee's upon leaving. Also there was a promotion to
win these chips which were in a plastic round box like with
a big sponge inside. Somehow you would get tickets playing &
when they were closing you could redeem them for chips.
Never quite understood that. Why they were aloud to give out
chips when they closed or that last day it actually was
open. Quite a few of the $5 & $25's were sold off too but I
was not involved. I picked up a box of $1's once. These sure
sell well. Wish I had more!
I guess there isnít much more to say about the Castaways
oversize sport book chips. However, there is much more to
say about the Castaways. Iíll leave it for another article
in the future. I would like to thank my good friend and
fellow chip collector Andy Hughes for allowing me to post my
articles on his web site. I would also like to thank Mr.
David Spragg for sufficiently irritating me. If it wasnít
for Mr. Spragg unintentionally providing the motivation for
me to write again with his authoritative written conclusions
such asÖ"Castaways never had any genuine chips above $500
delivered, neither did they have any Sports Book chips of
any denomination." I probably would have never written this
article. In addition, I wish to thank all those individuals
who have crossed my path over the 30 plus years I have lived
in Nevada for providing the background color for my
Iíll be back in a month or two with another article. Wait a
minuteÖdo I hear a siren coming from Foxyís Firehouse
Casino? Must be old Abe, God rest his soul, turning that
siren. Boy! Could I go for pastrami on rye. To "borrow" an
expression from a Card Player author I admireÖ"Donít forget
to turn out the lights on your way out"