This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
What if some guy told you that Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes was once a high school dropout who sold pornography to teenagers to support his $2,000-a-day heroin habit? Would you be surprised? Me, too. And would you also be surprised if he told you that two other 60 Minutes colleagues – Ed Bradley and Lesley Stahl – were video taped passing U.S. government secrets to an Albanian spy in 1967?
You would find this hard to believe unless the episode had been secretly filmed inside “a sleazy, second-rate” motel “on the outskirts of Los Angeles.” How reliable is this information? It’s not. But, you know me, I’m an odds-maker, and I take great pride in bringing you the most reliable probabilities possible. And I’m speculating that the “facts” presented in the first paragraph are about as reliable as the “facts” contained in the 60 Minutes piece that ran two Sundays ago. That’s saying, there’s no apparent truth at all, in either case. Again and again in promotional blurbs and in the piece itself, Ed Bradley called the Bicycle Club Casino a “sleazy second-rate casino on the outskirts of Los Angeles.”
It’s not what came to my mind. What kind of journalism was this? I just had dinner at the Bicycle Club Casino, and during a walk-through tour of the latest improvements, the description, “lavish, first-class California casino,” is what mainly came to my mind.
But, when you think about it, my friends, the 60 Minutes piece by Ed Bradley was not just a slam against the Bike. It was a plain-as-day attack on our industry. I won’t candy-coat what I think about the government’s involvement, though. When the government seized controlling interest in the Bicycle Club Casino, the potential for a major first-rate screw-up was in place. Our government – my government, your government – had no business running this casino for six years. If they had a lick of sense, they should have sold it a long time ago. In fact, the law demanded that they do so.
The conflicts of interest that arise when our government is running a gambling casino are unavoidable. The long-term government control wasn’t fair to the honest owners of the casino; it wasn’t fair to the employees; it wasn’t fair to the players; it wasn’t fair to you; and it wasn’t even fair to the City of Bell Gardens, which arguably lost huge amounts of tax revenue during the government’s reign.
My wife Phyllis and I were smack in the middle of this drama, and we know most of the story. We’re very proud of our part in the episode, just as we’re very proud of many of the managers and employees, and of the owners and customers.
My walk through. But when 60 Minutes called the Bicycle Club Casino, “sleazy, second-rate,” they were attacking us. Dead on. Attacking. They were saying we are sleazy, second-rate players, and the employees are sleazy, second-rate employees, and the owners are sleazy, second-rate owners. Not true, my friends.
The Bicycle Club Casino, like the Commerce Casino, like the Hollywood Park Casino, like the Normadie Casino and others in the L.A. area, is playing an important role in tugging the poker industry in a new positive direction. These are precisely the casinos I personally point to when I want to demonstrate the difference between dingy back-room poker of the past and today’s clean, lavish establishments. I’ll bet you do the same thing.
These casinos stand as a tribute to the power of poker and of poker’s people. They are monuments to you, and they are not sleazy or second rate.
In fact, the Bicycle Club Casino is an outstanding example of a proud poker property – one that anyone should be proud to own, to work for, to play in. And when the government gets the hell out, it will be even better!