I typed this quote up for my A Way of Life, Like Any Other writeup, but cut it for reasons of space.
It’s a very good quote though, and it took a while to type. So I thought I’d share it anyway…
Mr. Caliban explained to us that picking up a package meant picking up money owed the hotel by some gambler. A lot of the high rollers gambled on credit, and the hotel would send a courier to pick up the cash payment. Maybe the guy had to juggle his accounts so nobody would notice how much he was taking out. People didn’t like to write checks for gambling debts because it looked bad, and the hotels preferred cash for big debts because it was easier to keep their own records that way and keep the Government off their backs. There was no legal way to enforce collection of a gambling debt, not even in Nevada, so sometimes the hotel had to lean on people pretty heavy. Sometimes they had to threaten murder. The hotel wouldn’t get involved directly, of course, but they could hire people. I wondered if it wasn’t all dangerously illegal. Legal, Mr. Caliban said, was how you defined it. The Feds had bugged Mr. Ziff’s private apartment at the hotel. That wasn’t legal. That was a violation of Mr Ziff’s constitutional rights. Every time Mr. Ziff got on an airplane his luggage got lost so the Feds could search it. That wasn’t legal either. It was like any business, you didn’t get anywhere if you spent too much time worrying about the proprieties. You had to be first and you had to keep moving in the entertainment business, and gambling was entertainment just like anything else. Nobody brought the gamblers in like Sinatra, but if you didn’t collect the debts you couldn’t pay Sinatra. It was very exciting.
Old school Vegas. That paragraph in a nutshell is why the original Ocean’s Eleven is more fun than the remake.