The recently filed lawsuit by the family of a deceased Florida lawyer claiming the Wynn Las Vegas casino kept dealing cards after he collapsed from a heart attack at a blackjack table has gotten a lot of national attention. In the five days since the Las Vegas Review-Journal broke the news–in a story by David Wilson buried on an inside page of the Sunday paper–the account has been picked up widely. At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters, a Google search found more than 11,000 mentions on the Internet, in places as far-flung as the websites of The New York Post, The Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle.
The R-J story about the civil lawsuit said David Jagolinzer was “slumped over the blackjack table” in the Wynn Las Vegas casino for 15 minutes on April 6, 2022, as the dealer kept dealing before help arrived. The story said Jagolinzer died six month later as a result of the delayed treatment, at the age of 48. A quoted Wynn Las Vegas statement called the allegations in the lawsuit false. In an interesting twist, Jagolinzer, who practiced in Miami, was in town for Mass Torts Made Perfect, a periodic conference of plaintiff personal injury lawyers looking for new ideas and causes that I wrote about 15 years ago for Forbes.com.
I’m guessing the lawsuit is getting wide notice partly because it fits into a media narrative of Las Vegas as a damn-the-customer place where almost anything goes in the name of profits for the house. You know, the underbelly of that “What happens here, stays here” aura long promoted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
But indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened along the Las Vegas Strip, according a long-ago but well-known book about Sin City.
I’m referring to a passage in The Green Felt Jungle. That’s the 1963 expose by Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris that laid bare mob control of the Las Vegas Strip and remained on best-seller lists for a year.
Here word for word is the very end of the book’s 1964 revised edition:
Even death cannot stop the action.
When an elderly man collapsed while standing at a crap table in a Strip casino, a doctor on vacation with his wife went to his aid. Diagnosing the problem as a heart attack, the doctor called for oxygen and administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Once the man started breathing, but by the time the oxygen arrived, 20 minutes later, he was dead.
As the doctor worked on the man, who was half under the table, the dice game continued–one of the dice bouncing off the doctor’s back as an avid crap-shooter made a wild throw.
Though inured to the sight of death, the doctor was appalled by the indifference of the players and management. No one seemed to care that a dead man lay under the table for more than an hour, until the coroner came. The only important thing was that the game go on.
That is life in the green felt jungle.
The specific casino, victim and doctor are all unidentified, and there are no footnotes or other sourcing. Nor can I find any contemporary references to such an event. Since it was not in the original edition of The Green Felt Jungle but in an added addendum that appeared during the first half of 1964, it might be reasonable to think the incident dates to the 1962 to 1964 time range. The venue certainly wasn’t the Wynn, which didn’t open until 2005.
I can’t ask the authors, who both had long and honored investigative careers in which some of their writing efforts were turned into films. Reid, a former Las Vegas Sun reporter who had helped win a Pulitzer Prize for the old Brooklyn Eagle and wrote six other books about crime and corruption, died in 1988 at age 73. An ex-Los Angeles Times reporter and Parade magazine contributor, DeMaris, author of 33 non-fiction books and novels about organized crime and the underside of life, died a decade later in 1998 at age 78.
But I’d say their account about death at the craps table while the game played on has the ring of truth to it. I imagine the Jagolinzer family might think the same.